It’s been almost six weeks since I walked out of the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia – Not only did that fight card mark one of the more exciting top-to-bottom events of the calendar year it also served as the last event put on by the Ultimate Fighting Championship before their large hiatus.
The UFC drought will be broken with their first event in Sweden as the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm gets lit up with UFC action capped off with their home-grown star Alexander Gustafsson looking to notch the biggest win of his career.
If you haven’t already, check out my preview and picks for the preliminary portion of this event here before I dive head-first into the business end of the card.
Bantamweight bout: Brad Pickett vs. Damacio Page
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We begin the night of action of Fuel TV with a 135-pound tilt that will more than likely end up with one or both combatants leaving with a large bonus check from UFC President Dana White when Brad Pickett meets Damacio Page.
Pickett is one of Britain’s finest exports, a veteran of 26 bouts he has locked horns with some of the best in the lighter weight-classes between England, Wales, Costa Rica, Japan and North America – He joined the now defunct UFC sister-organization WEC in 2009 going 3-1 including wins over Ivan Menjivar and UFC bantamweight title challenger Demetrious Johnson.
His debut in the big-show wasn’t as glamorous though, he was paired with top-ranked star Renan Barao who was able to submit him in the first frame but because of his prior record one impressive victory could place him “in the mix” to steal a phrase.
Page is pound-for-pound one of the most exciting and unpredictable fighters on the planet, the Greg Jackson trained fighter has never been accused of being a point-fighter and became a staple of the aforementioned WEC organization where he would beat the likes of Marcos Galvao and Scott Jorgensen.
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Now as he enters his second octagon fight he is coming off back-to-back guillotine choke defeats and finds himself in a do-or-die situation being on the losing end of three of his last five bouts.
Unfortunately for the Albuquerque native I don’t foresee him winning this bout, his biggest appeal is his wild and unpredictable nature but it’s also been his biggest detriment, he comes forward throwing fists of fury hoping one will clip his opponent on the chin and a good counter-striker can pick him apart and that’s exactly what I see happening.
Pickett can stick and move and eventually land a power-punch that puts his lights out or with his improved wrestling and mat game since joining American Top Team he could also take him down and get the submission since all but one of Page’s setbacks are from submission.
Welterweight bout DaMarques Johnson vs. John Maguire
I hate to be cliché and say this is a typical striker-versus-grappler match as if this were 1993 all over again but that’s sort of the story when DaMarques Johnson pairs up with welterweight prospect John Maguire.
Johnson was one of the standout competitors on The Ultimate Fighter: UK vs. USA as a member of Team Henderson he is the only remaining member of his team of eight UFC hopefuls – The former member of the US National Guard failed to win the series losing to James Wilks but has stuck around in the elite 170-pound division.
His run in the UFC hasn’t been on-and-off in terms of his performances, he sports a 4-3 inside the eight-sided cage but of all his fights, none of them have used the judges’ score cards, most recently he obliterated Clay Harvison on the first UFC on FOX card that got some main card play on the international versions of the show.
Maguire is an interesting fighter, he lives out of a caravan and trains almost purely on grappling yet has found success doing so because of his strong wrestling base and high-level grappling abilities, notching nine submissions to date.
His last defeat came to Simeon Thoresen who is featured on the preliminary portion of this event in 2010 and since then he has won six-straight bouts including a win over Justin Edwards in his UFC debut.
It is a tough fight to pick a winner for and I’ve seen people go both ways, I am going to pick Johnson to collect the victory here, he needs to be active and moving the entire fight while picking his shots and not letting him close the distance because Maguire will look to press him against the cage or work from the clinch to get this fight to the floor.
People forget that Johnson actually began with a jiu-jitsu base so I don’t have too many concerns if he doesn’t get it down so I’ll pick Johnson to score the knockout in highlight-reel fashion.
Featherweight bout: Dennis Siver vs. Diego Nunes
Dennis Siver looks to build on his late-career run at a new weight-class when he’s paired up with Brazilian rising-star Diego Nunes.
Siver first joined the UFC in 2006 after submitting Judo black belt Jim Wallhead but after going 1-3 he got his walking papers – One fight outside of the Zuffa umbrella later and got the call to step in on late notice at UFC 93 and little did we know it was going to create a late-career surge towards the top of the 155-pound ranks.
The German-based kickboxer showed off brutal spinning-back kicks that became his signature putting away two opponents with them and was believed to be a fight away from title contention last year after four-straight wins which included Matt Wiman and George Sotiropoulos but a loss to Donald Cerrone derailed that.
At 33-years-of-age he is swimming in new territory trying his luck at 145-pounds but he doesn’t have an easy task ahead of him.
Nunes first became noticed when he notched his eleventh-straight victory submitting Marcelo Franca in the Shooto organization that got him the call to join the WEC where he would become one of their top featherweights – The Nova Uniao/Black House trained featherweight only suffered a defeat to LC Davis during his stint there which scoring three victories.
Since joining the UFC he has notched two victories over a former champion and challenger in Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan but also had his second career setback losing to two-divisional title challenger Kenny Florian.
This is an interesting fight that I could make an argument for both parties but I am going to support the Brazilian native here, he has been at 145-pounds for his entire career and the cut to featherweight for Siver corners me because he was always a large lightweight.
Siver could employ a similar strategy that Florian used controlling the pace and looking for takedowns but I have a feeling this will be a highly competitive decision victory for Nunes who can keep him at bay with his leg kick and throw his combinations and do damage, similar to how he beat Gamburyan on December 30.
Welterweight bout: Paulo Thiago vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Third from the top of the bill comes a welterweight affair between Paulo Thiago and Siyar Bahadurzada that has a potential for high-volume violence or a back-and-forth battle.
Thiago joined the top Brazilian-based organization Jungle Fights with an 8-0 record with seven finishes and he continued his tear through the Brazilian circuit defeating Shooto veteran Luis Datra Jr. and Olympic judoka Ferrid Kheder before joining the UFC’s 170-pound ranks.
He debuted with a ninety-second knockout of former title-challenger Josh Koscheck but since then has failed to live up to the hype behind him – Recently after being on the doorstep of being exiled from the elite MMA organization he snapped his losing streak with a victory over Tachi Palace Fights product David Mitchell.
Bahadurzada has been labeled as a fighter that can walk into the UFC and shake things up for quite some time and finally he gets to make his promotional debut at 27-years-of-age with 25 fights under his belt.
Growing up in Afghanistan wasn’t easy but he’s used that to his advantage, after starting out as an under-achieving member of the Shooto Holland roster before he scored the Shooto light-heavyweight title in 2007 and has kicked it up another notch since defending the top crown in Shooto on two occasions and hold wins over “Cyborg” Santos and John Alessio.
His last career setback was against Sengoku middleweight kingpin Jorge Santiago in 2008 and since then has won six-straight fights, putting five of them to sleep from his powerful right hand.
The infamous “UFC jitters” might be a factor for Bahadurzada who makes his promotional debut against arguably his toughest test to date so it makes this fight selection a challenging one but I am going to stick with the devil I know and take Thiago to win this bout.
Thiago is not a strong wrestler but he can press him against the cage and sweep for the takedown or even pull guard to get the fight to the floor where he has a clear advantage and when the Golden Glory product has met with high-end fighters in Kazuo Misaki and Jorge Santiago he has been forced to submit so I’ll take Thiago to get the tap in the opening stanza.
Middleweight bout: Brian Stann vs. Alessio Sakara
In the co-main event of the evening in a kill or be killed battle with two power-punchers meeting in the center of the cage to see what happens as Brian Stann meets Alessio Sakara.
Stann is a former marine turned mixed martial artist – He entered the crazy world of violence and fisticuffs while still serving on duty and using accumulative leave to take time for training and fighting, he won one fight before being scooped up by WEC merely weeks before Zuffa purchased them.
In his sixth professional fight he collected his sixth knockout and first title defeating Doug Marshall for the WEC light-heavyweight title he would later lose to Steve Cantwell before joining the UFC where he would not live up to the hype going 2-2 in the 205-pound division.
Following his defeat to world-class wrestler Phil Davis he tested the waters at 185-pounds winning three-straight fights to make him a top-ten middleweight before falling to top-contender Chael Sonnen.
Sakara has been training in hand-to-hand combat since he was eleven-years-of-age – He joined the UFC all the way back at UFC 55 in 2005 and hasn’t been cut since defeating the likes of Elvin Sinosic, James Irvin and Thales Leites but only garnering a 6-5-1 record.
Also while serving in the UFC in the early shades of this century he tried his luck as a professional boxer – The native of Rome, Italy holds an 8-1 record as a boxer but quit his career in the sweet science to train MMA full-time – Most recently he lost to top-prospect Chris Weidman.
This is a fight custom-made for a highlight reel finish for Brian Stann – Because of his background with the US marines he is a marketable product and when he isn’t paired with a strong wrestler he has a habit of punching them in the face until they fall over, that’s exactly what I expect to happen.
Light-heavyweight bout: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva
Capping off this exciting night of action is home-grown star Alexander Gustafsson looking to continue his rise to the top of the 205-pound division with a win over American Top Team’s deadly striker Thiago Silva.
Gustafsson wasted no time getting noticed in the MMA sphere showing off his natural athleticism and power-punching to score his first eight victories in a little over a year which resulted in him being the first Swede to be contracted by the UFC.
He debuted smashing the face of Jarred Hamman in 41 seconds before tasting defeat for the first time to four-time NCAA Division I All-American Phil Davis who he now uses to prepare him for his fights. Since then he hasn’t come close to a loss, finishing his next four opponents.
On the year-end UFC 141 event he defeated former light-heavyweight title challenger Vladimir Matyushenko now making him a consensus top-ten fighter at 205-pounds.
Silva had an all-violence approach to beating people up inside the fighting circle that made him someone to watch instantly going 9-0 including a victory over Bellator mainstay Vitor Vianna and he continued the reign of terror in the UFC also.
His first defeat came to former light-heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida but since then he has only defeated Keith Jardine losing to Rashad Evans and a no contest to Brandon Vera because of a positive test.
Now fifteen months since his last fight he meets this Swedish giant and it’s a hard one to pick, I am going to back the Swede to win in front of the partisan crowd, he has a well-rounded game for his experience level and knockout power in his hands.
He will have to use the aggression of Silva against him counter-striking and using his leg kick to keep distance but don’t be surprised if Silva de-rails the Gustafsson hype train with a perfectly timed right-hand.
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