Prospect light preview – The Daily Free Press

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The UFC lightweight division is hailed for producing some of the most legendary careers and biggest celebrities in mixed martial arts. The 155-pound division hosted the most popular fight in the promotion’s history, UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor, and stands today as a division full of talent.

Today’s 155-pound division is very heavy, to say the least. At the top is Charles Oliviera (32-8), who chased Dustin Poirier (28-7), Michael Chandler (22-7) and Tony Ferguson (25-6). Those vying for the belt under Oliviera, beyond Poirier, Chandler and Ferguson, are a myriad of talents that are unlike any other division.

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Gaethje, Makhachev, Dariush, Dos Anjos and even McGregor all float in the top 10 of this division. That’s the wake left by Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) who retired in 2020. I could talk at length about the many champion caliber fighters at the top of this division with Islam Makhachev (22-1) leading the way though, I I’m going to focus on the guys off the leaderboard who should be fighting at the top soon.

Unlike the breakdowns of The Red Corner flyweight, bantam-weight and lightweight divisions, it is much harder to break through at a young age at 155.

All the same, making the UFC roster is an impressive feat in itself that many fighters spend their entire careers chasing. Doing it before you leave your twenties is even harder, especially in this division. I will be focusing on relatively younger fighters, prospects, in the 155-pound division that I could see causing problems for the lightweight division, if not taking over entirely.

​​Jalin Turner

Turner (12-5) made his debut in Dana White’s Contender Series and then the UFC at age 23. His first assignment? Vicente Luque (21-8-1) at welterweight. Phew. Turner (12-5) fought to a 1-2 record in his first three UFC fights. Since then, he looks like a much more complete fighter.

Don’t take Turner’s case at face value. He started young and is just beginning to show what he can do. He is undefeated in his last four games, balancing two second-round knockouts against Joshua Culibao (9-1-1) and Uros Medic (7-1) with two full-back chokes against Brok Weaver (16-6) and Jamie Mullarkey (14 -5).

I like Turner for his ability to do it both on his feet and on the mat. He has completed 80% one-clip takedowns in his UFC career and has outscored opponents 198-109 in his last four fights. Turner is an imposing lightweight at 6’3 and can drop shots on his often smaller opponents. In addition, it is extremely lanky and as such very difficult to roll.

Ignacio Bahamondes

Google “Ignacio Bahamondes KO”, watch this clip, a few times if you must, then come back to this column. The Bahamondes vignette (13-4) kicking Roosevelt Roberts (11-3) is enough justification to be excited about the 24-year-old Chilean.

Bahamondes puts on a gripping masterclass every time he steps into the Octagon. He has two flatline knockouts in UFC-sanctioned fights by head kicks alone. Ignacio is a walking highlight reel and recently won a submission against Zhu Rong. His only loss was a split decision loss to John Makdessi (18-7).

Claudio Puelles

Let’s keep South American hopes alive with the Puelles du Pérou (11-2). Puelles has been with the UFC since his debut in 2016 at the age of 20. Now 26, Puelles is 4-1 in MMA’s top promotion and is on a three-year, four-fight winning streak.

Puelles has been around the division for a little while now but increased his activity last year by winning twice over Jordan Leavitt (10-1) and Chris Gruetzemacher (15-5). He takes on lightweight Clay Guida this Saturday.

Puelles has not one, but two knee cap submissions in the third round to tie his two UFC unanimous decision wins. He clearly has a deep gas tank, and if he keeps Guida’s strikes at bay, he can keep climbing towards the 155-pound rankings.

As always, follow the Red Corner on Twitter @RedCornerDFP.


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