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UFC Auckland - New Blood: Featherweight thunder from ‘Down Under’

International cards generally mean heaps of local up-and-comers, but this Saturday’s violence-filled card in Auckland, New Zealand, features just one fresh face, who joins the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion thanks to the injury bug. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where FITE.tv gets my most passive-aggressive side-eye for charging $15 for two-year-old replays, we look at a promising young striker out of Australia.

Josh Culibao
Weight Class: Featherweight/Lightweight
Age: 25
Record: 8-0 (5 KO)
Notable Victories: Rodolfo Marques

Unbeaten since his 2014 amateur debut, Culibao has racked up a nice collection of titles on the Australian regional scene. He claimed the Hex Fight Series Featherweight title with a fifth-round knockout of Raphael Berthet, then took out long-time contender Rodolfo Marques for the Diamondback FC belt three fights later. He was last seen knocking out Josh Payle for the Superfight MMA Featherweight title in March 2019.

He steps in for the injured Jamie Mullarkey on three weeks notice.

Unfortunately, recent tape on Culibao is limited — the Payne knockout is on YouTube, but the Marques fight, which lasted until the fourth round, is stuck behind a $15 paywall on FITE.tv. That amount would buy me lunch at my favorite Indian buffet, and much as I love my job, I’ll take samosas over professional thoroughness any day of the week.

What makes this even more frustrating is that Culibao is someone I would genuinely enjoy watching more footage of because he’s a hugely promising young man with a crowd-pleasing style. A former Taekwondo practitioner, Culibao is a razor-sharp in-and-out striker, darting in with rapid straight punches and crushing low kicks. Though he commits hard to his attack, he has excellent range management and head movement; the only time he’s there to be hit is when he’s looking to take your head off with his right cross, and between his speed and power, opponents have more pressing concerns than looking for counters.

He hasn’t neglected his wrestling, either. His takedown defense held up against a strong grappler in Marques and he showed a lovely single-leg against Payne. Overall, Culibao looks scarily like a complete package at just 25.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty high on this kid. The talent’s there, the drive seems to be there, and he’s still plenty young. If he keeps developing at this pace, he can make a name for himself even in a shark tank like the UFC Featherweight division.

Opponent: He’s not getting any favors in his debut, though. Jalin Turner is a colossal Lightweight at 6’3” and boasts one-shot power in his hands. Though “The Tarantula” has underperformed in the past and might have some durability issues, he’s so much bigger and such a unique challenge on short notice that Culibao will need the performance of his career to come out victorious.

Tape:

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 168 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 168: “Felder vs. Hooker” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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