It's hard to argue that the UFC needs new fighters right now. They have somewhere right around 500 after all, but there are still a couple of thin divisions in need of a boost. And a boost they'll be getting, with the addition of two new prospects. Tatame announces that Keith Berish has been signed to the light heavyweight division, where he will take on Robert Drysdale, fresh off his suspension for a failed drug test. It'll be the debut fight for both men in the UFC. Also making her debut, as a short notice replacement, MMANytt reports that Valerie Letourneau has been singed to face Milana Dudieva at UFC 174, following the withdrawl of Germaine De Randamie due to visa complications.
Who is Keith Berish?
The 28-year old from black and blue MMA in New York, comes to the UFC with a debatable 5-0 record. Mixedmartialarts.com has him officially listed as 4-0 (1 NC) while Sherdog has that no contest listed as a win, so it was likely overturned later. While his record isn't deep it's built primarily on Ring of Combat, one of the more legit regional promotions in the US. Like his level of experience, his wins aren't exciting, but they are over solid regional competition and four of them come through first round stoppage. In his most recent bout, Barish won the ROC middleweight title, last worn by Chris Weidman. He has a background as a high school wrestler, but has some BJJ and Muay Thai experience as well.
What you should expect:
Watching Berish fight, his Muay Thai training is very evident in his stand up. He stands tall and with a fairly narrow base and uses angles and short combinations to stay busy on the feet. He kicks well from the outside, but in general his footwork and balance are a little iffy and he can often get himself out of position throwing strikes. Defensively, his standup is not always on point, and he can get hit, but more often than not, when he's put on the defensive he looks to shoot in for takedowns. He's got a decent double and single leg and he seems to move nicely to turn opponents on the takedown, to make it harder to defend. Berish is very heavy on top and tends to sit in guard looking for clear opportunities to pass or land strikes. He can be a bit boringly patient at times, but is very controlling. On the bottom, he tends to scramble a lot more and will look for heel hooks and other ways to create space and sweep or get back to his feet.
What this means for his debut:
Against much of the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions, Berish would probably have a pretty decent shot at a win in his first UFC fight. He's not super weak in any area, has good submission offense and good wrestling and a bit of pop in his strikes due to his compact frame. But, he's not a kickboxing dynamo, and I seriously doubt he resists the urge to take Drysdale to the mat. From there, I really don't see him being able to stay competitive. His best hope might be if Drysdale has too limited a gas tank and Berish's sub defense is strong. If that's the case, he might survive a rough first round and be able to win a bad kickboxing bout. Still, my money would probably be on Drysdale by submission.
Who is Valerie Letourneau?
Defeated by Roxanne Modafferi in the opening round of TUF 18, 31 year-old Canadian Valerie Letourneau will enter the UFC on the back of a 5-3 professional record. She trains out of Tristar Gym alongside Georges St-Pierre, Rory MacDonald and the rest of the UFC talent working out of Canada's super camp. Standing 5' 7" she won't be dramatically undersized for the weight class, but has spent a lot of time fighting at 125 lbs. While her record (and more importantly her wins) are not all that impressive, her only losses have come to top competition, with split decisions to Claudia Gadelha and Alexis Davis.
What you should expect:
Letourneau has a decently technical but overly patient kickboxing style at range. She throws well and with good technique; her punches are straight, her kicks appear hard, but she doesn't work with enough volume to prevent opponents from closing distance on her. Her takedown defense, at least in the Modafferi fight, didn't look great, and as with her striking, she appears to have some decent grappling tools, but is entirely too complacent to hang out and let her opponents work. Essentially she's a decent low output kickboxer with power who's not going to threaten on a lot of other levels.
What this means for her debut:
Dudieva mirrors Letourneau in as much as they both like to stand and strike, and they both are less aggressive than they could be. However, Dudieva is much more of the Eastern European counter striking mindset. Otherwise, Dudieva has a much more agressive ground game, so the big question here will be, can one of these women hurt the other and force some grappling because of it. If the fight goes to the mat, it will be all about how polished Letourneau's sub defense is as Dudieva will immediately attack arms and legs, but give up position to do so. I'd give Dudieva the edge with her more varied style, but it should be an interesting fight.
To get us better acquainted, here's Berish's most recent bout against Ariel Sepulveda (fight starts at about 2:38:00):
And here's Letourneau's bout against Roxanne Modafferi from TUF 18: