With withdrawals and injuries rising to catastrophic levels, it’s good that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has a multinational assortment of newcomers from which to choose. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where UFC’s lack of health benefits becomes increasingly suspect, we look at a Dutchman, a Frenchman, a German, a Pole, a Brazilian, a Mexican and an Argentinean.
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 13-3-1 (3 KO, 5 SUB)
Notable Victories: Max Coga, Mert Ozyildirim
Errens claimed the National Fighting Championship Featherweight title with a vicious 67-second knockout of Max Coga in Dec. 2021, only to lose it in a rematch with Mert Ozyildirim four months later. He returned to the win column less than one month ago (Aug. 2022), claiming a decision over Alisher Abdullaev.
While he’s got more submission finishes than knockouts, Errens’ striking is the lynchpin of his mixed martial arts (MMA) game. An excellent motor lets him circle opponents all night, racking up an unreasonable number of jabs and crosses in the process. He’s usually happy to lean on those two punches, but he’s also got a nasty counter uppercut, hard single kicks, and the occasional spinning technique in his arsenal. He can go southpaw if needed, too, though that appears to be more for one-off kicks than any sort of sustained offense.
That footwork and cardio are enough to make him a very effective kickboxer, but he does seem to suffer from a lack of variety in his offense. He also doesn’t move his head when countering and doesn’t check leg kicks, which presents tempting targets for opponents wise to it.
On the wrestling side of things, he’s largely content to play defense. While he does well to deny takedowns at a distance, he seems to have some issues once people actually get inside. He largely shut down Ozyildirim’s wrestling in their first meeting after a rough first round, but didn’t have a ton of answers when Ozyildirim focused more on the clinch in their rematch. He’s not great at getting to his feet, either, as he spent long stretches stuck on his back when he couldn’t find a butterfly sweep or get to the fence.
To his credit, he seems like he can scramble well; he took Ozyildirim’s back after denying a shot. It’s just more of a liability than an asset, especially since those submission wins came against very poor opposition.
He’ll be able to take care of himself in most standup battles, but those ground issues will be a serious Achilles’ heel in the Octagon. He’s only 27, though, so don’t write him off just yet.
Opponent: He squares off with fellow Octagon newcomer William Gomis. Gomis has the edge in speed on the feet, but Errens should be able to at least keep up. The problem is that Gomis also has a decent ground game to fall back on, which might be more than Errens can handle. I just think Gomis has too many weapons for him.
William “Jaguar” Gomis
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 10-2 (6 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Tobias Harila
France’s Gomis hasn’t tasted defeat since a 2-2 start, scoring wins in top European promotions like Cage Warriors and UAE Warriors. He last saw action in June, pounding out late replacement Jose Marcos under the Ares FC banner.
A southpaw kickboxer with the sort of gas tank normally associated with men 20 pounds lighter, Gomis is remarkably difficult to get his hands on when he’s at his best. If an opponent’s determined to walk him down, he can easily move backwards for the full 15 minutes, pounding home gnarly body kicks, straight lefts, and uppercuts the whole time. He can deliver real power with both legs and works the body well, and though he can kinda wing his punches when he tries throwing more than one at a time, he’s got some nice speed and power behind them.
His biggest issue on the feet is that lack of crispness in combination. His single potshots look great, as do his strikes out of the clinch, but he visibly puts too much behind the follow-ups. The excellent footwork means he’s usually not in position to be countered, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Despite a kickboxing background, he’s actually a stronger wrestler than I expected. He does a nice job of mixing in reactive takedowns with his counters, can muscle people down from the clinch, and is aware enough to catch kicks for takedowns. On the ground, he’s all about dropping heavy punches and elbows, even if doing so gives opponents wiggle room to escape. He’s not a huge submission threat, but he does have a mean-looking 10-finger guillotine and is willing to jump on things like standing back takes and standing arm triangles.
His big caveat is that all of the above only applies to him at his best. He’s looked very flat in his last two fights, throwing ugly punches from the hip and showing none of his usual footwork. I have to assume he was trying to chase quick finishes against guys he thought were beneath him, but those are some real red flags.
If he fights up to his abilities, though, he could very easily make himself into a division regular.
Opponent: See above.
Abusupiyan “Abus” Magomedov
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 24-4-1 (13 KO, 6 SUB, 5 DEC)
Notable Victories: Cezary Kesik, Sadibou Sy, Anderson Goncalves, Danilo Villefort
Magomedov extended his unbeaten streak with a 3-0-1 start to his PFL 2018 run, only to get caught by a vicious left hook from Louis Taylor just 33 seconds into the fight. After a get-well win in Germany, he took his talents to KSW, where he choked out undefeated Cezary Kesik in Dec. 2020.
This marks his third attempt at a UFC debut, having withdrawn from planned bout switch Gerald Meerschaert and Aliaskhab Khizriev.
Full disclosure: it’s been aggressively difficult to find even recent-ish footage of Magomedov. As far as I can tell, the Kesik fight was completely scrubbed from the Internet save for a brief highlight of the finish, and the only full fights of his that PFL’s video archive has to offer are his 2018 bouts with Taylor and Sadibou Sy. And trust me, I put in effort to get around its literally broken search function.
That means virtually all the tape I have of Magomedov is four years out of date. Just be sure to keep that in mind as you read.
2018-era Magomedov was primarily a fearsome ground-and-pounder with solid wrestling to back it up. Though his level changes weren’t the smoothest, he did a good job of completing takedowns once his opponent’s back hit the fence, whether via body locks or a high-amplitude high-crotch he used to great effect against Sy to land in dominant position. Good balance and riding skill allowed him to posture up and use his lanky 6’2” frame to drop nasty punches; I’d assume he’d be equally happy to throw elbows in rulesets that allowed it.
He was a submission threat as well, particularly with the guillotine that stopped Kesik and accounted for half of his total tapouts.
There was a whole lot to like about his ground game, but his standup showed serious deficiencies. He’d stand super tall and literally march forward, basically high-stepping as he did to mask big single kicks. When he’d punch, he’d either lunge in with big, looping strikes or straight-up sprint after his opponent while swinging, all with his chin straight up. That particular shortcoming cost him a million dollars when Taylor caught him retreating with his face unprotected.
That version of Magomedov might have been able to grind his way past some lower- to mid-tier UFC Middleweights, but his striking issues would have stopped his rise well before he approached contention. He’s had four years to iron the kinks out, so hopefully he’s used the time wisely.
Opponent: With original foe Makhmud Muradov out of commission, “Abus” takes on Dustin Stoltzfus, last seen scoring his first-ever UFC victory over Dwight Grant. Honestly, Stoltzfus has struggled so much with wrestlers in the Octagon that I’d pick 2018 Magomedov to win this. If he doesn’t have too much rust, Magomedov should smash him on the mat.
Michal “Mad Dog” Figlak
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 8-0 (4 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Agy Sardari
Poland’s Figlak went 10-2 as an amateur, one of those losses coming to Jack Shore, before turning professional in 2018. He’s since made his name in Cage Warriors with a 6-0 run, half of those wins via stoppage.
“Mad Dog” is a stalking, high-pressure boxer by trade, marching relentlessly forward with crisp combinations and the occasional heavy head kick. Subtle, effective head movement lets him get inside even under fire, and he’s at his most fearsome when opponents’ backs hit the fence, at which point he’ll tear into the head and body with equal fervor as the situation demands. Great cardio makes him equally effective in the first and third rounds, so the pressure never relents.
He’s not just a bully, either; he does a great job of planting his feet and returning fire when pressured. I’ve criticized other fighters in this series for doing that, but what makes Figlak’s approach work is the aforementioned head movement. He’s got a particular knack for slipping his head outside and coming back with a right uppercut to the body or head.
In addition, it helps set up his remarkably strong takedown game. He’s shown both a nice double-leg on the advance and a solid ability to wrap up a body lock and hit trips as his opponents step in. Though not a huge finishing threat from the top, he can land some good shots when he wants to and take the back if it’s presented. Even more impressive are his takedown defense and scrambling skills, which allow him to pressure with impunity.
I really don’t see any red flags in Figlak outside of a vulnerability to inside low kicks and occasional tendency to back straight up. It’s a testament to the Lightweight division’s depth that he won’t be an immediate contender, but I can definitely see him getting a number next to his name in the future.
Opponent: He faces local favorite Fares Ziam. “Smile Killer” has shown a vulnerability to the pressure and grappling Figlak brings to the table, so while Ziam could potentially potshot his way to a decision, odds are that Figlak’s aggression and volume take it.
Gabriel “Fly” Miranda
Weight Class: Lightweight
Record: 16-5 (1 KO, 15 SUB)
Notable Victories: Willian Lima
Outside of a one-off stint in Pancrase, Miranda largely cut his teeth in his native Brazil before a 2-1 run in Brave CF. Then came a two-year stint on the sidelines, which he ended with two first-round submission wins in less than one month.
He steps in for Christos Giagos on around two weeks’ notice.
Once again, finding recent footage proved an issue. Miranda’s only fights since 2019 came in a promotion Tapology flagged for a, “Pattern of Record-Padding/Mismatches,” but clearly the biggest crime was not posting their fights online. I’d hoped to at least watch his loss to Akhmed Magomedov, but that event turned out to be paywalled. As such, I’ll be working off of his 2018 win over Fernando Noriega and 2019 win over Jon Zarate.
A Cristiano Marcello acolyte now training out of MMA Masters, Miranda’s a submission specialist who tends to end things within the first two minutes. He’s not one for “position over submission,” as he fell back for a leg lock attempt from guard against Noriega and got swept while chasing an arm triangle against Zarate. That guillotine appears to be his most fearsome weapon, though he also showed off a quick armbar transition in the Zarate fight, and he’ll drop some solid shots if he can’t find a limb or neck.
Despite a mustache that wouldn’t be out of place on a turn-of-the-century bareknuckle boxer, Miranda’s stand up is mostly feints and flurries of arm punches to either set up takedowns or force others to shoot into his guillotine. He doesn’t do much to protect his chin, and outside of one good cross he sat down on, there isn’t a lot behind his shots. There’s not enough there to serve as a Plan B if his ground game can’t cut it, and while his wrestling looked decent, I do worry that he’ll follow his former master’s example and struggle to force ground exchanges.
“Fly” figures to be a lot of fun on the mat, but unless he’s developed some serious wrestling chops and learned to put his hips behind his punches, UFC-level fighters aren’t going to have much trouble sprawl-and-brawling him or even overpowering him from top position.
Opponent : He debuts opposite Benoit Saint-Denis, who rebounded from a disastrous UFC debut with a dominant finish of Niklas Stolze in June 2022. Saint-Denis’ wrestling should let him cruise to victory without much issue; so long as he minds his P’s and Q’s and doesn’t get lazy from the top, there’s not a whole lot Miranda can do to him.
Cristian “Problema” Quinonez
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 16-3 (8 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Xiao Long, Donny Matos, Erick Ruano
After a lengthy run on the international circuit, Quinonez took his talents to UWC in 2020, ultimately claiming the promotion’s Bantamweight title in his second appearance. His efforts set up a spot on Contender Series, where he out-struck Xiao Long to claim both victory and a UFC contract.
Originally set to debut against Youssef Zalal in August before running into visa issues, he now steps in for Taylor Lapilus on less than two weeks’ notice.
Constant motion, a stiff jab and thudding kicks from both legs form the basis of Quinonez’s offense. He can run circles around opponents from bell to bell, tearing up their lead legs and constantly peppering with quick, straight shots. Though it may sound basic, there are a lot of little nuances to appreciate; he’ll stagger the right cross instead of throwing it immediately after his jab, slip in and out of range instead of committing to dangerous rushes, and can rip some mean uppercuts if opponents dip their heads too often. Once he’s in his groove, he can take over fights rather quickly with his variety and output.
Plus, he’s not just about volume. He’s got some thump when he decides to sit down on his shots, as seen when he floored Xiao last time out.
Most of his striking issues fall under the category of, “Tall Guy Problems,” most notably his over-reliance on leaning away from incoming strikes instead of blocking or moving laterally. He also doesn’t check leg kicks, and while that hasn’t slowed him down too much in recent efforts, he’s so reliant on his movement that it could undermine his whole game if a dedicated kicker gets to him early and often. Also, while I mentioned above that he usually does a good job of going in and out, he can occasionally jump in with his head straight up, which earned him a nasty straight right counter from Xiao.
Still, the good outweighs the bad on the feet, as it does on the ground. He’s a remarkably stout defensive wrestler, quick to sprawl on a shot or get back up if his opponent times one of his entries for a takedown. Once particular skill I want to note is his ability to break the grip and separate, as I’ve seen plenty of fighters deny takedowns but struggle to actually get away from their opponent. Offensively, he’s got some clinch takedowns and ones off of caught kicks, and should he end up on top, he rides quite well while racking up damage with crisp punches and elbow.
Outside of those defensive issues, Quinonez just seems to lack a real X-factor to stand out in an ultra crowded division. There’s not a lot wrong with his game, but it lacks something he can reliably ride to victory against the best of the best. Still, he’s definitely UFC-worthy and should do well for himself around the middle of the pack.
Opponent: He squares off with the struggling Khalid Taha, who’s admittedly faced an incredibly tough slate of opponents during his Octagon debut. Quinonez’s length, movement, and cardio should pay dividends, though Taha does pack enough power to put Quinonez down if he gets lazy with his defense.
Tape: His Contender Series bout is on Fight Pass.
Ailin “Fiona” Perez
Weight Class: Bantamweight/Featherweight
Record: 9-1 (6 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Tamires Vidal
Argentina’s Perez got off to a 4-0 start before suffering a disqualification loss to Tamires Vidal in Nov. 2021. She’s fought twice since, pounding out Romina Aguirre in one round and forcing Stephanie Bragayrac’s corner to stop their fight three months later.
Perez has one goal no matter the opponent in front of her: drag them to the mat and beat the daylights out of them. Her favorite way to go about this is to wrap up a body lock as her foe overcommits to strikes, though she’s happy to force the clinch herself if the situation calls for it. On the mat, she doesn’t need a lot of space to land damaging punches and elbows; she’ll look to advance, of course, but she can bust you up from guard or half guard just as easily as mount.
It’s a very focused approach. Her one and only submission win came in her second pro fight, and while she did briefly consider an Americana last time out, she ditched it and went back to mauling pretty quick.
It’s harder to get a picture of her standup, as she’s rarely on her feet for long. She seems to have a fondness for lead-leg side kicks, jabs, and low kicks, but can telegraph her bigger strikes by jumping in with them. Her wrestling is likewise a bit of a question mark; most of her opponents were too limited to put up much of a fight when she decided to drag things to the mat. That said, Tamires Vidal managed to find some success controlling her against the fence three fights back as Perez repeatedly looked for whizzer kicks, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up.
We really just need to see Perez against better opposition to get a bead on her ceiling. Her top game is definitely quite good, heavy and active and damaging, but it’s unclear whether she’ll be able to utilize it consistently against UFC-caliber grapplers.
I also do want to point out that disqualification loss, because it wasn’t a freak accident. On three separate occasions, Perez punched Vidal in the back of the head, kneed her in the groin, and kneed her in the head twice while she was on one knee. The promoters claimed that she came in extremely emotional after not seeing her son for a while, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
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