The hype around England’s Tom Breese has grown steadily over the years and his concise first round finish of Cathal Pendred in the Dubliner’s backyard last Saturday will only add to his momentum.
Emerging on the pro scene under the BAMMA banner in 2010, the Birmingham man recorded a six-fight winning streak, all of which came by stoppage (five submissions and one KO). His last fight outside of the UFC ranks saw him take another third round submission at Cage Warriors 74, and when the UFC came calling for the unbeaten Brit, nobody was particularly shocked given his evident skillset.
Now a fixture at Montreal’s world renowned Tristar Gym, the story of how Breese endeared himself to Georges St-Pierre on his first visit is a testament to the rangy welterweight. On his initial journey to the Canadian facility, the legendary GSP was so impressed by Breese that he paid for him to stay in Montreal where he would act as one of his primary sparring partners in preparation for Nick Diaz. An experience that undoubtedly acted as a learning curve for Breese, by the time his UFC debut came around this May there was no denying his improvements under the watchful eye of Firas Zahabi and Eric O’Keefe.
Those who had never seen Breese before his UFC bow in Brazil did not waste much time wondering where he got his fight name. ‘The Octopus’ towered over Luiz Jorge Dutra Jr and despite the Brazilian’s wrestling pedigree, he was unable to get Breese to the ground despite tying him up throughout their one round of fighting.
In the last ten seconds of his debut, he threw out a feeler of a right hand before his left straight burst out from his body and sent Dutra down like he had been shot. Breese showcased a new side to his game as he caught Dutra on the end of his power hand in his southpaw stance, as his only previous victory via strikes came against Mar Tucker who he caught with a knee from the clinch back in 2012.
On Saturday, his left hand landed in devastating fashion to break Pendred’s nose in the early exchanges. The Englishman used his range to pick the Irishman apart for the remainder of the bout before a body kick followed up by two more lefts and furious ground and pound saw the fight stopped. The SBG fighter is famed for his durability and making his bouts awkward for his opponents, but for the first time in nearly five years and only the third time in Pendred's career, Breese was able to bring finality to one of his bouts.
When considering the UK’s previous hopefuls, Breese might be on of the most well-rounded proponents the region has produced. While Dan Hardy and Paul Daley are two other welterweights that made a big impression on the UFC division, ‘The Outlaw’ even fought GSP for the title back in 2010, they were predominantly strikers who were finding their way with the ground game in comparison to other established 170 lbs fighters.
As a British junior freestyle wrestling champion and a purple belt under Firas Zahabi, Breese has a lot more comfort than the likes of Hardy and Daley initially did in the grappling exchanges against their North American counterparts. To add to that, Breese is still a very young man at 24 years old, and given his obvious evolution over his last few fights the Englishman will only improve in the future.
Michael Bisping is another English charge that seems to have been in middleweight title contention for as long as he has been in the division. While his age might be playing against the outspoken Manchester product these days, if there was anything you could take away from him in his earlier years it would be his lack of finishes and his lack of stopping power.
Like Daley, up until his loss and subsequent sacking after his number one contender bout with Josh Koscheck, Breese has claimed two victories via stoppage in as many outing with the UFC. In fact, in his 9-0 unbeaten career the Tristar man has never gone the full distance. As we know, the added attribute of being a finisher can go a very long way with the world’s flagship MMA promotion.
Aligning himself with a gym that has championship pedigree is possibly one of the best things the young Brit has done. Tristar were famously behind GSP’s domination of the welterweight bracket and in Rory MacDonald they have another proponent who could hold the belt in the future. Having excellent sparring partners around him with championship experience like GSP and MacDonald could prove priceless if Breese can improve on his current UFC trajectory.
After UFC Dublin, Breese himself has highlighted UFC’s London date in February as an event he would like to compete at. Having the chance to compete in front of his home crowd could prove a massive boost in Breese’s career in terms of notoriety and exposure, and should he claim another devastating win, it won’t be long until we see him enter the fray in the division’s rankings.
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