I have bitched about preliminary cards a fair amount recently... but actually like this one quite a bit. None of the matches seem like they should be a blowout. Some of them feature some sort of prospect who could make some noise in the future and others a debutant for the UFC. In other words, its what a preliminary card should be for a card.
I don't think anyone on here will ever develop into a title contender, but all of them (except one that I think will be a stinker... not saying which one!) should provide good violent entertainment.
Sweden meets France in what will be just the second light heavyweight bout in the UFC this year. Got an idea of how shallow this division is now?
Latifi is best known for stepping up to the plate to face Gegard Mousasi on 4 days notice last year when training partner Alexander Gustafsson was forced out with an injury. And you think Patrick Cummins had short notice? Considering he cut roughly 26 pounds in 3 days last time to make weight and has time to prepare, I anticipate a much better showing this time around.
Diabate had a two fight winning streak snapped due to a calf injury he sustained in his match with main eventer Jimi Manuwa. Before joining the UFC he was a striking coach for Dan Henderson on TUF 9. So do ya wonder what his strength is?
Latifi has gained a bum rap as Mousasi was able to jab Latifi to death while fighting on a torn ACL. Latifi looked winded throughout the fight even though he kept coming forward. Again people, remember he didn't get to properly train for the fight. His bread and butter is Greco-Roman wrestling and he is very good at it. He landed the most impressive belly-to-back suplex I've seen in an MMA match (yes, better than Rory MacDonald manhandling Nate Diaz) against Tatsuya Mizuno and is a bulldog on takedowns whether it be single or double legs.
I don't understand why so many were surprised when Diabate scored a rear-naked choke victory over Chad Griggs. It brought his total submission victory count up to 6, he set it up with his striking by getting the knockdown, and it was freaking Chad Griggs! When has Griggs shown grappling ability? Diabate isn't great on the ground, but he is sound enough to survive most situations and has been improving. Still, he will want to keep it on his feet.
Diabate is one of the most technically sound and accurate strikers in the MMA scene today. You don't stick around this sport at the age of 40 otherwise. He knows how to use his '81 inch reach effectively, throws awesome kicks, and is more than sound in the clinch, especially with his knees. Latifi is a wild striker that struggles to throw combinations together. He does have power in those punches so Diabate will have to be aware of them. But Diabate has good defense... largely due to the effective use of his reach.
Latifi will look better here than he did against Mousasi, but his lack of speed is gonna kill him. He hasn't been fast even with a full training camp. Diabate will be able to pick him apart and probably get a KO blow eventually. Diabate by KO 2nd Round
The first of many times I mention a former TUF participant, Barnett looks to find his way to high profile matches if he can get past the incoming Swede Nilsson.
Though known as Bigslow, Barnatt isn't as helpless as his nickname might make him sound. Seeing as how he is still relatively new to the sport (first match less than 3 years ago), he has much to learn... but he has been learning at a rapid pace as well. The improvement between his UFC debut against Colin Hart and his last bout with Andrew Craig was phenomenal. At 6'6, he is as lanky as they come and started to effectively use that height and reach against Craig.
Nilsson has been around the European scene for a little while now and has acquitted himself well against some of the best over there, including UFC vets Tor Troeng, Magnus Cedenblad, and Tommy Speer. He won't come into the UFC and set it on fire, but his grappling abilities will give anyone in the division fits if he can get it to his world.
Barnatt still has issues with letting opponents get inside his reach, but as I mentioned his improvement earlier, that is one area I would expect him to continually be drilled as his reach already is a weapon and could be so much better if he learns how to properly utilize it, particularly in his defense. His kicks have proven to be a solid weapon in his arsenal as well. Nilsson won't threaten him much on his feet. He doesn't look hopeless there, but he doesn't have a lot of power behind his punches. The best weapon he has in the standup is his leg kicks which he knows how to angle and time to get his opponent on the ground.
Nilsson has a judo background and will look to instigate the clinch in order to get the fight to the ground. Barnatt is solid in the clinch with knees and short punches, so this will be a risky endeavor for Nilsson. Once he gets the fight to the ground, Nilsson is very active with his GNP, using everything from punches to knees to the body to soften up his opponent. His hips are as fluid as they come and can threaten with a triangle choke. Barnatt's length will likely cause some problems and make it difficult to submit him. He isn't great on the ground, but has shown solid defense at the very least.
I don't see Nilsson winning this by any way other than submission. And I don't see that happening. Barnatt showed massive improvement his last outing and I expect to see improvement this time around as well. Maybe it won't be as much, but it should be enough to score him a win over a very respectable opponent. Barnatt by Decision
Brad Scott (9-2) vs. Claudio Henrique da Silva (9-1), Middleweight
Former TUF Smashes finalist Scott welcomes world-renowned BJJ artist da Silva to the UFC in a classic striker vs. grappler contest.
Scott went through the TUF tournament at welterweight, but made the move up to middleweight after it was over and looked superb in his UFC middleweight debut by making short work of Michael Kuiper. It seems the weight cut took to much out of him cause he was massive at welterweight.
da Silva comes into the UFC as an older prospect at 31 and as a feared grappler with 6 of his 9 wins via submission. Considering the subs seemed to have dried up this year in the UFC, he could end up being a breath of fresh air. Thus far the armbar and RNC are his favorite fight-ending holds and transitions from one hold to another very smoothly til he can find on that will stick. Scott has never been submitted via a hold (strikes is the one blemish), but he has never faced anyone like da Silva.
Scott knows that he will want to keep it on his feet and be the aggressor. da Silva will come firing out with a wild overhand left will shooting for a single leg which he does surprisingly well for someone without a wrestling background. He'll hold on for dear life to get his opponent down. But if Scott maintains his usual varied attack of mixing things up to the body, legs, and head with all sorts of punches and kicks, he should be able to keep da Silva on the defensive and unable to get the fight to the ground. His favorite strike is the jab though and will likely be able to counter da Silva's wild swings quite easily.
If the fight leaves the first round it will likely be all Scott as da Silva has left the first round only once and was gassed once it was past that point. His striking is already sloppy enough when he is fresh, its atrocious when he has little in the gas tank. I'd say Scott is strong enough to resist da Silva's early takedown attempts and eventually beat him down for a stoppage. Scott by TKO 3rd Round
Its hard to say for certain (especially seeing as how the UFC doesn't believe in cutting anyone anymore), but employment could be on the line between the submission specialists.
Delorme has been around the UFC for a few years now after entering from TUF season 14 and has done better than most expected. He has a UFC record of 3-1 with a NC, though none of the victories have a signature taste to them that would establish him in the division.
Grant had more success on the latest American edition of TUF as he made it to the finals (partially by default) before being stopped by Chris Holdsworth. This is his sophmore effort in the UFC, so he is still an unknown entity.
Delorme has a background in judo, but you wouldn't know based on his clingy style of takedowns where he grabs onto anything and won't let go til he gets you down. It isn't the most efficient style and anyone with an iota of takedown defense is often more than successful at preventing it. He does try to get the fight to the ground often though, so at some point he usually succeeds. At that point the fight is in his world as he is great at taking his opponents back and snatching victory with a RNC.
Grant was outgrappled by Holdsworth in his loss, which ended by RNC (foreshadowing perhaps?). But Holdsworth is likely more skilled than Delorme and overall he can more than hold his own on the ground. His submission game actually reminds me a lot of Delorme: fairly creative, but not reckless and often gets the back. He has stronger GNP than Delorme, though he rarely uses it to pound out his opponent and uses it to set up his subs.
Delorme has a granite chin, but he has noticeably slowed down in some of his matches where he has taken a beating... and that is a problem as he has had a tendency to get hit a lot. He is scrappy with his standup though and as he showed against Alex Caceres, is capable of flooring his opponent if not finishing the. Grant does have finishing power in his fists and shows a good uppercut too. He is the more technically sound of the two.
Delorme's losses have come against bigger and rangier fighters... which is the category that Grant falls under. Throw in the fact that this fight is in Grants home country and he is coming off of a loss, I'm sure he'll be the more motivated of the two to get the W. Grant by Decision
A British newcomer is welcomed to the UFC by a rugged Brazilian veteran. At least the Brit will get to do it in his own backyard.
Mitchell isn't exactly a hot prospect and no one is expecting him to ever become a contender, but he could very well develop into a long-term staple in the division. He has fought at both welterweight and middleweight, but is much better suited for welterweight. A lanky 6'2, he has faced plenty of fighters who have appeared in the UFC and held his own against them with a record of 2-2.
Araujo on the other hand is still somewhat unknown to many fans despite having a UFC fight under his belt and paticipating in the infamous TUF season 16. Actually... that may be why he is unknown as most fans have chosen to forget that season. He's been around a long time though with a career spanning back to 2004.
Expect this fight to be a grapplers delight with Mitchell owning 9 victories by sub and Araujo with 17. Araujo is a traditional BJJ grappler that looks for anything his opponent can give him with his subs being littered by RNC, armbars, and arm-triangle chokes. Mitchell on the other hand is always looking to create and is very aggressive with his submission attempts. One moment Dean Amasinger is pushing Mitchell against the fence, the next Mitchell has slapped on a flying triangle choke. He has a twister on his resume too that looked sloppy when you compare it to the Korean Zombie's twister, but you could easily see the pain and contortion in his opponent.
Neither are great strikers, though both have shown improvement recently. Mitchell has been much improved in utilizing his reach and implemented more leg strikes, a sound strategy for him. But he is still bullied quite easily and pushed against the fence with ease. That is often by design though as he is solid in the clinch. Power is lacking though. Araujo looks to be more powerful, but is lacking in technique. Still, he was smarter in his striking in his UFC debut, ofter transitioning to strikes when he realized the takedown wasn't there to score some damage on Ildemar Alcantara. Neither of these guys are great at takedowns and some ugly (and likely clingy) wrestling can be expected.
This will either be a fun grappling exchange or a horrible striking exhibition. Lets hope for the former. Its incredibly evenly matched too and is very much a coin flip. Mitchell's wins over his top competition have come against those lacking in discipline and Araujo may be wild in his strikes, but he isn't a dummy. I think that will be my deciding factor. Araujo by Decision
A pair of smaller flyweights (yes, even for flyweight) square off to remain relevant in the division... possibly even employed.
The best thing that ever happened to Gaudinot was the UFC introducing the flyweight division. Even though he is small for the division, he was absolutely tiny at bantamweight. The best way to describe Gaudinot is scrappy, especially considering it is difficult to say what it is that he is specifically best at. You might say he's one of those guys whose heart is his biggest strength... which is usually a bad thing.
Gaudinot (best known for his green hair) is fearless and will keep coming back for more after taking a beating... the least amount of significant strikes he has absorbed in a bout in his UFC career is 82. That will tell you all you need to know about his defense. He went toe-to-toe with John Linekar and came out on top, so his chin is very good. Along with the being fearless though, he'll try anything from flying knees to spinning backfists. More traditionally, he utilizes a lot of inside kicks and throws some effective punching combinations... if he can avoid turning the fight into a brawl.
His wrestling doesn't suck and has shown the ability to take the fight to the ground, but he is so small that he is often overpowered as Tim Elliot took him down at will. This will likely be the key to the bout though. Harris is a black belt in judo with 13 career submissions. He will look to take the fight to the ground as Gaudinot will have the advantage on the feet. Gaudinot isn't clueless on the ground by any means and is always moving and staying active off of his back, so it will be tough for Harris to submit him.
Harris is another scrapper used to being outsized, but he will actually have the size advantage here. He is a counter striker as he waits for his opponent to make their move and find his range. He isn't the best counter striker though as he misses a lot of his strikes. Once he finds his range though he starts to pick his opponent apart with hooks, kicks, and jabs. That is why Gaudinot would be wise to utilize his combos against him: prevent him from countering and finding his range. There isn't a lot of power in his strikes though, so Gaudinot likely has little to fear. Harris never seems to panic, which was bad against John Linekar as the beating he took was too much to overcome. Usually it plays out well for him, especially on the ground.
Originally I was tempted to pick Harris for the upset, but I gotta think that Gaudinot will have his way with him on the feet and end up landing a massive amount of punches which will prove too much for Harris to overcome. Gaudinot by TKO 3rd Round
Record for last Card: 2-6
Record for Year: 51-25
So yeah, we're going to ignore my record for the last card. The rest of my record is respectable enough... right?