The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) return to its APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend (Sat., April 16, 2022) is a mess of a card, but there are some highly intriguing new additions to the roster on it. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where extra work always seems to spring up on fight week, we check out four Contender Series grads and one from Lookin’ for a Fight.
As always, episodes form the most recent Contender Series season are on ESPN+.
Caio “The Natural” Borralho
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 10-1 (4 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jesse Murray, Aaron Jeffery
“The Natural” won the Future MMA Middleweight title in 2020 before turning aside a late surge to beat Aaron Jeffery on Contender Series. Though his efforts weren’t sufficient to earn a contract, he returned to the program three months later to batter Jesse Murray and seal the deal.
Though a decorated judo practitioner, Borralho’s primarily a karate-style striker. From a long southpaw stance, he’ll attack the body and legs with front and side kicks alongside quick jabs and crosses, plus more esoteric moves like lead-leg hook kicks. He’s got very solid range management and uses feints quite well, making it remarkably difficult to catch him coming in. If opponents try to stay aggressive, he’ll backstep and plug them with sharp counter hooks and crosses, or possibly a reactive flying knee he’s fond of. Despite how mobile and active he is, he’s got the gas tank to play this game for five full rounds.
As good as his movement is, though, it’s not perfect. While he generally doesn’t back himself directly into the fence and has a nice slapping hook he uses to pivot away from advancing opponents, he can occasionally get too close to the fence before starting to circle. This means that sufficiently dogged pursuers — or at least ones who figure out which way he’s going to go — can tie up rather easily. Jeffery controlled the third round of their fight by simply weathering Borralho’s counters and refusing to give him any space to reset.
Luckily for Borralho, he has that judo background to lean on. He’s quite difficult to take down and equally difficult to hold down, and should he decide to go on the offensive, he boasts some slick trips and a decent double-leg takedown. I, unfortunately, haven’t seen enough of his top game to make a definitive judgment, but he does have those submission wins under his belt.
Borralho’s a very skilled, very intelligent fighter. And even though he might lack a killer app with which to punch his way into contention, he’s potentially a Top 20-caliber Middleweight.
Opponent: He squares off with another great prospect in Gadzhi Omargadzhiev, who’s a fair bit more fearsome than previously scheduled foes Dustin Stoltzfus and Jamie Pickett. Omargadzhiev’s wrestling looks like the deciding factor; indeed, it’s close on the feet, but Borralho’s tendency to run out of real estate should give Omargazhiev plenty of opportunities to drag him to the mat.
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 13-0 (8 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Jansey Silva, Caio Borralho
Omargadzhiev tore through the Russian circuit to earn a spot on Contender Series in Oct. 2021. There, he submitted Jansey Silva with a gruesome kneebar to book his ticket to the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.
Like Borralho, Omargadzhiev’s grappling background belies a remarkably effective striking game. He’s an aggressive, stance-switching combination puncher with a lovely habit of punctuating his punching salvos with kicks to the legs and head. He makes up for his fairly short reach with speed and timing, particularly with his nasty counter overhand.
Those strikes blend perfectly into his robust takedown arsenal, which features well-timed reactive shots alongside excellent chain wrestling. He’ll use the threat of them to feint low and set up those strikes as well. He plays a tight, heavy top game with a particular fondness for the crucifix, which he can snatch with remarkable speed. His general balance and passing skills are top-notch.
He’s adept at dealing damage from in tight, too. In fact, I’ve seen him drive in knees to the body from half guard and he did some damage to Silva from full guard.
I really don’t see a game-breaking weakness in Omargadzhiev. He’s a real problem for UFC’s Middleweight division and I would not be at all surprised to see him crack the Top 10.
Opponent: See above.
Ange “The Last Ninja” Loosa
Weight Class: Welterweight
Record: 8-2 (5 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: John Howard, Collin Lubberts
Sanford MMA’s Loosa followed a successful Titan FC debut with a Contender Series bout against Jack Della Maddalena, who out-struck him in an entertaining affair to hand Loosa his second loss in three fights. He last saw action earlier this month, defeating UFC veteran John Howard via unanimous decision.
He steps in for Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on a two-week turnaround and less than five days’ notice.
Despite being in his late 20s, Loosa seems like he’s improving at an alarming rate. He steadily addressed virtually every criticism I had of him as I watched his last three fights in chronological order. Against Lubberts, he offered little besides jabs, low kicks and right crosses, and his output plummeted as the fight progressed. Two years later, he did a much better job of utilizing that jab, but still tended to be a bit one-note and prone to overthrowing his right hand. He put everything together against Howard, finally mixing in body shots while remaining light on his feet and capable of maintaining his volume from bell to bell.
His current gameplan still relies heavily on his leg kicks and right cross, but he now does a much better job of setting things up with his jab and leading to the midsection. He also pressures well and boasts a rock-solid chin. If there’s a lingering issue, it’s that he seems to struggle a bit when forced to retreat under fire — both Della Maddalena and Howard had success crowding him and landing around his guard.
Luckily, Loosa also sports a solid opportunistic wrestling game. He’s got a particular fondness for bodylock trips, but is adept with double-legs either as leads or on reaction. His takedown defense is even more impressive.
As far as his ground game, he’s generally content to stay heavy and chip away. He showed a sneaky arm triangle against Della Maddalena, though, so he’s not entirely one-note.
Loosa has the tools to be a player at 170 pounds, though I don’t see him challenging for a title. With his current level of improvement, I say he peaks around the Top 20.
Opponent: He squares off with striking specialist Mounir Lazzez. Loosa’s skilled enough to keep it competitive, but beating a kickboxer of Lazzez’s caliber two weeks after going the full 15 minutes seems beyond his capabilities.
Martin “Badys” Buday
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Record: 9-1 (7 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Lorenzo Hood, Kamil Minda
Buday — whose only professional defeat came to future TUF winner Juan Espino in 2017— claimed the Oktagon MMA Heavyweight title with a knockout of Kamil Minda. Three months later, he tried his hand on Contender Series, claiming a contract by mauling Lorenzo Hood in the clinch.
At his best, the 6’4,” 265-pound Buday uses his size to dominate in the clinch, either busting up opponents with heavy knees and punches or ducking down for a strong double-leg. Once on top, he stays heavy until he can work his way into mount, where he’ll either continue to chip away or look for the keylock that earned his one and only professional submission victory.
It’s getting there that can be the issue. Though light on his feet, he tends to stand straight up and not move his head, which makes it very easy to catch him by just throwing as or after he does so. He also doesn’t tend to throw more than one or two punches at a time and has a bad habit of sending out uppercuts from too far out.
This isn’t a huge deal when he uses his strikes to set up his clinch entries, but that Minda fight showed how ineffective he can be on the back foot. For some reason, perhaps due to it being a five-rounder and Buday not trusting his cardio, “Badys” was content to sit back and pump out jabs while Minda pot-shotted and backed him to the cage. While he ultimately managed to plug Minda with some heavy right hands for the finish, that and Hood’s brief moments of success suggest he’s not really built for kickboxing battles.
Buday’s ceiling will be determined by how effective his clinch can be against top-flight opponents. If that and his wrestling hold up, his sheer physicality could carry him to some Octagon victories, though it’s hard to picture him getting a number next to his name.
Opponent: He faces the delightfully unique Chris Barnett. “Beast Boy” certainly has his number on the feet, but I see Buday doing the same thing Ben Rothwell did: smothering Barnett’s kicks with pressure and using his strength to neutralize him against the fence and/or from top position.
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 15-4 (11 KO)
Notable Victories: J.J. Okanovich, T.J. Brown
After more than one year on the sidelines, Ogden got the chance to compete in front of Dana White on Lookin’ for a Fight. He made the most of the opportunity, choking out J.J. Okanovich late in the second round, earning a UFC contract in the process.
Ogden is all about his airtight top game, which is made possible by a powerful, well-timed double-leg takedown. He’s generally content to chip away with punches and elbows as he works his way through opponents’ guards, posturing up only when he’s in a dominant spot or the round is drawing to a close. His guillotine and rear-naked choke seem like his finishes of choice, though he showed off a nice arm triangle on Okanovich. While it’s very effective overall, he does seem a bit overeager when trying to transition to the back and has a history of submission defeats that suggest his defense might not stack up to his offense.
I also want to point out that he’s got a nasty squeeze. People go out alarmingly quickly once he gets under the chin.
Once a liability, his striking has looked far more effective as of late, though he still gives ground too easily. His low kicks are debilitating and he’s added good movement, a solid jab, and a short, sharp left hook to his arsenal to support them. While I still want to see how he deals with a pressure fighter he can’t easily take down, it’s a nice complement to his ground game.
Lightweight’s probably too crowded and top-heavy for Ogden to make a real splash, but he should do alright for himself in the middle of the pack.
Opponent: He squares off with fellow ground specialist Jordan Leavitt. Considering how easily Claudio Puelles neutralized Leavitt in the later rounds, Ogden’s wrestling and top game look like quality weapons. Even if he decides not to mess with Leavitt on the mat for fear of “The Monkey King’s” submissions, his striking should be enough to carry him to victory.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 51 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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