The UFC wraps up a mellow March and kicks off a 3-week countdown to UFC 223 this weekend with a return to The O2 Area in London, England for a 12-struggle occasion airing solely on UFC Struggle Move.
As is custom with these kind of exhibits, the star energy is somewhat muted, however the primary and co-fundamental occasion are intriguing. There are a pair of prospects on the primary card dealing with essential outings, so we’re right here to interrupt down the particulars and set the desk for this weekend’s tussles.
Right here’s a glance at what’s at stake at UFC London.
Leon Edwards vs. Peter Sobotta
Edwards is likely one of the most underrated rivals within the UFC proper now.
A 26-yr-previous welterweight on a 4-struggle profitable streak who has proven appreciable enhancements over the course of his eight fights within the Octagon, Edwards choked out former rising star Albert Tumenov at UFC 204 and has adopted it up with high quality wins over Vicente Luque and Bryan Barberena. However the West Midlands man doesn’t say a lot and isn’t flashy, so the popularity of his achievements has been sluggish to return.
Saturday’s assembly with Peter Sobotta isn’t essentially going to vary that utterly, nevertheless it’s one other probability for “Rocky” to make a press release. The German grappler has been excellent throughout his second stint within the UFC, profitable 4 of 5, and a robust displaying from Edwards would afford him an opportunity to as soon as once more foyer for a prime-15 opponent subsequent day trip.
Edwards is the prime instance of a man that has merely gone about his enterprise and continued to enhance, solely to get misplaced within the shuffle. He’s the type of fighter that might profit enormously from the main target shifting again to outcomes and a extra sporting-based mostly strategy to matchmaking and promotion, but when he earns a fifth straight win this weekend, he’ll make it harder to miss him going ahead.
Fast decide: Edwards. The German is savvy and has loved a pleasant little run of success throughout his second run within the UFC, however Edwards is the extra athletic, extra dynamic fighter of the 2. He’s confronted and crushed higher competitors and whereas he’ll need to watch out if and once they hit the canvas, he ought to have the ability to outwork Sobotta on the ft and decide up his fifth straight win.
Tom Duquesnoy vs. Terrion Ware
Duquesnoy entered the UFC as one of many prime prospects within the sport and laid waste to Patrick Williams in his debut, seemingly validating his superior billing. However in his sophomore look, “Hearth Child” got here out flat and obtained dealt with by Cody Stamann, who has since gone on to topple prime-10 fixture Bryan Caraway and put himself within the combine within the bantamweight division.
In consequence, this one is all about seeing the place Duquesnoy stands within the division and if he’s nonetheless somebody to be actually enthusiastic about within the bantamweight division.
Ware examined the UFC’s newest one hundred thirty five-pound darling, “Sugar” Sean O’Malley, in his final look (after taking Stamann the space of their respective debuts) and is the sort of robust out that ought to push the 24-yr-previous Frenchman right here.
There’s a ton of depth at bantamweight proper now and clearly guys like O’Malley and Stamann have surpassed Duquesnoy within the prospect hierarchy, however that finally may be a great factor if the UFC must afford him time to spherical out his recreation with a purpose to attain his full potential.
Stamann uncovered some apparent holes in Duquesnoy’s recreation final trip and this struggle will present the primary appears at the fixes and hopefully give everybody a greater understanding of how far up the ladder we should always anticipate him to climb sooner or later.
Fast decide: Duquesnoy. Duquesnoy didn’t look nice final outing and is returning to European soil. This can be a showcase alternative and a basic “get proper” struggle for “Hearth Child” and he ought to roll.
Jimi Manuwa vs. Jan Blachowicz
Scoff all you need, however this can be a crucial battle within the mild heavyweight division. I do know that claims extra concerning the state of the division than anything, however you’ll be able to solely work with what you’ve and as such, this contest pits No. four reverse No. eleven in a battle to see who will get to remain on the fringes of rivalry going ahead.
Manuwa has lived there principally since touchdown within the UFC. He’s dealt with everybody he’s confronted that has been ranked under him, often in punishing trend, however fallen brief towards the cream of the crop within the 205-pound ranks, leading to his turning into the brand new Ryan Bader.
Blachowicz dropped his earlier assembly with Manuwa at residence in Poland and appeared like he may utterly fizzle out within the UFC, however he’s earned consecutive victories and began wanting extra just like the properly-rounded veteran expertise who thrived in KSW of late and that’s what makes this rematch compelling.
If Blachowicz wins, he turns into a brand new addition to the center tier of expertise within the mild heavyweight division and creates the potential for some recent matchups with others in that collective. If Manuwa emerges victorious, he solidifies his standing as the fashionable Bader and will in all probability lastly land the struggle with Glover Teixeira that he’s been after for a number of years.
One different fascinating wrinkle to this battle is that extra and extra middleweights are making the transfer north – Anthony Smith has a struggle booked, Luke Rockhold is speaking about going up, Uriah Corridor may comply with go well with at some level – and there are a couple of up-and-comings beginning to make waves, so it’s crucial for guys like Manuwa and Blachowicz to cement their place within the division earlier than the brand new crop actually begins nipping at their heels.
Fast decide: Blachowicz. Manuwa gained the primary time round, however I really feel like Blachowicz has made some strong changes of late and will struggle a extra tactical, efficient struggle this time. Plus, he misplaced to Manuwa in Poland, so it’s solely becoming that he beat “Poster Boy” in London to return the favor.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov
Whereas it’s a little bit of a stretch to say that Werdum’s future within the division hinges on the result of this struggle, it’s additionally not that inconceivable.
The previous champion has appeared good in his final two efforts towards Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura, however these aren’t precisely contenders. In his final two outings with precise contenders, Werdum has misplaced and you need to go all the best way again to his title unification win over Cain Velasquez to seek out his final “good win.”
If he can’t get by Volkov, how a lot of a future are you able to see for a forty-yr-previous heavyweight? I do know age is much less of a priority within the massive-boy ranks and he’ll proceed to headline occasions like this, however you additionally need to marvel if Werdum has any curiosity in being the elder statesman headlining worldwide exhibits towards non-contenders.
What’s loopy is that if he wins — particularly if he does so in spectacular trend — Werdum will stay proper there within the combine for a title shot or at the very least a date with a prime contender.
For Volkov, that is his probability to show he belongs amongst the elite within the UFC heavyweight division. He too has triumphed over middling expertise of late, beating Timothy Johnson, Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve to run his profitable streak to 5, however turning again a former titleholder is one other factor totally and modifications the place he matches within the divisional hierarchy.
Wanting at the division, the winner of this one will possible line up with both Francis Ngannou or Cain Velasquez subsequent outing – perhaps Derrick Lewis relying on timelines – with any and all of these contests having authentic title eliminator potential.
Fast decide: Werdum. As a lot as I need to see Volkov emerge as a brand new identify to probably problem for the heavyweight title — or at least function in pairings with different established, tenured veterans — I have to see him beat somebody of this caliber earlier than I’m snug choosing him to beat somebody of this caliber. Werdum is slowing down, however he’s nonetheless an incredible expertise.
UFC London preliminary card picks
- John Phillips def. Charles Byrd
- Oliver Enkamp def. Danny Roberts
- Hakeem Dawodu def. Danny Henry
- Magomed Ankalaev def. Paul Craig
- Kajan Johnson def. Stevie Ray
- Dmitriy Sosnovskiy def. Mark Godbeer
- Nad Narimani def. Nasrat Haqparast