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UFC on FOX 31: New Blood - ‘Contender Series’ rolls into Milwaukee

With UFC 231 behind us and UFC 232 looming just after Christmas, it falls to UFC on FOX 31 to make do with what parts of the roster aren’t attached to big-time pay-per-view (PPV) events. As a result, the organization has called up a trio of “Contender Series” veterans, all of whom scored impressive finishes on this latest season. Let’s have a look.

Dwight “The Body Snatcher” Grant

Weight Class: Welterweight
Age: 34
Record: 8-1 (6 KO)
Notable Victories: Tyler Hill, Jordan Williams

Grant brought a six-fight win streak into his “Contender Series” appearance this past June, including a one-punch finish of future fellow alum Jordan Williams. Despite coming off a 19-month layoff, he wiped out Tyler Hill with a brutal 2-3 that earned him a contract on the spot.

Though American Kickboxing Academy is best-known for its wrestlers, Grant is a slugger; the only wrestling I’ve seen out of him is defensive, and that seemed to hold up just fine. He reminds me of a couple of random Brazilian UFC veterans: Valmir Lazaro and Kevin Souza. Like Lazaro, he likes to lean back at the waist to avoid incoming fire before coming back with looping punches. Like Souza, his offense seems composed entirely of heavy rights and wide hooks in various combinations. The overhand right is his preferred lead, the left hook his preferred counter.

And despite the nickname, he really doesn’t snatch the body all that much.

Grant clearly has concussive force in both hands, but I’d prefer so see some cleaner technique out of someone who’s seven years and nine fights into his professional career. He’s also in his mid-30s, so the potential for dramatic growth might not be there. He’s got good timing and power, though, so I could see him going decently far even with his current shortcomings.

Opponent: He was originally booked against Erik Koch, an entertaining and technical striker who’s nonetheless come up short in his biggest fights to date. Instead, he’s fighting Zak Ottow, who has had a few impressive moments in the Octagon but is otherwise so nondescript that I have trouble remembering what exactly his style is despite six UFC appearances. Grant should pick up another highlight-reel finish within the first two rounds.

Tape:


Jordan “The Native Psycho” Griffin

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 28
Record: 17-5 (5 KO, 8 SUB)
Notable Victories: Maurice Mitchell

Griffin had won eight of his previous nine, including strong runs in King of the Cage and LFA, when he took on once-beaten Alaska FC veteran Maurice Mitchell on the Contender Series. Though he had to fight out of a deep d’arce choke to do it, he ultimately dropped Mitchell with a heavy left hand and choked him out immediately afterwards.

“The Native Psycho” is a bundle of athleticism, exploding forward with punches and hitting high-amplitude slams when he gets in on his opponents’ hips. Imagine Dominique Steele with a bit more polish, one-shot power, and submission skills. This all-offense style can result in issues against those willing to plant their feet and throw straight up the middle, but considering that three of his five losses came in his first four fights, I’d say it’s working out for him.

Opponent: A lack of polish is Griffin’s current weakness, and he’ll certainly be tested against a hard-nosed wrestler in Dan Ige. This should give us a good idea of Griffin’s potential; should he manage to overpower Ige through physicality or show the technique he needs to make the most of his gifts, he could make a solid dent in the Featherweight ranks.

Tape:


Juan “The Kraken” Adams

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 26
Record: 4-0 (4 KO)
Notable Victories: Shawn Teed

Standing 6’5” with an 80” reach and cutting to make the Heavyweight limit, Adams is by far the largest man to reach UFC via “Contender Series.” He went undefeated (4-0) as an amateur, all by knockout, then picked up three more knockouts in the professional ranks before pounding out Shawn Teed in July.

Adams made his amateur debut in Sept. 2016, then his professional debut the following June. He’s still a raw talent, and it shows; he doesn’t have a great grasp of distance on his feet, allowing less lengthy opponents to find his chin, and despite showing some stance switching against Teed, his punches are more eager than they are technically sound. Still, a man that big swinging that hard tends to do damage even if he’s not going about it in the most efficient manner.

His top control is where he shines. Those long arms allow him to put considerable leverage behind his ground-and-pound, and his sheer size makes it inordinately difficult to budge him once he’s on top. I haven’t seen him push for takedowns, so I’ve no idea if this will be another Bigfoot Silva/Mark Munoz situation where terrifying ground-and-pound never gets used because he can’t consistently get on top, but his counter-wrestling seems decent.

A young, powerful Heavyweight with colossal size is a rare commodity; hopefully he can reach his considerable potential.

Opponent: Adams fights Chris De La Rocha, who respectively spent his first two UFC bouts getting knocked unconscious in 48 seconds and getting smashed to bits for nine minutes. He’s coming off a win over Rashad Coulter wherein he outlasted “Daywalker,” but has little to trouble Adams.

Tape:

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.