The UFC returns to the UK tonight with a much-criticised card in London’s O2 Arena but from top to bottom, the card really isn’t that bad if you’re familiar with the European MMA scene.
While it must be said that the main event between Jimi Manuwa and Corey Anderson isn’t the most consequential bout in history, there’s a ton of promising talent on showcase and some exciting match-ups scattered throughout the prelims.
Leon Edwards vs Albert Luque, Tom Breese vs Oluwale Bamgbose, Marc Diakese vs Teemu Packalen and Joseph Duffy vs Reza Madadi should all produce fireworks on the preliminary card but for the sake of continuity, we’ll go into more detail on the featured portion of the night with our main card predictions:
Jimi Manuwa (16-2) vs Corey Anderson (9-2)
Prior to Manuwa’s last outing against Ovince Saint-Preux, a match-up with Corey Anderson would have been a much more intriguing clash.
Corey Anderson’s wrestling ability and complementary top control have helped him rack up the wins at light heavyweight while his striking game, and his jab in particular, have helped him round out his game to become a great fighter.
The problems for Anderson in this bout, however, are that Jimi Manuwa has improved exponentially in the areas needed to thwart ‘Overtime’. Against Saint-Preux, Manuwa displayed an improved ability in the clinch, his takedown defence and his own wrestling game and combined with his aggressive hard-hitting striking, ‘The Posterboy’ has the tools needed to add another stoppage victory to his CV.
Pick: Jimi Manuwa
Gunnar Nelson (15-2-1) vs Alan Jouban (15-4)
The paths to victory for both men are more than apparent here.
For Jouban, he has to make use of his kicking game and his strikes from distance. Rick Story has already used a similar game plan to defeat Nelson in the past so if Jouban can replicate a similar performance, he can easily cause a minor upset – especially in a three round fight.
With Nelson, his grappling is enough to cause headaches for every fighter at welterweight not named Demian Maia so if he can move inside, get a hold of his opponent or land a heavy punch he has the skills to control or submit Jouban.
This fight could easily go either way but I don’t think Jouban has the ability to avoid Nelson taking the fight to the mat over 15 minutes.
Pick: Gunnar Nelson
Brad Pickett (25-13) vs Marlon Vera (8-3-1)
Brad Pickett will bring an end to a pioneering career tonight and if you’re not a fan of ‘One-Punch’, there’s something very wrong with you.
The only way in which Vera can win is if the occasion gets to Pickett but I don’t see that as a possibility. The Londoner’s striking, wrestling and submission skills are simply better than Vera’s so expect a stoppage victory to bring the curtain’s down on an excellent career.
Pick: Brad Pickett
Arnold Allen (11-1) vs Makwan Amirkhani (13-2)
This is probably the toughest fight to call on the main card as there are big question marks surrounding Amirkhani in particular.
Both fighters have been out of competition for over a year but in Amirkhani’s last fight, his dominant performance nearly ended in disaster as his gas tank completely emptied in the third and final round against Mike Wilkinson.
Allen meanwhile is a well-rounded fighter with great finishing ability but Amirkhani’s grappling could slice through Allen’s as the Finish fighter is a submission threat in any position.
It’s rare for the UFC to pair two prospects against one another early in their careers but with Amirkhani’s slight edge in experience and change in training camps, I’m going to plump with Mr.Finland making the adjustments needed to get the win here.
Pick: Makwan Amirkhani
(Last Predictions: 3/6, Total: 19/36, 53% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)