BAMMA 5 will take place on Saturday, February 26th from the MEN Arena in Manchester, England. The card will feature a welterweight championship showdown between former UFC and current Strikeforce fighter Paul Daley and DEEP champion Yuya Shirai. The fight has added significance as it will act as a title contention fight for Daley, who has been jawing in the media that he will crush Nick Diaz if he's given the opportunity. UFC veterans Ricco Rodriguez, James McSweeney, and Xavier Foupa-Pokam will also fight on the main card along with prospects Alex Makhonin and Claudio Henrique da Silva. The card will air LIVE on pay-per-view for $10 at 4:00 PM EST.
Join us here at BloodyElbow.com at 4:00 PM EST for live results and commentary from yours truly. If you aren't willing to shell out the dough for the event, follow the live play-by-play or join the discussion to get you in the mood for UFC 127 on Saturday night.
Welterweight Championship: Paul Daley (26-9-2) vs. Yuya Shirai (20-8): Daley has the potential to earn a title shot against Nick Diaz with a victory over Shirai on Saturday, a strange formula considering the fact that most major promotions don't rely on fights outside of the promotion to ensure title contention. Nonetheless, Scott Coker has made the proclamation, and Daley has stated that it won't take him long to prove he's the true champion.
There has been some debate regarding Shirai's status as a legitimate challenger to Daley's overwhelming power. Shirai is by no means a low-level opponent, but I think fans are putting way too much emphasis on his ground game. According to some fans, Daley has horrific takedown defense, which couldn't be further from the truth. Daley's sprawl will prove to be good enough to stop Shirai, and his hands will do all of the talking in the first round of action on Saturday. Daley via TKO.
UPDATE: Paul Daley missed weight again. Let the ranting begin.
Catchweight (215 lbs.): James McSweeney (4-6) vs. Ricco Rodriguez (45-11): James McSweeney at light heavyweight is something I would much rather watch than the slowed down version of him we've seen in the past. He ran into a brick wall in Fabio Maldonado at UFC 120, but he looked impressive early in that fight. Against Ricco at a bulkier weight, I don't expect him to be the terror we saw in round one against Maldonado. I suppose it all depends on what weight McSweeney intends to come in at. Will he sacrifice speed for weight in order to stop Ricco's takedown attempts or will he rely on that speed to dance around Ricco?
Despite all of Ricco's shortcomings in his personal life, he's still an above average fighter who has the grappling ability to defeat above average talent. It's debatable whether McSweeney fits into the "better than your average fighter" category. His record certainly doesn't suggest it, and his performances, with the exception of his light heavyweight stint at UFC 120, haven't proved it. I think Ricco has enough skill to exploit McSweeney's major weaknesses on the ground. I won't go so far as to say Ricco will finish off McSweeney, but I think he takes a decision in this contest.
UPDATE: Ricco came in two pounds over the contracted weight of 215. With that said, I still think he'll be too much for McSweeney.
Middleweight: Alex Makhonin (8-1) vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam (21-15): Xavier Foupa-Pokam must be wondering what has gone wrong following his two-and-done stint with the UFC. After losses to Denis Kang and Drew McFedries at UFC 97 and UFC 98 respectively, Foupa-Pokam has gone 1-4 in five appearances. His level of competition hasn't been easy, which I suppose is one thing that can be taken away from those losses, but Foupa-Pokam hasn't won. To most fans, that's all that matters.
Saturday's battle with Alex Makhonin could be a career crossroads for Foupa-Pokam. Makhonin is considered one of the better 185 pound prospects in England, but he isn't a prospect that I would consider to be on the verge of a stint with the UFC. His strength of record is rather weak, and his skills inside the cage are average at best at this point in his career. He is taking the first step in fighting better competition in Foupa-Pokam. That's a plus for British fans hoping one of their countrymen can break into a larger promotion.
While Foupa-Pokam is currently sliding down a path to obscurity, I think this is a match-up that he can use to build his way back to winning consistently. Makhonin is a fairly well-rounded fighter, but Foupa-Pokam's stand-up game is going to cause Makhonin problems, especially from range. That less-than-stellar strength of record is going to rear its ugly head here. Foupa-Pokam via TKO.
Middleweight: Claudio Henrique da Silva (6-1) vs. Jean-Francois Lenogue (14-13): Originally, Lenogue was set to face Welsh fighter John Phillips in what was deemed a showcase bout for the successful amateur boxer. I was looking forward to seeing Phillips in action despite Lenogue's hefty loss count. That match-up has since been scrapped, and BAMMA found an equally intriguing opponent in Claudio Henrique da Silva, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz would nearly made the 2001 World MMA Middleweight Scouting Report top ten.
Claudio was awarded his black belt early last year, but he had already garnered a lot of interest from jiu-jitsu players in the Brazilian scene for his winning ways in the lower divisions. He had progressed up the ranks quickly, winning multiple tittles in various regions of the world while also transitioning to the sport of mixed martial arts. Six wins in seven career fights, three of those wins coming in a one-night tournament in which Silva submitted all three opponents in the opening frame.
Silva's striking is far from ideal for this fight, but his grappling ability is ten notches above what Lenogue can offer on the ground. Unless Lenogue catches Silva early or as he's shooting for takedowns, expect Silva to dominate on the floor here, submitting Lenogue early. The only question is whether it will take him an entire round to do so.