Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
With still no clear indication of a return to regional MMA action, the news from New England based fighters continue to make headlines. We are now over five months removed from sanctioned MMA shows on the regional level here in New England, however our region's success on the national level continues to open doors for other top New England prospects to make their names known to the world. With a "who's up next?" feel to the first half of 2020 we take a look at three high level New England fighters ready to make an impact at the highest level; in front of UFC brass. Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series has played a pivotal role in New England's success over the last several years, leading to UFC contracts for Mike Rodriguez (10-4), Yorgan De Castro (6-1), Peter Barrett (11-3) and a developmental deal for William Knight (7-1) all the while showing the world just what New England fighters are capable of.
Norfolk, Massachusetts' Hilarie Rose (4-1) will become the first women from New England to make the Contender Series leap. The 27 year old Rose has graced the cages of the top regional promotions in New England having fought for Cage Titans and NEF, where she captured the NEF Amateur Strawweight title with a first round TKO of an ever tough Alex Walker at NEF 31: The Old Port, in November of 2017. Since turning pro in February of 2018 Rose has premiered for CES MMA exclusively, amassing a 4-1 record and riding a current 4 fight win streak, including 3 finishes for the Providence, Rhode island based promotion. Rose is over a year removed from action but has been aware of her Contender Series opportunity since early May, which was first reported to NewEnglandMMA by sources earlier this summer. That bout will come on the third week of this summers Contender Series which is set to take place August 18th, from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Rose draws an extremely tough competitor in the former Invicta and LFA Strawweight Cheyanne "The Warrior Princess" Buys (4-1) who's lone loss came at the hands of BFKC 125 pound champion Helen Peralta (4-1 overall, 2-1 MMA) by Unanimous Decision at Invicta FC 29 in May of 2018. Training at Fortis MMA in Dallas, Texas Buys trains with a slew of UFC talent including Ryan Spann, Steven Peterson, Geoff Neal and Miles Johns. Buys does not finish fights at nearly the rate of Hilarie Rose but carries with her a much stronger resume than that of the New Englander. Buys is a talented striker with an arsenal of Judo throws at her disposal, Cheyanne is strong on the mat as well but will need to be weary of the Submission game of Hilarie Rose. Both of these fighters are "in your face" type of performers who fight with high energy and tactical skills. I see this being a closely contested bout and if I had my money on these ladies; I would wager my dime on this one going the distance.
Speaking of the Contender Series, the aforementioned "Slippery" Peter Barrett (11-3) will make his long awaited UFC debut this coming Saturday (August 8th) at UFC Vegas 6 at the UFC Apex, after being awarded a contract from Dana White last summer in the desert following his Unanimous Decision victory over previously undefeated prospect Sang " The Korean Assassin" Hoon Yoo (5-1). Initially slated to fight Scotland's Danny "The Hatchet" Henry (12-4) in April, before his debut was cancelled due to Coronavirus, Plymouth, Massachusetts' superstar Barrett will now be facing his third opponent after Steve "Mean Machine" Garcia (11-4) was forced to withdraw from their early August showdown. Stepping up to welcome "Slippery Pete" to the UFC's Featherweight division is former LFA standout and factory X product Youssef "The Moroccan Devil" Zalal (9-2 overall, 2-0 UFC). All Zalal has done since signing with the UFC; is dispatch formally undefeated Austin Lingo (7-1) and 25 fight Veteran Jordan Griffin (18-8) by decision before replacing Garcia and signing to fight Barrett on short notice.
This match up has all the makings to produce fireworks, both of these men have finishing abilities on the ground as well as standing and both are known for letting it all hang out. Barrett has been itching to make his UFC promotional debut since his signing on the dotted line last year and is anxious to show the world what it's like inside the mind of "Slippery" Pete and his DGAF attitude. New England fans have come accustomed to the "Slippery" style, an all out warrior mentality that is willing to take a little, to give a little, and Barrett has done a lot more of the giving when it comes to putting it on his opponents across his 6 years as a pro. However Barrett must be careful with Zalal, who is exceptional all around the MMA game, with the uncanny ability to find holes in his opponents shield, and exploit them in the most dangerous ways possible. There is one thing you can count on in this one, and that is that once the final bell tolls, both of these guys will have left everything they had inside the octagon.
Fellow Contender Series alum and first New Englander to land a contract as part of the Dana White experiment; "Slow" Mike Rodriguez (10-4, 1-2 UFC), who also trains with Hilarie Rose amongst the stable of athletes under the Lauzon MMA umbrella, will enter the Octagon for the fifth time August 22nd against fellow Light-Heavyweight Marcin Prachnio (13-4, 0-2 UFC). Prachnio is a striker who owns ten knockouts across his thirteen professional victories, but since joining the UFC, Prachnio has wound up on the opposite side of the finish, having suffered first round knockouts at the hands of both Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) and Sam Alvey (33-14). Boston's Rodriguez has finished each one of his ten career victories in early fashion, capitalizing most recently in 2018 when he knocked out Adam Milstead (8-3) at UFC on Fox 31. Since his victory over Milstead, Rodriguez had a decision loss to John Allen (13-5) overturned to a no contest because of a failed drug test by Allen, and a first round knockout loss to Da Un Jung (13-2) at UFC on ESPN+ 23. Rodriguez will be looking to taste victory in the octagon once again as both strikers will settle the score, in a fight for their promotional lives inside the UFC Apex at UFC Vegas 7 set to be headlined by Bantamweights Pedro Munhoz (18-4) and Frankie Edgar (23-8-1).
Fight fans can tune to ESPN+ Saturday, August 8th at 6 pm eastern for UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Oleinik live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada as Barrett vs. Zalal is the second fight on the preliminary card, all leading up to the Heavyweight Contender main event between Derrick Lewis (23-7) and Alexey Oleinik (59-13-1). To tune in to the Hilarie Rose vs. Cheyanne Buys just ten days later fight fans will have to tune in to UFC Fightpass at 8 pm eastern as Rose vs. Buys is scheduled to take the co-main event spot on week 3 of the Contenders Series 2020 on August 18th. Fans can then tune back to ESPN+ just four days later on August 22nd at 6 pm eastern as Mike Rodriguez locks horns with Marcin Prachnio at UFC Fight Night Munhoz vs. Edgar.