On the Rise: Orlando Edition

The final event of a fight-filled February takes place this Saturday in Orlando, Florida, as the second UFC on FOX event of 2018 hits the air from the Amway Center, with surging featherweights Jeremy Stephens and Josh Emmett locking up in the main event.

While the fight card has undergone a number of changes over the past few weeks, the one thing that has remained constant is the presence of a group of up-and-coming fighters looking to use this weekend’s fight card as a chance to start their 2018 UFC campaigns off on a high note.

Here’s a look at three athletes to keep an eye on this weekend.

This is On the Rise: Orlando Edition.

Marcin Prachnio

There are always opportunities for new arrivals to the light heavyweight division to make an instant impact right out of the gate and Prachnio may have a greater opportunity than most as he makes his promotional debut this weekend.

Originally scheduled to face Jake Collier, the 29-year-old Polish karate stylist will instead square off with “Smile’N’” Sam Alvey, who moves up in weight in order to log his first appearance of the year. Alvey has put together a solid resume in the Octagon and will serve as an immediate measuring stick for Prachnio on Saturday.

Boasting a 13-2 record and riding an eight-fight winning streak, Prachnio has shown knockout power throughout his career and a penchant for handling his business quickly, as all but two of his victories have come inside the distance. If he can roll into Orlando and continue his winning ways by getting Alvey out of there before the final horn, Prachnio will establish himself as one to watch in the wide-open 205-pound weight division this year.
FRESNO, CA - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) <a href='../fighter/Alex-Perez'>Alex Perez</a> attempts to submit <a href='../fighter/Carls-John-de-Tomas'>Carls John De Tomas</a> of the Philippines in their flyweight bout during the <a href='../event/UFC-Silva-vs-Irvin'>UFC Fight Night </a>event inside Save Mart Center on December 9, 2017 in Fresno, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Alex Perez

A member of Team Oyama, Perez earned his call to the Octagon by collecting a first-round submission finish of Kevin Gray on the fifth week of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last summer. Four months and a day later, he rolled into the Octagon for his UFC debut and submitted Carls John de Tomas in the second round, pushing his winning streak to six in the process.

Now the 25-year-old returns for a showdown with “Showtime” Eric Shelton that has the potential to elevate him to the top of the list of young upstarts in the 125-pound weight class.

Shelton showed a ton of promise during his time on Season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter, advancing to the semifinals before losing to eventual tournament winner Tim Elliott. After coming out on the wrong side of consecutive split decision losses to start his UFC tenure, the 27-year-old notched a unanimous decision victory last time out.

Deft on the ground and smooth on his feet, Perez has won 16 of his last 18 appearances after beginning his career with a 3-2 mark. He’s faced solid competition on his way to the UFC and looked dominant in his debut, and if can replicate that performance on Saturday, he’ll line himself up for a date with an even more established opponent next time out.

Manny Bermudez

One of the top bantamweight prospects in the sport, Bermudez has rattled off 11 consecutive victories to begin his professional career and he makes a quick turnaround to take on Albert Morales this weekend after notching a first-round submission win just under a month ago.

The 23-year-old UFC rookie is tall for the division and uses his length well on the ground, registering eight of his 11 wins by submission, including a 72-second tap out of seasoned black belt Bendy Casimir last summer.

He’ll be facing the toughest test of his career on Saturday, as Morales has already made five appearances in the Octagon and proven to be a tough out, going the distance in four of those contests. Having lost to unbeaten new bantamweight prospects in each of his last two outings, you can be sure that “The Warrior” will be looking to bring that streak – and Bermudez’ winning streak – to an end in Orlando.

Should he push his run of success to an even dozen on Saturday, Bermudez will find himself in a rich and interesting collection of up-and-comers all jockeying for position in the competitive bantamweight division at the moment. But if he keeps tapping people out the way he has during his days on the regional circuit, the Abington, Massachusetts native will certainly earn himself a little more acclaim and a lot more attention.


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