By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

AFTER nearly a decade of angling to showcase his wares in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Mark Striegl finally gets to do so this weekend.

It is the next level for the 32-year-old, whose career has seen him fight in different promotions in this part of the world, battled some of the tough fighters along the way and succeeded.

Baguio-based Striegl (18-2) is set to face fellow UFC debutant Timur Valiev (16-2) of Russia in a bantamweight clash at “UFC Fight Night” on Aug. 23 (Manila time) at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

The fight was made possible through Mr. Striegl’s representatives in the United States who gave him a call during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Seeing it as a great opportunity to finally fulfil his MMA dreams, Mr. Striegl, the reigning Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) featherweight champion, decided to pack his bags for the US.

For local MMA analyst Nissi Icasiano, to see Mr. Striegl fight in the UFC is long overdue considering the kind of journey that the fighter has had in the sport.

The analyst admits that while Mr. Striegl is no longer young compared to most UFC-debuting fighters, still it could work to his advantage, enabling him perhaps to do better than the other fighters from here who competed in the UFC.

“At 32 years old, he may not be as young as the first six homegrown Filipinos who represented flag and country in the UFC a few years ago, but the good takeaway here is that Striegl is entering his UFC debut as a battle-tested veteran,” said Mr. Icasiano when sought for his thoughts by BusinessWorld.

“He has been in different types of fights and has faced an array of opponents under several organizations in Asia, which is quite vital because the UFC is the ultimate proving ground of the sport,” he added.

However, Mr. Icasiano, also a host for Tiebreaker Vods’ The Hit List podcast, shared some concerns, particularly in Mr. Striegl fighting at bantamweight.

“He will drop down to 135 pounds. The last time he competed as a bantamweight was in 2015. It’s no secret that he has been struggling to make weight as a featherweight, especially in his fight against Andrew Benibe in the URCC. So it’s intriguing as to how he will drop down to 135 pounds for this fight, especially since he has only been given nearly seven weeks to prepare and cut weight without [coach] George Castro in his corner,” he said.

Considering where Mr. Striegl is now in his career, Mr. Icasiano said the Valiev fight is crucial, especially if he wants to stay in the UFC, just as he cautioned that against the Russian he is in for a solid battle.

“Mark is no longer in his 20s. Every fight is a must win for Striegl in order to prove that the UFC didn’t make a wrong investment on a fighter who’s in his early 30s,” the analyst said.

“To tell you honestly, Mark Striegl is not having a tune-up fight or a giveaway opponent in his UFC debut. Valiev is a well-rounded fighter. As expected from a Dagestani fighter, grappling is his strong suit. But he is comfortable in swapping strikes in the standup. Though most of his wins are won by decision, he is the type of a fighter who will make it a point to beat you in every facet of the game,” he added.

But despite that challenge, the Filipino fighter has what it takes to overcome it, Mr. Icasiano said.

“Being the bigger man, having the fight on the mat is his best bet. Besides, it is Mark’s bread-and-butter. I think if Mark can secure better positions, fish some submissions, and sustain his energy against a workhorse like Valieve for three rounds, the scorecards will be in his favor.”

UFC Fight Night will be headlined by the bantamweight clash between Pedro Munhoz and Frankie Edgar.