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UFC Vegas 8 - New Blood: The ‘Contender Series’ Crew

UFC Fight Night Smith v Rakic: Weigh-Ins Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Saturday’s event at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, has proven a tiny bit less volatile than its immediate predecessors, resulting in just three fresh faces. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where waiting until the last minute is just common sense, we check out a trio of “Contender Series” alumni. As always, all “Contender Series” bouts can be found on Fight Pass.

Bill “Senor Perfecto” Algeo

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 31
Record: 13-4 (3 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jeff Lentz, Scott Heckman

Algeo brought a four-fight win streak into his “Contender Series” appearance, which saw him take on veteran Brendan Loughnane in a main event. Though he came up short in a spirited effort, he returned to the win column earlier this month with a decision over former foe Tim Dooling.

He steps in for the injured Ryan Hall on short notice.

Algeo is a fairly towering Featherweight at 6’0” and certainly fights like you don’t have a chance in hell of reaching his chin. Keeping his hands low and constantly switching stances, he chips away with his jab, cross and powerful low kicks while attempting to back away from or roll with incoming fire. He also boasts a powerful body kick and a dangerous step-in knee that makes the most of his height, making him both exhausting and frustrating to deal with, and his strong elbows make entering and exiting the clinch a hazard.

Unfortunately for “Senor Perfecto,” he’s not quite as slick as he thinks. While he’s generally capable when circling at range, he tends to advance in a straight, predictable line, leaving his unprotected chin wide open for return fire. In addition, he keeps his hands low even as he retreats, which allowed Loughnane to tear him to pieces in the third round once his gas tank started to empty. To make matters worse, his left hook is slow and labored and he doesn’t check low kicks, giving opponents a number of options with which to neutralize his faux-slickster offense.

His best work comes when he ends up on top, and luckily, he’s got solid offensive wrestling and is very difficult to hold down. Rather than single-mindedly attempt to pass, he’s generally content to work from half and full guard, where his length allows him to deliver powerful elbows. He’s also willing to posture up and potentially compromise his position for the sake of landing heavier shots, which is always fun to watch.

In short, Algeo needs to keep his hands up and put a greater emphasis on his wrestling. While he showed some real toughness against Loughnane, he’s going to get that sort of mauling from anyone with the wherewithal to meet his advance or commit to pursuing him. I can see him scoring an Octagon win or two if he brings his ground-and-pound to bear, but I expect him to lose some entertaining fights before exiting the promotion.

Opponent: He fights Ricardo Lamas, who’s lost three of his last four. That said, Lamas is also horrifyingly violent at times and has the skills to mercilessly exploit Algeo’s defensive lapses, especially if the latter once again slows down late. Algeo might be tough enough to last the distance, but he’s in for a whooping.

Tape: His recent CFFC bout is on Fight Pass.


Impa “Tshilobo” Kasanganay

Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 26
Record: 7-0 (2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Kailan Hill, Anthony Adams

Kasanganay’s upset decision over Kailan Hill on the 2019 “Contender Series” didn’t earn him a contract, but after seeing multiple fights fall through, he returned to the show earlier this month. There, he defeated fellow series veteran Anthony Adams to secure a spot in UFC.

He makes an 18-day turnaround.

“Tshilobo” was a linebacker in college, and his physicality is obvious in the cage. The technique appears to be steadily catching up. Indeed, while he’ll still load up on his punches and fail to check low kicks, he does an excellent job of mixing his head and body shots in combination. His low kicks and pressure likewise look effective, as do his cardio and counters.

He’s shown similar levels of fluency and development in his grappling. In addition to being difficult to hold down, Kasanganay’s boasts some quality takedown chops and a heavy top game. While staying tight, he pursues the back, where he can unleash some heavy punches or threaten the RNC.

At the moment, Kasanganay just looks like he needs some seasoning — if he can tighten up his punches, get more power behind them, and work on his ability to deal with long-range kicks, he’s got the tools to be a potential contender. I’d have preferred he get one or two more noteworthy fights before entering the Octagon, though.

Opponent: He faces heavy-handed underachiever Maki Pitolo. While Pitolo has the boxing chops to decimate Kasanganay at close range, he has struggled mightily to get comfortable in UFC. I have Pitolo by a hair because of experience, power and striking technique, but Kasanganay could easily get the win if “Coconut Bombz” comes out flat again.

Tape: Again, you can find his recent work on Fight Pass.


Austin Springer

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 33
Record: 12-3 (7 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Giga Chikadze, Kevin Boehm

Springer stepped up on short notice to face GLORY veteran Giga Chikadze on the “Contender Series,” out-wrestling the Georgian and ultimately choking him out late in the third for an upset victory. He returned to action nearly 16 months later to claim the CageSport Featherweight Championship with an extremely wide decision over Kevin Boehm.

He replaces Kevin Croom, who in turn replaced the aforementioned Chikadze, on two days’ notice.

Fighting out of Gracie Barra Portland alongside Ed Herman and Ricky Simon, Springer utilizes rudimentary kickboxing to set up the wrestling attack that is his bread and butter. His low kicks are his most potent strikes and he knows how to set them up with boxing, though he has a tendency to throw arm punches instead of ones that can do real damage.

The real goal of his standup is to open the door for his takedowns, of which he boasts a nice variety. Alongside the standard single- and double-legs, often preceded by his left hook, he’s very adept at catching kicks. Once on top, he’s persistent, aggressive, and damaging with his ground-and-pound, often using it in lieu of passing. That aggression, however, combines with some leaky submission defense to make his attack rather perilous. The last man to beat him, Bobby McIntyre, repeatedly put him in danger with triangles and a kimura, and even Chikadze had a decent armbar attempt and omoplata sweep. Neither of them managed to tap him, admittedly, but escaping submissions is a far less useful skill than not getting caught in the first place.

There’s just nothing super eye-catching about Springer’s game. In short, his stand up is underwhelming, and while he’s definitely got some solid wrestling chops and delivers some good damage from the top, those submission issues are a serious red flag. I don’t see him going terribly far in the world’s largest fight promotion.

Opponent: He fights Alex Caceres, whose fights I cannot predict to save my life. “Bruce Leroy” looks to have the kickboxing edge and enough jiu-jitsu chops to seriously trouble Springer on the mat, though, so expect a rough debut.

Tape:


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 8 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 9 p.m. ET.

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