Welcome to the UFC, Martin Bravo & Claudio Puelles

The Ultimate Fighter has become something of an afterthought for many fans; a view that extends that much further when you’re talking about an international version like TUF Latin America. However, with another season in the books, the UFC is set to bring on two new lightweights to make their debuts at the Ultimate Fighter Latin America 3 finale. Martin Bravo will face Claudio Puelles for the title of TUF champion, and if you haven’t been watching, it’s time to figure out just who these guys are. So…

Who is Martin Bravo?

The 23-year old “Toro” enters the UFC fighting out of Entram Gym in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. It’s the same camp that has played host to UFC fighters Akbarh Arreola, Alejandro Perez, Henry Briones, Polo Reyes, Jose Alberto Quinones, and recent upset success story Brandon Moreno. It appears, to date, to be the major channel for Mexican fighters looking to enter the UFC. Bravo carries a 10-0 unbeaten record into the Octagon, as well as the three exhibition bout wins from his TUF stint. His record isn’t very remarkable, to date, with a win in Jungle Fight standing out as something of a high point just for international relevance. However, while his competition hasn’t been notable, he’s at least made a habit of stopping opponents, having finished eight of his ten wins, with five submissions and three TKO/KOs. Outside of MMA he is a BJJ blue belt.

What you should expect:

Bravos’ fighting style is marked by pace and aggression. He’s not a clean or very defensively minded striker, but he’s very willing to move forward and maintain the kind of pressure/volume based style that forces opponents to react to him and try to fight him off. Because of his dedication to pressure fighting, he’s actually a reasonably comfortable combination striker. He works behind a pawing jab to throw a lot of one-twos and can mix in some uppercuts, hooks and overhands as he sees openings. They’re not the prettiest punches, but that doesn’t always matter.

This attitude translates to his wrestling and grappling as well. Bravo has a self stated love of hitting double-legs, but he doesn’t always set them up well enough to get them in fight. Often he ends up grabbing a high single leg and running it through to a takedown. His dedication to getting opponents to the ground has served him well against fighters who don’t wrestle well, but it will be interesting to see how it translates to the UFC. On the ground he does well to stay aggressive with GnP while taking whatever positional opportunities his opponents give him. He doesn’t show great control, but his aggressive output is designed for round winning.

To get us better acquainted, here’s his last pre-TUF fight against Dallys Moraes Gama at Jungle Fight 81:

Who is Claudio Puelles?

“El Nino” is set to join Enrique Barzola as the UFC’s second Peruvian-born fighter – although Valentina Shevchenko calls the country home as well. The 20-year old comes to the promotion training out of Pitbull Martial Arts Center under the training of Ivan “Pitbull” Iberico. It’s the same camp as current UFC featherweight and former TUF winner Enrique Barzola. Puelles will enter the Octagon with a 7-1 record, having spent his entire pro-career in Peru, fighting under the Inka FC and 300 Sparta banners. Like Bravo, there’s little of note about his record. Puelles’ lone loss comes against his most experienced opposition, the 17-5-3 David Cubas. Otherwise, he’s managed to finish all but one of his fights. Outside of MMA, Puelles is a purple belt in Luta Livre.

What you should expect:

Despite the fact that Puelles has been training since his teens, he still fights a bit like a good athlete trying get comfortable with the nuances of fighting. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t have decent technical skills, more that he hasn’t quite figured out where and how to apply them all. At range, Puelles tends to default to his kicking game, often firing teeps and rear leg round kicks at his opponents. He has some decent speed in his hands and looks like he can throw with a bit of power, but rarely throws more than one punch at a time and seems to see his boxing as more of an avenue toward a takedown than anything.

Puelles’ takedown game is strong, but he seems to struggle to create offense while also maintaining control. That makes his top game less effective than his surprisingly decent wrestling would suggest. He’s much more comfortable doing work from back control than being in top control. And it looks like his submission game is really oriented more around being on his back and catching subs in transition, rather than strong positional dominance.

To get us better acquainted, here’s his last pre-TUF fight against Alvaro Subasti:

What this means for their debuts:

The TUF finale features a pretty interesting style clash across the board between Puelles and Bravo. Puelles is almost certainly the better athlete and more technical wrestler and kicker. However, Bravo’s style lends itself much much better to winning rounds in the UFC. Both men are competent offensive wrestlers, although I’m not sure I’d trust either of them when it comes to the defensive side. I’d probably lean toward Bravo here as Puelles has a couple major flaws that need fixing. He has a bad habit of backing straight up and covering when challenged, something Bravo will certainly force. And he tends to go for flashy, ineffective offense that leaves him open to being taken down, most particularly poorly timed jumping knees.

Of the two of them Puelles is probably more likely to pull out a finish, via a flashy strike or transition sub. But if he can’t land either of those, he’s also more likely to be the one losing rounds. The x-factor here is size. Bravo has fought as low as 135 and is three inches shorter than Puelles. If Puelles has a significant strength advantage, then he may just run Bravo over.