The injury bug has dealt UFC Fight Night 139, which takes place tomorrow night (Sat., Nov. 10, 2018) inside Pepsi Arena in Denver, Colo., an absolute whooping, torpedoing seven different fights. However, from the ashes rise five promising Octagon newcomers, most of whom have experience on either the “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” the venerable LFA mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, or both. So without further delay, welcome back to “New Blood,” the bit where we tell you the reason(s) you should care about the guy or gal you’d never heard of on the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard. Let’s begin!
Name: Maycee “The Future” Barber
Weight Class: Strawweight
Record: 5-0 (2 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jamie Colleen
Barber made her professional debut last year just a month after her nineteenth birthday, racking up four wins in LFA before signing on for Season Two of “Contender Series.” Barber used long kicks and strong ground-and-pound to dominate Jamie Colleen, ultimately putting her away with strikes in the final minute of the scheduled 15.
This will be her fourth fight of 2018.
Even putting aside the similarity of their circumstances, Barber really does remind me of Paige VanZant in a few ways. Barber fights at two ranges, either launching single kicks from the outside or grinding in the clinch until she can get an outside reap. Though her striking is still developing, her top control is genuinely solid — she passes guard well and can do some real damage with her ground-and-pound.
She has some of VanZant’s weaknesses as well, unfortunately, namely that she struggles between her two preferred ranges. Though she’s gotten better about it, she tends to move in straight lines and leave herself open on the way in. She hasn’t really learned to blend her strikes with her takedowns, either, nor has she shown a good level change. Plus, her takedown defense isn’t all that great. She’ll need to beef up her defense and develop some synergy between her areas of expertise if she wants to excel.
Opponent: She was originally booked against Maia Stevenson, which would have been pretty much a showcase for her, as Stevenson has yet to beat a competent opponent. She’ll instead fight late replacement Hannah Cifers, who packs a strong punch and could prove problematic if Barber remains as hittable as she’s been in the past. Still, Barber is the more proven of the two and should be able to dominate on the inside.
Name: Hannah “Shockwave” Cifers
Weight Class: Strawweight
Record: 8-2 (5 KO)
Notable Victories: Kali Robbins
Cifers picked up her first victory over someone with a winning record in September, knocking out Kali Robbins to extend her current win streak to five. She steps up on short notice to replace the injured Maia Stevenson.
“Shockwave” prefers to do her dirty work on the feet, throwing punches in bunches with some real power behind them. Her right hand is particularly potent when she throws it properly; however, she has this weird tendency to keep the arm fully extended and just kinda swat opponents with it after the first blow. There’s no apostrophe for her body attack, though — she’s one of the rare female fighters who really understands the value of punishing the midsection.
Her aggression and volume are plenty good, too. She’s not fond of stepping backward and will swarm as soon as she smells blood. She’s also good at one of my favorite tricks: Following up a kick with a punch from the same side.
Her issues? A lack of competition, unproven grappling, and that aforementioned bad habit with her right arm. She’s not super crisp, which cuts into both her power and her ability to land consistently. She has the skillset and mindset to be a reliable action fighter, but her ability to climb the ranks depends on her ability to tighten her boxing without sacrificing the aggression that makes it work.
Opponent: Maycee Barber is more beatable than the lopsided odds would suggests, but this is certainly an uphill battle for Cifers. She’ll have to deal with a technical, grueling clinch and stay on her feet throughout, as Barber doesn’t need much time on top to rack up damage. I expect her to look decent at range until Barber can tie up and put on the hurt.
Name: Bobby “The Wolfman” Moffett
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 13-3 (1 KO, 8 SUB)
Notable Victories: Dan Moret, Jacob Kilburn
Moffett came up short in title bids against Raoni Barcelos and Thanh Le, but a pair of victories brought him to”Contender Series,” where he dominated Jacob Kilburn before choking him out in the second round. This Saturday’s fight will be his fifth appearance of 2018.
“The Wolfman” is primarily a chain wrestler with good chokes, constantly pressuring his opponents with persistent takedowns until they give up their necks. He’s comfortable in the grind, happy to stay glued to you and take you down as many times as you stand up. That chain wrestling also allows him to transition between takedown styles until one of them does the trick.
Basically, all he needs to do is get a decent grip on you to turn the next few minutes into a miserable slog.
Getting that grip isn’t always easy, though, especially since Moffett’s striking is sorely lacking. He got chewed up on the feet by both Le and subsequent foe Enrique Gonzalez, and while he managed to grapple his way to victory against the latter, Le repeatedly found the mark with straight lefts and pretty much everything else he threw. Moffett just doesn’t seem like he puts any real power behind his strikes, nor is he great at disguising his long-range shots. As he is now, sprawl-and-brawl is a viable tactic against Moffett, and he’ll need to fix that if he wants to make a name for himself in a stacked Featherweight division.
Opponent: Moffett faces something of a mirror match against Chas Skelly, another overpowering wrestler with strong front chokes. This one’s a pick ‘em: Skelly is the more proven wrestler of the two, holding his own against the likes of Mirsad Bektic, but has faded badly when forced to work for his takedowns. Moffett is going to be difficult to deal with in the grappling, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Skelly, who’s also coming off a significant layoff, burns himself out trying to control Moffett in the early going. Odds-wise, it’s the closest fight on the card, so keep your eyes on his one.
Tape: Moffett’s fight with Gonzalez is on Fight Pass.
Name: Thiago Moises
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 11-2 (3 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Zach Freeman, Jamall Emmers, Gleidson Cutis
Moises looked posed to earn a UFC contract after the second defense of his RFA title, only to lose a one-sided decision to Robert Watley his next time out. After choking out Jeff Peterson in June, he returned on “Contender Series” two months later, knocking out an overweight Gleidson Cutis late in the first round.
He is a late replacement for the injured Chris Gruetzemacher.
Moises boasts the sort of crowd-pleasing style you love to see out of a young fighter. He’s primarily an aggressive, high-volume striker who works behind a strong jab to unload quick combinations, sneaking in kicks and elbows as needed. He’s plenty good on the counter, too; he repeatedly caught Freeman with cross counters, constantly punishing his opponent whenever he tried to break Moises’ offensive rhythm.
In addition, the Brazilian is quite potent on the ground. Though he’s plenty happy to strike, he’s got some wrestling chops, which he has ample opportunity to improve at American Top Team. On the ground, he’s fairly submission-happy, willing to go for low-percentage leglocks if given the opportunity. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with more traditional submissions, either.
Moises’s key weakness is that he’s not half as good off the back foot as he is on the attack. When opponents give him space to operate, his combinations are lethal, and a disheartened foe throwing single shots is a prime target for his counters. He struggles badly with pressure, unfortunately. Watley made him look downright pedestrian by constantly forcing him backward and exploiting his tendency to back straight to the fence. As we saw with Junior dos Santos, this is a weakness that can lead to a very short reign amongst the elite.
Opponent: Moises faces Beneil Dariush, a strong pressure fighter and grappler who seems perfectly equipped to exploit the lingering issues in Moises’ game. That said, the Brazilian is only 23 years old and in an excellent camp, so we could certainly see some dramatic improvement, and Dariush’s recent struggles present a very real opportunity for Moises to knock off a well-regarded name. I have Dariush winning this, but don’t sleep on Moises.
Name: Devonte Smith
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 8-1 (7 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Justin Edwards, Joseph Lowry
Following a loss to the one and only John Gunther, in which Smith beat the future The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alum to a pulp before succumbing to his grappling, Smith dispatched three consecutive opponents on his way to a “Contender Series” appearance. He took on unbeaten Joseph Lowry in May, showing some good striking before putting away Lowry with Travis Browne-style elbows to the side of the head.
“King Kage” is a 5’8” knockout artist who pushes forward behind a quick jab and low kicks to fire heavy combinations. He’s extremely aggressive, and should his onslaught put him in clinching range, Smith is strong enough to heave opponents to the mat. Once on top, he’s downright nasty, more than capable of straight-up sleeping people with his ground-and-pound.
Overall, there’s plenty to love about his speed, athleticism, and stopping power. The question mark is that Gunther fight; despite Smith absolutely battering his slower opponent with punches, he surrendered easy takedowns en route to getting pounded out on the mat. His tendency to back straight up also allowed Lowry to get in on his hips against the cage, although Smith got out of that pickle rather dramatically. I need to see him against dedicated wrestlers before I’m ready to call him a blue-chip prospect.
Opponent: His takedown defense shouldn’t be a factor in his debut. Julian Erosa is plenty happy to strike, even if it’s not the ideal course of action. This should still tell us something about Smith’s ceiling, though. Erosa’s height and offbeat striking make him a tricky opponent to deal with. Smith should still win, sure, but he’ll show us his ability to adapt to an atypical opponent.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 139 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.