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UFC Boston - New Blood: ‘Beantown’ Bonanza!

Boxing at Waterfront Hall Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Boston, Mass., may not be the most exotic locale in the world, but that hasn’t stopped Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) from loading UFC on ESPN 6, which takes place inside TD Garden tomorrow night (Fri., Oct. 18, 2019) with heaps of new talent. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I become increasingly grateful for competent color commentary, we check out some “Contender Series” standouts, a couple of Heavyweights, a new Flyweight, and an undefeated Cage Fury champ. There’s seven of ‘em again this time, so you’ll have to content yourselves with quick hits.

Ben “Seki” Sosoli

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 29
Record: 7-2, 1 NC (6 KO)
Notable Victories: Kelvin Fitial

Sosoli joined fellow Aussie Robert Whittaker on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but wound up representing Team Gastelum as his first overall pick. Eventual winner Juan Espino ended his run in the opening round, after which he scored a knockout in Melbourne to claim a “Contender Series” shot. Said shot ended via eye poke, unfortunately, but he replaces the injured Jarjis Danho on four weeks’ notice.

“Seki” is another big, heavy-handed lad from a similar mold as Tai Tuivasa or Justin Tafa. He cuts to make the 265-pound limit, has a rock-solid chin and hits like a truck. Though not much of a technician, he showed a few nice tricks against Dustin Joynson on “Contender Series,” like a slick point-blank uppercuts and a clean 3-2.

There’s not much to him besides power and toughness, unfortunately. He gets hit a lot and, most notably, had zero answers for Espino’s wrestling or top control despite fighting with his hands down specifically to deal with it. It’s not even like Espino was too technical or physically overwhelming on the ground; Sosoli seemed to make almost no effort to get an underhook or do anything else to get out from half guard.

This is the Heavyweight division, though, so just being tough and hitting hard can get him decently far. Won’t get him that far against Greg Hardy, unfortunately, because as tough as Sosoli is, he takes way too many shots to survive against a puncher of that caliber.


Jonathan “JSP” Pearce

Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 27
Record: 9-3 (7 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jacob Rosales

Pearce stepped into his “Contender Series” match up having won four straight since a three-fight skid, all of them via stoppage. Though a mild underdog against Jacob Rosales, he used his cardio and durability to wear down “Lil’ Badger” and ultimately put him away with ground-and-pound in the third round.

Sporting a 6’0” frame and a bit of wrestling in his background, Pearce is a hyper-durable pressure fighter who prefers combinations over single shots. He uses that chin and takedown defense to essentially just march through whatever opponents send his way, banging the head and body with equal fervor and eating through people’s gas tanks until they’re stationary targets.

Though he prefers duking it out standing, he’s willing to take it to the mat himself for a change of pace. His ground-and-pound looks more dangerous than his submissions; against Rosales, he landed a good number of elbows from half guard, but went for an ill-advised armbar that could have hurt him had he not already inflicted so much damage on Rosales.

Besides how often he gets hit, submission defense looks like the big Achilles heel for him. Two of his three losses were first-round tapouts and Rosales got in on both a good guillotine and a solid armbar. Good takedown defense can make up for this, but expect UFC opponents to look to exploit this.

A prime Joe Lauzon would have been a serious problem for Pearce just because of that jiu-jitsu issue. The current Joe Lauzon, who gasses with remarkable consistency, isn’t. Pearce will have to get through a few dangerous minutes to do so, but expect him to break down “J-Lau” with his pressure and put him away partway through.

Tape: His “Contender Series” appearance is on ESPN+.

Diana “Warrior Princess” Belbita

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 23
Record: 13-4 (6 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Belbita has spent the majority of her career fighting in her native Romania, emerging as a regular feature on Romanian Xtreme Fighting. She enters the Octagon on a four-fight win streak, ending all four inside the distance.

A striker by trade, Belbita’s usual modus operandi is to lead with low kicks and jabs, opening up with wilder combinations when opponents step in. Though her technique can suffer a bit in firefights, she has a few nice habits, namely ending her combinations with kicks, catching ones that come at her, and landing opportunistic knees when her foe gets close enough to give Belbita the Thai plum.

The praise ends there, unfortunately. Belbita’s footwork completely falls apart when she tries to open up, badly limiting her effectiveness. Though she tacks on kicks at the end of combinations, she’ll also lead with them at too-close range and open herself up to counters. She still relies on head-and-arm throws for takedowns and looks remarkably easy to take down.

On top of that, her record is blatantly inflated. Nine of her victories came over winless opponents.

I honestly expect a winless (0-2, 0-3) Octagon run from her, one that’ll have a rough start thanks to the superior boxing of Molly McCann.


Sean “The Sniper” Woodson

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 27
Record: 6-0 (2 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Terrance McKinney

Woodson entered “Contender Series” as a sizeable underdog against Sikjitsu product Terrance McKinney, who found immediate success taking the taller Woodson down and controlling him from back mount. Midway through the second, however, “The Sniper” scrambled out of a bad spot and caught McKinney with a flying knee as he ducked in, picking up the knockout and a UFC contract.

If Jason Knight was “Hick Diaz,” Woodson is “Stick Diaz.” At 6’2” he’s the tallest Featherweight on the roster since Will Chope and is taller than all but four UFC Lightweights. He uses his 79-inch reach to plug away with almost lackadaisical-looking combination punching, bolstered by hard kicks and a strong jab. While he doesn’t seem to really sit down on anything he throws, he makes up for it with sheer output, and also shares the Diaz proclivity for banging the body.

Woodson’s big problem right now (besides not checking leg kicks) is that he’s so floaty with his movement that his punches can carry him into his opponent’s range. This opens him up to both counters and, more critically, takedowns. To his credit, he’s shown decent takedown defense, but McKinney found success chain-wrestling after Woodson denied the initial shot. It seems like he’s good enough on that front to deal with non-wrestlers trying to exploit it, but will have issues with technically sound takedown artists.

Especially since he struggled badly to get out from underneath McKinney.

His ceiling will depend on that takedown defense; as is, I can definitely imagine a few UFC Featherweights he can beat. Debut opponent Kyle Bochniak looks like one of them; beyond being far shorter than Woodson, he’s lower-output on the feet and isn’t a particularly dominant wrestler. I say Woodson’s got this about 70-30ish.

Tape: His “Contender Series” appearance is on ESPN+.

Sean Brady

Weight Class: Welterweight
Age: 26
Record: 10-0 (3 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Colton Smith, Gilbert Urbina, Taj Abdul-Hakim

A veteran of Cage Fury FC for most of his professional career, Brady choked out Mike Jones for the promotion’s Welterweight title in 2017. After beating UFC veteran Colton Smith and unbeaten Gilbert Urbina in other promotions, he returned in February to pound out Taj Abdul-Hakim for his first successful title defense.

This Renzo Gracie-trained product is a compact, patient aggressor who generally advances behind low kicks until he can step in for quick bursts of punches. His boxing and wrestling technique are both solid, especially his trips on the inside, and is a potent ground-and-pound threat to go along with his submission skills. He’s aided by a solid chin, which stood up to a flush spinning back fist against Abdul-Hakim with nary a flinch.

That’s really the long and short of it. It’s not a byzantine or eye-catching style, but he does everything well and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I will say that he might be undersized for the division; he weighed in more than three pounds below the 171-pound limit for tomorrow’s fight.

He debuts against another generalist in Court McGee. Brady’s the faster of the two and looks to have the technical wrestling edge, which should get him a comfortable decision victory.

Tape: His fight with Abdul-Hakim is on Fight Pass.

Brendan “All In” Allen

Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 23
Record: 12-3 (4 KO, 7 SUB)
Notable Victories: Aaron Jeffery, Moses Murrietta, Tim Hiley

“All In” made two unsuccessful bids for the LFA Middleweight belt, dropping decisions to Eryk Anders and Anthony Hernandez, before finally striking gold with a submission of Tim Hiley in Sept. 2018. He went on to score a dominant title defense against Moses Murrieta and follow that up with a first-round submission of Aaron Jeffery on “Contender Series.”

For Allen, the name of the game is fluidity. He uses his 6’2” frame to good effect on the feet, showing solid all-around kickboxing and some truly lethal knees on the inside. He chain-wrestles extremely well, and he‘s dangerous from the top with strikes, passing, and submissions. What really makes him shine is how well this all blends together; he knows how to blend his striking, takedowns, and submissions to set up each in turn.

A great example of this is his “Contender Series” fight. On the cage, he transitioned from a standing arm triangle to a rear waist lock to drag Jeffery onto his seat, then pulled him directly into a back take. You can also see him set up shots with punches several times against Murrietta.

He doesn’t have any major weaknesses that I can see, save for a minor tendency to lean too far forward when throwing and compromise his height. He did have issues with maintaining top control earlier in his career, but seems to have fixed that. Right now, we just have to see how his wrestling holds up on the world stage.

Debut foe Kevin Holland is tricky and unorthodox as all get out, which could give Allen problems if he’s not prepared. That said, Holland is also incredibly easy to take down, so I expect a successful debut.

Tape: His “Contender Series” appearance is on ESPN+.

Tanner “The Bulldozer” Boser

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 28
Record: 16-5-1 (8 KO, 2 SUB)
Significant Victories: Tim Hague, Tony Lopez, Chase Gormley

Ranked by Tapology as Canada’s No. 1 Heavyweight outside a major promotion, Boser enters the Octagon 4-1-1 since consecutive losses in 2017. The run includes wins over veterans D.J. Linderman and Chase Gormley, plus a leg kick finish of Jared Kilkenny to claim the Unified MMA Heavyweight title in May.

Look, I have watched a *lot* of bad fights for this series. Fights with bad camera quality, gross mismatches, 25-minute slogs, and more. Tanner Boser might be the least fan-friendly fighter I have ever seen. Despite having remarkably good cardio for a Heavyweight, sharp leg kicks, and reasonably good punch technique, his striking output is nonexistent. I have defended many fighters accused of being boring over the years, but Boser takes the cake.

Even watching the tape at twice the speed wasn’t enough.

As far as his grappling, it doesn’t look terrible. Denis Smoldarev, one of the better Heavyweights on the Russian circuit, managed to take him down without issue, but Linderman was unable to. There didn’t seem to be much to his game once he was on the ground, but then again, I could only watch for so long.

Boser will probably win his debut, but UFC will have to keep pulling stiffs from the regional scene if it wants him to accomplish more than that.

For his debut, he fights Daniel Spitz, a towering but fairly basic brawler who’s been overpowered in two of three Octagon appearances. Boser should be able to cruise to a win so long as his output isn’t too egregiously low.

Tape (watch at own risk):

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 6 fight card this weekend right HERE, starting with the ESPN 2 “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will air on ESPN proper at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 6: “Weidman vs. Reyes” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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