Names to know for tonight’s RFA 12

For a promotion not named the UFC to be successful, they need fill a niche. The promotion needs to do something differently than anyone else in the industry or at least have it’s own unique identity.RFA 12 Poster

The reputation that the Resurrection Fighting Alliance has built thus far is one that paints the company as a developmental league for the UFC. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, for a promotion like RFA that’s fantastic.

I will say that calling RFA a developmental league for the UFC does some of their fighters a disservice. A lot of the athletes that you’ll see on the top of their cards are more than ready to compete in the UFC and compete successfully.

The only thing holding those fighters back from a spot in the UFC is an inexperienced record and that they aren’t from a country that has a developing MMA season and an it’s own version of The Ultimate Fighter on the horizon.

Taking place this Friday, RFA 12 is just further proof that the promotion is one of the best when it comes to featuring prospects. From the women’s strawweights to the lightweights there are several premier up-and-comers competing on the card, and to give you a better grasp of what they bring to the table, here’s a look at the names to know for RFA 12.

Pedro Munhoz (9-0)
RFA 12 is a card filled with prospects, and RFA Bantamweight Champion Pedro Munhoz may be the most promising one. Munhoz is coming off of beating and retiring MMA veteran Jeff Curran to win the RFA strap and his third fight in the promotion. On Friday, Munhoz will defend that championship against another undefeated fighter in Billy Daniels.

When you examine what Munhoz brings to the table, the first aspect of his game that needs to be mentioned is his grappling, both in the wrestling and jiu-jitsu areas. Unfortunately, takedown statistics aren’t available for Munhoz’s prior fights, but based on what I’ve seen in his most recent fights, Munhoz consistently has success with his wrestling.

Now, bringing it to the ground is the first part of Munhoz’s usual path to victory. From there, Munhoz either flexes his jiu-jitsu muscles and submits his opponent or attacks from the top position with ground and pound.

The grappling acumen of Munhoz is why he is considered a prospect. His constantly evolving striking skill-set is why he is one of the top ones. Munhoz has built a reputation as muay thai striker due to his effective use of the “proverbial” eight limbs in muay thai, yet what shocked me the most in his fight with Curran was his improved composure and IQ with his boxing.

If you need a reason to watch RFA 12, Munhoz is it. It’s only a matter of time (read: one win) before Munhoz gets a call-up from the UFC, so why not get an early peak of a future UFC fighter?

Keoni Koch (5-0)
Over half of the events in RFA history have featured a fighter who is a sibling of a current UFC fighter, and that trend will continue as UFC featherweight Erik Koch’s older brother, Keoni, is scheduled to take on Brian Ortega for the the RFA Featherweight Championship.

Don’t be fooled by Koch’s 5-0 record, the 33 year-old has plenty of experience. Koch actually started competing professionally in 2007. Time spent with his family and coaching at the Hard Drive MMA gym in Cedar Rapids, Iowa kept him out of competition.

At his age, it’s hard to call Koch a “prospect”, although he has more than enough potential to join his brother in the UFC. A casual glance at his record will tell you that Koch has a dangerous submission game (four of his victories have ended in submission), but a more thorough look at the fighter will bring to light a more than capable striking arsenal.

The fight against Brian Ortega will be the biggest fight in Koch’s career, and it’s not even close. Ortega, unlike any fighter that Koch has beaten thus far, has a winning record. This fight will tell us a lot about where Keoni Koch is on the MMA landscape.

Justine Kish (3-0)
The worst kept secret in the world is that winner of the women’s strawweight bout between Justine Kish and Randa Markos Thomas has a great shot of making the cast of The Ultimate Fighter season that will crown the first ever UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion.

After making her professional debut with a victory over Munah Holland in 2010, Kish returned to MMA competition in 2013. Kish, who is dropping down from the flyweight division, has striking credentials that few, if any, of her strawweight peers possess. Kish is a world champion in muay thai, a professional kick-boxer, a black belt kenpo karate, and a state champion boxer.

The other dimensions of Kish’s games have developed nicely as she has trained at the Black House gym. With two of her victories coming by way of submission, Kish has displayed that she isn’t a novice when it comes to wrestling, submissions, or grappling off of her back.

Behind Tecia Torres, it’s hard to name a women’s strawweight with more upside than Kish. If Kish is able to beat Thomas impressively at RFA 12 and earn a spot on the twentieth season of The Ultimate Fighter, she would certainly be an intriguing dark horse competitor.

Brian Ortega (7-0)
Brian Ortega is yet another fighter who spends time training at Black House that is competing on the card. As mentioned earlier, he’ll be facing Koch for the featherweight championship, and he’s actually heading into the fight as a slight favorite.

Ortega is similar to Koch in that his jiu-jitsu is his strong point, but he also possesses undervalued striking. In his RFA debut against Jordan Rindali, Ortega played the role of a smart counter-striker when the fight played out on the feet.

Losing the wrestling advantage has never been an issue for Ortega. Between his submissions, ability to secure his opponents, and score with a multitude of elbows off of his back, Ortega has built a reputation as a fighter who is comfortable off of his back and within his guard.

At 22 years-old, Ortega is still in the infancy of his MMA career, and for him to be this good, this fast, tells us a lot about how successful he will be in the future. His rate of progression has been impeccable. Expect to see Brian Ortega compete in the octagon sooner rather than later.

Rick Reger (6-0)
One name to watch that isn’t featured in one of the more prominent fights on RFA 12 is Rick Reger. The 26 year-old lightweight is part of the Cesar Gracie Fight Team with the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields, and Alexis Davis.

Nicknamed “Boomer”, Reger certainly has power in his punches, although four of his six wins have ended with a submission, with the last two being quick guillotine victories. Reger has an explosive double-leg takedown that usually leads to him raining down violent ground and pound at a frenetic pace.

For the first time in his pro career, Reger won’t fight inside the Gladiator Challenge cage, but he should find some familiarity fighting at RFA 12 since the event takes place in California, his home state where has fought five out of six times. He’s scheduled to face James Moontasri.