Noche UFC this weekend (Sat., Sept. 16, 2023) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, has cemented itself as one of 2023’s most cursed cards; however, its nine altered/canceled bouts resulted in just three new faces. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series that increasingly feels like chasing a speeding Pinto as every nut and bolt falls off, we look at a Lightweight knockout artist and a pair of debuting Contender Series Strawweights.
Charlie “The Cannibal” Campbell
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 7-2 (5 KO)
Notable Victories: None
Longo and Weidman’s Campbell split his time between Bellator and CFFC while racking up five straight wins, earning a Contender Series shot against Chris Duncan. Though he ultimately fell by shocking comeback knockout, he returned to his winning ways 10 months later by smashing Josh Streacker.
He replaces Natan Levy, who ran into some medical trouble, on one week’s notice.
Campbell has two very distinct goals in the cage: land his right hand as hard as possible and/or amputate your leg. To his credit, he can be patient when he has to. He’s got a very twitchy movement style, flicking out noncommittal jabs and switching stance as he pokes away with lead rights, long body shots, and solid kicks. Once he’s got his man hurt, though, it’s off to the races with huge, loaded-up bombs.
His composure doesn’t entirely leave him when he’s on the attack, though. He’s extremely accurate with his ground-and-pound on hurt opponents, especially as they try to work their way back to their feet. His uppercut in particular is devastating in those scenarios; the one he landed on a rocked Duncan was among the prettiest you’ll ever see.
He’s clearly got a ton of power; heck, it was a southpaw jab that initially hurt Duncan. As tends to happen with naturally heavy hitters, though, he’s too eager to deliver it. What let Duncan snatch victory from the jaws of defeat was Campbell’s tendency to put everything behind his right hand and drop his left in the process, which left his chin wide open to a Hail Mary counter right. Duncan also revealed that while Campbell is a vicious low kicker who chopped down both of his Bellator opponents, he’s so heavy on his front leg that he’s vulnerable to them in return.
Even before that, against the outclassed Guilherme dos Santos, Campbell twice whiffed on spinning attacks that allowed dos Santos to tie up. He hits hard enough to jack anyone’s jaw without overcommitting, and if he doesn’t want the Duncan debacle to happen again, he needs to trust that.
He should also stop leading with low kicks at point blank and leaning in so far when he attacks the body.
He hasn’t had cause to show much grappling of late. He hit a slick little foot sweep on dos Santos that led to a good ground-and-pound volley and stuffed all of Duncan’s desperation shots, so no red flags that I could see. Even if that does turn out to be a weakness of his, it won’t be for long; he trains with Chris Weidman and teammate Nazim Sadykhov is a very strong counter-wrestler.
If Campbell can show a bit more restraint, he’s got the tools to be at least a mid-tier Lightweight. Even if he doesn’t, his power is enough to ruin Alex Reyes’ return to the Octagon.
His CFFC bouts are on Fight Pass.
Josefine “Little Thunder” Knutsson
Weight Class: Strawweight
Record: 6-0 (1 KO)
Notable Victories: Isis Verbeek, Jacinta Austin, Lanchana Green
After a successful kickboxing career and mixed martial arts (MMA) start that saw her cut her teeth in Sweden’s Fight Club Rush, Knutsson entered the Octagon’s orbit with wins in Road to UFC and UAE Warriors. This set up a Contender Series opportunity against Isis Verbeek, which Knutsson dominated but failed to secure a contract.
She steps in for Elise Reed for a sub-month turnaround.
Knutsson’s striking prowess immediately jumps off the screen. Whether circling or pressuring, composed footwork carries her into range to fire high-speed punching combos and a sharp, dextrous lead left leg, plus the occasional bicycle knee to the body. Opponents who try to force her back run smack into a heavy check hook, while those who retreat find themselves bullied to the fence and subjected to Knutsson’s clinch.
That clinch is her most impressive weapon. I think the best word for it is “learned;” she knows how and when to switch up her grips to both deliver punishment and prevent opponents from doing the same. She’ll grab the Thai plum when available to drive home knees and elbows, but also excels at framing with her forearm to force opponents to lean into those knees.
Compare that to someone like Gloria de Paula, whose single-minded pursuit of the plum got her taken down and grinded out by Jinh Yu Frey.
If there’s any big weakness to her standup, I’m not perceptive enough to find it. Her hands are sharp, her kicks are sneaky, and her knees are both relentless and accurate. All I can think to criticize are her lack of stopping power and killer instinct.
Knutsson trains at Allstars with the likes of Khamzat Chimaev, resulting in some decent grappling. She ended up on her back twice against Jacinta Austin, once from getting wrenched down in the clinch and once from losing position. Both times, she threatened with upkicks and focused on keeping her feet on Austin’s hips to make space to stand. She also denied more than one takedown thanks to a strong whizzer.
Offensively, she managed to shove Austin to the mat when the latter tried a knee and immediately moved to mount, then spent several minutes in back mount. She also hit an outside trip on Verbeek and later took half guard after knocking her over with a body kick, though she couldn’t keep her down either time. So far, so good, but Austin did rack up a good amount of control time against the fence.
With the signings of Caio Machado and Dylan Budka, Dana White’s initial snubbing of Knutsson grows less defensible by the day. She’s a quality addition to the roster, already one of the better strikers at 115 pounds and in a great position to improve further. I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t run over the gutsy, but limited, Mann in her debut.
Her recent Contender Series bout is on ESPN+.
Marnic “The Sawed-Off Savage” Mann
Weight Class: Strawweight
Record: 6-1 (3 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Paulina Macias
Undefeated in a combined nine professional/amateur bouts, Mann suffered her first-ever defeat at the shin of Bruna Brasil on Contender Series. She returned to action seven months later in Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), surviving a rough first round to beat Amber Brown and claim her third win in the promotion.
She steps in for Iasmin Lucindo on a week’s notice.
The 5’0” Mann predictably thrives at close range. She’ll pick away with low kicks until she can flurry her way inside and muscle opponents down from the clinch. From there, she’ll just pile up punches as her opponent works to stand, then repeat the process as many times as necessary. Not the prettiest or most technical approach, but she’s got the grit and gas tank to make it work.
Well, usually. Her lack of polish rears its head against opponents she can’t out-hustle. She stands extremely square at range and doesn’t have the defensive instincts to compensate for the openings that leaves, which allowed Brasil to relentlessly punish her body with front kicks and set up the fight-ending head kick in the second. Brown, who boasts a .500 record and hadn’t fought in four years, froze Mann with a straight left before falling into the clinch.
Even that clinch is ugly. She gives up double underhooks extremely easily, seemingly content to try and counter whatever takedowns her opponents attempt from that position. While she has a solid outside trip, she’ll jump on any opportunity to try a head-and-arm throw, even if her opponent has already used it to take her back in the fight. Even if she does get on top, she’s vulnerable to sweeps and is just not a great control artist in general.
I really came away unimpressed. Her style is seemingly built on the assumption that opponents either won’t be savvy enough to exploit her technical shortcomings or won’t be able to handle her pace. That’s a distinct minority among UFC’s Strawweight division, and without extremely careful matchmaking, I don’t see her lasting long. She’s almost certainly going to be eaten alive by debut foe Josefine Knutsson, who both welcomes and excels at the sort of close-range battle Mann prefers.
Her LFA and Contender Series bouts are on Fight Pass.
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