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UFC 252 - New Blood: Five for Fighting

UFC 252 hits UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Aug. 15, 2020) with a Heavyweight rubber match, some high-octane rumbles, and a few Octagon newbies in tow. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where fight cards are never final, we check out a quintet of fresh faces.

Danny “The Colombian Warrior” Chavez

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 33
Record: 10-3 (3 KO)
Notable Victories: None

Chavez missed all of 2017 after suffering consecutive defeats in the Fight Time promotion, one of them to future Titan FC champ Jason Soares. He has since picked up three consecutive knockout victories, all of them in the first round and the most recent coming less than one month ago.

As I mentioned in my “Prelims” piece (read it), I couldn’t find squat about Chavez that didn’t require me to sign up for at least one monthly subscription. I’m every bit as lost as the rest of you — all I can tell you is that his last opponent fell down when Chavez kicked him in the head, which I suppose is a point in his favor.

Opponent: He fights T.J. Brown, a highly well-rounded finisher who’s also unfortunately fragile. Your guess is as good as mine as to how it’ll go.

Tape:


Chris Daukaus

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 30
Record: 8-3 (6 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Daukaus — brother of “Contender Series” alumn and current UFC Middleweight Kyle Daukaus — enters the cage this Saturday having won six of his last seven. His most recent effort saw him bounce back from a knockout loss to Azunna Anyanwu by finishing Danny Holmes in just 90 seconds.

He fights for the first time in 364 days.

The 6’2” Philadelphia, Pa., native is a boxer by trade, anchored by his jab and right cross. He puts combinations together nicely and has a sneaky habit of shifting to southpaw as he throws the right hand, which changes up the angles of his follow-up shots. Though his tendency to plant his feet and return fire when pressured can leave him vulnerable, he counters well and sports some powerful knees with which to punish overeager incursions.

He’s similarly skilled in the wrestling. His takedown defense looked solid against a former All-American Jahsua Marsh, and even when Marsh did manage to put him on his back, he never got any offense going. Daukaus also has a nice outside trip from the body lock that he can break out if the standup proves too hairy.

Though he’s got good power and a reasonably deep toolbox, Daukaus’ loss to Anyanwu raised some red flags. After badly hurting “Zulu” with a knee in the opening round, Daukaus appeared to punch himself out, leaving him vulnerable to a technically inferior puncher, and his tendency to advance too linearly with his shifting offense led to him getting repeatedly caught and ultimately finished. He needs to stop shifting so predictably and focus on using that quality jab of his to stay at his preferred range.

Still, solid boxing and reasonable athleticism can get you decently far in UFC’s Heavyweight division. He’s less impressive than his brother and will likely plateau well below the elite, but I can definitely see him scoring a few Octagon victories.

Opponent: He faces an interesting challenge in squat slugger Parker Porter. While Porter has the power in his right hand to hypothetically repeat Anyanwu’s efforts, Daukaus’ knees take Porter’s clinch prowess out of the equation and the latter’s tendency to throw profoundly ugly overhands could easily lead to Daukaus plugging him with a counter. It’s a damn close fight that figures to end violently one way or another.

Tape: His CFFC bouts are on Fight Pass.


Parker Porter

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 35
Record: 10-5 (4 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Dirlei Broenstrup

Porter — entering his thirteenth year as a professional — faced Jon Jones in his third professional fight and Gabriel Gonzaga in his ninth. Though he’s fought just five times since 2013, he’s claimed victory in four of them and only lost by disqualification.

A 6’0” fire hydrant of a Heavyweight with Mirko Cro Cop-ian tree trunks for legs, Porter marches forward with brutal low kicks and a busy jab meant to set up an arcing overhand right. Though he’s adept at range and has deceptively slick head movement, he does his best work in the clinch, where he can dish out some serious hurt with knees, punches and elbows.

I haven’t seen much of his wrestling game, but his strategy when he does end up on top is clear: land ground-and-pound until the opportunity arises to grab a key lock. If that’s not there, he’s more than capable of doing damage with no need for wind-up, and he’s so heavy and strong that he’s a nightmare to get out from underneath.

Parker’s big problem at the moment is how ungainly that money punch is. He wings his right overhand so widely that he’s both vulnerable to return fire and can struggle to land a finisher on a hurt opponent. In addition, he had all sorts of trouble when recent opponent Dirlei Broenstrup simply marched forward with a basic, busy boxing attack, suggesting that Parker could have issues when not permitted to dictate the pace.

At 35 and with such glaring weaknesses, Porter likely won’t end up going too far in the Octagon. He definitely hits hard enough to score a dramatic finish or two along the way, though.

Opponent: See above.

Tape: His CES bouts are on Fight Pass.


Kai “Fighting Hawaiian” Kamaka III

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 25
Record: 7-2 (1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Michael Stack

Kamaka — a wrestling coach in his native Hawaii — put a 2-2 pro start behind him to earn wins in King of the Cage and Bellator. He last competed just two weeks back, scoring a career-best win over unbeaten Michael Stack at LFA 87.

He and his opponent make the walk on less than one week’s notice.

As you’d expect from someone with his background, Kamaka’s wrestling prowess is critical to his success. His Bellator run largely consisted of him either punching his way into a double-leg or waiting for the opportunity to hit a reactive takedown. His top control, while effective, isn’t the most dynamic; he’ll posture up for bigger shots if given the opportunity, but he’s generally content to chip away from guard or half guard. He’s also more than willing to simply latch on if the situation calls for it; in fact, more than once I’ve seen him take someone down against the fence, the opponent get to a seated position, and Kamaka just stay attached to their hips without striking or advancing for minutes at a time.

Functional, but not entertaining, and he got his arm damaged by a kimura two fights back that his opponent attempted over and over. Submission defense may be a cause for concern as well.

In his recent fight with Stack, though, his striking looked massively improved; he was initially a capable body puncher but little else. This time around, he used his jab, cross, and powerful left body kick to largely control the standup, blending them nicely on the attack and showing some countering chops as well. That said, he failed to fix his biggest flaw: he’s incredibly upright and static with his defense. When under fire and not in position to counter, he either backs straight up or brings his guard high while leaning forward, leaving him wide open to combinations in the former case and uppercuts or body shots in the latter case. A quality chin has allowed him to get away with it so far, but expect some of the nasty punchers lurking at 145 pounds to have a field day.

In addition, he gassed late against his two Bellator opponents and definitely looked like he was fading against Stack. Considering that this happened despite his largely sedentary top game, it’s cause for concern.

If he does manage to polish up those two major weaknesses, he’s contender material. With top-notch wrestling and good striking offense, plus plenty of time to develop at just 25, I expect good things from “The Fighting Hawaiian.”

Opponent: He faces fellow newcomer Tony Kelley, best known for going to war with Kevin Aguilar in 2016. Kelley is the more dangerous striker and has the lateral movement to potentially frustrate Kamaka, but he leaves himself so open when throwing that Kamaka should be able to take him down and rack up long stretches of top control.

Tape: His Bellator bouts are on the promotion’s website, his recent LFA bout on Fight Pass.


Tony “Primetime” Kelley

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 33
Record: 5-1 (1 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Kelley got his first shot at the big time in 2016 when he took on future UFC competitor Kevin Aguilar for the vacant LFA title. “Primetime” ultimately came up just short in a grueling five-round bloodbath and did not compete again until May 2019, choking out Andy Brossett.

On the feet, Kelley is all about lateral movement and switching stance while keeping his hands low, launching kicks as he moves or stepping in deep with punches after setting them up with feints. It’s an effective style and definitely more powerful than his single knockout victory would suggest, especially since he appears equally adept from southpaw and orthodox. Where he struggles is when he stops to actually throw. For example, his kicks leave him vulnerable to counters and he compromises his length when committing to punches, especially as he tends to wing his right hand. This becomes especially evident as his gas tank starts to empty and his footwork suffers, though he did land some heavy counters of his own against Aguilar despite being clearly exhausted.

Luckily, he’s also got a strong wrestling game to lean on. Offensively, he drives and chain-wrestles well, while his takedown defense largely held up against Aguilar until Kelley flagged in the championship rounds; he did, however, get taken down very easily by a 2-5 opponent in his first fight back after a lengthy layoff. I’m willing to chalk that up to rust.

Once it does hit the mat, he’s shown good submission chops and a willingness to posture up for heavier ground-and-pound. He also managed to fight through an armbar and triangle, suggesting equal adeptness on the defensive end.

Overall, he’s skilled, entertaining and well-rounded. He’ll need to address his tendency to let opponents into the pocket and possibly his cardio if he wants to be a contender, though.

Opponent: See above.

Tape:


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 252 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 252: “Miocic vs. Cormier 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.