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UFC Jacksonville - New Blood: Contender Series, Fury FC and LFA represent

Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) show inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., got over the finish line with just three withdrawals, allowing two more hopefuls to join one already on the docket. On this edition of “New Blood” — the series where it feels like Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) and Contender Series are the only things saving these cards from the injury bug — we check out a trio of newcomers with 28 finishes in 32 combined victories.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 79 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES LIGHTWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Sept. 23, 2023, with a high stakes 155-pound showdown as No. 6-ranked contender, Rafael Fiziev, takes on No. 7-seeded Mateusz Gamrot. In UFC Vegas 79’s co-main event, No. 12-ranked Featherweight contender, Bryce Mitchell, steps back into the Octagon against No. 13-seeded Dan Ige.

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

Austen Lane

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Age: 35
Record: 12-3 (11 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Juan Adams

Lane — a former NFL defensive end — started his mixed martial arts (MMA) career undefeated (4-0) before a knockout loss to Greg Hardy kicked off a 2-3 slump (watch it). He’s since built himself back up with six straight wins, among them a knockout of Juan Adams for the Fury FC title and a technical knockout finish of Richard Jacobi in his Contender Series return.

He may not have had a long or productive professional football career, but Lane is clearly a solid, committed athlete. Standing 6’6” and weighing a trim 240 pounds, he’s capable of some eye-catching bursts of speed for a man his size. More impressively, he seems to possess a strong gas tank despite most of his finishes coming in the first round. For example, he was still fairly fresh going into the fourth frame against Adams, ultimately battering the UFC veteran into submission with a rapid-fire combination.

Technique-wise, he’s a striker who’s sharper on offense than defense. Boxing combinations make up the bulk of standup, supported by some remarkably quick and powerful switch kicks. He’s not a huge one-shot puncher, but there’s some pop there to go with the speed.

That said, he has a few bad habits that really hold him back.

Perhaps the key weakness is how tall and square he stands when throwing, and he also tends to lean forward and overextend when trying to hit retreating opponents, which meshes poorly with his overall lack of head movement. He’s got an 80-inch reach, but those issues allow smaller opponents to crack him with straight punches when he tries to open up.

They also leave him highly vulnerable to takedowns. Indeed, Adams and Jacobi found it trivially easy to duck under Lane’s right hand and tie up, exploiting his exposed hips to consistently drag him to the mat. Adams spent the bulk of three rounds on top of Lane, who proved entirely unable to deal with “The Kraken’s” wrestling until the big man gassed out. That said, Lane did manage to sweep Adams and Jacobi once each, but he gave up a lot of bad positions in the process and was fortunate that neither man knew how to properly posture up and drop shots.

He also has some offensive wrestling chops of his own, though they seem based more on explosive shots than technique. His top control also appears limited, as Adams very quickly reversed position after that sweep.

Purely in terms of overall skills, I’d rate Lane about the same level as Hardy, though I want to stress that he actually does have the heart to fight through adversity. He just doesn’t have the striking defense or grappling skills to keep up with higher-level Heavyweights, and at 35 years old, there’s not enough time for him to develop them. UFC would be best-served chucking him in against strikers and seeing what happens, which does seem to be the gameplan. Indeed, he was initially slated to debut against Junior Tafa, but now does so against his brother Justin Tafa, who will likely crack Lane’s chin after a couple minutes of pure violence.

His Fury FC bouts are on Fight Pass.

Joshua “The Fearless” Van

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 21
Record: 7-1 (5 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Cleveland McLean, Paris Moran

Van went undefeated (4-0) as an amateur and remained perfect as a professional (2-0) before running afoul of Devon Jackson. Undeterred, he went on to rack up five stoppage wins in 2022, including a submission of Cleveland McLean to claim Fury FC’s Flyweight title. He takes this bout on nine days’ notice, having previously been scheduled to fight Kevin Borjas on Contender Series in August.

Deceptively powerful and fundamentally sound boxing is Van’s calling card. He works behind a stiff, steady jab, mixing up head and body shots while keeping a check hook primed for anyone who dares to push back. He’s not super quick, but steady pressure and rock-solid timing allow him to consistently deliver power shots, especially when bolstered by solid low kicks and front kicks to the body. Despite being 21, he’s also got some nice veteran tricks, like striking well off the break.

He seems defensively sound as well, though he’s also aided by a great chin that ate a flush head kick with zero ill effects.

His grappling is improving steadily. Jackson overwhelmed him on the mat before finishing him via rear-naked choke, but Van’s takedown defense and ability to scoot to the fence have grown considerably over these last few fights. He even hit his own takedowns on McLean en route to a club-and-sub rear-naked choke finish.

Right now, Van just needs to mature in a couple of senses. He seems quite undersized for the division, not overly short at 5’5,” but definitely smaller than his last couple of opponents. He can also be overly willing to lose position in pursuit of low-percentage moves; for instance, he managed to hit a calf slicer a few fights back and has since been too eager to chase it. If he can just bulk up a bit, load up a little less, and fight the urge to dive on eye-catching submissions, he’s going to be a problem at 125 pounds.

His debut against Zhalgas Zhumagulov will definitely be a test. Zhumagulov’s volume and aggression can be overwhelming, so we’ll see if Van keeps his head against his best opponent to date.

Jose “Chepe” Mariscal

Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 30
Record: 13-6 (6 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Guilherme Faria, Youssef Zalal, Pat Sabatini

A four-fight unbeaten streak — highlighted by wins over Pat Sabatini and Youssef Zalal — gave way to a 1-3 skid for “Chepe.” After 1.5 years on the sidelines, he returned to form with three straight wins, the most recent of them over Guilherme Faria in a Feb. 2023 LFA main event.

He steps in for Victor Martinez on 10 days’ notice.

Mariscal has described himself as a “technical brawler,” but he’s definitely more of the latter than the former. He’s got two distinct modes: in one, he’ll stay at range and bash away with low kicks while waiting for the chance to counter or hit a reactive takedown. In the other, he’ll charge after opponents without regard for his own well-being, hurling punches with low kicks behind them.

To his credit, his punches aren’t as sloppy as they used to be. He’ll throw actual jabs and combinations now, but he’s still prone to bulldozing his way in instead of using setups. His kicks are definitely much quicker, cleaner and more powerful.

His problem (outside of the general disregard for technique) is that he can’t seem to find a middle gear. He’s either so passive that opponents can outwork and out-technique him or so balls-out aggressive that his defense disintegrates. It’s not a style built for consistent success.

He’s reportedly a decorated judoka, though I can’t say I’m overly impressed by his grappling. Sean Soriano — whose brain notoriously shuts off whenever he hits the mat — dominated Mariscal on the ground in their 2020 clash. In addition, 6-4 Luka Faultersack also managed to get on top of him with a kimura trap and he struggled to get any takedowns going last time out against Faria. He does have good timing on his level changes, but he just isn’t much of a grappling threat.

I don’t see Mariscal going terribly far, especially not at 155 pounds; he’s a career Featherweight, but came in at 150 pounds against Faria. He should be good for some entertaining scraps, at least, and that’s exactly what he’s in for against fellow slugger Trevor Peek.

His LFA bouts are on Fight Pass.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Jacksonville fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Jacksonville news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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