We’ve already covered the title match that tops this card, but we felt that the stacked undercard deserved some article space of its own. If you are planning on checking out this weekend’s card in person or on ESPN (at a sensible time for once) but don’t know many of the undercard fighters, we are your hook up.
Let’s start with the co-main event, which sees Featherweight title hopefuls Cub Swanson (18-5) and Dustin Poirer (13-2) facing off in a match that should go some way to seeing who’s next after Anthony Pettis to challenge for the 145 belt.
Swanson is in his best form for years, off the back of three knockout victories including one against England’s Ross Pearson, since his 2011 submission loss to Ricardo Lamas.
Having only lost to genuine top level guys since his debut and tending to finish fights, Swanson’s lone KO loss has gone on to form a regular part of UFC highlight packages as it earned Jose Aldo his WEC title shot, only eight seconds after the bell. Swanson is surely keen to earn a shot at revenge.
A year ago, Dustin Poirer seemed to be the next logical choice to challenge at 145 riding a five fight win streak but with the division backing up as Jose Aldo was injured he took a match against Chang Sung Jung which resulted in a fourth round submission loss and neatly removed him from the conversation.
Rebounding with a first round submission of Jonathan Brookins with the rarely seen Brabo Choke, Poirer knows a victory over Swanson could easily put him within a further win of a title shot, especially as the likes of Lamas and Jung are going to have to fight again while Pettis drops down to face Aldo.
Both of these guys show everything good about the lighter weight classes, being technically excellent, well rounded and perfectly capable of winning the fight standing or grappling and both tend to finish fights with only eight if a combined 38 bouts going to a decision. This is practically a guaranteed barnstormer, and on a lesser card would be a shoe in for multiple ‘of the night’ honours.
However, there are a few standout contenders there, not least the likely kickboxing exhibition we are to receive from Jimi Manuwa (12-0) and Cyrille Diabate (19-8-1).
Manuwa comes in with a perfect record of stoppages, with his last two opponents Anthony Rea and the tough as nails Kyle Kingsbury going out on the stool as doctors called the bout off between rounds, such was the beating that Manuwa supplied.
Diabate is the more experienced and arguably well rounded competitor as while his fists and knees will always be his primary weapon of choice, he’s ground his way to plenty submission and decision wins too. Of course, Cyrile has also tasted defeat (which Jimi has not) and while he’s only been KO’d once, he’s been submitted a few times and I hear tell that Manuwa is no slouch on the ground… it’s just we’ve never really seen it in the cage to date.
Obviously as a Brit, I’m pulling for a ‘Poster Boy’ victory here, andir might be worth a small wager on a knockout of the night bonus as well…
Next up, we have what promises to be an awesome ground battle as undefeated Icelandic prospect Gunnar Nelson (10-0-1) faces the experienced Jorge Santiago (25-10) who is dropping to welterweight in an attempt to improve his 1-4 UFC record in his third stint with the promotion.
Nelson is a bit of a grappling prodigy, as illustrated in the slick and calm fashion he submitted Damarques Johnson in his UFC debut. However, Santiago is a real step up in competition and is no slouch on the mat, having never been submitted in MMA and having tapped out the likes of Kazuo Misaki and Siyar Badahurdaza as well as winning via knockout and decision over Misaki as well as top notch middleweights such as Mahmed Khalidov and Andrei Semenov.
So we have an undefeated European submission prodigy facing a journeyman Brazilian who’s never been submitted making maybe his last crack at the big time. Who writes this stuff? Oh, it just happens? Cool.
The next bout on my list might be flying a little under the radar as Ryan Jimmo (17-1) makes his sophomore UFC appearance at the age of 31 and riding a seventeen fight winning streak. That sounds sorta familiar at light heavyweight recently…
The well rounded Blackzillians is coming off a seven second KO of Anthony Perosh and is set to face another Aussie in the shape of hard hitting James TeHuna (15-5) who comes in off a three fight win streak since a 2011 submission loss to Alexander Gustafsson.
The winner of this bout will find themselves on the outskirts of the 205lb title picture, behind the likes of Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira and I’d expect them to come out swinging as if the belt itself was on the line. Of course, if recent Blackzillians performances are anything to go by, expect Jimmo to gas in the third and lose by KO or decision.
For the record, I don’t expect that to happen…
Rounding off the main card is a pretty cool bout between Scotland-by-way-of-Gloucester’s Che Mills (15-5) and TUF alumnus Matt Riddle (7-3) who seems to have gone out of his way to piss off British fans and insult our referees in the process. Not cool.
Mills’ preferred assault comes from an impressive and calm headed array of kickboxing skills while Riddle’s main strength is his wrestling and cardio and improving submission game (not reflected in his record due to his sub win over Chris Clements being overturned by the commission due to a failed test for marihuana.)
Much as we usually like the character named “Chipper” on TUF, Mills is Scots and Riddle has talked trash about the Brits. Go Che, knock him out!
The preliminary card is almost a redemption ground for British fighters with Team Kaobon fighters Terry Etim (15-4), Paul Sass (13-1) and Andy Ogle (8-2) (who was nice enough to speak to us over the weekend and you can check that interview out here) looking to recover from harsh losses in their last bouts (via KO of the year to Edson Barboza, shock sub to Matt Wiman and robbery decision to Akira Corassani respectively) against foreign fighters also coming off of losses, Renee Forte (7-2), Danny Castillo (14-5) and Josh Grispi (14-4).
While Etim, Sass and Castillo are probably secure in their jobs, Ogle and Forte are fighting for their UFC careers, having lost their debut and Grispi has it all to lose as he comes in on a three fight losing streak. With stakes like those, expect these guys to bring it.
Despite losing his debut to Brad Tavares, Tom “Kong” Watson (15-5) has been handed a tough sophomore outing as nominally undefeated Stanislav Nedkov (12-0-0, 1NC) drops down from light heavyweight. Nedkov was beaten by Thiago Silva last time out but with the Brazilian AGAIN failing a drug test, the result was overturned to a No Contest.
Kong’s weakness has long been wrestlers, and with Nedkov always looking to trade, this could be a much better matchup for him.
Rounding off the card we have Bantamweights Vaughan “Love” Lee (12-8-1) and Motonobu Tezuka (19-5-4) and flyweights Ulysses Gomez (9-3) and Phil Harris (21-10) also looking to recover from losses, with their jobs possibly on the line.
With such odds in play, in front of an always boisterous London crowd, who would possibly suspect that these fights will fail to produce, so if you’re not going along, I pray you log onto Facebook and set reminders for ESPN on Saturday night. It’s gonna be great!
We’ll be tucking into Alpaca steaks and watching on TV, with live tweeting on @TeamKumite by our own @RossStevenson.
UFC on Fuel TV 7 airs at 8pm in the UK on ESPN, with the prelims on Facebook before that. For local listings wherever you may be please check http://www.ufc.com
MAIN (FUEL TV, 8 p.m. GMT)
• Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald – for interim bantamweight title
• Dustin Poirier vs. Cub Swanson
• Cyrille Diabate vs. Jimi Manuwa
• Gunnar Nelson vs. Jorge Santiago
• Ryan Jimmo vs. James Te Huna
• Che Mills vs. Matthew Riddle
PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 5:15 p.m. GMT)
• Terry Etim vs. Renee Forte
• Danny Castillo vs. Paul Sass
• Josh Grispi vs. Andy Ogle
• Stanislav Nedkov vs. Tom Watson
• Vaughan Lee vs. Motonobu Tezuka
• Ulysses Gomez vs. Phil Harris