UFC on FUEL TV 5: Official Preview and Predictions
By Tom Taylor
This Saturday, The UFC will make its long-awaited return to the United Kingdom, as UFC on Fuel TV 5 goes down from Nottingham, England. The event will be headlined by an important heavyweight showdown between undefeated slugger Stipe Miocic and the tallest fighter in the UFC, the ever-exciting Stefan Struve. In the co-main event, heavy-handed hometown hero Dan Hardy squares off against The Ultimate Fighter alumnus, Amir Sadollah. Over the course of an atypically long main card, fights between Brad Pickett and Yves Jabouin, Paul Sass and Matt Wiman, John Hathaway and John Maguire, and Che Mills and Duane Ludwig will also be broadcast on Fuel TV. Abounding with talent from England and the world over, here is what we might expect from this weekend’s main card.
Stipe Miocic (9-0-0) vs Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (24-5-0)
In the evening’s main event, Stipe Miocic will put his perfect record on the line against the young but well-versed Stefan Struve. While Miocic is edging his way towards title contention with his unblemished record, Struve will be looking to build on a three-fight win streak, following victories over Pat Barry, Dave Herman, and Lavar Johnson.
From the early vantage point, both men seem to have their own unique set of advantages. Struve, despite being the younger fighter, is the far more experienced of the two heavyweights. With over three times more professional fights than his opponent, Struve will be making his 12th UFC appearance. Aside from his experience advantage, Struve holds a reach advantage over every other fighter in the UFC heavyweight division. Historically, Struve has not often used this advantage entirely effectively, but with an 84-inch reach, a well-executed jab could be a useful tool for him on the feet. Sixteen of Struve’s 24 career wins have come via submission, so he should have the edge in the jiu jitsu department. Miocic is not without advantages of his own though. While he is smaller than Struve, he appears to hold the advantage in the strength and power departments. As a Golden Gloves boxing champion he should also hold an edge in the area of pure striking. His power and striking skill, coupled with Struve’s often-unreliable chin, make for an interesting x-factor leading into the fight. Finally, Miocic’s credentials as an NCAA wrestler provide him with a solid wrestling base and effective takedowns, should he opt to challenge Struve on the mat.
When the action begins, following a brief feeling-out process, look for Miocic to begin chucking bombs at his opponent’s face. Struve, who is usually not one to bow out of a slug fest, should throw back some bombs of his own. As each combo is thrown with bad intentions, look for both heavyweights to land early. Both men’s chins should survive the opening frame, but it will be Miocic who lands more effectively throughout the first round.
The story of the second round should be the same, with Miocic engaging, and Struve obliging him with return fire. While Miocic should win the majority of exchanges, a composed Struve will hang in there until Miocic gets impatient and shoots for a takedown. This might well be the moment Struve was waiting for, as he attempts to wrap his legs around his opponent and hunts for submissions. While this may lead to a few scares for his corner, Miocic will have undoubtedly trained for Struve’s guard, and will find success in smothering his opponent. From there, he will rain down the same ground-and-pound he used to put away Shane Del Rosario in his last win. As he lands from top position, watch for Miocic to gain confidence, throwing each shot more savagely than the last—when it rains it pours. Despite Struve’s best efforts to cover up, look for Miocic to pummel him until the referee steps in to stop the onslaught.
The Pick: In a bloody fight that is eerily similar to his win over Del Rosario, Miocic wins by second-round TKO, and keeps his perfect record.
Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy (24-10-0) vs Amir Sadollah (6-3-0)
It’s been an interesting road for Dan Hardy. After failing in his title bid against Georges St. Pierre, Hardy went on to lose consecutive fights to Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson, and Chris Lytle. Then, following a brief hiatus from competition, he finally found his groove again, as he beat Duane Ludwig by first-round knockout on the UFC 146 undercard. Now, the British slugger will have the opportunity to win big again, this time in his own back yard, as he takes on The Ultimate Fighter Season 7 winner, Amir Sadollah.
In advance of their welterweight scrap, it’s fair to assume Dan Hardy and Amir Sadollah will happily beat each other up on the feet for as long as necessary. If this is the case, it should simply be a matter of which fighter’s strengths prove more effective. Sadollah, who has never had a professional fight outside the UFC, is overall the sharper striker of the two. Both men possess slick stand-up, but Sadollah effectively mixes punches, kicks and clinch work, while Hardy is typically sweeter on punches. We have seen Hardy lose striking matches because of this before; case in point was his loss to Chris Lytle at UFC on Versus 5. In that fight, Lytle ran a striking clinic on Hardy, whipping him with leg kicks and body shots, whereas Hardy seemed content to merely punch Lytle in the face. Hardy will need to be careful not to fall into a similar situation against Sadollah.
Still, Hardy does hold a definitive power advantage. Despite his extremely efficient Muay Thai, Sadollah does not have a knockout win to his name. Hardy, on the other hand has 12, as exactly 50 percent of his career wins have come in this way. If the fight does hit the mat, Amir Sadollah should have the edge, but the takedown defense of Hardy, albeit far from stellar, should be able to ward off any attempts. Hardy has also proven to be fairly resistant to submissions, as he proved in his loss to St. Pierre. But again, we can expect these men to clash primarily on the feet, where they will surely be happy to duke it out.
When the punches begin to fly, look for Sadollah to land the more diverse array of strikes, punishing Hardy’s lead leg, and using the teep to keep his opponent at bay. Hardy has never seemed to mind eating a few shots though, and will walk through a few to land punches of his own. Sadollah has only once been finished by strikes, by Johny Hendricks, at UFC 101 but do not expect him to like the way Hardy’s punches feel. After Hardy lands a few clean shots, look for Sadollah to tie his British opponent up in the clinch, where he will unleash knees and elbows. At this point, Hardy will make it clear that he is the stronger man, as he bullies his way out of the clinch, and begins hunting for Sadollah’s head once more. This should be the story of the opening rounds, as Hardy charges through his opponent’s offenses, and uses his strength advantage to keep the fight where he wants it. Sadollah might shoot for a takedown or two, but Hardy should see them coming. Finally, in the third round, knowing that the fight is drawing to a close, look for Hardy to take it up a notch and land the most significant punch of the fight, as he puts Sadollah on ice skates, and sends him to the mat. The mohawk-clad Brit will not let up, until he puts his opponent away with ground-and-pound.
The Pick: Hardy wins by 3rd round TKO; his first win on his home soil since 2009.
Brad “One Punch” Pickett (21-6-0) vs Yves “Tiger” Jabouin (18-7-0)
Before the co-main and main events get underway, we will be treated to a bantamweight scrap between dynamic competitors Yves Jabouin, and Brad Pickett. Pickett, who will be fighting in front of his countrymen, is 11-2 in his last 13 fights, and will be hunting for his second UFC win. Jabouin, a staple of the famous TriStar gym in Montreal, will carry a three-fight win streak into this fight, having recently ousted Ian Loveland, Walel Watson, and Jeff Hougland, all by decision. Despite his decision streak, Jabouin is a dynamic striker with 11 knockout wins to his name. Pickett also knows his way around a knockout, having finished 6 opponents in this way. Pickett is far from one dimensional, however, as he has also finished 10 opponents by submission, having showcased his ground skills in his most recent win, a second-round rear-naked choke of Damacio Page.
From the get-go, then, Pickett appears to have the advantage in the grappling department. And while Jabouin, who is famous for his breathtaking arsenal of strikes (see the spinning back-fist he unleashed in his win over Hougland), he may not appear to be the more effective striker when he and Pickett enter the cage together in Nottingham. Pickett may not strike with the same flair that Jabouin does, but the Englishman’s ability to mix takedowns in with his strikes form a dangerous concoction. This ability will prove especially useful against a rangy striker like Jabouin. When coupled with the fact that Pickett’s chin has failed him only once in 27 fights, he appears to have several crucial advantages in this fight.
When the cage door closes, look for these bantamweights to accelerate to their typical speed quickly, with Jabouin working the outside of the cage, and Pickett pursuing him, unwilling to give up any ground from the opening bell.
Immediately, it should become clear that Jabouin is having difficulty unloading the long-range strikes he prefers, as Pickett closes in on him, and peppers him with quick combos from the inside. Look for Jabouin to try to circle out of Pickett’s offenses, hoping to gain some ground so that he can work with more space. The Brit will not let up though, as he chases his opponent, winging punches his way all the while. Do not be surprised to see a flying knee or spinning back-fist from Jabouin as all of this occurs, but Pickett’s solid chin and diligence in pressing forward should render these attacks ineffective. Eventually, whether it’s due to a caught Jabouin kick, or simply the proper opening, Pickett will shoot for a takedown. Jabouin should be able to squirm to his feet, only to fall victim to a rinse-and-repeat pattern as Pickett continues to pressure him and land key takedowns as the fight wears on.
Eventually, following another successful Pickett takedown, Jabouin will make a critical error in attempting to escape from under his opponent. From there, Pickett will see his chance, and lock up the Canadian’s neck.
The Pick: Pickett wins by 3rd round submission, entering his first win streak since joining the UFC.
Paul “Sassangle” Sass (13-0-0) vs. Matt “Handsome” Wiman (14-6-0)
So far, Paul Sass looks like a one-trick pony. The thing is, his trick works every time, so it’s hardly a problem. With 12 submissions in 13 career victories, and not a loss to his name, Sass will lay his undefeated record on the line against a UFC staple Matt Wiman. Wiman will enter the fight with a one-fight win-streak, having most recently defeated Mac Danzig at UFC on Versus 6, nearly one year ago.
We know what Sass is going to try to do in this fight. He’s going to try to take Wiman down and tack another submission win onto his resume. The thing that makes this fight interesting though, is that in 20 career outings, Matt Wiman has never been submitted. Regardless of how this fight unfolds, it is likely that it will be the first time something happens— either the first time Wiman is submitted, or the first time Sass loses.
Expect a version of Wiman with fine-tuned takedown defense to enter the cage in Nottingham. Sass’s stand up is still fairly rudimentary, and Wiman, who has finished four fights via strikes, should be content to stand with him all night. Yet while Sass’s takedowns are a far cry from those of Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard, he has somehow ended up on the ground with every one of his opponents to date, and Wiman should be no exception. Still, do not expect “Handsome” to go easily. The wily fighter will not make the same mistakes that the likes of Jacob Volkmann made against Sass, and will look to return to the standing position whenever possible, rather than dwindling in Sass’s guard. Regardless of Wiman’s aptitude, however, it should only be a matter of time until Sass is able to trap him on the ground for a prolonged period and lock up a submission. Eventually somebody will beat Sass, but despite his gameness, Wiman probably won’t be the guy to do it.
The Pick: “Sassangle” moves to 14-0, submitting Matt Wiman in the first round.
John “The Hitman” Hathaway (16-1-0) vs. John “The One” McGuire (18-3-0)
When British welterweights John Hathaway and John McGuire collide in Nottingham, it’ll be a win-lose situation for the Brits, and people named John. Hathaway was once being talked about as the next big thing at welterweight, until a loss to Mike Pyle soured his reputation. Still, the Pyle loss remains the lone blemish on Hathaway’s record. McGuire on the other hand, will carry a 7-fight win streak into this bout. It goes without saying that the winner of this bout will take a pivotal step up the welterweight ladder.
Both fighters have proven to be quite well-rounded, but McGuire would probably prefer to fight on the mat, where he has shown some serious skill, such as his second round armbar of DaMarques Johnson at UFC on Fuel TV 2. Hathaway on the other hand, would probably like to steer clear of his opponent’s grappling and trade on the feet where he is likely the faster fighter. Hathaway will also hold a near-seven-inch reach advantage over McGuire, which he will certainly look to utilize. Given the well-roundedness of both men, however, we can expect this fight to showcase all facets of MMA.
When the opening bell sounds, look for Hathaway to work the jab to keep McGuire out of shooting distance, and fire off knees when McGuire does shoot for takedowns. This strategy should prove fairly effective initially, but eventually, McGuire should be able to drag the fight into his comfort zone. From there, expect McGuire to stay busy, hunting for submissions as the fight wears on. Hathaway is capable on the mat though, and should be able to sneak out of anything McGuire throws at him. This should be the general theme of the fight, as Hathaway keeps McGuire largely at bay with his long-range, striking, and escapes unscathed when the fight hits the ground. Hathaway hasn’t shown much in the way of power, and McGuire has only been finished once, so a Hathaway finish is unlikely. After three hard fought rounds, expect this fight to be decided by the judges’ scorecards.
The Pick: Hathaway’s ability to dictate where the fight unfolds and his high work rate earn him a unanimous decision victory.
Duane “Bang” Ludwig (21-13-0) vs. Che “Beautiful” Mills (14-5-0)
In this welterweight showdown, both Ludwig and Mills will be looking to erase the memories of recent knockout losses. Ludwig was knocked out by Dan Hardy at UFC 146, while Mills was stopped by highly touted prospect Rory MacDonald at UFC 145. Given the propensity of both Ludwig and Mills to finish, there is a good chance one man will be handed a second consecutive stoppage loss in this fight.
Both of these men are talented strikers, but Ludwig is certainly the more proficient and more experienced in this department. While Mills might have a slight disadvantage on the feet, he figures to be the more dangerous grappler. The ball then, seems to be in Mills’ court. Will he opt to test his meddle against the Muay Thai chops of Ludwig, or attempt to expose Ludwig’s perennial sub-par ground game and take the fight to the canvas.
Ludwig will undoubtedly be hoping for a fistfight, and will be eager to score a knockout win over Mills to help wash away the memory of his loss to Hardy. Luckily for Ludwig, it is likely that Mills will be willing to scrap it out on the feet. Should the two opt to do so, look for Ludwig to show the sharper striking skills when in close, but Mills to use his longer reach effectively, working the jab to keep “Bang” at bay. Still, it will take more than a few jabs to slow down the journeyman Ludwig, as he outlands Mills and knocks him around the cage. When things get hairy for Mills on the feet, expect him to look for the takedown. It may take him a few tries, but eventually “Beautiful” should be able to take the fight to the horizontal position. Mills will prove to be not only more technically sound, but also physically stronger than Ludwig in this department. Ludwig will have no interest in being on his back, and will immediately look to bring the fight back to the upright position. In the scramble to do so, he will give Mills a window, and fall victim to a submission.
The Pick: Mills wins by first or second round submission in front of his countrymen.