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UFC Fight Night 151 - New Blood: Canada, Ukraine join forces for newest rookie class

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UFC Fight Night 151, which takes place inside Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and streams live on ESPN+, was originally supposed to feature just one Octagon newcomer, but thanks to United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the injury bug, we’ve got four fresh faces to welcome to the Octagon. In this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I scour the darkest depths of YouTube for 180p footage of sweaty men pummeling each other, we look at a Ukrainian Heavyweight prospect, a two-division Canadian champion, a last-second Welterweight addition, and an undefeated Bantamweight.

Sergey “Polar Bear” Spivak

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 24
Record: 9-0 (4 KO, 5 SUB)
Notable Victories: Tony Lopez, Travis Fulton

The Ukraine’s Spivak has gone past the first round just once in his 4.5-year professional career, dispatching all nine opponents inside the distance. He choked out legendary journeyman Travis Fulton for the WWFC Heavyweight title in 2017 and successfully defended it twice, most recently choking out Tony Lopez.

He steps in for Aleksei Oleinik — who was rebooked for UFC: “Saint Petersburg” — on short notice.

Standing 6’3” and looking decently trim at around 240 pounds, Spivak is a legitimate Heavyweight who looks to have quality physical tools. He’s got remarkably fast hands, which he uses to flurry his way into the clinch before unloading heavy knees and elbows; the knees in particular are lethal, and he doesn’t loop his punches all that much. He also boasts strong killer instinct and quick reactions for a man of his size.

As damaging as he is on the feet, he’s willing to take it to the mat and unleash some heavy ground-and-pound. Unfortunately, his wrestling technique isn’t there yet, leaving him to just muscle opponents to the mat. I haven’t seen his takedown defense yet, but if it’s anything like his offense, that’s going to be something to work on, especially since his forward aggression theoretically opens him up to reactive takedowns.

I do like what I’ve seen out of his striking and, at 24, he has plenty of time to develop. Tighten up his wrestling and you’ve got a skilled, entertaining young prospect on your hands.

Opponent: He’s got a bit of a trial by fire ahead of him in Walt Harris. “The Big Ticket” boasts absurd power and speed, but nonexistent gameplanning has led to him dropping several winnable fights in various fashions. Harris should be able to out-athlete Spivak, especially with the latter’s limited takedown threat.

Tape:


Marc-Andre “Power Bar” Barriault

Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 29
Record: 11-1 (8 KO)
Notable Victories: Adam Hunter

The only person on this list not debuting on short notice, “Power Bar” has not tasted defeat since his fourth pro fight, a defeat he later avenged by stoppage. He defeated rival Strahinja Gavrilovic to win the TKO Middleweight title, knocked out Brendan Kornberger in his first defense, then claimed the Light Heavyweight belt in Sept. 2018 with a knockout of former UFC signee Adam Hunter.

Barriault is an aggressive, flat-footed boxer by trade. You really won’t see much besides the hands in the stand up, save for a nasty little right elbow he’ll sneak in at close range. His left hook and uppercut seem to be his best punches, and he’s happy to lead with either alongside his jab. In addition, he’s got a nice double-leg he can break out if the boxing isn’t going well. One thing I really like is that he knows how to turn the corner on his takedowns to land in dominant position rather than just pushing forward and hoping for the best.

His troubles come on the defensive end. He’s got a bit too much of a boxing mindset on the feet; he stands so heavy on his front leg that he doesn’t check low kicks and he has a bad habit of putting on the earmuffs when pressured, a tactic that doesn’t work nearly as well with four-ounce gloves. In addition, though his takedown defense in generally stout, he seems to have issues getting off the fence, allowing opponents to burn time pressing him against it. Just generally speaking, he’s exponentially more effective on the front foot.

Opponent: Barriault is a solid addition to UFC’s Middleweight division, but he’s going to have problems in his debut. Andrew Sanchez’s clinchwork and wrestling skills make him a horrible match up for the Canadian. Then again, Sanchez has a bad habit of gassing out and giving away winnable fights, so anything can happen.

Tape: Barriault’s fights in TKO are on Fight Pass.


Kyle Prepolec

Weight Class: Welterweight
Age: 29
Record: 12-5 (7 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Cody Pfister, Scott Hudson

Prepolec has won seven of nine since a 2-3 skid that included a submission loss to Kevin Lee. He claimed the BTC 165-pound title in June 2018 and was set to defend it in March, only to settle for a three-round victory against late-replacement UFC vet Cody Pfister.

He replaces the injured Siyar Bahadurzada on short notice.

I’ve been struggling for a while to properly articulate the strangeness of Prepolec’s striking — it’s hard to pin down, but his southpaw boxing just looks off. Everything he throws just seems labored despite having a decent amount of pop behind it. That said, he does at least know how to jab and hit the body, even if he does put his head ahead of his lead leg to do it. He’s also fond of inside low kicks on the lead.

His defensive wrestling is a serious liability. His last loss came as a result of his opponent’s persistent takedowns and even Pfister, whose wrestling is more about gusto than technique, managed to at least get in on his hips on several occasions.

I just don’t see Prepolec going all that far. On the feet, he leaves his chin out too much, isn’t super crisp, and is lacking in hand speed. On the ground, he’s vulnerable to strong top control. He’ll need to make massive strides, but after 17 pro fights, he probably would have made them by now.

Opponent: Prepolec gets to deal with countryman Nordine Taleb. A natural Lightweight with some wrestling issues against one of the more physically imposing Welterweights on the roster? Sounds rough, buddy. Taleb dominates everywhere.

Tape:


Cole “The Cole Train” Smith

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 30
Record: 6-0 (2 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Tyler Wilson

Smith enjoyed mixed success as an amateur, winning his first three ending his run in the unpaid ranks in a 1-3 skid. He’s done quite a bit better in the paid ranks, where he won and twice defended the Battlefield Fighting League Bantamweight title.

He’s yet another injury replacement. In his case, it’s Brian Kelleher he’s replacing.

Smith is a grinder by trade. At range, it’s tentative switch-hitting kickboxing with the occasional rapid punching flurry to set up his entries. On the inside, it’s sneaky elbows and relentless grinding. He’s incredibly persistent once he has his man against the fence and moves well in the clinch, being quite adept at taking the back either standing or as they hit the ground.

To his credit, he also has the cardio to do that for five rounds even when the takedowns aren’t coming easily. It’s not like he’s pacing himself, either; he looks to be physically strong and aggressive from bell to bell. It’s quite the gas tank and should be an effective weapon even with only 15 minutes to work.

Smith really doesn’t have a standout weakness besides being relatively untested against strong wrestlers and apparently backing straight up when pressured. He’s already 30, though, so he’ll have to learn on the job.

Opponent: It’ll be a learning experience against Mitch Gagnon. I do think Gagnon at his best would give Smith heaps of trouble, but the former has had just one fight in the last 4.5 years and is now in his mid-30s. Worse, Gagnon has always had cardio trouble, so Smith has a real chance of kicking off his Octagon career with a win.

Tape:

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 151 fight card tomorrow, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5:30 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 151: “Iaquinta vs. Cowboy” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.