This Saturday night’s (June 22, 2019) UFC Fight Night 154 card on ESPN+ in Greenville, South Carolina may have only one debuting fighter, but it’s making up for quantity with quality. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I give you all the chance to say you knew about the “Next Big UFC Thing” before they were cool, we look at amateur wrestling great and Daniel Cormier student, Deron Winn.
Name: Deron Winn
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 5-0 (4 KO)
Significant Victories: Tom Lawlor
Ever since Rousimar Palhares’ and Hector Lombard’s exits from the UFC, the Octagon has been dreadfully short on fighters as wide as they are tall. Luckily, the 5’5” Winn is here to fill that void. The amateur wrestling standout, who got fourth at the 2016 Team USA and trains under Daniel Cormier, has actually spent his career at Light Heavyweight thus far, flattening his first four opponents in under a round apiece. When Golden Boy’s ill-fated foray into MMA rolled around, Winn squared off with “Filthy” Tom Lawlor ahead of the Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz 3 trainwreck, and though Winn had some issues with the Lawlor’s reach, he emerged victorious via unanimous decision.
Winn is every bit as lethal at close range as you’d expect. Beyond the elite-level wrestling his background gives him, his boxing is steadily developing enough to utilize his impressive hand speed and punching power; he’s not as learned in the clinch as Cormier, but seems more naturally destructive, already capable of delivering knockout blows at point-blank range. If he can develop that level of dirty boxing, he’s going to be an absolute nightmare.
The problem right now is getting to the inside. Though he showed a solid jab and 1-2 against Lawlor, plus an unexpectedly fast head kick that could prove useful outside of his wheelhouse, his current strategy for getting within punching distance is to burst in a straight line, which allowed even a fairly rudimentary striker like Lawlor to constantly pick him off with straight lefts. He showed some vulnerability to the orthodox jab earlier in his career as well, and while he’s explosive enough to make it work when he’s fresh, he slowed in the second round of the Lawlor fight, only ending up in top position in the third due to an ill-advised guillotine attempt on the latter’s part.
In short, Winn really needs more head and upper-body movement. He doesn’t need to be constantly weaving like Mike Tyson, but it’s hard to get through your opponent’s punches when they know exactly where your head will be at all times. Just being able to consistently slip a jab would make his entries exponentially easier and mitigate the issues his build will always give him.
Winn’s wrestling, speed, and power make him an elite prospect, especially under the tutelage of a man in Cormier who knows exactly how to find success as the shorter man. I would honestly have preferred one or two more regional fights against people who can make him work for three rounds, though, and the UFC would be best-served waiting a bit before throwing Winn in against the stronger members of the Middleweight division. I see him making a real run in about a year or so with the right opponents.
Opponent: First, Winn was supposed to fight Markus Perez, an incredibly tricky veteran with the best submission game Winn would have faced to date. Then, he was supposed to fight surging Brazilian Bruno Silva, whose massive power recently earned him victories over elite Russians Alexander Shlemenko and Artem Frolov. Now he faces Eric Spicely, who’s got great submissions but can’t keep up with Winn’s wrestling or keep him at range on the feet. Expect Winn to get a comfortable victory.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 154 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time of 7 p.m. ET.
For much more on UFC Fight Night 154 click here.