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Luis Pena plans to show returning Matt Wiman that ‘the game’s evolved’

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Luis Pena (pictured) fights Matt Wiman in a lightweight bout at UFC Greenville on Saturday
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC Greenville will feature a generational clash on the preliminary portion of the card.

Luis Pena a.k.a. “Violent Bob Ross” meets “Handsome” Matt Wiman in a lightweight bout on Friday, a matchup that came out of left field given that Pena is a 25-year-old prospect and Wiman is fighting for the first time in four-and-a-half years.

To add some perspective, both men joined the UFC after participating on The Ultimate Fighter. Pena was on TUF 27. Wiman was on TUF 5.

When Wiman (16-7) was going to war with the likes of Spencer Fisher, Sam Stout, and T.J. Grant, Pena was making his way through high school. You can see why it was somewhat surreal for Pena when the bout agreement for a fight with Wiman was sent his way.

“I’m not gonna lie, I was like, I didn’t know how to respond,” Pena recently told MMA Fighting. “Dude hasn’t fought in close to five years so at first I thought my manager was joking because I thought he was retired. Then they said, ‘No, this is the guy. This is who they want.’ I saw the contract in my e-mail and I was like, this is official, let’s do this.”

Pena says it’s “an honor” to be fighting Wiman, a 15-year veteran who has compiled a 10-5 record in the UFC. Wiman has actually won three of his last four fights, most recently defeating Isaac Vallie-Flagg by unanimous decision at a Fight Night event in Austin, Texas, all the way back in November 2014.

Though Wiman, 35, is coming off of a long layoff, Pena isn’t taking him lightly. Pena (6-1) is just three fights into his own UFC career, and while he’s won two of three including a recent victory over the more experienced Steven Peterson, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. His TUF run was cut short by a foot injury and his callout of the man who went on to win his season’s tournament, Mike Trizano, led to a bout at UFC Denver last November that Trizano won by split decision.

Pena also failed to make weight for the Peterson fight, a 145-pound encounter, which put a blemish on the victory and has led to him questioning whether a permanent move to featherweight is possible.

With his one-year UFC anniversary just around the corner, Pena is still mostly pleased with how his time with the promotion has gone so far.

“It’s been a year of ups and downs, way more ups than downs,” Pena said. “I’ve had some hiccups in my career, the loss to Trizano, not making weight in my last fight, that sucked. But at the end of the day I’ve been able to completely turn my life around from where I was two years ago this time and almost essentially a year ago this time. It’s really nice.

“Even though I have had these hiccups, these ups and downs, the performances I’ve been putting out there the fans have still gotten behind me, I really haven’t lost any of that following. It seems as though the company’s behind me, the matchmakers are behind me, they’re helping me out. So I’m pretty content with the way this year’s gone and excited for my career in the UFC going forward.”

One thing Pena learned from the Peterson fight is that he could go the distance with a veteran. The data collected there will undoubtedly come in handy against Wiman, who is 5-3 when going the distance inside the Octagon.

Pena’s team is keeping an eye out for Wiman’s veteran tricks while also looking to prove their fighter’s future is not going to be impeded by a contender from the past.

“When it comes to fighting someone who’s been in the game as long as Matt has and he fought in the time period that he did, one of the big things we’re focusing on this camp is kind of getting used to seeing a lot of these veteran tricks he’s going to employ,” Pena said.

“Stuff when it comes to controlling pace and trying to control the Octagon and fighting next to the judges, stuff like that, we’re trying to mitigate all of those intangible factors as well as just go out there and show the game’s evolved in the five years since he’s been away.”