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Welcome to the UFC, Gillespie & Lansberg

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One of the best lightweight prospects in the world is making his UFC debut this week.

Welcome to the UFC

The next sacrif...fighter to face Cris Cyborg is all lined up to make her UFC debut this week. It seems the UFC still can’t convince any of their prominent talent at 135 to take a stab at the most dominant woman in MMA above bantamweight (and arguably in the sport), so they’ve got a fresh fighter willing to take the plunge in order to get herself a contract and a chance at a few more winnable fights down the line. And just maybe a slim chance at stealing a win and a place in MMA lore. Accompanying her this week will be one of the sport’s brightest prospects. lightweight Gregor Gillespie is set to make his debut against TUF Brazil winner Glaico Franca. So...

Who is Lina Lansberg?

The “Elbow Princess” (BE does not sponsor or have any connections to this fighter) is a 34-year-old bantamweight (mostly) fighting out of Redline Training Center in Malmo, Sweden under former UFC featherweight Akira Corassani. She’s coming to the UFC with a 6-1 record having gone undefeated since a debut loss to former Cage Warriors champ Pannie Kianzad. All things considered, Lansberg’s record is pretty decent with wins over vets like Maria Hougaard Djursaa and Alexandra Buch, and regional talents like Lucie Pudilova and Laura Howarth. She seems to mostly be fighting the best people available at the very least. Outside of MMA, Lansberg has a long background in Muay Thai including a number of regional, European, and IFMA world championships.

What you should expect:

Lansberg is a solid, if somewhat cautious striker at range, who works out of a low base and likes to throw single power strikes from distance. She’s got nice form on her punches and lands with good accuracy, however, mixing well to the head and body. The rest of her striking game is built around the clinch and getting there. She does well to close distance behind flurries, throwing two or three punches and the occasional kick) before closing into the clinch, where she goes to work with her elbows, as is her namesake. She has a bad habit of head hunting, and picking her chin up when she closes range, as well as tending to come in on straight lines, but has generally been overwhelming enough doing so to get away with it.

Lansberg’s clinch work is good. She frames well for knees and throws a variety of short, sharp elbows. She really makes great use of her Muay Thai background as a clinch fighter for more than just plum knees. In the past, her takedown defense hasn’t been good, but there’s not a lot of recent footage of her wrestling or grappling in fights at all.

What this means for her debut:

If this became a pure clinch battle, Lansberg might do alright. She frames well, she throws good knees and elbows. She even hits with solid power from the outside. However, it’s hard not to look at the combination of a patience at range and a tendency to attack on straight lines as a recipe for Cyborg to just bull through her. And even if Lansberg can stave off Cyborg’s shots, there’s not a lot to suggest that if this fight does go to the clinch, Cyborg won’t just rag-doll her to the mats. Lesser fighters have before. Lansberg isn’t a bad talent and she’s definitely not the most over-matched fighter Cyborg has faced, but this still has the makings of a round 1 TKO.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Lansberg’s latest fight against Maria Hougaard Djursaa (her only fight at 145 so far):

Who is Gregor Gillespie?

If you’ve been paying attention to prospects rising in the MMA world, then you’ll probably already know that “The Gift” is one of the best ones out there. The 29-year old former Ring of Combat champion comes to the UFC with a perfect, 7-0 record, having defeated regional talents like Justin Harrington, Jose Mariscal, and Sidney Outlaw. Gillespie trains out of Bellmore Kickboxing and Scarola BJJ, home of Costa Phillippou, Andre Harrison, and former stomping ground for fighters like Ryan LaFlare and Gian Villante. Outside of MMA, Gillespie was a D-I National Champion wrestler for Edinboro University at 149 lbs.

What you should expect:

Well, obviously there’s wrestling. And it’s not just a pedigree; Gillespie has the kind of dogged toughness and complexity to his wrestling game that can make fighters exceptionally successful at higher levels. If a shot isn’t going the way he wants, he’ll bail on it, reset, and start again. If he gets in on your hips and you start to sprawl on him, he’ll turn a corner, change his approach, and spin you down. He has a habit of shooting from too far out and of not always setting up his takedowns, but it doesn’t matter much when you’re as persistent as he seems to be.

That persistence is a big big part of Gillespie’s game, because it’s obvious that he wants to be aggressive and doesn’t always have the right tools for it. He can give up control on the ground while searching for submissions or ground and pound - although he tends to do much better against fighters closer to his size - and he’s not a bad striker, but doesn’t yet have a great knack for creating striking offense. But his excellent condition and very good scrambling ability, along with a great willingness to fight through whatever situation he finds himself in, makes him an incredibly tough out. Essentially Gillespie is great at dragging you into a high paced wrestling match and then making you try and keep up with him. And if you can’t he’ll figure out how to land enough strikes for the TKO or get the right position to make you submit.

What this means for his debut:

There are a few interesting aspects at play in this matchup. The first of them is that Gillespie seems like he might be better suited for featherweight, standing just 5’ 9” and not trending toward the fire-hydrant build. Add to that, that at 6’ 2”, Franca is a massive 155er and a decent prospect on his own, and this could be a big first challenge for Gillespie in the UFC. Franca hits hard and tends to do well in scrambling grappling exchanges. GIllespie’s trouble of giving up dominant positions to larger fighters could be a major problem here, even if Franca doesn’t overwhelm him striking. I want to think Gillespie gets a big win off his cardio and constant wrestling ability, but his first career loss, via submission, seems more likely.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Gillespie’s last bout against Sidney Outlaw: