Eight cancelations have left this Saturday’s event inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, a very different card than when it first came together, and that includes the newbies. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I only occasionally plan to throw rocks at the FITE founders’ houses until they stop hiding years-old fights behind paywalls, we look at a pair of destructive strikers and some ultra-slick Flyweights.
As always, fights from the most recent Contender Series season can be found on ESPN+.
Armen “Superman” Petrosyan
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 6-0 (6 KO)
Notable Victories: Kaloyan Kolev, Dmitry Minakov, Artur Aliskerov
Petrosyan — not to be confused with the ONE Featherweight kickboxer of the same name — won and defended the Fight Nights Global Light Heavyweight title before suffering a knockout loss to Hasan Yousefi. Just four months later, he took his talents to Contender Series, where he knocked out Kaloyan Kolev with a vicious head kick to earn a contract.
He may not be related to the legendary Giorgio Petrosyan, but “Superman” is still plenty lethal on the feet. He’s remarkably quick and light on his feet for his size, relying largely on fundamentally sound boxing combinations and a lethal, versatile left leg he often leads with as a switch leg kick. He switches stances very smoothly, throws those left kicks from either one with equal ease, and showed terrific killer instinct against Kolev.
It’s a well-composed, highly effective offense, though he can be a bit too aggressive for his own good. Yousefi demolished him with a left hook in the middle of a furious exchange, so it remains to be seen how he’ll handle opponents composed enough to trade with him.
The all-important defensive grappling, meanwhile, is still a work in progress. He seems especially vulnerable to chain wrestling, and though he does a good job of getting to his feet when taken down, he struggles to actually break away from his opponent. Dmitry Minakov basically stayed attached to him for a round and a half last year before Petrosyan finally broke free and liver-kicked him into oblivion.
To his credit, he had more success getting Kolev off of him, though he still gave up some takedowns and control time. It’s also worth noting that despite his constant attempts to stand, his cardio never seems to fail him. Still, I see him having plenty of issues with more proven ground artists.
Petrosyan is definitely trending in the right direction. I’m not sure he can shore up his grappling issues in time to make a genuine run, but he should do alright for himself in the middle of the pack.
Opponent: He takes on Brazilian powerhouse Gregory “Robocop” Rodrigues. While Petrosyan has clearly made strides in his defensive grappling, Rodrigues is by far the most potent ground artist he’s ever faced and has the wrestling chops to drag Petrosyan into his wheelhouse, not to mention enough power to clip Petrosyan the way Yousefi did. Rodrigues can be hurt, as we saw in both his first Contender Series bid and recent war with Jun Yong Park, but odds are he’ll bully Petrosyan to the fence and work him over on the mat.
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 6-2 (4 KO, 1 SUB)
Notably Victories: Shamir Peshewa
Fighting for just the third time in four years, Syndicate MMA’s Pascual smashed Guadalupe Guzman in her iKon debut. Seven months later, she took just 60 seconds to demolish Shamir Peshewa under the Invicta banner.
She replaces Jennifer Gonzalez, who herself replaced Wu Yanan, on just over a week’s notice.
A word of warning: Pascual’s fought for a grand total of 4:16 in the last four years, so there’s only so much to work with here.
Back when she fought the debuting Seo Woo Jin in 2017, Pascual’s gameplan was simple: fire southpaw head kicks and rapid flurries of arm punches at range before straight-up running into the clinch, where she fired legitimately nasty knees. Though she’s still just as aggressive as before, she’s improved her technique and overall game planning.
Against Guzman, she unloaded with knees and roundhouse kicks before sneaking in a foot sweep to land on top, where she passed to side control and mauled her from the crucifix for a while en route to locking up an Americana. Against Peshewa, she mixed right hands and power kicks before hurting her with a knee to the body and polishing her off.
While she’s only made it work against poor competition, it’s a very entertaining style that genuinely earns the verb “mauling.” She’s got real power in her kicks and knees and seems to have gotten to the point where she can use all eight limbs in tandem. If nothing else, she’s got a kill-or-be-killed mentality that fans should appreciate.
As far as her grappling, both of her losses came on the ground and Jin managed to keep her locked against the fence for long stretches of time. Her work from the top was decent against Guzman, but Guzman was also making her pro debut. As good a camp as Syndicate is, I wouldn’t bank on her having turned into a ground ace during her time away.
No clue how long her UFC tenure will last, though I’d wager she’s not sniffing contention anytime soon. Still, I’m happy to tune in for as long as she’s there.
Opponent: She takes on Brazilian power-puncher Josiane Nunes. While Pascual has a ton of height on “Josi,” her raw aggression figures to put her in the firing line, and Nunes has enough one-shot power to make her pay dearly. I’ve got Nunes winning an absolute war.
Tape: Her iKon and Invicta bouts are on Fight Pass.
Victor “El Magnifico” Altamirano
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 10-1 (1 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Carlos Candelario, Nate Smith, Chris Ocon
Altamirano — whose only professional loss came against UFC veteran Jarred Brooks — claimed LFA gold with an upset victory over Nate Smith in 2021. Six months later, he turned aside the very game Carlos Candelario to claim both a split decision win and a UFC contract.
“El Magnifico” boasts a second-degree black belt in Teaekwondo, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s seen him fight. He operates out of an awkward southpaw stance that’s in constant motion, looking to either slam home power kicks or quick flurries of straight punches. He keeps his lead hand extremely low, relying on upper-body movement to sway out of the way of incoming fire, and does an admirable job of setting up shots to the head by targeting the body and vice-versa.
Plus, while he’s at his best when he’s pot-shotting at a distance, he’s got some nasty knees and elbows inside.
The unorthodox nature of his striking can and has worked against him, however. His refusal to bring his hands up leaves him vulnerable to counters when he leads with naked kicks, leaves him open to low kicks when he dips, and can result in him leaning directly into incoming fire if he misreads his opponent. It’s very easy to picture him ensign up on the wrong end of a Weidman-Silva moment.
His grappling is … strange. He’s incredibly willing to jump guard if it looks like he’s about to be taken down, but outside of a triangle he landed on Lloyd McKinney after losing the first round, he’s usually content to just strike off of his back. Even when he did put in the effort to stay on his feet, Candelario got him down on multiple occasions, though Altamirano did admittedly sweep his way to his feet.
Conversely, he looks to have a heavy top game and did a great job of latching onto Candelario’s back after surprising him with an uchi mata, so he’s no slouch when he manages to initiate the grappling.
Altamirano’s defensive flaws and lack of stopping power will likely keep him from advancing too far in such a stacked UFC Flyweight division. He could put on some fun fights, though.
Opponent: He takes on fellow debutant Carlos Hernandez, who also took home a close decision on Contender Series. Each man has the means to exploit the other’s weaknesses; Altamirano’s sharp enough to exploit Hernandez’s vulnerability to counters, while Hernandez’s strong top game and combination punching could give “El Magnifico” fits. I like Hernandez to win an entertaining, back-and-forth battle.
Tape: His LFA bouts are on Fight Pass.
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 7-1 (4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Daniel Barez
Hernandez went 13-2 over six years as an amateur before turning pro in 2017. Though he lost to the very capable Gustavo Balart in his debut, he went on to win the Hoosier FC Flyweight title before edging out Daniel Barez on Contender Series to claim a UFC contract.
I honestly get some Frankie Edgar vibes from Hernandez, at least in terms of his approach. He’ll glide around the cage with quality footwork, smoothly switching stances, then burst in with rapid-fire combinations. His speed and fluidity are something to behold and he’s got a really nice body attack, both with his hands and the rest of his weapons.
Unfortunately, he has some potentially devastating habits that Barez exploited to great effect. One of them is the fact that while his lateral movement is excellent, he only attacks or retreats in straight lines, which allowed Barez to get him to the fence far too easily. The other is that he has way too much forward momentum when he throws his combination. Barez punished that both by changing levels whenever Hernandez tried to leap in with something other than a jab and by simply planting his feet and hurling counters down the pipe.
That momentum can also make it difficult for him to sidestep or retreat once he’s finished punching, giving yet another opportunity for well-timed counters and level changes to catch him off-guard.
As far as his grappling, he’s a strong ground artist let down by poor offensive wrestling. His takedown defense in the open mat is decent, though not sufficient to save him when he leaves his hips open as previously described. To his credit, he does a very good job of scrambling to his feet and breaking his opponent’s grip, allowing him to reset at range.
When he did manage to get on top against Barez due to the latter’s slip, he absolutely dominated. Very good passing, strong ground-and-pound, and constant submission threats. It’s just a shame that he can’t consistently get himself there.
Hernandez is clearly very skilled and remarkably well-seasoned, but those bad habits of his will forever keep him out of title contention.
Opponent: See above.
Tape: His LFA bout is also on Fight Pass.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 49 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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