We picked three fighters to feature from the promising talent on the preliminary card of the UFC event this weekend. Here is a little glimpse into their preparation, philosophy, and why they're destined to shine.
Fresh out of DWCS, Tony Gravely was riding a 7-fight win streak when he lost to Brett Johns in his UFC debut this January. A 10-month break wasn’t planned.
Tony wanted to come back in August, but moving to a different city and changing camps caused a delay in the plans of this bantamweight prospect, who has now found a new home in American Top Team.
It will be a tough challenge as he faces Brazil’s Geraldo de Freitas this Sunday in Vegas. A tall, submission expert. Both things have proven to be Tony Gravely’s kryptonite.
Will we see the rise of a new star in the prelims this weekend? Welcome to the spotlight.
Tony Gravely, won a contract at the Dana White Contender Series, and got his first UFC fight against a tough Brett Johns, early this year. The fight didn’t go his way, and he got submitted in the third round. And while the fight wasn’t razor-thin, we can say that Tony had his moments.
Gravely has since moved camps. He has in fact uprooted his life and moved all the way to Florida. The transition from Virginia to Florida, Gravely concedes, was tough. He had a set routine, a great team, all his friends and training partners, and comfort. But he felt a need to mix things up and that’s where American Top Team comes in.
Training at American Top Team
Gravely made short trips to ATT, just to get acclimated and know everyone before he permanently made the move. There is no question that ATT has an abundance of talent in the smaller weight divisions.
Multiple UFC fighters at flyweight and bantamweight means there are always enough training partners of different styles and body types. And while Gravely has been training extensively with Kyoji Horiguchi, he must have reaped the benefit of training with Juan Puerta and Jamie Alvarez given their long body type that mimics his opponent Geraldo de Freitas.
With his fight camp now over, he is all set to head out to Vegas for fight week. With all training sessions in the book, Tony feels he will be able to dictate the pace and stay in Geraldo’s face.
Tony has been a wrestler for a decade, starting early and wrestling all through college, till he started MMA. At 29 years old, Tony may have entered the big promotion at the peak of his physical prowess. His turn-around time after his UFC debut in January may have been delayed because of the moving and changing of teams, but going to work with Pedro Munhoz and Marlon Moraes would have given him immense confidence.
Matchup against Geraldo de Freitas
While it’s almost impossible to hear trash talk from the ever respectful and soft-spoken Tony Gravely, he has indicated that his game plan will be to exert pressure over Geraldo using both his wrestling and his Tae Kwon Do. Tony admitted that ‘long’ fighters like de Freitas have been his undoing in the past, and that is what makes this fight tough and interesting. It will indeed be interesting to see him cope against a taller de Freitas, who also happens to have a tremendous Jiu Jitsu game.
With most of his wins coming via submissions, de Freitas has not only RNCs but armbars and triangle submissions against stiff competition. Let’s not forget, 5 of Gravely’s 6 losses have come via submission.
Having said that, Gravely knows that a good way to make a mark in the super-stacked bantamweight division is to secure a finish. Tony has not forgotten that he got finished in his debut and he must be itching to right that wrong.
Feint a takedown and land an overhand right, maybe? I’m not a fighter, but I’ve tried that move on UFC4 and it works, sometimes.
Jokes aside, Tony has good wrestling and fierce power in the pocket. He believes he is well-rounded enough to win this by knockout or submission. I know the reptile lover in Tony would love to snap at Geraldo’s neck. I'm not sure going to work on the ground with de Freitas is advisable.
But we’ve seen wrestlers turn it around and strike with the best in the UFC, and with Tony’s Tae Kwon Do base and his teammate Kyoji’s dynamic striking style, I won’t be shocked if this fight is a straight up brawl.
It is a tough matchup for Tony Gravely stylistically, but if anything could have prepared him for this war, it would be this American Top Team camp.
I feel his speed and offensive wrestling could create a base for his striking to shine. And with his wife Kayla Gravely along with Steve Bruno from ATT in his corner, he’ll have all the motivation he needs.
Making a quick turn around from his fallen bout against Ian Heinisch, Brendan is set to feature in the main card against a tough Sean Strickland, Brendan has a task at hand but is confident his skills will see him through. Strickland moved up to middleweight after a 2-year-hiatus following his motorcycle accident. He faced Jack Marshman on November 1 and is back after just two weeks to fight Allen this weekend.
Allen has been on a tear, riding a 3-fight win streak in the UFC, including a submission over Kevin Holland. Allen is one of the more promising middleweights, and remaining active certainly doesn’t hurt his cause. Strickland’s philosophy of ‘being entertaining, win or lose’ however, may cost him because Allen has more than just a threatening ground game.
Sean is no slouch on the ground either, but knowing him, this would predominantly be a kickboxing match.
Another DWCS product, Allen has trained BJJ extensively all his career, but his striking is his real weapon here. He’s been training under Duke Roufus, among some straight up killers, and that is bound to come handy this Sunday. If we are to believe Dilano Taylor from Sanford MMA, Allen is a ‘bad man with bad intentions’.
Considering Brendan Allen was contemplating moving up to 205 pounds post his last fight and Strickland is coming up from 170 pounds, you can expect a size advantage for Allen. We could likely see Brendan Allen extending his win streak and entering the middleweight rankings very soon.
It is unfair to include him in a list with relative UFC newcomers, but here is to an ever-exciting Louis Smolka who is all set to deliver another war that has ‘Fight of the Night’ written all over it.
It has been a treat watching Smolka grow in confidence and skills since his UFC flyweight debut. He looks better at bantamweight but his style is still the same- risky and chaotic.
He’s got the perfect dance partner in Quinonez who will come for his head. This one may even go the distance, but Smolka has the edge in grappling. Louis lost his last fight against Casey Kenney who has been on a tremendous run. Another fighter everyone has eyes on, in this amazingly competitive bantamweight division.
Smolka must have learnt from his mistakes in that fight, because if he has a great run and rise in the rankings, they are bound to meet again.
Smolka started training at Team Oyama in 2018, which is great especially for his weight class because of the competition available on the mat. Being a champion in other organisations, Smolka has a championship mentality, and when you couple that with his exciting style and a long lanky structure perfect for submissions, he can well be the star of the show this weekend.Published 14 Nov 2020, 12:26 IST