The UFC hits Norfolk, Virginia, US this week for a Fight Night card headlined by Joe Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo, looking to crown the new flyweight champion. Though thanks to a weigh-in flub, only Joe B can really become champ. Throughout the UFC Norfolk card, you’ll also find a whole bunch of prospects making their first walk to the octagon. When it comes to debuting fighters, there will be five DWCS vets, a Brazilian, and a ginger ready to make an impact. That’s right, seven fighters have their coming out party this weekend.
This week, our panel gives their expectations for the octagon debuts of Aalon Cruz, Spike Carlyle, TJ Brown, Kyler Phillips, Steve Garcia Jr, Darrick Minner, and Norma Dumont.
Aalon Cruz (D) (8-2) vs. Spike Carlyle (D) (8-1)
Narrative: A pair of debuting featherweights collide early on the UFC Norfolk card. Aalon Cruz comes in off the Contender Series, while ‘The Alpha Ginger’ Spike Carlyle steps up as his short notice replacement. That’s after Steven ‘Ocho’ Peterson was forced to withdraw. As luck would have it, Carlyle — who has fought at lightweight — was already cutting down to 145lbs for a Muay Thai bout.
Shawn Bitter: What comes to mind right off the bat is the size advantage of Cruz. He’s got a six-inch height advantage over Carlyle. Cruz is a good fighter that knows how to use his range very well, and that’s going to be a huge factor in this fight. Cruz throws a good jab and is an excellent kickboxer. Carlyle is aggressive like no other though and if he can get to the inside he could power Cruz around. I’m siding with Cruz because he’s a much longer fighter who really knows how to use his length.
Max Freedman: In what could steal the show and grab Fight of the Night, Cruz’s speed and diverse striking lands him a decision win.
Kristen King: I am leaning towards Aalon Cruz in his fight against Spike Carlyle because I think he can avoid the heavy shots and wrestling of his opponent. It is true that Carlyle has some serious power and will rely on his ability to drag a guy down to the mat, but I see him having trouble doing that against Cruz. I think Cruz stays on the outside, picks his shots (which will probably frustrate Carlyle), and pick up a unanimous decision.
Anthony Walker: N/A
Keith Shillan: Cruz
Marcel Dorff: Aalon Cruz vs. Spike Carlyle is an intriguing fight. Both making their UFC debuts. Cruz coming of from the Contender Series with a huge win over Steven Nguyen. He was supposed to fight Nguyen’s teammate Steven Peterson. But Peterson had to pull out due to an injury. Carlyle took the fight on short notice. Both guys have impressed me so far on the regional scene but I expect Cruz to have the advantage based on a full training camp and better stand-up. Taking Cruz via TKO.
Ryan Fortune: Cruz
Daniel Vreeland: Cruz