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UFC Fight Island 5 - New Blood: Around the world

UFC Fight Night Moraes v Sandhagen: Weigh-Ins Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Seven different fight cancelations ahead of UFC Fight Island 5, which takes place this weekend (Sat., Oct. 10, 2020) inside Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, left the latest trip to a whole heap of fresh talent. On this edition of “New Blood”, the series where I watch more footage than when I could actually go to a movie theater, we check out six fighters from six different countries, two of whom held titles in noteworthy organization. As there’s half-dozen of the buggers, it’s quick hits this time ...

Dricus Du Plessis

Weight class: Middleweight
Age: 26
Record: 14-2 (5 KO, 9 SUB)
Notable victories: Yannick Bahati, Roberto Soldic, Joilton Santos

“Stillknocks” choked out Martin Van Staden for the EFC Welterweight title in 2016, then did the same to Yannick Bahati for the Middleweight title one year later. He then took his talents to KSW, where he split a pair of bouts with Middleweight champ Roberto Soldic and knocked out Joilton Santos before reclaiming the EFC Middleweight belt with a submission of Brendan Laser.

He steps in for the injured Rodolfo Vieira on little more than two weeks’ notice.

Du Plessis is an interesting stylistic mash up, to say the least. He usually prefers firing lead-leg low kicks until the opportunity to blitz arises. And if opponents are not quick enough to back away in time, he’ll tear into them with punches from both sides. If they are, he’ll content himself with simply whacking their trailing leg. His left hook is particularly monstrous, especially on the counter; in fact, it’s the punch he used to level Soldic, who hadn’t been stopped before (or since).

As you can guess from his finishing ratio, he’s more than adept on the ground as well. He generally uses his wrestling reactively, changing levels when hurt or pressured, and showed an impressive ability to take the back against Soldic. As far as his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, all nine of his submissions have come by either rear naked choke or guillotine; the high-elbow “Marcelotine” put away both Bahati and Lesar, demonstrating the danger in trying to shoot on him.

Du Plessis is sadly let down by some prominent defensive issues. Notably, he leaves himself open when he blitzes, throws naked low kicks, and can get backed to the fence without much issue, which combine with a somewhat porous high guard to make him vulnerable to power punchers. Soldic managed to hurt and/or drop him on multiple occasions, and you can bet that anyone willing to stand their ground when he advances can likely do the same.

Luckily for Du Plessis, Markus Perez isn’t much of a slugger, instead relying on a lethal grappling game. Du Plessis should be able to keep it standing and rough the Brazilian up, but don’t be surprised if Perez times his blitz and puts him on his back.

Alan “The Black Samourai” Baudot

Weight class: Light Heavyweight/Heavyweight
Age: 32
Record: 8-1 (7 KO)
Notable victories: Todd Stoute

Another product of the MMA Factory that gave us Francis Ngannou, Ciryl Gane and recent successful UFC debutant Nassourdine Imavov, Baudot suffered his first professional loss in 2016 when he challenged Dalcha Lungiambula for the EFC Light Heavyweight title. He’s since won two straight, though his recent victory over Todd Stoute comes with an asterisk. That’s because Stoute actually choked Baudot out in the third round, but the win was turned into a disqualification loss after “The Black Hulk” tested positive for THC.

Like most of the people on this list, he’s a late replacement, stepping in for Sergey Spivak.

Baudot is, unsurprisingly, a kickboxer by trade. He’s got a similar sort of bouncy, light-on-his-feet movement style as Gane and Imavov, but while his techniques themselves tend to be crisp and he can put together solid punching combinations, he’s a bit more of a wild man than those two. The Stoute fight, for instance, saw him go all-in on elbows, from level ones to Silva-Fryklund up-elbows to spinning back elbows. He even attempted a somersault kick as a counter, so it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of excitement when he steps in the cage.

There are, however, shortages of fight IQ and grappling skill. Lungiambula slept him with a counter right when Baudot’s eagerness put him within punching distance of a man six inches shorter than him. That somersault kick ended with Baudot on the bottom, struggling to survive an arm-triangle choke. Plus, while Baudot showed some sneaky trips, Stoute had little trouble controlling him against the cage and faced little resistance once he got the fight to the ground.

Baudot is certainly in the right place to sort out his issues with takedown defense, but at 32 and with an empty pro record, I’m not sure there’s time to get him the necessary seasoning. There certainly isn’t enough time to prepare him for debut foe Tom Aspinall, who has a top-notch ground game and quite a bit of size on Baudot. In the end, expect the Frenchman to tap before long.

His TKO bout with Stoute is on Fight Pass.

Ilia Topuria

Weight class: Featherweight
Age: 23
Record: 8-0 (1 KO, 7 SUB)
Notable victories: Mika Hamalainen, Brian Bouland

While a scale fail left him unable to win the Cage Warriors Bantamweight belt in 2018, Topuria nonetheless showed his skills by tapping Brian Bouland in just 99 seconds. He found similar success in Brave CF, where he’s scored a pair of first-round finishes.

He replaces Korean puncher Seung Woo Choi.

A 5’7” Georgian-Spaniard who reportedly boasts a Greco-Roman background, Topuria’s ground skills immediately jump out. Take the Bouland fight, for instance: he shot in, carried Bouland away from the fence, slammed him down, took his back, and then somehow transitioned to a perfect anaconda choke from back mount. That top-notch wrestling and lethal front choke series are consistently evident, but they’re far from the only weapons in his arsenal.

On the feet, Topuria’s all about throwing heat, with a particular fondness for ripping the body with left hooks. That’s not to say he neglects his jab or overall technique, just that he throws his power shots with very, very bad intentions. His right hand looks plenty scary as well, having put recent foe Steven Goncalves to sleep in a single blow. That said, he did struggle early against the taller, longer Goncalves, who dropped Topuria with a head kick and right hand as the latter fell short with his punches. It will be interesting to see how he manages distance against strong opposition; as scary as he is from close range, the ability to actually get there can be make-or-break.

I have high hopes for Topuria, who’s already extremely impressive at a young age. I do, however, think he’ll have issues with debut foe Youssef Zalal, who’s got some wrestling chops of his own and is quite adept at using his height and reach to frustrate opponents at a distance. Topuria could very well level Zalal with an overhand right, but the likeliest result sees him picked apart in what’s hopefully a learning experience.

K.B. “The Bengal” Bhullar

Weight class: Middleweight
Age: 28
Record: 8-0 (4 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable victories: Matt Dwyer

Bhullar dispatched his first three opponents in the Unified MMA promotion to earn a crack at its Middleweight title, which he won with a decision over Octagon vet Matt Dwyer. He was slated to defend his title against Jordan Williams in March, but when that fell through because of COVID-19, who got a “Contender Series” shot opposite Bruno Oliveira.

He replaced Roman Kopylov on last Saturday’s card, only for the fight to be pushed back a week.

Sadly, my best efforts failed to produce footage of the Dwyer fight that wasn’t locked behind a paywall. As such, I’m left with just his bouts against 4-8 Corey Atkinson and 16-13 Cody Krahn. Those bouts showed a well-rounded 6’4” switch-hitter with solid top control and good kicks on the feet. When Atkinson tried to pull guard, Bhullar snuffed out an armbar attempt and worked patiently to advance until the north-south choke showed itself, landing a burst of elbows along the way. Against Krahn, he took more strikes than I’d like from his hands-low stance but still managed to put him away with kicks and a left hook.

It ain’t much of an analysis, but I can only work with what I’m given. Bhullar’s definitely got some strong physical tools and what looks like a fairly complete game. That striking defense could cost him dearly against debut foe Tom Breese, though, at least if the Brit is on his game.

The only recent footage I could find was on Unified MMA’s Facebook page.

Stephanie Egger

Weight Class: Bantamweight/Featherweight
Age: 32
Record: 5-1 (2 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Reina Miura

Before turning her attentions to mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2015, Egger enjoyed a standout judo career that saw her go 1-1 against Ronda Rousey. She’s presently in the midst of a three-fight win streak that includes a decision over Reina Miura in hostile territory.

She steps in for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Bea Malecki.

It should come as no surprise that Egger’s eternal game plan is “enter clinch, throw/trip them to the ground, then dominate from there.” Her preferred approach seems to be passing to mount and unloading until either the referee steps in or her opponent gives up her back. It’s not the most complex attack, but she was able to throw around another strong judoka in Miura in the brief highlights I managed to scrounge up and seems like a good guard passer, so it doesn’t need to be complex.

Like Rousey, however, her stand up lets her down badly. She’ll straight-up run in with a punch in an effort to get the clinch, isn’t much for defense, and gassed in both her Invicta loss and the Miura fight. Anyone with the footwork or general wherewithal to stay out of the clinch is going to have a field day.

Debut foe Tracy Cortez is in a bit of an odd spot. She does her best work as an aggressive grinder, which makes her liable to do Egger’s work for her and fall into the clinch. At the same time, she’s a competent striker and pushes a heavy pace, both of which spell trouble for Egger. In short, expect Cortez to avoid the throws and bully her for the win.

Tagir Ulanbekov

Weight class: Flyweight
Age: 29
Record: 12-1 (1 KO, 7 SUB)
Notable victories: Vartan Asatryan, Denis Araujo

Ulanbekov — a protege of the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov — enjoyed a brief reign as Fight Nights Global Flyweight Champion before controversially losing his belt to future UFC competitor Zhalgas Zhumagulov. He’s perfect (3-0) since that defeat, including a successful run as GFC champion.

He withdrew from a planned July debut after the death of Nurmagomedov (details).

As with practically all of his training partners, Ulanbekov boasts terrific chain wrestling, though he’s more of an Islam Makhachev strangling type than a Khabib Nurmagomedov smasher. His rear-naked chokes and guillotine chokes are particularly fearsome, bolstered by an impressive ability to take the back or scramble into wrestling exchanges should he lose position. If the submission’s not there, he’s got patient, heavy top control with which to dictate the fight until an opportunity arises.

He’s no slouch on the feet, either. At 5’7,” he’ll be tied for the second-tallest Flyweight on UFC’s roster, and he uses that length to land a sharp, steady jab. His right cross, which he used to set up a club-and-sub last time out and low/body/head kicks look fairly crisp as well. Combined with the threat of his wrestling at close range, he’s a handful no matter the distance.

I can definitely see Ulanbekov making a strong run, likely the strongest of anyone on this list. His only major weakness at the moment is a reticence to check leg kicks, but his takedown prowess makes kicking him a risky endeavor to begin with. Expect him to both handily dominate Bruno Silva and end up with a number next to his name before long.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 5 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 8 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 5: “Moraes vs. Sandhagen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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