Will Jose “The People’s Champ” Figueroa Vanquish Weichel and Retain His Belt: A closer look at M-1 Challenge XXVI’s Lightweight Title Showdown

In the co-main event attraction at M-1 Challenge XXVI: Guram vs. Bennett on Friday July 8th, newly crowned Lightweight Champion, Jose ‘The People’s Champ’ Figueroa faces feared German submission specialist, Daniel Weichel in his first title defense since seizing the strap from Artiom Damkovsky. The differences in Weichel’s fighting style are extreme: Weichel boasts a vault of experience, pin-point precision striking and exceptional Jiu Jitsu credentials. Other than the height and reach advantage, the pair match up well and Figueroa stands to face his toughest competitor to date.

Usurping the belt from Artiom Damkovsky with a statement-making performance, Figueroa also seized new found confidence; he rides a momentous three fight win streak and rightfully deserves to be the crowning jewel of Europe’s leading mixed martial arts promotion’s lightweight division.

Since taking his fight against Yuri Ivlev on short notice, Weichel has proven to be one of the divisions most exciting fighters and subsequently secured himself a 6-fight contract and fast-tracked into title contention. Needless to say, Weichel’s commitment and dedication to MMA has paid off big time.

At 6’3”, Figueroa is a monstrous lightweight by any standard and has been fighting high-level competition from day one; he’s a tough competitor holding a respectable 10-4 record as a professional fighter, thanks to winning the 2010 M-1 Selection Americas tournament which was followed with winning the championship belt. His only skid – three fights though 2009 / 2010 against Eric Reynolds, Edson Barboza and Luis Palomino, who have a combined record of 36-11.

At 26 years old, Weichel has been fighting professionally since 2002, racked up an impressive 26-7 record and has won eight of his last nine tilts. North Americans fans are quick to recognize him thanks to bouts versus Thiago Tavares, Dan Hardy and Paul Daley. With experience that has been hard-fought and earned through international passage with organizations including Shooto, King of the Cage, Cage Warriors and the UFC, one of his most notable victories comes against Dennis Siver.

The key to Figueroa successfully defending his belt depends on his ability to effectively leverage his height and reach advantage over Weichel; frustrate Weichel by keeping him at bay using rapid-fire, in and out combinations and time his counters to set up takedowns. When the pair hit the mat, Figueroa needs to show his overwhelming top control on the ground, post up and rain down bombs. From top position, his size will present too much to handle and tire Weichel out, opening the opportunity to pound out the win.

Weichel’s shot depends on which ‘Figueroa’ shows up; if it’s the one who fought Damkovsky, he’s in for a fight and will need to be wary of Figueroa’s reach and relentless aggression. Keys to Weichel’s victory depend on effective counter punching and ability to reverse positions on the mat; Weichel can’t end up on his back taking punishment. If the lackadaisical Figueroa shows up, like the one fans saw during moments of the 2010 M-1 Selection Americas tournament, Weichel will have a significant speed advantage and will be able to tag Figueroa at will, score a knock down or single leg takedown and lock in one of his repertoires inescapable submissions or pound the champ out himself.

Both fighters prefer to avoid the judges in favour of controlling their own destinies, setting the stage for an explosive title defense between two fighters at the top of their games. For Figueroa to continue his Cinderella run, he’ll once again need to deliver a career performance against Daniel Weichel’s vast vault of experience, speedy striking and stealth submissions.

About William Smith

After watching the first Ultimate Fighting Championship I became instantly hooked. I’ve been a huge fan of the sport of MMA ever since. Haven’t missed a UFC event & thanks to fight pass I’ve witnessed some of the all time greatest fighter & athletes the sport through Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, Glory, Pacrase, EliteXC…………..

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