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UFC on FOX 29: New Blood - Ricky Rainey, Dan Moret and Lauren Mueller

Boxing at Waterfront Hall Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

UFC on FOX 29, which takes place this Saturday (April 14, 2018) in Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., features one of the year’s most delectably violent main events, pitting bonus-winning machines Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje against each other on national television.

As one would expect from a card with 28 fighters on it, we’ve got a few newbies set to make their Octagon debuts at the big show. Let’s take a look:

Name: Ricky “The Sniper” Rainey
Weight Class: Welterweight
Age: 34
Record: 13-4 (7 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Gilbert Smith, Marc Stevens

One of two debutants stepping up on short notice, Rainey has won four of five since getting blown out by Michael Page in 2014. His only loss during that span came against Chidi Njokuani in a frankly baffling decision, which wasn’t the first time Rainey’s run into questionable judging.

First off: Rainey is a gigantic Welterweight, standing 6’1” and possessing a flat-out unfair 79-inch reach. He actually knows how to use that length, too. He’s a switch-hitting striker with shades of fellow Carolinian Stephen Thompson in his style, Rainey is adept at putting together combinations while staying just out of range of return fire. He’s also got a nifty lead leg arsenal and can sneak both knees and head kicks into his punching flurries.

His whole offense is impressively fluid, especially the stance-switching, and he’s far from helpless if opponents get inside his reach. He can use those long limbs to do damage in the clinch and showed some nice trips and throws against Njokuani. In addition, he showed some nice ground moves against Marc Stevens, countering the wrestler’s takedowns and landing good ground-and-pound in the third round.

Rainey’s biggest flaw, so far as I can tell, is that he can be strangely blasé when not committed to an attack. Stevens caught a lazy kick for a round-securing takedown in their fight and Rainey was fairly inactive against Njokuani. His length lets him get away with naked kicks for the most part, but the opportunity is there for a sharp counter-striker.

Opponent: Rainey replaces the injured Abdul Razak Alhassan against Sanda kickboxing great Muslim Salikhov, who’s coming off a rough debut loss to Alex Garcia. Rainey’s got 10 inches of reach on “The King of Kung Fu,” but may want to focus on his clinch work rather than duke it out with a top-tier kickboxer at range.

Tape: You can watch some of Rainey’s Bellator fights on Bellator.com, which does not appear to have a search bar in its fight library. This is very dumb.


Name: Dan “The Hitman” Moret
Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 31
Record: 13-3 (1 KO, 8 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jordan Griffin

Moret spent the majority of his career at Featherweight, ultimately earning a crack at RFA Featherweight Champion (and recent UFC signee) Raoni Barcelos, who countered Moret to pieces before knocking him stiff in the second round. He’s gone undefeated (2-0) against mid-tier competition since going back to Lightweight.

Like the last UFC “Hitman,” Martin Kampmann, Moret’s hitting isn’t actually the best part of his game. Rather, he’s a submission artist with a lightning-fast level change and rapid combination striking with which to set up his takedowns. There isn’t much recent footage of him, sadly, but what I have seen shows some quality top control and overall wrestling prowess.

His problem? Defense, both striking- and wrestling-wise. He’s overly straightforward on the feet, showing limited angles and head movement, and this let Barcelos find the mark with some wicked punches. His takedown defense also cost him dearly in his previous defeat to future RFA and LFA title challenger Bobby Moffett, who controlled Moret from top position.

Between Moret and Kampmann, maybe “Hitman” refers to being on the receiving end.

Opponent: Moret’s stepping in for Lando Vannata against Gilbert Burns. He’s the largest underdog on the card at the time of writing, which is not terribly surprising considering he’s a former Featherweight with leaky defense against a hoss of a Lightweight with world-calilber Brazilian jiu-jitsu and crushing punching power. This seems straightforward.

Tape: Again, not exactly spoiled for choice here.


Name: Lauren “Princess” Mueller
Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 26
Record: 4-0 (1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Kelly McGill-Velasco

Mueller beat three debuting women in the mismatch factory that is Gladiator Challenge before stepping in on short notice to face McGill-Velasco on the final episode of Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” (DWTNCS). Despite fading late, she came up big, becoming the only woman to earn a contract on the show.

Focusing only on the DWTNCS fight, as the Gladiator Challenge fights aren’t on YouTube and would have told me nothing anyway, Mueller’s a mauler (ayy), marching forward until she can get her opponent against the fence and dig in with punches, knees and elbows. Her accuracy and shot selection are legitimately impressive — she doesn’t waste time winging haymakers, instead catching her opponent as she’s leaning.

Check out the head kick she lands on McGill-Velasco in the first round for an example.

I’d go into the grappling here, but since Mueller didn’t show much aside from some decent takedown defense, let’s go on to her weaknesses, namely that she doesn’t really seem comfortable at range. She’s got a nice counter right, but doesn’t move her head when she throws it, and she doesn’t have the cleanest entries into her preferred range.

She also gassed late on the show, but it’s worth considering that she took that fight on short notice.

Opponent: Mueller takes on Shana Dobson, the No. 16 seed from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 who smashed Ariel Beck in her Octagon debut. It’s an interesting match up, as Mueller’s range issues play into Dobson’s power, while, simultaneously, Dobson’s lack of urgency plays into Mueller’s frantic offense. So long as Mueller’s cardio holds up, expect a fun fight.

Tape:

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 29 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

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