UFC London: Preview & Predictions
By Jon Prentice
UFC Fight Night 147: Till vs Masvidal goes down on Saturday night from the O2 Arena in London, and as we edge ever closer to one of the most stacked cards in UK Mixed Martial Arts history, I thought I would take a look at the match ups and give my predictions on how things are going to play out.
Middleweight – Jack Marshman vs John Phillips:
The main card opener is hugely exciting all Welsh affair as Marshman and Phillips square off in a clash that has potential fight of the night written all over it. Both fighters enter the bout suffering back to back defeats and will be desperate to get in the win column to ensure that their UFC tenure remains stable.
I am almost certain that the fight will play out almost entirely on the feet, with both athletes trading leather until one drops. I believe Marshman has the slight technical edge in the striking department, however Phillips has the power on his side. This really is a coin toss as to who comes out victorious, and it all depends on whether you favour that technical edge over the power advantage or vice versa. I am edging with the better technician in Marshman as I think that he will be able to land more accumulative damage using the sharper technique. It is not an overly confident pick as Marshman has been stopped via KO/TKO four times in his career previously, and if Phillips lands a big shot it could be over quickly, but I am favouring him to avoid those shots and land the cleaner strikes on his way to a stoppage victory.
Winner – Jack Marshman via KO/TKO round 2
Welterweight – Danny Roberts vs Claudio Silva:
In a classic striker vs grappler match up, London’s own Danny ‘Hot Chocolate’ Roberts takes on dangerous Brazilian Claudio Silva in a welterweight clash that could see the fight end in disappointment for the London fans.
Roberts is dangerous on the feet and possesses genuine stopping power as witnessed in the Oliver Enkamp and Bobby Nash fights, however, he will need to avoid the fight hitting the mat if he wants to come out victorious. Silva is a fantastic grappler, with 7 of his 12 professional wins coming by submission. He holds a win over Leon Edwards back in 2014, but has only competed once since that fight, where he defeated Nordine Taleb via rear naked choke in round 1 in May 2018 on his long-awaited return.
Despite his inactivity over recent years, I am picking Silva to win this fight via submission. Roberts’ last outing in the UFC, a split decision win over David Zawada, was full of takedowns and scrambles, with both fighters spending time in offensive and defensive positions on the mat. Silva is a far better grappler than Zawada, and if this fight plays out similarly with Silva getting the fight to the floor, I don’t see Roberts being able to defend the submission attempts. I envisage Silva working his way to mount, landing some ground and pound, forcing Roberts to give up his back allowing Silva to lock in another rear naked choke to silence the London crowd.
Winner – Claudio Silva via Submission round 1
Bantamweight – Nathaniel Wood vs Jose Quinonez:
Another Londoner, in former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion, Nathaniel Wood, gets the opportunity to fight in front of his home town fans for the first time in his UFC career, as he takes on Mexico’s Jose Quinonez in another potentially fun match up.
Wood enters the clash on a 7 fight win streak, with two of those wins coming in the UFC over Johnny Eduardo and Andre Ewell. He is known for his great striking, fantastic heart and the ability to read and adapt to his opponents very well whilst in the cage. He dominated his last opponent, Ewell, on the mat, comfortably controlling the grappling exchanges which ultimately led to a 3rd round win via rear naked choke.
Quinonez is 4-1 in the UFC to date and having won his last 4 in a row, culminating in a unanimous decision win over Teruto Ishihara in February 2018 at UFC 221. Not a hugely prolific finisher, he holds 3 wins via stoppage out of his 7 total victories.
I am expecting Wood to get the crowd back on their feet in this fight as I see him dominating in all facets of the fight. I think he will land shots in the striking exchanges, and if Quinonez tries to take the fight to the mat I feel Wood’s takedown defence will be able to withstand the attempts. Wood is known to get involved in brawls on occasions, so he will have to avoid being tagged in a wild exchange, however I think he dominates the fight standing, boxing from the outside and piecing up Quinonez on the way to a unanimous decision victory.
Winner – Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision
Light Heavyweight – Volkan Oezdemir vs Dominick Reyes:
Two hard hitters in the light heavyweight division square off in another potential candidate for fight of the night.
Oezdemir does enter the fight having lost back to back fights, however the former light heavyweight title challenger can end a fight within seconds of the opening bell, as evidenced in his match ups with Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa. He is most dangerous striking out of the clinch, something Reyes will have to avoid in order to come out victorious.
Reyes is undefeated as a professional at 10-0 and is being highly touted as a potential future champion. He has won all 4 of his UFC outings to date with 3 of those wins via stoppage. He most recently defeated perennial top 15 ranked Ovince Saint Preux via unanimous decision in a comfortable, one-sided clash. He possess power in both his hands and kicks, and utilises a variety of leg, body and head kicks to maintain distance from his opponents.
In my opinion, if Oezdemir doesn’t get Reyes out of there quickly, he will lose this fight. We have seen him gas previously, especially in his last fight against Anthony Smith, and his power does fade as the fight goes on. I see Reyes weathering the early storm, inflicting more damage as the fight goes on and Oezdemir starts to tire. I can see the accrued damage being too much come round 3 for Oezdemir, and Reyes will land one big strike that will spell the beginning of the end before the referee jumps in.
Winner – Dominick Reyes via KO/TKO round 3
Welterweight – Leon Edwards vs Gunnar Nelson:
The co-main event is a fantastic match up in the stacked welterweight division. Leon Edwards enters the octagon riding a 6 fight win streak, most recently defeating Donald Cerrone in his first ever UFC main event in Singapore in June 2018. Gunnar Nelson is an extremely dangerous fighter; however he does have loses to top 10 fighters previously in Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Nelson is at his most dangerous when the fight hits the mat, however, he sets up the ground exchanges with underrated karate style striking. Leon Edwards is one of the most well-rounded fighters coming out of the UK, with solid striking, wrestling and grappling. He took current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman to a decision back in 2015, arguably giving him his toughest test to date in the UFC.
A lot of people are anticipating Nelson to take the fight to the mat and submit Edwards, however, I am of the belief that Edwards, one of the best wrestlers out of the UK, will be able to keep the fight standing and do the more damage on the feet. If the fight does hit the mat, Edwards does have the capabilities to get back to his feet, however one slight lapse in concentration could lead to Nelson locking in a submission.
I am going with Birmingham’s Leon Edwards to take the win in a fight that I can see playing out rather tentatively. He is the better striker and I think he has the skills to keep the fight off the mat. I don’t see him putting Nelson away, but as the fight goes to judges I think he takes the nod in a close decision, utilising his counter striking on route to victory.
Winner – Leon Edwards via unanimous decision
Welterweight- Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal:
Once again Liverpool’s Darren Till headlines a UFC event, on this occasion taking on one of the original back yard brawlers and gritty veteran Jorge Masvidal. Till will be looking to bounce back from his disappointing title efforts against Tyron Woodley at UFC 228, the sole loss on his record, and in ‘Gamebred’ he is taking on an opponent entering the fight with back to back losses.
Till is a big welterweight, having missed weight previously, however he does appear to be leaner entering this bout. Masvidal has competed at both lightweight and welterweight, but will give up size to Till come fight night which could play a part in the outcome of the fight.
Till is a powerful counter striker with good takedown defence, but Jorge Masvidal has cardio for days and if the fight does delve into the depths of the 4th and 5th round he could cause Till problems later on in the fight. I am picking Till to win this fight but I think it will be close. The early rounds may be tentative as Masvidal won’t want to test Till’s power, but as the fight wears on he will come on stronger. I think Till’s reading of timing will be key to getting him the win, as I see him taking the early rounds before Masvidal’s late charge. I don’t see either fighter getting the finish as both are tough and durable, but as the fight goes to the judges’ scorecards I see Till coming out victorious.
Winner – Darren Till via unanimous decision