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UFC Vegas 6 - New Blood: The Motley Crew

UFC Fighter Portraits Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After a truly cursed event that ended up with just eight fights, the UFC returns to the Apex this Saturday with 12 tussles in tow, four of which feature Octagon newcomers. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where procrastination is actively encouraged, we check out two “Contender Series” alums, a Bellator/LFA slugger, and Jordan’s first UFC representative.

Joaquin “New Mansa” Buckley

Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 26
Record: 10-2 (7 KO)
Notable Victories: Chris Heatherly, Vinicius de Jesus, Jackie Gosh

Buckley won three of his first four Bellator bouts as a Welterweight before running into top prospect Logan Storley, who put his All-American wrestling prowess to work in a grinding decision victory. “New Mansa” moved to Middleweight for an LFA run, which saw him smash Chris Harris in 68 seconds before avenging his first pro loss to Jackie Gosh.

He makes an eight-day turnaround on Saturday.

Standing 5’10” with a 73-inch reach, Buckley is a compact powerhouse whose musculature accurately conveys the damage he can deliver. He excels in close-range flurries, ripping the body and head with powerful hooks and a scary southpaw left hand. Quality timing allows him to land destructive counters with either hand, particularly his straight left and check hook, and he’s got similar amounts of thump in his kicks.

Where he struggles is when he’s forced to lead. Because of his lack of reach, he often relies on bursting in with early-Belfort-style linear punch rushes, neglecting his stiff jab in the process. This leaves him open to either counters, which caused his knockout loss to Gosh, or reactive takedowns, which de Jesus exploited to great effect. Unless he can walk his opponents to the fence and tee off on a stationary target, as he did when Gosh badly injured his foot in their rematch, he’s vulnerable any time his opponents don’t deign to close the distance themselves.

On the plus side, he’s got a fast, powerful shot with which to mix up his strikes and constantly works to stand when taken down. Unfortunately, he also has a tendency to get mounted, giving up that position to both de Jesus and Storley. Though he managed to escape from underneath both without taking too much damage or landing in a submission, there are heaps of UFC-caliber fighters that can turn such a position into a finish.

Buckley has some impressive athletic gifts and plenty of time to potentially smooth out the deficiencies in his game. He’s not a future champion or anything, but he could do well for himself in the Octagon. He’ll want to drop back down to 170 pounds, though. He’s definitely undersized for Middleweight, which will only compound his issues with range.

Opponent: Buckley gives up five inches of height and eight inches of reach to Kevin Holland. Though “Trail Blazer” can make some remarkably boneheaded decisions in the cage, he’s got the tools to endlessly frustrate Buckley as the latter tries to enter the pocket. Even if Buckley does manage to get hit hands on Holland, this is a guy who shrugged off power shots from lethal punchers in Thiago Santos and John Philips without issue. Holland should dominate at range.

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


Alex Munoz

Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 30
Record: 6-0 (2 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Nick Newell, Troy Lamson

A product of the same Oklahoma State University (OSU) wrestling program that produced Daniel Cormier and Johny Hendricks, Munoz left Team Takedown upon its dissolution to join Team Alpha Male, where he serves as a wrestling coach. Though his victory over Nick Newell on “Contender Series” wasn’t enough to get him a contract, a subsequent decision over Troy Lamson set the stage for a February UFC debut opposite Luis Pena, only for Munoz to withdraw with an injury.

Munoz isn’t the sort of aggressive slugger slash overpowering takedown machine you’d expect from someone with his pedigree and training partners. The 5’9” southpaw is generally content to work at range, circling his opponents while picking away with jabs, straight lefts, and a remarkably effective body attack. He’s got sharp counters, effective combinations when he decides to step in and attack, and punishes the midsection with body kicks and straight lefts until opponents slow down enough to really get his punches flowing. Though not much of a knockout threat, his hand speed and fluidity make him an effective striker.

His wrestling is as potent as one would expect, whether it be his nasty blast double, shots off of caught kicks, or well-timed reactive takedowns. He showed similar adeptness on the defensive side against Lamson, meaning he’s generally the one dictating where the fight takes place. Once on the mat, he tends to prioritize looking for the back. He’s incredibly difficult to dislodge once he’s got you in turtle position, and if you try to play it safe and stay in guard, he’s capable of doing damage from there.

Overall, he possesses a technically sound and well-rounded game that makes great use of his wrestling skills. What problems he has are relatively minor, namely a tendency to get caught while throwing, an over reliance on his quality footwork rather than head movement to avoid strikes, and some potential cardio issues that cropped up against Lamson in what was almost purely a standup battle. With his limited finishing ability, however, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to separate from the pack and make a name for himself in the crowded Lightweight division.

Opponent: He gets no favors against prospect Nasrat Haqparast. Though coming off a destructive loss to Drew Dober, Haqparast possesses some devastating power and speed in his hands, leaving Munoz sorely outclassed on the feet. Unless Munoz can control Haqparast on the mat for long stretches of the fight, as Marcin Held did in the latter’s Octagon debut, expect him to get battered into submission late.

Tape: His last two bouts are on Fight Pass.


Peter “Slippery Pete” Barrett

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 33
Record: 11-3 (7 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Sang Hoon Yoo

Barrett pulled himself out of a 1-3 slump by knocking out Zach DiSabatino in June of last year, setting up a Contender Series bid just two months later. There, he survived some early adversity from Sang Hoon Yoo to claim a narrow decision and hand the Korean his first defeat. COVID scrapped a planned April debut against Danny Henry, after which initial opponent Steve Garcia withdrew from this Saturday’s match.

Despite that lopsided ratio of knockouts to submissions, “Slippery Pete is something of a generalist. His standup consists largely of his jab, straight left, and powerful kicks alongside dangerous clinch knees and the ability to do damage on the break. As he showed against Yoo, he’s more than willing to wrestle if the situation calls for it, preferring to do so from the clinch alongside those knees. Should he successfully get into top position, he has this interesting approach of punishing the body with elbows.

Where he struggles is on the defensive. The larger, stronger Yoo found consistent success simply pushing forward with heavy strikes, an unfortunate number of which found their mark. His takedown defense is even more worrisome; he gave up multiple takedowns to DiSabatino despite the latter being ostensibly concussed after being dropped twice. He also appeared to gas late against Yoo, only being saved by his opponent gassing as well. If he’s not able to bully his opponents, things simply collapse.

I really don’t see Barrett accomplishing much in the Octagon; seven of his wins have come against opponents with even or losing records and he didn’t light the world on fire on the Contender Series. He’s good for some fun brawls, but that’s it.

Opponent: Steve Garcia was theoretically beatable. Youssef Zalal is not. “The Moroccan Devil” has Barrett out-classed on the feet and especially in the wrestling; he should be able to take Barrett down whenever he pleases. “Slippery Pete” can’t slip his way out of this one.

Tape: His “Contender Series” bout is on Fight Pass.


Ali “The Royal Fighter” Al Qaisi

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 29
Record: 8-3 (1 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Al Qaisi — the first Jordanian to make the Octagon walk — enters the world’s largest fight promotion in the midst of a five-fight win streak. The run includes three victories in Brave CF and three first-round submission wins.

Unfortunately for me, Brave’s video archive is stuck behind FITE’s paywall, so I’ve had to make do with his efforts in 2017 and 2018. Said efforts weren’t particularly dazzling; while Al Qaisi has a background in Sanda and reportedly won two Kung Fu world championships, he’s generally content to plod forward along a high, tight guard until the opportunity for a reactive takedown presents itself. Then, when his opponents scramble to their feet, he hunts for the guillotine that’s accounted for three of his four submission victories.

I’m sure there’s more to his game than that, but that’s all I’ve been able to glean from the older footage. Some even older fights saw him unleash some straight-armed swings that seemed to have some power behind them, but even then he was purely reactive. He’s certainly not what one would expect from someone with “Kung Fu World Champion” on his resume.

Opponent: He faces heavy-handed bruiser Irwin Rivera, who was comically outsized by Giga Chikadze in his late-notice Octagon debut. Rivera has the scrambling ability to get out from underneath Al Qaisi and the power to punish his seemingly lackluster boxing, so expect Jordan to start its national Octagon record 0-1.

Tape:


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 6 fight card this weekend, 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.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 6: “Lewis vs. Oleinik” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.