NEW YORK – Claudio Puelles is on the verge of fulfilling his goal of fighting on the biggest stages the UFC has to offer.
Saturday at UFC 281 inside Madison Square Garden, Puelles (12-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) will compete on the first pay-per-view event of his career. He will look to extend his current win streak to six as he welcomes Dan Hooker (21-12 MMA, 11-8 UFC) back to the lightweight division.
Since his promotional debut in 2016, Puelles has been fighting to earn placement on a high-profile card, and will get his opportunity at one of the biggest UFC events of the year.
“If they’re giving me this chance, they’re liking what I’m doing,” Puelles told reporters at Wednesday’s media day. “There’s not a lot of love for grapplers. It’s a lot more love for people who KO people all the time. So, getting attention as a grappler, for me, it’s something very special, trying to put the community out there. Yeah, I think the UFC likes me, likes the work I’m doing.”
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Puelles has rapidly built a reputation as a dangerous leglock specialist. Three of his five UFC wins have come by kneebar submission, including one during his run on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America.” In his last two appearances, he forced Chris Gruetzemacher and Clay Guida to tap from his go-to move.
As opponents have become familiar with his approach on the mat, it might be time to look for different techniques.
“Yeah, that’s when you switch it up,” Puelles said. “Or maybe not. We’ll see Saturday night.”
With a win over Hooker, Puelles will tie Rafael Fiziev for the third-longest active win streak in the lightweight division.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.