Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y., this Friday evening (June 1, 2018) for its latest FOX Sports 1-televised event, featuring a clash of elite Bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera (No. 4) and Marlon Moraes (No. 5) in the main event. UFC Fight Night 131 will also showcase Gregor Gillespie vs. Vinc Pichel, Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz, and Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders.
Before all that, though, we’ve got some fresh new Octagon faces to look at. As an aside, Sijara Eubanks’ fight will technically be her UFC debut, but I think people have a pretty decent idea of what she can do after The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
Name: Chance “Black Eagle” Rencountre
Weight Class: Welterweight
Record: 12-2 (6 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jake Lindsey, Justin Patterson
“Black Eagle” — his nickname presumably plucked from the same tree as Marvel’s “Black Tom Cassidy” — is an Oklahoman wrestler with a quality amateur pedigree and Bellator MMA experience. He’s currently on a four-fight win streak, avenging one of his two professional mixed martial arts (MMA) losses in the process.
Bellator’s video archives, which don’t appear to have a search function, only coughed up one of Rencountre’s fights, which wound up being too short to glean any useful information from. The only other thing I could find was grainy footage of his 2015 loss to current LFA champ James Nakashima, so this won’t be the most well-cited of analyses.
In short, he’s a lanky wrestler with loose boxing and, as far as I can tell, a tendency to get hit with the majority of punches that come his way. He reminds me of Matt Riddle, and anyone that reminds me of ole’ Matt can’t be all bad.
He could be good for some fun fights, although I don’t expect him to go too far in UFC.
Opponent: Rencountre faces Belal Muhammad on short notice. Despite being markedly taller and rangier than “Remember the Name,” I expect this to go quite poorly for Rencountre. Muhammad’s takedown defense is stout enough to make this a striking battle and — after seeing him go toe-to-toe with a very capable striker in Tim Means — I have faith that he can close the distance and rough up Rencountre something fierce.
Name: Nathaniel “The Prospect” Wood
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 13-3 (8 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Vaughan Lee, Josh Reed, Luca Iovine
Not the best nickname in the world, but Woods is loads of fun to watch. He’s riding a five-fight finish streak, a submission followed by four knockouts, and each win took less time than the one before it (the last one lasted just 50 seconds).
He also won — and twice defended — the Cage Warriors Bantamweight title.
He’s a protege of the venerable Brad Pickett, and while you won’t see much of “One Punch’s” peekaboo boxing in Wood’s game, you’ll see a similar lust for violence. Power punches, heavy leg kicks and a devil-may-care attitude toward incoming fire make Wood must-watch television.
Or, you know, must-watch online streaming.
He hasn’t shown much of his grappling in the current streak, although he did survive some rough positions against Lee and was generally successful in shutting down Marko Kovacevic’s wrestling in his title-winning effort.
The big cause for concern is his second-most recent fight, which saw him absorb an absurd amount of punches from Josh Reed before pulling off a wild comeback. He’s got a concrete head, no doubt, but there are some scary punchers lurking in UFC’s Bantamweight division who he cannot afford to be this lackadaisical against.
Generally, though, he hits hard and is durable enough to overwhelm incoming fire. Still some room for growth.
Opponent: He’s up against one of UFC’s least-active fighters: Nova Uniao Muay Thai coach Johnny Eduardo, who hasn’t fought twice in the same year since 2011. What makes this interesting is that Eduardo is a top-notch striker who’s generally struggled against wrestlers, while Wood is more than happy to oblige him on the feet. Wood’s chin and overall striking will be put to the test.
Tape: As with the UFC: “Liverpool” newbies, Wood’s Cage Warriors appearances are on Fight Pass.
Name: Jose “Shorty” Torres
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 7-0 (3 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Pedro Nobre, Farkhad Sharipov, Gleidson DeJesus
Torres joining UFC is a Big Deal(tm). He was the top amateur in the world before making his professional debut in 2016, then won the interim Titan FC Flyweight title in his third professional fight. After flattening UFC vet Pedro Nobre, he won and defended the promotion’s Bantamweight title before coming back to 125 pounds to crush Alberto Orellano like this:
Bearing fast hands, a solid Division II collegiate wrestling background — and a proven ability to take punishment and dish out quite a bit more in return — Torres is unquestionably UFC-ready. The buzzword here is “compact;” befitting his 5’4” frame, his whole game is tight and crisp. He works behind clean combination punching, well-executed takedowns, and a dangerous knee/elbow game in the clinch to grind down opponents and open them up for either knockouts or submissions.
He’s fast, damaging and just a joy to watch on offense, but by his own admission, he needs to get hit a few times to really wake up. This really isn’t an advisable strategy — it got him fairly well beaten up by the larger, stronger Gleidson DeJesus before he could hurt him enough to set up the fight-ending takedown and submission. Even after he’s gotten his head in the game, though, it really doesn’t move all that much.
His earmuff guard doesn’t make up for that, unfortunately.
That’s his only real fault at the moment, luckily, and he’s got plenty of time to fix it. Keep an eye on this kid.
Opponent: Torres is a short-notice replacement for Hector Sandoval against Jarred Brooks, who poses an intriguing match up. Brooks is undersized for the division and a bit of a one-trick pony with his wrestling, but it’s a really good trick. Though I expect Torres to win this one, as he’s survived grinding assaults from solid Bantamweight competition in the past, Brooks will make it difficult for him.
Tape: His Titan fights are on Fight Pass.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 131 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.