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Welcome to the UFC, Avila & Novelli

A Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu fighter is on his way to the UFC to Fight SBG Ireland’s Artem Lobov. And there’s a new lightweight talent too.

Welcome to the UFC

Okay, so not every recent UFC signing can be a new heavyweight (even if it feels that way lately). Sometimes you need lightweights and featherweights too. Those are the latest two UFC signings, as the promotion has brought in Jason Novelli to face David Teymur at UFC Salt Lake on August 6th, and Chris Avila to fight SBG Ireland fighter Artem Lobov on UFC 202: McGregor vs. Diaz 2 on August 20th. The promotion made both bouts official over the 4th of July weekend, so...

Who is Jason Novelli?

“Flipside” as he is also known, is a 37-year-old lightweight fighting out of 10th Planet BJJ Portland and Rose City FC alongside longtime Strikeforce and UFC vet Pat Healy. Novelli is on his way to the Octagon with a 11-1-1 record, most recently coming off a draw against former UFC fighter Yosdenis Cedeno at Titan FC 38. He also has wins over Strikeforce vet Zak Bucia and decent regional fighters EJ Brooks and Mike Hanks. Overall his record is a solid mix of good regional talent with only a little filler. His only loss is to current WSOF prospect Phoenix Jones (aka Ben Fodor). Outside of MMA Novelli has a background in wrestling and boxing, having taken a pro bout in 2013.

What you should expect:

Despite his boxing background, Novelli’s striking often seems to stem more from a Muay Thai base, especially early in fights as he tries to feel out his opponent. He likes to lead with low kicks a lot, but shows some good variety in his selection. He’s not a bad counter-puncher, but can get caught looking a bit as he waits to see what his opponent is going to throw at him. When he does decide to lead exchanges, he does a much better job putting his hands together with speed and accuracy.

He’s a solid combination striker with a good eye for defense as he strikes and a well developed jab, but it feels a bit like a switch has to be thrown between being the defensive range striker and the offensive pocket boxer. Otherwise as a wrestler and grappler, Novelli often flashes solid technique, but mixes it with over-aggression and positional lapses. He seems like he can really get caught out in scrambles, even when he’s the faster, more dynamic grappler.

What this means for his debut:

That’s actually a pretty tough question, considering his opponent David Teymur. Novelli will be the taller (and maybe rangier) fighter on fight night, but not by much. And like Novelli, Teymur is a fast, technical striker with real stopping power. Neither man has the deepest resume or history of success against strong competition, even if Novelli has had more fights. I’d probably give Novelli the edge since he’s likely the better wrestler and grappler, but this could just be a kickboxing match in 4oz gloves.

Who is Chris Avila?

When Nate Diaz fights Conor McGregor again it’ll go down with some undercard parity, as SBG Ireland and Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu teammates Chris Avila & Artem Lobov face off. Obviously in that setup, the 23-year-old Avila makes up the Cesar Gracie half of the booking. The UFC newcomer is hitting the Octagon with a 5-2 pro record without having faced much in the way of serious competition. His losses have both come to decent enough prospects, but it’s difficult to see, on paper, what’s bringing him to the big show, other than the gym connections.

What you should expect:

There are bits and pieces of the Diaz style in Avila’s game, but it feels like they have yet to actually form themselves into a full fight game in the cage. Avila can throw some decent slapping counter hooks, but gets backed up and hit really easily by aggressive, offensive fighters. Once his back hits the cage he tends to clinch up and work on finding an avenue to get around to the back while standing. His takedown game is more power than anything, so he’s more comfortable when he can get to the back and then drag his opponent down to the ground. On the ground he’s got a good ride from back mount and a nice RNC game, but there just don’t seem to be a lot of tools to get there yet.

What this means for his debut:

There’s a chance that Artem Lobov is just the kind of fighter who will always make big enough mistakes for any opponent to capitalize on, and in doing so can lose to almost any opponent. I mean, that’s just the kind of thing that leads a fighter to an 11-12 pro record. Still, given Lobov’s toughness and general resistance to getting finished, it’s hard not to weigh his 25 fights worth of experience as a heavy mark in his favor. Especially against a fight who, himself, doesn’t appear to be an athletic or technical marvel anywhere.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Avila’s most recent fight against Drake Boen:

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