Daniel Zellhuber earned a UFC contract in September 2021 when he scored a decision win over Lucas Almeida on a Dana White Contender Series (DWCS) card. Zellhuber makes his UFC debut this weekend at UFC Vegas 60 when he faces fellow lightweight Trey Ogden on the prelims.
Zellhuber, who began training in his hometown of Mexico City at the age of 12, scored a decision win over Lucas Almeida (who has since joined the UFC and gone 1-0) in that DWCS contest. The first round did not go well for Zellhuber.
Almeida’s power, speed and ability to move in and out of range, confounded his younger foe in the opening stanza. Zellhuber sensed the tide was against him at a few points during the first five minutes, but his attempts to slow things down by keeping the fight in the clinch against the cage largely failed.
However, the second and third rounds were a different story. Instead of being discouraged by being outstruck by Almeida, Zellhuber figured he had taken the best his opponent had to offer in that first round. With that, he upped his aggression and showed a willingness to engage in a striking battle he had not displayed in the opening minutes. That change in game plan paid off with the 29-28 x 3 decision win for Zellhuber.
After his DWCS card victory, Zellhuber sat in a director’s chair with the UFC broadcast camera on him, crutches in his right hand — he later said he had a fractured shin going into the fight — and listened to UFC president Dana White speak about his performance that evening.
“First of all, he’s got an incredible chin,” said White. “(He has a) Well-rounded game. He’s only 22 years old, but he’s 12-0 at 22 years old. You never see that. get over here, Daniel.”
With a smile on his face, Zellhuber got his crutches under him and made his way to White, who shook the young man’s hand and welcomed him to the UFC.
“I’m here to prove that I’m the next generation of UFC Mexican fighter,” Zellhuber told Laura Sanko after his brief meeting with White.
While he waited to make his UFC debut, Zellhuber focused on his education inside and outside the cage. He graduated from Universidad Tecnologica de Mexico (UNITEC) with a degree in physiotherapy. As for his combat sports career, Zellhuber earned his black belt in jiu-jitsu and then traveled to Thailand where he trained at Tiger Muay Thai for three months before heading to Las Vegas to work with Eric Nicksick and the team at Xtreme Couture.
As a fighter, Zellhuber uses his length, speed and athleticism well. Those traits — and perhaps his age along with the praise he has received for his chin and his unbeaten record — have given Zellhuber confidence in his striking. The downside of that self-assurance is he keeps his hands a little too low for my liking. Zellhuber’s lack of a strong defensive guard allowed Almeida to tag him in the first stanza of their bout. Zellhuber might want to correct his lack of defense before he’s forced to address it after a knockout loss inside the octagon.
I’d expect Ogden, who has 20 pro fights to his name (15-5) and who trains with James Krause out of Glory MMA, will have a deep knowledge of Zellhuber’s tendencies and weaknesses. I’d also expect that the time working with a trainer like Nicksick in a gym where he is not the most talented fighter will have Zellhuber looking like a much different fighter than he did in his DWCS (Dana White’s Contender Series) win.