Octagon Oracles: First Quarter Re-Evaluations

The stock of many UFC debutants has changed. Photo Credit: Valor Fights, Casey O'Neill Instagram, UFC Fight Pass

The staff here at MMA-Prospects.com has run the “Octagon Oracles” series for 16 UFC newcomers this year. While we take pride in the predictions we have made on some fighters, there are others that we weren’t spot on about. In this episode, we’ll be looking at fighters we either underrated or overrated in the series.

Tom Albano

Ronnie Lawrence
There comes a time when one has to admit that he or she was wrong on a stance. This is one of those times for me. Ronnie Lawrence was praised as being “special” by UFC President Dana White following his win over Jose Johnson on Dana White’s Contender Series. I had ended my original take on Lawrence by stating “there still needs to be more seen before that label can be applied.” Well, he showed it against Vince Cachero in late February.

Starting off with some skilled striking from his leg kicks to his spinning attacks, Lawrence also showed off his skills in grappling and wrestling throughout the fight. He held the top position for a significant amount of time and didn’t let up on his ground strikes and submission attacks, eventually finishing things in the third with some hard-hitting shots. What’s funny is at his post-fight interview, he admitted he was concerned about his cardio and controlling the pace of the fight. However, from what I could see in the octagon, Lawrence looked to be on another level. Maybe there are still questions about his cardio, his level of competition or even his age as a prospect, but Lawrence has shown he’s got quite a skillset. He is definitely one to watch out for.

Albano changes Lawrence grade from a “C+” to a “B” and changes the career trajectory from “50/50 winner” to a “Mainstay Through the Years”

Kristen King

Casey O’Neill
I played it too safe when it came to grading Casey O’Neill ahead of her UFC debut and I have to adjust myself, especially after the performance she put on against Shana Dobson at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis in February.

As expected, O’Neill completely dominated the fight when it went to the ground as she just mauled Dobson for the better part of two rounds. She eventually earned a second-round stoppage over Dobson and she looked phenomenal the entire time. I had questions about her striking, but O’Neill seems to be improving in that department and I believe that makes her even more of a problem at flyweight.

King changes O’Neill’s grade from a “C” to an “A” and changes the career trajectory from “50/50 winner” to a “Top 10”

Vince Rodemer

Cheyanne Buys
It may be too early to say any of us were wrong about these prospects, but Buys was an all-around disaster in her debut. She was taken down several times from the head-and-arm throw by a five-foot, 115 pound lady in Montserrat Conejo and being controlled by her. From the limited tape I saw, Conejo looked to be a striker that marches forward and throws sort of in the same manner Buys did in her “Contender Series” fight that earned her a UFC contract. Buys and her team clearly weren’t prepared for the throws and were not able to make any adjustments on the fly. That’s concerning for a prospect, especially one at a well-respected team in Fortis MMA. Some people would say, ‘OK, that’s a prospect, that’s part of the learning curve,’.

I covered a UFC fight a few years ago between debuting Sean Woodson and Kyle Bochniak. Bochniak was coming off an unbelievable stand up war with Zabit Magomedsharipov and it figured to be another bonus hunt for him against Woodson. It wasn’t. The former Gloucester wrestler took the former boxer Woodson down three minutes in. Woodson got up and that was the last takedown he got. Bochniak went one-for-15 on his attempts. Credit to Woodson, his coach James Krause and his team that Glory MMA for making adjustments.

Buys and her team saw what Ruiz was trying to do and did nothing to adjust to it or stop it. When she returns, I’m looking for Buys to not only implement her game plan, but make adjustments and have a plan B and plan C if plan A doesn’t work. She’s only 25. Her stock definitely went down, but she has plenty of time.

Rodemer changes Buys grade from a “B+” to a “B-” and keeps the career trajectory as a “Top 15”

Shawn Bitter

Uros Medic
Myself, I’ve always discredited Uros Medic. I’ve always mentioned fighting for Alaska FC and his level of competition has made him look better than what he really is. As I do think his level of competition still needs to improve, his last two opponents on paper were at least pivotal tests. He’s now prevailed in both tests and looked flawless, stopping both fights in under four minutes combined. In his prior five fights, Medic has also finished all of them.

Medic’s now training out of Kings MMA, and they’re going to help mold him into the fighter many think he can be. There are still questions on his grappling defense and how he will fare when he fights someone at a higher level. I will admit Medic is much better than what I thought and I’m now on the hype train. A fight with someone like Rafa Garcia would show how good Medic truly is.

Bitter changes Medic’s grade from a “C+” to a “B-” and changes the career trajectory from “Out within 1-2 years” to a “Bonus winner”

Joe McDonagh

Manel Kape
Kape’s fight IQ needs to grow. He lacks urgency at times, he could be looking at a must-win to stay in the UFC (0-2) in his next fight. I haven’t dropped a ton on Kape, but slightly, and if he doesn’t win his next one I may lose those high hopes.

McDonagh changes Kape’s grade from an “A-” to a “B+” and changes the career trajectory from “Future champion” to a “Top 10”