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UFC Fight Night 128: New Blood - Ricky Simon

IFL New Jersey Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

UFC Fight Night 128, which goes down tomorrow night (Sat., April 21 2018) inside Boardwalk Hall in in Atlantic City, N.J., has some decent heft to it. Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee headlines a 12-fight card that features representatives from all but two weight classes. Among those numbers is a top-notch Bantamweight prospect who is stepping up on short notice to replace Brazilian jiu-jitsu great Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, who is locked in combat with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

Let’s have a look at former LFA champion, Ricky Simon:

Name: Ricky Simon
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 25
Record: 12-1 (5 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Alex Soto, Donavon Frelow, Chico Camus, Vinicius Zani

Simon — now undefeated (5-0) since a submission loss to Anderson dos Santos in a Titan FC title shot — made his first ZUFFA appearance on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” where he took on two-time World Series of Fighting (WSOF) title challenger Donavon Frelow. It wasn’t a terrible performance, and it definitely shouldn’t have been a split decision, but it didn’t please “The Baldfather” enough to provide Simon a contract.

He went on to turn UFC vet Chico Camus into a bloody mess, earning the LFA Bantamweight title in the process, then smashed Vinicius Zani in 59 seconds.

There’s a lot to like and very little to dislike about Simon’s game. Though primarily a wrestler, he’s got some lovely combination striking. I’m talking about actual combinations in the “each-strike-sets-up-the-next” sense, not the “alternately-fling-left-and-right-hands-haphazardly-until-opponent-falls-down” sense. This was on full display against Zani — Simon fired a left hook to the body, then went upstairs with the same punch to floor the Brazilian.

He’s equally adept on the front foot or on the retreat, as well, mixing in takedowns to great effect. Reactive takedowns, blast doubles, chain wrestling on the fence ... it’s all there. Simon’s is a style with a lot of variety that all works toward a singular goal: Get the opponent down and crack them like an egg.

The only criticisms I can think of are that he’s not a great finisher and he’s not super explosive outside the opening rounds. Four of his six stoppage wins came in his first four fights, and while he doesn’t fatigue, per se, his style seems to get more deliberate as the fight progresses. He’s still extremely effective, of course, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Opponent: Simon takes on Merab Dvalishvili, a fireplug grinder who will put the debutant’s wrestling to the test. The fight comes down to whether Simon can get his combinations flowing before Dvalishvili gets a hold of him and slows the fight to a crawl. It’s a competitive debut that should give us an idea of how far Simon can go.

Tape: His “Tuesday Night Contender Series” fight with Frelow is available on Fight Pass, but here’s more readily-available content:

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 128 fight card, starting with the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

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