Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming new blood.
KEY VICTORIES: Cole Escovedo, Joey Gambino
WEIGHT CLASS: 145 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
With 30 career fights, Steven Siler has a wealth of experience for a 25-year-old. Although he has nine losses on his résumé, most of those were early in his career. In his last 18 bouts, Siler has gone 16-2, with his only defeats coming from top talents Cole Escovedo and Chad Mendes.
With numerous submission victories to his credit, Siler found his way onto The Ultimate Fighter 14 last year. He fell short on the show, losing in the quarterfinals to eventual featherweight winner Diego Brandao. However, Siler showed enough promise that the UFC decided to keep him around following the conclusion of the reality series. Despite impressive showings, once a fighter is in the UFC, losing carries an unpleasant stigma, and that can mean a quick exit. Siler has found a simple solution-win, and keep winning.
Siler defeated Josh Clopton via decision at the TUF 14 Finale, and he followed up that performance with a decision victory over Cole Miller at UFC on FX 2. In those two wins, Siler put his stand-up game on display, but he wanted to put a stamp on his next victory and take the fight out of the judges’ hands. So, he turned his intensity up a notch.
Siler used his Muay Thai clinch to control Joey Gambino and deliver powerful knees before taking the fight to the mat. After softening Gambino up with ground-and-pound, Siler locked on a guillotine choke to secure his third straight UFC victory.
“I wanted to show everyone that I’m not just a stand-up fighter,” said Siler after the fight. “I have a ground game. I have everything. I feel like a complete fighter with a great camp behind me.”
Siler is definitely a complete fighter, and he’s determined to prove himself at the highest levels of the division. He may not be ready for Jose Aldo yet, but he’s shown a well-rounded arsenal that is making a splash on MMA’s biggest stage.
KEY VICTORY: Yusuke Kawaguchi
WEIGHT CLASS: 205 lbs.
NICKNAME: The Last Viking
Jorgen Kruth is 38 years old, so he’s actually more Old Blood than New Blood—nevertheless, he is new to MMA. Kruth started his martial arts and combat sports journey nearly 30 years ago when he began training judo and jiu-jitsu, but he quickly transitioned to the striking arts, where he eventually found a calling as a Muay Thai fighter. Kruth fought his way to becoming a two-time World Muay Thai Council World Champion, earning the distinction of being regarded as the one of the top Scandinavian kickboxers of all time.
Kruth is just now getting things going when it comes to mixed martial arts. Emerging in the sport in 2009, Kruth has quietly built an undefeated record in five bouts, finishing all of his opponents. Not surprisingly, most of his foes have gone down due to his striking prowess, although he does have a triangle choke submission to his credit.
Having fought primarily in smaller shows on his home turf in Sweden, Kruth got the call to fight at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in April, but he had to withdraw due to injury. Kruth is now scheduled to try his hands in the UFC when the promotion comes to England in September. He’s lined up in an exciting striking match-up against fellow heavy-hitter Fabio Maldonado.
Kruth may not have a lot of time left to make his splash in mixed martial arts, but a victory over Maldonado would immediately propel him onto the radar of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, providing him a transfusion of New Blood.
KEY VICTORIES: Avery Vilche
WEIGHT CLASS: 125 lbs.
A product of Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, NM, Heather “Hurricane” Clark feels the pressure of any fighter who emerges from that camp, but she has showcased her skills, fighting her way to a 5-2 professional record. After losing her professional debut in 2010, Clark righted the ship and rocketed to a four-fight winning streak. She signed with Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC), but stumbled against Marianna Kheyfets in her promotional debut, due to a fight-ending swollen eye.
“Looking back at the tape, all my coaches and teammates haven’t been able to find exactly where the strike happened that made my eye swell, so it’s a little bit frustrating,” says Clark.
Needless to say, she put that hiccup behind her and got back on the right side of the tracks with a victory over Avery Vilche in June.
“I think I could have done a few things better, but, all in all, I listened to my corner and stuck with the gameplan,” she says. “It worked pretty effectively, and I got the win.”
As she continues to train alongside fighters such as Michelle Waterson, Julie Kedzie, and Holly Holm at Jackson’s gym, she’s improving her stand-up and hoping to make a move down to 115 pounds if XFC establishes that division.
“I’ve got to keep working on all my different skills and continue to be a well-rounded fighter, so that no matter who they put in front of me, I’ll be able to dominate and finish the fight,” Clark says. “I’ll keep working my butt off to become the best female fighter in the world, and I won’t stop at anything less.”