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Saturday 16th March, the Octagon’s back at the O2 in London with what is probably the strongest complete card we’ve had in the UK in a good few years. ESPN+ MAIN CARD Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal Leon Edwards vs Gunnar Nelson Jack Marshman vs John Phillips Volkan Oezdemir vs Dominick Reyes Claudio Silva vs Danny Roberts Molly McCann vs Priscila Cachoeira ESPN+ PRELIMS Gokhan Saki vs Saparbek Safarov Nathaniel Wood vs Jose Alberto Quinonez Danny Henry vs Dan Ige Nad Narimani vs Mike Grundy Arnold Allen vs Jordan Rinaldi Tom Breese vs Cezar Ferreira Joseph Duffy vs Marc Diakiese Like always, don’t know if that’s the proper bout order but that’s how MMAJunkie’s got it. Although I’m not sure if Duffy vs Diakiese is official yet, just seen it’s in the works. Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal is a fantastic fight to headline this. Both top fighters but both out of the title picture at the moment. Till is coming in fresh off losing his title shot against Tyron Woodley in September so this is step one towards trying to build himself back up. He was undefeated before that but it was a decisive loss where he was stunned on the feet and submitted on the ground. It’ll be interesting to see if his confidence has taken a knock now. Probably not judging from his recent interviews. Masvidal has been a bit of a ghost lately. His name has continued to pop up, mostly because him and Bisping can’t stop having digs at each other. But he didn’t fight at all in 2018 and lost his last two fights before that to Wonderboy Thompson and Demian Maia. He hasn’t won a fight since he beat Donald Cerrone two years ago. He was briefly linked to a fight with Nick Diaz for UFC 235 but that obviously came to nothing. So here we are. Don’t know what Masvidal’s been doing during all this time away. He grew his hair long, if that does anything for you. Really good fight. You feel like both guys can get back in the mix with a big win or two or a spectacular performance. But they’re both in a position where they have something to prove. You’d expect this to play out mostly on the feet and I think it should be great to watch. Till’s got that Muay Thai style and Masvidal is a good boxer. Both like a scrap but both can be tactical and patient if need be. With the characters involved though, I’m expecting tempers to flare here and I think at some point over the 5 rounds this one is going to ignite. Can’t wait to see it. Leon Edwards vs Gunnar Nelson is a quality co-main event. Really like this fight. Edwards has been after a step up for ages now. He’s 16-3 and coming off 6 wins in a row including wins over Donald Cerrone, Vicente Luque and Albert Tumenov in there. He’d been quietly putting together a nice little streak but he’s recently been getting more vocal. He’s probably the best chance of Birmingham getting another UFC show here now, but I think he’s bitten off more than he can chew here. Maybe not, say what you want and he hasn’t looked mega impressive but he finds a way to get the W. But yeah, I think Gunnar is just going to be too much for him. I think Gunnar can hang with Edwards in the striking, but I really don’t see Edwards living with Gunnar in the grappling. He’s a solid ground fighter himself but Gunni’s another level for me. He looked great in his return against Cowboy Oliveira last month as well. Jack Marshman vs John Phillips is an all Welsh battle. Marshman might be fighting for his spot on the roster here. He’s 2-3 in the UFC and coming off two consecutive losses. The thing that might save him is he’s exciting bell-to-bell. He’s had 5 fights in the UFC and, win or lose, there wasn’t a dull moment to be found. His fights with Ryan Janes and Karl Roberson being the highlights but even his loss to Thiago Santos was bags of fun while it lasted. Don’t know if I’ve seen Phillips, think I have but it’s hazy. He’s 21-8 coming off two submission losses. Kind of feels like the UFC are maybe trying to give Marshman a winnable fight here. I’m guessing they like his fighting style and want to keep him around. Volkan Oezdemir vs Dominick Reyes is definitely ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** here for me. Even on a card as deep as this, this fight stands out. I’d honestly have been happy with this as the headliner, to be honest. We know the score with Volkan now. Nothing flashy about him, he just hits fucking hard. Was Rumble Johnson’s main training partner for a while and Rumble raves about him. Knocked out Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov in about a minute combined. 15-3 MMA record, 5-0 Kickboxing record. He’s lost his last two but they were to Daniel Cormier and Anthony Smith. He gave Smith hell as well. He’s clearly not championship material but he’s a handful for most of the division and always a threat because of the power in his hands. Reyes is the up and coming prospect just breaking through into that upper tier at 205. He’s 29 years old, 10-0 with 8 finishes. He was mostly on undercards until he got his big break in his last fight, facing Ovince Saint Preux on the Khabib vs McGregor PPV in October. Not just that, he won in impressive fashion, very nearly knocking out OSP in the dying seconds of the last round. This is a brilliant fight. Both have fight ending power and it’s another big test for Reyes, and a different test than OSP was. Claudio Silva vs Danny Roberts could be the sleeper on this one. At first glance it’ll probably be overlooked but it’s worth taking notice of. Silva is a bit of a weird case. He has a solid record at 12-1, the only loss being his MMA debut, he beat Nordine Taleb last May. Before that fight though, he hadn’t fought since 2014. He’d beat Leon Edwards and Brad Scott in the UFC but then had a bunch of injuries and missed a huge chunk of his career. Still, to come back after that long out and submit a tough guy like Taleb in a round, is quite impressive. Danny Roberts is 16-3, from London, won his last two and scored a big KO over Oliver Enkamp on last year’s London show. Molly McCann vs Priscila Cachoeira could be decent. Actually looking forward to seeing this as we didn’t really get to see the best of either in their last fights. McCann made her debut on the Liverpool show in May and got submitted in her own city by Gillian Robertson. She’d been on a 6 fight win streak before that and was Cage Warriors champ. And Cachoeira came in undefeated at 8-0, made her UFC debut last February and got utterly destroyed by Valentina Shevchenko. Seriously, one of the worst batterings in women’s MMA history. She got fucked up! So I’m hoping we get to see more of both of these two’s games here. Gokhan Saki vs Saparbek Safarov is another one I’m looking forward to. I loved watching Saki as a kickboxer. It hasn’t exactly panned out for him so far in MMA and at 35 with a 1-2 record it’s not likely to take off for him now. But there are plenty of fun fights to be made. This being one of them. Safarov is nowt special. 8-2 and coming off two losses. He’s hard as nails though and can definitely take a dig. I’ve mentioned it before but his UFC debut against Gian Villante was stupidly entertaining to watch. It was sloppy as fuck but ridiculously fun and Safarov took some ungodly punishment and just wouldn’t fuck off. That combined with Saki’s brutal striking could make for an ugly night for the Russian here but it’s going to be exciting however long it lasts. And Saki really needs to look good here coming off that KO loss to Khalil Rountree. Saki should be winning this. If he doesn’t then I really think his MMA experiment might be over. Nathaniel Wood vs Jose Alberto Quinonez is a fight I’d have expected to make the main card. Maybe it will if there’s a reshuffle. Wood’s from London and he’s looking like someone well worth keeping tabs on. Former Cage Warriors champion, 15-3 record with 13 finishes, exciting to watch, still only 25 years old. He’s got a lot of potential. He’s 2-0 so far in the UFC and had an excellent showing in his last fight on the Jones-Gustafsson 2 undercard in December, submitting Andre Ewell then demanding a spot on this London card. Quinonez I know less about but he was on TUF: Latin America, he’s 7-2 and coming off 4 wins. Danny Henry vs Dan Ige will probably go under the radar but again, a solid fight. Henry is a guy nobody’s talking about but he’s not got a bad little resume. He’s Scottish, 12-2 with 10 finishes, and comes into this fight off the back of 5 wins. Already in the UFC he’s beat Hakeem Dawodu and Daniel Teymur. Not bad at all. Dan Ige is 10-2 with 7 finishes and was on Dana White’s Contender Series. Nad Narimani vs Mike Grundy is a little bit of a mystery to me. I vaguely know of Narimani. Mostly because he beat Paddy Pimblett in Cage Warriors for their 145lbs title a couple of years back. He’s British of Iranian heritage, 12-2 record, won his last 5, fights out of Team Alpha Male. Mike Grundy is 31 years old out of Wigan. 11-1 record and has fought in BAMMA and ACB. Trains at Team Kaobon with Darren Till. He’s a standout wrestler and actually repped Britain and won the bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Arnold Allen vs Jordan Rinaldi is one of the only fights on the card I’m not all that bothered about. Don’t know why. Both are decent enough, it just doesn’t grab me for whatever reason. Allen is 13-1, Rinaldi is 14-6. Could be a good fight, just not getting my juices flowing. Watch it be FOTN now. Tom Breese vs Cezar Ferreira could be a nice clash of styles. On paper it’s BJJ vs BJJ but of course, being MMA there are more variables than that. Breese is Brummie, 27 years old, BJJ black-belt, 11-1 with 10 finishes. Trained at Tri-Star for a bit but hasn’t for a while now, I don’t think. Bashed UKFF favourite Cathal Pendred in his Octagon debut but he’s missed a ton of time with injuries. Came back on the Liverpool show back in May, after a two year layoff, and scored a TKO over Dan Kelly. Ferreira is a tank of a man though. Just look at him. Like a Brazilian Mark Kerr. He’s also a BJJ black-belt, won the first TUF Brazil. It hasn’t really taken off for him how many expected but he’s a dangerous man when he’s on form. Joseph Duffy vs Marc Diakiese, like I said, hasn’t been confirmed as official yet but I’ve seen it rumoured in a few places as being ‘in the works’. I hope it is because it’s a cracking fight on paper. Duffy is mostly known for his 2010 submission win over Conor McGregor. Yeah it was ages ago and of no real relevance in 2019 but still, it’s a bit of a claim to fame. Duffy has legit skills though. He’s had some setbacks but I still genuinely think he could get back in the running to be a contender. He’s still only 30, BJJ purple-belt under Firas Zahabi. Has a 16-3 MMA record, a 7-0 Pro Boxing record and a 3-0 Kickboxing record. Has sparred the likes of George Groves, Chris Eubank Jr, James DeGale and Andy Lee. He’s had a rough year or so though. Got stopped by James Vick on the 2017 MSG PPV and missed all of 2018. Hopefully he can make something happen in 2019 because he’s too good to just fade away. And Diakiese should match up perfectly with Duffy for an incredible fight. Really good striker, explosive and creative in his attacks. Like Duffy though, he’s hit a rough patch. He came into the UFC in 2016 undefeated and won his first 3 UFC fights, moving to 12-0. He’s since lost his last 3 fights in a row. So similar to Duffy, he needs to look good here. If this fight does get made I could easily see it stealing the show. I’d fancy Duffy to win based on being more well rounded and experienced but Diakiese’s style could throw him off and make it a bit of a war. That’s UFC London 2019 then. Here’s the press conference from t’other day;