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UFC Fight Night 137: New Blood - In comes the cavalry!

Tyson Fury v Sefer Seferi - Heavyweight Fight Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The injury bug has done a number on UFC Fight Night 137 this Saturday (Sept. 22, 2018), which takes place inside Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, making a card already heavy on debutants even greener. Therefore, let’s not waste any time!

Name: Andre “Mr. Highlight” Ewell
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 30
Record: 13-4 (7 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Willie Gates, Dinis Paiva

Ewell began his career in 2015 under the Gladiator Challenge banner, a promotion notorious for feeding hopeless fighters to hyped prospects, and beat the likes of Miguelito Marti (1-18), Mario Casares (0-13), and Jimmy Marquez (1-11) while suffering three losses. He’s currently 8-1 in his last nine, however, and only three of those people he beat had winless records.

He was last seen choking out local fave Dinis Paiva in June to win the CES Bantamweight belt.

Ewell is one of the tallest and lengthiest Bantamweights on the roster, standing 5’11” and boasting a 75” reach, and uses that range to land long jabs and straight lefts outside his opponent’s range. To compound that advantage, he’s got excellent upper-body movement and can throw heavy blows from offbeat angles, allowing him to punish overextension.

He’s also got a nice little trick of throwing consecutive punches with the same hand, adding more variety to his offense. This combines to form a striking attack that keeps opponents perpetually uncomfortable, vulnerable to his long straights at range and his odd counters if they try to force their way inside.

His wrestling looks solid; he does have a submission loss to unbeaten prospect Patrick Mix, but has overall shown quality takedown defense and scrambles. He’s also got a sneaky power guillotine to punish those who get too desperate to get inside.

I haven’t seen any major weakness from Ewell besides that loss to Mix, wherein he surrendered a takedown while trying to set up his guillotine and ultimately got choked out. That takedown defense is going to be key; if that holds up, he’s a handful for most of the division.

Opponent: Ewell takes on the husk of Renan Barao, who went from unstoppable pound-for-pound stalwart to getting dominated by Brian Kelleher. Barao still possesses an iron chin and a dangerous ground game, which could prove problematic for Ewell, but it’s hard to have faith in the Brazilian anymore.


Name: Marina Rodriguez
Weight Class: Strawweight
Age: 31
Record: 10-0 (5 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Maria Oliveira

Rodriguez’s nine victories in her native Brazil earned her a spot on the Contender Series opposite Maria Oliveira, whose only loss in her previous ten fights came against RIZIN standout Rena Kubota. Rodriguez made the most of her opportunity by battering Oliveira with straight rights, elbows, and knees until the latter accepted defeat three minutes into the first round.

Rodriguez, an experienced Muay Thai competitor, boasts the sort of clinch, heavy striking style we really don’t see much of nowadays. She’s got long, powerful 1-2s at range alongside some good kicks, but she truly shines on the inside, where she uses her Thai plum to deliver knees and elbows. She possesses a knack for knowing just which strike to use at any given time, which is Matt Brown’s greatest skill, and it means she can do considerable damage in very little time.

That clinch prowess extends to her grappling game; she’s got a variety of throws and foot sweeps with which to take unsuspecting opponents to the mat. She’s shown some nasty ground-and-pound as well, showing that same sort of excellent shot selection. Check out her mauling of Oliveira to see some lovely knees to the body of a grounded opponent.

The biggest concern going forward is her takedown defense, which is thus far unproven. One would think that strong base of hers and ability to throw people around in the clinch would translate to good defense, but I’m still waiting on empirical data. In addition, her right cross appears to be just a bit too wide, allowing opponents to get inside on it, but that could be her intention in order to set up a clinch.

Opponent: We’re going to find out a lot about that takedown defense, because she’s fighting Randa Markos. “Quiet Storm” has been inconsistent in the Octagon, alternating losses and wins, but she’s a genuinely good wrestler with real power in her hands, and Rodriguez’s preference for the clinch means the Brazilian’s four-inch reach advantage won’t make a huge difference. This should be close, and will bode well for Rodriguez’s future if she can overcome her foe’s takedowns.


Name: Ryan “Superman” Spann
Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 27
Record: 14-5 (3 KO, 10 SUB)
Notable Victories: Alex Nicholson, Emiliano Sordi

Spann was half of the inaugural Contender Series main event, where he got knocked out in 15 seconds by Karl Roberson’s elbows. After three wins in LFA, including a title-winning knockout of UFC vet Alex Nicholson, Spann returned to the Contender Series and scored a contract via 26-second guillotine choke.

He steps into the cage this Saturday as a somewhat late-notice replacement for Mark Godbeer.

Spann is primarily a wrestler and submission artist, but he packs some real power in his right hand and can put together some solid combinations. He’s dropped his last three opponents with punches, meaning it’s unwise to assume that takedowns are all you have to worry about.

You do have to worry about them, though. Spann does good work with his double-leg and showed against Trevin Giles that he can also pull off some fancy throws if needed. As you might imagine from that gaudy submission record, he’s lethal with his chokes, especially the guillotine that’s earned him half of his pro victories.

Cardio seems to be Spann’s greatest issue, one that’s cropped up on multiple occasions. His quickness appears to drop off quickly, especially if the takedowns aren’t working; there’s a reason all 13 of his finishes have come in the first round. He’s still just 27, though, so there’s plenty of time for him to fix that up.

Opponent: Spann’s opponent, Luis Henrique, is making the return to Light Heavyweight after bulking up for a fairly unsuccessful UFC Heavyweight run. Henrique is a taxing man to fight, a dedicated wrestler who figures to be a good bit larger than former Middleweight Spann, but Henrique’s low-level striking and the questions around his weight cut make this a toss-up.


Name: Augusto Sakai
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 27
Record: 11-1-1 (9 KO)
Notable Victories: Alex Huddleston, Marcos Conrado Jr.

Sakai went 4-1-1 in Bellator, losing to Cheick Kongo by split decision and drawing with Dan Charles after losing a point for low blows. He returned to Brazil to score a first-round knockout, then stopped unbeaten Marcos Conrado Jr. on the Contender Series.

Sakai is a massive Heavyweight, cutting to make the limit with a physique somewhere between Fedor and Derrick Lewis. Though he’s as slow as his size would suggest, he makes up for it with a great chin, crushing power in his punches, and some truly nasty leg kicks that took less than three minutes to put down one of his recent opponents. In addition, he boasts surprisingly good cardio and paces himself well, avoiding the most common pitfall of big ol’ boys.

Another noteworthy aspect is his killer instinct. When he has his opponent hurt, he stays patient but aggressive, mixing up his strikes to the head and body to get the finish without burning himself out fruitlessly against his man’s guard.

He’s not exactly a submission threat, as one could glean from his record, but Sakai has quality takedown defense and can deal real damage if he gets on top. The only person who’s really managed to control him in the clinch was Kongo, who is MMA’s patron saint of wall-and-stall.

Sakai’s biggest problems are his lack of speed, which he can only do so much to fix, and his striking defense. He’s generally big, strong, and durable enough to absorb whatever strikes come his way and respond with heavier ones, but he’s been badly rattled before and there are plenty of scary punchers lurking in the UFC’s Heavyweight division.

Opponent: Chase Sherman, another young Heavyweight brawler. Sherman’s just 2-4 in the Octagon, suffering two knockout losses and getting dropped in his most recent decision defeat. Sherman’s quicker than Sakai, but also lighter and notably less durable. This should be a knockout win for Sakai.


Name: Mayra “Cheetara” Bueno Silva
Weight Class: Strawweight
Age: 27
Record: 4-0 (1 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Daiane Firmino, Mayana Kellen

Chute Boxe’s Silva appeared on the inaugural episode of the Contender Series: Brazil, where she faced finisher Mayana Kellen. It took her just 62 seconds to lock up a ninja choke and put Kellen to sleep, securing herself a contract.

I really can’t give a good analysis of Silva, as I’ve only seen two of her fights and they lasted a combined 2:22. She’s as aggressive on the feet as one would expect from a Chute Boxe product and has shown some tricky submissions, landing the aforementioned ninja choke on Kellen and tapping Taynna Taygma with an armbar after getting swept.

Opponent: Silva has a stiff test in front of her in Gillian Robertson, who tapped a solid prospect in Molly McCann last time out. Robertson’s wrestling should play a significant factor, and if Silva can’t stuff her shots or tap her off of her back, it could wind up being a long night for the Brazilian.


Name: Luigi “Bolinha” Vendramini
Weight Class: Welterweight
Age: 22
Record: 8-0 (4 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Vendramini is a young finisher out of Constrictor Team, a camp that includes the likes of Rani Yahya, Renato Moicano, and Francisco Trinaldo. All but one of his wins have come in the first round, five of them in under three minutes.

He steps in on a week’s notice after Belal Muhammad got hurt.

I couldn’t much tape of Vendramini, either, so it’ll be another abridged analysis. He’s aggressive, packs good power, and has two wins by anaconda choke, but it’s hard to glean much else.

Opponent: Vendramini, who has spent the vast majority of his career at Lightweight and has not competed at 170 to my knowledge, fights Elizeu Zaleski, owner of one of the more violent winning streaks in the UFC. “Capoeira” is a brutally aggressive and powerful striker with the scrambling skills to keep it standing, meaning Vendramini really doesn’t have an avenue of victory. The only real question is how long it will take Zaleski to maul him.


Name: Livia Renata “Livinha” Souza
Weight Class: Strawweight
Age: 27
Record: 11-1 (2 KO, 7 SUB)
Notable Victories: Katja Kankaanpaa, DeAnna Bennett, Ayaka Hamasaki, Janaisa Morandin

Souza got the chance to fight for the Invicta Strawweight title in her promotional debut and made the most of it, submitting Katja Kankaanpaa via triangle choke. She went on to finish DeAnna Bennett in 90 seconds with a body kick, lost her title to Angela Hill by split decision, and pick up two more victories before making the jump to the Octagon.

She was supposed to debut in February against former #1 Jessica Aguilar, but broke her hand just a week before showtime.

Souza is vaguely reminiscent of the other important UFC Souza, “Jacare,” in that she’s a double Judo/BJJ black belt with surprising stopping power in her hands. Her straight right is her fiercest strike, having knocked out Atomweight champ Ayaka Hamasaki, but she’s also got that nasty body kick mentioned above.

The most impressive part of her game, however, is her wrestling. Despite her Judo base, she’s more than capable of shooting from a distance, and has shown excellent chain wrestling should her initial entry fail. Whether pressing forward or surrendering ground, she’s consistently able to bring the fight to the mat and unleash that killer submission game.

As impressive as her skills are, she has a critical weakness: she covers up and retreats in a straight line when pressured. Morandin consistently tagged her with good strikes until Souza fell back on her takedowns. Her wrestling was enough to bail her out there, but against a pressure fighter like Joanna Jedrzejczyk or Jessica Andrade, it’s a habit that could easily cost her the fight.

Opponent: If Luigi Vendramini has an improbable task ahead of him, Souza is just the opposite: she’s fighting Alex Chambers, a 39-year-old who’s 1-3 in the Octagon and has been submitted in three of her four losses. “Livinha” should absolutely dominate.

Tape: All of her Invicta appearances are on Fight Pass.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 137 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard fights at 8:30 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 137 click here.

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