This weekend’s UFC Fight Night in Nashville, Tennessee, will be fast-paced and explosive from the first of six awesome main card match-ups.
Kicking off the main portion of the fight card we have a long-serving scrapper in the welterweight division in Jake Ellenberger, taking on one of the most brash and confident prospects on the roster, ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry.
Ellenberger has edged his way into the top 10 in the past but has struggled to maintain a foothold in an always competitive division. He now sits at number 13 and will pit his extensive 43 professional fight experience against the recklessness of a power hitter with 10 fights on his record.
Perry takes over the Octagon like a bully in a playground, pitching hammers at his defensive opponent. Only once has the tide turned and that was in his last outing against the talented Alan Jouban in December. A more complete striking set carried by a smarter athlete won on that night and the Perry’s boxing fell short, but with his potential a loss like that can be an excellent learning experience if he sees the opportunity in it.
Ellenberger on the other hand is a veteran of the game. He has experienced the highs and lows that combat sports have to offer and will have a more cerebral and thought-out approach. The question is, can he discourage the bully enough early on and make him start to question himself?
The veteran athletes will be represented again in the next bout as the always popular Joe Lauzon will return to the Octagon for his 24th appearance. His crafty submission skills and tenacious style will be a great test for Scotland’s Stevie ‘Braveheart’ Ray.
Winning four of five fights since joining the UFC, with his only loss being a frustrating and questionable loss to Alan Patrick in September last year, Ray is a promising addition to the deep lightweight division.
Lauzon will test every part of his game and give the rest of the lightweight roster a good look at what this future contender is capable of against tested opposition. His win over Ross Pearson in Belfast last time out showed everyone how mature he is as a fighter, even at this early stage in his UFC career.
Two of the bantamweight division’s best will square off next, as John ‘The Magician’ Dodson faces Eddie Wineland. Known for his unorthodox footwork and heavy hands, Wineland will be looking to add a third straight stoppage victory to his current streak.
Catching the lightning fast John Dodson will be the challenge. Possibly the quickest of the bantamweights, Dodson is excellent at darting in with a three or four punch combination and cutting an angle to safety before his opponent has had time to react.
His speed will be key in this fight and for Wineland to land meaningful punches he will have to try to predict where Dodson will be next to a certain extent and punch to that target. If he connects though, it’s the Magician who will be asking what happened.
We move to the light heavyweight division next as two powerful strikers stand either side of the top 10 line. Ovince Saint Preux will be defending his number eight spot and attempting to turn things around following three back to back losses.
The confidence he gained from going five rounds with Jon Jones at UFC 197 soon diminished with a Jimi Manuwa left hook at UFC 204, in Manchester last October. He slid further down the rankings after a split decision loss to impressive debutant Volkan Oezdemir four months later.
There is no doubt that OSP is one of the best in the world at this point in time, but the fact is there are no easy fights at this level and a string of losses happens sometimes. It doesn’t mean that the momentum can’t be recovered, but if that is to happen, now is the time.
His opponent, Marcos Rogerio De Lima is an aggressive and proven striker. He is also a fast starter, with all four of his UFC wins coming in the first round. The smart thing for OSP to do here would be to try and drag him into later rounds, using his strength and wrestling skills to tie him up and wear him out. Then he can begin to let his hands go once De Lima is fatigued.
With 10 knockouts to three submission wins on his record, De Lima clearly prefers the striking game, but OSP must respect his submission skills also. If De Lima can sweep and take top position he could begin to attack with his favoured arm triangle submission. They will have to keep a fast pace though if they are going to steal the show from the co-main and main event.
Winner of the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez is one of the most well-known fighters in the sport. His never-say-die approach to fighting and total disregard for his wellbeing in the heat of battle make him a must-see fight on any card.
He will be taking on another of the rising tide as gritty New Yorker ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta will look to remind Sanchez that the old guard are no longer able to keep up with these young, talented fighters. Iaquinta is riding a four fight win streak, whereas Sanchez hasn’t put two wins together since 2011.
He is however, a berserker with a lot of skill and experience. That allows him to think fast and adapt quickly. He also has unshakable belief which is a very powerful asset in this game.
That fight will set the stage for what will be a ferocious striking battle between two of the featherweight division’s heaviest hitters. Conor McGregor’s training partner and SBG Ireland representative Artem Lobov will be trading punches with the fourth-ranked Cub Swanson.
Coming off the most impressive win of his career, against Dooho Choi at UFC 206, Swanson is surging towards the title and has everything to lose fighting the unranked Lobov. He is an intelligent striker with a strong wrestling game to support his aggressive knockout style. Artem is very much the same, but without the success rate of Swanson. What he does have is power in both hands from the first to the last bell.
He is confident in his chin and will usually be seen crusading forward, chest first, pushing his foe up against the fence and throwing one power punch after another.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Artem Lobov is in a very fortunate position. He stands to gain a lot if he can connect one time with Swanson’s chin.
It will be an uphill battle as Swanson is a wily and seasoned veteran, who is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence after his ‘Fight of the Night’ performance over the heralded Dooho Choi. It is typical of Cub Swanson to put himself at such a risk when he is in an excellent position to be calling for a number one contender fight.
This attitude of risk-taking continues into his fights and Lobov is tailor-made for an epic battle that could be a challenger for ‘Fight of the Year’.
You would be a fool to miss this card, as it is one of those sleeper events that can be overshadowed by big title fights around the same time, but ends up being a barnburner from start to finish. The card is talent-heavy and their finishing rate is high across the board. I would expect the bonus money to be hotly contested with many regular winners making an appearance.
Watch UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Lobov live on BT Sport 2 from 1am BST on the morning of Sunday, April 23 or catch the Early Prelims exclusively on UFC Fight Pass from 11:30pm BST on Saturday, April 22