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UFC Vegas 61 - New Blood: Pint-sized powerhouses

UFC Fight Night: Dern v Yan Weigh-in Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

It’s become clear that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has no idea how to handle new fighters, and its inconsistency will be on full display this Saturday evening (Oct. 1, 2022) at UFC Vegas 61 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where Mick Maynard’s and Sean Shelby’s matchmaking decisions continue to baffle me, we look at a bulldozer of a Featherweight and one of the hardest-hitting women to enter the Octagon in a long while.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 87 On ESPN+

’BIGI BOY’ BRAWL! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to its APEX venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., March 2, 2024, with a Heavyweight showdown between knockout artist and former kickboxing standout, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, welcoming undefeated Contender Series signee, Shamil Gaziev (11-0), to the Octagon proper. In UFC Vegas 87’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, undefeated Vitor Petrino (10-0) looks to keep his perfect record intact at the expense of the once highly-touted Tyson Pedro in a Light Heavyweight scrap.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

UFC Fighter Portraits Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Don “Shameless” Shainis

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 31
Record: 13-3 (8 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Cody Pfister, Cris Lencioni

Shainis impressed in front of the big boss when he out-lasted Cris Lencioni on Lookin’ For a Fight about seven months ago. He then picked up three first-round knockouts in the span of three months, including one over UFC veteran Cody Pfister to claim the FAC Lightweight title.

He enters Saturday’s fight on less than two weeks’ notice.

Shainis fights about how you’d expect a 5’6” former linebacker to fight: brutal haymakers and a suffocating top game. On the feet, he’s all about using heavy flurries to force his way into the pocket, with a particular fondness for hard body shots and overhand rights. He mixes up his levels very nicely and is also adept at using his overhand right as a counter, which help compensate for his lack of height and reach.

He is, however, lacking two extremely useful short guy tools: a jab and side-to side head movement, meaning he can’t always set up those big, wound-up hooks or slip the counters that come his way. Brice Picaud made him perform an Irish dance with a counter hook as Shainis telegraphed a left to the body last time out, so it’s clear he can’t just do the John Lineker thing and block things with his face.

He also has a bad habit of leading with naked low kicks.

Opponents who can handle his stand up still have to deal with his grappling, though. Shainis is extremely physically strong, and once he gets on top via caught kick or conventional takedown, his top pressure and submission defense are excellent. He focuses on staying heavy and slowly working his way through the guard, only opening up with strikes once he reaches a dominant position. Should he end up on his back, he’s got a nifty elevator sweep that notably spelled the beginning of the end against Pfister.

That said, he’s not unbeatable on the ground. The last man to beat him, Nate Williams, managed to sweep him more than once when Shainis looked for mount or the back and had more and more success taking him down and maintaining back control as the fight went on. Cardio definitely seems to be an issue; Williams completely took over in the championship rounds and Shainis was spent after two against Lencioni last February despite a sedate pace.

He’s not a contender or anything, but he’s a lot of fun and could beat some lower-level guys. Indeed, I can’t complain about him getting his shot.

Opponent: He’s up against Sodiq Yusuff, and while Yusuff’s striking technique hasn’t progressed as much as I’d like, his sheer power and athleticism are enough to blast Shainis out before he can get anything going.

Tape: His FAC bouts are on Fight Pass.

UFC Fighter Portraits Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Chelsea Chandler

Weight Class: Bantamweight/Featherweight
Age: 28
Record: 4-1 (1 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Brittney Victoria

Chandler — a Cesar Gracie product — has fought the entirety of her 4.5-year professional career under the Invicta banner. She’s won four straight since falling in her professional debut, most recently defeating Courtney King to end a two-year layoff.

There’s definitely some Diaz in Chandler, who marches forward in a tall, square southpaw stance and ignores incoming fire to unload flurries. She works the body as well as any woman on the UFC roster not named Jessica Andrade, and don’t let that low finishing rate fool you; she hits hard. She floored Brittney Victoria twice and nearly put more recent foe Olivia Parker to sleep with one punch before finishing her off with a rear naked choke.

She prefers leading with her straight left to the body or head, then following up with a heavy right hook. That two-three combination scored two of the three knockdowns mentioned above, while an orthodox one-two combination scored the other.

Unsurprisingly, she’s also got a lot of Diaz weaknesses. She doesn’t seem to have any real response to kicks besides bullying her way into the clinch and she’s not particularly hard to hit with punches. She doesn’t jab a whole lot, either, though she showed something of a noncommittal backhand against King.

She was pretty flat overall in that fight, though I’m willing to chalk that up to the layoff.

Grappling-wise, she’s adept at pressing her opponents up against the fence and fishing for trips. She’s super aggressive with her ground-and-pound, winding up for huge elbows and punches. She’s even eager to strike from back mount with her heel. As far as submissions, she seems to need just that little bit of extra polish; she had Victoria dead to rights with a great S-mount armbar setup before losing it and couldn’t finish an arm triangle against King.

Honestly, Chandler’s the first new women’s Bantamweight I’ve been excited for in a long time. She’s not a world-beater, but she’s super fun to watch, reminding me of Leslie Smith back in the day. That being said, here’s to hoping she has a long and fruitful stay in the Octagon.

Opponent: She was originally set to fight Leah Letson, but instead takes on late replacement Julija Stoliarenko. Though Stoliarenko is the tougher match up thanks to her killer armbar, she’s not particularly difficult to hit and isn’t a great wrestler, so I like Chandler’s power to carry the day.


Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 61 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 61: “Dern vs. Yan” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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