UFC's Fight Night in Abu Dhabi is filling up fast. The promotion announced another 5 fights for their April 11th card on Tuesday and most notable among them was the signing of two new 145 lb prospects in Cage Warriors featherweight champion Jim Alers who will make his debut against 25 year old Iraqi and former BAMMA title challenger Alan Omer. But before I take a more in-depth look at the newcomers let's take a look at the other announced matchups for UFC Fight Night 39 on April 11.
Resurgent middleweight and former UFC title challenger Thales Leites has been tabbed to take on Strikeforce vet Trevor Smith in a middleweight bout. Leites is coming off his second straight UFC victory, a win over Ed Herman at UFC 167. Smith is coming off a win as well, over Brian Houston at Fight Night 35, but so far has gone to split decision in each of his two UFC fights. A win over Leites would be a pretty big notch on Smith's belt thus far in his UFC career.
In a bout between recent flyweight signings "The Turkish Delight" Alptekin Ozkilic will take on Dustin Ortiz. Both Ortiz and Ozkilic are coming off a loss, with Ozkilic taking a bad upset in a unanimous decision loss to Louis Smolka in Smolka's UFC debut. While Ortiz needs to get back on track as well, he's got a little more positive karma coming off a split decision loss to former 125 lb title challenger John Moraga at Fight Night 35 in a bout many felt he won.
Also looking to jump back in the winner's circle are Chris Camozzi and Andrew Craig. Camozzi is now on a two fight skid, the first of his career, after dropping a unanimous decision to Lorenz Larkin at Fight Night 31 and getting submitted by Ronaldo Jacare Souza at UFC on FX 8. Craig is now tasked with rebounding from the first stoppage loss of his career after getting submitted by Luke Barnatt at Fight Night 30 last October.
And finally, before I get to the two new fighters, Ramsey Nijem will meet Beneil Dariush with both men looking to add to their recent success. Nijem has had an exceptionally uneven UFC career after making it to the finals of the Ultimate Fighter. He had a three fight win streak snapped with back to back stoppage losses, but came back nicely to beat Justin Edwards at Fight Night 35. Dariush was the author of a big upset win when he made his debut against longtime vet Charlie Brenneman and choked out "The Spaniard" in under two minutes of the first round.
Now, the newcomers. Jim Alers has been on hardcore fan radars for some time now, most notably since capturing the CWFC featherweight title at CWFC 53 last April. He's defended it twice since then, with strong performances over Graham Turner and Martin Svensson. The 27 year old is a bit at sea when it comes to training camps at the moment. He has done some work with Roufusport in the past, but recently split from his gym at Alliance Jiu Jitsu and is now with Tough as Nails MMA. He may need to move to a bigger camp to find long term success in the UFC, but just having a more stable home base is a good start.
Watching Alers fight, he's something of specimen when it comes to raw power and fast twitch muscle. Grappling is his bread and butter, and he gets fights to the ground with a variety of powerful slams, trips, throws and takedowns. Once on the ground he transitions quickly between powerful submission attempts and has a deep bag of tricks to pull from. He can get a bit over aggressive and risks giving up position against other skilled grapplers, but his ability to scramble and get to his feet nullifies some of that risk. His striking, is both a point of improvement and a point of worry. His footwork isn't great, but he moves his head well as he throws and his punches come with speed and power. As fights wear on, however, he can get a bit predictable and often looks to only enter with overhand rights and slip to his right. It's a trend that more talented and physical strikers may be able to take advantage of.
Whether Alers' opponent, Alan Omer, is the man to take advantage of those gaps in Alers' talent remains to be seen. Omer, at just 25 years old, has racked up an impressive 18-3 record fighting on the northern European MMA circuit. He's faced BAMMA champ Mark Adams, longtime regional vet Paul Reed, and rising prospect Anthony Durrell, among a host of other fighters. In general his level of competition has been solid, if not always exceptional. He trains out of Stallion Cage of which he is the most notable product.
Watching Omer fight, he in some ways is a mirror image of Alers, in terms of his fast twitch powerful, style. He throws punches and knees with authority, but generally shows better footwork and distance control than Alers in his striking. Also, he moves very well defensively at range, ducking and dodging around strikes rather than relying on a forearm shield or hand position for defense. He's a lot less dependent on his power hand for punching and works behind the jab with a fair amount of ease. He doesn't kick much, if at all, which would be a bigger deal if Alers were a more developed kicker and could become important in the future. While I would say Omer generally wants to keep the fight standing, he's not a fish out of water on the ground. He has nine wins by submission and much like Alers seems to favor an agressive power submission game, often hunting for submissions with authority. I'm not sure he can match Alers on the ground. His takedown game certainly isn't as polished and I'm not sure of the level of competition he's gotten submissions over, but he's got he's got a lot of quality in his strikes and his groundwork and it looks like he's improved his takedown defense somewhat from earlier poor performances. I expect this will be a tough fight for both men.
To get us better acquainted here are the most recent fights for Alers and Omer.
Jim Alers vs. Graham Turner at Cage Warriors 63:
Alan Omer vs. Dennis Tomzek at Fair FC: