The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight elite make their first move in the post-Rumble era this Sunday (May 28, 2017) when former title challengers Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira duke it out inside Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
Elsewhere in the 205-pound division, Volkan Oezdemir will attempt to continue his unexpected rise against blue-chip prospect Misha Cirkunov and all-action knockout artist Abdul Razak Alhassan will face his stiffest test to date in fellow powerhouse Omari Akhmedov.
UFC Fight Night 109’s six main card bouts will be joined on FOX Sports 1 by four “Prelims” undercard matches (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Here they are, complete with complimentary analysis.
135 lbs.: Pedro Munhoz vs. Damian Stasiak
Following his debut loss to Raphael Assuncao, Pedro Munhoz (13-2) easily dispatched Matt Hobar and Jerrod Sanders before a controversial drug test failure kept him out of action for more than one year. Undaunted, he enters Sunday’s fight on the heels of “Performance of the Night”-winning submissions of Russell Doane and Justin Scoggins.
Five of his eight submission wins have come by guillotine.
Damian Stasiak (10-3) saw a five-fight win streak come to an end in his Octagon debut thanks to the wrestling prowess of Yaotzin Meza. “Webster” got right back on track with tapouts of Filip Pejic and Davey Grant, the latter of which marked his sixth submission in his last seven wins.
He has submitted seven opponents overall, five by rear-naked choke.
As talented as Munhoz is, it’s become clear that, at best, he’ll top out somewhere just below the Bantamweight Top 5. His striking still hasn’t quite come together and his wrestling can’t reach the heights of his vicious top game. Luckily for Munhoz, Stasiak is no Jimmie Rivera, and looks to be outgunned on the feet. Though he impressed me against Grant, Stasiak will almost certainly struggle with Munhoz’s pressure and aggression.
Stasiak resides among the tier of opponent that Munhoz regularly looks spectacular against. Expect Munhoz’s strength and relentless attack to keep Stasiak on the back foot before eventually forcing a scramble for the guillotine finish.
Prediction: Munhoz via first-round submission
185 lbs.: Trevor Smith vs. Chris Camozzi
Trevor Smith (14-7) — who made the jump to UFC alongside his Strikeforce compatriots in 2013 — alternated losses and wins before finally putting together consecutive wins over Dan Miller and Joe Gigliotti. “Hot Sauce” had no such success against Andrew Sanchez, who handed Smith his fourth UFC defeat.
He replaces Magnus Cedenblad on two months notice.
Chris Camozzi (24-12) — who made his first UFC appearance in 2010 — experienced a wholly unexpected resurgence with three consecutive victories, including a decision over surging striker Vitor Miranda. Since then, however, he’s lost consecutive fights to Thales Leites and Daniel Kelly, leaving his UFC record at 9-9.
He has knocked out eight opponents and submitted another six.
Camozzi’s striking has clearly improved in recent years, but that takedown defense continues to lag behind. Smith is slow and limited, but he can be a right pain in the ass if you can’t find his chin early and often. While Camozzi has the volume to theoretically keep Smith at bay, I’m not sure if he has the firepower — Camozzi knockouts are rare things.
Smith is nowhere near Leites’ level, but has the tools to recreate his gameplan. Expect relentless takedowns from Smith to pay constant dividends as he repeatedly grounds Camozzi on his way to a decision win.
Prediction: Smith via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Reza Madadi vs. Joaquim Silva
A prison sentence for robbery cut short the UFC run for Reza Madadi (14-5) right after a breakout win over Michael Johnson in 2013. Two years later, he returned to the cage and has gone 1-2 in his latest run, stopping Yan Cabral between decision losses to Norman Parke and Joe Duffy.
He replaces the injured Mairbek Taisumov on less than two weeks notice
Joaquim Silva (9-0) — Team Shogun Rua’s third Lightweight pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” 4 — picked up two victories before falling to teammate and eventual winner Glaico Franca. Despite the setback, he went on to edge veteran Nazareno Malegarie on the Finale and knocked out Andrew Holbrook in dramatic fashion his next time out.
He has submitted three opponents and knocked out another five, all in the first round and one in just six seconds.
Silva isn’t in for the concussive nightmare he faced against Mairbek Taisumov, but this won’t go well for him. Though Madadi is slow and ineffective on the feet when the opponent isn’t within a foot of him, he’s a damn good wrestler with a vicious, extremely effective top game. Going after him with the intent to grapple is doomed to failure.
“Netto BJJ” cannot overpower Madadi on the mat and, while dangerous on the feet, isn’t likely to break Madadi’s cast-iron jaw. Madadi out-grits him to a decision victory.
Prediction: Madadi via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Nico Musoke vs. Bojan Velickovic (14-4)
Sweden’s Nico Musoke (13-4-1) turned heads with an impressive submission of Alessio Sakara in his UFC debut, then won two of his next three with a close loss to Kelvin Gastelum the only blemish. This set up a fight with Albert Tumenov, who overcame a rough opening round to win a unanimous decision.
This will be his first fight in 28 months.
A four-fight win streak, the last of which earned him the RFA Welterweight title, brought Bojan Velickovic (14-4) to UFC, where he edged Alessio Di Chirico in his debut. “Serbian Steel” is winless since, drawing with Michael Graves and losing a split decision to Sultan Aliev.
He owns a technical knockout win over top light heavyweight prospect Jiri Prochazka and has not lost by anything other than majority or split decision since 2012.
I just flat-out have not been impressed with what I’ve seen out of Velickovic. The man is gargantuan for the division, but hasn’t parlayed that into quality striking or overpowering takedowns. Musoke, assuming no serious deterioration in the last two years, ought to be able to control the fight with his powerful kicking arsenal.
That’s a pretty sizable “if,” of course, and Velickovic has given superior technical grapplers issues in the past. At the end of the day, however, Musoke is the more proven, more complete fighter. Though it’ll likely be ugly as sin, expect Musoke to land enough shots on the feet and be on the right end of enough clinches to take the decision.
Prediction: Musoke via unanimous decision
There are worse ways than UFC Fight Night 109 to wait out your Sunday hangover. See you then, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 109’s fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 11 a.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 1 p.m. ET.