UFC on ESPN 3, which takes place inside Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., has the rare distinction of airing entirely on the World Wide Leader (“Prelims” undercard bouts included). As a result, our newcomers have a rare opportunity to show their stuff on a massive stage. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I inevitably wind up with one more or one fewer fighter to analyze between the start and end of fight week, we look at a Bantamweight grappler, a double champ from EFC, a super late-notice Light Heavyweight journeyman, and a women’s Bantamweight first signed in 2016.
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 9-1 (3 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Chris SanJose
Newson has not tasted defeat since his third professional fight, which saw him fall to future “Contender Series” and UFC competitor Benito Lopez. His current win streak includes five finishes, three by (technical) knockout and two by submission.
He steps in for the injured Sergio Pettis on just under two weeks’ notice.
Yeah, I got nothing. The only recent full fight of Newson’s I could find footage of was locked behind a paywall. He looks to have a grappling pedigree and took a couple of professional boxing matches earlier this year as part of an effort to improve his striking; he went 0-1-1, but scored his first standing knockout upon his return to mixed martial arts (MMA) last month, so he’s doing something right at least.
Opponent: Newson faces Ricardo Ramos, who boasts a four-inch height advantage. I’m obviously much more familiar with what Ramos can do than vice-versa thanks to his UFC experience, so I favor the known product over a short-notice replacement.
Tape: If you find some from the last seven years, tell me.
“Champion” Dalcha Lungiambula
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Record: 9-1 (4 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Andrew Van Zyl, Stuart Austin
“Champion Dalcha” has spent the entirety of his five-year career in South Africa’s EFC promotion, which produced the likes of Garreth McLellan and current Lightweight standout Don Madge. He’s perhaps the most decorated of the EFC signees, however, having twice defended the promotion’s Light Heavyweight belt and recently won the Heavyweight belt with a split decision over Andrew Van Zyl.
As a 5’10” judo black belt with quick, powerful hands, the knee-jerk response is to compare Lungiambula to Hector Lombard. Honestly, though, they’re not all that similar. Lungiambula is flat-footed and economical with his punches, true, but works behind a sharp jab and knows how to mix in body shots, which “Showeather” never got around to figuring out. He’s surprisingly clean and accurate with his punches, which he can unleash from both orthodox and southpaw stances.
His Judo pedigree lends itself to the sort of fancy throws you’d expect, though he can also fall back on a long-range double-leg if needed. His ground-and-pound is solid, if unspectacular, but he’s plenty difficult to dislodge once he gets on top.
Lungiambula has three main issues: for one, he’s undersized for the Light Heavyweight division, regularly making weight with at least a pound to spare. Even in his Heavyweight fight with Van Zyl, he was less than 215 pounds, and he’s weighed in as low as 192.7 for a Catchweight fight early in his career.
For two, he does seem to share some of Lombard’s cardio issues, though not as pronounced. Against Van Zyl, who outweighed Lungiambula by 42 pounds, the latter started having issues around the third round despite a fairly sedate pace. I don’t think it’s a huge, career-stifling liability like it was for Lombard, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
For three, his defensive grappling is a serious issue. He spent most of the first round of his fight with Stuart Austin stuck on the bottom in half guard, and once Austin made it to mount, the referee could have stopped it without controversy due to the ground-and-pound onslaught. To his credit, Lungiambula turned it around in the second, taking Austin down into mount and putting him away with punches. I can’t imagine future UFC opponents not making an effort to exploit that issue, though, especially when compounded with the aforementioned cardio troubles.
I don’t think Lungiambula has enough time to mold himself into a true contender at 33 years old, but he’s a quality pickup who could reach the Top 15 with the right matchmaking.
Lungiambula has a tricky stylistic matchup ahead of him in the underachieving Justin Ledet . Ledet got stomped on the mat by a striking specialist in Aleksandar Rakic , which bodes ill for him against a strong judoka. At the same time, Ledet’s jab will allow him to make the most of his height and reach advantages, and Lungiambula’s takedowns are far more effective at close range. It’s a fun, toss-up sort of fight that should entertain so long as Ledet doesn’t have too much control of the pace.
After writing this, Ledet got injured. Instead, Lungiambula fights Dequan Townsend on four days’ notice. Townsend will have a five-inch height advantage, but his sloppy striking and limited ground game make him a far easier foe for “Champion Dalcha,” who should be able to dominate on the mat.
Dequan “The Tarantula” Townsend
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Record: 18-7 (12 KO, 3 SUB)/21-8 (12 KO, 5 SUB)
Notable Victories: Hector Urbina
The 6’3” Townsend went 8-4 as an amateur before debuting in 2012 as a Welterweight. He moved to 185 pounds around 2017, but has spent his last three bouts as a Light Heavyweight.
He replaces the injured Justin Ledet on less than five days’ notice.
Like Murdock, there’s some confusion about his record between Sherdog and Tapology. No controversial losses here, though; it’s not clear whether there’s a conflict over whether a couple of the organizations Townsend fought in count as professional, or whether Sherdog simply didn’t list those fights.
The positives: Townsend’s long-limbed, packs some power on both the feet and in top position, has only ever been stopped once, and has shown a decent guillotine. The negatives: well, pretty much everything else. Save for a jab he doesn’t always remember to use, he’s not much of a striking technician, preferring instead to swing from the hip and compromise his reach advantage in the process. His takedown defense is quite poor and his defensive grappling even worse; the 11-10 Portland Pringle III constantly took him down and moved to dominant position in their fight this past December. It was only Pringle’s inability to maintain mount or the back that kept Townsend in the fight, not any sort of technical prowess from “The Tarantula.”
To make matters worse, he’s not a Light Heavyweight, having weighed in at 195 for his most recent bout. He faces the conundrum of dropping to 185 pounds, where his physical gifts have a greater edge, or staying at 205 pounds, where the competition is generally weaker. Either way, Townsend might be good for an action fight or two, but don’t expect him to last too long in UFC.
Opponent: See above.
Weight Class: Strawweight
Record: 6-1 (3 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: None
Brazil’s Ribas started her professional career 5-0, claiming a Jungle Fight title before running afoul of future UFC competitor Polyana Viana. She returned sixth months later with a technical knockout finish of Jennifer Gonzalez Araneda for the Max Fight Strawweight belt. She was actually signed to UFC after that victory in 2016, but a failed United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) test has kept her out of action since.
Ribas is, well, a very 2016 sort of fighter. On the feet, she’s got decent offensive boxing technique, primarily her jab and right cross. Her defense is another story; her head doesn’t move unless someone hits it, which led to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu player in Viana knocking her out two fights ago. I don’t expect her to be Willie Pep out there, but if your chin is in the same spot before and after throwing a five-punch flurry, there’s a problem.
Her top control looks more impressive. She’s shown solid balance, passing, and ground-and-pound, especially once she gets to mount. What little I saw of her bottom game suggested that she’s aggressive with her submissions, though the armbar she attempted against Araneda was fairly slow.
Her wrestling is similarly 2016 — of the four takedowns I saw her attempt, three were head-and-arm throws, which have been out of the women’s MMA meta for a while. She absolutely needs to add more variety to her takedowns.
Ribas can absolutely give people problems if she can get into top position, but her one-note wrestling and horrendous striking defense means I don’t see her making any real impact in a crazy stacked Strawweight division. I will, however, acknowledge that she was only 22 when she took her last fight and could very well have made some necessary adjustments during her suspension. We should have a clearer idea of her future after a round or two in the Octagon.
Opponent: Ribas fights Emily Whitmire, who wasn’t even in UFC when the Brazilian was first signed, but has fought thrice in the world’s largest fight promotion. Whitmire’s shown a solid all-round game during her Octagon tenure and figures to take a comfortable decision so long as she doesn’t spend too long stuck on the bottom.
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