UFC on Fox 25 Prelims: Unbeaten Prospect Eryk Anders Makes Strong Octagon Debut

By Joseph Santoliquito Jul 22, 2017

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK -- Eryk Anders fought and beat Brendan Allen in a drawn-out, grueling five-round decision at Legacy Fighting Alliance 14 about a month ago, and he did not look particularly good doing it. He was a little sloppy and looked a little raw, so when Chris Conolley, Anders’ trainer, received a call for the prospect to fight on the UFC on Fox 25 prelims, a few hours of thought had to be applied.

Anders was going to make his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut against Rafael Natal, a seasoned middleweight with more than 30 fights. Add in the fact that Anders had to lose over 20 pounds, and there were more than a few things going against him. However, the former University of Alabama linebacker has never shied away from the glare of the bright lights. This time, it was worth it.

One huge left hand followed by another put away Natal and could possibly lead to something bigger for Anders, who moved to 9-0 after claiming his first UFC victory at 2:54 of the first round on Saturday at the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

“Eryk had to lose over 20 pounds for this,” Conolley said. “We took a look at the film breakdown of Natal, but to be honest, the timing wasn’t ideal, because Eryk came off a five-round war against Brendan Allen at Legacy. He didn’t look good, but we decided to go after this with Natal. Eryk wanted to take this fight. Cutting weight is easy for him. He sweats buckets. His wife is a fitness model, and she gets on him about eating right and she doesn’t let him skip workouts. He has a great support system around. Eryk has ice water in his veins. There isn’t a moment that’s too big for him. That coaching and training prepared him for this. He’s the most coachable athlete I ever had.”

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Another blockbuster victory came on welterweight Alex Oliveira (17-4-1) stopping Ryan LaFlare at 1:50 of round two. It marked the first time anyone ever stopped LaFlare. It was hard to wipe the smile off of Oliveira’s face. It was a crushing, brutal right uppercut to the jaw that led to LaFlare’s demise.

“I hope I got the [performance of the night],” Oliveira said. “I think this is the second-best knockout I ever had, though. I have to put this one behind knocking out Piotr Hallmann [at UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo, Brazil].”

Heavyweight Chase Sherman (11-3) opened the TV portion of the prelims by defeating Damian Grabowski by unanimous decision -- 30-27, 30-26 and 30-27. It was Sherman’s second straight win after his loss to Walt Harris at UFC Fight Night 103.

“I was happy; you know, you always dream about the bangers and the brawlers and getting the ‘Fight of the night,’ but it’s all about the W,” Sherman said. “This was going to be a little different stylistically. [Grabowski] is really good at committing to the double-leg shoot underneath and when someone overcommits to their punches. He’s taken out some really good fighters. The game plan was to stay rangy, stay long and let him be first and be the counter striker. I wanted to really annoy him. I knew I could keep him back with the jab and keep moving. I think I improved quite a bit since May [and the victory over Rashad Coulter at UFC 211]. I got to stay back and stay poised and pick my shots.”

Welterweight Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (17-5) beat former Bellator MMA champion Lyman Good by split decision -- 30-27, 28-29, 30-27 -- at 170 pounds.

“Heart: When you’re out of gas, that’s what makes the difference, heart. I had to create various different strategies. The first one didn’t work. The second one didn’t work. The third one worked,” dos Santos said.

Elsewhere, local lightweight Chris Wade (12-3) blanked Frankie Perez by unanimous decision -- 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 -- while featherweight Shane Burgos (10-0) remained undefeated by beating Godofredo Castro by unanimous decision: 30-26, 30-26 and 29-28. Burgos wanted a little more.

“Pepey was probably one of the most dangerous guys I ever fought, especially when it came to the ground work,” Burgos said. “He’s beaten really good guys on his back. I liked the way I fought tonight, and he was 5-foot-7, my ass. He was taller than that. Brazilians like to lie about their height. I came forward, and in my head, it’s kill or be killed. I’m trying to take you out from that opening bell. I just wanted to take him out, and I didn’t. That’s the one thing that was missing from this.”

In other preliminary action, heavyweight Junior Albini (14-2) stopped Timothy Johnson with punches at 2:51 of the first round; bantamweight Marlon Vera (10-3) submitted local Brian Kelleher with an armbar at 2:18 of the first round; and featherweight Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) kept his record spotless by defeating Kyle Bochniak by unanimous decision, earning 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 marks on the scorecards.

Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.

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