By TXMMA Staff // Emil Fischer // Photos: UFC.com via Getty Images
Following up on Texas’ fighters as they’ve graduated into the octagon
As MMA grows as a sport, various promotions become stronger and stronger. The UFC has become the most prominent promotion, broadcasting its events through FX and Fox and constantly becoming more popular. In Texas, the main MMA promotion is the Legacy Fighting Championship. Over the past few years, Legacy FC has drawn most (or all) of the best talent within the state to fight for them at one point or another. And as recent history has proven to be true, the very best of this crop ultimately ends up fighting in the octagon after their Legacy tenure. Now the question arises as to how this talent performs as they graduate into the UFC. Given TXMMA’s interest and propensity to keep track of Texas-based fighters, it is interesting to explore the success of former Legacy FC fighters who have made it to that next level.
The following ten fighters are ranked from most to least successful insofar as their campaign in or for the UFC. Bear in mind that success can be subjective, and that fighters who were in the UFC but have since been released from their contracts have been placed near the bottom of the list de facto. Likewise, fighters such as Tim Kennedy, Colton Smith, Johnny Bedford and others have also been omitted because they took a different path into the octagon than through Legacy FC.
Pharr Texas resident Carlos Diego Ferreira, about whom TXMMA recently wrote a feature article discussing his martial arts career and his transition to the UFC has been great thus far. Diego has shown fans a dynamic and impressive game, both with his crafty Jiu Jitsu as well as his powerful striking. He earned an undefeated record before joining the UFC and has continued that trend since arriving there. He is currently 11-0, with 6 wins by submission, 4 by decision and had his first knockout victory over Ramsey Nijem on August 30th at UFC 177. Expect huge things from Carlos Diego Ferreira and do not be surprised if he earns himself true contender status in the near future.
A talented heavyweight, Arlington Texas-based Jared Rosholt has enjoyed an almost perfect 11-1 record, losing only once while with LFC to Derrick Lewis. Rosholt has won his first 3 UFC fights by decision and will be facing his most decorated opponent yet, Oleksiy Oliynyk. If he succeeds, he’ll achieve his 12th career victory.
Keller Texas’ featherweight “Scrapper” Chas Skelly has a near perfect record in the octagon at 2-1. His only loss was his UFC debut, which was a decision loss in a short notice fight, but he has since then has been successful, finishing his subsequent opponent and winning his September fifth fight by decision. Skelly is another talented submission fighter and his 13-1 record is made more impressive by his 7 submission victories. With his grappling-based game, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to draw stylistic comparisons to former Bellator champ Ben Askren.
On Friday September 5th, Houston, Texas based Derrick Lewis had his biggest UFC opportunity yet with his much anticipated fight against Matt Mitrione. Unfortunately the former Legacy heavyweight champ suffered his first loss in the UFC so that slows his momentum considerably. Despite the loss “The Black Beast” is still reputed for the explosive and powerful striking game with which he garnered 9-2 record, with all but one of his wins by knock out or TKO. Now 2-1 in the octagon, Lewis will make a comeback, and will be a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division given the right matchups.
Octagon MMA’s Sean Spencer has done relatively well for himself in the UFC thus far, going 2-2 since signing with wins over Drew Dober and Yuri Villefort. His 2 losses haven’t been total losses either. He lost to Rafael Natal in his debut on short notice and up a weight class and his latest fight was an entertaining and close one with top prospect Alex Garcia. Sean returns to the cage this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 51 against Paulo Thiago. If he wins that, bigger things will be coming for him.
Houstonian Andrew Craig, a tough middleweight, has been in the UFC for over 2 years and early in his UFC career made quite an impression with two early victories. However, since 2013 he has only won once, going 1-3. The young fighter’s record is still quite strong with a 9-3 record overall and if he’s able to get back on track he should definitely be a fan favorite in one of the deepest divisions in the UFC. However, if Craig loses another one or two times don’t be surprised to see him back in a smaller promotion until he once again picks up the pace like he did in his early career.
Hailing from Dallas Texas, bantamweight Matt Hobar also enjoyed a UFC victory on August 30th. Back on May 31st Hobar, who has a 9-2 record, lost his UFC debut by TKO, but won that recent fight against Aaron Philips by decision. Hobar is a submission specialist, having won 4 of his 9 victories by submission, while it is still early in his career, if he is able to pick up speed in the UFC fans may have an entertaining submission specialist to enjoy watching.
Featherweight Daniel Pineda of Houston started off strong but did not fare well towards the end of his UFC tenure. After submitting his first two opponents in the first round, Pineda only enjoyed one win (also by submission), going 1-4. Eventually, after losing two decisions, Pineda has gone back to the drawing board and re-signed to Legacy. Texan submission aficionados can rejoice, though, as in spite of his far from perfect, 18-11 record, Pineda has an impressive knack for submitting his opponents as he won 12 of his 18 victories by getting his opponent to tap. A few wins on the regional circuit and he could be right back in the UFC. And a win over fellow vet Leonard Garcia in November would go a long way towards that goal.
Mount Pleasant Texas’ flyweight Will Campuzano hasn’t been as successful as some of the other fighters in this article in terms of what he’s done in the UFC octagon. The talented and aggressive young fighter was cut from the UFC for a second time after his loss to Justin Scoggins at UFC 171, but has since enjoyed another victory. With a record of 14-6, and 9 victories coming from a finish, if Campuzano has a few victories fans of his could rejoice in his return to the UFC. But that has yet to be seen.
Leonard Garcia lost 5 fights in a row before being cut by the UFC, however since the Plainview, Texas resident rejoined LFC, he has gone 3-1, losing his most recent fight by submission. If Garcia can string together a nice winning streak he may get back into the UFC. Remember, he is a very exciting and dynamic fighter who tends to have battles with his opponents that provide the fans a great spectacle.
Honorable Mention: Frank Trevino, Ryan Benoit, Roger Narvaez, Damon Jackson, Carlo Prater
The more popular MMA becomes, the more regional promotions will graduate fighters to the elite ranks of the UFC. Some fighters like Carlos Diego Ferreira and Derrick Lewis will make a splash upon entry and quickly become international fan favorites. Others may struggle, but ultimately the talent pool becomes deeper by the day. TXMMA will continue to provide MMA fans with updates of beloved Texan fighters, and, with any luck, one of the gentlemen mentioned in this article, (or those who may have been left out) will earn a UFC championship and make Texas proud.