Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to The O2 in London, England, this Saturday (March 17, 2018) on Fight Pass, bringing with it a quality Heavyweight showdown in the main event. Indeed, former champion Fabricio Werdum looks to pick up his second consecutive headlining victory against towering Russian Alexander Volkov. In UFC Fight Night 126’s co-main event, Britain’s own Jimi Manuwa attempts to halt his skid in a rematch with the resurgent Jan Blachowicz, and Bantamweight blue-chipper Tom Duquesnoy faces Terrion Ware one fight prior.
We had eight Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts, but just seven remain at the moment. So let’s check out the first three below:
205 lbs.: Paul Craig vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Paul Craig (9-2) followed up his submission of Irish prospect Karl Moore and subsequent defeat of Marcin Lazarz for the BAMMA Light Heavyweight title by submitting unbeaten Luis Henrique in his Octagon debut, earning a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his efforts. Subsequent fights with Tyron Pedro and Khalil Rountree proved a tad more disastrous, though, as both men brutalized “The Bearjew” inside of one round.
Eight of his nine professional wins have come by submission, the ninth by (technical) knockout.
Dagestan’s Magomed Ankalaev (10-0) caught Bloody Elbow’s eye just three fights into his professional career and has since continued to impress on the Russian circuit. His current three-fight knockout streak includes finishes of veteran Maxim Grishin and two-time UFC competitor Wagner Prado.
He will give up two inches of height to the 6’4” Scotsman.
Ankalaev really looks like a top prospect. Though he still has some trouble with volume when his opponents don’t give him countering opportunities, he’s got serious stopping power in his hands, bone-crushing ground-and-pound and solid overall wrestling. Best of all, he’s only 25, meaning he’s got plenty of time to grow.
Craig’s grappling is for real, but unfortunately, the rest of his game just isn’t there. His striking and wrestling are way too lacking for him to impose his will on quality light heavyweights. He’s not going to be able to handle Ankalaev on the feet or take him down, and if Ankalaev decides to play Craig’s game and take him down instead, the Dagestani’s ground striking is terrifying. In short, Ankalaev steadily breaks him down on the feet before pounding him out in the second.
Prediction: Ankalaev via second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Stevie Ray vs. Kajan Johnson (22-12-1)
Scotland’s Stevie Ray (21-7) won five of his fist six UFC bouts in impressive fashion, including a bonus-winning knockout of Leonardo Mafra and decisions over veterans Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon. Fellow banger Paul Felder proved a tougher nut to crack, though, dispatching Ray with ground-and-pound in Glasgow.
He steps in for Rustam Khabilov on around one month’s notice.
Kajan Johnson (22-12-1) unsuccessful run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” didn’t stop him from winning two of his first three UFC bouts. After a two-year hiatus, he returned in Sept. 2017 to knockout Adriano Martins in Edmonton.
“Ragin” has submitted eight professional opponents and (T)KO’d another seven.
I firmly believe Martins could have smashed the bejeezus out of Johnson if he had just been a little more active. Johnson — skilled as he is — lacks the durability to survive prolonged exchanges. Unfortunately for him, Ray is a very willing striker who is as sharp or sharper than his Canadian foe.
Johnson has neither the firepower to overwhelm Ray on the feet nor the wrestling prowess to drag him out of his element and finish him on the ground. Ray holds his own in the stand up for about 1.5 rounds before finally finding the mark with something dramatic.
Prediction: Ray via second-round knockout
265 lbs.: Mark Godbeer vs. Dmitry Sosnovskiy
Mark Godbeer (13-3) — after a submission loss to Justin Ledet in his UFC debut — proved he was more than just an awesome name with a decision over Daniel Spitz last March. Things took a turn for the bizarre in his next fight, however, as Walt Harris kicked him in the face while the referee was pausing the action because of a low blow, resulting in a disqualification win for Godbeer.
Ten of his 13 victories have come via (technical) knockout within two rounds.
The 10 victories for Dmitry Sosnovskiy (10-0) include five (technical) knockouts, two submissions via choke, and forcing Aleksander Emelianenko to tap to strikes in 2014. UFC twice tried to book him against Justin Ledet, but the fight fell through each time.
He replaces the injured (and now released) Dmitry Pobrezhets on short notice in his first fight since May 2015.
Godbeer is legitimately powerful and boatloads of fun against opponents either willing to exchange with him or unable to take him down. Sosnovskiy is neither. The Russian’s only goal is to take his opponent down as quickly as possible before moving to mount/the back and punching away. He doesn’t so much strike as move his arms in various directions while charging forward.
Godbeer could certainly tear him up on the feet if Sosnovskiy can’t drag him down early or burns himself out looking for the finish, but the Brit has not shown stout enough takedown defense to survive the early onslaught. Sosnovskiy scores an early takedown, moves to a dominant position, and drops punches until the ref steps in.
Prediction: Sosnovskiy via first-round technical knockout
Four UFC Fight Night 126 “Prelims” undercard fights remain to preview and predict, including the debuts of a top Featherweight prospect and a “Tuesday Night Contender Series” standout. See you tomorrow, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 127 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. ET, and then the remaining main card balance on Fight Pass at 5 p.m. ET.