This weekend’s UFC 291 card in Salt Lake City, Utah, was very nearly an all-veteran affair, but a late-notice injury opened the door for a lone newcomer. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I should really just write up the Contender Series graduates when they’re first signed, we check out an upset artist with LFA experience.
Darrius “Beast Mode” Flowers
Weight Class: Welterweight
Record: 12-5-1 (8 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Amiran Gogoladze, Daniel Gadley
Flowers started his career 9-5-1 before rattling off a pair of impressive finishes over Daniel Gadley and Tim Hiley. This earned him a spot on the Contender Series, where he finished Amiran Gogoladze with a slam 73 seconds into the first round.
Originally slated to debut against Erick Gonzalez in February 2023, he now steps in for Miguel Baeza on just over a week’s notice.
Though he utilizes constant lateral movement, Flowers is at his most fearsome in the pocket, winging hooks and a particularly nasty uppercut to bury his opponents in power shots. He’s clearly got the power his stout 5’9” frame suggests, and though he can telegraph his entries a bit and lacks a jab, he’s a handful once he gets inside. I’m not convinced he can consistently do so against higher-level strikers, especially since he has a few bad habits like leaning to his right and failing to deal with low kicks but people who can’t keep him at bay are going to have a hell of a time.
Oddly enough, his grappling actually stood out to me more. He’s an excellent defensive wrestler, highly adept at getting underhooks and using them to either deny takedowns, hit his own trips, or, in the case of Gogoladze, counter a deep shot to land in top position. Once there, he’s keen to posture up and drop hammerfists on whatever surface is available, be it the head, body, or thighs. He’s not much of a guard passer, instead working from full guard or standing over his opponent to try and dive past their legs.
Flowers genuinely seems to be on a career resurgence and is training with quality partners like Belal Muhammad. His mix of raw power and defensive grappling make him dangerous for anyone without quality range management on the feet. That said, there’s an elephant in the room: he went 1-10 as a pro boxer with seven knockout losses. He was fighting way above his ideal weight against genuinely dangerous fighters like Efetobor Apochi, to be fair, but I watched his most recent bout from 2019 and he seemed to fold any time Owen Saldana put any pressure on him.
Maybe he was comfortable in his role as a designated victim; there’s no shortage of guys out there who get paid to come in against some undefeated up-and-comer, try hard for a minute or two, and then call it quits when the going gets tough. It just raises the question of how well he’ll handle adversity at the highest level.
As for his debut, he’d have easily annihilated the defensively hapless Erick Gonzalez but faces a stiffer test in Jake Matthews. That said, Matthews got battered pillar to post by Matt Semelsberger, so Flowers has a real shot at the upset.
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