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UFC Fight Island 2 - New Blood: Unbeaten big men, standout small ones

Fight Island’s eternally-shifting line up welcomes another four newcomers this Saturday (July 18, 2020) before Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez duke it out. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series were I finally realized I shouldn’t delete the notes I wrote when somebody’s fight gets canceled in case they debut later, we look at an unbeaten Light Heavyweight finisher, an unbeaten Heavyweight first signed in 2017, and two elite Flyweights stepping up on short notice.


Roman Dolidze

Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Age: 32
Record: 6-0 (3 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Michael Pasternak

After scoring a trio of first-round finishes in the promotion, Dolidze challenged Eder de Souza for the WWFC Light Heavyweight title and claimed it with a vicious overhand right finish. His first and only defense proved a successful one, as he knocked out Michael Pasternak with a clean spinning back fist.

He was originally set to make his Octagon debut in April of last year against Gadzhimurad Antigulov, but injury makes this his first fight in 19 months.

Dolidze — a 6’3” tank of a Light Heavyweight — has the sort of power you’d expect from his appearance. His right hand is a genuine brick and he knows it, hurling it straight or overhand with abandon until he can find the finish. Luckily, he does bother to set it up at times with his jab, though not nearly often enough. His power also makes him dangerous with uppercuts at point-blank range, meaning there’s no real safe distance to engage in the pocket, and he seems to have solid cardio despite how hard he throws everything.

He’s still fairly rough on the feet overall, however, though his power tends to bail him out. If forced to retreat, he’ll either plant his feet and counter or back straight up, both of which can get him caught. Also, unsurprisingly from someone who puts so much weight on his lead leg when hurling his right hand, he’s also pretty vulnerable to leg kicks.

His grappling chops don’t look terribly impressive, either. While he got his first three pro wins by submission in under two minutes apiece, he’s proven unable to consistently complete takedowns despite some good entries; one of the submissions, a 56-second heel hook, saw him drop his man with a 1-2, tie up when the guy got to his feet, and then fall back for the submission rather than try to take him down. That’s just not viable against UFC-level opponents, and one would hope that he’s gotten that mindset out of his system.

The sheer potency of Dolidze’s right hand makes him a threat in spite of his deficiencies, and I could see him getting a couple highlight-reel wins during his time in the Octagon. He’ll need to have improved during his layoff if he wants to be more than just a reliable Prelims fighter, though.

Opponent: Sambo practitioner Khadis Ibragimov has thus far completely squandered his Octagon opportunity by neglecting his grappling, and trying to brawl with Dolidze is a one-way ticket to a severe concussion. Ibragimov at his best could be a problem for Dolidze, but considering the Russian’s refusal to adapt after his UFC debut loss to Da Un Jung, odds are that Dolidze lamps him in a brawl.

Tape:


Malcolm “X” Gordon

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 30
Record: 12-3 (4 KO, 6 SUB)
Notable Victories: Yoni Sherbatov

A loss to Dimitri Waardenburg didn’t stop Gordon from submitting Jordan Graham for the TKO Flyweight belt and doing the same to James Mancini soon after. This set up a clash with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 competitor Yoni Sherbatov, who tapped to a rear-naked choke less than two minutes into the fight.

He replaces Tagir Ulanbekov, who withdrew after the death of trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.

Gordon’s game is all about smoothness. He glides around the ring looking for remarkably quick and powerful boxing combinations until he or his opponent decides it’s time to take it to the mat. If the former, he’s got a variety of offensive wrestling options. If the latter, he’s got a wide submission arsenal off of his back for which to punish opponents’ boldness, particularly his kimura and armbar. If he ends up on top, he takes the back quite well and just moves nicely overall. Between his razor-sharp right hand and his ground attack, it’s no surprise that his last six wins have come inside the distance.

Where Gordon struggles is when opponents put the pressure on. He may have been fighting at a catchweight against Waardenburg, but that doesn’t account for the ease with which the Belgian tore him up with body shots and low kicks in combination. Gordon looked lost in the face of a relentless advance, and while that was admittedly back in 2016, Sherbatov got him to put up an earmuff guard and hurt him with a body kick. I need to see more out of Gordon before I’m convinced that he’s made the necessary adjustments.

Even with that caveat, though, he’s clearly quite talented and a very capable finisher. I’m glad to see him earn a spot in the Octagon.

Opponent: Late-notice foe Amir Albazi is the sort of forward-moving aggressor that Gordon looks like he’ll struggle with. “The Prince” is also a highly skilled wrestler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist, limiting Gordon’s chances of taking him down or finding a submission. Gordon does hit hard enough to hurt Albazi as the latter enters, but the likeliest outcome sees him pressured and out-grappled to a decision loss.

Tape:


Amir “The Prince” Albazi

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 26
Record: 12-1 (5 KO, 6 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jamie Powell, Iuri Bejenari

Albazi — who claimed victory in both of his Bellator appearances — took on UFC veteran Jose “Shorty” Torres this past April and suffered the first defeat his career. The misfortune wasn’t to last, as he quickly tapped Ryan Curtis this past November.

He steps in for M-1 champion Aleksander Doskalchuk on short notice.

“The Prince” is an impressively well-rounded switch-hitter, boasting solid boxing, top-notch wrestling, and an extremely dangerous submission game. On the feet, he constantly switches from orthodox to southpaw, firing crisp one-two combinations as he advances and occasionally slipping some high kicks or the sharp uppercut that floored Bejenari in their fight. He’s also shown a significant fondness for knees, especially on the counter.

As effective as his striking is, though, he’s linear to a fault. The problem with being too straightforward is that it leaves you vulnerable to counters, the force of which are compounded by your own momentum. Torres demonstrated this by dropping him in the first round with a counter right, then dropping him again when they traded hooks. Albazi really needs to shore up his head movement and lateral motion if he doesn’t want to suffer the fate Ryan Bader did against Lyoto Machida.

Luckily for him, he blends his takedowns extremely well with his strikes, which makes it risky to commit to a counter, and has a nice reactive shot as well. His grappling looks to be the most impressive part of his game; in addition to his decent ground-and-pound, his passing ability and submission skills are both top-notch. Of particular note is his ability to take the back, which won him a round against Torres, and the danger he poses off of his back, which was enough to get Torres to disengage rather than sit in his guard.

I can definitely see Albazi getting a number next to his name within a few fights; he’s a complete, dangerous, entertaining fighter. Good thing Dana decided not to kill the division.

Opponent: See above.

Tape: His Bellator bouts are on their website.


Carlos “Boi” Felipe

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 25
Record: 8-0 (6 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Felipe’s exploits on the Brazilian circuit earned him a 2017 UFC debut against towering Dane Christian Colombo. A United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) violation (details) put the kibosh on that, though, and he’ll enter the cage having not competed in mixed martial arts (MMA) in more than three years.

The big Brazilian is basically your prototypical Heavyweight bruiser, marching into the pocket to sling looping rights and big left hooks. That said, he has shown a few wrinkles that suggest potential. Though he doesn’t throw them nearly enough, he’s got a decent jab, a nice body kick, and some solid body punches. In addition, he defended takedowns well in the one recent fight of his I could find and continued to throw for all 15 minutes despite visibly slowing.

There’s not much more to say, honestly. At least before the suspension, he was the sort of physically imposing but technically deficient Heavyweight you find on every regional circuit, good for some brawls but destined to never even get close to contention. Of course, he’s not the first underwhelming Brazilian to receive a massive suspension before their debut; Amanda Ribas went through the same ordeal and emerged as an immediate contender. Be ready to update your prognoses once he returns to the cage.

Opponent: Felipe fights Serghei Spivac, who notably upset Tai Tuivasa between losses to Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura. Spivac’s high-volume wrestling attack poses some potential issues for Felipe, whose heavy swings leave him vulnerable to takedowns. The 2017 version of Felipe probably gets tapped in the second round; “Boi’s” success depends on how out-of-date that version is.

Tape: His bout with Wagner Maia is on Fight Pass.


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For much more on this weekend’s UFC Fight Island 2 event click here.