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.
Originally getting his start in mixed martial arts by training at the Hardcore Gym with Adam and Rory Singer, Todd Duffee has become one of the UFC’s most touted Heavyweight prospects in recent memory. A physical specimen, he stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs in at a huge 250 pounds, with most of that being pure muscle. Now training at Xtreme Couture, Duffee made an instant impact in his much-awaited UFC debut. He now looks to move quickly through the ranks of the Heavyweight division, as he has already stated that he wants to fight the best that the division has to offer him.
Duffee started his career with three straight first-round stoppage victories, which earned him a chance to face off with UFC veteran Assuerio Silva in Jungle Fight. In a sloppy fight, Duffee withstood Silva’s striking ability in the torrid affair and stopped him with strikes in the second round to keep his streak of stoppages alive. After almost a year away from fighting, Duffee finally got his chance to make his much-anticipated Octagon debut at UFC 102.
He squared off with Canadian Heavyweight Tim Hague, who was coming off a successful debut with the promotion at UFC 98. He submitted the highly touted Pat Barry with a guillotine choke. Duffee wasted no time quickly landing a jab that put Hague on his back and followed it up with some strikes, most notably a devastating left hand that put Hague out cold. Not only did Duffee make a successful UFC debut, but he also became a record holder. Finishing Hague in 7 seconds earned Duffee the fastest knockout in UFC history. Immediately after the fight, Duffee made it clear that he was ready for more competition, going up to the camera and saying, “That was an appetizer. I want to eat now, Dana. Let me eat!”
Although the UFC usually builds up its touted prospects slowly, Duffee has let it be known that he wants to fight the best in the UFC Heavyweight division. He will have a quick turnaround, returning to action at UFC 107, where he will be looking to open even more eyes as he climbs through the ranks of the UFC Heavyweight division.
Fighting out of the Midwest, Anthony Pettis is much different from your typical Midwest fighter who typically has a strong wrestling background. He has a dynamic striking ability and slick submission skills. Most mixed martial arts observers knew little about Pettis until he was slated to make his promotional debut at WEC 41 in June against Mike Campbell. Pettis slowly built his name as one of the premier Lightweights on the Midwest scene, going undefeated at 6-0 and becoming the Gladiators Fighting Lightweight champion … all within a 2-year span. He also had a solid camp behind him, training with Duke Roufus, Pat Barry, Alan Belcher, and Eric Schafer.
Pettis started the fight off with a bang, landing a flush head kick that forced Campbell to go for a takedown after being stunned. Pettis was quick to adjust, locking on a guillotine choke before transitioning to a slick armbar that looked to be fully locked on, but somehow Campbell escaped. Pettis didn’t sit idle for long, though, locking on a triangle choke that had Campbell tapping out shortly thereafter.
Not only did Pettis win his WEC debut, but the Lightweight prospect garnered more fans from the fight making it to the televised broadcast. After performing impressively, Pettis soon gained a huge buzz as one of the top Lightweight prospects to look out for in all of mixed martial arts. Not only has fighting become a career for Pettis, but after a tragic accident, it has become a mission for the young 22-year-old to be crowned a champion. Being involved in martial arts since the age of 5, Pettis was pushed to train hard by his father and attributes that to his success. Unfortunately, Pettis’ father was killed in a home robbery in November 2003. Since then, it has been Pettis’ goal to become a professional fighter to honor his father. With that motivation behind him, he has emerged as a force in the WEC.
Pettis will next face the toughest test of his career in former WEC Lightweight champion “Razor” Rob McCullough at WEC 44 in November. A win over McCullough could put Pettis on the fast track to a possible shot at the WEC Lightweight championship sometime next year. However things pan out, one thing is certain: It’s now “Showtime” in World Extreme Cagefighting.
Coming out of the vaunted Arizona State University wrestling program, Aaron Simpson is another top-flight prospect that has made the successful transition from collegiate wrestling to mixed martial arts. He now trains out of Arizona Combat Sports with the Lally brothers and an impressive camp of fighters that includes Ryan Bader, Jamie Varner, and C.B. Dollaway. Simpson didn’t dive into mixed martial arts without a base. He started his new career with a solid background in wrestling, being a former two-time NCAA All-American wrestler.
Simpson entered mixed martial arts after seeing the success of some of his former wrestlers at ASU, like Cain Velasquez, Bader, and Dollaway. He got a late start at the age of 33, but he hasn’t looked back since, impressively going undefeated and stopping all of his opponents with strikes.
His first big chance came in November 2008, when he made his WEC debut as a late replacement. He took full advantage of the opportunity, quickly knocking out touted grappler David Avellan. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Simpson soon found himself in the UFC as a select number of Middleweights and Light-Heavyweights were transferred over from the WEC when Zuffa eliminated the two divisions from the WEC in early 2009.
Simpson made his UFC debut against a fellow WEC transfer in Tim McKenzie at UFC Fight Night 18. Simpson wasted no time. He was all over McKenzie, rocking the longtime veteran from the onset and not letting up on his attack. He kept the pressure on McKenzie and finished him with strikes a little less than 2 minutes into the opening round. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that Simpson saw action again at UFC 102. After several changes, he finally faced off with Ultimate Fighter 3 runner-up Ed Herman.
Simpson looked impressive through the fight, taking Herman down at will and landing some very effective ground and pound in the process. It was his wrestling that eventually won him the fight. One of his hard takedowns injured Herman’s knee, which caused an end to the fight when Herman’s knee couldn’t keep up. Although the win came on a sour note, Simpson looked impressive and showed the UFC brass that he is ready to step up in the Middleweight division.