Zuffa will venture to Sweden for the first time with on Saturday, April 14th. The main card will air on Fuel TV early in the day at 3 p.m. ET and is headlined by rising Swedish light-heavyweight 2Alexander Gustafsson taking on cantankerous Brazilian Thiago Silva.
The show's preliminary card, which will stream live on the UFC's Facebook page, begins at 12:30 p.m. ET and consists of the following match ups:
Abedi, a Congolese fighter training out of Sweden, was not babied in his Octagon debut. He drew perennial top-tenner Thiago Alves for his promotional premiere and registered a surprisingly game showing despite being handed his first career loss (submission). Abedi came into the UFC with an undefeated record in the middleweight class and dropped to welterweight for the first time against Alves.
Head is also coming off an unsuccessful debut that was finished by rear-naked choke. The UFC newcomer met Nick Ring on the UFC 131 prelims and, like Abedi, proved he could hang at the top level in defeat. Head's only other loss is a 2009 decision to former TUFer Jesse Forbes and he's a former middleweight who's testing the 170-pound waters for the first time against Abedi.
Throughout the Dissection, I'll be referencing MMAViking.com frequently. They specialize in covering the European MMA scene so their perspective is uniquely valuable. Their lead writer, Joona Pylkäs, is a past colleague who's been spotlighting many of the undercard's fresh foreign talent long before they signed with the UFC.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Abedi is a physically gifted specimen with exceptional strength and athleticism. He's a longtime Judoka and now holds a black belt, giving him a burly clinch, excellent balance and powerful takedowns. Abedi has focused on developing his striking with encouraging results, as he displayed against Alves.
To the right, Abedi backs Alves up with his sharp overhand left, which is his favorite strike, putting a little corkscrew torque on the last.
Abedi is a methodical stalker who throws big leather from outside and looks to work a nasty clinch -- replete with knees, elbows and takedowns -- after he's driven his foe back against the fence. He's also a solid finisher, having stopped 7 of his 8 wins with 5 TKOs and 2 subs.
Head has 6 years of boxing experience and recently hooked up with BJJ phenom Rafael Lovato Jr. in Oklahoma City, who coached him to an impressive silver-medal finish at the 2010 World Championships as a blue belt. Now a purple belt, Head caught UFC match-maker Joe Silva's eye with a huge upset over former UFC middleweight Gerald Harris by decision. From his bio on UFC.com, the following is a list of Head's past accomplishments:
What ranks and titles have you held? 2008 Texas - SW Regional Golden Gloves Champion, 2009 Grapplers Quest No-Gi Cruiser Weight Champion, Grapplers Quest No-Gi Absolute Champion, Grapplers Quest Gi -Blue Belt Heavyweight Champion, 2010 IBJJF World Championship - Blue Belt Heavyweight Silver Medalist, IBJJF World No-Gi Championship - Purple Belt Heavyweight Silver Medalist, USBJJF National Championship - Purple Belt Heavyweight Champion.
I think Head has phenomenal potential: he's a legit double-threat with high-level boxing and clever BJJ, he has great instincts, a killer straight right and crisp counters. His performances against Ring and Harris, both of whom are reputable middleweights (he dropped Ring in the 1st round), revealed a lurking gameness and Head should be a handful in this new weight class.
However, it's too hard not to side with Abedi here, mostly based on his strong showing against Alves. Abedi does have some holes in his standing defense that a dangerous counter-striker like Head could capitalize on, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him catch Abedi and/or pounce with submission attempts if the opportunity is presented. It will be interesting to see how the takedown battle plays out, as Head was particularly feisty in staying afoot against Harris.
My Prediction: Papy Abedi by decision.
Diabate is a 6'6" combat sports veteran and world class kickboxer with a spidery wingspan. He alternated wins and losses in his four UFC fights: he knocked Luiz Cane out in his debut, suffered the same fate in reverse against Gustafsson, beat on Steve Cantwell for a commanding decision and succumbed to an Anthony Perosh choke in his last.
While Diabate's made strides with his grappling and takedown defense, the ground aspect is an ever-plaguing weakness. Plus, his striking defense can be questionable, especially for having 20 years of kickboxing experience.
He's the total package standing and his skill is made even more imposing by his stretchy frame. Diabate has been able to tailor his kickboxing to discourage takedown threats. He swings a low kick and telephone-pole left from the fringe and switches to piercing knees and body punches at close range. The sequence to the left against Cantwell depicts both his diverse striking arsenal and lackadaisical defense. Diabate is far from a novice on the mat but is once again facing an elite ground wizard in DeBlass, which has always been a Kryptonite match up.
Tom DeBlass is debuting on short notice as a replacement for Jorgen Kruth, who pulled out last week with an injury. DeBlass is a Ricardo Almeida black belt with esteemed BJJ credentials, having won the East Coast ADCC North American Trials and scored a bronze medal at the No-Gi Worlds in 2009. He is the Ring of Combat heavyweight and light-heavyweight champion and was pegged as the #3 Light-Heavyweight prospect on the Bloody Elbow Scouting Report earlier this year.
The overall breakdown on DeBlass is not unlike Diabate, but in reverse: his sub-grappling is stellar but he's still capable with wrestling and striking. Along with their respective core competencies, DeBlass will have the edge in strength, creativity and wrestling; Diabate in range, footwork and experience.
I used to have high hopes for Diabate. The loss to Gustafsson is understandable but the Perosh submission was disappointing. DeBlass is enough of a wild card that he'll roll into leglocks from the standing position or utilize other unorthodox and unexpected tactics to work his specialty. Additionally, fighting on short notice with nothing to lose can be greatly empowering and Diabate is really a do-able match up for him. Logic actually has me leaning DeBlass here, but I'm going to give Diabate one last chance to prove himself.
My Prediction: Cyrille Diabate by TKO.
Even when paired with a couple of top-notch featherweight grapplers, Young was stubborn with his robust takedown defense, showed solid scrambling to get back on his feet and arguably won the stand-up portion in both losses. Young also exudes an air of raw toughness. He makes opponents work for everything and answers each attempt with a medley of stiff strikes.
Wisely had a rough debut as well, drawing Brazilian juggernaut Charles Oliveira and finding himself entangled in venomous calf crusher from back mount. That was the first time Wisely has ever been stopped. His appearance, grit and southpaw striking style are reminiscent of Spencer Fisher. Wisely is a well rounded and hard-nosed gamer just like Young so this should be a heated gunfight. In his 6-fight, pre-UFC stretch, Wisely's only loss was to Pat Healy in Strikeforce and former UFCers Hermes Franca and Matt Veach were among his wins.
Wisely's wrestling and the way he sets up his takedown attempts will dictate this encounter. Young has technical, A-level kickboxing and Wisely, though he has big punching power, shouldn't have the skill to trade for all three rounds. Wisely does have the advantage on the mat and could also boost his chances by landing takedowns even if nothing becomes of them. Considering the staunch challenge Young presented to Poirier and Omigawa, both of whom are more proven than Wisely, I see him being a little too quick, long and precise for Wisely. Wisely can take a punch and won't go down easily, so this should have a high entertainment factor.
My Prediction: Jason Young by decision.
Izquierdo is an undefeated Cuban making his UFC debut. He trains under malicious kickboxer Eric "El Tigre" Castano, who's overseen the likes of Thiago Alves and Jorge Masvidal, at the Young Tigers Foundation in Miami alongside UFC bantamweight Alex Caceres. The video above is from MMAViking and the following is a rundown on Izquierdo from Joona Pylkäs:
Like many Karate fighters his head movement leaves room for improvement. On the grappling department his ground game is on a better level compared to his wrestling. Izquierdo is a well-conditioned athlete who is also mentally tough and doesn't fold under pressure.
Madadi was born in Iran but now fights out of the Hilti Team in Sweden with Papy Abedi. He is a former freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling champion in Sweden and just a mean S.O.B. overall. His last three wins were all against former UFC fighters: he guillotined Junie Browning and earned unanimous decisions against Carlo Prater and Rich Clementi, though the Clementi fight was a close one.
Most of the undercard match ups have a striker vs. grappler theme and this is no exception. Madadi has never been finished and has a relentless, grinding style of grappling that should be a tall order for Izquierdo, who is still less than two years deep in his pro career.
My Prediction: Reza Madadi by submission.
Joona and MMAViking can break down this welterweight match up better than I. Each of the following links contain extensive bios and multiple videos for each fighter.
Compared to Thoresen, Yousef is more of an all-rounder who is competent in all areas of the game. He is coached by veteran fighter and trainer, and former SMMAF president, August Wallen. The Gladius MMA fighter has shown strong clinch work in his fights and he eagerly takes a submission when there's a chance. He has an aggressive style and usually swings for the fences right from the start.
Most of his wins have come within first two minutes of the fight. He won the Zone welterweight title by choking out Joao Neves (0-3) and then in his latest fight defended the title by choking out Jason Ponet (5-6). The 25 year old Yousef is an average sized welterweight at 180 cm. He seems to be quite strong for his size and has a good athletic base.
28 year old Simeon Thoresen is the prized pupil of Nordic MMA legend Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen and fights out of the Frontline Academy in Oslo, Norway. The young Norwegian known as "The Grin" has fought pro since 2006 and managed to rack up sixteen win in his nineteen career fights.As a fighter Thoresen is a clear cut specialist: a pure grappler. Under Hansen's and ADCC champion Jon Olav Einemo's guidance Thoresen has been able to take his ground game to a very high level and fourteen career wins by submission are a proof of his skill level.
Lately Thoresen's fights have followed the same pattern: takedown, dominant position, back mount and rear naked choke finish. Four of his latest wins have come in this manner and all of them impressively in the first round. At 186 cm (6'1″) Thoresen is a big welterweight with long reach for the weight class.
Thoresen's offensive striking and defense on the feet are still his weakest points. Frenchman Seydina Seck took advantage of this when he knocked out Thoresen at the ADFC 3 show in March of 2011. Most recently the Norwegian grappler secured a 34 second RNC submission over Manual Garcia at Ultimate Warrior Challenge 17 in October 2011. Thoresen also holds a notable win over UFC welterweight John Maguire.
My Prediction: Simon Thoresen by submission.
After spending much of his career at 205, Carmont capitalized on his size and strength advantage at 185 by manhandling Chris Camozzi in his UFC debut, which he won by unanimous decision.
The Frenchman trains out of Canada's vaunted TriStar Gym with Georges St. Pierre and John Makdessi under Firas Zahabi. Just before his Octagon premiere, Carmont finished former UFCer Jason Day by TKO. I was somewhat surprised by Carmont's commanding performance and he looks like he's going to be a legit threat at middleweight.
As a fighter Cedenblad could be described as an allrounder with a preference to ground fighting. Cedenblad likes to take his opponents to the ground and punish them with strikes from the top position. He fights aggressively with an aim to finish which has led to him going full rounds just once in thirteen bouts.
30 year old Cedenblad is a big boy for his weight class: 192 cm tall and diets down from close 100 kilos to middleweight weight limit. For this fight he has been honing his skills at the famed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, in addition to training at VBC in Stockholm.
Cedenblad's size and experience will be key against Carmont, as those are two of his best attributes as well. In a fight this close on paper, Carmont's past level of competition and association with TriStar are enough to get the nod.
My Prediction: Francis Carmont by decision.
All other gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
All cited breakdowns on Swedish-based fighters from MMAViking.com