It's not often you see a fighter at the UFC level doing what Josh Emmett is about to do. He's entering a UFC bout on less than a week's notice (four days to be exact). That's a pretty slim time frame, even for a late replacement signing. Making it worse for Emmett, he's going to be flying all the way to Rotterdam to make it happen. That's a lot of chips to stack against yourself just to get in the UFC. Emmett is filling in for the injured Nick Hein against Jon Tuck on the UFC Rotterdam card this Sunday, May 8th. He announced the news via Instagram.
Also new to the UFC is a fresh face for the women's strawweight division. MMA Fighting announced that the UFC has signed XFC International flyweight champion Poliana Botelho. Botelho will drop down a weight class for the UFC, although as of yet, no debut date or opponent have been announced for her. So...
Who is Josh Emmett?
Team Alpha Male's newest product isn't exactly entering MMA as a "young prospect". 31-year-old Josh Emmett really only got his MMA career going in earnest back in 2013, but over the last three years he's made a mark in the West Coast Fighting Championships, entering the UFC with an unbeaten 9-0 record. Most recently he bested UFC vet Christos Giagos for the first defense of his WFC title. Alongside his win over fellow unbeaten prospect Brandon Ricetti, those are the only real notable opponents on his record, most of the rest of which is pretty uninspiring. Unusually for a fighter, Emmett has actually moved up in weight since his debut. He started out at 145 lbs, but has now fought as high as 165 and seems to have settled in to lightweight. It'll be interesting to see if he stays there for his UFC run. Outside of MMA Emmett wrestled at the Collegiate level on the Junior College and NAIA circuits.
What you should expect:
Apparently the long break in Emmett's early MMA career were due to a hand injuries (initially sustained in his first bout) and watching tape on him, it's not that surprising that he might end up cracking a few digits. That's because while Emmett's base may be wrestling his core is as a pure brawler. If Josh Emmett is getting the fight he wants it means he's standing in front of you chucking hands at your face. Technically he's not an outstanding striker, either offensively or defensively, but he's tough, he's got great cardio, and he's very willing to wade in and see what he can make happen.
As for the rest of his game, it's adept but not exciting. He's a better scrambler than he is actual takedown artist or takedown defender. Despite being built like a bowling ball, he's not impossible to get off his feet. But being out of a camp that tends to produce good, in shape fighters, he's got the fitness to make his scrambling ability count. And as early as his career is, I'd expect him to improve a lot over the next 3-4 years.
What this means for his debut:
Four days notice? Overseas? Against a more experienced opponent? It's really hard to expect Emmett to win. And given his low-tech, high output style, I'm not even sure how much of his game is attuned for a UFC run. He leaves a lot of defensive holes and hasn't show the kind of stopping power to make opponents too gunshy to fire back at him. He's had the right combo of skills to win his big regional fights, namely toughness and heart, but at lightweight that may not be enough. Tuck is the more technical striker and grappler, and may even be a better MMA wrestler. He's also got a reach advantage and a full camp. Tuck by decision, possibly submission, seems like a good pick.
To get us better acquainted, here's Emmett's last fight against Christos Giagos:
Who is Poliana Botelho?
A Nova Uniao talent, the 27-year-old Botelho is the latest woman to cut a pretty short path to the UFC. She's a training partner to Claudia Gadelha, Jose Aldo, and the rest of the crew at Brasil's most well regarded supercamp. She'll be entering the UFC with a 5-1 record with all of her wins coming by KO/TKO and the XFC flyweight title. Her level of competition has been about as high as could be asked for for a young prospect in an international women's scene. Her only loss comes to undefeated Viviane Pereira (now reigning XFC strawweight champion) and her wins over Silvana Gomez, Antonia Silvaneide, and Karina Rodriguez are all strong on paper. Outside of MMA, Botelho has a background in Muay Thai, winning a regional title back in 2013.
What you should expect:
It's really too bad that the UFC doesn't have a 125lb division for Botelho yet, because that looks like where she'd really be at her best. She's got long, thick, powerful limbs and her Nova Uniao Thai style is perfectly suited toward delivering sharp powerful shots with that build. I'm sure the cut won't be impossible, but I can't help seeing some of Valerie Letourneau in her build, and that cut seems to drain her heavily. And at 5'8" she's taller than most of the bantamweight division.
While she's got the size and the power to be a danger to most anyone, Botelho's got a few flaws too. She's not a bad wrestler for the division, and can get in on a decent double, but she's pretty much a blanket from top control. No offense, no movement, just hold you down and wait. She also doesn't seem to be the most comfortable combination striker. Occasionally she'll throw a wild flurry, but she usually keeps herself to big, singular moments of offense. Most notably, despite the fact that she waits on opponents a lot, she doesn't seem to be a very good counter striker. If her opponent is willing to throw caution to the wind and come after her, she'll back straight up with her head on line and try and out race them to safety. This leaves big opportunities for her to get clipped.
To get better acquainted, here's her most recent fight against Silvana Juarez at XFC 11: