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Welcome to the UFC: Cottrell, Gigliotti, & Sandoval

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A new middleweight signing and a new lightweight signing as two of the world's premiere UFC feeder leagues provide another pair of fighters for the big show. And, Wilson Reis gets another last minute opponent for UFC 201.

If you're looking for the next generation of UFC talent, there are a couple of key promotions to pay attention to. Legacy FC and RFA are notable, not just as strong regional hotbeds for MMA, but for being surefire gateways to the big leagues. The latest couple of fighters to make the jump are J.C. Cottrell and Joe Gigliotti. Cottrell is stepping up to the plate on extremely short notice to fight Michel Prazeres this weekend at UFC on Fox 20. Gigliotti, however appears to have been signed as a blue chipper and will make his debut against longtime vet Trevor Smith at UFC Salt Lake in August. Oh, and did we mention that there's a new opponent for Wilson Reis at UFC 201? MMAJunkie reports that the promotion has signed Hector Sandoval for a short notice flyweight fight. So...

Who is J.C. Cottrell?

"Superstar" is a 26-year-old fighter out of Oklahoma City's Academy of Martial Arts, training under head coach Kentrick Coleman. Cottrell appears to be the only notable name out of that camp so far, having put together a 17-3 record on the regional circuit and capturing a King of the Cage title along the way. While Cottrell's opposition doesn't contain much in the way of notable names, he's generally faced a strong level of regional journeyman. Lots of deep records and only a few that skew under .500. It's a little troubling to note that all his losses have been via finish, and not to fighters who went on to much greater success, but in his 20 fight career, he's only been to decision four times. Win or lose he seems to be an action fighter. Outside of MMA, Cottrell has a background in wrestling at the high school level.

What you should expect:

Cottrell is a somewhat wooden, but fundamentally sound striker on the feet. He keeps his hands high, throws a lot of low kicks, and works behind 1-2 combos. He doesn't always have the kind of dynamic movement or fluidity to get easy KO's and his record sort of reflects that. When he does have a clear standup advantage he has been willing to get more creative with flying knees and spinning kicks, but against better opposition a lot of that seems to fade away.

Behind his striking, Cottrell does well to hit power doubles, driving through his opponents' hips and even getting the occasional big slam. Once on the ground, however, Cottrell's control game is a bit lax. Mostly that's because he's an aggressive submission hunter with a lot of finishes to his name. But, when he can't get the quick sub, he often loses dominant positions.

What this means for his debut:

It's tough to say how well Cottrell will do against Prazeres. Prazeres is a pretty simple nuts and bolts kind of fighter. He throws big looping power strikes, follows it up with a power double, and then a quick sub-hunting game on the ground. In a lot of ways he's a lot like Cottrell, only perhaps a bit better of an athlete and a more flat-footed striker. If this becomes a straight kickboxing match where neither man can hit takedowns, then it's hard to say who wins. Prazeres probably hits harder, but has been known to fade badly, and is much more lax on defense. Still, given short notice and a power disparity, I'll lean to Prazeres, but not by a lot.

To get us better acquainted, here's Cottrell's most recent bout against Cody Walker at Legacy FC 56:

Who is Joseph Gigliotti?

"Capo" is a 22-year-old middleweight fighting out of Power MMA in Arizona, the same standout camp responsible for Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson, and a host of other top level MMA talents. He'll be making his way to the UFC with an unbeaten 7-0 record, built largely out of Rage in the Cage, but more recently with one-off stints in WSOF and RFA. Unsurprisingly, those latter organizations have offered his stiffest tests to date, against seasoned vet Brendan Tierney and fellow rising talent John Poppie. Gigliotti has yet to see the final bell in his pro career, with four subs and three KOs, but he's already shown he can finish late, with two of his stoppages coming in the latter half of the third round. Outside of MMA, Gigliotti wrestled and played football at the high school level.

What you should expect:

Standing just 5' 11", Gigliotti is a powerfully built middleweight. His short reach may make him more well suited to welterweight long term, depending on how new weight cutting rules affect his ability to drop. But if he doesn't go down, he should still be relatively successful. Like a lot of compact, powerful athletes, Gigliotti's striking game is less notable for its technical depth than how hard he hits. Gigliotti has some notes of Hector Lombard in his stand-up game, with the ability to wing quick, sharp power punches that take advantage of the hand-speed in his short arms. Unfortunately, that can also mean that he has to walk into fire to land shots, and he's been stung a few times early in his career doing it.

Still he's got the kind of wrestling game backing up his fists that you'd expect out of a Power MMA fighter, and layers that wrestling with an impressive submission game. Gigliotti's got great squeeze and uses any advantageous position he can find to sub hunt. He's especially good with guillotines and I'd hope to see him use that to evolve a really strong headlock sub game. Because he is so aggressive on the ground, he isn't the most controlling fighter, but that's something that should work out with time.

What this means for his debut:

It's not like Smith can't be overwhelmed by a low-tech physical beast. We saw that very thing against Caio Magalhaes back in 2014. But, we've also seen Smith beat Brian Houston for a split decision, alongside a wealth of less athletic talent.The hopeful idealist in me wants to see a new young middleweight crash the division with a big win over a veteran. Gigliotti has the raw tools to do it. But, he'll be working at a size disadvantage against a seasoned opponent who's seen it all and looked pretty solid last time out against Dan Miller. If I had to flip a coin, I'm hoping it lands Gigliotti side up, but I won't be surprised if Trevor Smith hands him a loss.

To get us better acquainted, here's GIgliotti's last fight against John Poppie at RFA 37:

Who is Hector Sandoval?

"Kid Alex" is the latest sub-155er to hit the UFC ranks out of Team Alpha Male. The 30-year-old flyweight is set to make his UFC debut this month against top contender Wilson Reis, following an injury to Demetrious Johnson. It's taken longer than anticipated for the #6 ranked 2012 BE Scouting Report prospect, but he comes to the UFC with a 12-2 record, his only losses coming to UFC vets Ulysses Gomez (in Sandoval's first pro bout) and Willie Gates (in the fight that propelled Gates into the UFC). Otherwise the former Tachi Palace Fights champ has a record comprised largely of middling wins. Even his best victories on paper, 6-1 Taylor McCorriston and 6-1-1 Benny Vinson have largely gone on to uninspiring results after fighting Sandoval. So, while he hasn't done a lot of can crushing, when he's faced his best opposition, Sandoval has lost. Outside of MMA, Sandoval was a standout high school wrestler.

What you should expect:

Sandoval strikes a bit like classic WEC featherweight-era Urijah Faber. Which is to say, he's probably a weight class too small for flyweight. Standing just 5' 2", Sandoval looks undersized even on the regional scene. However, like Faber, he makes up for that with a lot of blitzing, power-punches and blazing hand speed. He wings hook combinations to the head and body at every opportunity, and while he doesn't have quite the fluidity or trust of John Lineker, he's a high volume puncher with a real ability to hurt people.

The other side of this is his wrestling. While it seems technical enough to fit the bill, it may be overly reliant on power slams for takedowns. Because he's always the smaller man, Sandoval has had trouble in the past finding leverage to get the fight to the ground. And in a division where top control is amazingly hard to come by there's a chance it's not a skill he can depend on in the UFC. When he does get the fight to the mat, he's decent at being a grinding mauler from guard, but he doesn't show the typical Alpha Male takedown-to-sub-attempt-to-stand-up style and doesn't have much in the way of submission wins on his record.

What this means for his debut:

Sandoval may be able to hang with Reis standing, as both men have the same tendency for fast-handed power exchanges. However, Reis looked great there in his last fight (better than ever in fact) and if Sandoval can't dominate striking in this fight, he'll probably be forced to shoot sooner or later. When he does, I just don't see a ground game that is primed to hang with Wilson Reis. I expect Sandoval to put on a good performance and he has a real punchers chance, but I have to pick Reis by submission in this one.

To get us better acquainted, here's Sandoval's last fight against Eloy Garza at GKO 6: