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Welcome to the UFC: Hunter & Ricci

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A slew of new Canadian talent is on their way to the UFC to fill out the undercard of the promotion’s upcoming Vancouver show.

Welcome to the UFC

The UFC talent onslaught continues as we get ready for UFC on Fox 21. With the Vancouver card just around the corner, I’m going to take a better look at the latest batch of signing looking to make their debut. I already talked about Felipe Silva in a previous article, so this time around I’m focused on newcomers Adam Hunter (no not that Adam Hunter) debuting against fellow newcomer Ryan Janes, and Alex Ricci co-debuting against opponent Jeremy Kennedy. There’s not much tape on Kennedy or Janes, so they’re taking a back seat to their opponents. Anyway...

Who is Adam Hunter?

The 32-year-old “Warhammer” is a middleweight fighter working out of Ottawa Academy of Martial Arts under head coach Jeff Harrison, as well as a number of other local gyms. He’ll be coming to the UFC with a 7-1 record, having won all his bouts since losing his pro-debut back in 2010. All Hunter’s wins come by way of stoppage with 6 KOs and 1 submission. He’s only been out of the first round once. Hunter’s level of competition isn’t terrible, but it’s not exceptionally notable either. He’s largely been facing similarly experienced talent on the way up, fighting in regional Canadian shows. His biggest win to date came in his last bout where he defeated UFC vet Chris Dempsey. Outside of MMA, Hunter is a Canadian Armed forces veteran with a background in boxing and wrestling.

What you should expect:

The hallmarks of Hunter’s MMA performances have largely been raw physicality. He’s a big, thickly built bruising fighter. Of course, the flip side of being known as a brawler is that he’s not much of a technician. Hunter likes to wade in, hands flying, head hunting, come what may. He’s a decently powerful clinch boxer, but can be a bit of a wall-n-stall fighter if he gets tied up against the fence. He also can eat some really hard shots coming in with his hands low, looking to throw with power. But the mixture of toughness and aggression and power punching make him a dangerous man, even without a ton of polish.

What this means for his debut:

There’s almost no tape out there on Ryan Janes and what exists is so old as to be almost useless. The best I can tell is that he comes with a pretty BJJ heavy game, having just received his black belt and having won all but one of his bouts by submission. Like Hunter, Janes has also faced pretty decent competition, and looks to be an in shape 6’ 2” so I’m not expecting any one major physical advantage for either man. I might favor Hunter just for how powerfully built he is, but without having seen Janes’ takedown game, that’s not much to go on. Should be a very distinct style vs. style matchup, striker vs. grappler.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Hunter’s last fight against UFC vet Chris Dempsey:

Who is Alex Ricci?

I guess first and foremost it’s worth noting that he’s no relation to “The Martian.” Beyond that, the 34-year-old lightweight trains out of M1 Thaiboxing, a gym he owns in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada. He also spends a lot of time training at Para Bellum MMA when not at his own gym. Ricci will be entering the UFC with a 10-3 overall record in MMA, with all of his losses coming to notable opposition. The rest of his record is full of strong regional talent with a few prospects and veterans sprinkled in. While Ricci hasn’t finished a fight since 2012, he also has yet to be finished and has been fighting good competition. So at the very least, he’s battle tested. Outside of MMA Ricci has an extensive background in Muay Thai (although I’m not sure what his record is) stretching back to his teens.

What you should expect:

Obviously, with a long Muay Thai background and his own Thai Boxing gym to look after, Ricci’s in cage approach is pretty heavily based off his striking game. And while he’s obviously a decent, fast athlete, and in very good shape his striking is really most notable for its caution. Ricci doesn’t put out a lot of volume, tending to try and use foortwork to stay at range, where he can feint and look for opportunities to land combinations.

It’s hard to tell how much his game has evolved since the tape I’ve seen. With a couple more years under his belt I’d hope he’s made real strides in his takedown defense and striking defense. But at his age, and with his lack of KO’s I’m not expecting a revolution. It’s worth noting that, at least earlier in his career, some of Ricci’s hesitancy to throw seems to seep into his combination boxing, when he does actually sit down on his strikes. Much less impressive strikers (like Ryan Healy) have been able to catch him with big overhands and counters as he gets stuck looking at his work in the cage.

What this means for his debut:

The key to Ricci’s UFC success is really going to be all about output. He’s faced some top level competition already and he’s been around combat sports long enough to have some veteran savvy, but if he can’t put a pace on guys at the top level, he’ll struggle. It’s hard to know how his opponent Kennedy fits into that. Kennedy seems to combine an aggressive takedown and sub-hunting grappling game with a focus on counter-punching while standing.

That could mean that he gives Ricci lots of time and space to work, and will shoot from too far out to get the takedowns he wants. Or it could mean he’ll successfully press Ricci against the cage for long stretches and maybe land a couple big counters and get some takedowns. I think I’d feel safer betting on Kennedy here. Even as the lesser athlete without the deep skill base, he seems like the more tried and true aggressive MMA talent.