Following each event, Breakthroughs focuses the attention on the unheralded athletes who delivered impressive performances over the weekend in an effort to introduce you to some emerging talents to keep tabs on in the future and the unsung stars of the last event in the process.
Here are the five under the radar fighters who made some noise Saturday night in Chicago.
Even in putting together a three-fight winning streak heading into this fight, Lamas remained an unknown commodity outside of the hardcore set, and the underdog in his fight with Erik Koch. Following Saturday’s performance, he’s most likely next in line for a featherweight title shot.
The 30-year-old Chicago native used his aggressive, grinding style to control the action in the first, and then put Koch on his back when he rushed in early in the second. From there, Lamas opened up with ground-and-pound, landing a series of heavy blows that left his opponent battered and bloodied on the mat.
Now having won four consecutive contests since moving to featherweight, Lamas should end up facing the winner of this weekend’s UFC 156 main event at some point in the future. He’ll still be the underdog, but he’s much less of an unknown now.
Someone new seems to step up in the lightweight division at every major event, and this week, that was the Canadian Grant.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native delivered a grown-man beating to Matt Wiman inside the Octagon on Saturday night, landing earlier and more often before opening up with some nasty Muay Thai. His work in from the Thai clinch was tremendous, and the standing elbows that eventually put Wiman out were on point all night.
Unbeaten since moving down in weight, this performance immediately elevates Grant’s standing in the deep and talented lightweight division. He asked for a match-up with Jim Miller following his win, which is a pairing that makes perfect sense at this point.
Coming off his second-round knockout loss to Lyoto Machida in August, Bader needed a strong bounce-back performance Saturday night, and the former Ultimate Fighter winner got it with a first-round submission win over Vladimir Matyushenko.
Looking a little less muscular than normal, Bader clipped the 42-year-old veteran with a quick left hand right out of the gate, and then cinched in a modified guillotine choke while Matyushenko was stunned. He dropped to his back, adjusted the hold, and forced a tap from the Belarusian light heavyweight, earning the stoppage in under a minute.
This was precisely the kind of performance Bader needed after looking lost against Machida last summer. With the top of the division already starting to stack up, Bader has an opportunity to continue building his skill set and improving without being thrown to the wolves right now. If he continues to develop, he could end up fulfilling the potential he showed on The Ultimate Fighter back in Season 8.
The German-born welterweight looked like he was going through a live sparring session at the United Center; that’s how crisp and clean he was with his striking during his standout performance against Mike Stumpf.
Krauss, who trains under Duke Roufus in Milwaukee, found his range early in the first, and spent the majority of the fight picking away at his overmatched opponent. Now 11-1 in his career, Krauss continues to show improvement, and seems to be getting really comfortable on his feet. He broke out a “Superman Uppercut” a couple times Saturday night, and ripped off crisp kickboxing attacks from start to finish.
The welterweight division continues to shift and move, and Krauss is very much in the mix in the middle of the pack. After this showing, a pairing with a solid veteran who can test him in the stand-up seems in order.
It looked dicey for the charismatic heavyweight early in his bout with Mike Russow, who swarmed Jordan out of the gate, and had him on the ropes throughout much of the opening round. But the former LSU fullback survived, recouped between rounds, and came out firing in the second, pouring it on against a fatigued Russow, eventually landing in full mount before pounding out the win when the Chicago police officer gave up his back late in the frame.
This was a strong showing for the 28-year-old Jordan, who pushed his record to 14-4 with the victory. He’s only been training for a little over four years, and as he continues to develop his overall game, his natural athleticism could help carry him up the rankings in the evolving heavyweight division.