This Saturday March 16th London is treated to a top-class showcase of British Mixed Martial Arts. Perhaps, as cliche as this sounds, the best card that England has ever been treated to. I dare you to challenge otherwise by the end of this article!
Middleweight: Jack Marshman vs John Phillips
This is very much a battle of Wales as these two Welshman open the main card. Both are on a two fight losing streak so a victory on Saturday will be massively important. There is a lot at stack and one Welshman could end the career of another! Jack is a five fight UFC veteran, whilst John has two previous fights in the promotion. The key difference in record here is that each of John’s 21 victories have been finishes. When he smells blood, he really goes in for the kill.
Phillips excels whilst in close range and holds devastating knockout power. Marshman likes to march forward and swing for the fences. As we saw in Jack’s last outing, he can get hit quite easily. If John can land at just the right time, it could be goodnight Gwen for Jack Marshman!
Prediction: Phillips by TKO.
Welterweight: Danny Roberts vs Cláudio Silva
Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts is a London native with a thirst for Fight of the Night awards. This Saturday will be no exception. He puts on a show every time he walks into the octagon and is why this particular Brit has got himself onto the main card. Danny is capable of finishing fights through both knockouts and submissions.
Claudio is a submission specialist and last fought on UFC Liverpool’s card. Prior to this, Silva had 4 long years away from the sport due to injury. His game plan on Saturday will be no secret. He’ll look to secure the takedown and submit Roberts. So does Danny have what it takes to stop the takedown?
Looking at the stats, Danny has a 58% take down defence. So going by the numbers, he gets taken down around half of the time. Unfortunately for the Brit, it looks likely that Silva will grab a hold of him and make use of his BJJ black belt in order to get the victory.
Prediction: Silva by submission.
Bantamweight: Nathaniel Wood vs José Alberto Quiñónez
Nathaniel Wood is a protege of former English UFC fighter Brad Pickett. Wood displays a tremendous amount of wisdom in his fights for someone who is just 25 years of age. He last fought on the UFC 232 under card against Andre Ewell. His game plan coming into the fight was to out strike his opponent. However, when he engaged Andre in a grappling exchange Nathaniel felt that he had the superior skills. From there, Wood took his opponent down at will and submitted him in the third round.
You might think I’m biased because I am British, however, to me Nathaniel’s actions in that fight were that of a champion. Someone who is calculated and figures out his best way to win whilst feeling out a fight.
Mexican fighter José Alberto Quiñónez has half of the fight experience compared to Nathaniel. José is on a 4 fight winning streak and matches up well with Wood. He holds a disadvantage making a long trip from Mexico. He also hasn’t fought in 13 months. Whilst José is a solid, Jack of all trades fighter, Nathaniel seems far superior in each aspect of the game and should get the victory on Saturday.
Prediction: Nathaniel Wood.
Light Heavyweight: Volkan Oezdemir vs Dominick Reyes
Physically, as UFC commentating legend Mike Goldberg would put it, both of these fighters are “virtually identical”. These two are both striking specialists as well. But the key difference in this fight is that Reyes holds the better grappling. Speaking with BJ Penn Radio, Dominick is well aware of the fact that Oezdemir recently got out grappled by both Daniel Cormier and Anthony Smith. He stated that if there is an opportunity for a take down, he will take it. As any smart fighter hungry for a victory would.
These days a lot of fighters are unexpectedly taking the grappling option in order to try and secure a victory. Look at Paul Daley in his recent fight against Michael Page. Nobody expects Volkan and Dominick to exchange in a grappling fight. However, this is exactly why it’s a perfect game plan for Reyes. Forcing Volkan to grapple will tire his arms out and take away the knockout power that he possesses. Coupled with this, Reyes is very fast for a Light Heavyweight fighter and could find a knockout finish on Saturday.
Prediction: Reyes by TKO.
Welterweight: Leon Edwards vs Gunnar Nelson
You could argue to a certain extent that this is a classic striker vs grappler contest. However, I think that would be doing both of these fighters a disservice. Both men are well rounded and have proven that they can hang with some of the best in the division.
Leon is currently on a six fight win streak, beating the likes of Donald Cerrone, Peter Sobotta and Bryan Barberena to name a few. On the other hand, Gunnar has been a lot less active in recent years. He beat a tough Alex Oliveira by submission back in December 2018. Prior to that, he hadn’t fought in around a year and a half.
The vast majority of Gunnar’s wins have come by way of submission. He is a lot more dangerous and lethal on the ground in comparison to Leon. Don’t get me wrong, Edwards is very competent on the ground. However, Leon’s game seems to be slightly more position based. Whilst Nelson is more active with submission attempts that are more capable of finishing fights.
If the fight goes to the ground, it could spell trouble for the Brit. If Leon stands with Gunnar this could also be troublesome. Gunnar has a karate style that’s quite effective moving in and out of range. But as we saw when Leon went up against Donald Cerrone, no matter where the fight went in terms of the striking realm, Leon had the answers to outshine Cerrone.
If Leon can avoid the ground, he can outwork and maybe even finish Gunnar on the feet. This is easier said than done though and I think Nelson might just be a little too savvy for the Englishman.
Prediction: Nelson by submission.
Welterweight: Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal
In the main event we have two Muay Thai strikers going at it for a chance to solidify a top position in the Welterweight rankings. But, whilst Darren has lot’s of Muay Thai experience, he doesn’t employ this kind of style in the cage. His guard isn’t as tight and is instead, a lot more loose and rangey.
With two strikers comes an obvious game plan, both fighters will look to out strike the other. Call me Sherlock Holmes? Jokes aside, whilst I don’t see either man being too interested in the grappling game, Jorge may look to shoot. Why you ask? Well, it’ll help take away Till’s power of course! Not only will this tire out the arms of Till, it will keep him guessing.
Till holds a distinct weight advantage. He’s a big guy in between Welterweight and Middleweight. In comparison, Jorge has a similar problem, but these are between lighter divisions in Lightweight and Welterweight.
Till is coming off of a loss to Tyron Woodley, whilst Jorge hasn’t fought in around a year and a half. In the build up to this fight, Till has stated that he wants a first round knockout. Masvidal hasn’t been knocked out in over 11 years. An impressive feet given the list of opponents he’s faced. Whilst Till may wish to start strong, he needs to be wary of gassing and using up too much energy. After all it is a five round fight.
But by starting off strong looking for a knockout, Till will not go into full on berserker mode and act recklessly. Masivdal also has a habit of giving away close fights. Considering Jorge is a tough one to finish, we are picking Till by decision.
Prediction: Till by decision.