When Leslie Smith and Amanda Lemos open proceedings Sunday night, it will be two years since the UFC made their first trip to Scotland. That card was headlined by current UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping but this offering is decidedly weaker than 2015’s.
It’s a reflection on the state of British and European MMA, with very few candidates worthy of headlining cards like this. That assessment might be unfair as Michael Bisping and Jimi Manuwa definitely carry some clout, but there is genuinely a dirth of top-level British talent. The UFC will be hoping that the resurgence of Cage Warriors will help bring on a new generation of stars and that some of the fighters on this card will become household names.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are some fun scraps throughout the 12-fight slate and we should get a fair few finishes, but it’s just not the sort of card that will live long in the memory.
Without further introduction, here are my previews and predictions for Sunday’s fights!
Fight Pass Prelims
Women’s Bantamweight – Leslie Smith (9-7-1) vs Amanda Lemos (6-0-1): I’m not going to lie, I was pretty bummed out when Lina Lansberg pulled out of this fight. Watching her and Smith go at it would have been loads of fun. Lemos does look like a solid addition to the UFC roster though, with some real power in her hands. It’s the sort of power few women possess in the bantamweight division, and Smith certainly has a fair few miles on the clock already. However, Smith is very tough and she has a sizeable height and reach advantage. Much like she outworked Irene Aldana, she’ll outwork Lemos for a comfortable decision. Prediction: Smith via UD.
Bantamweight – Brett Johns (13-0) vs Albert Morales (7-1-1): I talked earlier about the UFC’s need for more British stars and if anyone has the potential to breakout in a big way, it’s Brett Johns. The former Titan FC champion looked excellent in his debut against Kwan Ho Kwak and he has the sort of relentless takedown game and dominant top control that will see him past the vast majority of the division. Morales is a solid striker and very durable, but just doesn’t have the stamina or takedown defence to keep Johns off him for 15 minutes. Prediction: Johns via UD.
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Lightweight – Danny Henry (10-2) vs Daniel Teymur (6-0): The first of four Scots on the card, Danny Henry makes his debut against Daniel Teymur, brother of fellow UFC lightweight David Teymur. Henry has spent the last two and a half years fighting for EFC Worldwide in South Africa and he has nine victories inside the distance. The fighters who’ve come out of EFC in the past haven’t been the best and whilst Henry looks to have a solid striking repertoire, the clips I’ve seen of him are a little worrying. He seems to wade forward with limited head movement and eat far too many shots for my liking. Teymur comes out of a great team at All-Stars and he looks the cleaner prospect. I think he clips Henry coming in and finishes him off on the ground with a submission. Prediction: Teymur via first-round submission.
Welterweight – Charlie Ward (3-2) vs Galore Bofando (4-2): Boy oh boy, this fight sucks. Easily the worst UFC fight on paper this year and amongst the worst in recent years. Ward only got signed because he’s McGregor’s friend and Bofando hasn’t fought since February 2015 and his two defeats have come by DQ. I genuinely have no idea how this goes and I don’t care. Bofando looks like he’s got more power, but he’s also very sloppy. Ward probably grinds him out. Maybe. Prediction: Ward via second-round TKO.
Flyweight – #14 Alexandre Pantoja (17-2) vs Neil Seery (16-12): This should be really fun and a lovely way for Neil Seery to end his career. Seery definitely has an advantage on the feet, possessing very solid boxing, but Pantoja showed he has a strong kicking arsenal in his UFC debut against Eric Shelton. There should be a lot of fun ground scrambles between these two and whilst Pantoja should have the advantage on the mat, you should never count out a veteran as crafty as Seery. Pantoja takes a close but fair decision after three enjoyable rounds. Prediction: Pantoja via UD.
Weltwerweight – Danny Roberts (13-2) vs Bobby Nash (8-2): This should be fun. Two volume strikers with solid power, who both chase the finish. I have a strong inkling this one doesn’t go anywhere near the judges. Nash was highly impressive in his debut against Li Jingliang, whilst Roberts has made quite the impression in his three UFC appearances to date. Nash is the more flat-footed of the two and I think that opens the door for Roberts to work the takedown. Roberts has five wins by submission already, I back him to make that six come Sunday night. Prediction: Roberts via first-round submission.
Heavyweight – James Mulheron (11-1) vs Justin Willis (4-1): Two big debuting heavyweights to open the main card – what more could you ask for? Mulheron has victories over UK mainstays like Neil Grove and Stav Economou, but he’s also been KO’d by journeyman Ruben Wolf, so make of that what you will. Willis, meanwhile, has previously fought at almost 290 pounds and last fought over a year ago. I’m disconcerted by the fact Willis struggled to make 265 earlier this year and the longer this goes, the advantage goes to the Brit. However, Willis has scary power and I think he connects with Mulheron’s chin early and gets the big debut win. Prediction: Willis via first-round KO.
Light Heavyweight – Khalil Rountree (5-2) vs Paul Craig (9-1): I’m really looking forward to this encounter in particular, but I really don’t want either man to lose. Craig is coming off his first career defeat against Tyson Pedro, whilst Rountree got his first UFC win in February in brutal fashion against Daniel Jolly. This fight is going to come down solely to Rountree’s takedown defence. If he can stay upright, he’s one of the most lethal strikers at 205 lbs and he should put Craig away early. But if he can’t, and it’s a big if, he’s shown before he’s hugely lacking on the ground and Craig has more than enough submission skills to put him away. Rountree says he’s been working on his wrestling, and I really hope he has, but I still can’t see any outcome other than a Craig submission victory. Prediction: Craig via first-round submission.
Middleweight – Jack Marshman (21-6) vs Ryan Janes (9-2): Logic dictates that Janes should win this. He’s the bigger man, the better wrestler and he’s been in far less wars than the Welshman. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Janes just ground him out over the course of 15 minutes, but there’s something drawing me to pick Marshman. He showed against Magnus Cedenblad that he can take a beating and he’s very heavy-handed. I think he survives the Canadian’s wrestling onslaught to secure a late TKO. Prediction: Marshman via third-round TKO.
Lightweight – Stevie Ray (21-6) vs Paul Felder (13-3): This is my pick for Fight of the Night. Ray continues to improve with every passing fight and he arguably put his best performance to date in last time out against Joe Lauzon. He’ll probably still struggle with wrestlers, but luckily Felder isn’t a big wrestler. Felder throws power but he has tendencies to wind up on his shots and throw one and done, which isn’t going to work against someone like Ray, who likes to stick and move. This should be 15 minutes of enjoyable and technical striking, with Ray’s movement being enough to secure his third straight win. Prediction: Ray via UD.
Women’s Strawweight – #8 Joanne Calderwood (11-2) vs #14 Cynthia Calvillo (5-0): Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard deserve more credit than they get and this is an excellent bit of matchmaking. Calvillo is a real prospect at 115 lbs, and this is the sort of fight she needs at this point to gauge where she’s at and where she needs to improve. Calderwood has struggled with grapplers in the past, and I believe she’d be much more of a force in the new Women’s Flyweight division, but she’s a top striker and is a big step-up on Calvillo’s previous opponents. I’m finding it hard to pick a winner, so I’ll go with Calderwood. She’s more experienced, she’s bigger and she’s got home-field advantage. Prediction: Calderwood via SD.
Welterweight – #8 Gunnar Nelson (16-2) vs #14 Santiago Ponzinibbio (24-3): As much as this card has been maligned, this is a bloody good main event. Nelson looked incredible against Alan Jouban, whilst Ponzinibbio is one of the best strikers at 170 and he’s on a four-fight win streak. Nelson should win. He’s so unorthodox on the feet and he’s found new ways of getting his opponents down, with everything all seemingly integrated into a very effective offensive game. However, Ponzinibbio showed marked improvement in his takedown defence against Nordine Taleb, which certainly means this is more competitive than it would have been. Still, it’s hard to look past Nelson and his grappling prowess. Prediction: Nelson via second-round submission.