This week, we feature two up-and-coming fighters both inside and outside of the UFC. One is an unranked fighter competing on this week’s UFC Vegas 29 card, Casey O’Neill. The focus here is on a fighter who has never been ranked, but who could be one day. The other, Amiran Gogoladze, is a prospect outside the UFC who has a very high ceiling.
Flyweight, Casey O’Neill (6-0)
UFC Vegas 29 goes down this Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada inside the Apex arena. The card is topped off between two featherweight contenders in Chan Sung Jung and Dan Ige. On theis card, there weren’t too many options in terms of prospects. With that said, when scanning the bottom of the card Casey O’Neill was a no-brainer.
Casey O’Neill signed with the UFC earlier this year in February. Prior to the UFC call-up there were questions as to whether it was too soon, due to O’Neill only having five professional fights. She made the best of her debut however and dominated Shana Dobson to a second-round stoppage.
Where O’Neill is best is when she’s on the mat working her jiu-jitsu. To get the fight where she wants it her wrestling has been a growing process. Her basic wrestling has been getting better and in the clinch she does very well at trapping a leg for a takedown. Once on the mat, she immediately shows that she’s extremely aggressive. O’Neill doesn’t have the heaviest ground and pound but she will relentlessly throw punches and elbows making her opponent’s life difficult. No matter where she’s at on the mat O’Neill is working to finish or improve her position. Even off her back she’s constantly fighting the wrists, throwing up her legs, creating space, and scrambling to get back on top.
O’Neill throws nice leg kicks and with her hands, she’s aggressive with output in her forward motion. O’Neill has well-equipped hands throwing stinging punches and landing one-twos. She is slow at getting her hands back to her face and her inability to move her head results in her getting hit too easily. Getting hit with no real issue is actually her biggest issue. Walking forward and eating shots coming in is a big concern because eventually, O’Neill is going to find someone that will make her pay. The potential is there and at only 23 it may take some time but she will get there.
The Scottish/Australian flyweight will be fighting the Brazilian Lara Procópio at UFC Vegas 29. Procopio first and foremost is a very strong grappler. Her standup is decent but her striking defense is a bit shaky and her movement is really just straightforward. Her striking, in general, is not somewhere she is strong, but she does a fine job letting go to enter the clinch. Procopio has strong BJJ and it shows with her submission base, ability to get dominant positions easily, and smooth transitions. It’s going to come down to who has the better wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Procópio falls short at times getting taken down and losing scrambles which results in her on her back. In those small spaces, I expect O’Neill to just have too much offense on the mat. For O’Neill, this is by far her toughest fight to date and I still think she gets it done.
Welterweight, Amiran Gogoladze (11-1)
The UFC struck hot with Georgia in the last two years with fighters like Ilia Topuria, Guram Kutateladze, and of course Giga Chikadze. Not to mention the earlier signing of Merab Dvalishvili. There have been a few Georgian fighters outside the UFC making their case for a big opportunity and Gogoladze is one of those. In his last fight, taking out a veteran like Pavel Kusch in under a minute put his name right on the map.
Gogoladze is a highlight-reel finisher both on the feet and on the mat. He is extremely slick on the mat, especially off his back. He’s a sharp submission hunter and that shows with three submission victories by three different submissions. He’ll utilize a lot of feints on the feet which set up the eventual finish. Gogoladze throws a dangerous head kick and just very tricky and explosive. He’s only 23 so Gogoladze is going to be a name to hear in the next few years.
Looking to steal the spotlight from the Georgian is Brazil’s Handesson Ferreira. Ferreira competed last season in the PFL welterweight tournament and went 1-1. This is a stiff test for Gogoladze as Ferreira is a dangerous guy everywhere the fight goes. He’s got heavy hands, solid jiu-jistsu, and credible wrestling. Ferreira has shown to slow as the fight goes on and gets pretty sloppy with his movement, hands, and takedown attempts. He’s also already 33-years-old fighting against a young guy with tons of momentum. I see Gogoladze as the more well-rounded fighter and better in all areas. They will fight Friday at UAE Warriors 20 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.