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: Marlon Sandro, Alvin Robinson
WEIGHT CLASS: 145 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
Heading into 2012, Bellator featherweight Daniel Straus knew he needed to take chances if he was going to rebound from his loss to Patricio Freire in May 2011.
“Coming off that loss, I learned a lot,” says Straus. “It took a lot out of me. I wasn’t upset for myself, I was more upset with what I didn’t show. This year, coming back to Bellator, I wanted to be
a different fighter, and I wanted to stand out a little bit. I went back to the drawing board with my coaches and teammates and started working really hard. Coming back and getting some solid wins and winning the Season 6 Featherweight Tournament has helped me a lot.”
Although Straus has won four straight Bellator fights (five overall) and claimed the tournament title, he still feels he hasn’t delivered what he’s capable of.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I feel like I can do a lot better than I’ve been doing,” he says.
Not content to sit around and wait for the Bellator Featherweight Title shot that he earned with his tournament win—the title picture is currently backlogged a bit—Straus showed his versatility in his last fight by submitting Royce Gracie black belt Alvin Robinson. The key to Straus’ newfound success? He takes no one for granted. He always has something to prove.
“If you overlook an opponent, you’ll most likely lose that fight, so I try not to look past anybody,” says Straus. “I always feel like I’m the underdog, no matter what. I feel like if I look at it like that, I’ll fight like I’m the underdog, and it’s going to give me the win.”
That attitude is obviously working. Straus has won five consecutive bouts since his loss to Freire. Now he intends to wait for the title picture to clear up, and he hopes to get a chance to avenge his loss to Freire.
Current champion Pat Curran, who is rehabbing an injury, will next defend his title against Freire, with Straus challenging the winner. “My goal is to get that belt around my waist,” says Straus. “I’m just waiting for that chance.”
KEY VICTORIES: Aisling Daly, Roxanne Modafferi, Felice Herrig
WEIGHT CLASS: 125 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
NICKNAME: Little Warrior
Currently riding a six-fight winning streak, up-and-comer Barb “Little Warrior” Honchak is quickly establishing herself as someone to reckoned with in Invicta FC’s 125-pound division. Proof positive of her growing potential is her second-round TKO victory over Bethany Marshall in July and a unanimous decision over Aisling Daly in October. Those two victories under the Invicta banner continued her winning ways over tough competition, including highly touted Felice Herrig.
Honchak attributes much of her recent success to a switch to Miletich Fighting Systems in Iowa. She adds that there’s not one physical thing that has led to her winning streak, but her attitude in training has been making a big difference.
“I just train as hard as I can possibly train, and whether it’s a win or loss, after a fight, I go back and study up on where I was weak or most vulnerable and find the mistakes and try to fix them,” she says. “I think that is the key to my success, trying to fix my problems so it doesn’t happen gain. I know other girls are watching those videos and seeing what happens in those fights, so I try to fix all the problems I’ve had in my previous fights.”
With Invicta introducing championship fights at its most recent event, Honchak is positioning herself for a flyweight title shot. Although it’s still a little tough to catch a glimpse of the top women in MMA, Invicta is giving women a platform to ply their wares, and UFC president Dana White is warming more and more to the idea of women fighting in the Octagon. Keep your eyes open for fighters like Barb Honchak—as the women’s side of the sport explodes, she’s definitely one to watch.
KEY VICTORIES: Ken Stone, John Albert, Paul McVeigh
WEIGHT CLASS: 135 lbs.
NICKNAME: El Goyito
Greg Jackson may not be on UFC president Dana White’s Christmas card list, but there’s no arguing that he and his fellow coaches in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are helping lead many fighters to the top of the proverbial heap. The latest Jackson talent to creep into the spotlight is bantamweight Erik “El Goyito” Perez.
The native Mexican is only 22 years old, but he already has more than four years of experience under his belt. He lost his first two professional bouts (both by split decision), but once he got going, Perez didn’t look back, going 12-2 in his next 14 fights.
A talented submission artist, Perez worked his way through the ranks before finally getting his opportunity at the big leagues as a lastminute replacement at the TUF Live Finale in June 2012. Perez made the most of that opportunity, submitting highly touted TUF Live cast member John “Prince” Albert via armbar in the first round. He backed up that performance with highlight-reel, 17-second knockout of Ken Stone at UFC 150 in August.
The expectations for Perez are now high, but he is up to the challenge. He will make his third appearance in the Octagon on December 29 in Las Vegas, when he faces Byron Bloodworth at the promotion’s year-end UFC 155 event. Should he get past Bloodworth, Perez is likely to start climbing up the bantamweight title ladder.