UFC Fight Night 72 is a tale of two Middleweight mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans.
Two long-time 185-pound contenders on very different trajectories will anchor the first trip for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to Scotland this Saturday morning (July 18, 2015) as Michael Bisping attempts to put together two straight wins for the first time since 2011 against Thales Leites and his eight-fight win streak.
The SSE Hydro in Glasgow will also play host to an intriguing Lightweight battle between Evan Dunham and Ross Pearson in the co-main event, as well as the second Octagon appearance of top prospect Joseph Duffy and the return of Scottish darling Joanne Calderwood.
It's a pretty fun card overall, one that will include a half-dozen "Prelims" undercard matches, the first two of which will stream online via Fight Pass and the rest on FOX Sports 1.
Here's what's in store:
125 lbs.: Pat Holohan vs. Vaughan Lee
While Pat Holohan's (11-1-1) bid for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) stardom ended in the elimination round of TUF 18, he made quite an impression in UFC proper by choking out Josh Sampo in his promotional debut. Though he suffered an upset loss to Chris Kelades in his sophomore appearance, "The Hooligan" re-entered the win column by dominating Shane Howell in January.
The Irishman has tapped eight opponents overall.
Vaughan Lee (14-10-1) has alternated wins and losses throughout his UFC career, beginning with a narrow loss to Chris Cariaso, and most recently suffering a crushing knockout loss to Iuri Alcantara. Said defeat sent him down to Flyweight after spending the entirety of his seven-fight UFC run at 135 pounds.
Though he is coming down from Bantamweight, he will give up four inches of height to Holohan.
Lee represents a classic archetype: Good striker and grappler, but crap wrestling. As I’ve mentioned before, the fundamental flaw of this approach is that someone only has to be better than you at striking OR grappling.
Unfortunately for Lee, Holohan is ostensibly better than him at grappling.
The Irishman moves very well to the back and is lethal in all positions thanks to his length and opportunistic grappling. The one caveat is that he faded rather badly against Kelades in a match he was winning easily, while Lee proved he can lay a beating well into the third round during his drubbing of Nam Phan. Still, for all Lee’s offensive submission prowess, he’s too vulnerable himself to survive on the mat against "Paddy" long enough for that to be an issue.
The Irishman scores the rear-naked choke sometime in the early going.
Prediction: Holohan via first-round submission
205 lbs.: Ilir Latifi vs. Hans Stringer
After a tepid performance in his late-notice Octagon debut, Ilir Latifi (9-4) made some waves with dominant first-round stoppages of Cyrille Diabate and Chris Dempsey in consecutive appearances. He couldn’t make it three, unfortunately, suffering a knockout loss to Jan Blachowicz in his native Sweden in Oct. 2014.
The 5’8" "Sledgehammer" will give up six inches of height to Stringer.
Hans Stringer (22-6-3) extended his unbeaten streak to seven in his UFC debut by narrowly edging Nova Uniao’s Francimar Barroso in hostile territory. His cardio failed him his next time out, however, suffering a second-round technical knockout loss to Fabio Maldonado.
Seventeen of his victories have come inside the distance.
At the risk of sounding more egotistical than usual, I can generally retain a pretty good idea of a fighter’s capabilities after seeing them at least once thanks to the fact that I devote my brain to this stuff rather than useless clutter like money management and general adult responsibilities. For the life of me, I can’t remember anything about Stringer, other than that he laid on top of Maldonado for a round before curling up into a ball and getting pounded out from half guard. He did beat Barroso, but you’re legally not permitted to operate heavy machinery within two hours of watching a Barroso fight.
He’s just so utterly unremarkable.
Latifi, by contrast, has enormous physical strength and some heavy hands. I fully expect him to put Stringer on his rear consistently and land some quality punches in spite of the massive height differential. "Lat Dog" bulldozes his way to a wide decision win.
Prediction: Latifi via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Mickael Lebout vs. Teemu Packalen
France’s Mickael Lebout (13-4-1) stepped up in weight for a serious test against Brazilian jiu-jitsu World Champion Sergio Moraes in Krakow, Poland, this past April. Though he ultimately came up short, more than half of the tallied MMA media thought he deserved the nod, which would have put his win streak at seven.
"Ragnar" will give up two inches of height to the 6’1" Teemu Packalen (7-0).
Packalen, 28, began his professional MMA career in 2012 after a two-fight amateur career that lasted a combined 1:58. As a professional, he’s left the first round just once and never gone the distance. He is another of this card’s many late replacements, stepping in for Aussie prospect Jake Matthews.
Packalen impressed me in the little footage I saw of him, though I do have reservations. He’s excellent from top position, especially in his ability to stay on top during scrambles, and he can hit opportunistic submissions quite well. That said, while he has a good level change, he doesn’t seem to drive through his takedowns very well and he’s nothing special on the feet.
He still ought to beat Lebout.
I was among those who scored Lebout’s fight with Moraes for the former, but his success was more a product of Moraes’ poor fight IQ than anything else. Once on his back, he really didn’t have much answer for the Brazilian’s grappling prowess. If Packalen can put Lebout on his back, which I believe he can, he should win this comfortably. The Finn hits something nasty in transition midway through the fight.
Prediction: Packalen via second-round submission
145 lbs.: Robert Whiteford vs. Paul Redmond
Scotland’s Robert Whiteford (11-2) opened his UFC career with a fun, back-and-forth battle with Jimy Hettes that saw him tap to the Judo standout in the second round, ending a 10-fight win streak. His second bout was less entertaining, but more successful, as he handily outgrappled Daniel Pineda.
"The Hammer" has knocked out five and submitted another.
Seven wins in eight fights led UFC to call Paul Redmond (10-5) to replace Alan Omer at UFC on FOX 14 in Sweden. Unfortunately for the Irishman, he replaced Omer against elite prospect Mirsad Bektic, who battered the five-year veteran for the full 15 minutes.
He’s stopped nine opponents overall, five by form of knockout.
It may have been ludicrously one-sided, but I don’t hold the Bektic loss against Redmond. Mirsad is a genuine monster I expect to see knocking on the door of the Top 10 within two fights. The rest of Redmond’s record is actually quite solid and Whiteford hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire himself.
This fight may come down to wrestling -- neither man is a truly elite striker, but both men can do damage if they get on top. It may just be a gut feeling, but I’m leaning toward Redmond. The Irishman taps Whiteford somewhere in the second, possibly with his signature toe hold.
Prediction: Redmond via second-round submission
135 lbs.: Marcus Brimage vs. Jimmie Rivera
Despite three victories in his first three UFC appearances as a Featherweight, Marcus Brimage (7-4) elected to drop to 135 pounds after a knockout loss to Conor McGregor. He’s since gone 1-2, sandwiching a stunning knockout of Jumabieke Tuerxun between losses to Russell Doane and Cody Garbrandt.
This will be the first time in his seven-fight UFC career the 5’4" "’Bama Beast" has not been at a height disadvantage.
Jimmie Rivera (16-1) -- a former King of the Cage champion -- fell to Dennis Bermudez in the elimination round of TUF 14. Since then, he’s won eight straight, giving him a current professional win streak of 15. He enters this bout as a late replacement for English submission ace Ian Entwistle.
While a finish seems something of a pipedream considering Rivera’s 11 career decision wins and Brimage’s own lack of power, this has the potential to be quite an entertaining bout. Both of these men are skilled, aggressive strikers with nicely varied arsenals.
It’ll be competitive, but I’m picking Rivera for a couple of reasons.
For one, he can wrestle if he needs to. For two, Brimage has a worrying tendency to brawl even when he’s finding success being technical. In fact, he had every chance of winning the decision over Garbrandt if he hadn’t tried to throw leather with the stronger man in the last 30 seconds.
Rivera may not have bricks for fists, but he’s got quick hands and a lovely habit of working the body. In addition, he’s riding a two-fight knockout streak. Rivera wins this one via punishing the body and exploiting Marcus’ willingness to throw down.
Prediction: Rivera via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Chris de la Rocha
Polish Judoka Daniel Omielanczuk (16-5-1) began his tenure in UFC's Heavyweight division with a brutal knockout of Nandor Guelmino in Sept. 2013. He’s since struggled with the American wrestlers suffusing the division, losing consecutive decisions to Jared Rosholt and Anthony Hamilton.
Chris de la Rocha (3-0) began his MMA career a scant two years ago, finishing all three opponents he’s been booked against inside of two rounds. Most recently, he smashed veteran D.J. Linderman in July 2014. He replaces Russian power-puncher Konstantin Erokhin on approximately two weeks’ notice.
I was actually quite unhappy when this match up came together. Erokhin may have embarrassed himself in his Octagon debut, but I was willing to chalk that up to Octagon jitters and was eagerly awaiting his annihilation of Omielanczuk. This is nowhere near as interesting.
At least it seems pretty evenly-matched.
de la Rocha showed some solid power against Linderman, but he’s terribly inexperienced and we’ve never seen him go three rounds. Omielanczuk, meanwhile, has gone the distance and his Judo background should give him a sizeable grappling edge, especially since de la Rocha leaves himself wide open to counter-punches and takedowns while he punches bolt upright. The Pole grinds his way to a decision.
Prediction: Omielanczuk via unanimous decision
Nothing here that will shake up the divisions, but there's nothing wrong with well-matched bouts to open your Saturday.
See you there, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 72 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1 under- and main-card action, which is slated to start at 11 a.m. ET.