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Payton Talbott reacts after his victory against Nick Aguirre in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Fighters on the Rise | UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs Namajunas

Spotlighting Two Youngsters And A Returning Veteran That Could Make Some Waves This Weekend And Beyond

Before closing out the month in Atlantic City, the action remains in Las Vegas for another week with another expansive lineup at the UFC APEX.

Headlined by a fascinating flyweight pairing between Amanda Ribas and Rose Namajunas, this weekend’s fight card is comprised of a blend of athletes that are young in their UFC careers and still working to carve out a lane for themselves and some seasoned veterans that can always be counted upon to deliver the goods.

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I’m looking at you, Billy Quarantillo. You too, Julian Erosa.

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This week’s entry in the Fighters on the Rise series reflects that lineup construction, as we spotlight a pair of relative youngsters that have enjoyed initial success and a veteran finisher looking to keep the good times rolling.

Let’s get into it.

Payton Talbott

The 25-year-old Talbott is one of the most interesting new additions to the bantamweight ranks in the last couple years.

Unbeaten in seven pro appearances following an amateur career where he went 5-0, the Reno native has only been to the scorecards once in those dozen combined bouts, and operates with the kind of quiet confidence that makes you wonder what he knows that the rest of us don’t as of yet.

Payton Talbott reacts after his victory against Nick Aguirre in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Payton Talbott reacts after his victory against Nick Aguirre in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

In his promotional debut back in November against Nick Aguirre, Talbott, who earned his place on the roster with a unanimous decision win over Reyes Cortez three month early on Season 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), methodically broke down the Illinois man, happy to carry him into the third round, knowing that he was slowly breaking him. Less than a minute into the final frame, Talbott clamped onto a rear-naked choke, collecting the tap and the first victory of his UFC career.

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It was a dominant effort from start to finish, highlighted by how calm and composed Talbott seemed inside the cage at all times. There were no “first fight jitters” — at least none that were visible — and he worked with the poise of someone that had been in there several times in the past. Skills can be taught and developed, but those types of intangibles are what makes Talbott such an intriguing talent heading into his sophomore outing.

Saturday night, he takes a solid step up in competition as he faces off with Cameron Saaiman, the 23-year-old South African who graduated from the Contender Series a couple years ago and has already amassed three wins in four trips into the Octagon.

Getting by a well-rounded and dangerous young foe like Saaiman would be a sharp feather in the cap of Talbott going forward, and signal that he’s another name to add to the list of promising young talents to keep tabs on over the next several years on the UFC roster. The glimmers of serious upside are there, so it would be wise to start paying a little more attention now, just in case he grows into a force in the future.

Kurt Holobaugh

Kurt Holobaugh poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Kurt Holobaugh poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Holobaugh is the seasoned name in this group of ascending talents set to compete on Saturday — a 37-year-old veteran ready to begin his third stint in the UFC in earnest this weekend in a clash with Trey Ogden.

The Louisiana native won the first “main event” on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017, garnering a contract for his efforts. But after a year on the sidelines, he went 0-3 in the Octagon and was released, only to pop back up on the radar last year as a member of Team Chandler on Season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter.

Main Event Spotlight | UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs Namajunas

He earned a submission win over Lee Hammond in the opening round and stopped Jason Knight in the semifinals before submitting Austin Hubbard in the lightweight finale last year at UFC 292 in Boston to register his first UFC victory and earn a return to the roster.

Kurt Holobaugh punches Austin Hubbard in a lightweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Kurt Holobaugh punches Austin Hubbard in a lightweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

When you sit down and look through Holobaugh’s resume, it’s clear he’s someone that has the ability to compete at this level; he simply ran into rugged competition in the Octagon. Each of his seven career losses came against familiar names, including Raoni Barcelos, Shane Burgos, and Thiago Moises during his second three-fight run on the biggest stage in the sport. He’s earned 18 of his 21 wins by stoppage, with 10 of them coming by submission, and Holobaugh is sure to be an all-action addition to the lightweight ranks that delivers some quality performances against established talents over the next couple years.

This weekend’s pairing with Ogden is a perfect chance to illustrate that, as the Marathon MMA head man is of comparable age and experience, and has struggled to find consistent success during the course of his four-fight UFC run to date.

Holobaugh prioritizes finishes and putting on entertaining fights, and should be counted amongst the group of consistently entertaining fighters that is bound to put a smile on your face each and every time they step into the Octagon.

Mick Parkin

Mick Parkin of England punches Caio Machado of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Mick Parkin of England punches Caio Machado of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

An upset win on Season 6 of Dana White’s Contender Series brought Parkin to the UFC and a pair of decision victories in 2023 have him positioned as an interesting young name to track in the heavyweight division.

The 28-year-old went 7-0-1 as an amateur and is now 8-0 as a pro. In addition to training on the daily with UFC alum and dominant KSW heavyweight champ Phil de Fries, Parkin and “Big Phil” make regular trips to the Wigan area to get work in with interim UFC heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall, as well, so, at the absolute least, you know that the quiet kid with the unblemished record is getting excellent rounds in between fights.

Parkin looked sharp in his debut against Jamal Pogues last July, working behind solid boxing to earn the nod in the first of his two battles against fellow DWCS grads last year. His sophomore outing opposite Caio Machado in November was a little lacking, as neither man was able to muster much in the way of sustained and meaningful offense, with Parkin coming away on the happy side of the cards and keeping his unbeaten record intact.

Mick Parkin of England reacts after defeating Jamal Pogues in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Mick Parkin of England reacts after defeating Jamal Pogues in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Saturday night in Las Vegas, he takes on TUF 30 heavyweight winner Mohammed Usman in a bout that should further illustrate both where he stands in his development and where he fits in the division at the moment.

Usman has gone 2-0 with a pair of decision wins since knocking out Zac Pauga to add “Ultimate Fighter” to his resume, and is 11-2 overall as a professional. He’s a hulking human being that is more than happy to wear on his opponents, so it will be incumbent on Parkin to use his movement and more technical boxing to keep “The Motor” from getting too revved up in this one.

A 3-0 start in the UFC is not easy to come by, especially in the heavyweight ranks, where one shot can significantly alter the course of a fight. If Parkin is able to get there this weekend, people will need to start paying a little more attention to the other British heavyweight on the roster, and not just the one with the title belt draped over his shoulder.
 

UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs Namajunas took place on March 23, 2024 live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. See the final Prelim and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass