Prospect in the Spotlight (June 5-6): Hugo Cunha

Introduction

Brazilian heavyweight prospect Hugo Cunha was to be in action before COVID-19, where he would have fought opposite an unnamed opponent. He would have been looking to continue his undefeated streak, as Cunha looks to get closer to an eventual UFC contract. He represents Tata Fight Team, an underrated camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”

Strengths

Wrestling: Cunha is unique, in that he has a national wrestling background despite being from Brazil, where the grapping art of BJJ is far more prevalent. Many BJJ fighters struggle with their takedowns and wrestling as they move up to the major leagues, as BJJ doesn’t focus on takedowns as much as they do ground technique. That’s where Cunha has a major advantage. Not only is he well-versed in jiu-jitsu, but he has the powerful, technical takedown abilities that come with extensive wrestling training. Not only is his offensive wrestling strong, but he has good takedown defense of his own and is strong in the clinch. That defensive skill will come in handy when he starts taking on better wrestlers at the higher levels of the sport.

Finishing Aggression: Cunha has a 100% finishing rate as a pro MMA fighter, something the UFC brass always looks for when signing guys. Cunha is one of those “blood in the water” types, as he knows when there’s an opening to finish and goes for it. Generally, his finishes come on the mat with his sledging ground-and-pound or his underrated submission ability. On the mat, he has good positional instincts, as he moves to get to a spot where he can drop down the most effective ground strikes to score the finish or open up the submission. His go-to submission in the rear-naked choke, which explains a lot since he uses his ground-and-pound to get opponents to give their back.

Needs Improvement

Telegraphs Strikes: Cunha’s striking certainly isn’t bad, but you can tell it’s not his base. Cunha has power in his hands and throws some decent combos, but he very heavily telegraphs his strikes. When he throws leg kicks, he tends to look down before snapping it out there, which opens him up to big counter strikes from his opponent. He can be slow on snapping out his strikes as well. A good portion of the combos he throws are very basic. His eyes often times can be read by an opponent, as he tends to stare at where he’s throwing next. He likes to use strikes to set up takedowns, but if he doesn’t get  more deceptive in what he’s throwing, those set ups will be tougher.

Cardio: Cunha is a big heavyweight at 6’4″, 260+ pounds. With that comes a necessity to have a deep gas tank, as that’s a lot of mass that needs oxygen distribution. In watching a couple fights, Cunha can start slowing down even by the end of the first round. That could especially be the case once he steps up in competition and his takedowns become something that need more energy to follow through on.

Outlook

UFC Prelim Fighter: Cunha definitely has the skill to compete at a high level, so I expect him to grace the UFC some day. He’s only 27 years old at this point and has a strong base, as well as a good camp behind him. That said, he has to make improvements to make him less one-dimensional. His wrestling and grappling will carry him against lower level UFC fighters. However, with the amount of strong wrestlers the UFC has, especially as you move up the ladder, Cunha’s strength could be cancelled out in many matchups. That will leave him to striking with guys who are likely to be better bangers. All things considered, Cunha is a good, strong athlete with good potential. He’ll be in the UFC for at least a 4-5 fights, if not more.

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