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UFC 259 - New Blood: Kickboxing Thunder

UFC 259 this weekend (Sat., March 6, 2021) is (for now) a 15-fight beast of a pay-per-view (PPV) card. And while only two of those feature UFC newcomers, quality trumps quantity. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I suffer through Alaska FC’s commentary for you all’s sake, we look at two unbeaten kickboxing veterans with some impressive finishes under their belts.

Carlos “Mr. Marvelous” Ulberg

Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Age: 30
Record: 3-0 (2 KO)
Notable Victories: Bruno Oliveira

Ulberg — the latest prospect out of City Kickboxing — enjoyed a successful kickboxing career alongside his rise through the mixed martial arts (MMA) ranks. He ultimately reached “Contender Series” in Nov. 2020 and won a contract by violently knocking out Brazil’s Bruno Oliveira in the first round.

If I had a nickel for every “kickboxing champion” out there whose supposed skills completely failed to translate into a quality mixed martial arts (MMA) striking game, I wouldn’t have to write these articles every week. Luckily, Ulberg is every bit the beast his credentials would suggest, using his chiseled 6’4” frame and 77-inch reach to take apart opponents with his wide and potent arsenal.

There’s just a whole lot to like about Ulberg’s stand up: he uses range well, knows how to adjust his attack when dealing with an orthodox opponent versus a southpaw, can pivot to take unique angles, and mixes up his attacks to the head, body and legs. Of particular note are his jab, his check hook, and an evil snap kick to the body that appears particularly effective against southpaws. I’m not sure he’s comfortable fully unleashing his kickboxing arsenal in the cage, as he seemed much more willing to throw lengthy combinations when kickboxing as opposed to sniping, but he’s absolutely lethal and has the gas tank to remain so all night.

And now, of course, comes the one big nitpick: that check hook I mentioned is fast and lethal, as amply demonstrated when he used it to knockout Oliveira, but his habit of backing straight up and then throwing that hook can be really predictable. One of his earlier MMA opponents repeatedly timed it for level changes, and the downfall of Luke Rockhold should give you an idea of what happens when a rangy striker gets too reliant on a single form of return fire. Someone who can put the pressure on and avoid that hook could potentially give him real issues.

Still, he’s head-and-shoulders above the majority of the Light Heavyweight division on the feet. As far as whether he’ll be able to keep it there, the jury’s out. He did a very good job of pummeling and getting his hips out of the way in the one fight I saw where he actually had to deal with takedowns, but there’s still a lot more questions than answers. Considering the sort of takedown defense his teammates and fellow kickboxing converts Israel Adesanya and Brad Riddell have developed, though, he’s definitely training at the right place.

I can definitely see Ulberg being a major player at 205 pounds, especially since the division’s rather short on suffocating wrestlers at the moment. In other words, keep an eye on this man.

Opponent: He squares off against two-time “Contender Series” winner Kennedy Nzechuku, who’s 1-1 in the Octagon and hasn’t seen action since Aug. 2019. He’ll give Ulberg the stand up battle he wants and pay dearly for it.

Tape: His “Contender Series” bout is on ESPN+.

Uros “The Doctor” Medic

Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 27
Record: 6-0 (4 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Mikey Gonzalez

Medic cut his teeth in Alaska FC, ending four of five fights in the first round before joining “Contender Series” in 2020. There, he demolished Mikey Gonzalez in little more than two minutes to claim a UFC contract.

“The Doctor” trains out of Kings MMA and reportedly boasts a kickboxing background, so it shouldn’t surprise you that he’s an ultra-aggressive striker by trade. He prefers to advance in a long southpaw stance, bursting in with heavy low kicks, body kicks, and straight lefts as needed. It helps that he’s an absolute tank for the division at 6’1” and clearly boasts considerable power in every limb. Though largely content to fire one or two shots at a time, he’s relentless when he’s got someone hurt and is capable of doing damage from unconventional positions.

His grappling, on the other hand, is nowhere near as impressive. Poor takedown defense and dynamic-but-inconsistent scrambling ability leave him on his back worryingly often, and his pair of triangle finishes aren’t sufficient deterrent against a UFC-caliber opponent committed to bringing it to the mat. When he winds up on top, he’s usually content to land what he can and then bail to the feet once his opponent gets their bearings.

What’s even more concerning about that ground game is that he struggled against god-awful competition. Indeed, Alaska FC is notorious for its criminally lopsided matchmaking and Medic’s run was no exception. He’s just so unproven that despite his clear physical gifts and training out of one of the best camps for offensively-minded strikers, it’s hard to say whether he’ll actually be able to make an impact. I’m leaning toward “yes,” but time will definitely tell.

Opponent: He meets fellow “Contender Series” alumnus and kicking enthusiast Aalon Cruz, who moves up to 155 pounds after a long run at Featherweight. I’m really torn on this one. That’s because Cruz has enjoyed a much better strength of schedule and we’ve yet to see Medic in any sort of deep waters; however, a former Featherweight who prefers to set the pace might not enjoy meeting a come-forward former Welterweight. In the end, I’ve got Medic by a hair.

Tape: His Alaska FC bouts are on Fight Pass, while his “Contender Series” bout remains on ESPN+.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 259 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 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+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 259: “Blachowicz vs. Adesanya” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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