• On the Rise: Abel Trujillo

  • This past weekend UFC 169 saw a record setting 10 fights go to a decision. Which on paper, suggests that it would be a somewhat dull affair, but in spite of what the rest of the card may have been lacking, the first fight on the Pay Per View broadcast made up for it (almost) with an early contender for “Fight of the Year”.

    Abel Trujillo faced off with Jamie Varner and from the very beginning, they threw hard and often. The first round saw hard punches being slung by both men, titled as “what did you say about my mother?” type punching by Joe Rogan in commentary.

    However, in the latter part of the round Trujillo was in a bad spot with Varner locking the north-south choke up but ultimately, unable to get the finish. The effort that Varner put into securing the finish with that choke did perhaps take its toll and he admitted as much during the break at the end of the round.

    However, as the second round started, Varner ignored any thoughts of fatigue and pushed forward, rocking Trujillo on several occasions during an early flurry. As Varner waded forward, he had Trujillo backing up against the cage before Trujillo regained his composure and landed a devastating knockout blow, simultaneously leaving Varner face down on the canvas and the crowd in disbelief.

    Prior to this fight, Trujillo was an unknown quantity overall in terms of his prospects within the lightweight division. However, this kind of performance against a seasoned competitor like Varner gives Trujillo a real platform to build on in the latter part of 2014. For Trujillo, from a selfish perspective, the fact that his fight was the only fight on the entire UFC 169 card that attracted any real praise only adds increased weight behind his victory.

    When all is said and done, the word “bonus” may remain synonymous with UFC 169 in Trujillo’s head.  It was announced post fight that he was awarded $50,000 for his Knockout of the Night and the fight with Varner, gave him a further $75,000 for Fight of the Night.

    These bonuses hardly came as a surprise given the lack of excitement spread across the rest of the card but given that Trujillo only officially pocketed $20,000 total for his win over Roger Bowling at UFC on FOX 9, the bonus money would certainly have eased the pain for Trujillo that any fighter has post fight.

    In terms of what is next for Trujillo and the lightweight division, post-UFC 169 may have produced another “bonus” for Trujillo.

    It was previously thought that Anthony Pettis would return at some point during the summer (depending upon who you speak to), with initial suggestions expecting he might face Gilbert Melendez or another top contender at Lightweight.

    However, during the post fight press conference for UFC 169 those plans were effectively shattered in a matter of moments. Long story short, Jose Aldo was asked if he would consider moving up to Lightweight to fight for the title against Pettis, to which he said yes. Next up, Dana White gave the idea his seal of approval, which added the second piece of the puzzle. Moments later, Dana interrupted proceedings to add that Pettis had just called an undisclosed UFC official and had verbally agreed to the fight, thus adding effectively sealing the entire pre-fight negotiations in a matter of minutes, a feat that Dana White jokingly wished happened on a more frequent basis.

    Speculation was soon to follow as to the implications this might have at 145lbs, if Aldo were to vacate the title and move up. However, little thought was given to the ramifications this would have upon the Lightweight division and its current crop of contenders.

    At present, Anthony Pettis is yet to defend the title he captured from Benson Henderson in August 2013 and his injury has delayed any plans to do so for a few months at least. As the champion remained sidelined, it was expected that those within the top 10 at Lightweight would be clearing the path, so that the next in line would be waiting for Pettis on his return.

    Now that Aldo looks set to supersede any such plans, the rest of the lightweight division is placed into prolonged limbo. This can only be a positive for Trujillo, as it will mean that several other fighters who may have been clamoring for the next shot at Pettis will now need to take other fights in the meantime to stay active.

    Although the list of available opponents may have expanded, it would be difficult to justify a top 5-10 opponent for Trujillo at the current time. Instead, we should be looking for Trujillo to face a legitimate top 15-20 opponent in his next fight with a view to progressing towards the top 5-10 over the course of his next 2-3 fights, should he continue his successful run.

    At the age of 30, Trujillo has certainly got time to make a run towards the top and there are multiple opponents available to increase his standing in the immediate future. For instance, fights against his original opponent for UFC 169 Bobby Green, Daron Cruickshank or Jim Miller could all provide a fitting test and suitable stepping stone toward the title for Trujillo.

    This list of possibilities shows the clear wealth of talent at 155lbs even outside those in the current top 10 rankings. However, the most interesting of all possibilities on paper has to be Diego Sanchez who is currently set to face Myles Jury at UFC 171, taking place on March 15th in Dallas, Texas.

    By the time Sanchez has fought Jury, Trujillo should have had the sufficient time off to heal up that he spoke of post fight and it would definitely be a highlight of any card.

    Overall, Trujillo has taken the first step to emerging as a lightweight prospect and an entertaining one at that. With all of the current talk of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC in particular losing its attractions, Trujillo’s style on Saturday certainly created interest and will leave fans intent on catching his next fight.

    In order to truly capitalise on this increased exposure, he would need to win 3-4 straight from this point to be considered a viable contender but if he did so in impressive fashion, he could well be a fans favourite in the making.

    About The Author – Greg Byron

    Greg started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.

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