UFC FIGHT NIGHT PRIMER 5/28: Ecochard’s preview and predictions of Gustafsson vs. Teixeira, Cirkunov vs. Oezdemir

By Mathew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

MAY 28, 2017

Gustafsson is getting a home crowd welcome when he headlines the UFC’s return to Sweden against Glover Teixeira. The card has some other hometown fighters and some prospects peppered throughout which should lead to some exciting bouts. Not a whole lot of ranked fights are occurring, but plenty of fighters will be looking to make an impression. The following are previews and predictions for the entirety of the card.

UFC Fight Pass Prelims (10:00 a.m. EST / 7:00 a.m. PST)

Marcin Held (22-6) vs. Damir Hadzovic (10-3) – Lightweight Bout

This is the last chance for Marcin Held to make it in the UFC. The young Held was supposed to be a hot prospect coming in from Bellator, but after dropping back to back losses to Diego Sanchez and Joe Lauzon he may be on his way out if he loses to the rather unknown Damir Hadzovic. Held wants to get this fight to the ground as soon as possible where he is most comfortable and can finish off most opponents. Hadzovic enjoys standing up and should do what he can to not be taken down by Held. If Hadzovic gets over aggressive he will be taken to the mat and finished and that is the scenario that seems likely.

Prediction: Marcin Held via Submission Round 2

Darren Till (13-0-1) vs. Jessin Ayari (16-3) – Welterweight Bout

Two 24 year old fighters have a chance to hand the other their first UFC loss. Darren Till finishes people on the feet while Jessin Ayari much prefers to finish them on the ground. England’s Till won his first UFC fight by some nasty elbows, but fought to a draw against Nicolas Dalby his last time out. A narrow decision victory for Ayari when he beat Jim Wallhead. One big difference here is that Till hasn’t fought since October 2015 while Ayari fought last in September 2016. Layoffs aside, Darren Till has the better skill set to drag this fight into deep waters and get a finish.

Prediction: Darren Till via TKO Round 3

Fox Sports 1 Prelims (11 a.m. EST / 8 a.m. PST)

Nico Musoke (13-4, 1NC) vs. Bojan Velickovic (14-4-1) – Welterweight Bout

Losses to Kelvin Gastelum and Albert Tumenov have kept Nico Musoke from gaining contender status, but those are (were in Gastelum’s case) two of the tougher matches in the welterweight. Musoke has a Muay Thai style on the feet, but is also a purple belt in BJJ. Bojan Velickovic is just 1-1-1 in the UFC so far, with his only win coming against Alessio Di Chirico and his loss to Sultan Aliev. Musoke has the better resume, but he needs to keep the fight standing in order to have the better chance as Velickovic is strong on the ground. Velickovic has never been finished so look for Musoke to take it to the judges.

Prediction: Nico Musoke via Unanimous Decision

Reza Madadi (14-5) vs. Joaquim Silva (9-0) – Lightweight Bout

Although he was born in Iran Madadi has the home-field advantage currently living in Sweden, but he is not getting an easy fight. Joaquim Silva is undefeated and is 2-0 in the UFC and his last fight only lasted 34 seconds when he knocked out Andrew Holbrook. Silva has strong hands and is not someone that Madadi will want to stand and bang with. Madadi is better when he rushes in and makes the fight scrappy. Mix in some takedowns and Madadi should have a good chance at winning. Madadi has never been finished so it seems that he will be able to keep Silva guessing and get the decision win.

Prediction: Reza Madadi via Unanimous Decision

Trevor Smith (14-7) vs. Chris Camozzi (24-12) – Middleweight Bout

Two UFC journeymen are meeting and both are in need of a decisive win to make a good impression. Chris Camozzi has already come and gone in the UFC before and in this second stint he has still yet to break the mold. He has gone 3-3 in this second run and loses when it comes against top 15 competition, lucky for him Trevor Smith is not top 15. Smith is 2-1 in his last three with his best win coming against Dan Miller and his loss via decision to Andrew Sanchez. Smith might be the better wrestler, but the striking and submissions should go to Camozzi. Smith can be knocked out, but I don’t know if Camozzi has the power for that. Smith will get outworked and beat up on the feet and lose a decision.

Prediction: Chris Camozzi via Unanimous Decision

(#12) Pedro Munhoz (13-2, 1NC) vs. Damian Stasiak (10-3) – Bantamweight Bout

Strong submission fighters go at it in the feature preliminary bout. Pedro Munhoz has only lost to Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao who are two incredibly tough bantamweights. His striking game is not too strong, but if he can the fight to the ground he will usually force his will onto his opponents. Damian Stasiak has the better striking of the two, being a black belt in Karate. Stasiak has seven of his ten wins via submission, but he shouldn’t play that game against Munhoz, he should keep it standing and use his height and reach advantage of a couple inches to keep distance for his striking arsenal. Munhoz should be able to take down Stasiak and give Stasiak his first finish loss.

Prediction: Pedro Munhoz via Submission Round 2

Fox Sports 1 Main Card (1 p.m. EST / 10 a.m. PST)

Jack Hermansson (14-3) vs. Alex Nicholson (7-3) – Middleweight Bout

A favorable match for Jack Hermansson will take place in his home country of Sweden when he faces Alex Nicholson. Hermansson is a skillful kickboxer and has decent wrestling, using those skills he won his first bout against Scott Askham, but he couldn’t stop the aggressive Cezar Ferreira from finishing him off in November. Lucky for Hermansson, Nicholson doesn’t have much of a ground game to speak of. Nicholson’s best bet is to come out swinging, he has the power to finish a lot of fighters. If the fight goes into deep waters, I don’t see how Nicholson could get a win. Hermansson could finish this at any point on the feet, but I suspect sometime in the third round it’ll get done.

Prediction: Jack Hermansson via TKO Round 3

Oliver Enkamp (7-0) vs.  Nordine Taleb (11-4) – Welterweight Bout

A promotional newcomer gets to debut in his homeland when Oliver Enkamp takes on a tough out in Nordine Taleb. This bout will certainly show where Enkamp is in his career as Taleb is 4-2 in the UFC and has strong Muay Thai skills. Enkamp looks to favor the ground game, but his last two opponents had losing records. This will certainly be the biggest test for him to date and I see Taleb being too much too soon for him in his UFC debut while he stuffs the takedown and picks him apart on the feet.

Prediction: Nordine Taleb via Unanimous Decision

Abdul Razak Alhassan (7-0) vs. Omari Akhmedov (16-3) – Welterweight Bout

Seven wins with seven knockouts is an impressive feat that has been accomplished by Abdul Razak Alhassan. Not only seven (T)KO’s, but all in the first round and all before two minutes. There is little to go that would show if Alhassan has a gas tank at all, or great ground skills, no one knows from watching his fights. A big step up is coming in the form of Omari Akhmedov who is a UFC veteran going 4-3 in the octagon. Akhmedov has shown off a good overall MMA game, but he has been TKO’d twice in the last couple of years. Akhmedov should do everything he can to drag this into a second round to push the limit of Alhassan. It’s fun to see Alhassan do what not many can do especially in a division like welterweight so let’s say he keeps the ball rolling here.

Prediction: Abdul Razak Alhassan via TKO Round 1

Peter Sobotta (16-5-1) vs. Ben Saunders (21-7-2) – Welterweight Bout

A resurgent Peter Sobotta has looked better since his first UFC go around. Leaving when he was 8-4, Sobotta is now 16-5-1 and is 3-1 since his return. Submissions are the best way for Sobotta to finish, but he has good striking as well. This battle should be really fun as Ben Saunders is a fluid fighter who has unorthodox striking and submissions that come out of nowhere. Beating the likes of Court McGee, Kenny Robertson and Jacob Volkmann, Saunders is fringe top 15, but a loss to Patrick Cote set him back slightly early last year. Sobotta is a black belt on the ground, but Saunders is a higher level one. No matter where the fight goes, Saunders will control it.

Prediction: Ben Saunders via Unanimous Decision

(#5) Volkan Oezdemir (13-1) vs. (#7) Misha Cirkunov (13-2) – Light Heavyweight Bout

After beating Ovince Saint Preux in his debut, Volkam Oezdemir is trying his luck against the tough Misha Cirkunov. Even though Oezdemir didn’t show it in his debut, he is a finisher with 10 of his 13 wins coming from stoppages. He controlled the striking and clinch aspects against OSP and it led him to a tight decision win over a highly ranked contender in his first UFC bout. Misha Cirkunov has two four finishes in his four UFC fights, recently defeating Ion Cutelaba and the even tougher Nikita Krylov in impressive fashion. Cirkunov will definitely look to take the fight to the ground as that’s where Oezdemir’s only loss has come from as well as the majority of his own wins. Cirkunov grinds down Oezdemir and finishes him on the ground midway through the fight.

Prediction: Misha Cirkunov via Submission Round 2

(#1) Alexander Gustafsson (17-4) vs. (#2) Glover Teixeira (26-5) – Light Heavyweight Main Event (5 Rounds)

This is a fine piece of matchmaking in the light heavyweight division. Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeiera have yet to face each other and are the number one and two ranked fighters in the division. The losses of both are similar, Phil Davis, Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson. Both fighters need this win to solidify them as a top contender, with the loser being pushed down with little chance of getting another crack at the title.

Alexander Gustafsson has fought his fair share of heavy hitters, Anthony Johnson and Jimi Manuwa both hit as hard, if not harder than Glover Teixeira. He knows how to keep distance and out-strike his opponents, mix in clinching and get nicely timed takedowns. He needs to keep away from Teixeira’s power. Movement and conditioning is key for Gustafsson in order for him to get the win.

After a knockout loss to Anthony Johnson, Glover Teixeira came back with a win over Jared Cannonier, albeit one that he played safe. Teixeira has amazing power, but people forget just how good he is of a wrestler. Teixeira may just as well take down Gustafsson and submit him as he may knock him out. Both fighters have equal chances of finishing this fight and I can’t see it going all five rounds. Gustafsson have more technique compared to the raw strength of Teixeira so he is the pick.

Prediction: Alexander Gustafsson via TKO Round 3

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