Birds fly, grass grows and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has to hastily sign newcomers to fill last-minute holes in their cards. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where ESPN+’s refusal to keep me logged in grows increasingly frustrating, we check out five UFC hopefuls with very distinct styles.
Mandy “Monster” Bohm
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 7-0 (2 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jade Masson-Wong
After a strong stint in Germany’s GMC promotion, Bohm took her talents to TKO, where she claimed the Flyweight title with a submission of then-unbeaten Jade Masson-Wong. Then came a one-fight stint in Bellator, which saw her defeat Griet Eekhout via unanimous decision.
She was previously slated to make her UFC debut last month.
Bohm is a Muay Thai specialist by trade, utilizing a long-range style that makes her seem far taller and longer than 5’6” with a 70-inch reach. She’ll bounce around at range with single straight punches alongside heavy kicks, but things get interesting when opponents try to rush their way inside. Depending on Bohm’s preference, she’ll either frame/shove them back to distance or wrap up the Thai clinch to slam home heavy elbows and knees. When she’s fresh, it’s incredibly difficult to get any offense going against her.
It gets a bit simpler as the fight progresses, though. Whether because of stamina management or something else, opponents have greater success compromising her distance management and either exploiting her low hands to land punches or hauling her to the fence as the rounds go by. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still scary on the inside, but it’s a seemingly avoidable situation that puts her in more danger than necessary.
As far as the rest of her game, she’s a remarkably decent offensive wrestler, utilizing clinch trips and long-range double-legs. She showed off some submission chops against Masson-Wong as well, dragging her directly into back control and tapping her with a rear-naked choke. She’s a bit iffier defensively; the naked low kicks she throws leave her vulnerable to takedowns, and though she did a good job of scrambling up against Giert Eekhout, she didn’t have much to offer Masson-Wong off of her back.
Bohm is definitely a very unique Flyweight who should have a solid UFC tenure, though the aforementioned issues and overall lack of stopping power may keep her from getting to the top.
Opponent: She takes on Ariane Lipski, who initially stepped in for Taila Santos on earrlier this month after the latter ran into visa issues. Then Bohm suffered COVID-19 symptoms, delaying the match up until this coming weekend.
On one hand, Lipski has the power to decisively punish Bohm’s aforementioned defensive lapses. On the other, Lipski’s a dead fish on the ground, as seen in her four UFC defeats. I favor Bohm to lean on her takedowns and grind out a decision, though it could get dicey at times.
Tape: Her TKO fight against Masson-Wong is on Fight Pass.
Nikolas “Iron” Motta
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 12-3 (8 KO)
Notable Victories: Joseph Lowry, Juan Gonzalez, Joe Solecki
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” 4 veteran Motta announced his arrival in Cage Fury with a vicious one-punch knockout of Cesar Balmaceda, then followed that up with a title-winning decision over Juan Gonzalez. This set up a “Contender Series” opportunity against Joseph Lowry, whom “Iron” out-struck to claim a UFC contract.
Motta is what you might call a “counter bully,” someone who thrives when opponents press the action but can take the lead if necessary. As soon as his man commits to something more powerful than a jab, the Brazilian either plants his feet and hurls a rapid-fire combination in return or sends out a scary-fast head kick. When attacking, he’s fond of either leading with his vicious left hook or setting it up with his right hand, though he’s also adept at sneaking in the head kick. It’s not the most complicated attack in the world, but two things make it quite effective.
For one, Motta’s got just enough tricks to open up his more traditional offense. That counter head kick, the up-jab/corkscrew uppercut he’ll use instead of his left hook after a one-two combination, and other mixups make his bread-and-butter punches that much more effective. For two, he’s got nasty power. His current two-fight decision streak is the longest of his career, and it’s not like Gonzalez and Lowry got off scot-free; Motta dropped Gonzalez four times and had Lowry hurt multiple times to the point where the ref warned Lowry to fight back or he’d stop it.
His stand up doesn’t have any gaping flaws at the moment, just a few ostensibly fixable habits. He doesn’t go to the body enough, doesn’t check low kicks, and leaves himself vulnerable by overthrowing his left hook. With a few tweaks, he could be a genuine problem.
As far as his grappling, I’ve only seen him use it defensively. While his refusal to give ground when countering can open him up to takedowns, he’s managed to deny the vast majority that have come his way. In addition, he’s done a very good job of framing and circling out when opponents try to tie up.
Motta’s two knockout losses have me a bit worried and he really does need to vary up his attack instead of headhunting so much, but I definitely like what I’ve seen. I see him peaking around the Top 20 or Top 15.
Opponent: He squares off against late replacement Cameron VanCamp. While Motta’s the shorter man by four inches, VanCamp’s iffy striking defense means “Iron” should paste him in the first round.
Tape: His “Contender Series” and Cage Fury fights are on Fight Pass.
Weight Class: Lightweight/Welterweight
Record: 15-5-1 (4 KO, 9 SUB)
Notable Victories: Dan Stittgen
VanCamp — whose only losses since 2016 have come against future or former UFC competitors — enters the cage this Saturday having won four straight. His 2021 campaign has seen him score two submissions in a combined 2:28
He steps in for Jim Miller, who came down with COVID-19, on less than one week’s notice.
The 6’1” VanCamp is a floaty switch-hitter on the feet, fond of long straight punches and knees in equal measure. He also boasts some nice elbows and close-range uppercuts to go along with the standard “Tall Guy” offense. While he’s admirably aggressive and extremely game, pushing forward with volume instead of sitting back and utilizing his height, he seems to be putting the cart before the horse. As large as his striking arsenal is, it’s largely unpolished, best seen in the way he leaves his chin way up. He’s only been stopped by strikes once, so he’s generally tough enough to get away with it, but anyone willing to meet him head-on instead of retreating is going to find success.
If the striking does wind up too hairy for his liking, though, he’s more than happy to lean on his grappling. VanCamp boasts solid clinch takedowns and decent chain wrestling when shooting at range, plus some lethal front chokes if opponents try to bring him down in return. Once on top, he does a good job of passing to dominant positions and threatening the finish.
As with his stand up, however, he’s got some key issues. While those front chokes can scare an opponent off from changing levels, Bobby Voelker hit multiple trips on him and found plenty of success working from the top back in 2019. In addition, VanCamp seems to have some trouble maintaining those dominant positions, as seen when he lost mount against Craig Eckelberg three fights back.
To his credit, he ended up catching Eckelberg in a triangle and does seem reasonably dangerous off of his back, though I can’t see him tapping a UFC-caliber grappler from there.
VanCamp’s definitely a fun and unique fighter to watch, but even if he does successfully make the cut back to 155 pounds, he’s just too round around the edges to make a real run at contention. I could definitely see him grabbing a “Fight of the Night” bonus or two, though.
Opponent: See above.
Brandon “Human Highlight Reel” Jenkins
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 15-7 (10 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jacob Kilburn
Jenkins went from dropping three of five to winning three straight in the past 12 months. Those three victories include a spinning elbow knockout of Jordin Hinman and a vicious flying knee finish of Jacob Kilburn just three weeks ago.
He replaces the COVID-stricken Dakota Bush on less than five days’ notice.
Despite the nickname, Jenkins is actually a fairly measured fighter, generally content to sit at range and push forward with low kicks until the opportunity arises to do something wilder. He’s very relaxed and free-flowing on the feet, constantly switching stance and keeping his hands fairly low. When he does decide to commit to something, he boasts some dangerous spinning techniques, solid knees, and a well-timed counter right.
Unfortunately, I’ve got more criticisms than praise. His low hands result in poor defense, he telegraphs his step-ins and spins fairly obviously, and he doesn’t really have a jab. In addition, his habit of throwing naked low kicks leaves him vulnerable to counters, and while he does do a decent job of setting them up with punches at times, he’ll still lean too heavily on them.
He just doesn’t have enough of a technical base to set up the “Human Highlight Reel” strikes. Even Michel Pereira — who never met an unorthodox technique he didn’t love — realized that you have to bolster the wackier parts of your arsenal with solid fundamentals.
His last three fights didn’t feature all that much grappling, so it’s hard to get an exact bead on that part of his game, but what I did see wasn’t promising. His tendency to plant his feet and throw back can allow opponents to tie up easily if they avoid his counters, he gave up a takedown and mount against Aaron Mitchell, and highlights of his 2018 fight with Robert Watley showed him struggling off of his back.
Jenkins may catch one or two guys unaware, but he’s not going to find consistent success at the highest levels without going back to basics.
Opponent: He meets young Chinese prospect Rongzhu, who’s looking for his first UFC victory. Rongzhu lost his debut by simply refusing to throw punches, but if he gets his head on straight, his wrestling and power figure to be too much for Jenkins.
Erin “Cold Blooded” Blanchfield
Weight Class: Flyweight/Bantamweight
Record: 6-1 (2 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Brogan Walker-Sanchez, Victoria Leonardo, Kay Hansen
A champion at both NAGA and the Eddie Bravo Invitational, Blanchfield has competed exclusively under the Invicta and Cage Fury banners throughout her three-year professional career. She’s won three straight since a questionable decision loss to future UFC competitor Tracy Cortez, including a head kick knockout of Victoria Leonardo.
She steps in for Bea Malecki on just over one week’s notice.
Blanchfield’s grappling credentials immediately jump off the page and she’s every bit the menace on the ground that you’d expect. Possessing strong passing, good balance, excellent patience and some heavy ground-and-pound when she decides to throw it, Blanchfield appears to prefer working her way to side control and looking to isolate an arm. If the Americana, crucifix, and arm triangle aren’t there, however, she’s more than happy to take mount or the back and start pounding.
She’s every bit as dangerous off of her back — within moments of regaining guard against Cortez, she locked up an armbar that Cortez spent almost the entire rest of the round trying to fight off. Refreshingly for a jiu-jitsu ace, though, she’ll defend takedowns rather than willingly surrender guard and generally does a pretty good job of it.
Both her striking and takedowns are visibly improving fight to fight. Against Cortez, she was a mostly stationary boxer with zero force behind her punches. Two fights later, she showed off her ability to switch stance en route to landing two clean left high kicks on Leonardo for the finish. In her most recent effort, she floored Walker-Sanchez with a one-two combination while showing off much better combination work and head movement. She’s not elite on the feet yet, but she’s definitely making strides in the right direction.
The same can be said about her offensive wrestling. While she’s had a good single-leg for a while, she had a tendency to chase hopeless whizzer throws that she appears to have gotten over. She’s become adept at transitioning to the rear waist lock and scoring takedowns from there, and she’s also good at landing strikes on the break if her attempts fail. While this is probably the area most in need of improvement, it’s not a liability.
Blanchfield is young, has a great Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree, and is making clear strides. She’s definitely got contender potential.
Opponent: She takes on wrestling specialist Sarah Alpar, who impressed on “Contender Series,” but fell short in her first UFC appearance. I honestly think Blanchfield is better in all aspects of the game save takedowns, and even if Alpar does drag her to the mat, “Cold Blooded’s” submission chops give her a clear edge there. In short, expect a dominant debut.
Tape: Her Invicta and Cage Fury bouts are on Fight Pass.
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