The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to the UK on Saturday, September 29 for UFC on Fuel TV 5: Struve Vs Miocic. Stefan ‘Skyscraper’ Struve will be looking to extend his current three fight winning streak and prove that he belongs with the elite of the UFC’s heavyweight division. Similarly, his undefeated opponent, Stipe Miocic, is riding high on a nine-fight winning streak and is hoping that a convincing win over Struve will place him in the mix as a title contender in 2013.
The co-main event features one of the UK’s most popular fighters, Dan Hardy, who will be looking to re-ignite his career with another victory over former Ultimate Fighter winner Amir Sadollah. Both men have seen their fair share of ups and down in the UFC and a win for either fighter will determine who can remove themselves from the conversation as underachievers.
As is customary, the main card also features some well known UK talent that is sure to get the home town crowd in Nottingham cheering as loudly as possible. While the whole card is gratuitously sprinkled with British and European talent, the match ups are sure to entertain all MMA fans in the process. Here is how the rest of the main card and preliminaries shape up:
Yves Jabouin (18-7) vs. Brad Pickett (21-6)
Paul Sass (13-0) vs. Matt Wiman (14-6)
John Hathaway (16-1) vs. John Maguire (18-3)
Duane Ludwig (21-13) vs. Che Mills (14-5, 1 NC)
Kyle Kingsbury (11-4, 1 NC) vs. Jimi Manuwa (11-0)
Akira Corassani (9-3, 1 NC) vs. Andy Ogle (8-1)
Brad Tavares (8-1) vs. Tom Watson (15-4)
Robert Peralta (15-3, 1 NC) vs. Jason Young (9-5)
DaMarques Johnson (16-11) vs. Gunnar Nelson (9-0-1)
145lbs- Jason Young (9-5-0) vs Robbie Peralta (15-3-0 1NC)
Jason Young will get to raise the curtain on the show when he welcomes Robbie Peralta to English soil. Young is coming off his first UFC win defeating Eric Wisely after dropping his first two appearances. Conversely Robbie Peralta had his 2 fight winning streak erased in unconventional fashion when his second UFC victory was rightfully overturned when it was determined that an unintentional head butt lead to the victory. This should be a pretty decent striking based battle, with Peralta accumulating 11 of his 15 wins by knockout and Young although recording only a third of his wins by KO has shown an affinity for the striking game. In Peralta’s debut he worked his leg strikes with great effectiveness continually battering his opponent’s lead leg, which is something that Young will need to be cognisant of as he has a tendency to stand with his lead leg exposed. In Young’s last bout he showed an increase focus on grappling completing 4 of 6 takedowns and 2 more against Michihiro Omigawa one fight earlier. For Peralta we haven’t seen much of an attempt to use his ground attempting only one takedown over his last 42 minutes of actions and he is 2-2 in fights ended by submission. So I give Young a slight edge if they do elect to tie up. Physically, Young is slightly taller and will have 2 inches of reach on Peralta. Additionally, Young will be bolstered by the home crowd while Peralta has been out of action for just over 10 months which will result in some ring rust. Traditionally, the Brit has had issues with strong grapplers- Poirier’s wrestling and Omigawa’s judo, but Peralta does not fit that mold. Conversely, in those fights Young more then held his own in the striking exchanges. Peralta has fought lesser competition inside the Octagon, neither opponent is still with the company, and against Semerzier he arguably lost the first round of a pretty close fight. I haven’t seen a lot in the actual fight footage to give one fighter a definitive edge, but considering so many intangibles are pointing the direction of Young my prediction is Jason Young to defeat Robbie Peralta by decision.
175lbs- DaMarques Johnson (18-11-0) vs Gunnar Nelson (9-0-1)
In a 175lbs Catchweight bout, Gunnar Nelson will finally make is long awaited promotional debut when he battles long time UFC veteran DaMarques Johnson. Johnson is taking this fight on short notice, hence the catchweight, after a couple of opponent changes impacted this bout. It should be noted that the last time Johnson took a fight on short notice it was against Amir Sadollah and Johnson gassed part of the way through the fight leading to the eventual finish. Nelson is a well rounded fighter with a karate background that is quite apparent in his stance, but he is also a highly accomplished BJJ black belt having successfully competed in several grappling contest and earning submission wins in 6 of his 9 fights. Johnson always comes to the cage to fight and is coming off an entertaining bout with Mike Swick that saw him hurt Swick early, but eventually get KOed in round two. The knock on Johnson is his high rate of defeats by submission (6) or knockout (4). Johnson has a tendency to allow his opponent to dictate the fight, usually allowing it to be contested where they are the strongest. One of the most telling stats for DaMarques is his 20% takedown defense, which will be a significant issue against a talented ground fighter like Nelson. Johnson should have an advantage in his striking and has had decent power, but Nelson has shown decent takedowns skills and an excellent top game which will nullify Johnson’s striking. Even though Nelson is making his UFC debut I think a bigger influence will be Johnson’s conditioning due to taking the fight on late notice and his suspect takedown defence. Look for Gunnar to establish his takedowns early and maintain top control eventually leading to submission opportunities, so my prediction is Gunnar Nelson to defeat DaMarques Johnson by submission.
185lbs- Tom Watson (15-4-0) vs Brad Tavares (8-2-0)
BAMMA World Middleweight Champion Tom ‘Kong’ Watson will make his first foray into the Octagon when be battles former TUF competitor and 4 fight UFC veteran Brad Tavares. Watson, who dominated the BAMMA Middleweight seen with 3 successful title defenses including a TKO win over Pride veteran Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua, will face an excellent ‘measuring stick’ in Tavares. Watson has won 7 of his fights by knockout including 5 of his last 8. In his final BAMMA appearance he battered Jack Marshman’s legs with brutal low kicks that took away his mobility and eventually lead to a spinning back fist and ground and pound for the finish. Watson is a good kickboxer, but the knock on Kong could be his grappling defence. Despite being hurt, Ninja Rua was able to take him off his feet and the last man to beat Watson, Jesse Taylor, found success with his takedowns and top control. As a result, I would expect Tavares will look to incorporate takedowns into his attack. Over his 4 fight UFC career he has attempted 19 takedowns and although his completion percentage is not high he has been faced with some decent grapplers- Aaron Simpson-wrestling and Dongi Yang- Judo. Tavares has decent striking with 4 wins by knockout including stopping Phil Baroni, but he would be best served to use a wrestling based attack here. That being said, Brad has shown significant improvement each time he hits the cage and considering he just starting his MMA career I expect that he will continue to show enhancements in his skill-set. What this fight comes down to his Watson’s grappling defence, in the videos I have seen when his opponent wants to take him down most often they can. Jesse Taylor had his success in a ring, but Tavares will have the cage at his disposal which should help him to stifle Watson’s offense along the wall prior to taking the Brit down. Additionally, Tom has limited experience against American based fighters and one of the big issues can a weight cutting advantage. Especially in the Great Britain the lack of College Wrestling programs compared to the United States limits the experience that European fighters have with cutting weight which can often lead to a marked size advantage in cage for their opponent. This could/should play a role in the clinch and on the mat. Tavares is the lesser experienced of the two fighters but in my opinion is more well rounded. If he fights intelligently, uses his size and a predominantly grappling based attack he will find success. Watson is tough, but stylistically Tavares presents some problems so my prediction is Brad Tavares to defeat Tom Watson by decision.
145lbs- Andy Ogle (8-1-0) vs Akira Corassani (11-4-1)
In a matchup of former Ultimate Fighter competitors Season 15 member Andy Ogle makes his UFC debut across the cage from Season 14 alumni Akira Corassani who is also making his first Octagon appearance. Aside from their Ultimate Fighter experience neither Ogle or Corassani have ever competed professionally at this level so it will be interesting to see how they react to the big show atmosphere. Corassani has the slight edge in experience with 13 fights to Ogle’s 9, but Akira has not compete since the end of the show and prior to that he last fought in February 2011. Ogle on the other hand hasn’t fought since November 2011, but considering his season of the Ultimate fighter took place much more recently he gets the edge in recent activity. In the win-lose total Ogle has a pair of wins by knockout, 3 by submission, and 3 by decision while Akira has 1 knockout, 3 submissions, and 5 victories by decision. The biggest number between the two fighters could be the 3 knockout defeats that Akira has suffered which is a concern for a fighter at this early stage of his career. Both fighters had a success on the show with Ogle upsetting the favoured Mike Rio and Corassani earning a controversial decision win over Dustin Neace after he appeared to tap to a heal hook. Akira looked pretty good in his show and nearly defeated final Dennis Bermudez, clearly hurting him with his powerful striking before the wrestler was able to lock up a submission and get the W. For Ogle, he doesn’t have one particular speciality, he is a decent fighter in all areas but in the footage I have seen he just seems to be lacking that top tier skill-set. Conversely, Akira is a BJJ Blue Belt, a Black belt in Karate and has power in his hands. Ogle would probably be best served by trying to get this fight to the ground in order to avoid the striking of his opponent, but that could be easier said than done. There are intangibles involved with predicting this fight; how does each man respond in their debut and how will the long layoffs play a role either with ring rust or the potential for improvement in the time spent away. Either way my pick hinges on the greatest advantage and I think it is the striking of Corassani so my prediction is Akira Corassani to defeat Andy Ogle by knockout.
205lbs- Kyle Kingsbury (11-4-0) vs Jimi Manuwa (11-0-0)
Kyle Kingsbury will once again roll out the red carpet for another new arrival to the Light Heavyweight division as Jimi Manuwa finally makes his UFC debut. Manuwa is undefeated with 10 of his 11 wins by knockout. He is the former UCMMA Light Heavyweight champion having defended his title 5 times before successfully making the jump to BAMMA for a one fight stint. Interestingly enough Manuwa has been offered a chance to fight in the UFC on a couple of previous occasions but wanted to wait for the right moment. Kingsbury will offer a pretty good first fight assessment for the Brit who has yet to be tested at this level of competition. Kingsbury could potentially be fighting for his job; after starting his UFC career with a defeat he reeled off 4 straight victories, but is now riding a 2 fight losing streak. Kingsbury is still working to round out his offensive skills but his natural athleticism and pure physical strength can create a lot of problems for his opponents. Kyle‘s loss to Glover Teixeira saw him get lit up on the feet before going to the ground where he was eventually submitted. One fight prior, he struggled with Stephan Bonnar’s ground game getting taken down and controlled for the duration of the bout. Despite these issues, Kingsbury should look to return to a grappling based attack against Manuwa. Jimi has yet to be tested against a strong grappler and although we have seen brief moments where his takedown defense has been required there has been nothing concrete enough to make a solid determination of the Brits capabilities. If Kingsbury is able to put Manuwa on his back with regularity and control him he could very well grind out a decision or even a late finish, but Kingsbury’s ability to accomplish this isn’t exactly proven either. In his fights with Jared Hamman and Fabio Maldonado he continually sought out takedowns finishing a combined 14 for 27. The major issues with Kingsbury’s top game is that in both of those fights his offensive output from the top was quite limited and more often than not his opponents were able to quickly return to their feet. Kingsbury is a heavily muscled individual which can and has lead to him slowing down as his fights progress, especially when he is forced to exert large quantities of energy in pursuit of takedowns. If he is unable to find success early as he slows down he will become vulnerable to the striking attacking of Manuwa. Additionally, Kingsbury’s striking is still a work in progress and we have seen him against more gifted strikers take some serious damage and start to stiffen up when they start landing combinations. It will be interesting to see who gets the better of the clinch work as Kingsbury has used this style of attack with success in the past, but Manuwa is also quite effective with the Muay Thai plum from which he delivers nasty knees to his opponent’s body. Kingsbury did have trouble against Maldonado when the Brazilian started to unload with body shots and I would expect Manuwa to be aware of this. This is a big step up in competition for the Brit, but his striking should be the difference here. Look for him to remained composed using leg kicks and movement to limit Kingsbury’s openings for takedowns while unloading with powerful and precise combinations so my prediction is Jimi Manuwa to defeat Kyle Kingsbury by knockout.