After a month devoid of UFC fight cards, the Las Vegas-based promotion is coming back into your living room with its first-ever Swedish event. Taking place April 14 at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, UFC on Fuel TV 2 “Gustafsson vs. Silva” has plenty to offer.
The main card -- as per usual -- is an easy sell. The Fuel TV broadcast features a dynamite headliner between Alexander Gustafsson and Thiago Silva, as well as appearances from Brian Stann, Siyar Bahadurzada, Paulo Thiago and Brad Pickett, among others. While that is quite a list of talent, especially for a Fuel TV card, the preliminary draw also holds some hidden gems for viewers willing to crack open Facebook and peep a stream. Here are five reasons to care about the UFC on Fuel TV 2 prelims:
Papy Abedi (Pictured, above) had a rough landing in the Octagon.
One of Sweden’s most highly-touted talents, the Congolese-born fighter posted an 8-0 record at 185 pounds before dropping to welterweight for his Octagon debut at UFC 138 this past November. Unfortunately for Abedi, he drew former title challenger Thiago Alves.
Although the 33-year-old managed to hold his own with Alves in the early going, Abedi’s confidence in the standup only served to awaken the sleeping “Pitbull.” The American Top Team representative returned fire intensely and accurately, knocking the Swede to the mat and quickly taking the mount. After dropping some measured ground-and-pound on his wounded prey, Alves locked up a fight-ending rear-naked choke to dash Abedi’s hopes of a successful UFC debut.
Six months have passed since Abedi’s first defeat. Can he right his ship and take out another former middleweight in James Head?
With the recent release and subsequent retirement of John-Olav Einemo, welterweight prospect Simeon Thoresen now finds himself as the UFC’s lone Norseman. A veteran of the English fight scene, Thoresen has lost just twice in over five years as a pro.
“The Grin” is a lean and lanky welterweight, along the lines of Carlos Condit. In short, his striking is sharp, and his submissions are superb. While his takedowns and takedown defense certainly leave much to be desired, the 28-year-old has nonetheless managed to string together an impressive record while fighting in Europe.
A protégé of former Dream and Shooto champion Joachim Hansen, Thoresen has won back-to-back bouts heading into his UFC debut against unbeaten Swede Besam Yousef. While Yousef will likely not show the same level of technical proficiency as Thoresen, he could easily make up for this with his aggressiveness. Can the Norwegian overcome the home crowd advantage held by his opponent and begin his UFC career with a victory?
Carmont Welcomes Cedenblad
Last fall, I wrote that Francis Carmont might be a man to watch in the UFC’s 185-pound division, and the same may be said for debuting Swede Magnus Cedenblad. The interesting part? They’re fighting each other on Saturday night.
Carmont impressed in his inaugural UFC outing against Chris Camozzi last year, using a varied striking attack to keep the seasoned American off balance en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Like the Frenchman, Cedenblad is another rangy middleweight who likes to throw straight punches and knees as opponents rush in. Though the Swede’s biggest weakness lies in his transition game, Cedenblad is solid once the fight hits the floor, as exhibited in his most recent submission victory this past October.
While I expect Carmont to walk away with the victory due to his superiority in the clinch, I would not be shocked if Cedenblad used the crowd support to his advantage and came out with a thirst for violence. Regardless of who walks away with the win, this
one should be exciting.
Yoislandy Izquierdo is finally set to make his UFC debut.
After posting six straight wins to begin his career, the Cuban-born Floridian was supposed to make his UFC debut at UFC on Fuel 1 this past February. However, a contract dispute with former employer Championship Fighting Alliance nixed that booking, and it appeared for a moment that Izquierdo’s inaugural Octagon appearance might be months or even years away.
Despite the initial conflict, the fighter’s management and his former employer were able to come to terms behind closed doors, and “Cuba” now has his sights set on the biggest fight of his young career. The prospect enters the cage coming off of a title-winning performance against Patrick Cenoble this past December at CFA 4.
A well-rounded southpaw, Izquierdo is a solid counterpuncher when he stays under control but will often swing wildly when he sees an opening. He’s a tremendous scrambler and possesses devastating ground-and-pound to compliment his knowledge of submissions. That said, he acquiesces to takedown attempts far too easily and will often place himself in bad positions that he has thus far been able to escape. We shall see if he can perform the same trick on the big stage against Superior Challenge champion Reza Madadi.
Like Izquierdo, Tom DeBlass is another regional champion with an unblemished record. The reigning Ring of Combat light heavyweight champion, DeBlass, 29, is an ADCC veteran and skilled jiu-jitsu practitioner under Ricardo Almeida. Pulled as a last-minute replacement for the injured Jorgen Kruth, DeBlass has no gimme in his UFC debut.
Standing across from the stocky American will be Cyrille Diabate, one of the light heavyweight division’s finest kickboxers. Some have tried to stand with “The Snake” in the Octagon, and they were disappointed by the results -- ask Luiz Cané and Steve Cantwell. By contrast, those who have closed the distance and put the Frenchman on his back have found great success.
This is precisely what DeBlass must do if he hopes to have any success against the 38-year-old. Heavy-handed though comparatively awkward with his standup, the New Yorker should waste no time in putting a fist in Diabate’s face and looking for a takedown. The longer he stays on the end of Diabate’s range, the more punishment he will take. Can “The Snake” keep the aggressive newcomer at bay and land effectively, or will DeBlass drag his lanky foe to the mat and drown him?