This Saturday the UFC is rolling into Nottingham England and bringing a solid card of local favorites and some surprisingly competitive match-making across the board at UFC on Fuel TV: Struve vs. Miocic. In this new segment, I’m going to be taking an in-depth look at the more interesting bouts of the evening so you can get a sneak peek of how these bouts should play out. Now, onto the fights!
Stefan Struve vs. Stipe Miocic:
A fairly straightforward bout headlines the English card, though it lacks any Englishmen, as Stefan Struve takes on rising star Stipe Miocic. Struve has been fighting in the UFC a lot longer than I ever thought, and as much as I bust on him, he’s actually shown a great deal of improvement in this time. While he’s still fairly awkward, particularly in the defensive and grappling departments, he’s managed to strike intelligently as of late and take some of the kinks out of his attacks. Having learned lessons about letting fighters inside of his range, he’s scaled back his attack pattern to be just active enough to force opponents to hang at the end of his jab, while not over-committing to combinations and allowing his defense to drop.
For Miocic, we’re seeing a gradual step up in competition, having come from the Ohio scene and putting together three convincing wins in the Octagon. Having a simple but effective game of punch-heavy kickboxing and sporadic wrestling, he’s been able to pick and choose how fights play out thus far. While he’s on the smaller end of the Heavyweight division, he packs real power into his punches and leg kicks and doesn’t appear to have any trouble hitting single legs on larger opponents.
With all this in mind, this is a fight I see playing out badly for Miocic for several reasons. One is that he seems to be a bit too confident in his fight-ending power and his chin, which is likely a hold-over from dealing with inferior strikes in the regional circuit. Shane Del Rosario showed Miocic some of the holes in his game early in their fight before running out of gas, and it’s up to Miocic to work towards being busier and a bit lighter on the feet. With Struve having the bottom game to cause Miocic no end to trouble and the range to force long shots, I see Struve dictating the fight and slowly breaking Miocic down in the UFC on Fuel TV main event.
Dan Hardy vs. Amir Sadollah:
A celebrated English fighter faces one of the most popular fighters to come off of the TUF series, as Dan Hardy fights Amir Sadollah. Dan Hardy is just coming off of an epic backslide after his failed title bid against GSP. Having landed a lights out KO against Duane Ludwig, Hardy was able to remind us of why he’s in the UFC in the first place, as his underrated kickboxing and crippling power have carried him for his entire career.
Amir Sadollah has had his own hiccups in the UFC and has seemed to stall in his improvement over the last few years. I feel this is due to his being one of the only fighters on the roster whom has never fought outside of the UFC, and therefore hasn’t had that escalation of opposition needed to progress normally. When you’re thrown into the deep end right away, it’s often difficult to refine your own skills, as your time is spent trying to stop a superior opponent from manhandling you.
Sadollah brings sharp muay thai skills to the cage and has a traditional build for the sport, but doesn’t pack much in the way of power. While his reach could be a factor if he’s on point, Hardy can close distance and return fight with little fear of reprisal. While Sadollah’s takedowns are potentially a factor, he doesn’t have the same wrestling style as an Anthony Johnson or GSP, allowing Hardy to use his strength in close and stuff takedowns with ease. It would take the best Sadollah we’ve ever seen to win this fight, and my money is one the home town fighter putting a beating on the TUF winner that he won’t soon forget.
John Hathaway vs. John Maguire:
The only bout on the card pitting Englishmen vs. Englishmen, the rugged John Hathaway will tangle with the highly unique grappling of John Maguire. Hathaway has been a fixture at this weight, though rarely makes it into the spotlight. This hasn’t stopped him from going nearly undefeated in his three-year stay with the company due in large part to his impressive strength, grappling knowledge and smart use of his range. While Mike Pyle was able to shut Hathaway down on his own terms, the young UK fighter is used to being the larger and stronger opponent and puts this to use by dominating top position and avoiding risks on the mat.
John Maguire is also an accomplished grappler, but cut from a somewhat different cloth. Using what he calls “Gypsy Jiu-jitsu”, Maguire combines the best aspects of a power first wrestler with the fluidity of BJJ, Maguire never seems at a loss under any circumstances on the mat. While his stand-up is somewhat less refined, the natural sense of timing he displays in grappling seems to carry over well, as does his raw power.
In a straight striking bout I’d have to pick Hathaway, but Maquire has a real knack for working his own game plans and seemingly ignoring the will of his opponent. Hathaway will need to be extra sharp on the counter wrestling and avoid one of his best weapons; the clinch, lest he open up the door for Maguire to bring his GJJ to bear. While Hathaway is certainly a stiff competitor on the mat, he faced one of his toughest grappling battles against Kris McCray. For my money, Maguire is very similar to McCray, but brings far more polish in all areas of matwork, and presents a difficult opponent for Hathaway to prep for. This is a tight contest, but one that I feel Maguire can win in key areas of the fight, teasing out a win.
Paul Sass vs. Matt Wiman:
Undefeated English prospect Paul Sass will bring his unique style to the Octagon, taking on TUF 5 contestant and long-time fan favorite Matt Wiman. Sass is one of those fighters who fights to the beat of his own drum, utilizing aggressive forward movement, long-range strikes and, most notably, a penchant for pulling guard. Off his back, Sass is a true dynamo, using fast hips to ensnare opponents with triangles, armbars or switching to leglocks if they attempt to exit guard incorrectly. It’s a simple game plan you know is coming, but Sass is so adept at this strategy that no one has found a way to get one over on him yet.
Wiman has never had an easy fight under the UFC banner, but his diverse skill set and high pacing have allowed him to put together a respectable 8-4 record inside the UFC. Using an in-your-face approach to striking, suffocating clinch work, and a seamless top and bottom game on the mat, Wiman is all pressure, all the time. This pressure can be a double-edged sword, as he’s broken down some serviceable fighters in his day, but it makes him burn through ridiculous amounts of energy, which plays into strong defensive fighter’s games.
This fight is going to look a bit like a train wreck, as Wiman doesn’t have any speed except fast, and this plays right into Sass’s hands (or legs as the case may be). Wiman has solid grappling, but Sass is just so good at what he does, I’m not convinced anyone can stay inside his guard for more than a few minutes without being tapped or swept. Unless Wiman flattens Sass with a lunging salvo early, this eventually makes its way to the mat and I’m counting on the English fighter to pull off yet another submission win over the durable American.
Kyle Kingsbury vs. Jimi Manuwa:
In another instance of Kyle Kingsbury being used as the LHW door mat, the AKA fighter will welcome Jimi Manuwa into the UFC. Kingsbury is a fighter who coasted through their early career, but found themselves on TUF, and ultimately thrown into the deep end in the UFC before they were ready. Taking the smart road, Kingsbury took a minimal amount of fights after leaving the show, getting as much gym time as possible over the course of two years. This time at AKA helped hone Kingsbury’s style and he’s since looked respectable inside the Octagon, using an aggressive and versatile striking game and working clinch and takedowns as a secondary attack plan. Kingsbury has proven to be effective at both long-range attacks due to his long frame, but can dirty box with the best of them and shows the endurance you’d expect out of a life-long athlete.
Jimi Manuwa is a raw athletic fighter, and someone I expect to make a serious splash in his first several fights. Manuwa brings a quality to the combat sports game that’s hard to describe, but it’s what I’d call “surety”. Manuwa attacks with a surety to his offense, as if nothing his opponent does will stop him from connecting or landing takedowns. This quality has resulted in one of the most horrendous strings of KOs imaginable, as Manuwa has utterly destroyed all eleven of his opponents to date.
Manawa is a bit of an unknown in terms of how he’ll deal with elite level competition, but Kingsbury makes for the perfect entry-level opponent for him. Kingsbury can take this fight if he works a few takedowns and avoids Manawa’s power, but he’s shown that he’s generally too headstrong to go for such tactics unless he’s getting the worst of the striking exchanges. The problem we saw against Teixira is that sometimes the line between “losing exchanges” and “flat-out unconscious” approaches too fast for a change in tactics. Expect Manawa to bully Kingsbury before he can get his head in this match and finish early and violently.
Brad Pickett vs. Yves Jabouin: An interesting fight here, as Pickett’s chin has shown that isn’t been deteriorating over time, allowing Jabouin an out to finish this fight with his blazing hand speed. Pickett brings more to the cage than just a sturdy chin though, and I can’t see Jabouin surviving long in a pitched battle here. Pickett should get the takedown fairly early and work his magic on the mat for a quick tap.
Che Mills vs. Duane Ludwig: A fight that seems close on paper isn’t likely to play out that way. Ludwig has long been regarded as a striking ace, but one that has seldom managed to beat heavy-handed opponents in his career. Mills is a straight-up killer and I don’t see Ludwig being able to stop him from landings his hard muay thai attacks over and over.
Andy Ogle vs. Akira Corassani: A surprising addition to the UFC, Andy Ogle will make his debut, facing fellow TUF competitor Akira Corassani. Ogle is a basic fighter, and quite frankly, not up to UFC caliber, which should make him an easy entry fight for Corassani. Corassani’s powerful and accurate striking should be more than enough to overwhelm Ogle early, taking a TKO victory.
Tom Watson vs. Brad Tavares: In a move that’s been a long time coming, Tom Watson will enter the UFC and take undercard fighter Brad Tavares. Watson is one of the best British fighters the UFC has signed in some time, but Tavares is a tough stylistic match-up for him due to his chin and smart wrestling. This is a tight bout and a major step up for Watson, which I feel will be a bit too much initially. Look for Tavares to fight a smart fight, doing what he can standing and working his clinch and takedown offense to snatch a close decision win.
DaMarques Johnson vs. Gunnar Nelson: World-caliber BJJ ace Gunnar Nelson will step into the big leagues, taking on gritty veteran DaMarques Johnson. I’m not sold on Nelson as a fighter at this level, and Johnson is a rugged first fight. However, the quick turn-around for Johnson and his issues with submission defense should set him up for a win here if he can pull it out.
Jason Young vs. Robbie Peralta: A great fight opener will pit two underrated strikers together in a closely contested bout. Young uses an in ordinarily large amount of functional grappling strength and simple, yet effective striking combinations, while Peralta approaches the stand-up from a different angle. Using fast probing strikes and a great deal of leg kicks, Peralta tends to out point fighters, although he does have the ability to blast opponents with his vicious hand combinations. The thing that clinches the fight for me is that Peralta uses far too many leg kicks to be sneaky, and these are attacks Young has shown the ability to easily catch and counter in previous fights. A tight striking bout should result in a decision win for Young, as he reverses position on the fence and lands counters and trip takedowns off the leg kicks.
What I think is interesting at Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV and what the reader thinks is interesting may be two different things though, so be sure to follow me on twitter @Mikehammersmith and let me know what upcoming fights you’d like to see broken down on the fight report.