The UFC on Fuel card this weekend, like any card in the UK, is a highly mixed bag. There are plenty of things to like, but also plenty of things to shrug your shoulders at. Consider this preview of the first three fights on the Facebook preliminary card part of the latter, but this does not mean I am not personally excited about breaking down each, for which there's plenty to discuss.
The Facebook fights start at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT, with the main card airing on Fuel at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT.
Tom Watson vs. Stanislov Nedkov
Both guys are coming off losses. Watson lost to Brad Tavares, while Nedkov lost to Thiago Silva; a fight overturned because Silva was guilty of something less ignominious than falsifying a urine test, instead opting to hibernate in a weed-cocoon in the 209.
What both can men do: The real narrative going into this fight is whether or not Nedkov's drop in weight will benefit him, or be a detriment. Nedkov's problem coming out of the Silva fight was his gas tank, and I'm not sure dropping down in weight is the answer. Nedkov's strength is well...his strength. He's good at moving forward with punches, and loves to toss those Fedor-like ridgehands that ruined the chins of Zuluzinho, and Gary Goodridge. He's also good in the clinch; a feat on display against Kevin Randleman. Granted, that was in 2009 well after Randleman was a walking, rambling cautionary tale, and the fight went to an uninspired split decision but you write what you can list.
Watson is similar to Nedkov; not especially great, but sturdy, and durable. He's good at mixing up his strikes, and even though destroying Murilo Ninja (who has been a functional corpse for years) is his career highlight, his kickboxing might just be enough.
What they can't do: Nedkov has a victory over Luiz Cane, who is not a particularly special fighter. But Cane blitzed Nedkov for much of the fight. Nedkov simply doesn't fight well going backwards. The problem for Watson is that he can be bullied in the clinch by Nedkov. Expect this to be the story if Stan's gas tank doesn't hit E- Nedkov wading in with punches, controlling the clinch, and Watson not pulling the trigger.
Prediction: Stanislov Nedkov by TKO, round 2.
Vaughn Lee vs. Motonobu Tezuka
Like Nedkov and Watson, both guys are coming off losses. Lee was last seen getting destroyed by T.J. Dillashaw, while Tezuka put up a spirited effort against the favorite in Alex Cacares.
What both men can do: Vaughn seemed to spark the casual fans interest when he took out the once coveted, now cast-off Norifumi ‘Kid' Yamamoto with an arm bar; an accomplishment now considered unremarkable. For Lee, his specialty is the submission game, and the fact that he can create scrambles when it counts. He'll never be mistaken for Demetrious Johnson, but the feistier he is, the better his chances.
Tezuka, who has built his resume in Pancrase, is all about control. He reminds me of a grappling-oriented Kazuo Misaki: tough, gritty, and unflappable. He's not a power puncher but he moves forward in calculated, intelligent ways. In that way, he reminds me of Jon Fitch. All of Tezuka's early losses were by submission, and that hasn't happened since 2008.
What they can't do: One of Tezuka's problems is that his style doesn't always look good to judges, to say nothing of the fact being Japanese is a crime onto itself if the Hioki/Guida fight is any indication (or was it the Omigawa/Elkins fight that proved this notion?).
Despite his background in Judo, he doesn't set up his takedowns well either. If he telegraphs them, Lee might catch him with something. The problem for Lee is that Motonobu is tough, as not having been knocked out in his 28-fight career is a testament to.
Prediction: Motonubo Tezuka by Decision.
Like Lee, Tezuka, Nedkov, and Watson, these two are also coming off losses. Darren Uyenoyama submitted Harris with a rear naked choke on the Brown vs. Bigfoot card while Gomez got absolutely drilled by now-title contender John Moraga on the wonderful Shogun vs. Vera card.
What both men can do: Harris is your typical everyman. He can punch, kick, wrestle, and grapple in workmanlike fashion. He's probably better at punching, but he's durable enough and hits just hard enough not to be taken lightly by any fighter that needs to prove themselves in the octagon. For Gomez, though he's no Rumina Sato, he's a good enough facsimile that any opponent should be concerned about his grappling prowess. No we didn't get to see it against Moraga, but it's there.
What both men can't do: For Harris, he's not dynamic enough to pull forward in fights against talented scrappers like Gomez. For Gomez his problem will come when he can't score takedowns, but he's still the more skilled of the two. Despite what he displayed against Moraga, Gomez won't be a liability on the feet. He understands that he needs to set up his takedowns, which is why he was willing to open up against Rambaa Somdet. Expect this fight to look a lot like Harris' scrap against Darren Uyenoyama.
Prediction: Uylsses Gomez by Submission, round 3.