From the “XFC 15: Tribute” show last Friday (the date on the YouTube video erroneously says it took place on 11/2; it’s a typo), one-armed fighter Nick Newell puts on not just a surprising, but a legitimately impressive performance against Denis Hernandez, winning by heel hook submission in a little over a minute.
Newell’s dominance underlies how dangerous his opponent that evening was. Before entering the cage against Newell, Hernandez had finished three of his last four opponents.
Newell was born with congenital amputation, a condition where a portion of a fetus’s limbs become ensnared in fibrous amniotic bands that cut off blood supply, causing the portion of the limb extending past the band falling off. Despite this, he has exhibited tremendous grappling skills, wonfour of his bouts by submission, and compiled a 6-0 record.
Newell was a replacement for his teammate and longtime friend Abi Mestre. After leaving a training session in preparation for the fight, Mestre was killed in a motorcycle accident. The XFC promotion and Newell himself both changed their monikers to “Tribute” for the night in honor of their fallen comrade.
Beyond the obvious wonderment endowed by an essentially one-armed man dominating a fight so thoroughly, not enough has been said about Newell’s superior technique. It is not just that he is tough and risen above his disability. He’s actually smart and skilled on the ground, using his weight masterfully and showing the sort of hip control in the mount that you usually only see in the highest levels of grappling. It’s also interesting to see how he utilizes his partial right arm in both striking and grappling, thrusting it forth essentially as an elbow strike and using it to his advantage on the ground to hook his opponents into submissions.
On its own merits, it’s amazing. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that what I see in this and other videos tells me there’s a very real possibility we’ll see him in the UFC one day. He’s not just a great guy with a great story; he is, from a purely objective standpoint, a great fighter as well.