Name: John “The White Mike Tyson” Phillips
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 21-6 (18 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Chris Fields, Charlie Ward, Cheick Kone
A staple of the British mixed martial arts (MMA) scene with more than 12 years of experience, Phillips enters the Octagon on a four-fight win streak. This run saw him knockout Cheick Kone for the BAMMA Middleweight title, but lose the belt on the scale soon after. This will be his first fight in 2.5 years thanks to injuries scrapping planned UFC debuts against Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Eryk Anders.
First off, the good: Phillips does, indeed, have brain-melting power. His hooks and overhands are downright concussive and it generally doesn’t take more than a few clean connections to separate people from their senses.
If you’re hoping for any trace of the actual Tyson’s speed, footwork, head movement or combination punching, though, you’re out of luck. Phillips marches forward and wings haymakers until his opponent falls down or he gets taken down, at which point the fight is basically over either way. Despite more than one decade in the sport, his takedown defense remains godawful and he doesn’t have a jab to speak of. Even Charlie Ward, the punchline himself, repeatedly took down Phillips before getting flatlined.
And that was Ward’s professional debut.
Phillips has fallen short essentially every time he’s stepped up in class. The most recognizable names on his record (Jim Wallhead, Tom Watson, Frank Trigg, Jesse Taylor) all beat him and I’m not sure he landed a strike on “JT Money” before getting dominated on the ground.
His only real saving grace is that he’s spent his current hiatus training at SBG Ireland, so he has the support to finally round out his game, but I’m not sure Kavanagh and Co. can knock a decade of bad habits out of his head.
Opponent: In a clash of Tyson monikers, Phillips will be facing “Tuesday Night Contender Series” alumnus Charles “Kid Dynamite” Byrd, who gets his own write-up below. In short: Phillips is probably boned. Byrd’s faster and a strong wrestler, not to mention sufficiently skilled with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to finish Phillips once he drags him down.
Tape: Much of the footage I found on Phillips is from the sort of malware-infested hosting sites that I’m only comfortable visiting because this laptop is like eight years old and I’ve been procrastinating on getting a new one. Google “John Phillips vs. [OPPONENT’S NAME]” and you should find them.
Name: Charles “Kid Dynamite” Byrd
Weight Class: Middleweight
Record: 9-4 (4 SUB, 3 KO)
Notable Victories: Mike Jasper, Jamie Pickett, Randall Wallace
It took Byrd two appearances and two submission victories to impress Dana White enough to earn a call up to UFC from the “Tuesday Night Contender Series.” Overall, he’s won three straight and five of his last six bouts, losing only to Bojan Velickovic in that span.
Byrd is as fast and explosive as his moniker would suggest, throwing serious heat at the occasional expense of his balance and defense. Where he really shines, though, is in scrambles, specifically in the clinch. Watch his “Tuesday Night Contender Series” fights and you’ll see some lovely takedown reversals. He just seems to have an excellent sense of where his opponent’s weight is.
On the mat, he’s a dangerous finisher with both his hands and his chokes. That said, he’s not impossible to take down nor control once he’s taken down. Velickovic had a lot of success controlling him both on the cage and from top position, playing conservatively to avoid Byrd’s knack for sudden heroics. In my opinion, Byrd’s biggest struggles are going to come against composed counter-strikers and physically overwhelming grinders.
His first opponent, luckily, is neither.
Opponent: John Phillips. As stated above, Byrd’s probably going to wreck him.
Tape: Byrd’s first “Tuesday Night Contender Series” fight is on Fight Pass. Here’s the second one:
Name: “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 7-0-1 (6 KO)
Notable Victories: Marat Magomedov, Steven Siler
Dawodu started his career in World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and stayed there until UFC came calling, emerging as one of its top Featherweight prospects. Except for his win over Siler, in which he badly hurt the UFC veteran with a body shot, he’s finished everyone he’s ever fought; Magomedov forced a draw the first time out, but got stopped on body shots in their rematch.
When it comes to 145-pound prospects, Dawodu should be mentioned alongside the likes of Calvin Kattar and Alexander Volkanovski, just barely missing out on a spot next to Zabit Magomedsharipov on the highest tier. He’s a top-notch offensive striker, packing heat in all eight limbs and putting them together brilliantly. I recognize that this is lazy analysis, but he honestly reminds me a bit of Thomas Almeida, only with an actual chin.
Maybe not quite as insanely relentless, but the similarities are there.
His money punch is his left hook to the body, which is scary fast and can come from multiple angles. He’s also got some sharp low kicks and is always looking for elbows in the clinch.
On the grappling front, he’s got strong takedown defense, scrambling, and submission defense. He’s not impossible to drag down, but Magomedov burned himself out trying after two rounds, allowing Dawodu to batter his way to a 10-8 and secure a draw. He put the hurt on Magomedov even faster in the rematch, disposing of him in two rounds.
The biggest flaw that I can see is that, like Almeida, he really doesn’t move his head much, making him easier to hit than he should be. Unlike Almeida, though, he appears sturdy enough to survive exchanges and bring his power to bear.
Overall, Dawodu’s got sky-high potential. Expect him in the Top 15 before long.
Opponent: Dawodu is up against Scotland’s Danny Henry, who survived an early mauling to beat down Daniel Teymur in his UFC debut. Though Henry’s as tough as they come, he’s immensely easy to hit and Dawodu isn’t going to gas out in a single round. In addition, that rock-solid chin won’t mean much when Dawodu is turning his guts to mush with that left hook.
Name: Magomed Ankalaev
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Record: 10-0 (4 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Maxim Grishin, Wagner Prado
BloodyElbow.com considered this guy one of the top Light Heavyweight prospects in the word just three fights into his career. He’s continued to develop, shoring up some of the issues Zane and T.P. saw in him, and has picked up some very respectable scalps in his young career. Of all the prospects I’ve written on so far, Ankalaev looks like he can go the farthest, both because of his obvious talent and the fact that the 205-pound division is so barren that Gian Villante is in the Top 15.
A well-built 6’2,” Ankalaev is at his core a switch-hitting counter-puncher who puts together rapid combinations when opponents overextend, reminiscent of teammate Rashid Magomedov. He’s got quite a bit more power than Magomedov, however, and has shown some solid takedown offense and defense.
The most impressive part of his game is his ground-and-pound. He didn’t TKO his last two opponents — he knocked them unconscious, one from full guard and the other from half guard. He’s excellent at generating huge amounts of force without having to posture too much.
The only real criticism I have for him is that he’s still not super active when he has to lead, which can get a bit tedious if his opponent doesn’t want to try his luck. He’s still plenty dangerous on the front foot, though — a lead left hand was the beginning of the end when he smashed up Grishin, who hadn’t lost in five years. I really think this guy can crack the Top 10 inside of a year if he stays busy.
Opponent: UFC is really committed to pitting Paul Craig against heavy-handed prospects and seeing what happens. It worked out alright for the “Bearjew” against Luis Henrique, but I’m thinking we get something closer to Craig’s blowout losses to Tyson Pedro and Khalil Rountree Jr. here. Ankalaev is by far the sharper striker, has the takedown defense to keep it standing, and is too dangerous with his ground striking for Craig to survive trying to win off of his back.
Name: Nad Narimani
Weight Class: Featherweight/Lightweight
Record: 10-2 (5 SUB, 2 KO)
Notable Victories: Marcin Wrzosek, Paddy Pimblett
Narimani has spent the majority of his professional career under the Cage Warrior banner, where he picked up Featherweight gold last year with a one-sided decision over prospect Paddy Pimblett. This will be his first fight in 11 months and one he’s taking on less than one week’s notice.
Narimani is 5’8” and built like a fire hydrant. His game is all about pressure, pushing forward behind a sharp, heavy right hand that he mixes up with his jab and left hook. He packs a lot more power than that knockout percentage would suggest and can do some real damage once he has his opponent reeling.
That physicality also shines on the inside with good knees and uppercuts, plus strong offensive and defensive wrestling. He moves well on the mat, too, holding his own in the scrambles with Pimblett, and can fight five hard rounds despite his build.
His biggest issue, as far as I can tell, is his lack of defense. His aggression means he’s always going to get hit more than his peers, but it’s still a little worrying, and he had some issues maintaining top position in one of his more recent bouts.
Opponent: Narimani’s stepping up in weight to face Nasrat Haqparast, an athletic young slugger whom I think could be a real threat with a little more seasoning. Narimani’s never been stopped, though, and has the reactive takedowns and clinch to stifle Haqparast’s explosive offense. Haqparast does hit plenty hard, though, and is a natural Lightweight going up against a natural featherweight. Could go either way, but I have it about 60/40 Narimani.
Tape: YouTube doesn’t have much useful footage of Narimani, but Fight Pass has his recent Cage Warriors bouts, including the Pimblett victory.
Name: Dmitry “Wicked Machine” Sosnovskiy
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Record: 10-0 (5 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Aleksander Emelianenko
Like Phillips up there, this is neither the first nor the second time Sosnovskiy has been booked to debut. A fight with Justin Ledet twice fell through, once because of Ledet withdrawing and once due to Sosnovskiy bowing out, and as such this will be Sosnovskiy’s first fight in nearly three years.
BloodyElbow.com wrote him up back when he first signed, if you’re interested.
I normally like to discuss striking more than grappling since I generally grok it better, but I can’t really do that with Sosnovskiy. The guy doesn’t appear to have a striking game. His gameplan is to charge forward and pump his hands until he can duck in for a takedown. From there, it’s on to mount or the back, where he’ll drop punches until the ref steps in or his opponent says, “no mas.”
Just because it’s straightforward doesn’t mean it’s ineffective, though, and his guard passing and positional control allow him to wrap up some quick finishes once he gets his hands on opponents. Aside from the lacking striking, though, a core issue is that he’s inexperienced against top opposition. That wasn’t a PRIDE-era Emelianenko he beat, nor the terrifyingly ripped prison-bod Aleks who’s won three straight by knockout, but an Emelianenko who imploded and tapped to strikes as soon as Sosnovskiy got to a dominant position and started swinging.
Opponent: Sosnovskiy is a late replacement for the injured Dmitry Pobrezhets against Mark Godbeer. Godbeer’s a dangerous puncher and will have the technical edge in the stand up for once in his career, but Sosnovskiy’s relentless pursuit of the takedown should pay early dividends, after which the Russian will go through the mount-punching sequence outlined above.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 127 fight card tomorrow, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET, followed by the main card start time of 5 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.