Now that’s a tall order.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing out the big lads for its second trip to Rotterdam, Netherlands, as local favorite Stefan Struve faces former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov this Saturday afternoon (Sept. 2, 2017) inside Rotterdam Ahoy. The card, which will stream online exclusively via Fight Pass, will also feature Marion Reneau against late replacement Talita de Olveira, plus Siyar Bahadurzada against Rob Wilkinson and Leon Edwards against Bryan Barberena.
Eight “Prelims” undercard matches will set UFC Fight Night 115’s stage in the morning, so here’s what those of you with some pep in your step will get to see.
205 lbs.: Francimar Barroso vs. Aleksandar Rakic
The bizarre UFC career of Francimar Barroso (19-5) continued in 2016 when, after C.B. Dollaway lost a fight with an elevator before UFC 203, he faced Darren Stewart and lost via headbutt in 94 seconds. The pair went on to fight again in Stewart’s native England, where Barroso handed “The Dentist” his first professional defeat.
“Bodao” will give up four inches of height to Aleksandar Rakic (8-1).
Austria’s Rakic lost by submission in his first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fight, then went on to stop all eight of his subsequent foes. Though he missed all of 2016, he came back strong with a first-round knockout in March.
Seven of his eight stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.
Rakic passes the eye test ... at the very least. His Muay Thai looks sharp, he’s clearly got power, and he looks like he at least knows what he’s doing in the wrestling department. That said, Barroso can drag a boring fight out of anyone and thrives in the slog. It’s the kind of style that Rakic — who’s built on fast-twitch action — could easily struggle with. On the other hand, Barroso had issues with the sheer aggression of Nikita Krylov and his tendency to throw naked single strikes plays into Rakic’s counter-punching.
Eh, what the heck, let’s put our faith in the future — Rakic pounds him out early.
Prediction: Rakic via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Mike Santiago vs. Zabit Magomedsheripov
Ten straight wins and a couple of regional titles lead Mike Santiago (21-9) to Dana White’s “Contender Series” where he squared off against once-beaten Mark Cherico. Santiago made the splash he was looking for with a brutal knockout, earning himself a contract and, thanks to a willingness to step up, a debut fight less than two weeks later.
He replaces the injured Nick Hein on five days’ notice.
Zabit Magomedsheripov (12-1) — a disciple of Mark Henry — has emerged as one of the top prospects in the game today. He enters the UFC cage with eight straight wins, seven of them stoppages, and the ACB Featherweight championship under his belt.
The 26-year-old has knocked out six and submitted four opponents to date.
Magomedsheripov is a legit blue-chip prospect. He’s towering for the Featherweight division at 6’2,” has slick, powerful striking, and has ironclad takedown defense. He’s poised to make a big impact at 145 pounds, and with the likes of Frankie Edgar and Edson Barboza in his gym, I only see him getting better.
Santiago’s the more battle-tested of the two and looked damn good against Cherico. A turnaround this quick against a fighter this good is just way too much, though. I see him struggling with Magomedsheripov’s length and power before ultimately overcommitting to a takedown and getting his neck crunched.
Prediction: Magomedsheripov via second-round submission
205 lbs.: Bojan Mihajlovic vs. Abdul-Kerim Edilov
After starting his MMA career winless (0-3), Serbia’s Bojan Mihajlovic (10-5) got his feet under him and rattled off 10 straight before running afoul of Francis Ngannou in his Octagon debut. He made the drop to 205 pounds for his next bout, which saw him knocked out in three by Joachim Christensen in Phoenix.
He has knocked out four opponents and submitted another two.
Abdul-Kerim Edilov (16-4) — the cousin of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov — put together 10 consecutive first-round finishes to earn a call up to the big show. A torn meniscus scrapped a planned debut against Francimar Barroso, after which a failed drug test kept the 25-year-old on the sidelines for all of 2016.
This will be his first fight in more than two years.
This is a showcase for Edilov. Even putting aside his connections, he’s an entertaining young prospect in an aging, top-heavy division. They’re not going to take any chances.
While Edilov’s striking is a work-in-progress and his clinch entries aren’t great, he has a lovely takedown arsenal and moves extremely well on the mat for a man his size. Mihajlovic — who attempts to make up for pretty much everything with sheer enthusiasm — is prime fodder for an impressive finish. Edilov ties up, takes him down, and submits him with little trouble.
Prediction: Edilov via first-round submission
155 lbs.: Thibault Gouti vs. Andrew Holbrook
Despite falling short in the elimination round of TUF 22, Thibault Gouti (11-3) got a shot in UFC after knocking out Anton Kuivanen in a sizable upset. He’s yet to repeat the feat, suffering three stoppage losses in three UFC fights.
Five of his nine stoppage wins have come by submission.
It’s been quite a UFC ride for Andrew Holbrook (12-2), who used nonstop submission attempts to eke past Ramsey Nijem in his debut. He defied +400 odds to defeat Jake Matthews in Melbourne, but the victory was sandwiched between knockout losses to Joaquim Silva and Gregor Gillespie that lasted a combined 55 seconds.
He owns nine wins by submission, all but one in the first round.
Holbrook has no chin whatsoever. He does, however, have a pretty darn good ground game and decent takedowns with which to enforce it. Gouti has some pop in his right hand, certainly enough to put Holbrook down for the count, but his grappling has consistently failed him during his UFC tenure.
Barring another sub-minute thumping, expect Holbrook to stay out of trouble long enough to wrap up Gouti and drag him into his world for an early finish.
Prediction: Holbrook via first-round submission
Four more UFC Fight Night 115 undercard fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including the return of Mairbek Taisumov and Darren Till’s latest bout. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 115 card on Saturday, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, and then the remaining main card balance on Fight Pass at 3 p.m. ET.