Filed under: News, UFC
The UFC’s summer break is over. After nearly a month off, the promotion heads to the Netherlands for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 115 event. While this show might be light on big-name star power, it does feature some intriguing fights that should have fans tuning in at the start of the prelims.
The card also features three other UFC newcomers who are on lengthy winning streaks. Abdul-Kerim Edilov has won 10 straight while Alexsander Rakic and Zabit Mogomedsharipov are both unbeaten in their past eight fights.
UFC Fight Night 115 takes place at Ahoy Rotterdam, and the entire event streams on UFC Fight Pass
Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.
1. More than just 2 tall dudes
Struve, ranked No. 15 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, has looked excellent as of late. In his past two fights, Struve knocked out Antonio Silva in the first round and submitted Daniel Omielanczuk in the second stanza. The 7-foot-tall Struve enjoyed significant height and reach advantages over those opponents.
Those benefits remain against 6-foot-7 Volkov, but they aren’t nearly as noteworthy.
While Struve has the edge in both height and reach over Volkov, those advantages could be negated due to inactivity. Struve (28-8 MMA, 12-6 UFC) hasn’t fought in 11 months; No. 13-ranked Volkov (28-6 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has picked up two UFC wins, both via decision, since November.
Don’t be surprised if Volkov, with 15 first-round finishes to his name, looks to pressure Struve early, testing his readiness to return to action and his ability to deal with a similarly sized opponent.
2. A dangerous striker returns
In his UFC debut, Bahadurzada knocked Paulo Thiago out cold in 42 seconds. He then dropped decisions to Dong Hyun Kim and John Howard. After those losses, Bahadurzada was sidelined for 26 months while he tended to shoulder injuries.
He returned in March 2016 against Brandon Thatch and won that fight by submission. Not long after that victory, Bahadurzada was again bitten by the injury bug.
At UFC Fight Night 115, Bahadurzada fights for the first time in more than a year. His opponent in his first middleweight contest since 2010 is unbeaten UFC newcomer Wilkinson.
Bahadurzada is a dangerous striker with 11 knockout wins. Expect Bahadurzada (22-6-1 MMA, 2-2 UFC) to attempt to his fight to his strengths and avoid the ground game of Wilkinson (11-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who has six submission wins on his record.
3. Defying the odds
Edwards (13-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) is a fast and powerful striker, but he’s not overly aggressive, averaging just 2.17 significant strikes per minute. Aggression is not a concern for Barberena (13-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC), who nearly doubles Edwards’ striking output.
The odds favor Edwards in this fight, but let’s not forget that defying the odds is kind of Barberena’s thing. Three of his UFC victories came when he was the underdog.
4. New deal
A pro since 2013, Darren Till has not lost during his 15-fight career. The UFC recently rewarded the 24-year-old welterweight prospect with a five-fight contract extension. What’s noteworthy about the deal is Till (14-0-1 MMA, 2-0-1 UFC) has fought only once since October 2015, and he entered that bout five pounds overweight. Till’s first opponent on his new deal is 28-year-old Bojan Velickovic (15-4-1 MMA, 2-1-1 UFC).
Till, an extremely confident fighter with a strong muay Thai base, blamed his flubbed May weight cut on a long layoff following shoulder surgery. Till cruised to a decision win over Jessin Ayari in that fight. With only three months between fights, expect Till, who made weight and is anxious to work his way up the rankings, to be more active against Velickovic.
Velickovic, a former RFA welterweight champ, knocked out Nico Musoke in his most recent fight.
5. Request denied
Mairbek Taisumov has knocked out his past four opponents. The problem is inactivity has prevented him from capitalizing on his stoppage streak. The first win of his run was in 2014; Taisumov’s most recent victory came in April 2016.
Taisumov is likely to have a chip on his shoulder when he faces Felipe Silva. Taisumov hoped to face a ranked lightweight in 2016. Having once again been denied his request, Taisumov (26-5 MMA, 5-1 UFC) has an opportunity to show the matchmakers their mistake in matching him up against the unbeaten, but unranked, Silva (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC).
Silva made his UFC debut in August 2016. He knocked out Shane Campbell in the first round of that bout.
6. Tough choices
Michel Prazeres trucked Josh Burkman in his most recent outing and landed 34 strikes before he submitted him via north-south choke at the 1:42 mark of the first round. The stoppage was the first of Prazeres’ UFC career.
Prazeres is a powerfully built lightweight. What he lacks in height and reach he makes up for with potent striking. He also possesses a strong takedown game. He’s racked up a whopping 31 takedowns in eight UFC fights.
Prazeres’ opponent, UFC newcomer Mads Burnell, who has five career submission wins, has some tough choices to make in this matchup. If Burnell (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) fights to his strengths, he could find himself in deep waters against Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Prazeres (22-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who missed weight for the fight. On the other hand, a striking battle with Prazeres is also ill-advised.
7. The gas is on the right
Rustam Khabilov was 3-0 in the UFC when the organization matched him against former WEC/UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Khabilov lost that fight by fourth-round submission. Adriano Martins then defeated Khabilov by split decision.
Khabilov followed those losses with four decision victories. Despite his winning streak, Khabilov (21-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) hasn’t seen a main card since his loss to Martins. His fight against Desmond Green, a former Titan FC featherweight champ, is also on the prelims. Green (20-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has won five straight, including his April UFC debut.
Both these fighters have good wrestling and sound striking, but neither is very aggressive.
Khabilov and Green have the talent to move up the rankings, but that’s not likely to happen in the stacked 155-pound division until they become less risk-averse. With Khabilov and Green on winning streaks, this fight is the right time for them to step on the gas and make some noise.
8. Streaking 205er looks to make his mark
Rakic lost his debut fight in 2011. Since then he has run off eight straight stoppage victories, and six of those fights ended in the first round. Rakic, an Austrian light heavyweight with a kickboxing base, spent five weeks with American Top Team in Florida preparing for his fight against the more experienced Francimar Barroso.
Rakic (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) should have the speed and striking advantage over Barroso (19-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC). With those advantages, Rakic wants to keep the 37-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on his feet.
Win or lose, this fight will be a good indicator of the potential upside of the 25-year-old Rakic.
9. He has some big-name fans
Magomedsharipov has earned high praise from the likes of Frankie Edgar, Mark Henry and Marlon Moraes. The 26-year-old Dagestani fighter surrendered the Absolute Championship Berkut featherweight title to sign with the UFC. He makes his UFC debut on the strength of an eight-fight winning streak with seven of those victories coming via stoppage.
Magomedsharipov is an aggressive and flashy striker with lightning fast speed. He also has strong wrestling and vicious ground-and-pound. In short, he could be a star in the making.
Magomedsharipov (12-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) hasn’t fought in a year. Inactivity isn’t a problem for his opponent, Mike Santiago.
Santiago (19-9 MMA, 0-0 UFC) knocked out Mark Cherico on Dana White’s Contender Series event on Aug. 22. The first-round stoppage didn’t earn Santiago a contract that night, but an injury to Nick Hein, Magomedsharipov’s original opponent, provided an opportunity for Santiago, who enters this contest on a nine-fight winning streak. He earned stoppages in eight of those victories.
10. Long-awaited debut
Bojan Mihajlovic and Edilov both signed with the UFC on the strength of 10-fight unbeaten streaks. Mihajlovic inked his deal with the UFC in 2016; Edilov signed in 2015.
Since signing his deal, Mihajlovic is 0-2. Mihajlovic (10-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) suffered TKO losses in both fights.
Edilov (16-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his UFC debut in Rotterdam. An injury and a failed out-of-competition USADA drug test for meldonium delayed his promotional debut. Edilov is the cousin of controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was the focus of a recent MMA-themed episode of HBO’s “Real Sports.”
Edilov has finished each fight of his winning streak via first round stoppage. If Edilov, the biggest favorite on this card, earns an 11th straight victory, don’t be surprised if he faces a top-15 light heavyweight opponent in his next outing.