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He didn’t blow it. Instead, Baeza joined Miles Johns in getting UFC contracts, but still the Boricua from Davie, Florida didn’t smile. That would come four months later when he made his UFC debut in Tampa and halted Hector Aldana in the second round. He finally got his finish, and we got to see that he had teeth.

“You’re right, I had a brief moment where I cracked a smile and I got ripped into by my coaches later on,” he laughs. “Nah, I’m kidding. But it was great because a lot of my family were there, a lot of my friends from down south. Everybody made the trip up and that was probably the best part of it, to win in front of them. That’s why you saw me crack a smile.”

And presumably he’s left the disappointment of his Contender Series fight behind him, right?

“I feel like I’m gonna hold on to that one for a real long time.”

I don’t know if he’s serious or not, but it may be safe to say that a win over Matt Brown would soothe all past wounds.

“Maybe,” he laughs now, but he will be all business on Saturday night. He knows that a win over a respected veteran will take his profile to a new level, one that includes more big fights. But that’s a conversation for Sunday morning, not now.

“I haven’t really looked past Matt Brown, so my focus has just been trying to make sure I get the win,” Baeza said. “I haven’t thought about the aftermath. I know it’s a big step up and I know that after this everything’s gonna change, but the saying is, you don’t want to count your chickens before they hatch, so I have to get the job done. I’ve gotta beat him first.”

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