You wanna see a packed house? The UFC is going big again with 15 fights and an ungodly amount of padding between them is to be expected. But it’s late July, and you probably don’t have anything more exciting to do, so why not? Might as well get your jollies watching people in various states of undress attempt to strangle or separate each other from consciousness.
Khamzat Chimaev vs Rhys McKee
Rhys (10-2, 1 draw) is only 24 and riding a three fight win streak after fighting some very tough guys on the UK circuit. He’s got good shots down the middle and a lanky frame that lends itself to a good submission game, especially with triangles and guillotine chokes. Unfortunately, Chimaev just won his UFC debut two weeks ago and has a heavy and controlling grappling game with good submission defense. Maybe we’ll get a grappling duel at some point, but McKee’s cardio may also be a liability here.
Fransisco Trinaldo vs Jai Herbert
Jai Herbert is one of the prime UK prospect signings that the UFC has made this year, and it’s a major coup. This is a major test of where his development is, as Trinaldo is durable and strong but also aging and arguably losing a step. A six-fight streak with his last loss being at the hands of the aforementioned Rhys McKee is a great look coming into this, and only one of those was a decision. Trinaldo’s got back to back wins against John Makdessi and Bobby Green, and has good defensive grappling despite his sub losses to Kevin Lee and Piotr Hallmann. Will it be good enough to stop a hungry Herbert? It may not even go to the ground on these conditions, as Herbert’s handspeed is dangerous and Trinaldo can still crack.
Nicolas Dalby vs Jesse Ronson
Dalby (18-3, 1 draw) made his triumphant return to the UFC last September with a decision win over Alex Oliveira (also on this card, strangely enough) to extend his win streak to four. He’s still a big welterweight and has big power once he gets inside along with good pressure in the clinch. Ronson (21-10) made waves on the Canadian scene before making it to the UFC in 2013. Three straight losses saw him go back to the regionals but he made the most of it and had some quality wins in TKO before being signed to PFL last year. After a submission win over prospect Troy Lamson, he’s now in the UFC again and ready to bring his range striking game and slick submission skills against the seemingly indestructible Dane.
Jake Collier vs Tom Aspinall
This should be an odd one, considering that Collier (11-4) has been alternating wins and losses in his last seven fights since 2014. Aspinall (7-2) took a three-year break from 2016 to 2019 and racked up two in a row in Cage Warriors to now end up making his UFC debut. Looks like this is more of a must-win for Collier than anything else, and it’ll be a tough one to call. Aspinall is a training partner of main eventer Darren Till, and has sharp punches with some solid kicks and a conservative output. Collier’s got more of a wrestleboxer approach but still launches some spinning attacks from time to time. as with most heavyweight bouts, this could run counter to the excitement potential it has.
Movsar Evloev vs Mike Grundy
Featherweight has a bunch of tough guys no matter where you decide to start looking, and these two are some of the grittiest individuals from that bunch. Grundy had a stellar UFC debut win where he knocked out another heralded Euro talent in Nad Narimani. Known mostly for his physicality and his submission game, this turned plenty of heads and showed he was more than just a ground threat.
Evloev (12-0) came up through the infamous M-1 ranks with very tough opposition, earning the interim bantamweight belt before getting the unified title later on and then signing with the UFC. His debut was against tough as nails wrestler Enrique Barzola, and he passed that test with a decision win. While both can strike, Evloev has a more composed and conservative approach, and they are both very strong grapplers, although Grundy has the heavier approach of the two.
Raphael Pessoa vs Tanner Boser
Boser (18-6, 1 draw) did his bids in Canada and ACB, but is now 2-1 in the UFC after a loss to phenom Cyril Gane and knocking out Philipe Lins just last month. Now he’s up against Pessoa (10-1), who had a rough welcome to the UFC against Gane as well. That ended up being a submission loss and he earned a win in his following fight against Jeff Hughes. Pessoa had done some impressive work prior to arriving at the UFC’s doorstep, but hasn’t quite found the same success or anything approximating it since landing there. Perhaps it’s unfortunate timing or the major step up in competition, but Boser packs a wallop and has far more experience. All of this leads to a rough day at the office for the Brazilian, who was originally to face Justin Tafa.
Bethe Correia vs Pannie Kianzad
Correia (11-4, 1 draw) has been a former title challenger despite being rather limited, and had the door slammed shut on her by Holly Holm to keep her out of the upper echelon of the division. That doesn’t mean she can’t win fights on any day with pressure and tons of volume, outworking opponents and overwhelming them everywhere with rudimentary athleticism and good cardio. Coming off a win against Sijara Eubanks, she’s down to make things as ugly as they need to be to earn that W.
Kianzad had a great run in Cage Warriors, a rough stretch in Invicta, and did well on The Ultimate Fighter with wins over Katharina Lehner and Julija Stoliarenko before falling short in the finals against eventual winner Macy Chiasson. After a brief soiree outside of the UFC, she came back to lose against Julia Avila and win her next fight against Jessica Rose-Clark. There’s a bit of a mixed bag here, though. Kianzad has done much better in bridging her striking and grappling, but the sense of urgency and pace can become a problem. She’ll have to raise her output if she’s to remain competitive here, and attempt to get this to the ground as many times as possible.
Ramazan Emeev vs Niklas Stolze
Emeev (18-4) also made it through the M-1 ranks to land at the UFC shores in 2017, picking up wins over Sam Alvey, Alberto Mina and Stefan Sekulić. All of that was fine and well until he lost a decision to Rocco Martin.
Stolze is making his UFC debut after toiling on the Euro scene for a while and working with submissions in addition to a handful of finishes due to strikes. His striking is pretty clean and accurate with nothing flashy, while Emeev is far more conservative with his hands and has a lot of heavy pressure for his ground transitions to set up his lovely chokes. Physicality may be key here, and Stolze will have to put the pressure on Emeev early to set the pace and not get tangled up in unnecessary ground exchanges.
Nathaniel Wood vs John Castañeda
Castañeda (17-4) was hot stuff on the Minnesota circuit and then King of the Cage before signing with Combate Americas and fighting for the title against another current UFC fighter in Gustavo Lopez. Problem was, he missed weight and his win was a non-title one. After mauling Chris Beal, he got a shot at Contender Series glory and won, but wasn’t signed. He went back to Combate Americas and did well, finishing off his run there with a submission win over Alliance MMA’s Marcelo Rojo. Now he’s bringing his wrestling, cardio, and blitzing striking style against one of the most celebrated prospects from the UK, Nathaniel Wood.
Wood (16-4) did just as well as the UFC expected upon his signing, rattling off three in a row to extend his win streak to eight overall. All of them were finishes, but the end of the road came at the hands of John Dodson, who put him away with strikes earlier this year. He’ll have to contend with a much higher level wrestler in Castañeda that isn’t afraid to get into a brawl. They’ll test each other’s submission skills and scrambles, but this should be a surefire fight of the night candidate.
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