The UFC makes the trek back over the Atlantic Ocean this weekend to Manchester, England where UFC 105 will take place on Saturday, November 14th at the Manchester Evening News Arena. The fight card will feature a main event contest between Randy "The Natural" Couture and Brandon "The Truth" Vera. It will be Couture's first fight back in the light heavyweight division since his loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 57 back in February of 2006. England's Dan Hardy will battle Mike Swick in a potential contender match-up in the welterweight division while Michael Bisping will try to stop Denis Kang in middleweight action.
Our first preview will focus on the six-fight preliminary card at UFC 105 that will feature a plethora of British talent as well as some regional newcomers to the UFC. Familiar English talent in Paul Taylor and Terry Etim headline the event's undercard with appearances from John Hathaway, Paul Kelly, Andre Winner, and newcomers Alexander Gustafsson and Jared Hamman.
First up in our long list of fights is a welterweight battle between British fighters Paul "Relentless" Taylor (10-4-1, 1 NC; 3-3 UFC) and former Rugby player turned MMA fighter John Hathaway (11-0, 2-0 UFC). Taylor is coming off an unanimous decision win over Peter Sobotta at UFC 99 while Hathaway defeated Rick Story via unanimous decision at the same event on June 13th.
This should be an easy fight to breakdown in terms of styles. Taylor will look to keep this fight standing as he's shown a propensity to kickbox in the Octagon, and it has produced some exciting fights in the past as he's netted Fight of the Night honors on three separate ocassions. Hathaway's gameplan will likely be to avoid those exchanges and put Taylor on his back, a place in which Taylor can be controlled. Hathaway's wrestling and ground n' pound will be his weapons of choice in this match-up, and Taylor will be in for some considerable damage if he finds himself on the bottom of a Hathaway flurry.
While Taylor could make this an epic war in the striking department, Hathaway will want to take this fight to where he can be the most effective. Taylor should be able to put his fist on Hathaway's face a few times, but I'll boldly take John Hathaway over the six-fight UFC veteran in this bout to improve his record to 12-0 and remain undefeated.
In lightweight action, submission grappler Terry Etim (13-2, 4-2 UFC) will battle San Diego, California-native Shannon Gugerty (12-3, 2-1 UFC) in what could turn out to be a battle for ground supremacy. While both men consider themselves grapplers first, strikers second, this fight could have the makings of a stand-up battle. Etim is coming off three straight wins with his last victory coming at UFC 99 over Justin Buchholz, a win that secured him submission of the night honors. Gugerty enters the contest with his most recent win coming at UFC 100 in which he submitted wrestler Matt Grice at 2:36 of the first round.
Etim's advantage in this scrap should come from his Muay Thai striking skills. While he has a lengthy frame to be a formidable force on the ground, his leg kicks and crushing knees in the clinch are a means to setting up his submission tactics. Gugerty is good at putting submission holds on guys who actively seek takedowns, but he should lose a stand-up battle with Etim here.The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 semi-finalist and Sanshou Kung Fu practitioner Nick Osipczak (4-0, 1-0 UFC) will make his sophomore appearance in the Octagon against The Ultimate Fighter Season 7 contestant Matthew Riddle (3-0, 3-0 UFC). Osipczak is coming off a victory over Frank Lester at The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale back in June while Riddle enters with a win via decision over Dan Cramer at UFC 101.
This battle will pit two of the better camps in MMA right now in a head to head competition. Osipczak is currently training out of Team Rough House with Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, Jimmy Wallhead, Dean Amasinger, and Andre Winner while Riddle currently trains out of the world renowned Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Osipczak's Kung Fu background has translated nicely to helping his striking game become a significant tool in his bag of tricks, and his wrestling ability has been good enough to finish off opponents on the ground. Riddle hasn't been impressive in his wins as he's found it very tough to finish off his opponents. All three of his wins came by decision. For that reason, I'll take Osipczak here as he has more ways to finish off Riddle, and his striking ability will likely be more superior to that of Riddle.
Heading back into lightweight territory, Wolfslair fighter Paul Kelly (9-1, 3-1 UFC) will bring his ground n' pound style to the Octagon against Germany's own Dennis Siver (14-6, 3-3 UFC). Kelly is coming off decision victories over Troy Mandaloniz and Rolando Delgado while Siver finished both Nate Mohr and Dale Hartt in his last two fights with the promotion.
This would be much more interesting match-up if Siver actually hated trying to work off his back, but Kelly's relentless takedown ability and power from the top should be able to punish Siver for most of this fight. Unless Siver can unleash some flurries on the feet before this fight hits the ground, Kelly will be tough to buck from a smashing top control game. The x-factor comes down to whether Siver can pull off the armbar from the bottom, a move he's used effectively in the past. My money is on Kelly avoiding it and winning a decision.
Undefeated Swedish prospect Alexander Gustafsson (8-0) will make his Octagon debut against fellow newcomer and former EliteXC fighter Jared Hamman (10-1) in a light heavyweight match-up. Gustafsson's experience has generally been limited to the Scandanavian regional MMA scene with most of his wins coming by way of TKO in the first round while Hamman has a bit more experience as he was a featured fighter in EliteXC's ShoXC series. Hamman holds wins over Travis Wiuff, Aaron Rosa, and Poai Suganuma.
Both men tower above most of the competition in the light heavyweight division as Gustafsson is 6'5" while Hamman registers at 6'3". The most interesting part of Gustafsson's game is that he has a highly touting boxing background that's coupled with his enormous length. Hamman packs quite a wallop as well, but he won't have the credentials in the boxing arena to beat Gustafsson standing in a technical battle. He does, however, have the chops to beat Gustafsson on the floor with his superior wrestling. With any lengthy fighter however, the guard becomes a very dangerous place to play as Gustafsson does have some formidable jiu-jitsu under his belt, a blue belt actually.
It'll be interesting to see how this fight plays out, but Hamman definitely holds the edge in terms of fighting better talent. It could ultimately be the deciding factor in this bout, but it's a tough pick to make. My gut says Gustafsson, but the safe play is probably Hamman in this tilt.
Lastly, The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 runner-up Andre Winner (9-3-1, 0-1 UFC) will take on The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 contestant Rolando Delgado (6-4-1, 1-1 UFC) in a lightweight battle that looks like a set-up for Winner to cruise to victory. Winner lost at The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale to Ross Pearson, and his previous bouts ended as a draw to Cage Rage veteran Abdul Mohammed and a loss to current French standout Bendy Casmir. Delgado enters this contest following a loss to Paul Kelly at UFC 99.
Winner has some problems actually being able to finish opponents in the past, although he finished nearly all of his opponents on the show with the exception of the loss to Pearson in the final. He does, however, have a fairly well-rounded skill-set that should be able to make him competitive in all areas of a fight. Delgado, on the other hand, has really only found success in the ground game. He's considered a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but as we found out during the taping of season 8 -- that's likely not the case.
Delgado is likely not a black belt level jiu-jitsu fighter, but he does have a repetoire of submissions that he can successfully land. He's also a fighter who is fairly resilient, and he won't simply give in to a losing cause, which makes him dangerous even in the waning moments of the third round. Winner is easily the better fighter in this bout however, and his training at Team Rough House only gives me more confidence that he's improving. He'll surely begin to show us some improvement, and it should start with Delgado.