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By: Dan Moore, MMATorch UK Contributor
The UFC is coming back to the UK on September 29, so I thought what the hell, why not play Joe Silva for the day and see what I can come up with to entertain the MMA diehards who'll be in attendance. I've tried to pick realistic fights for this Nottingham event. I haven't picked unrealistic match ups like Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones, however much I'd love to see that live. Every fight I've selected has been carefully considered (well I thought about each one for five minutes, so does that count?). I've taken into account previous results, fighter reputation and current UFC standing, and most importantly, whether or not the fighters already have a fight scheduled too close to Sept 29 (Step forward Michael Bisping, Ross Pearson, Terry Etim and Vaughan Lee).
Considering the already scheduled PPV events later this year, I have based my picks on this card being a Fuel TV event. Although unconfirmed, it's been reported today that this is the most likely outcome, and we won't get another numbered event. Last year I'd have been very concerned for the quality of the card, but not anymore with the Fox TV deal now in place. Spike TV used to air UK events via tape delay in the US, which at times impacted on the name value of those fighting on UK cards. Fuel, though, like with the Sweden card, will show the event live in the US on a Saturday afternoon. That still won't guarantee an influx of championship fights and superstars, but it's a start. We also know this card will be predominantly filled with British fighters, along with two or three big names fighting on the main card. I can live with that. It's also worth noting that Dustin Poirier vs. The Korean Zombie headlined a Fuel TV card and look how that turned out!
Here we go, starting from the bottom of the card, and finishing with my main event choice, these are my picks:
Azamat Gashimov (7-1) vs. Roland Delorme (8-1)
TUF fighter Roland Delorme caused a bit of an upset winning his last UFC fight over the heavily favoured Nick Denis and is currently 2-0 in the organisation. Having been submitted by T.J. Dillashaw, the Canadian didn't make much of an impact during that series but he's a fighter on the rise. Denis had him constantly rocked if the first round of their fight but Delorme impressively pulled himself together and pulled off an outstanding rear naked choke to get the win. Azamat Gashimov was signed earlier this year, but pulled out of his debut fight on the Fuel TV 3 card due to injury. By all accounts he should be good to go for September, and this will be a good first test for the Russian.
Jack Marshman (10-1) vs. Magnus Cedenblad (10-4)
I'm not sure what his contract situation is with BAMMA, but I like Jack Marshman and I'd love to see him on a UFC card. Yes I am a little bit biased because of his military connections, but he's young, talented, and only recently suffered his first loss against the vastly more experienced Tom Watson in a BAMMA World Middleweight Championship fight. Not bad progress for someone who's first fight was in early 2010. Swedish fighter Magnus Cedenblad was completely outclassed by the bigger, more powerful Francis Carmont in his UFC debut, but he's going to get another chance to shine, and it's likely to be on this card. This is a winnable fight for both of them and its a solid undercard fight featuring an up and coming homegrown talent.
Andy Ogle (8-1) vs. Akira Corassani (9-3)
We all know now that Ogle is going to get a deserved spot on this card. He missed out on a fight this Friday because of injury, and Dana White (whilst being many things) is generally a man who delivers on a promise. Corassani, another TUF fighter, was scheduled to fight Jason Young on the Sweden card but pulled out injured. Corassani has a solid stand up base with one punch knockout power, but in my opinion he's nowhere near as good as Al Iaquinta, Ogle's last opponent on TUF. This is a very winnable fight for Ogle. He's got good exposure thanks to TUF, and a win for him will get the partizan crowd on their feet.
Simeon Thoresen (17-2-1) vs. Pascal Krauss (10-1)
John Hathaway dominated Pascal Krauss to the point some fans might have wondered if we'd ever see Krauss in another UFC fight. That wasn't my opinion because this kid is good, but that opinion is likely more a testament to the performance of Hathaway, and less about that of Krauss. The German is very talented, but on the night he simply came up against a highly motivated Hathaway with a point to prove. Krauss has spent a lot of time training with Duke Roufus over the past year, and if that camp rates him highly, that's more than good enough for me. Simeon Thoresen looked great in his debut win over Besam Yousef securing a submission victory after dominating from top position for most of the fight. Most of this fight might be spent on the ground, but I'll take that if one of them pulls off a quality submission to get the win.
Jason Young (9-5) vs. Bart Palaszewski (36-15)
Young was thrown into the lions den for his first two UFC fights, matching up against Dustin Poirer and Michihiro Omigawa, with both ending in UD defeats. He did better than anyone ever expected in both fights and duly got a deserved third fight with Eric Wisely to get his first win. His performance against Wisely was superb, and for me he won all three rounds convincingly even if some disagreed about the third. Palaszewski is extremely experienced, hard as nails and he loves to stand and trade (ask Tyson Griffin). He's a very tough opponent for anyone, but one that Young can outmaneuver with his speed and kickboxing skills. A win over Palaszewski would be the perfect platform for Young to start making inroads towards the Featherweight Top 15 rankings.
John Maguire (18-3) vs. Matt Brown (14-11)
Who wouldn't want to see a bit of Gypsy Jiu-Jitsu to start off the main card, especially a crowd favorite like Maguire who's on a seven fight win streak? Despite showing flaws in his stand up against DeMarques Johnson, who needs boxing skills when you can submit your opponent like Maguire did in Sweden? Maguire is 2-0 in the UFC and there is no need to throw him in with a really top name just yet. Matt Brown is perfect as his next opponent. Brown has been around the block several times and he's a lower level gatekeeper well accustomed to the ways of the Octagon. He recently nullified the karate kid hype machine Stephen Thompson. His high level Judo and BJJ will provide a stern test for Maguire, and that's before mentioning he's equally competent in the stand up. Brown is very well rounded and this fight will tell us just how good Maguire really is.
Paul Sass (13-0) vs. Evan Dunham (13-2)
Dana White said it's time to give Paul Sass a step up in competition, so who better than Evan Dunham? Jacob Volkmann came into the fight on Saturday riding a five fight win streak, but had absolutely no answer for Sass, despite knowing full well what the Englishman intended to do. Sass is electric and any opponent, however skilled, is going to be very vary of taking a fight with Sass to the ground. It wasn't too long ago that Dunham was being touted around as the next big thing, but consecutive defeats to Sean Sherk (disputable!) and Melvin Guillard (indisputable!) halted that momentum. Dunham has won two on the bounce, is a very skilled fighter who would provide Sass with his toughest test to date. Should Dunham not be available my back up plan is for Sass to match up with T.J. Grant who is fresh off a win over Carlo Prater, and someone who is very underrated for some strange reason.
John Hathaway (16-1) vs. Paulo Thiago (14-4)
I like the idea of Hathaway facing the winner of the Brenneman vs. Silva fight which takes place on UFC on FX 3 card in 10 days or so. However, I am steering clear of matching Hathaway with anyone who's already scheduled to fight, therefore I am ruling out both Rick Story and Dong Hyun Kim for that same reason. That doesn't leave too many options other than Amir Sadollah (I saw the Lopez fight so NO to that) and my final choice Paulo Thiago. Although the UFC doesn't like to match up winners vs. last fight losers, I hope they make an exception for this. I enjoy watching Thiago fight, he's always game and he has some name value to make this fight worth it. As I've mentioned before Hathaway looked very polished in his comeback win over Krauss. He is the most naturally gifted athelete of all of the UK fighters in the UFC. He also has the most rounded game after Michael Bisping, which is impressive considering Hathaway is still only 24 years old. If Hathaway can overcome Thiago (and I suspect he does), then he moves onto a fight with a top 10-15 opponent by Jan 2013. After that the sky is the limit for the London Shootfighter.
Brad Pickett (21-6) vs. Michael McDonald (15-1)
One Punch is quality and if I had my way he'd be fighting Urijah Faber in July for the interim title and not Renan Barao. Right, fan head off and sensible head on, Barao convincingly beat Pickett and duly deserves his shot. What Pickett needs to do is get a convincing win for himself to get a shot as the next contender. With the bantamweight division lacking a little depth, only a few names roll off the tongue as potential opponents for the Londoner. Jabouin, Mizugaki, Bowles, Torres, those are all possibilities, but my first choice has to be McDonald. Injury concerns aside, this would be an awesome fight to make to set up a No. 1 contender for the Barao-Faber winner. McDonald is uber talented and dismantled Miguel Torres in rapid fashion last month. Both are extremely exciting and equally deserving of their places in the top 10 rankings. Dana White is a big fan of both so matching them up is a real possibility. My only concern is that the fight is too good not to put on a PPV event. It certainly deserves that kind of profile.
Dan Hardy (24-10 (1)) vs. Che Mills (14-5 (1 NC))
As I said in my blog this week, my first choice of opponent for Hardy would have been Siyar Bahadurzada, but sadly (for us) he's already booked to fight at UFC 149. I've also read loads of other suggested opponents for Hardy including Diego Sanchez, Thiago Alves, Martin Kampman, Matt Brown (already picked, see above) and even Paul Daley! Whilst Brown wouldn't be a bad choice (there's history) I just want to see Hardy face someone who's only going to stand and trade, and not look to expose any Hardy weakness like his wrestling defense. Hardy was terrific on Saturday night, he looked far more evolved than I've ever seen him before. His clinch skills, the patience and his general fight persona were a joy to see. Therefore why match him up with another top level opponent just one fight removed from a four fight losing streak?
Che Mills is all about the stand up and he'd be a great match up for Hardy, and for us fans. I would be amazed if it lasted longer than a round with either fighter capable of getting a KO. Both Hardy and Mills execute excellent kickboxing and Mills is equally adept at finishing an opponent as he did at UFC 138. Whilst I'm not always a fan of pitching two UK fighters against each other, this is the UFC and it's got to happen every now and then. This is a great fight to make and as a co main event, the crowd would lap this up from start to finish so I'm running with this one. For the record I've made it a co main event over more deserving fights for two reasons. Hardy and Nottingham.
Alexander Gustafsson (14-1) vs. Quinton Jackson (32-10)
There are reasons why this prediction is the most unlikely of my choices, but who wouldn't want to see this fight live as a main event. Rampage is on his way out of the UFC with one fight left on his contract. Although his vocal plea for an early release has quietened down recently, it's no secret that he wants out. My opinion is "who cares?" but that's no reason not to give him a decent send off in front of the UK fans. As you know, Rampage fights out of the UK based Wolfslair team, and lest we forget, has already fought on a UK card back in 2007. Even Rampage must realize his days of headlining a numbered PPV event passed him by when he lost to Jon Jones last year. By appearing on this card, at least he gets to go out as a main event star, in a blaze of publicity, and not lower down the pecking order on a numbered event in Las Vegas.
One thing that might prove difficult when it comes to persuading Rampage to take the fight is the opponent I'm suggesting. Alexander Gustafsson is a beast and is on his way up, watching Rampage on the way down. The Swede stepped up when it counted in front of his hometown fans and delivered a very convincing win over Thiago Silva. Rampage aside, I can't see who else is available right now for AG to fight. Only Rashad Evans stands out and I very much doubt that's going to happen this year. Rampage is another top named opponent for Gustafsson and a convincing win would enhance his claims for a title shot at either Jon Jones or Dan Henderson. Fighting on the September card also puts his schedule nicely in line with the two I just mentioned who fight each other at UFC 151 early the same month.
Whether you agree or disagree with my selections, get in touch and tell me why (and what you would do) by using Twitter @MMATorchDan
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