As anticipation continues to mount for the UFC’s historic debut in New York City on November 12, a strong event takes place this weekend at Arena Ciudad de Mexico as a stacked lineup hits the Octagon.
Headlined by a pivotal lightweight clash between former champion Rafael Dos Anjos and surging contender Tony Ferguson, the 13-fight event features a number of strong matchups and critical encounters, plus a trio of athletes making their promotional debuts who you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with quickly.
Consider this your introduction.
This is On the Rise.
Having already amassed 26 professional bouts, Held is surprisingly seasoned for not yet having turned 25. The Polish submission specialist carries a 22-4 record into his first UFC appearance opposite Diego Sanchez in the co-main event, having won seven of his last eight appearances, with his lone setback during that span being a five-round, unanimous decision loss to fellow UFC standout “Ill” Will Brooks.
A grappling phenom with a no discernible preference between chokes or joint attacks, Held has shared the cage with a collection of the top lightweight talent competing beyond the Octagon over the last several years and he gets an instant opportunity to show where he stands amongst the UFC’s 155-pound class with a challenging matchup against the always exciting Sanchez.
While the “Nightmare” is no longer the elite contender he was earlier in his career, the first ever Ultimate Fighter winner is gutsy and resilient and a tough out for anyone thinking they’re just going to saunter into the cage and roll through him. If Held can turn back Sanchez, it will provide a solid baseline as he begins his journey into the deep waters in the UFC’s most competitive division.
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One of the top young prospects in Latin America, the 20-year-old Puelles advanced to the finals of this season’s TUF LATAM lightweight competition where he’ll face unbeaten Team Griffin rep Martin Bravo to determine who will join the fraternity of Ultimate Fighter winners.
Sporting a 8-1 record with six of his wins coming by way of finish, “El Nino” earned finishes over Jose David Flores and Pablo Sabori before collecting a unanimous decision win over Marcelo Rojo in the semifinals to advance to face Bravo in the battle of first-overall selections from each side. The Peruvian youngster was one of the few true lightweights in the competition, and while sticking to a strict diet and having to hit the 155-pound limit three times during the season was daunting, that size advantage could come in handy as he takes on Bravo.
Fans in Latin America have really taken to the top talent coming out of the reality competition and Puelles can rely on advice from his Pitbull Martial Arts teammate Enrique Barzola heading into this one, as “El Fuerte” has been in the same position before and walked away successful.
One of the top young prospects in the sport today, regardless of gender, Grasso makes her UFC debut after a successful four-fight stint under the Invicta FC banner that saw her pick up impressive victories over Ashley Cummins, Alida Gray, Mizuki Inoue and Jodie Esquibel. For her inaugural foray into the Octagon, the 23-year-old Lobo Gym product draws Heather Jo Clark, a battle-tested veteran who serves as the toughest test to date for Grasso.
Unbeaten through the first eight fights of her career, Grasso has shown clean, swift hands and a willingness to stand in the pocket and sling leather, believing she’s going to get the better of most exchanges. In most instances, she’s been correct.
After missing nearly 18 months due to various injuries, her July unanimous decision win over Esquibel showed that the time away didn’t have any adverse impact on Grasso, as she picked up where she left off, beating the long-time Jackson-Wink MMA Academy representative to the punch more often than not en route to a unanimous decision win.
Grasso has all the elements to be a potential superstar in the near future, especially in the Latin American market, and a win over Clark in her debut will only serve to accelerate her ascent up the strawweight rankings.