I'm not sure if the UFC is going one division at a time in it's search for new talent (it probably isn't) but another couple of middleweights have been added to the roster and will be making their debut on UFC Fight Night London: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa. The UFC announced via it's official UK Twitter account that Mats Nilsson will face off against Luke Barnatt and Claudio Henrique da Silva will fight Bradley Scott.
The 30 year old Mats Nilsson is a Rumble Sports product fighting out of Denmark, where he trains alongside a decent welterweight in Nicolas Dalby. The Swede is 11-2-1 in his five year mma career with wins over Denniston Sutherland, Tom Speer, and current UFC fighter Magnus Cedenblad. His only career losses have come to decent competition in Tor Troeng and Timo Suhenen. He has five victories by way of submission, with only two coming by form of knockout.
Watching Nilsson fight, everything that he is on the ground he more or less isn't on his feet. He's a crushing grappler, both in the clinch and on the mat and one of the few European grapplers I've seen who appears to have a strong sense of how to generate solid takedowns. His long Judo background means he's very good at slamming opponents from the clinch and tends to not only time his shots well, but to change direction as he shoots in order to stop opponents from sprawling out on him. Once on the ground he's very very aggressive in his striking and grappling and moves fluidly into mount. He also stands out of full guard and looks for opportunities to dive back in with strikes and create openings, rather than staying static on top of opponents. All told he's one of the stronger European grapplers I've seen.
Of course, as I foreshadowed, it appears that his striking has been somewhat left behind in all this. He stays active, and is light on his feet, but his footwork is often pretty bad and most of his strikes are either feints or merely a light throwing of hands toward an opponent to create the clinch. It's something he'll need to work on a lot at the higher levels and it could put him in a lot of trouble against a rangy fighter like Barnatt who is also exceptionally strong in the clinch.
Training with John Hathaway and Zelg Galesic at the London Shootfighters Gym, the 31 year old Claudio Henrique da Silva has carved out a nice little run for himself over the last three years. After going 3-3 from 2006 to 2008, da Silva spent two years away from pro competition to return in early 2010. He's gone on a nine fight win streak since coming back with six of those wins coming by way of submission, to run his record to 12-3. Like Nilsson he has a win over Denniston Sutherland (in the final fight of an 8-man, one-night tourney) as well as long time journeyman Xavier Foupa-Pokam.
Much like Nilsson, da Silva's striking is terri-bad. Really, watching his fights, it's worse. He tends to loop ugly punches with his head up and back. His kicking game, like all other parts of his striking arsenal appear to be a desperation tactic to get parts of his body connected to his opponent before he gets clipped too hard. His footwork is terrible, his defense is worse, but once he gets a hold of his opponent he's a grade-A clinger. He's much more aggressive in searching for submissions on top than Nilsson is, and his BJJ is obviously very strong, but with the gaping holes he presents I wouldn't be surprised if his UFC run is much shorter, even coming in against a fighter like Scott.
To get us better acquainted here are a couple videos of their last fights:
Mats Nilsson vs. Dennsiton Sutherland at CWFC 59:
Claudio Henrique da Silva vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam at Super Fight League 6:
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