We’re almost there, Maniacs.
After six painful Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)-free weeks, we will finally get our fill of major league face-punching this Saturday (April 14, 2012), as the world's pre-eminent mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion heads to Stockholm, Sweden, for UFC on FUEL TV 2.
Leading the way for the organization's first Swedish show are local Light Heavyweight superstar Alexander Gustafsson and Brazilian bongo master Thiago Silva, the latter of whom is replacing an injured Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
In addition, Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara will try to bounce back from recent wrestling-based trouncings by bludgeoning one another, while Afghan kickboxing ace Siyar Bahadurzada will make his long-awaited Octagon debut opposite Paulo Thiago.
But, before all that, we’ve got a stacked set of "Prelims" loaded with local talent and rising stars, set to be shown on Facebook. Dive in after the jump for part one of our UFC on Fuel TV 2 "Prelims" breakdown:
155 lbs.: Reza Madadi vs. Yoislandy Izquierdo
Not one to gorge himself on lower-class fare, Reza Madadi (11-2) hasn’t taken an easy road lately -- his last three opponents (Rich Clementi, Carlo Prater and Junie Browning) have all been UFC veterans. And all of them have fallen to the "Mad Dog." While we unfortunately won’t get to see his stylish Iranian-flag grappling tights on display, we will get to see a quality submission game mixed with aggressive striking. Madadi was originally slated to debut back at UFC on FX 1 before injuries derailed the bout, and after a year on the sidelines, he’s most likely champing at the bit for his first UFC opponent.
A powerful striker who most recently derailed previously-unbeaten Patrick Cenoble to win the CFA Lightweight title, Yoislandy Izquierdo (6-0) was booked to take on Bernardo Magalhaes on the first UFC on FUEL card, but a contract dispute nixed the fight. The heavy-handed "Cuba" fought four times in 2011 alone and, with the head of steam he’s built after his knockout victory over Cenoble, is set to make his mark in the UFC’s craziest division.
Entertaining as his striking is, Izquierdo’s takedown defense is pretty much nonexistent, and despite Madadi’s moniker, he is very, very good on the ground. He had no trouble dealing with the guard of black belt Carlo Prater in their bout and has demonstrated solid takedowns to go along with it.
Honestly, there isn’t a lot in "Cuba’s" favor here. He’s dealing with someone well-equipped to exploit his biggest weakness and competent enough on the feet to minimize his puncher’s chance. In addition, Madadi has homefield advantage, a more impressive resume, and significantly more experience overall. Entertaining as Izquierdo is, I don’t see him accomplishing much before Madadi brings him down and squeezes the life out of him.
Prediction: Madadi via submission in round one
While famed Norwegian bruiser Joachim Hansen has vowed never to fight for the UFC, we’ll be getting the next best thing in Simeon Thoresen (16-2-1), the Pride FC veteran’s top pupil. A grappler by trade, "The Grin" has an astounding 14 submission victories to his credit and is the last man to defeat UFC Welterweight John Maguire. After a surprising knockout loss to Seydina Seck in March 2011, Thoresen has reeled off two consecutive first-round submissions (rear-naked choke), and will become the first Norwegian to win inside the Octagon should he be successful this Saturday.
Sweden’s Besam Yousef (6-0), meanwhile, is not one to waste time. After his first career trip to the judges, he’s made up for lost time by winning his last two bouts in a combined 2:42. The undefeated Yousef could make one hell of a statement this Saturday if he manages to knock off the highly-touted Thoresen.
The Seck loss has me rather concerned about Thoresen’s chin and his resume isn’t all that great outside of Maguire, but Yousef does not strike me as someone to exploit Thoresen's faults. He’s got a third as many fights as Thoresen, his stand up isn’t great, and he hasn’t beaten anyone worth a damn. I don’t know how high Thoresen’s ceiling is, but he’s the protege of a very smart, very effective fighter and has the skillset to give most folks in the 170-pound division a migraine. I will be very surprised if he doesn’t run roughshod over Yousef. He tends to have submission streaks (a bunch of armbars, then maybe a bunch of triangles, etc.), and his last four victories have been via rear naked choke, so expect him to drag Yousef down, latch on and bring a victory home for "Hellboy."
Prediction: Thoresen via submission in round one
145 lbs.: Jason Young vs. Eric Wisely
British banger Jason Young (8-5) was pretty much a non-entity in the Featherweight picture before his UFC 131 bout with Dustin Poirier, which made it all the more surprising when "Shotgun" very nearly defeated the "Diamond," chopping down the bigger man with hard leg kicks and effective striking combinations. He would be slightly less successful in his sophomore effort, however, as the stifling Judo prowess of Michihiro Omigawa proved too much for Young to defend. Now 0-2 in the promotion, he could be teetering on the brink of being cut despite his strong showing against Poirer, and will need to make a statement against Lee to remain employed.
Correctly making the decision to cut 10 pounds after getting stifled by the ginormous Pat Healy, Eric Wisely (19-7) had the misfortune of meeting Charles Oliveira in the latter’s 145-pound debut, becoming the victim of a picture-perfect calf slicer at UFC on Fox 2. Before those missteps, "Little Lee" had proven himself a contender with wins over UFC veterans Hermes Franca and Matt Veach, but all that could be for naught if he can’t take out Young.
Young’s stand up acumen is undeniable, but he suffers from a bad case of British wrestling. And while Wisely has more knockouts than submissions, he’s deadly on the ground, as evidenced by the headaches he gave the notoriously stifling Healy. While Young most likely has a significant advantage on his feet, I’m just not convinced that he can stop Wisely’s takedowns or take him out before he gets a chance to try. He’s a joy to watch, but lacks the positional control necessary for a striker to succeed at this level. Look for Wisely to spend most of the fight on top before locking up something unpleasant.
Prediction: Wisely via submission in round two
See you then!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on Fuel TV 2, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the afternoon this upcoming weekend.