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Welcome to the UFC, Spicely & Chookagian

The UFC has added a new middleweight off their recent TUF season, and a new face to the women’s bantamweight division. Both are set to debut at the upcoming Sioux Falls show.

Welcome to the UFC

The UFC’s trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota is filling out and it appears to be doing so with a lot of relatively new talent. While the top of the card has some longtime veteran faces rounding it out, the undercard is playing host to a lot of names who have yet to make their mark on the MMA viewing public. Matthew Lopez and Devin Clark were already scheduled to make their promotional debuts, but now they’ve got some company, in the form of newcomers Eric Spicely and Katlyn Chookagian. Spicely’s signing was announced by the UFC over the weekend, and announced Chookagian’s debut against Lauren Murphy, so...

Who is Eric Spicely?

The 29-year-old “Dream Catcher” (shouts to Gegard Mousasi), was a recent competitor on the TUF 23 light heavyweight season, where he lost to finalist Andrew Sanchez in the semi-final round. He’ll be making his UFC debut off the finale and down a division, as he faces Sam Alvey on the upcoming Sioux Falls card. Spicely is entering the UFC with an 8-0 undefeated (officially) record, having only seen the final bell twice in his three-year pro career.

He’s training out of Tri-Force MMA alongside former WEC and current Bellator fighter Josh Diekmann and a host of other regional vets off the North East fight scene. His record isn’t overly notable, a mixture of green competition and journeyman vets; a win over regional talent Harley Beekman is probably his best on paper. On TUF he beat Kenneth Berg and Elias Urbina. Outside of MMA, Spicely appears to have also done some pro-wrestling on the regional circuit.

What you should expect:

Spicely has a brown belt in BJJ under Tim Burrill, and that seems to be much of the driving substance of his MMA game. He tends to start fights with a quick single leg, either off a strike or just a straight shot as his opponent comes forward. He does well to change angles as he shoots and often looks for quick back take opportunities if opponents try to spin out of the attempt. In general, he’s a strong, controlling wrestler on the ground, with a good ride and an eye for positional control as he hunts for submissions.

There’s really not much to see of the rest of Spicely’s game. He wants takedowns and he wants them quick. He’s aggressive enough in all positions on the ground to get finishes, including off his back, but it remains to be seen if he’s a dangerous enough grappler to make that stick in the UFC.

What this means for his debut:

I don’t think I’d bet on Spicely here. He’s a good capable wrestler and a very solid grappler, but Alvey’s takedown defense and his focus on a limited offensive gameplan are probably enough to negate that. Alvey can get beat, but he’s very good at waiting for the right opportunities to land his shots, and if that means Spicely can’t get in on an easy single-leg, then he may get stuck trading hands with a much much harder puncher.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Spicely’s recent bout against Harley Beekman at CES MMA 29:

Who is Katlyn Chookagian?

The inagural CFFC flyweight champ “Blondefighter” is a 27-year-old training out of Allstar BJJ in Kenilworth, New Jersey under IFL vet Jamal Patterson. She’s enterting the UFC with an undefeated 7-0 record, holding wins over prospect Isabelly Varela and regional vet Stephanie Bragayrac. Otherwise her record tends toward the untested newcomers that populate much of WMMA. Chookagian was also a standout on the amateur circuit winning several regional titles while going undefeated. Outside of MMA, she’s a BJJ purple belt with a background in boxing and kickboxing, having won a Pennsylvania Golden Gloves title at age 16.

What you should expect:

Probably the most notable holdover from Chookagian’s kickboxing past is a stiff jab and consistent range movement. She seems like she might be something of a slow starter, open to getting swarmed early on, until she becomes more comfortable. As fights go on, she does a much better job mixing her strikes and paying attention to her defense. It’s probably not a problem that will hinder her terribly at 135 in the UFC, where there are very few powerful, aggressive strikers, but she’s been hittable in the past.

Otherwise, she does well throwing knees in the clinch, framing well to set up power strikes. On the ground, she’s an aggressive, scrappy grappler who jumps on submissions at every opportunity. That can mean that she gives up positions pretty quickly, and in general, wrestling seems to be the missing piece of her game. She’s willing to pull guard to get to the ground if she wants the fight there, but I haven’t seen her exert a lot of control.

What this means for her debut:

The gameplan for Murphy has to be pretty clear. Start fast, shoot early and often, and then work to stifle her guard game with some of the brutal top control that Murphy has shown in the past. Chookagian has the pieces to be a decent fighter in the future, most notably she looks like a decent athlete that gets better as fights go on, but as a career flyweight she may end up physically overwhelmed at 135.

To get us better acquainted, here’s her recent bout against Linn Wennergren at HFC 9 in Hungary:

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