Octagon Oracles: Former Combate Americas Champion Rafa Garcia

Rafa Garcia gets his left arm raised by a referee while holding the flag of Mexico in his other. Rafa Garcia will get his undefeated record tested on Saturday. Photo Credit: Combate Americas

Rafa Garcia comes into the UFC on short notice but it’s been a long time coming. Garcia is a veteran of Combate Americas, having competed for them now eight times. Along the way he beat prospects like Erick Gonzalez and Chase Gibson. Garcia has wins over former UFC fighters Humberto Bandenay and Estevan Payan. In his last fight – his sendoff to the UFC, Garcia won the Combate Americas Lightweigth Championship.

Garcia will be stepping in against Nasrau Haqparast. Haqparast was supposed to take on Don Madge, but visa issues stopped Madge from travelling out of South Africa. Garcia with his undefeated record will look to be the fourth person to beat Haqparast.

Shawn Bitter

Grade: C+
Garcia has done it right to get into the UFC. He’s got a good amount of experience beforehand and tested himself against some good fighters. Garcia is a jiu-jitsu guy but likes to stand and trade. On the feet what he does well is press forward, throw that massive looping overhand right, and close the distance. I see him having trouble closing the distance and getting picked apart from the outside. Garcia does not use the most effective footwork but instead follows his opponents. I wouldn’t rate his wrestling high just because he doesn’t set things up. Garcia is good at just dropping down and grabbing a single leg. Most of the time he won’t complete the takedown on the first attempt but will at least push guys against the cage and get it down from there. Garcia is a slick grappler and a very dangerous submission threat when he opens up.

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Vince Rodemer

Grade: B-
I kind of like Garcia. He’s a bit of a fireplug. I watched his fight with Humberto Bandenay. Garcia is way shorter and looks to have less reach, but is extremely aggressive head hunting Bandenay and mixes in takedowns. He knows what he has to do as the shorter guy and goes out and does it. I do like Combate as a promotion, but outside of Humberto Bandenay, Garcia’s level of competition hasn’t been great. Garcia does strike me as the kind of guy that would fight the best guy in the world and the worst guy in the world with the same style. His game plan won’t change.

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Kristen King

Grade: B+
Garcia is a former Combate Americas Lightweight Champion and it is easy to see why. The undefeated Mexican prospect knows how to mix up his game well, opting to stay on the feet and strike for a while before shooting in for a takedown. If Garcia can secure that takedown, his opponent is in for either a short or long night because “Gifted” has two options here: submit or overwhelm. If Garcia cannot secure that takedown, then he will continue to push forward until an opening presents itself. A concern that I have with Garcia is his striking is not the best we have ever seen, which could be a problem against more powerful, volume-heavy strikers. He has time to work on this as he is fairly young in the sport, so I believe he will look better as he goes on in his career.

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Tom Albano

Grade: A-
Garcia should have had a better 2020 than one successful Combate Americas title defense, but circumstances like COVID-19 put a halt to that. But now, we get to see one of the best young up-and-comers from Mexico make his UFC debut. Garcia isn’t the most superb boxer, but he’s got the skills and some power that can rattle an opponent. When it comes to grappling, Garcia finds even better success overwhelming his opponents into submission. There’s a reason for any hype you hear about Garcia; he’s a proven finisher and a proven talent. At just 26, there may be better things to come for him. Fighting Nasrat Haqparast on less than a week’s notice is an admittedly not-so-easy task for a promotional debut. But this is the biggest chance for Garcia — a Treigning Lab product and teammate to the likes of T.J. Dillashaw, Cub Swanson, and Juan Archuleta — to show what kind of star he truly has the potential to be.

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Joseph Shaw

Grade: B
Many people have called for Garcia to join the UFC for a long time.  He’s a new addition to the talent-infested lightweight division and he’s going to have to be something special to break into top 15. He is the former Combate Americas champion at 155-pounds. I do see him being a mainstay in the UFC who can crack into the top 15.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
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Title Contender
Champion