With closely competitive match-ups from the first fight on the prelims to the main event, this card is sure to entertain. Headlined by Liverpool’s Darren Till and perennial contender Jorge Masvidal, this card has a number of talented European fighters lower down on the bill.
With competitive fights throughout, here is a breakdown of each fight and some keys to victory for each fighter.
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Jack Marshman vs John Phillips (Middleweight)
There is a reason this all Welsh affair is opening the main card. Both Jack Marshman and John Phillips have a hard-hitting, walk forward style, making it exciting for all watching. The two Welshmen have a combined 31 KO victories, so this one is trending towards a finish.
Despite this, both men have shown some vulnerability on the ground, especially Phillips. Losing two straight by rear naked choke, and with five out of eight losses coming via submission, this could be an area exploited by Marshman. It is also worth noting that Marshman is there to be hit. Thiago Santos (who is making a lot of noise at 205 recently) pieced Marshman up on the feet when they faced each other. If Phillips lands on Marshman it could be a short night.
Both men need a big performance to make sure that they keep their spot on the roster. Don’t blink when watching this one, as these men have 19 first round KO’s between them.
Danny Roberts vs Claudio Silva (Welterweight)
Claudio Silva is currently riding a phenomenal 12 fight win streak, including 10 finishes. Most recently he submitted Nordine Taleb in Liverpool last year, earning a performance bonus. Danny Roberts is coming off a split decision, Fight of the Night victory against David Zawada.
Last time we saw Roberts in London he scored an emphatic KO victory over Oliver Enkamp. The step in straight from the southpaw stance got the job done on this occasion. He was able to show impressive takedown defence in this fight as well, something that will be important in his bout with Silva. Silva, the BJJ black belt, holds seven victories by submission in his 12 wins. He will likely look to implement this side of his game against Roberts.
When Silva faced Taleb in Liverpool he didn’t set up his takedowns with strikes and lunged in an attempt to ground his opponent. Roberts will hope that this is the case again as Silva’s shots became predictable and were easily telegraphed.
Roberts should look to keep the fight in the centre of the octagon. He should also keep his back away from the fence as this is where Silva does his best work. Limiting his kicks will also not allow Silva the opportunity to catch one and take him down.
Nathaniel Wood vs Jose Alberto Quinonez (Bantamweight)
Nathaniel Wood is currently living up to his nickname ‘The Prospect’. Dominating and finishing both of his previous UFC opponents, Wood has impressed. The former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion has solid stand up as well as a slick ground game. In both of his previous UFC fights, he was able to dictate the pace on the feet before picking up the submission victory. He also has a high work rate, which his opponents have struggled to deal with in the UFC so far. The fan favourite will certainly have the crowd behind him in this one.
Jose Alberto Quinonez is currently on a four-fight win streak. He was scheduled to face Sean O’Malley last year, but this fight was cancelled. With the time off, he is likely to have added strings to his bow. This means Wood will have to be on top of his game in London. With three decision victories on the spin, Quinonez may go in search of the finish in this one.
The keys to victory for each fighter are fairly simple. On paper, Wood is the favourite but will have to manage his emotions. Fighting in front of his home crowd for the first time in the UFC, fans will hope that the moment doesn’t get to him. Quinonez will likely take a little time to get into the fight, having been out for 13 months prior to this. With that being said, he can’t wait too long and allow Wood to get into his rhythm. This was the case with Andre Ewell when he faced Wood, leading to Wood having a fairly easy night at the office.
Volkan Oezdemir vs Dominick Reyes (Light heavyweight)
Former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir faces undefeated prospect Dominick Reyes. One thing is for sure in this fight, don’t blink. Combined these men have 20 first round finishes. Oezdemir’s quickest victory came in just 15 seconds, and Reyes holds a victory in just 27 seconds. These two men don’t wait around and rarely have a feeling out process in their fights.
Former title challenger Oezdemir is 0-2 in his last two fights. He was largely dominated by then 205 champion Daniel Cormier in his title fight outing. He then headlined alongside Anthony Smith, losing this one by submission. Before these loses he had picked up three wins on the bounce, first beating Ovince St. Preux in his debut. He then went on to finish both Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in a combined 50 seconds. Oezdemir will be looking to get back in the win column in London.
Reyes will definitely be the man with momentum coming into this bout. Riding a 10 fight win streak, including four UFC wins, he will be looking to continue his momentum in London. Most recently Reyes defeated Ovince St. Preux by decision and came very close to stopping him in the third. The former LFA man will look to put on a strong performance to cement himself in the title picture.
Don’t expect this one to go the distance, both of these men come to finish fights. Oezdemir will look to get on the inside and implement his clinch game. We know from his fights with Cirkunov and Manuwa how dangerous he can be in this position. Getting in close on Reyes will also limit the effectiveness of Reyes’ kicks, which he is known to have power with.
Co-Main event: Gunnar Nelson vs Leon Edwards (Welterweight)
This co-main event between Gunnar Nelson and Leon Edwards could headline any fight night card. Nelson is coming off a second round RNC victory over Alex Oliveira at UFC 231. Edwards is riding an impressive six-fight win streak, most notably a headlining victory against Donald Cerrone in his last outing. Nelson has finished 16/17 wins and 8/9 in the UFC, whereas Edwards has nine finishes in his 16 wins.
Edwards has stated in an interview with BT Sport that he could beat Nelson ‘in a number of ways’. We already know what Nelson will try to do. He will use his karate style to close the distance to get a takedown and implement his solid jiu jitsu game. Edwards should look to strike with Nelson and avoid going to the ground. In his previous bouts, Edwards has been guilty of swinging wild shots, which have lead to him being taken down, notably against Kamaru Usman.
When both men faced Tumenov
We can look at how both men may approach this fight by looking at a common former opponent in Albert Tumenov. When Nelson fought him, he was able to keep him at range using his in-out karate style. He got Tumenov thinking about the strikes before attempting the takedown. In the second round, the Icelandic native Nelson reacted to Tumenov headhunting and was able to take him down. He was then able to secure the neck crank finish, but what is important is that he didn’t force the takedown.
When Edwards faced Tumenov he consistently feinted, keeping his opponent guessing. He was able to feint his way to a takedown and controlled the first round on the ground. Edwards was able to use good lateral movement in the second. He managed to circle off the fence whenever he was backed up, which will be important in his fight with Nelson. When he wasn’t able to circle off the fence, he was able to feint the takedown and gain space. He was able to snatch a takedown and get the RNC to win in the final round.
Edwards main key to victory in this fight will be to keep his back away from the fence. If he can’t do this, Nelson will look to exploit this aspect of the fight. Nelson should look to not rush the takedown, get Edwards thinking about the strikes before attempting to get the fight to the floor.
The main event: Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal (Welterweight)
The main event. The one the UK fans have been looking forward to the most. The return of ‘The Gorilla’ Darren Till for the first time since his title fight with Tyron Woodley. Till faces perennial contender Jorge Masvidal in a fight which has any stand up fanatic excited.
How the fight came to fruition
Darren Till was always going to headline UFC London, it was just a matter who he would face. Multiple sources stated that lightweight Kevin Lee turned down a fight with Till at welterweight. It was also reported that former middleweight world champion Luke Rockhold turned down a fight at 185. This would have been Till’s middleweight debut, however, it never came to fruition.
Former interim champion Colby Covington also reportedly turned down a fight in London. Notice a theme here? One man who is always down to scrap is Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal called Till out on Twitter and the fight was made.
Both of these men are coming off losses in their previous bouts. Till is coming off his first professional loss and is looking to put on a statement in his home country. Masvidal is on a two-fight skid, firstly dropping a close split decision to Demian Maia. Following this, Masvidal again dropped a decision, this time more decisively to Stephen Thompson. The American will also be coming off the longest lay off of his career, having had 16 months out. Putting this into perspective, Till has headlined two cards since Masvidal since competed.
The two headliners have two common past opponents in Stephen Thompson and Donald Cerrone. As both men finished Cerrone, we will look at both men’s performances in order to analyse their styles.
When Masvidal faced Cerrone, he was constantly light on his front foot, arguably weary of the leg kick. If Darren Till is able to use the oblique kick like he did when he faced Thompson, it could disrupt Masvidal’s rhythm. A habit that Masvidal has is that he attempted to parry Cerrone’s leg when he threw the body roundhouse, Yoel Romero style. If Till invests in body kicks early, he could parry it and search for the head later on in the fight. If he catches Masvidal in a rhythm of parrying the body kick, the roundhouse to the head may become available.
Masvidal rocked Cerrone at the end of the first round. He parried Cerrone’s left hook, guiding it down and countering with a straight right on the chin. Masvidal attempted a rear body roundhouse with little intention to actually land. This strike got Cerrone’s hands down and Masvidal reacted by throwing a big overhand right behind the ear. Herb Dean came close to stopping the fight at the end of the first round. Masvidal was able to catch Cerrone’s body kick attempt and take him off balance. Landing a wicked 1-2, followed by a left hook, Masvidal dropped Cerrone, and arguably ‘Cowboy’ was saved by the bell.
The finish came for Masvidal having worked in some big knees in the clinch at the beginning of the second round. Cerrone attempted a front leg head kick, but it was caught and Masvidal landed a big overhand right. He was then able to finish Cerrone against the cage.
When Till faced Cerrone
When Darren Till faced Donald Cerrone in Gdansk, he was able to use his physical presence throughout to back Cerrone up to the fence. Using his muay thai background, Till played with Cerrone’s lead hand. This seemed an attempt to get Cerrone into a rhythm before he leapt in with a straight left.
When Till attempted this, Cerrone timed him well, ducked under and snatched a single leg. Getting an overhook, Till showed good takedown defence. Cerrone did get Till down momentarily after he stepped in with a rear elbow, but he was able to pop straight back up. It was clear that Cerrone’s intention was to get this fight to the floor. Till began to time him ducking in, landing a stinging uppercut and wobbling Cerrone.
Landing a quick 1-2 buckling Cerrone, Darren Till pounced on his wounded opponent. Again cutting off the cage, Till continued to play with the front hand. Landing a crushing step in elbow (which broke Cerrone’s nose), the Englishman followed with a 1-2 through the guard and finished with a right hook and straight left. With Cerrone covering up, Till got the stoppage victory.
When Jorge Masvidal and Darren Till meet in London, all welterweight eyes will be on it. With title implications, this fight has all the aspects needed to live up to the hype. Keep an eye out on @mmasucka for fight week content!
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