Drawing Straws: The Future Strawweight Elite of the UFC Robby Collins February 12, 2013 News Legend has it that when Bruce Lee shot fight footage for his movies, the studio would later have to reduce the video speed so that viewers could see Lee’s individual movements. There may never be another 135-pounder who’s as fast as the Chinese master was in his prime. Remove twenty or so pounds from the equation, however, and we might be able to work something out. The obvious question is: With the UFC entertaining the notion of adding strawweights to its ranks, where do will it find a 115-pound male who’s over the age of 16 and not too frail to walk up the steps to the cage? The answer: here and there, but more there than here. The one name from this emerging weight class that fight fans are likely to know is Rambaa Somdet. The 5-foot-2 Thai fireball holds a victory over current UFC flyweight Ulysses Gomez and has the personality to match his high-octane skills. At age 38, however, Somdet could be into his twilight years as a fighter. We’ll get back to him, but for now let’s look at three lesser-known micro-beasts, each of whose potential far exceeds his physical stature. Rey Docyogen – Philippines Filipino fighter Rey Docyogen was voted by his high school yearbook committee as “the man most likely to defy the laws of physics.” Okay, I made that up, but if he wasn’t, then he should have been. One of Docyogen’s fights is forever etched into my memory. It’s a display of such flying fury and otherworldly gymnastics that it brought me to label him the fastest and most exciting fighter in the world. “The Punisher,” a nickname that seems both apt and ironic, even fights in a sideways stance, Bruce Lee-style. The Wushu-based Docyogen also brings elements of Capoeira and “invisible trapeze” into the cage. That’s the best description I can offer anyway. Docyogen currently holds the URCC 119-pound title, which means he’d need to cut an additional four pounds to make the accepted strawweight limit, but that’s nothing that should prove too challenging for the 5-foot-5 Team Lakay fighter. However, given the lack of competition at 115 pounds, Docyogen recently opted to move up in weight and accept a flyweight duel with Shinichi “BJ” Kojima. Although he performed well, Docyogen tapped to a guillotine choke late in the second round, giving Kojima the victory. This first loss could inspire “The Punisher” to rethink strawweight, should new opportunities arise in the division. For some time I’ve wanted to see Docyogen on a bigger stage, and that dream may soon be within reach. I mean hisdream, of course. Call it mixed martial poetry, but you really have to see Docyogen fight to appreciate him. And when you do, keep thinking to yourself that this guy holds a degree in architecture—it’ll make for an even more interesting effect. Lincoln de Sa – Brazil There are very few fourth-year fighters in the world who can still brag about being unfinished. Lincoln “Cowboy” de Sa is one of them. In 2010, a split decision victory over Michael Willian Costa earned de Sa the Shooto South American 115-pound title. From there, he was expected to fight Rambaa Somdet for a combined world title, a fight which would never materialize. De Sa went on to defend his South American belt against Andre Costa Pereira, before assuming a more nomadic fight path, one in which he’s enjoyed additional success. De Sa’s only recent loss came at the hands of highly-regarded flyweight prospect Alexandre Pantoja. Brilliant timing is what jumps out in watching de Sa fight. Great fakes and quick level changes combine to give him a nice wrestling advantage, and crafty jiu-jitsu makes for an expedient finish. Add to that powerful leg kicks that give de Sa’s fight style, however unrefined, shades of Jose Aldo. The cowboy’s most recent fight was also at flyweight, where he won a narrow decision over 18-2 prospect Joriedson Fein. Between flyweight and strawweight, de Sa has done well to keep himself active and maintain his prospect value. He will start off 2013 in a rematch with Fein, fighting for a new promotion called MMA Champions League. If he’s victorious, he might opt to stay at flyweight and could even get an invite to the UFC’s 125-pound division. Yet, de Sa’s future is ultimately at 115 pounds, where he can not only win, but outshine his competition. The only question: Is there room enough in the UFC for more than one cowboy? Mikihito Yamagami – Japan Mikihito Yamagami is 5-foot-8 and weighs in at 115 pounds. Why does that concern me? Nevertheless, the Japanese walking stick owns, and has defended, the Shooto 114-pound title and continues to whirl his way toward a success level which could one day land him in the Octagon. With eight wins and two losses, Yamagami’s record also sports a notable four finishes, a pair each of knockouts and submissions. Hey, there are renowned UFC lightweights who don’t finish half their fights (losses excluded). Yamagami has a rare brawler’s style for a smaller fighter and for a kickboxer, for that matter. He likes to come out of the gates full force and buzz-saw his opponents in the opening seconds of a round. Yet, Yamagami also shows some nice counter striking and a variety of weapons. Where his “Korean Zombie”-like aggression doesn’t get the job done, his half-court game seems to fill in the gaps. Yamagami gets the third nod here for being the current Shooto champion and for his aggressive brawler style of fighting. Assuming the 115 pounders do find their way to the UFC, Japan will likely dominate the division. There are several other strawweights from the Land of the Rising Sun who belong in the same circle as Yamagami: Shinya Murofushi, Yuki Shojo, Tadaaki Yamamoto, Yamato Okada and the undefeated Jun Nakamura, who has submitted all but one of his six opponents. In all, it’s a division that holds promise, however remote. And let’s not forget that we could see current flyweight prospects making the cut to 115 in future days—fighter’s such as China’s Meixuan Zhang (5-1, with four submissions) and Germany’s Andreas Bernhard (7-3, with four finishes), as well as the current 120-pound King of Pancrase, Mitsuhisa Sunabe. And it’s not unthinkable that a couple of the UFC’s flyweights will one day find a home in the strawweight division. However, in terms of the potential elite, I’m holding my ground with the three fighters mentioned above. And assuming Rambaa Somdet continues to fight, that would give the UFC a nice “fearsome foursome” around which to build something similar to its current flyweight quartet of Demetrious Johnson, John Dodson, Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez. Adding a new division certainly adds a degree of excitement and intrigue to the picture. Yet the outlook is uncertain for the strawweights. It shouldn’t be difficult for them to pull their weight, but the question of course is whether fans will pay to see them. Is there really a demand for these nano-warriors to strut their acrobatics in the Octagon? Well, a lot of us asked something similar when the flyweights were introduced, and now they’re headlining UFC on Fox shows—and quite successfully, I might add. Give the 115-pounders a fair shake before you send them packing. Will there be any Uriah Hall ambulance-inducing knockouts, you ask? Negative. Will there be as much action in fifteen minutes time as there is in an entire Michael Bay movie? Signs point to yes. Generally speaking, if you enjoy the flyweights, you’ll enjoy the strawweight men. Just mix in a little Cirque du Soleil and a triple espresso. Many will call it UFC Lite, and not be incorrect, but we’ll all be hard-pressed to find a pause in the action long enough to get to the fridge and back. And for those of us who always begged for double and triple rides at the amusement park when we were kids, this might be the closest thing adult life has to offer. Just remember to set your DVR so you can watch it again at half speed later and see everything you missed. Photo: Lincoln de Sa (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog) braddah shano We actually coined the term, “Strawweight”, in 2010…after a suggestion by Anthony Brancato, on the UG forum. We’ve been working hard to push & promote this weight class and get them in the UFC. We actually started listing 115lb fighters way back in 1999. Please visit our Facebook page and show your support! mahalo nui loa braddah shano By the way…Loved your article! Robby Collins Hey thanks, I will check out the page!