The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) departs from its usual home in Las Vegas, Nevada, to venture into London, England, this Saturday, July 22, 2023. This exciting event provides an ideal platform to introduce new talents to the audience. In this edition of New Blood, which has transformed into a recap of the Contender Series, we shine the spotlight on three remarkable European fighters and Syndicate MMA’s exceptional Muay Thai coach.
The latest season of the UFC London Contender Series is available for viewing on ESPN+, while the older seasons can be accessed on Fight Pass.
Parkin, a training partner of KSW champion Phil De Fries, maintained an impeccable record of 6-0-1 during his amateur career before transitioning to the professional level in 2019. With a remarkable streak of five knockout victories, he earned the opportunity to compete in the Contender Series. There, he demonstrated his skills by securing a submission victory over Eduardo Neves, ultimately securing a well-deserved UFC contract.
Standing at an imposing 6’4″ and boasting an impressive 79-inch reach, Parkin possesses all the physical attributes necessary for success in this division. Weighing a solid 259 pounds during his last outing, he truly fits the mold for this weight class. Yet, Parkin is not simply a behemoth; his boxing skills are well-developed, particularly on his feet, where he employs a formidable jab and wields a dangerous looping right hand. Demonstrating versatility, he confidently takes the lead, frequently unleashing that powerful right hand, while also displaying remarkable sharpness in his counter-attacking abilities.
His standup performance appears to be relatively solid, with no significant flaws observed. However, he did seem somewhat taken aback by Neves’ aggressive approach. It’s worth noting that Neves was the first opponent he faced with a winning record, so it’s possible that dealing with such challenges may improve over time.
While it may not be the case, he demonstrates remarkable proficiency in grappling. His takedowns show great strength, and his ground-and-pound strikes are forceful, even when in his preferred half-guard position. Surprisingly, he excels in swiftly getting back to his feet, a skill uncommon among individuals of his stature. During his bout with Neves, Parkin was taken down into half-guard initially, but he quickly countered by standing up with an underhook, taking Neves down a few times, and ultimately securing a rear-naked choke when Neves attempted to rise again.
While not on the same phenom level as his compatriot Tom Aspinall, Parkin possesses a compelling blend of size, technical skills, and versatility, which undoubtedly strengthens the team’s roster. He faces a challenging opponent in Jamal Pogues, another Contender Series alumnus known for his formidable boxing and wrestling abilities. However, the matchup promises to be more closely contested than the odds might indicate.
Jonny “The Sluggernaut” Parsons
Weight Class: Welterweight
Record: 8-3 (6 KO)
Notable Victories: Solomon Renfro
Following a remarkable 4-3 professional start, Parsons finally hit his stride when he joined Jorge Masvidal’s iKon Fighting Federation, securing an impressive trifecta of knockout victories. This series of wins earned him a well-deserved spot in the Contender Series, where he showcased his resilience by overcoming early challenges and narrowly outlasting Solomon Renfro to secure a coveted UFC contract.
Parsons, despite the moniker, is genuinely an expert Muay Thai practitioner. His technique adheres closely to the traditional Thai style, in contrast to the Dutch flurries-and-low-kicks approach. With a tall and square stance, he unleashes powerful kicks while maintaining a high guard, and typically restricts his boxing combinations to two or three punches. Remarkably, he displays equal proficiency from both stances, but his kicks appear particularly fearsome when he adopts the southpaw position.
I must emphasize that he possesses exceptional skills in defending against low kicks. After closely analyzing three of his fights, I can confidently say that he managed to avoid any significant impact from clean low kicks. Moreover, he demonstrates remarkable proficiency in catching kicks and efficiently sweeping the trailing leg from under his adversaries.
Although he effectively employs the benefits of the Thai stance, he also experiences certain limitations. Maintaining a high guard makes him susceptible to body shots, a vulnerability that becomes more pronounced due to his limited head and upper-body movement. Additionally, the high guard appears susceptible to straight punches, and in moments of distress, he tends to adopt a defensive posture and counterattack.
Furthermore, his stance transitions tend to be too telegraphed, and he sometimes overcommits, leaving him vulnerable to counters. While his standup skills are generally commendable, they lack the necessary dynamism to truly excel, and the noticeable weaknesses in his technique make it challenging for him to secure finishes against more skilled opponents.
In the realm of grappling, he displays a strong affinity for executing Thai-style foot sweeps, skillfully using them to either bring his opponents down or disrupt their balance effectively. When he secures the top position, he showcases considerable power in his ground-and-pound technique and is quick to capitalize on opportunities for the crucifix position. Additionally, he demonstrates impressive awareness and responsiveness in seeking under hooks when opponents attempt to change levels on him. Although Renfro succeeded in taking him down and spending some time on top, he thwarted multiple subsequent attempts to do the same.
I would assess Parsons as a moderately skilled fighter, somewhere in the lower-middle range among his peers. His initial appearance in the fighting scene was against the unfortunate Micheal Gillmore, but now he is set to take on Danny Roberts in a closely contested matchup. Roberts, while possessing well-rounded skills and being a competent striker, has encountered a series of tough losses, and his durability has been a matter of concern.
His iKon bouts are on Fight Pass.
Shauna “Mama B” Bannon
Weight Class: Strawweight
Record: 5-0 (2 KO)
Notable Victories: Minna Grusander, Nadia Vera
Bannon, who honed her skills under the mentorship of UFC veteran Paddy Holohan, concluded her amateur journey triumphantly with a remarkable five-fight winning streak. Her success seamlessly translated into the professional arena, as evidenced by her dominant performance against Minna Grusander in March 2023.
Bannon’s remarkable combat style revolves around agile kicks and swift combinations of punches, displaying her dexterity to the fullest. Continuously moving, she effortlessly transitions between stances while unleashing powerful body kicks and precise straight punches. With a background in taekwondo, her exceptional speed and nimbleness enable her to execute a diverse range of head and body kicks with incredible effectiveness. Although she rarely employs hooks or uppercuts, her jab remains razor-sharp, even while evading or moving backward.
She excels at maintaining distance and poses a significant threat with her punches, knees, and footwork. However, when it comes to close-quarters combat, she appears somewhat uneasy and awkward. It’s challenging to precisely describe, but when she gets hit, it seems like she momentarily loses focus, allowing her opponents to capitalize with combinations before she recollects herself to either clinch or create space. Although she demonstrates good resilience and speedy recovery, it raises concerns about her ability to handle aggressive strikers in close-range encounters.
Additionally, she has a tendency to telegraph her big roundhouse kicks, but despite that, she remains a formidable striker with great strength.
She displays remarkable skills on the mat, showcasing impressive ground-and-pound techniques from the top position and exhibiting a formidable triangle series from her back. Although she found herself in a bottom position for a considerable time during her bout with Nadia Vera, it seems that she rectified that aspect of her game when facing Grusander, executing swift sweeps to return to her feet. While she doesn’t frequently initiate takedowns, she relies on her strong whizzer to maintain a standing position and can execute clinch takedowns when the need arises.
I am genuinely impressed by Bannon’s exceptional athleticism and versatility, making her a formidable competitor even at a weight class as light as 115 pounds. With her determination and focus, it seems highly likely that she will have no difficulty dealing with her first opponent, Bruna Brasil. It’s evident that Brasil struggles with managing distance effectively, as seen in her previous bout against Denise Gomes, where she succumbed to the relentless pressure.
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 16-5 (7 KO, 6 SUB)
Notable Victories: Ivan Hernandez-Flores
Spain’s Barez gained valuable experience in the European circuit before transitioning to Combate, and eventually earning a spot on Contender Series. Despite a close split decision loss to Carlos Hernandez, he quickly bounced back, impressively securing four consecutive first-round finishes.
Barez possesses a remarkable combination of outstanding speed, formidable punching power, and expertly timed takedowns. His aggression is distributed evenly across the head, body, and calves, making his attacks equally vicious. Notably, his jab alone is forceful enough to bring opponents to their knees. Barez’s ability to string together deadly combinations is awe-inspiring, exemplified by his previous fight where he executed a devastating right uppercut followed by a liver shot that folded Paul Marquez Moreno.
When facing Barez’s offense, you’ll notice some weaknesses if you stand your ground. He tends to follow a linear attacking and retreating pattern, leaving his chin exposed and susceptible to counterattacks. This vulnerability becomes more evident as the fight progresses, particularly evident in his last bout against Hernandez. It’s worth noting that in his recent fights, two were decided by split decisions and one by a majority decision, indicating that his stamina and performance might dwindle as the fight goes on. Despite still being able to execute multiple takedowns in the final round of his last fight, it’s essential to monitor his energy levels closely.
If striking doesn’t seem to be effective, he demonstrates excellent timing on his takedowns, particularly when moving backward. His aggressiveness on top is notable, with proficiency in both striking and submissions, as demonstrated by an impressive back take against Hernandez. However, it’s worth mentioning that while he successfully defended all eight of Hernandez’s takedown attempts, he encountered some difficulties when fighting from his back after being knocked off-balance.
Barez possesses remarkable talents, providing captivating performances and showcasing an impressive ability to finish his opponents. Regrettably, being in his mid-30s, the concerns about his cardiovascular endurance may persist. Nevertheless, I am pleased to witness his presence in the Octagon, as he is bound to deliver exciting fights. One particular matchup that stands out is his debut against Jafel Filho, which appears to be a thrilling and evenly matched encounter.
His UWC bouts are on Fight Pass.
Please note that MMAmania.com will provide real-time, detailed coverage of the complete UFC London fight card. The coverage will commence with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 12 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET. Stay tuned for live updates and a blow-by-blow account of all the action.