It’s been a while since the UFC had a show in England. The organisation has focused its recent efforts and resources on other areas of Europe, including Germany, Scotland, Sweden, Poland, and in particular, the Republic of Ireland. Alexander Gustafsson and Jimi Manuwa headlined their last event in England, and almost two-years later the UFC are back at the O2 Arena in London with UFC Fight Night 84. Saturday night’s main event is one that most English UFC fans have been hoping to see for many years. I’ll be at the o2 Arena covering the event for MMATorch and here’s my preview of the four main card fights:
Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping (Middleweight)
This fight has been in the making for several years but Michael Bisping kept falling off the last rung of the ladder, so he’s had to wait patiently for Anderson Silva to fall to his level. It’s a shame it has taken this long, but the delay works in favour of Bisping, because a Silva in his prime would have made light work of the Englishman. This Anderson Silva, who’s fast approaching his 41st birthday, may just have slowed down enough for Bisping to make a fight of it.
Two decisive back-to-back losses to Chris Weidman made us realise that Silva was only human. The debacle fight against Nick Diaz, both inside and outside the Octagon, made us doubt he was anything but human all along. Silva has the experience and advantage in virtually every facet of the game over Bisping, and his striking should be too much for a fighter prone to letting his heart rule his head.
After a tough loss to the current Middleweight Champion, Bisping earned sluggish decision victories over C.B. Dolloway and Thales Leites, but it has been a long time since Bisping won three-straight. He’ll need the performance of his life against a poor version of Silva if he’s to have any chance of reigniting his faded title aspirations. Even if that happens, I can’t imagine Bisping will be able to stay out of reach for long enough to not get caught at least once. Silva may not be the same fighter of old, but I suspect he’ll still have enough to finish Bisping when the chance presents itself. Silva via TKO in the second round
Gegard Mousasi vs. Thales Leites (Middleweight)
This is one of the toughest fights on the entire card to predict. I keep going back and forth on my pick and I’m still not convinced I have made the right choice. Mousasi clearly has a more accomplished body of work behind him but that brutal knock-out loss to Uriah Hall only happened six-months ago and that’s not an easy experience to quickly recover from. On the other hand, Mousasi is still a very dangerous mixed-martial-artist who can win a fight a number of different ways. He uses all eight points of contact effectively and his submission game is only a tier below the very best. Leites must proceed with caution anytime he finds himself in Mousasi’s guard.
As for Thales Leites, his performance in Scotland wasn’t the best even though the judges ruled it a split-decision (it wasn’t). That fight leaves him open to criticism from doubters who now suspect his ability to fight top tier talent when thousands of miles away from home. Michael Bisping also provided Mousasi with the perfect gameplan; play the striking game, plenty of movement, then up the striking tempo after the first round. Leites is no slouch in the stand-up but his best chance to win is to smother Mousasi on the mat and land enough strikes of his own to keep busy. I think he does that until he makes a mistake and Mousasi pounces on it to secure a late submission win. Mousasi via submission in the round three
Tom Breese vs. Keita Nakamura (Welterweight)
Tom Breese is a star in the making, and the former BAMMA and Cage Warriors welterweight is a huge favourite to win his third successive UFC fight on Saturday night. Despite being only 24 years old, Breese really does look the part, largely helped by his Tristar training partner, Rory MacDonald. Both of his UFC victories have ended with a decisive first round finish, and I’m prepared to bet good money on his third fight not going to a second round either.
Breese has shown some fantastic precise striking thus far, and it’s clear to anyone that Keita Nakamura has been brought in to make the Englishman look good. In his second UFC spell, Nakamura won his comeback fight in Saitama, Japan last year; but not before Li Jingliang gave him an incredibly tough time in their stand-up exchanges. Nakamura will inevitably afford Breese the same striking opportunities, but unlike Jingliang, the Birmingham native will have too much power and accuracy before Nakamura can utilise his efficient grappling skills. Breese via TKO in the first round
Brad Pickett vs. Francisco Rivera (Bantamweight)
Only Michael Bisping will get a louder cheer than Brad Pickett on Saturday night, and even that’s debatable. Not only is Pickett a born and bred Londoner, he’s also a huge fan favourite because of his entertaining style. His swing -for-the-fences approach often comes without success but he certainly knows how to get a crowd fired up. No one gave him much of a chance at UFC 189 against Thomas Almeida, but Pickett severely tested the undefeated Brazilian in a fight that set the perfect tone to start the best main card of all time.
During his current UFC run, Francisco Rivera has only lost to Takeya Mizugaki, John Lineker, and Urijah Faber. His loss to Faber was particularly hard to take because of the eye-poke he received which led to Faber locking in a bulldog choke. Before that he was more than holding his own in the striking exchanges, utilising his size and reach to great advantage. Rivera is also much bigger than Pickett and he’s a more technical striker too. While Pickett always has a punchers chance to win, I expect Rivera to floor the Londoner at least once during their fifteen minute fight. Rivera via TKO in the second round
Makwan Amirkhani over Mike Wilkinson via submission in the second round
Marlon Vera over Davey Grant via submission in the second round
Scott Askham over Chris Dempsey via TKO in the third round
Arnold Allen over Yaotzin Meza via Decision
Krzysztof Jotko over Brad Scott via Decision
Rustam Khabilov over Norman Parke via Decision
Janis Danho over Daniel Omielanczuk via TKO in the first round
Teemu Packalen over Thibault Gouti via Decision
David Teymur over Martin Svensson via TKO in the second round
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