LFA veteran Fernando “Fernie” Garcia picked up his fifth straight win with a victory on Contender Series 2021, and the bantamweight fighter will now make his UFC debut against Journey Newson at UFC 274 on Saturday.
Garcia was able to finish Joshua Weems in just over two minutes on Contender Series, but the Fortis MMA-trained fighter is more used to going the distance in his fights. Aside from that stoppage of Weems, Garcia had three straight rear-naked choke victories in 2018 and has gone to decision in seven of his eleven pro bouts. Four of those have been split-decisions, including his only pro loss to Cody Freeman in Garcia’s 2019 LFA debut.
Typically patient and composed in his approach on the feet, Garcia has the most success when he can keep opponents on the edge of the cage with his jab and fire off counter strikes when the opposition decides to throw. He likes to slip and counter with single shots and particularly favors a lead left hook, but he does the most damage when he can block or avoid his opponent’s strikes before returning fire with three or four hard punches. When the Texan does lead he likes to jab then follow with a wide-swinging right hand, and will sometimes plant his feet and throw hard hooks with both hands to halt his opponent’s forward pressure.
While it hasn’t been the focal point of his game on this current win streak, Garcia has shown a willingness to take the fight to the mat when he doesn’t like how things are going on the feet or wants to swing a close round in his favor. He’s displayed good timing on double leg attempts in open space and was able to take Isaiah Batin-Gonzalez down multiple times (albeit briefly) in their fight in order to halt some of Batin-Gonzalez’s pressure, including a takedown in the final seconds of the fight to seal the third round for Garcia.
Despite counter-striking being the strongest part of his game, Garcia has had some difficulty with fighters that apply pressure and don’t allow him to dictate the pace of the fight. He’s also been particularly vulnerable to leg kicks against several of his opponents. Ryan Hayes didn’t have many moments of success in their 2020 bout but was able to beat up Garcia’s lead leg throughout the fight, and Batin-Gonzalez had similar success in the first round of their matchup before largely abandoning the technique later on. Joshua Weems was landing leg kicks as well before the overhand right that dropped him, with Garcia noticeably lifting his lead leg up after eating a few of them in the opening seconds.
This matchup with Journey Newson is a fairly forgiving one as far as debuts go; Newson last appeared in a sub-one minute knockout loss to Randy Costa back in 2020, and his UFC record currently stands at 0-2 with a knockout win having been changed to a No Contest after Newson tested positive for marijuana. There’s a high chance Newson could find himself cut from the roster with a loss here, so if he comes out aggressive it may provide chances for Garcia to work some of his counter-striking.
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