UFC on ESPN 14 rookie report: Grading the newcomers at 'UFC Fight Island'
Fighters from around the globe dream of the day they’ll step into the UFC octagon for the first time. For five athletes, Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 14 event marked that special moment in their respective careers.
Check out this week’s rookie report to see what kind of first impression they made on the sport’s biggest stage from Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
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Result: Nathaniel Wood def. John Castaneda via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Record: (17-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
John Castaneda may not have picked up the victory he would have hoped for in his short-notice UFC debut, the 28-year-old did an admirable job as he held his own against highly-rated British prospect Nathaniel Wood in their preliminary card opener.
Castaneda made good use of his leg kicks early and had particular success on his exits from the clinch. But “Sexi Mexi” also found himself caught by Wood’s strikes throughout a competitive opening round.
Castaneda’s aggression continued in the second round as the Minnesota native pushed forward, but that willingness to step forward saw him present a relatively easy target for Wood to hit and a slick three punch combination from the Brit left him with a cut above the right eye.
He was forced to switch to orthodox from his usual southpaw stance as a result of Wood’s thumping leg kicks, but the debutant kept pushing forward and applying pressure, despite coming off second best in the exchanges.
Encouraged to “fight like a lion” by his corner, Castaneda did just that in the final round as he returned to southpaw and loaded up on his strikes. But Wood’s slicker, more relaxed striking continually punished Castaneda when he stepped into striking range.
All in all, it was a solid debut against a fighter who has been tipped to go a long way in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Next up: Low strike output costs German debutant dear.