For fanatical UFC fans the wait has been extremely long but, after their six week hiatus hiatus, the UFC picks up its schedule once again and heads over to Europe for UFC on Fuel 2. The first ever UFC event in Sweden (and the fastest ever selling UFC event in Europe) will showcase the usual mix of top European talent and some big names from the USA. Three Brits make an appearance on the card with Brad Pickett kicking off the Main Card in a tough fight against Damacio Page. John Maguire faces TUF alum Damarques Johnson and Jason Young kicks things off against Eric Wisely.
The headliner features Light Heavyweight prospect and Sweden’s own Alexander Gustafsson. He will face the Pitbull, Thiago Silva who returns from a one year suspension for falsifying a urine test. Silva steps in for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and a win against Gustafsson would be a huge statement on his comeback, as Gustafsson has been on an absolute tear through the division since his loss to Phil Davis. Another win for the Swede here, against a really tough fighter who has only been stopped once in his career, and he makes a strong case for a top 5 opponent in his next match.
Other standout fights on the main card for me are the featherweight debut of Denis Siver and the Stann vs. Sakara clash. Siver, who must be contemplating cutting a leg off to make the weight, fights Diego Nunes. Nunes will be a tough test for the German who will be looking to make a run at 145lbs after seeing the success fighters like Ross Pearson have had since dropping down.
As usual then, and for the first time in a long time, let’s get it on!
Alexander Gustafsson 13 – 1 – 0 vs Thiago Silva 14 – 2 – 0 – Light Heavyweight
As I said in the pre-amble Gustafsson has been on a tear through the division. His lone loss was against Phil Davis and since then he has put together a run that has seen him dismantle four opponents well inside the distance. He is strong striker with excellent technique and an ever improving ground-game. For all his promise and form though, Gustafsson has yet to fight a killer like Silva. Silva is a BJJ blackbelt but we have rarely seen his ground game as his stand up is so devastating. He throws every strike with mean intentions and his focus is unrelenting. I am not going to dwell on the ins and outs of why Silva was suspended but the very real issue for him here is that this is only his 3rd fight since January 2010 and he is without a win since 2009. Gustafsson debuted in the UFC AFTER Silvas last win and has gone 6-1 since then.
Gustafsson will look to use his range and his technique to keep Silva at bay here. If Silva does get in close he will need to tie him up busting out knees and elbows when the opportunity is afforded to him whilst nullifying Silva’s own clinch game. Silva doesn’t shoot too many takedowns but he may search for trips from the clinch and look to land on top. Gustafson’s needs to be wise to this and if he finds himself on his back, he needs to be getting up quick.
For me this is Gustafson’s to lose. He is fighting in front of his home fans; he has a tonne of momentum behind him and is the superior technician on the feet. Unless he makes a mistake somewhere along the line or Silva rocks him with a big shot, I don’t see him dropping this one.
Brian Stann 11 – 4 – 0 vs. Alessio Sakara 15 – 8 – 0 – Middleweight
This is a fight that has been made for the fans. These two are going to throw down until one man falls down and it should get the fans ready to cheer on the home favourite in the main event. In the great scheme of the middleweight title picture this fight figures pretty much nowhere, but Stann needs a win after his mauling at the hands of Chael Sonnen and this is a nice opportunity to showcase what he can do. Let’s not write off Legionnarius too quickly, as this is MMA after all, but I suspect he is overmatched here.
Although Sakara has a pro-boxing record behind him and is probably the faster of the two, Stann has far more power in his hands and this will trouble “Legionnarius” from the bell. Sakara also has a chin that has failed a few tests in the past and Stann will look to test it hard in this fight. I think this will be a powerful showing from Stann and a nice confidence builder, but he should be fighting top 20 opponents. Stann TKO rd 1
Siyar Bahadurzada 20 – 4 – 1 vs Paulo Thiago 14 – 3 – 0 – Welterweight
Handing Thiago to Bahadurzda as his first opponent is definitely a baptism of fire and one that Thiago recognises only too well. He himself had a “deep-end” introduction to the UFC facing a who’s who of top talent at the time. This will play out as a striker vs. grappler match with Thiago wanting none of the stand-up game and looking to assert his dominance on the ground. Thiago has been out of action for a while now and is without a stoppage win since he fought Swick. Bahadurzda hasn’t fought in a while either but his last 4 have all been devastating finishes and he will seek to inflict the same punishment on his opponent here.
Thiago is Bahadurzda’s toughest test to date and it will show. He may find some success early with his strikes but unless he can put Thiago on the back foot from the beginning, I think he will eventually succumb to the Brazilians game plan. Thiago submission rd 2
Diego Nunes 17 – 2 – 0 vs Dennis Siver 19 – 8 – 0 – Featherweight
An intriguing match here, in so far as every fan who is familiar with Denis Siver must be wondering how the hell he is getting down to featherweight when he looked so big at lightweight! The x-factor then is surely the weight cut: If Siver gets it right and his cardio is on point, he has a much better chance of winning this. If he gets it wrong, the high velocity style of Nunes will soon wear the German out.
Nunes should have an advantage on the mat, but he will really struggle to get Siver down here as Sivers defence is decent and he will be far stronger than the Brazilian in the tie-up. This will be an interesting match with some high-level striking skills on display from both men. Nunes has never been stopped in his career and has gone the full 15 in ALL of his fights in the WEC / UFC. I think this one will go the distance too and as much as I like Nunes, I think Siver – IF he gets the cut right – should walk away the victor. Maybe Nunes needs to have a look at Bantamweight after this one. Siver decision
DaMarques Johnson 15 – 9 – 0 vs John Maguire 17 – 3 – 0 – Welterweight
After an impressive showing against Justin Edwards on his debut, Maguire will look to build on his great start with another win on Saturday night. His opponent Damarques Johnson was the standout on Team USA in TUF 9 and since losing out to Wilks in the final has gone 4-2 in the UFC with all his wins coming via stoppage. Johnson has an excellent guard but Maguire will be more than happy to find posture there and throw down and is own jiu-jitsu is none-too-shabby either.
On the feet, Maguire has only ever been stopped once and that was at Middleweight against KO machine Tom “Kong” Watson. Johnson should have the edge on the feet and with honours fairly even on the ground this should be a great match. Maguire’s best chance of victory is to get Johnson on the mat and pour it on him as the American has folded under pressure in the past. Most of his losses have come via submission and this plays right into the game of Maguire. If the Brit can weather an early storm on the feet and impose his will on the ground, this should be another tick in the W column where he can showcase the full extent of his pink belt skills in gypsy jiu-jitsu. Maguire submission rd 3
Damacio Page 15 – 6 – 0 vs Brad Pickett 20 – 6 – 0 – Bantamweight
Pickett flies under the radar of many a casual fan but in my opinion is one of the best British exports to the big show. He is a great all-rounder and his wrestling game ha skyrocketed since he made ATT his permanent base a few years ago. The moniker “one-punch” may seem a little empty nowadays seeing as he hasn’t KO’d anyone since 2008 but that doesn’t mean he can’t still bang.
In a recent interview with Sherdog Pickett said he tends to fight on instinct and has alluded to the fact that since his loss to Barao he is looking at playing a little more strategy in future fights. Good intentions go out the window under the Octagon lights though, and Pickett could be drawn into a bang-em-out scrap here which is exactly the type of fight Page loves. Page is a dangerous opponent and on a two fight skid. With his back against the wall in this one after also being out for a year injured he will look to go all out from the bell. This aggression may cost him as Pickett has a great shoot and takedown and his uber-effective ground game is fast becoming his signature. I like Pickett for the sub here as he capitalises on an over-committing Page to secure a takedown and transitions to the sub. Pickett sub round 2