10 years ago this week, MMATorch senior columnist Shawn Ennis wrote about some new names appearing on Saturday’s UFC 63. Read on to see what he had to say about a few who would go on to have long careers in UFC (Joe Lauzon) and a few others who are still fighting on the regional circuit but never made a big name in UFC (such David Lee and Eddie Sanchez), and others who lost at UFC 63 and were never seen in UFC again (Mario Neto).
With the rapid growth of the UFC, it’s inevitable, at least for a while, that we’re going to see a lot of new fighters make their way into the Octagon. This Saturday’s UFC 63 is a prime example of that. There are eight fighters making their Octagon debuts on Saturday (out of 18 total fighters). Something else that we can infer from the UFC 63 card is that Dana White was serious about bringing back the lightweight division. Out of nine fights, five of them feature the lightweights, and that’s a good thing. Lightweight is arguably the deepest weight class worldwide. Both Pride and UFC have great 155 lb divisions, and there’s still a lot of talent out there signing with other upstart organizations and such. So with all these guys gracing our TVs for the first time, let’s have a look at who they are, why they’re here, where they come from, and what kind of future they have in the UFC. First we’ll check out the lightweights.
Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon has a 13-3 record, with 11 of his wins coming by submission. From the footage I’ve seen, Lauzon seems to overwhelm a lot of his opponents with his quick strikes and takedowns, which more often than not lead to a submission. He has not gone the distance in any fight. Lauzon always seems to enjoy what he’s doing, and has a laid back demeanor that makes him look completely relaxed during fights, despite the speed with which he dispatches his foes. Lauzon is being brought to the UFC to lose to Jens Pulver, but if what I’ve seen is any indication of what he’s capable of, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him back in the Octagon after Saturday.
Ruediger started his professional MMA career with a loss at WEC 5, and then followed that up with nine straight victories, with the first eight of those coming by first round stoppage. Also known as “Godzilla”, Ruediger won the WEC lightweight title by putting Olaf Alfonso to sleep via rear naked choke. Ruediger is very strong and is dangerous at close range with the Thai clinch. He prefers to work takedowns in order to use brutal ground and pound with a good submission game. Ruediger’s streak and title reign was brought to an end when he fought Hermes Franca in March of this year (this was the first of Franca’s six straight victories in 2006). I think “Godzilla” will be a contender down the line in the UFC lightweight division, and he should have an exciting fight with knockout artist Melvin Guillard. As a side note, it’ll be interesting to see if Ruediger wears one of his luchador masks to the Octagon on Saturday night as he has been known to do in the past.
If his fights up to this point are any indication, Tyson Griffin could well be the next big star of the lightweight division. He’s relatively green at 7-0, but two of those victories came over Urijah Faber (his only loss), and most recently Duane “Bang” Ludwig at June’s Strike Force event in California. Griffin’s fights have never gone to the cards, and only the fight with Faber went past the first round (it ended in the third with a TKO). Griffin has good wrestling, and five of his wins have come by knockout, with the other two coming by rear naked choke.
Having fought all of his matches so far in the British Cage Rage promotion, David Lee is 5-1, with all of his victories coming by submission and only one fight going past the first round. Lee is a scrapper and does not waste time in going after his opponent and trying to score a takedown. He’s being brought to the UFC for Tyson Griffin to defeat in impressive fashion, and his somewhat reckless style could very well lend itself to Griffin doing just that. Lee hasn’t faced top competition, so this will be a big step up for him. At the same time, if what I’ve seen is any indication, don’t expect him to blink at the prospect of fighting in the Octagon. He probably won’t be around the UFC for long, barring an impressive showing, but he certainly has potential.
Huerta was originally slated to make his debut at UFC 61 against Hermes Franca. He has an impressive record of 14-1-1 with one no contest. He hasn’t lost in two years and 11 fights, including said no contest against Melvin Guillard. “El Matador” hasn’t faced a ton of quality opponents, but was able to win a decision over Matt Wiman in September of last year. Huerta is another young gun being brought in to be a contender down the road, so look for him to be another that slowly begins to make noise in the division.
Dent is a late replacement for the undefeated Jason Reinhardt, who had to pull out two weeks ago due to injury. About five days before he found out that he was to fight Huerta, Dent beat the big Hawaiian Kolo Koka by armbar at ICON’s “Mayhem vs. Lawler” event on the Big Island. Dent is 12-6 with nine wins coming by submission. He has only been stopped twice in his career, and has lost every time the fight has gone to the cards. It’s tough to say what Dent’s future might be in the UFC, but matchmaker Joe Silva must have seen something in the Cincinnati native to have called him on such short notice after recently going over two rounds with Koka.
Two heavyweights will make their debuts at UFC 61 against each other as well in Mario Neto and Eddie Sanchez.
Mario Neto is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who has fought sporadically in mixed martial arts. He did not start his career in mixed martial arts facing easy opponents. His first four opponents were (in order): Dan Severn, Gary Goodridge, Kevin Randleman, and Travis Fulton. He started his career in 1997 and fought off and on until 2001, when he took a hiatus from MMA until 2003. On March 15 of that year, he came back to win the World Absolute Fighting Championship tournament in Moscow by beating three men in one night. After that night, Neto took another hiatus; this time for three years. He has fought thrice this year and been victorious all three times. It appears that Neto prefers to use submissions, with six of his nine wins coming via tapout. If the big Brazilian plans on sticking in the mixed martial arts game, he could be a gatekeeper of sorts for new guys looking to punch their way into the thin UFC heavyweight division.
Sanchez is a late replacement for Gabriel Gonzaga, who was set to make his third appearance in the Octagon until he was forced to pull out. Sanchez is 5-0 in his career and prefers to stand and bang with his opponents. He has good power and has knocked out three of his five opponents, with one other win coming by submission due to strikes. Sanchez is very confident and will likely come out ready for war. He has, however, yet to fight someone with the ground game (not to mention overall experience) of Neto. If Sanchez can pull off a victory against someone like Neto, look for him to become a familiar face.