The UFC once again touches down in London this weekend as we have a trilogy fight for the UFC welterweight championship live from the o2 arena in London.
It’s always a big moment for UK fans when MMA’s premier promotion comes to town, especially when it’s a PPV-level event.
Not since Michael Bisping faced off against old foe Dan Henderson at UFC 204 in 2016 have we seen a numbered card on these shores and we all know what truly makes it special, don’t we? That’s right, no staying up until 6am!
After knocking out Kamaru Usman back in August last year to win the belt, Leon Edwards found his place in the MMA history books, which was only compounded by his post-fight interview.
‘Headshot! Bang! Dead!’ will go down as one of the most iconic lines to ever be said in the octagon, the exclamation mark on the realisation of a dream.
But does the dream die on Saturday night? Well, re-enter ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’.
Let’s get straight into taking a look at the headline fight and give some picks for the rest of the card…
Usman to win on points – 21/20
When Edwards landed his fifth round head kick to win the title, many at the time believed it to be divine intervention, a shot from the gods, a once in a lifetime strike.
In the aftermath of the fight we would of course learn that it was premeditated, a meticulously studied and drilled tactic.
‘Rocky’ and his team had noticed something about Usman, he would react to faints and duck his head to the right, leaving him extremely susceptible to the strike that would eventually dethrone him.
But will he make that mistake again? One would have to assume with this amount of preparation time he’ll have ironed out that sort of crease in his game.
In that case, it’s important to look at the rest of the fight, and frankly Usman was cruising to a decision win.
Leon competed extremely well in the first round, even taking Usman down with a trip, becoming the first man to ever do so in the octagon.
It was the fruit of intense training to improve his grappling to compete with the then champion after being dominated in that area in their first bout back in 2015.
The second was a more even affair on the feet, but after that Usman took control and his pedigree, being a NCAA Division II All-American, came into play.
So much so that come the final round everyone in the arena, the commentary team included, were writing Edwards’ obituary, the belt was being prepared to be placed around Usman’s waist.
Then, with 58 seconds left…bang. We know the rest.
So what are we to make of the trilogy fight? Well, as much as we’d love our fellow Brit to retain his title in front of what is sure to be a raucous o2 crowd, we believe ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ avoids the same mistake in this one and grinds to a 5-round decision victory.
But, if you’re a romantic sort, it’s worth noting ‘Rocky’ to pull off another KO win is a healthy 5/1.
Now, let’s look at our picks for the rest of the main card…
Rafael Fiziev to win by KO, TKO or disqualification – 5/4
One thing you know when Justin Gaethje steps into the octagon is that it’s going to be entertaining. So we can thank our lucky stars that the UFC have matched him up with an extremely skilled striker.
But we think it’s bad news for the American on this occasion, as on paper Fiziev seems made to deal with Gaethje’s style on the feet.
The Kazakhstani does well under pressure, which his opponent is sure to apply, and is supremely accurate in his counter punching when limbs and fists start to fly.
We’re taking Fiziev to pick off Gaethje with nice work to both the head and body and end this one before the final horn.
Gunnar Nelson to win by submission – 6/5
Up against an opponent stepping in on short notice in Bryan Barberena, Gunnar Nelson has the chance to add to the 12 submission victories he’s accumulated throughout his career.
Barberena is a striker who likes a fight to descend into a dirty brawl, but when it comes to his grappling he’s a little shaky, which gives Nelson, who is tremendous on the ground, a solid path to victory.
If this fight goes to the ground, which it likely will if Barberena tries to rush Nelson, expect the Icelander to get him out of there.
Maia vs. O’Neill – Will The Fight Go The Distance – No – 2/1
We’re going out on a limb on this one and trying to find some value in what is a somewhat unpredictable fight, at least in our eyes.
On the one hand Jennifer Maia has gone the distance in all but one of her 10 UFC fights, on the other, Casey O’Neill has finished three of her four in the organisation.
The latter likes to push the pace and we’re banking on opportunities opening up during scrambles for either fighter to end it within the distance.
Marvin Vettori to win on points – 8/11
Odds on favourite Marvin Vettori could be a nice addition to your accumulator if you’re so inclined.
His opponent Roman Dolidze has only been bested in one his 13 career fights, however his grappling and takedown defence isn’t of an elite level, only stopping around a third of takedowns attempted against him while in the UFC.
That spells bad news for the Georgian, as Vettori loves nothing more than smothering his opponents on the ground and grinding out victories.
Go with the Italian via decision.