Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Friday night will showcase two of New England's rising stars performing with two separate promotions on two opposite ends of the country.
Vinicius De Jesus Looks to Prove Why He's the Hottest Prospect in New England
#1 ranked NEMMA welterweight, Vinicius De Jesus (9-2) will enter the cage to take on one of the stiffest opponents of his career. Jaleel Willis (12-2) is a very good wrestler who is heavy-handed with a great gas tank. Willis went 4-0 as an amateur, debuting back in 2012 on the Tennessee regional scene. He then rattled off 8 consecutive victories to start his professional MMA career before dropping a decision to former UFC fighter Kyle Stewart under the LFA banner. He then won a quick stoppage in his next fight, and then dropped a controversial TKO loss to a very tough Harvey Park where an illegal knee seemed to be the beginning of the end for Willis. After that loss to Park, Willis has regrouped in fantastic form, winning his last 3 bouts against opponents who have a combined record of 33-14.
Vinicius "The Brazilian Bad Boy" De Jesus now trains out of Stamford, Connecticut and is the current CES welterweight champion. The 30 year old Porto Alegre, Brazil native is now an adopted New Englander, and is one of the brightest prospects in the region who has one of the best shots at making serious waves at the next level. De Jesus is currently on a 4 fight win streak where his opponents had a combined record of 26-6 going into those 4 contests. He's picked up wins over #1 ranked NEMMA middleweight, Tim Caron (10-2), and #6 ranked welterweight, Jeremiah Wells (8-2-1). De Jesus had a solid run with Bellator, going 3-1 over a 2.5 year stretch.
This should be a banger of a fight between De Jesus and Willis, as both guys are tough as nails and have cardio for days. De Jesus seems to have the crisper striking, but you can't overlook the power and wrestling prowess that Willis brings to the cage. De Jesus is most effective when he is moving forward and implementing a high volumed striking game. This will be important for him to establish early in order to set the tone and start breaking the will of his opponent.
This is an incredibly important matchup for both of these fighters careers, and a win in South Dakota for the vacant LFA welterweight belt could pave the way for an entrance into the UFC outside of the Contender Series. If De Jesus can pick up a win here he'd hold two belts in 2 separate feeder organizations to the UFC (LFA & CES), and it would be very hard for the UFC to ignore this.
Will Smith Gets a Late Call From Bellator to Compete in His Backyard
With the lack of local shows going on right now locally, when New England fighters get a call from another organization it's almost impossible not to take the fight, regardless of how short notice it is. Will "Siracha" Smith (not to be confused with Aaron "Mayonnaise" Hughes) will be stepping into the Bellator MMA cage not far from his home, and although the fight was just announced this week, don't expect Smith to be unprepared for the biggest audition of his career.
"Siracha" fought a bunch of studs during his amateur career in New England (Andres Rodriguez, Ali Zebian, Kris Moutinho, and Jacobo Apito) going 4-2. Since turning pro, Smith has fought under the CES and AMMO banners locally, and put together a 3-1 record. Smith is a well-rounded fighter who's honed his skills alongside Dan Dubuque and Carlos Correia at Golden Falcon, but has recently been seen cornered by Nick Newell and the boys from FAA. Regardless of who's in his corner, Smith has be seen as one of the most technical, well-rounded fighters in the 145 pound division who has a gas tank that never depletes.
Smith will take on 20 year old Texas native, Lucas Brennan (2-0), on the preliminary card of Bellator 244. Although there isn't much known about Brennan, he looks to be a highly skilled jiu-jitsu practitioner who typically wins via submission. In his first two professional bouts under the Bellator banner he's won by submission in the 1st round. "Skywalker" is the son of former UFC fighter and MMA vet, Chris Brennan, and is coached by his father in Texas, which adds another dynamic to an already interesting matchup between the south and the north.
Smith's best path to victory in this fight is to keep the fight standing and beat Brennan up on the feet. If Brennan can get this fight to the mat, then Smith will definitely have his work cut out for him. "Siracha" will need to use his size and length advantage to dictate where this fight takes place, and if he's successful in doing that, then there is a good chance we'll see his hand raised in the center of the cage come Friday night.
Friday night will give us two talented New England fighters showing their skills under bright lights. Vinicius De Jesus has already proven himself as one of the hottest prospects on the New England scene, but don't sleep on Will Smith, as he has the pure skills and talent to be a huge problem in the featherweight division, not only here in New England, but around the country.
LFA 88 can be viewed on the UFC FightPass streaming service, and most likely will take place some time around 11:00 our time. Bellator 244 prelims can be viewed on their YouTube channel, or on Bellator's app. Smith is scheduled to be the 5th of 11 fights, and most likely will enter the cage some time around 9:00 - 10:00. Make sure you support these two New England studs by following their journeys Friday night.