The UFC goes back-to-back this weekend with The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale and UFC 218. Featured on the cards are a number of up-and-coming young fighters. We highlight five rising UFC stars to keep your eye on.
TUF 26 Finale/UFC 218: Five Rising UFC Stars
Middleweight, Andrew Sanchez (9-3) TUF 26 Finale, Dec. 1st
Sanchez may be coming off a loss, but he was beating his foe Anthony Smith and most likely was on his way to victory after winning the first two rounds. He would have his gas tank cost him his fight against Smith, but if he could change that he is a big threat in the middleweight division. Sanchez is such a smart fighter which puts him above most other fighters. He takes fighters out of their element as he took the striker Anthony Smith down and picks apart better grapplers on the feet.
Sanchez’s wrestling base is his best weapon, but he’s no joke on the feet. Sanchez has power in his hands, throws a lot of kicks and is also very solid in the clinch with excellent dirty boxing. Sanchez won Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, which actually took place in the light-heavyweight division and beat the likes of Phil Hawes, Eric Spicely, and Khalil Rountree. In the past, Sanchez hasn’t shown a problem with his cardio, so he is still a top rising star in the division. Sanchez is fighting Canadian Ryan Janes, a bout made to be a showcase fight for Sanchez. Watch for Sanchez to get the win and possibly the first round finish.
-Light-Heavyweight, Dominick Reyes (7-0) UFC 218, Dec. 2
Reyes made his official UFC debut when he breezed past 19-fight veteran Joachim Christensen in only a matter of 29 seconds. Before his debut, Reyes got a highlight reel head kick knockout in only 53 seconds for the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) promotion. Reyes is the finisher everyone loves, with six of his seven wins coming by finish, four of those are under a minute, and three of them are in his last three bouts.
Reyes hasn’t fought the best competition before coming to the UFC, but he’s done what he’s supposed to: put opponents away. If the UFC continues to build up Reyes slowly and give him the right opponents, he will no doubt be in the top-15 by the end of 2018. Reyes is fighting Jeremy Kimball who is 1-1 in the UFC and coming off a win. Kimball is a step up from Christensen, but it is still a perfect fight for Reyes as he is able to test himself over some decent guys but someone he is expected to beat.
Strawweight, Felice Herrig (13-6) UFC 218, Dec. 2
When Herrig first came to the UFC she held a 1-1 record inside the Octagon and many thought she was at the bottom of the division and looking to be on her way out of the organization. Herrig has made huge improvements over the past two years and is currently on a three-fight win streak and ranked No. 9 in the division, but still overlooked. Herrig beat Justine Kish in her last bout and looked great in victory. Before that, she beat a highly touted undefeated newcomer in Alexa Grasso.
In her stand up, her aggression is better in addition to her striking all around; especially her right hook. The wrestling has improved leaps and bounds and so has her ground game altogether. Herrig is fighting Cortney Casey, who is definitely game but has holes that Herrig could exploit. With a win, this would move Herrig to four in a row and she could easily find herself two wins away from a title shot opportunity.
Lightweight, Drakkar Klose (8-0-1) & David Teymur (6-1) UFC 218, Dec. 2
Both of these guys are people to watch for in the future of the lightweight division. The winner of this fight will skyrocket up the rankings and maybe close in on the top-15. Both guys are coming off big wins over guys who were considered some of the best up-and-comers in the division. Klose beat England’s own, Marc Diakiese, and Teymur beat fan favorite Lando Vannata. With a lot of great fights on the card, this bout has really flew under the radar, but with both having fun styles, expect this to be a contender for FOTN.
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