UFC on FUEL TV 7 takes place this weekend, with a world title defense headlining a solid main card. In the main event, UFC Interim Bantamweight champion Renan Barao faces challenger Michael McDonald. Before that fight, the UFC will host an additional 5 fights on Fuel, plus 6 more on Facebook. In this Bloody Elbow fight card primer, we take a look at the main card action, breaking down everything you need to know about these fights. Be sure to take a look at our prelim primers, and check back later today for all the news on Barao vs. McDonald.
UFC on FUEL TV 7: Barao vs. McDonald airs live from London this Saturday, February 16. As the show is live from London, note the special start time of 3:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. PT for the main card, 12:00 p.m. ET / 9:00 a.m. PT for the Facebook prelims.
Cub Swanson (18-5 MMA; 3-1 UFC) vs. Dustin Poirier (13-2 MMA; 4-1 UFC) - Featherweight
This was originally Swanson vs. Dennis Siver, but injury changed it to this arguably more exciting match-up. There was talk of the winner here getting a title shot (particularly if that winner is Swanson), but with Lamas waiting in the wings and seemingly any old Lightweight who wants to drop down being handed a shot, I wouldn't hold my breath. Swanson is a Greg Jackson trainee who had a so-so run in WEC, but has found great success in the UFC, winning his last 3 by impressive KO against an increasingly tough level of opponent. Poirier has had similar success, winning 6 of his last 7 in the WEC and UFC combined. He was on the verge of a title shot when he lost to The Korean Zombie last year. He's picked up a rebound win over Jonathan Brookins since. With his exciting style and at only 24 years old, he feels like one of the real prospects to watch right now - we'll see if he can keep that momentum going against Swanson.
Jimi Manuwa (12-0 MMA; 1-0 UFC) vs. Cyrille Diabate (19-8-1 MMA; 4-2 UFC) - Light Heavyweight
The undefeated Manuwa made his UFC debut last fall with a very solid win over Kyle Kingsbury. He's a powerful fighter coming out of the UK. He's shown off that power in all of his fights, with 12 straight TKO/KO stoppage wins - only 3 of which have gone past the first round. He hasn't faced too many tough opponents, though that win over Kingsbury was impressive. You can check out Manuwa's power in action in Zombie Prophet's great Jimi Manuwa GIFathon. Diabate is a fighter on the total opposite end of the spectrum. A 14 year pro, the 39 year old Diabate has fought many of the world's best in K-1, Pride, and now the UFC. He's a great technical striker, though scored his last win via submission (a rear naked choke on Chad Griggs). I always feel like he should be done, but he's actually put together an impressive UFC run late in his career. How long he can keep it going is a big question.
Gunnar Nelson (10-0-1 MMA; 1-0 UFC) vs. Jorge Santiago (25-10 MMA; 1-4 UFC) - Middleweight
This is another fight between an undefeated rising fighter and a veteran journeyman. On one side, you have Gunnar Nelson, an incredibly talented submission artist with fantastic grappling credentials. He fought to a draw in his MMA debut and has won every fight since, all by stoppage, including his UFC debut last fall against DaMarques Johnson. The 24 year old is clearly a fighter to watch. Santiago is a 10 year pro who currently trains with the Blackzilians. He has experience in Strikeforce and most notably Sengoku, where he was the Middleweight champion and made a name for himself in an excellent 2008-2010 run. He is yet to replicate that success in the UFC. This is his third run with the company - he hasn't won a UFC fight since 2006. Santiago is 2-0 since being cut by the UFC in late 2011, though both wins come against lower level of competition.
James Te-Huna (15-5 MMA; 4-1 UFC) vs. Ryan Jimmo (17-1 MMA; 1-0 UFC) - Light Heavyweight
This Light Heavyweight battle is between two fringe contenders both looking to make a big step up. New Zealand's Te-Huna has been impressive in his 5 UFC battles, using his power and sheer grit to simply beat down his opponents. Te-Huna sometimes takes his own beating during the fight, but he gives more than he gets. His lone UFC loss came against Alexander Gustafsson, who was able to use the holes in Te-Huna's ground game. Ryan Jimmo lost his MMA debut in 2007 and has gone undefeated ever since. His biggest run came in Canada's MFC where he was the Light Heavyweight champion, defeating the likes of Sokoudjou and Wilson Gouveia. He made his UFC debut last summer, winning by 7 second 1 punch KO over Anthony Perosh - an official tie for fastest KO in UFC history. That said, the KO was a bit of an anomaly, as Jimmo more frequently wins via decision. He's pushing to climb the ladder quickly in the UFC, and a KO of Te-Huna would be a big statement.
Che Mills (15-5(1) MMA; 2-1 UFC) vs. Matt Riddle (6-3(1) MMA; 6-3(1) UFC)- Welterweight
Che Mills is an English fighter who made a good UFC debut in 2011. He was quickly rushed into a fight he wasn't ready for against Rory MacDonald, and understandably lost that fight, but has since come back with a win over Duane Ludwig. Mills is an explosive fighter, with strong finishing skills. Riddle is a TUF season 7 veteran who has fought his entire professional career inside the UFC. As such, we've seen him develop over the years. He's shown steady improvement, but remains a fighter often too focused on the Dana White slugfest fight of the night bonus, not on winning. He's won 2 of his last 3 - the 3rd being a No Contest against Chris Clements. Riddle originally won that fight, but the decision was changed when a post-fight drug test tested positive for marijuana.