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UFC Paris - New Blood: Eurasian invasion storms Accor Arena

UFC Fighter Portraits Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Thanks to both injuries and the standard operating procedure of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) loading international cards with local (or local-ish) talent, UFC Paris this weekend (Sat., Sept. 2, 2023) inside Accor Arena is awash in newcomers. On this edition of New Blood, the series where my desire for one universal mixed martial arts (MMA) video archive may one day turn me into a supervillain, we check out a fresh swarm of European (and one central Asian) talent.

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.

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Bogdan Guskov

Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Age: 30
Record: 14-2 (12 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

After starting his career 2-1, Guskov racked up an eight-fight winning streak before suffering a knockout loss to Bellator vet Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy. He’s 4-0 since, most recently stopping Carlos Eduardo in 25 seconds.

He replaces Azamat Murzakanov on less than a month’s notice.

Guskov is a twitchy, mobile puncher by trade. I’m not sure I saw him throw a kick in the three fights I studied; it’s all about constant movement and arm motion to set up quick straight punches. Though he’ll slug a bit if his opponent forces their way inside, he seems most comfortable potshotting.

He’s clearly got some pop, especially in the right hand he enjoys leading with, but he’s incredibly inept defensively. He keeps his hands far too low, especially when punching, and isn’t nearly as slick with his head movement as he thinks he is. Vasilevskiy, by far his best opponent to date despite doing his best work at 170, cracked Guskov every time the latter tried to throw before finally wobbling him with a jab and putting him to sleep with a right hand behind it.

Outside of striking, he’s a strong ground-and-pounder, able to knock opponents clean out with punches from guard. His wrestling isn’t quite as impressive; his takedown of Abdul Elwahab Saeed was awkward and Carlos Eduardo took him down with ease after Gluskov squared up while throwing a lead right. Gluskov did manage to instantly get to his feet and sleep Eduardo with a 1-2, but I can’t see him standing up to a UFC-caliber grappler.

Gluskov has functional striking offense, solid power, and a good frame for 205. Outside of that, he’s short on upsides. I don’t see him beating more than a tiny handful of UFC Light Heavyweights; he’ll certainly struggle with debut foe Volkan Oezdemir even with “No Time’s” poor recent form.

Yanis “The Desert Warrior” Ghemmouri

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 28
Record: 12-1 (3 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Rachid Haz

France’s Ghemmouri enters the Octagon in the midst of a nine-fight winning streak dating back to 2016. His last three bouts have taken place in BRAVE CF, where he claimed a split decision and two knockouts.

Fighting out of a square, flat-footed stance, Ghemmouri’s stop-and-start offense is built around tearing up his opponent’s lead leg. He’ll stalk behind a high guard until the opportunity arises to land inside low kicks, outside low kicks, front kicks to the knee, or side kicks to the knee. His kickboxing pedigree, which apparently includes “French K-1 champion”, also manifests in a sharp jab, solid counters, and the ability to fight equally well from either stance.

Credit also goes to his knees inside. He had a great moment last time out where he hammered Mehmosh Raza with punches as the latter stood, then crushed him with a knee the microsecond Raza took his hand off the mat.

That stance of his can work against him, though. For all that he feints with his lead leg, he’s highly vulnerable to eating leg kicks in return. He also keeps his chin straight up, and the two issues combined three fights back when Vladislav Novitskiy froze him with a low kick before knocking him loopy with a left hook.

Plus, he’s just not a great combination puncher in general.

He does, however, have a remarkably solid wrestling game. Ghemmouri is very adept at wrapping up the body lock and tripping opponents to the mat, and he’s also shown the ability to hit a traditional double-leg or catch a thrown knee. He plays tight on top, focusing on control and occasionally posturing up to drop some decent elbows.

Ghemmouri is, well, solid. Nothing spectacular, but he strikes well enough and grapples well enough to handle some middle-of-the-road UFC Bantamweights. That said, debut foe William Gomis is going to be a nightmare thanks to “Jaguar’s” lateral movement and wrestling.

Morgan “The Last Pirate” Charriere

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 27
Record: 18-9-1 (10 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Diego Silva, Pedro Souza, William Gomis

Charriere bounced around the European circuit before finding a home in Cage Warriors, where he’s amassed a 6-3 record over four years. He’s 3-0 since a failed title bid against Paul Hughes, including two knockouts in the span of three months.

Saturday’s debut completes a six-week turnaround.

Charriere possesses a number of impressive tools. He boasts significant power in his standard-issue jab-cross-hook boxing, great hips, crushing low kicks, and eerily accurate ground-and-pound that can decimate an opponent in seconds. Thing is, all those gifts are wrapped up in a package that struggles to properly utilize them. Charriere’s last four losses have all come by split or majority decision; the last person to beat him unanimously was the impeccable Salahdine Parnasse in 2017.

Watching recent bouts, it’s easy to see how that happens. Charriere has faded late in the past, and perhaps as a result, he’s been passive to a fault of late. He counters well, often with that same pinpoint accuracy, but can linger inside and eat huge shots. There’s a sense of disconnectedness to his grappling, too; though he can show incredible balance or explode to his feet like his opponent weighs nothing, Paul Hughes racked up long stretches of top control before overcommiting enough to let Charriere explode back to his feet.

Plus, while he’s a great scrambler, he’s prone to giving up his back in the process. Issues with the back also extend to his offense; he looked for Diego Silva’s back last time out, but lost position twice by chasing the RNC without getting his hooks in.

If he can get all his gears to mesh, Charriere has what it takes to enjoy a long UFC tenure. The power, accuracy, durability, and defensive grappling he brings to the table are genuinely eye-catching. He just needs to be busier and more willing to bring those gifts to bear. Still, what he has should be enough to carry him past Manolo Zecchini thanks to the latter’s poor striking defense.

His Cage Warriors bouts are on Fight Pass.

Manolo “Angelo Veneziano” Zecchini

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 26
Record: 11-3 (9 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Zecchini opened his pro career 5-0 before finding himself in a 4-3 slump. He’s since found his footing with two consecutive knockouts, both under the Venator FC promotion.

Sprawl-and-brawl is the name of the game for Zecchini, a bouncy, high-mobility puncher. He keeps his left hand in constant motion, pawing with it and mixing in the occasional genuine jab to set up a looping bomb of a right hand. Supporting these efforts are a dextrous lead left leg that can deliver shin to chin with surprising speed and a steady stream of front kicks from the other leg.

His knees are worth a note, as well. He’s got impressive accuracy with them and can get quite a bit of leverage behind them.

That left hand also happens to be his big weakness. Zecchini is way too lazy with it at times, leaving it out when pawing and bringing it back at his waist when he loads up on the right hand. Karomatullo Sufiev folded him with a short right hook when Zecchini tried to counter and, later in the fight, blasted him with a straight before continuing his grappling onslaught. Despite that loss coming nearly a year and a half ago, Zecchini still looked prone to dropping his left and leaning into his big overhands last time out.

To his credit, he does have plenty of speed and power. I just don’t trust that to be enough of a deterrent against strikers willing to sit down and trade with him.

His takedown defense, on the other hand, looks terrific. He’s not just quick to get an underhook or a whizzer, but highly aware and responsive when opponents try to mix it up with chain wrestling. He completely shut down Sufiev before the aforementioned knockdown, and even then he was quick to get back to his feet.

That said, Sufiev’s pressure did eventually break Zecchini down. Zecchini proved increasingly unable to stay on his feet or do much off of his back as the rounds progressed, save for a heroic last-minute sweep and storm of punches.

Overall, Zecchini has the physical abilities, defensive grappling, and sheer aggression to be an entertaining slugger in the Octagon. He just needs to shore up his striking defense if he wants to be more than that. As-is, I see him running into something nasty against Morgan Charriere.

His Venator bouts are on Fight Pass.

Caolan “The Don” Loughran

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 26
Record: 8-0 (5 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Dylan Hazan, Luke Shanks

Loughran, fighting out of Team Kaobon London alongside the likes of Tom Aspinall, racked up an 8-2 amateur record before turning pro in 2019. After a quartet of squash matches, he took his talents to Cage Warriors, where he scored four knockouts and claimed their Bantamweight title along the way.

The 5’6” Loughran is an absolute tank of a Bantamweight. Fighting out of a low, powerful stance, he fires flicking jabs, front kicks, and low kicks until he can step in and unload vicious combinations. He doesn’t quite have the Justin Gaethje death touch, but everything he lands clearly hurts, and he’s pretty damn quick for someone so thickly built.

He’s not quite as adept defensively. He leaves his chin up as a rule, but more importantly, whatever hand he’s not punching with will inevitably be at his waist. Two fights back against Luke Shanks, he was loading up on huge lead rights with his left at butt-height. He’s been able to absorb all return fire so far, to his credit, and he also counters well. It just remains to be seen how he’ll handle someone he can’t overwhelm.

Like Aspinall, Loughran also boasts an impressive grappling game. His sprawl is fast and strong enough to keep it on the feet, but if he wants to shift gears and take it to the mat, he’s got the chain wrestling to do it. He passes and rides well from the top, allowing him to reach the back and unload heavy ground-and-pound without losing position.

There’s a whole lot to like about Loughran; his physical attributes and well-rounded skillset could very well earn him a number by his name before long. He’ll need to be sharp in his debut against Taylor Lapilus; if he can’t get inside on “Double Impact,” he’s in for a long night.

His Cage Warriors bouts are on Fight Pass.

Nora Cornolle

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 34
Record: 6-1 (5 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

After losing her MMA debut to Jacqueline Cavalcanti, Cornolle bounced back with six consecutive stoppage wins. Her last three fights came in the span of three months and each resulted in knockouts.

At a distance, Cornolle’s striking revolves around a piston jab, which she’ll follow with either aggressive straight rights or a series of roundhouses from either leg.. That jab makes her a threat at that range, but where she really shines is on the inside. Her Muay Thai pedigree shows itself in her use of frames and stiff-arms to land brutal knees and elbows from point-blank.

Like many Thai-style fighters, though, questionable footwork and a tendency to square up hold her back. She retreated in a perfectly straight line against Priscila de Souza, her only pro opponent with more than four wins on her record, and ate some flush punches from recent foe Hassna Gaber before Cornolle’s front kick caught Gaber while the latter had her feet planted and janked up her knee.

On the grappling side, she seems vulnerable to takedowns. de Souza hit a nice hip toss before suffering a wardrobe malfunction and settling for a rest on the feet, while the debuting Sanaa Mandar wrenched her down via scarf hold. Cornolle is a bit better offensively; in addition to hitting a foot sweep on de Souza and pounding her out from the crucifix, she slipped out of Mandar’s scarf hold to take the back and finish her from there.

Overall, Cornolle is decent. Her jab and clinch alone make her stand out in a weak UFC Bantamweight division. I’d have given her another year or two to shore up her wrestling before joining the big show, but at 34 years old, I don’t suppose she has that luxury. Her debut pits her against Joselyne Edwards, whom I favor to outland her in a chippy striking battle.

Jacqueline Cavalcanti

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 25
Record: 5-1 (3 KO)
Notable Victories: Melissa Croden

Cavalcanti opened her pro career 2-0 before dropping a split decision to Martina Jindrova in PFL. Her current three-fight streak saw her pick up a pair of knockouts before outclassing Melissa Croden for the LFA Bantamweight title.

Tall and rangy for the division at 5’9”, Cavalcanti excels at lancing opponents with straight punches and well-timed low kicks from either stance. Jabs and straight rights comprise the bulk of her offense, both thrown with solid speed and power, but she’s also quick with head kicks and body kicks as well.

What really stands out is her movement. Cavalcanti is extremely educated with her footwork and head movement, managing range and utilizing slick angles to keep things at her preferred distance. This was on full display against Croden; whereas Jindrova tore her up with low kicks, Cavalcanti completely neutralized Croden’s attempts to attack her lead leg with quick retreats. Getting through her counters and the sharp calf kicks she throws when opponents commit to stepping in is a nightmare.

I don’t see a ton of weaknesses to her standup. All I can really say is that her feet can get a little awkward when she plants them for lengthy combos, her clinch isn’t the best, and she gets less mobile as she gets into deep waters. Still, she has enough cardio to stay on her bike for five rounds.

As for the all-important wrestling, she rushed in and gave up an easy takedown to 6-8 Yulia Kutsenko three fights back. Against Croden, she did a much better job of framing with her forearm to keep Croden from getting in on her hips.

I really like what I’m seeing out of Cavalcanti. She’s clearly improving fight to fight and, despite already being a solid striker, should have tons of room to grow at just 25. She should be heavily favored against Zarah Fairn, who got outstruck by the one-note Josiane Nunes and faces what looks like an impossible battle against the Bantamweight limit.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Paris fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Paris: “Gane vs. Spivac” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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