Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., this Saturday (May 18, 2019) for its latest ESPN+ card, in which five of the 12 bouts feature a fighter making their promotional debuts. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series which UFC insists on making difficult for me by replacing people on a week’s notice, we check out a couple of Legacy champions, an unbeaten Invicta Featherweight champion, a two-weight Canadian champion, and a viral star with a penchant for acrobatics.
Derrick “D-Rock” Krantz
Weight Class: Welterweight
Record: 24-10 (10 KO, 11 SUB)
Significant Victories: Daniel Roberts, Brock Larson, Charles Byrd, Kassius Kayne, Justin Patterson
Krantz’s nearly 11-year professional career has generally taken place under one Legacy banner or another, plus a two-fight stint in Bellator. “D-Rock” was a champion in both LFC and LFA, losing the latter belt by split decision to James Nakashima, but winning his last four bouts.
I usually use the term “generalist” as something of a pejorative, but Krantz is one of the good kinds, able to hold his own in most areas and possessing the wrestling acumen to change gears if things get hairy. Earlier in his career, he focused on body lock takedowns followed by heavy ground-and-pound and passes to dominant position. More than half of his professional submissions have come by rear-naked choke, showing off his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
His takedown defense looks similarly solid, and though he’s got a bunch of submission losses from awhile back, he’s generally good at getting off of his back while his gas tank holds up.
Whether it’s because of the nature of his opposition or just a shift of priorities, Krantz has looked more a slugger of late, sitting down on heavy punches meant to take out opponents in one blow. His left hook appears to be his best punch on both the front and back foot. He’ll still wrestle if needed, though, and has shown a fondness for the overhand-right-to-body-lock favored by Fedor Emelianenko.
Of his five submission losses, just one has come in the past six years, and that was a guillotine from Alex Morono when Krantz was essentially out on his feet from punches. His cardio, however, remains an issue. He slowed down in the third round against Artenas Young and was totally spent after four rounds against James Nakashima, who wasn’t pushing a terribly torrid pace. This could be a byproduct of the way he punches, putting everything into every shot.
His power also doesn’t make up for his lack of striking crispness. He throws far more hooks than he does straight shots, which allowed Nakashima to defuse him with a basic southpaw one-two combination. I’d say he tops out around the Top 25, racking up a bonus or two on the way, but falling short against better striking technicians.
Opponent: I don’t anticipate a triumphant Octagon debut. He’s going to wind up slugging it out with Vicente Luque, one of the division’s most destructive strikers. Indeed, not even the notoriously indestructible Bryan Barberena could stay on his feet against “The Silent Assassin,” and the Brazilian has the grappling chops to hand Krantz his half-dozenth submission loss if the latter gets dropped. Hopefully, UFC keeps Krantz on board after this loss and set up a Morono rematch or something similar.
Austin “Thud” Hubbard
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 10-2 (3 KO, 3 SUB)
Significant Victories: Killys Mota, Harvey Park
“Thud” failed to capture the Caged Aggression Lightweight title thanks to the efforts of UFC veteran Eric Wisely, but enjoyed a strong LFA debut, taking a decision over future champion Harvey Park. This led him to face unbeaten Brazilian Killys Mota for the vacant title; Hubbard, more than a +300 underdog, survived an early blitz to pound out Mota in the waning seconds of the fifth round.
There’s nothing terribly flashy about Hubbard’s game, but it most certainly works. He’s a switch-hitting combination puncher with a solid body kick as well, bolstered by good takedown defense and some nice blending of offensive wrestling. He’s a bit hittable, but demonstrated a quality chin against Mota’s haymakers and has occasionally shown a nice understanding of angles when on the attack.
Hubbard’s gas tank also looks solid, as he was still going strong well into the final round against Mota, and he had the awareness to punish Mota’s body once the latter’s fatigue became clear.
There’s not really any egregious fault in Hubbard’s game besides the fact that he needs to tighten up his punches, but nothing really stands out, either. He’s generally not much of a finisher, doesn’t possess noteworthy punching power, and hasn’t shown anything particularly eye-catching. I see him occupying a similar gatekeeper role as, say, Drew Dober, separating the Lightweight wheat from the chaff.
Opponent: Hubbard faces ADCC champion Davi Ramos, whose increasing takedown ability bodes ill for “Thud.” Hubbard could conceivably keep it standing and out-brawl Ramos, but it’s curtains practically as soon as it hits the mat.
Felicia “Feenom” Spencer
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 6-0 (1 KO, 3 SUB)
Significant Victories: Pam Sorenson, Helena Kolesnyk
After a 5-1 amateur career that saw her win a decision over Macy Chiasson, Spencer made her 2015 professional debut in Invicta, where she’s spent the entirety of her professional career. Originally a Lightweight, she went on to choke out Pam Sorenson for the Invicta Featherweight title in Nov. 2018.
Spencer sports backgrounds in both Taekwondo and jiu-jitsu, making for something of an eclectic style. She’s primarily a grappler, generally not wasting much time before forcing her opponent to the cage and fishing for takedowns. Her wrestling technique looks quite solid even without the requisite striking setups, and once she’s found a takedown approach that works, she moves extremely well on the mat. Her back take in particular is excellent, and she’s shown that she can get up off of her back if she loses position.
On the feet, she’s primarily a kicker, as you’d expect. She’s got remarkably flexible legs from that TKD experience, allowing her to send out head kicks and hook kicks from either side with surprising speed. Her hands haven’t caught up, unfortunately, and her kicks don’t flow into her takedowns particularly well. The biggest issue, though, is that she doesn’t seem to know how to respond when pressured with punches. She tries to kick while retreating and generally has poor striking defense when forced to give ground; her punches aren’t terrible when she’s advancing, but she really needs to work on either circling out or hitting reactive takedowns.
The biggest red flag is that she seems to be fighting above her ideal weight. Spencer is 5’6” and weighed in at 143.7 in her title fight, and looking at her build, she seems better suited for Bantamweight. She also slowed down late against Sorenson, which could be a byproduct of that issue.
The women’s 145-pound division is a wasteland at the moment with no space for advancement, but there’s enough room at 135 pounds for Spencer to make a decent run.
Opponent: Spencer faces the former bearer of the title she currently holds, Megan Anderson. Anderson is a half-foot taller than Spencer and claims she cuts 25 pounds to make the Featherweight limit, making for a truly incredible size difference. Then again, that size didn’t save Anderson from getting outclassed by Holly Holm, and if she can’t handle a boxer on the mat, that bodes ill against Spencer. This is a striker vs. grappler clash that could go either way, but I slightly favor Spencer.
Tape: Her entire professional career is on Fight Pass.
Charles “Air” Jourdain
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 9-1 (6 KO, 3 SUB)
Significant Victories: Damien Lapilus, Alex Morgan
So nicknamed for the flying knee that brought him victory in his pro debut, “Air” Jourdain in the second two-division TKO champion to join UFC, the first being recent debutant Marc-Andre Barriault. He lost his first bid at promotional gold in 2017 against T.J. Laramie, but choked out Alex Morgan to claim the Featherweight belt in Dec. 2018. Four months later, he outlasted Damien Lapilus for the interim Lightweight title while regular champ Jesse Ronson was out of commission with a skin infection.
Jourdain is a blitzing sort of striker, patient at range with low kicks and jabs before bursting in with punching flurries. He’s got quick hands, albeit thrown too wide for peak speed, and knows how to improvise mid-explosion, as seen by his spinning back fist knockdown of Morgan. The problems come when he’s not blitzing — there really isn’t much to his outside game beyond the aforementioned low kick, even though his jab is getting better. Lapilus, a naturally larger man, had success walking Jourdain down.
It’s a straightforward but effective style, unfortunately held back by the Quebecois’ lack of takedown defense. Laramie essentially took down Jourdain at will and had little trouble keeping him there for entire rounds. Considering Jourdain needs to lunge in for his offense to be effective, this could be a hard-coded problem going forward.
I will admit, though, that Jourdain is making visible strides in that area. While Laramie kept him on his back for minutes at a time, Lapilus struggled to maintain top position or hit takedowns as the fight progressed. It’s still a fairly clear weakness, but he’s clearly working to fix it and has time to do so at the age of 23.
Both Featherweight and Lightweight are shark tanks at the moment, so don’t expect Jourdain to make an immediate impact. I can definitely see him sticking around for awhile, though.
Opponent: That’s assuming they keep him after a debut loss, of course. Jourdain’s first UFC fight is at Lightweight despite him being built for 145 pounds, and to make matters worse, Des Green is a strong wrestler with a chin that can stand up to Jourdain’s power punches. Don’t expect “Air” Jourdain to get much of an opportunity to show what he’s got before Green drags him south.
Tape: Jourdain’s TKO bouts are on Fight Pass.
Michel “Demolidor” Pereira
Weight Class: Welterweight
Record: 22-9 (9 KO, 5 SUB)
Significant Victories: Silmar Nunes
Pereira — who has tasted defeat just once in his last nine fights — went viral earlier this year for his high-flying stunts in the cage, which included a backflip off the fence to pass his opponent’s guard. He fought a staggering seven times in 2018 alone.
Of his nine losses, just one each have come by knockout or submission.
“Demolidor’s” claim to fame is his acrobatics. He’ll throw out wheel kicks, flying knees, somersault kicks, and the occasional dance move any time he’s given space, bringing to mind a less refined version of Yair Rodriguez or Marius Zaromskis. He’s not super accurate with those, unfortunately, and for my money, he’s far more effective when he tires a bit and starts sitting down on his basic shots. His right straight, left hook to the body, and clinch knees all pack a considerable punch, and he’s gritty and aggressive enough to be a handful for anyone.
Pereira did get knocked out recently,
On the grappling side, he’s shown good enough hips to deal with the reactive takedowns he leaves himself open to, plus some scrambling ability if things go south. That said, most of his victories have come against low- to mid-tier opposition, so there’s no telling whether it’ll hold up against genuinely solid wrestlers.
Pereira will probably get a few “of the Night” bonuses during his UFC tenure, even if I don’t see him making a legitimate title run. He’s an action fighter with a low ceiling but a high capacity for entertainment. I do want to mention, however, that he got knocked out in Dec. 2018 and fought again two weeks later, which is more than a little bit worrying. Hopefully, there’s no lingering damage.
Opponent: Danny Roberts has been less than the sum of his parts during his Octagon tenure, but figures to have enough of a boxing edge to avoid Pereira’s crazier shots and survive the Brazilian’s brawling once the latter gets tired. It’ll be fun no matter what happens, though.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 152 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time of 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 152: “dos Anjos vs. Lee” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.