The UFC returns to the United Kingdom this weekend with another night of free fights. The UFC returns to Fuel TV with an exciting card that is headlined by an Interim Bantamweight title fight. Although the card may be lacking in big names the matchmaking is excellent and there are a number of bouts that promise major violence. Because of the event taking place in the UK it will be broadcast in a special afternoon timeslot live, with a taped replay to air later at night.
In the main event Michael McDonald will battle Brazilian Renan Barao for the Interim Bantamweight Championship. In the co-main event of the evening top Featherweight contenders slug it out as Cub Swanson takes on Dustin Poirier. A battle between two Light Heavyweight heavy hitters is also on deck in a bout between Jimi Manuwa and Cyrille Diabate. Surging European Welterweight newcomer Gunnar Nelson takes on veteran Jorge Santiago in a battle at 170 pounds. A bout that could certainly earn the winner a Knockout of the Night bonus is on tap as Light Heavyweights James Te-Huna and Ryan Jimmo collide. Opening the main Fuel TV card is a Welterweight bout between Matt Riddle and Che Mills.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Flyweight Bout: Phil Harris vs. Ulysses Gomez
Quick Pick: Ulysses Gomez via Submission in Round Three
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Vaughan Lee vs. Motonobu Tezuka
Vaughan “Love” Lee is a 30-year-old British fighter from Birmingham, England. Lee is a tough and well-rounded fighter who has earned a stoppage in all but one of his career victories. He is a member of the Ultimate Training Center in his hometown and holds a pro record of 12-8-1. Motonobu Tezuka is a 25-year-old Japanese fighter from Nagano, Japan. He has fought for a number of major Japanese MMA promotions including Pancrase and DEEP. He is a member of the Cobra Kai MMA Dojo in Japan and holds a pro record of 19-5-4.
Quick Pick: Motonobu Tezuka via Split Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Middleweight Bout: Tom Watson vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Tom “Kong” Watson is a 30-year-old fighter from Southampton, England. Despite his British background he now trains with Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico and the Tri Star Gym in Montreal. Watson holds a career record of 15-5. Stanislav “Stucky” Nedkov is a 31-year-old fighter from Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Nedkov is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who trains with the Bushido Bulgaria Gym in his hometown. He holds a professional MMA record of 12-0 with 1 No Contest.
Quick Pick: Stanislav Nedkov via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Andy Ogle vs. Josh Grispi
Andy “The Little Axe” Ogle is a 23-year-old fighter from Newcastle, England. Ogle was a competitor on the live season of The Ultimate Fighter who trains with the Team Kaobon Gym in Sunderland, England. He holds a professional record of 8-2. Josh “The Fluke” Grispi is a 24-year-old fighter from Rockland, Massachusetts. Grispi is a member of the South Shore Sportfighting Gym in Rockland. He holds a career record of 14-4.
Quick Pick: Josh Grispi via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Paul Sass vs. Danny Castillo
Paul “Sassangale” Sass is a 24-year-old fighter from Liverpool, England. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and one of the best grapplers in the Lightweight division. He trains with the Team Kaobon Gym in England and holds a career record of 12-1. Danny “Last Call” Castillo is a 33-year-old fighter who lives and trains with the Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento, California. He is a former NAIA All-American wrestler from Menlo College. He holds a career record of 14-5.
Quick Pick: Paul Sass via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Terry Etim vs. Renee Forte
Terry Etim is a 27-year-old British fighter from Liverpool, England. Etim is a brown belt in Luta Livre training with Team Kaobon along with a number of other British fighters on this card. Etim holds a career record of 15-4. Renee Forte is a 25-year-old fighter from Fortaleza, Brazil. Forte is a member of the Team Nogueira Gym who was also a cast member on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. He holds a career record of 7-2.
Quick Pick: Terry Etim via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (Fuel TV): Welterweight Bout: Matt Riddle vs. Che Mills
Matt “Deep Waters” Riddle is a 27-year-old fighter from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was a cast member on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. He is a talented wrestler who wrestled for East Stroudsburg University before transferring to MMA. Riddle is a member of the Throwdown Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. He holds a professional record of 6-3 with 1 No Contest, with all of his career bouts coming in the UFC’s octagon.
Che “Beautiful” Mills is a 30-year-old British fighter from Gloucester, England. Mills is a former Cage Rage British Welterweight Champion who is a talented Muay Thai kick boxer. Mills was a cast member on the UK vs. USA season of The Ultimate Fighter but was eliminated before ever making it into the house after losing an elimination bout. Mills is a member of the Trojan Freefighters Gym in his hometown. He holds a career record of 15-5.
Analysis and Prediction: If Riddle fights smart, he should be able to take this fight. Unfortunately for Matt Riddle that’s asking a lot. The guy has never met a punch he didn’t want to take in the face just to see if he could survive it. He’s a terribly slow starter and that could get him in trouble here. Still, Mills was basically helpless against Rory MacDonald on the ground and although Riddle might not be as well rounded as MacDonald, he’s still a massive Welterweight with dominant top control ability. If he fights smart, he wins, if he decides to stand and trade, he’s probably going to sleep. Matt Riddle via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Fuel TV): Light Heavyweight Bout: James Te-Huna vs. Ryan Jimmo
James Te-Huna is a 31-year-old fighter from Darfield, New Zealand. Te-Huna now resides in Penrith, Australia and trains in Sydney, Australia with the Pirtek Athletic Allstars Gym in New South Wales. Te-Huna is a power puncher who has won the majority of his bouts via Knockout or TKO. Te-Huna is a former CFC Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion from Australian promotion Cage Fighting Championships. Te-Huna holds a career record of 15-5, with only 1 loss in his UFC career.
Ryan “Big Deal” Jimmo is a 31-year-old Canadian fighter from Saint John, New Brunswick. Jimmo has spent the majority of career competing in Canada and has fought for major Canadian promotion Maximum Fighting Championships where he was the Light Heavyweight champion. Jimmo is a black belt in Shito-Ryu karate. Jimmo trains with the Hayabusa Team in Edmonton, Alberta and also trains with the Blackzillians in Boca Raton, Florida. Despite having a negative perception as a boring ground based fighter, Jimmo entered the UFC with a massive one-punch knockout victory over Anthony Perosh.
Analysis and Prediction: Jimmo certainly made a lot of people (myself included) eat their words when he came into the UFC and blasted his way into a tie for the record books. Jimmo is being overvalued too much because of his last performance. Te-Huna is an aggressive banger who is athletically gifted and physically strong. Jimmo won’t be able to impose his will in the striking department and his best chance will likely come on the ground. Te-Huna probably won’t give him the chance to get the fight there, as he sprawls and brawls his way to a second round TKO. James Te-Huna via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (Fuel TV): Welterweight Bout: Gunnar Nelson vs. Jorge Santiago
Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson is a 24-year-old Icelandic fighter from Akuyeri, Iceland. He is a talented grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Goju-Ryu karate. Nelson trains Jiu Jitsu under Renzo Gracie and has a number of Gold and Silver medals in the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and Pan-American Championships. Nelson trains with the Mjolnir Gym in Iceland and the Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu Gym in the US. He is one of the top European prospects competing in the UFC and holds a perfect pro record of 10-0-1.
Jorge “The Sandman” Santiago is a 32-year-old Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Santiago is making his return to the UFC after a 2-0 stint in Titan FC as an injury replacement. Santiago is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who trains with the Blackzillians in Boca Raton, Florida. He is an MMA veteran who has fought for a number of major MMA promotions including UFC, Strikeforce, World Victory Road and King of the Cage. Santiago holds a professional MMA record of 25-10.
Analysis and Prediction: Nelson is a top-tier prospect, but Santiago is a wily veteran who has never been submitted in his 35 career bouts. He also boasts a black belt of his own in the sport of BJJ. Nelson is undoubtedly the better grappler, but Santiago is a better striker and is better suited to compete as a Welterweight than a Middleweight. Still, if he can’t stop the takedowns, he’s going to spend most of the fight defending. He might survive, but he’s unlikely to win a ground battle. Gunnar Nelson via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Fuel TV): Light Heavyweight Bout: Jimi Manuwa vs. Cyrille Diabate
Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa is a 32-year-old fighter born in Abuja, Nigeria. Despite his African heritage he now trains and resides in London, England where he is a member of the Keddles Gym Fight Team. Manuwa is known for his troubled youth where he used to fight regularly and spent time in prison for his role in a crime ring. Manuwa is a former UCMMA Light Heavyweight Champion who has also fought for the BAMMA promotion. He is fresh off of an impressive UFC debut where he battered Kyle Kingsbury for two rounds and delivered massive facial damage. Manuwa holds a perfect pro record of 12-0.
Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate is a 39-year-old French fighter from La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France. Diabate has a long career in combat sports and has competed professionally in shoot boxing and Muay Thai kick boxing in addition to MMA. Diabate has fought for a number of major MMA promotions including Pride, Sho XC, DEEP, Cage Rage in addition to the UFC. Diabate is a member of the Team Quest Gym and also runs his own Snake Fight Team in France. Diabate holds a professional MMA record of 19-8-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Diabate is likely the more technically sound striker, but he’s also pushing 40 and has spent plenty of time competing in combat sports. That kind of lifestyle takes a toll on your body and one of the first things to go is usually the chin. Manuwa hits like a freight train and did one hell of a number on Kyle Kingsbury’s face in his UFC debut. Manuwa does similarly damaging work in this bout as he stops Diabate late in the bout. Jimi Manuwa via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Cub Swanson vs. Dustin Poirier
Cub Swanson is a 29-year-old fighter from Palm Springs, California. Swanson is a talented and aggressive striker who trains with Greg Jackson’s Camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Swanson was originally scheduled to fight Dennis Siver on this card but an injury prompted his replacement. Swanson is a former WEC fighter who was a top contender in the Featherweight division but always seemed to struggle in the big fights. Swanson is currently on a 3-fight winning streak with 3 straight knockouts. Swanson holds a professional record of 18-5.
Analysis and Prediction: Swanson has never been the most well rounded fighter in the world, but his striking has been absolutely lights out in his last few UFC bouts (all stoppage victories.) Poirier is a competent striker, but he gets hit too often and does his best work on the mat. This fight is likely to come down to who can impose their will on their opponent. Neither fighter will be scared to take chances and that could end up being the downfall of either fighter who becomes too reckless. I think Poirier takes advantage of a Swanson mistake and drags him to the mat where he earns a submission. Dustin Poirier via Submission in Round One
Main Card (Fuel TV): Interim Bantamweight Championship Bout: Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald
Renan “Barao” Pegado is a 25-year-old Brazilian fighter from Natal, Brazil. Barao is riding one of the longest unbeaten streaks in the history of the sport and will be going for his 30th straight fight without a loss. Pegado is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who trains with the famed Nova Uniao Gym in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pegado is the reigning and defending UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship with Dominick Cruz sidelined because of injury. Barao is coming off of a career defining performance in a unanimous decision victory over Urijah Faber. Barao holds a career record of 29-1 with 1 No Contest, having not lost a fight since his professional debut in 2005.
Michael “Mayday” McDonald is a 22-year-old fighter from Modesto, California. McDonald is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who trains with the Oakdale MMA Gym in Modesto, California. McDonald is returning from a hand injury, which forced him out of a potential Interim title fight previously. Despite his impressive grappling, McDonald has also emerged as a dangerous striker with big power in his hands. His last bout in April of 2012 was a career performance with a knockout victory over Miguel Torres. McDonald holds a professional MMA record of 15-1, and has since avenged the only loss of his career to Cole Escovedo.
Analysis and Prediction: McDonald has a whole lot of potential and buckets of skill to go with it. But he’s young, he’s coming off of a layoff and is being thrust into a bout against one of the best young fighters in the world. McDonald’s best win was his stunning knockout victory against Miguel Torres, who has proven himself to be a man in serious career decline lately. McDonald packs one hell of a power punch, but that’s his best weapon and Barao is going to have it well scouted.
Barao is tough and well rounded. He’s got creative and technically sound striking skills, backed by stinging leg kicks (a trait which he shares with teammate Jose Aldo.) Barao also has experience in championship fights, while McDonald has gone to decision only twice in his career and both of those bouts were only three rounders.
Failing the big kill shot early from McDonald, this fight probably plays out similarly to Barao’s bout against Faber. Stinging leg kicks and a strong jab lead the way for the Brazilian to get ahead on the scorecards and begin to make McDonald tire. In the later rounds, Barao will probably open up his game a bit more and might be able to land something substantial. A late knockdown leads to either a TKO victory or a late submission. Renan Barao via TKO in Round Four
[amazon_link id=”B0090EDEQE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]UFC: Ultimate Fight Collection 2012[/amazon_link]
[amazon_link id=”1936608545″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Chael Sonnen: The Voice of Reason: A V.I.P. Pass to Enlightenment[/amazon_link]