UFC Vegas 16 tomorrow night (Sat., Dec, 5, 2020) at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, features a surplus of strong prospects, including two newcomers who showed their mettle in the last few months. On this edition of “New Blood”, the series where my Fight Pass subscription finally proves its worth, we check out a pair of elite submission artists who excelled on “Contender Series.”
As always, all “Contender Series” bouts can be found on Fight Pass or, in the case of the most recent season, ESPN+.
Jimmy “The Brick” Flick
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 15-5 (13 SUB)
Notable Victories: Johnny Bedford, Cee Jay Hamilton, Greg Fischer, Nate Smith
After suffering stoppage losses to future UFC competitors Chris Gutierrez and Ray Rodriguez, Flick — long-time Bantamweight — returned to Flyweight for the first time in years, swiftly claiming titles in FCF and LFA. The wins earned him a “Contender Series” opportunity, where he dominated Nate Smith en route to a bonus-winning submission.
Flick is every bit the grappling monster that finishing record would suggest, especially now that he’s back in his proper weight class: his balance, passing ability, submission chaining, and ability to exploit slight openings are all top-notch. Of particular note are his arm triangle, which accounts for more than half of his professional finishes, and his front headlock series, which he used to great effect to deny all of Smith’s scrambling attempts.
Opponents are not much safer on top, either. Indeed, he tapped Greg Fischer with an arm triangle from his back that he used to sweep for the finish, and he threw everything but the kitchen sink at Smith when the latter found his way into guard.
Critically, he’s no slouch in the wrestling. Both his shot timing and chain wrestling are strong, and despite limited stand up, he can blend his takedowns with his strikes well enough. He’s more than capable of dictating where the fight takes place.
With such dazzling skills on the mat, it’s a real shame that his stand up is so limited. His losses to Gutierrez and Rodriguez made that very apparent; he struggled mightily with Gutierrez’s range, ineffectually lunging in with punches, and his habit of shelling up under fire allowed Rodriguez to bomb him out early in the second round. He’s usually content to just pile on low kicks until a takedown presents itself, and his reactive shots aren’t enough to stop a determined opponent from forcing him back and teeing off.
His lack of size at 135 pounds could have played a part, but that habit briefly showed itself against Smith, so I wouldn’t write it off.
Still, Flick is an excellent addition to the Flyweight roster and could easily punch his ticket into the rankings with the right matchmaking. If nothing else, he’ll give us some incredible ground battles.
Opponent: He faces wrestling standout Cody Durden, who makes the drop to 125 pounds after drawing with Gutierrez in his Octagon debut. Flick should be able to outclass him on the ground, though things could get hairy if Durden makes an effort to keep it on the feet.
Tape: His recent LFA bout, like Leavitt’s, is on Fight Pass.
Jordan “The Monkey King” Leavitt
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 7-0 (5 SUB)
Notable Victories: Leivon Lewis, Luke Flores
Leavitt, who turned pro in 2017, choked out fellow unbeaten Leivon Lewis in his LFA debut this past July. Little more than two weeks later, he stepped up on short notice to tap Luke Flores on “Contender Series” and secure a UFC contract in the process.
Though a tall Lightweight at 5’11,” Leavitt has little interest in using his length on the feet, instead preferring to bring it to the mat as expediently as possible. Whether through reactive shots, trips in the clinch, or other techniques, he’s single-minded in his pursuit of the takedown, though his wrestling pedigree makes him savvy enough not to try and force things.
His submissions, as you might expect, are lethal. He takes the back extremely well, has some highly effective sweeps if his takedowns prove ineffective, and does good work from the front headlock. Plus, despite the MMA meta shifting away from leglocks, he uses them to good effect as both submissions and sweeping tools. It’s definitely an Octagon-worthy ground game, even in a division as loaded as 155 pounds.
This is the part where I point out weaknesses, but he hasn’t shown enough of his standup to get a good idea of its downsides. He just needs enough to better set up his shots, and considering his age, there’s no reason why he can’t do so. Once that’s taken care of, I can see him potentially cracking the Top 20.
Opponent: He gets a gimme in the aging Matt Wiman, who had nothing for Luis Pena or Joe Solecki in his last two efforts. In short, expect a dominant debut for “The Monkey King.”
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 16 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 10 p.m. ET.
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