After the grandiose feel around last weekends ‘International Fight Week’ double header, the UFC takes a demure step back this Sunday with a return to Glasgow, Scotland.
As opposed to a planned double championship main and co-main event, UFC Fight Night 113 will instead feature two of the U.K’s most cherished fighters in testing circumstances.
In the headline act, Gunnar Nelson will be hoping to ascend the welterweight rankings at the expense of the talented Argentinian striker Santiago Ponzinibbio. Nelson is currently on a two fight win streak since losing to the number one contender Demian Maia while Ponzinibbio is on a four fight win streak and has only lost to ranked opponents in his UFC tenure.
In the co-main event, Muay Thai and Kickboxing specialist Joanne Calderwood will receive a hero’s welcome as she takes on the strawweight division’s rising star Cynthia Calvillo. Calderwood will fight for the first time since a losing effort at UFC 203 while Calvillo has carved her way through two opponents in her brief UFC stint with a pair of rear-naked chokes.
Elsewhere, Scotsmen Stevie Ray and Paul Craig will battle Paul Felder and Khalil Rountree respectively on the main card while Neil Seery will bow out of the sport as he takes on Alexandre Pantoja on the preliminary card.
Gunnar Nelson (16-2-1) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (24-3)
Nelson and Ponzinibbio are polar opposites when it comes to fighting styles. Nelson is a slow paced fighter with short bursts of activity while Ponzinibbio will make sure to be the aggressor and will make his opponent work for any of their minor success.
On the feet, Ponzinibbio could easily take a page out of Rick Story’s playbook and chew up the lead leg of Nelson’s bladed stance in order to let his hands fly. It’s a proven game plan against the Icelandic fighter but this will be ‘Gente Boa’s’ first five round fight so whether he can keep up the pace for 25 minutes remains to be seen.
Fortunately for Nelson though, Ponzinibbio is a slow starter and ‘Gunni’ will inevitably have the advantage on the mat.
It’s a fight that is a lot closer than some sections are making it out to be but I think Nelson’s advantages on the ground is the largest disparity between the two fighters and if Nelson can find a way to ground his foe, Gunni can send the fans home happy.
Pick: Gunnar Nelson
Joanne Calderwood (11-2) vs Cynthia Calvillo (5-0)
First and foremost, Calderwood has missed weight for this fight and that’s never a great sign, especially when that fighter is almost certainly holding out hope for the introduction of a women’s flyweight division.
Stylistically, this fight is one of the more stark versions of the striker vs grappler contest. Calderwood is a marvel to watch when on her game but within the UFC, those days have been hard to come by. For every performance like the one against Valerie Letourneau where ‘JoJo’ will dissect her opponent from every angle, there’s a Jessica Andrade bout where her tools are taken away from her.
Calvillo meanwhile has a lot of upsides for such an inexperienced fighter. Her scrambles and submission grappling are amongst the best at strawweight already while her boxing isn’t anything to be sniffed either.
If the fight hits the deck, Calvillo has the skills to finish the job. In Scotland however – and working on the presumption that Calderwood will rise to the occasion – I’ll side with the more experienced fighter to have that extra nous needed.
Pick: Joanne Calderwood
Stevie Ray (21-6) vs Paul Felder (13-3)
This fight should be all sorts of fun. Both men are technical on the feet and will more than likely keep the fight on a vertical axis to test each other’s mettle.
Ray normally works around his kicks and likes to vary his target, a seldom seen strategy, and he can both be the aggressor or sit back and counter.
Felder meanwhile has a stern jab as his staple go-to but his performances in the UFC have been inconsistent in terms of output or style and he never really commits wholeheartedly to his game plan.
It’s a close contest and Felder’s recent move to RoufusSport may continue to provide dividends but Ray’s durability and movement could be the deciding factors.
Pick: Stevie Ray
Jack Marshman (21-6) vs Ryan Janes (10-2)
Marshman vs Janes is a quiet contender for Fight of the Night.
Marshman hits hard while Janes can eat a shot with the stamina to walk through it.
Janes will want this fight on the mat but his ability to get it there is another question. Marshman will have to avoid the clinch but the longer this bout is in the middle of the cage, the better chance Marshman will get the win.
Pick: Jack Marshman
Khalil Rountree (5-2) vs Paul Craig (9-1)
Rountree is an athletic, heavy hitter. Both of his UFC losses have come against grapplers and those loses have been dominant.
Craig, to Rountree’s annoyance, is just that.
Pick: Paul Craig
James Mulheron (11-1) vs Justin Willis (4-1)
A battle of short statured heavyweights will open up the main card and stylistically, this fight is similar to last weeks Omielanczuk – Blaydes bout.
Mulheron, like Omielanczuk, is light on his feet but doesn’t particularly shine in any aspect. Willis though hits hard and can wrestle to set up some damaging ground-and-pound.
It’s the heavyweight coin-flip but Willis should get the job done and show some more of his potential.
Pick: Justin Willis
(Last Predictions: 3/4, Total: 59/92, 64% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)