No "Cop?" No problem!
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia, this Sunday (April 10, 2016) with an assortment of Heavyweight finishers at the helm. In the main event, the surging Ben Rothwell faces struggling former champion Junior dos Santos, while Derrick Lewis steps in on short notice to take on Gabriel Gonzaga.
Elsewhere on the FOX Sports 1-televised card, prospects Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes square off and Polish standout Marcin Tybura debuts against Timothy Johnson.
The "Prelims" undercard are split 4-3 between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Here's what getting up early will get you on UFC's streaming online subscription service:
145 lbs.: Robert Whiteford vs. Lucas Martins
Robert Whiteford (12-3) opened his UFC career with a fight against Judo expert Jim Hettes, suffering a second-round submission finish. Wins over Daniel Pineda and Paul Redmond followed before he ran afoul of the resurgent Darren Elkins in October.
He stands three inches shorter than Lucas Martins (15-3) at 5’9."
Following a submission to strikes against Edson Barboza in his UFC debut, Martins rattled off three straight victories, one each at Lightweight, Bantamweight and Featherweight. He’s since lost two straight, one to the aforementioned Elkins and one to blue-chip prospect Mirsad Bektic.
He’s knocked out 11 opponents and submitted another three.
Even with his recent struggles, it’s been fun to watch Martins go from the awkward, hittable mess that barely scraped by Jeremy Larsen to a legitimately dangerous striker with solid takedown defense. There’s no shame in losing to Elkins, who’s on a roll and also beat Whiteford, or to Bektic, who’s probably the division’s best prospect.
Against Whiteford, the Brazilian’s power and durability should pay dividends. He’s certainly capable of forcing the Scot to stand with him and ought to win the ensuing slugfest. Expect an entertaining round or two before "Mineiro" drops the hammer.
Prediction: Martins by second-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Cyril Asker vs. Jared Cannonier
France’s Cyril Asker (7-1) joins UFC on a five-fight win streak, the latter three in South Africa’s EFC promotion. His most recent bout saw him oust champion Andrew van Zyl with a guillotine choke, his fifth first-round finish.
"Silverback" has knocked out three and submitted two opponents.
Jared Cannonier (7-1) made his promotional debut in Jan. 2015, suffering a first-round knockout to Shawn Jordan. He was set to make a second Octagon appearance in Aug. 2015 against Jonathan Wilson, only to suffer a broken rib in training.
His six finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Asker’s big and has a decent grasp of boxing, but his speed, diversity, and wrestling are all lacking. Cannonier has the athletic edge and I’m not convinced Asker can take his power. Though Asker has a decent right hand and these are heavyweights, I’m fairly confident Cannonier takes it.
In this matchup of "Silverback" vs. "Killa Gorilla," the rhymes have it. Cannonier catches him in an exchange sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Cannonier defeats Asker via first-round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Bojan Velickovic vs. Alessio Di Chirico
Bojan Velickovic (13-3), training out of the Elevation Fight Team alongside T.J. Dillashaw and others, enters UFC having won four straight since a loss to Ultimate Fighter 17 competitor Gilbert Smith. In January, "Serbian Steel" picked up the RFA Welterweight title with a third-round guillotine of Benjamin Smith.
Eight of his wins have come by submission, five of them via form of choke.
Italy’s Alessio Di Chirico (9-0) tore through the local circuit, stopping his first five opponents in one round each and the sixth under a minute into the second round. He’s since moved on to the European scene and picked up another three wins in Poland and the Czech Republic.
He’s knocked out and submitted four opponents apiece.
This should be interesting, at the very least. This is a well-matched clash between decent prospects, both of whom have somewhat similar styles. I’m leaning towards Velickovic, although I have some concerns about the longtime welterweight’s overpowering style making the jump to 185 pounds.
Neither man has a clear edge in the striking or wrestling department, but Velockovic showed some very solid takedown reversals against Smith that should allow him to bring his crushing top game to bear. Combine that with his superior gym and experience against quality opposition and you have the recipe for either a mid-fight sub or competitive decision for the big Serb.
Prediction: Velickovic via unanimous decision
Four more UFC Fight Night 86 "Prelims" undercard fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including multiple European prospects.
See you then, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 86 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 12 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 2 p.m. ET.