After a brief vacation for the holidays, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns this Saturday (Dec. 3, 2022) with one fresh face in tow for UFC Orlando, which will take place inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where everyone but the Brazilians continue to disappoint me with their nicknames, we look at a scorching 23-year-old out of Contender Series.
Francis “The Fire” Marshall
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 6-0 (4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Conor Matthews
Marshall went undefeated (5-0) as an amateur before turning professional in 2019 and ending four of his first five bouts inside the distance. This earned him a Contender Series spot opposite fellow unbeaten Connor Matthews, whom Marshall dominated from bell-to-bell to earn a UFC contract.
I take notes as I watch tape of fighters’ careers in chronological order, and it’s always nice when I boot up a more recent fight and see that they’re addressing issues I’d noticed. As recently as last year, Marshall had limited stand up that largely comprised firing an arbitrary number of jabs before following with a right cross. His left hook looked poor, he couldn’t handle low kicks, and he had a bad habit of attacking and retreating in straight lines.
He looked worlds better against Matthews, showcasing lateral movement, a better hook, and some genuinely nasty power. Those 15 minutes saw him piece up his man with one-two combinations and one-one-twos, hurt him badly with both clean straight rights and a nice check hook, and show off the short uppercut he uses to great effect in close.
That said, there were some lingering issues, namely his tendency to leave his chin exposed and bring his left hand back at his waist. Matthews caught him more than once by throwing simultaneously and taking advantage of the way Marshall squares up. On top of that, Marshall hasn’t totally fixed the low kick problem. Those issues have anti-synergy; if someone can compromise Marshall’s movement, they’re not going to have any issues finding his chin.
One thing that’s impressed throughout, though, is Marshall’s wrestling. The double-leg looks like his weapon of choice, though he also showed off a nice inside trip finish to a single-leg. He’s not super active on top unless he’s in dominant position, usually preferring to play heavy and slowly work his way through guard, but he can dish out some nasty elbows when needed. Part of that may be that he seems to struggle to hold people down; even Rey Trujillo, who was on a 10-fight losing streak coming in, managed to sit up into him and separate more than once.
Submission-wise, all four of those pro finishes came via rear-naked choke, so he’s clearly got a preference.
I came away very impressed with Marshall. With a bit more seasoning and head movement, he could really make a name for himself in the Featherweight division.
Opponent: He takes on Argentine slugger Marcelo Rojo. “Pitbull’s” grappling has let him down on multiple occasions, so as long as Marshall can avoid Rojo’s nasty leg kicks, he shouldn’t have too much issue overpowering him on the mat.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Orlando fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
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