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Welcome to the UFC: Spitz, Calvillo, & Soukhamthath

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The UFC has signed three new fighters to debut at UFC 209 on March 4th in Las Vegas, Nevada. A heavyweight, a bantamweight, and a women’s strawweight are all set for their first appearances in the Octagon.

Welcome to the UFC

The UFC’s recent roster purge doesn’t mean the promotion isn’t still awash in new talent, and continually bringing in more. They may have released a whole slew of fighters lately, but for every one that’s gone there seems to be a new face to take their place. This week, at UFC 209 in Las Vegas Nevada, three new faces will step into the Octagon for the first time. Heavyweight Daniel Spitz replaces Todd Duffee against Mark Godbeer to open the FS1 prelims, women’s strawweight Cynthia Calvillo will make her debut against Amanda Cooper, and bantamweight Andre Soukhamthath will open the card against Albert Morales. So...

Who is Daniel Spitz?

The 26-year-old heavyweight comes to the UFC training out of Sikjitsu in Spokane, Washington. It’s the camp that’s brought Michael Chiesa, Julianna Pena, Elizabeth Phillips, and Sam Sicilia to the UFC. He’ll enter the Octagon with an undefeated 5-0 record. His most notable victory comes over long time veteran and former notable UFC talent, Wesley “Cabbage” Correira. But even with that win, his record so far consists entirely of debuting fighters and .500 journeyman vets. He’s only been to decision once, in his bout with Correira. Outside of MMA, Spitz played football for Washington State as an offensive lineman.

What you should expect:

Standing 6’ 7” and with a reasonable amount of coordination from his football playing days, there’s a lot of basics to like about Spitz. He seems to have a natural feel for striking, working behind a jab (even throwing it to the body occasionally!) and shows signs of potentially developing some combinations behind it. Without a doubt, he does his best work from the clinch, using his long frame to throw powerful knees. But he does a reasonable enough job not “fighting tall” that he doesn’t have the sitting target feel at range that a lot of other really tall fighters do.

Because he is as big as he is, however, he doesn’t seem to be much of a wrestler. Most of that is probably just down to physics and the difficulty of getting a frame that big low enough to generate takedown leverage. But given his clinch work, it’d be nice to see him develop at least a trip and drag game.

The biggest thing that could potentially hinder his UFC success is that he just doesn’t look particularly fast. His hand and foot speed aren’t great, which could mean he’ll lack the dynamic offensive potentially of Travis Browne who is about the same size. He does show signs of a surprisingly decent gas tank, fighting well into the third round of his one decision.

What this means for his debut:

The only real question I have is, is Mark Godbeer durable enough to fight guys as big as the UFC has been signing. Because if he is, he should have this fight sewn up. He’s giving up 3 inches of height to Spitz, but should have a major foot speed and technical striking advantage. I don’t see anything in Spitz’s wrestling game to suggest he’d even try to take Godbeer down, let alone have the technique to do so. So it should be mostly a kickboxing battle. That would be Godbeer’s fight, but at heavyweight, it’s often all about durability and gastank.

To get better acquainted, here’s Spitz’s recent bout against “Cabbage” Correira:

Who is Cynthia Calvillo?

Team Alpha Male’s Calvillo is a 29-year-old strawweight fighter. Coming from one of MMA’s more prestigious camps, she should be arriving in the UFC with a lot of solid training and sparring experience under her belt working alongside Paige VanZant, Lance Palmer, and Chad Mendes among many others. Calvillo is set to maker he Octagon debut carrying a 3-0 record, most recently beating 6-3 Montana Stewart. Otherwise her level of competition is about what you’d expect for a prospect with less than 5 bouts. It is worth noting, however, that Calvillo does hold an amateur win over undefeated Invicta prospect Aspen Ladd.

What you should expect:

If MMA is Cynthia Calvillo’s first martial art, it seems she’s taken to the wrestling aspect of it really naturally. Calvillo has a solid understanding of trip and drag takedowns as well as getting in on double legs against the fence, and does a great job not just finishing takedowns, but keeping control once the fight hits the mat. She’s got a very flowy grappling game, that emphasizes quick back takes and body locks.

Standing, Calvillo looks like she’s spent a lot of time working on the fundamentals of footwork and head movement, but she still doesn’t have the mechanics of being a comfortable puncher. When she chooses to throw, she can be a bit stationary, and often ends up eating a shot or two when trying to land her own. She also doesn’t seem particularly willing to really commit to strikes at this point in her career. But she does use her movement nicely to set up takedowns either as opponents come in or disguised by her own feints as she enters the pocket.

What this means for her debut:

This should be an interesting fight. Cooper is the far, far more comfortable striker on her feet, but she’s hardly a knockout artist, instead tending to favor lots of quick movement and volume over sitting down on her punches. That could leave room for Calvillo to get in on her takedowns. Calvillo has good takedown defense, so I think she’ll be able to dictate whether she stays standing or not, and she’s got a much more patient, controlling ground game than Cooper. I’ll lean Calvillo here, but she has to make sure she gets the fight to the ground early in rounds.

To get better acquainted, here’s her last bout against Montana Stewart in Legacy Fighting Alliance:

Who is Andre Soukhamthath?

“The Asian Sensation” is a 28-year-old Laotian-American bantamweight and former Blackzilian team member now training at Combat Club under Henri Hooft along with Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson and many other former Blackzilians. He’ll be making his debut in the UFC with an 11-3 pro-record and his status as the current CES bantamweight champion. He has wins over once-rumored UFC signing Carlos Galindo, as well as Bellator vets Blair Tugman and Kin Moy (the latter avenging an earlier career loss). Of his 11 career wins, only one comes by way of decision. Prior to MMA, Soukhamthath played soccer as a goalie.

What you should expect:

When Soukhamthath’s striking game is clicking he’s an incredibly dangerous fighter. Soukhamthath often works behind a very solid jab, picking his spots to throw more powerful combinations. He’s got great hand-speed and looks like he hits hard. His defensive movement when boxing is reasonably slick, and when he’s focused on finding counters, he does a marvelous job getting just barely out of the way of strikes to fire off a 2 or 3-punch combination in return.

The flip side of this is, that he has a bad habit of shelling up against incoming strikes. When he’s not pulling the trigger on the counter, Soukhamthath often defaults to backing straight up with a high guard and just letting his opponent try to punch around it. He can also be a bit lazy blocking head kicks, trusting that having one hand high on the kicking side will do the defensive work for him. Surprisingly for a former soccer player, he doesn’t seem interested in kicking much at all. Although he will occasionally throw one out if the opportunity arises.

Otherwise, Soukhamthath’s not a bad wrestler, focused mostly on staying upright. He can get caught out being a bit defensively lazy, just like with his stand up, but does well to emphasize getting to his feet quickly. He also does a decent job landing some ground and pound when he can stuff a shot or finding an opening to jump on a submission. But his ground game all seems more a part of an emphasis on transition striking and grappling than any interest in staying on the mat for more than a few seconds.

What this means for his debut:

This should be a firefight. Morales is likely the faster of the two fighters and the more consistently aggressive. But both men hit hard and want to box first and foremost. They also both seem very durable, despite having some real defensive liabilities. I might pick Morales, just because his speed and aggression could catch Soukhamthath out early (especially if he shells up and lets Morales flurry). But, if the fight lasts more than a round, Soukhamthath’s more patient and more technical approach could win out. Soukhamthath throws his hands a lot cleaner and tighter than Morales. It is also worth noting that Morales has an aggressive back take game that he uses really well if he can open the opportunity. Either way, I’d expect it to be a barn burner.

To get better acquainted, here’s Soukhamthath’s CES title winning fight against Kody Nordby: