The line-ups have been officially announced . Some of the first round matchups are awesome, there are a few tasty rematches from previous encounters (Weir vs Reid @ Middleweight and Harra vs Butlin @ Lightweight spring to mind) and some great matchups that have never happened in UKMMA before (Jean Silva vs Ashleigh Grimshaw is one I’m gonna keep an eye out for). There are also some very interesting potential matchups for later rounds: In the bantamweight division No1 UK Bantam Paul McVeigh could end up facing his friend and teammate James Doolan if they both progress past their first opponents (which I’m sure they will). Also seeing former top featherweight Leigh Remedios in the mix at bantamweight shakes things up a bit – not really sure how he is planning on making the weight though, he was HUGE at featherweight.
There are a couple of surprise omissions/absences from the weights though. Most notably Robbie Olivier at Featherweight. Not sure if he still has a contract with Cage Rage/Ultimate Challenge, Brad Pickett probably does and that is almost certainly why he isnt in the mix at that weight either. In the heavier weights Martin Thompson and Tengiz Tedoradze are conspicuous in their absence. Would have been great to have them in there! Also it is only a pipe dream as he has had well publicised legal problems recently and so more than likely isnt concentrating on fighting (in fact I’m not sure if he’s officially retired!?!) but Ian Freeman would have definitely shaken up the light heavyweights!!
I’m going to get my overall winner predictions in early, a little premature perhaps…but it’ll be interesting to see how these predictions stack up when the tournament is finished. I’ll leave the two lightest weights (my favourite divisions) until last:
Lightweight is pretty much a foregone conclusion I reckon. If he stays injury free it’s Abduls all the way. There are some darkhorses here, Paul Jenkins is an 88 fight veteran but seems past his peak although you can never count him out. Sami Berik is a crazy unpredictable dude and already has a win over Abdul (albeit by freakish cut stoppage) and probably one of the most awesome KO’s i have ever seen live against Dave Lee (fighting at featherweight in this tourney). Ian Butlin is a supremely confident individual who has protested in the past that he is the Number 1 UK lightweight and called every other lightweight in the country out, now he has to walk the walk. His boxing skills are well reknowned, but most of his wins in the cage have come by submission. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets the standup war from someone that I am sure he would love! Last but not least you have Paul Sass, who just keeps on triangling people….. but all things considered, I still say Abdul should win this division and win it comfortably.
Welterweight again is pretty much a dead cert. Why he isnt in the UFC already is a mystery and he should’ve certainly made it into TUF9 …Jimmy Wallhead. If he doesnt win it I’ll eat my own head. Che Mills or possibly Pointon (draw depending) as his opponent in the final. Incidentally Che Mills and James Bateman will be fresh off a stint on “the ultimate fighter 9” reality series. The fact they are fighting in the BFC, I assume means neither got a UFC contract at the end of it, but no doubt the training will have served them well.
Middleweight isnt as clear cut. But the winner of Cahoon vs Marcello has a good shout. Matt Thorpe is a superb fighter and he could be in the mix, veteran Mark Weir or Alex Reid could be pushing for a spot in the finals too. Alex, like Bateman and Mills is fresh off TUF9 in which he competed at Welterweight. He is on a (7 or 8 fight) losing streak but in fairness has faced some fierce opposition in those fights. Maybe he is about to start racking up the wins, but he has to get past Weir in the first round draw. These 2 fought before and had a WAR, Grant Waterman the ref of that match was quoted as saying it was one of the best fights he’d seen as a ref. The two of them just went at it toe to toe.
I’m torn between Weir and Cahoon as the out and out winner. Cahoon has dropped from Light Heavy and packs a hell of a punch and will give any of the fighters in this division a shock if he connects with those bombs. Weir is still a great fighter, although he has been around a long time. He is great on the ground and has fast legs and KO power. Tough call but I’m gonna go for Weir to take it, if he gets past another war with Alex Reid.
Get’s more difficult as the weights go up as I know less about the guys in these divisions:
LightHeavyWeights: Ryan Robinson is like the Peter Crouch of MMA. He doesnt look like he should be any good but he is! He isnt really intimidating to look at and he doesnt have a rock solid build like some of the fighters, but he is a handy grappler and not to be understimated. Ryan White is getting better all the time, but Tom Blackledge already has a bye to the quarter finals due to a smaller number of competitors in this divison and he should take the title here with not much problem at all. I dont expect sparring with the likes of Rampage and Cheik Kongo at Wolfslair will have done his MMA skills any harm either (might have hurt his head a bit though!)
Heavyweight: Rob Broughton to take the crown for the fatties I reckon 🙂
Now on to the lighter weights. The lighter fighters always tend to be more exciting to watch, they are faster and more technical and even in the UFC it is the lighter weight classes of fighters that tend to have the most exciting fights!
Ok so the featherweight divison first:
Danny Batten and Jean Silva are the standouts in this division for me. Highly experienced guys and both incredible all round fighters. Darkhorses in the group are Grimshaw, Smyth and UFC veteran and submission wizard Dave Lee. Grimshaw is unlucky to get Silva in his first fight and only because of this i dont think he will get past the first round, otherwise I’d have tipped him to be in there till the later rounds. Its tough to call this one, but if they avoid each other to the end then i can only see a Silva vs Batten final. I will go out on a limb and say Silva takes it overall, but it will be close between these 2 guys.
Best division in the whole organisation by a mile. The fighters here are quality. Not sure why Saville AND Korbley are listed as opponents for McCombe. Maybe there is a preliminary between them to see who makes the final 16? Anyhoo, both are young up and comers and if they are going to fight that’ll be a great little scrap. But there are some true powerhouse MMA fighters in this division and I dont expect to see those two anywhere near the finals. Most surprising entrant is veteran Neil Mcleod who according to MMA universe hasnt fought since 2006. He is one to watch in the division but the favourites have to be Remedios and Mcveigh. McVeigh has looked unstoppable at bantamweight and has destroyed pretty much everyone domestically but has an early career loss to Remedios, who himself retired and then came back after a 2 year lay off to fight Robbie Oliver at featherweight last year (losing a decision on Cage Rage). Darkhorses could be the always ready to scrap Judo expert Phil “Billy” Harris and James Doolan who is a teammate of McVeighs.
As an ex-teammate of Billy’s it’d be great to see him make it through to the later rounds and i’ll be rooting for him, but I’m expecting Remedios and McVeigh to bulldoze their way through the opposition and can only see a final between these too if they avoid each other in the draws beforehand (although a fight for the belt between Doolan and McVeigh would be very interesting too). Controversially – as i have always been a big fan of Remedios – I think McVeigh takes this overall. But if Remedios makes the weight cut comfortably and doesnt suffer any tiredness as a result, he could be a very hard match for anyone as he is an insanely powerful fighter at the weight.
So in summary my pics for the overall winners are Broughton, Blackledge, Weir, Wallhead, Mohammed, Silva and McVeigh. Watch this space 🙂