This is where I was going to introduce the prelims by talking about what a badass James Krause is for taking his contest with Claudio Silva on short notice. I had it all typed up and ready to roll. Of course, MMA is a fickle sport and Ante Delija – a name most of you reading this have never heard of – was forced to pull out of his contest with Cyril Gane due to contract issues. Thus, Krause and Silva were pulled to the main card, leaving the prelims without an intriguing narrative.
Then again, narrative usually is only effective in leading the horse to the water. How well the water tastes once the horse gets there is up to the fighters. I don’t see a Joaquin Buckley situation where someone from these prelims becomes the major talking point of the weekend, but nobody saw that coming either. However, I will make a point of saying there is a particular Polish fighter who is making his UFC debut that has a lot of potential to make some major noise.
- His name may not mean a lot to a large swath of fans, but those who know anything about the European scene are over the moon to see Mateusz Gamrot make his UFC debut. The featherweight and lightweight champion of KSW – the same organization that produced current light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz – the well-rounded 29-year old appears to be joining the organization as he enters his prime. With fast hands and a stinging jab, Gamrot methodically picks apart his opposition with precision. While his grappling is the least notable part of his game, he’s more than competent in that aspect and is a sturdy wrestler to boot. Gamrot isn’t the only debutant in this contest. The less heralded Guram Kutateladze will meet him in the cage. While few know much about Kutateladze, he certainly deserves a crack at the UFC. The native of Georgia has plus power and a durable chin, giving him a good chance of pulling off the upset if he can turn the fight into a brawl. Unfortunately for Kutateladze, Gamrot’s discipline is one of his best features. Gamrot via decision
- Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the TUF season crowning the inaugural women’s flyweight champion has been the development of Gillian Robertson. Still rather youthful at 25, the wrestler grappler appears to show improved nuance in every contest. No, she still isn’t the cleanest wrestler or grappler – Robertson still tends to get caught in bad positions on the mat despite that being where she’s best – but she’s more direct in getting the fight where she wants it. There’s been progress in her striking on the feet too, but she’s still a ways away from consistently winning battles in that sphere. Regardless, those incremental improvements should give her a technical advantage against Poliana Botelho. The issue for Robertson is Botelho packs a hell of a punch, enough that she needs to be respected on the feet. Botelho hasn’t proven to be a wiz on the mat by any means, but she’s difficult to take to the mat due to her impressive physical traits. This is a tough contest to call as I don’t trust Robertson to avoid Botelho’s prominent power, but I don’t trust Botelho to completely avoid the mat with Robertson. I’ll go with Robertson due to her extended experience against quality competition. Robertson via submission of RD1
- I can’t figure out what the UFC is doing. It’s obvious at this point that John Phillips is a lot of fun… provided he’s given an opponent who will stand and trade with him on the feet. The Welshman has serious power in his fists and sound boxing. The problem is he couldn’t stop a takedown from a school yard kid if his life depended on it. So why in the hell is Jun Yong Park fighting Phillips? Does the UFC just want to give Park an automatic victory. Granted, Park isn’t a takedown specialist by any means, but he’s well-rounded enough that he’s gone to mat with no issues in several of his contests, including his UFC victory over Marc-Andre Barriault. Should the fight remain standing for any significant amount of time, both Phillips and Park are known for their durability, so there’s a good possibility we could get some good action out of them with the lean going towards Phillips. However, Park isn’t a stupid fighter. He knows where he’s likely to pick up a W. Park via submission of RD1
- The UFC debuts of Jamie Mullarkey and Fares Ziam didn’t go as planned for either. Mullarkey was outclassed on the feet by Brad Riddell whereas Ziam was grinded into the cage by Don Madge. Mullarkey is the better rounded of the two, mixing in takedowns with his technically sound striking. The problem is Mullarkey lacks any special physical characteristics outside of his toughness, so he needs to rely on being the slicker and smarter fighter. On the flip side, Ziam is still youthful at 23, heavily reliant on his plentiful physical skills. A former K-1 kickboxer with a knack of finishing his punching combos with a low kick, Ziam struggled with the physicality of Madge. Given Madge isn’t known for his physicality, that doesn’t bode well for his future. As previously stated, Mullarkey isn’t a physical specimen himself, but he knows how to use what he does have to his benefit and won’t go away unless he’s put away. Ziam does finishes dotting the majority of his victories, but those have also come against lesser competition. I’m leaning towards the Aussie in this one. Mullarkey via decision
- Most find it to be a surprise Gadzhimurad Antigulov still maintains a spot on the UFC. After all, the aggressive submission specialist has dropped three in a row, all in the first round. His strategy is always the same: pursue a takedown as quickly as possible so he can begin looking for a submission. Antigulov tends not to save any of his energy in the process, knowing his small frame and limited striking makes winning a decision a near insurmountable task. He welcomes Maxim Grishin to the light heavyweight division after the well-traveled vet debuted at heavyweight. Many believe Grishin should have traversed to the UFC long ago, but it was only this summer the 6’3” striker made his way to the world’s premier MMA organization. Not particularly power, nor is a true volume striker, Grishin is very methodical and technical in his approach. However, if he can survive Antigulov’s early onslaught, he should be able to pick apart his fellow Russian. My guess is Grishin proves successful in doing so. Grishin via TKO of RD2
- Despite what his name is, Said Nurmagomedov isn’t much of a wrestler. That doesn’t mean he’s a stiff by any means, nor that he’s an incapable grappler. It’s just that he’s such a lanky fighter that his frame isn’t built to deliver the violent style his namesake as the lightweight champion is known for. Said’s frame is built for is potshotting opponents from the outside with jabs and side kicks. There isn’t a lot of power in his punches, but his kicks have been a different story. He’ll want to maintain his distance from Mark Striegl, formerly a staple of the ONE Championship organization. Striegl isn’t a much of a danger striking, but he’s a slick grappler with an unorthodox style as he favors going for a scarf hold from which to search for submissions. If Striegl is unable to get Nurmagomedov to the mat, he’s got next to zero chance of emerging victorious. Nurmagomedov has been difficult to get to the mat, so a decision favoring Nurmagomedov appears to be the most likely outcome. Nurmagomedov via decision