For being a card on foreign soil, UFC Fight Night 147 (a.k.a. UFC on ESPN+ 5), which takes place inside O2 Arena in London, England, this weekend (Sat., March 16, 2019), is surprisingly light on newcomers. Only one fighter was originally scheduled to debut, Team Kaobon wrestling coach Mike Grundy, but an injury to Gokhan Saki brought in an undefeated Light Heavyweight. On this latest installment of “New Blood,” the series where I try to get you to care about guys you’ve never heard of, we look at UFC Fight Night 147’s Nick Negumereanu and Mike Grundy.
Nick “Nicu” Negumereanu
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Record: 9-0 (6 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: None
“Nicu” made his pro debut on Oct. 2016, fighting eight times in his native Romania and one time in Germany. Seven of those fights were at Heavyweight, though two of the last three came at 205 pounds. None of his fights have lasted longer than 10 minutes.
He replaces Gokhan Saki on short notice.
Negumereanu has been getting by on athleticism and power thus far, fighting just three opponents with winning records. On the feet, he’s a stiff power-puncher with limited defense, happy to plant his feet and hurl haymakers with his head up in the air. His grappling, though, is actually decent for how raw he is. He showed some gnarly throws in his Heavyweight days and looks to have decent takedown defense. His ground-and-pound looks stronger than his submissions, aided once again by how huge he is.
I’d have given him a couple more years to develop before calling him up to the Octagon, but I’m sure they could find one or two people on the roster he could beat. Looking at you, Vinicius Moreira.
Opponent: Another flawed, all-action Eastern European in Saparbeg Safarov. Safarov is winless (0-2) in the Octagon, suffering stoppage losses to Gian Villante and Tyson Pedro, but he’s the best opponent Negumereanu has ever faced and hits hard enough to decisively punish “Nicu’s” porous defense.
Weight Class: Featherweight
Record: 11-1 (8 SUB)
Notable Victories: Yutaka Saito, Michael Tobin, Fernando Bruno
Grundy is one of the most credentialed English wrestlers to enter the Octagon, having won bronze in freestyle at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and serving as the head wrestling coach for veteran squad Team Kaobon. His only defeat came against future UFC competitor Damian Stasiak in his fifth professional fight and he’s earned seven first-round finishes.
To his credit, Grundy isn’t one of those wrestlers who gets a taste of striking and decides that’s what he’s all about. Save for an overhand right to set up his shots, he generally just focuses on what he’s good at, hitting long-range double-legs and looking to land in side control. From there, he specializes in arm triangles and front chokes, being adept at hitting the latter against opponents who try to turn into him. Though he’s not super dynamic from top position or a particularly potent ground striker, he’s got a vicious squeeze and is good at staying attached when opponents scramble to their feet.
Besides the lack of striking, though, he doesn’t seem to be all that great at passing guard. Unless he can hit a takedown such that he lands in a dominant position, he generally languishes in half guard or full guard, chipping away with punches and waiting for opponents to give up their necks trying to stand. He also fell victim to a couple of sweeps in the footage I saw, which further speaks to the fact that his ground game hasn’t caught up to his wrestling . He needs to vary up his attacks from top position and incorporate more takedown setups besides the overhand right, but he has the tools to make a decent run.
Opponent: Grundy has a tall task in front of him in Nad Narimani, a physical powerhouse with quality wrestling and dangerous striking. Grundy only has the edge in takedowns, but that’s been enough in the past, so expect it to be fairly competitive.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 147 card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 147: “Till vs. Masvidal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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