The UFC revisits Abu Dhabi for a second Fight Island series. Last July, the UFC successfully held four events at the Flash Forum at Yas Island. Starting this weekend, it will hold five events beginning with UFC 253 which will be headlined by the UFC middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Paulo Costa. The co-main event is also a light heavyweight title bout between Jan Blachowicz and Dominic Reyes.
But before we get to the main show, an exciting list of prelims undercard will open the card in Abu Dhabi. Let’s take a look at the fights and pick our winners:
Brad Riddell fought for Glory of Heroes, Hex Fighting series, and Wollongong Wars before joining the UFC last year. He is 2-0 inside the octagon and has an overall record of 8-1 with five knockouts. This former kickboxing star is 5-7 tall with a reach of 71 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Alex da Silva is a veteran of the Aspera Fighting Championship and Brave FC. He joined the UFC with an unbeaten record of 20-0. He lost his first octagon assignment against Alexander Yakovlev but bounced back to beat Rodrigo Vargas at UFC Fight Night 156 last August. Da Silva’s record stands at 21-2 with 13 knockouts and nine wins via submission. He stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 73 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Da Silva has not fought in 13 months due to the travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. At 24, he’s an interesting prospect who is well-rounded and capable of fighting on the canvass. On his feet, he’s got some pop in his punches and has good technique. However, I think he gets outclassed in a striking battle against Riddell. Riddell is far from being an elite striker but he outguns da Silva in an entertaining kickboxing affair. Riddell gets the late stoppage.
Prediction: Brad Riddell
Diego Sanchez is a former King of Cage welterweight champion and the winner of the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter tournament. The 38-year old Sanchez is one of three fighters to compete in four different weight classes. He is 3-1 in his last four bouts although his win over Michel Pereira came via DQ after getting hit with an illegal knee. Sanchez has a record of 30-12 with 10 knockouts and six wins via submission. He stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 72 inches while fighting as a southpaw.
Jake Matthews fought in Australia before joining the UFC in 2014. 26-year old from Melbourne 5-1 in his last six bouts and is coming off back to back wins over Rostem Akman and Emil Weber Meek. He has a record of 16-4 with four knockouts and seven wins via submission. Matthews is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-11 tall and has a reach of 73 inches.
Sanchez can still give it to incompetent wrestlers and his pace can be tiring for those who come unprepared. However, it’s unlikely that he’ll get those advantages here. Matthews is younger, bigger, stronger, and faster than Sanchez. He can hold his own wherever Sanchez wants this fight to go and he also has some pop to make Diego respect his punching. I’m not sure if Matthews has enough punching power to put Sanchez away. But he has enough skill to win a three-round decision against a faded Diego Sanchez.
Prediction: Jake Matthews
Shane Young is a veteran of the XFC and WLF. The 27-year old from Auckland has won two straight bouts and heads to this fight after a Fight of the Night winner against Rolando Dy. Young has a record of 13-4 with six knockouts and four wins via submission. He is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 72 inches.
Ludovit Klein hails from Slovakia and he fought for the Hanuman Cup, ACB, CWFC, and Oktagon MMA. Klein took this fight on two weeks’ notice after Nate Landwehr tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. He has a record of 16-2 with seven knockouts and eight wins via submission. Klein is a southpaw who stands 5-8 tall with an undisclosed reach.
Klein is a southpaw striker whose left straight and high kick combo looks as deadly as Cro Cop’s. Young is a good kickboxer in his own right but Klein has the edge in power and speed. There aren’t too many films on Klein but I think that he is better skilled than Young. Klein is better on the feet and he has the takedown defense to prevent Young from turning this to a ground affair. Look for Klein to land a big shot that ends this bout.
Prediction: Ludovit Klein
Knight is an alumnus of the Contender Series and he earned a UFC contract after knocking out Cody Bundrage at the Contender Series. He has a record of 8-1 with 8 knockouts including five that have come in the first round. Knight is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 73 inches.
Aleksa Camur is a training partner of UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. He is also an alumnus of the Contender Series and is three inches taller than Knight. The 24-year old from Ohio is undefeated in six professional bouts with five knockouts. Camur won his UFC debut against Julian Ledet. He is 6-1 tall with a reach of 74 inches while fighting out of the orthodox
Knight is a physical specimen who has improved with every fight. However, I’m not sure if he’s UFC-ready at this point. His striking and wrestling are underdeveloped and it looks like his constant strategy is to get taken down and look for a way to get into top position. He gives up three inches in height to Camur. I think that Knight decides to fight on the feet where Camur has the advantage. Without much firepower to boast of, Camur should win a striking battle and perhaps get a stoppage win here.
Prediction: Aleksa Camur
Juan Espino was Robert Whitaker’s second pick at the TUF 28 competition and he rewarded Whitaker by winning the tournament. However, Espino has not fought since then and he is ending a 22-month hiatus here. He has spent the last two years with an injured hand and now looks to get his UFC career going. Espino is 6-3 tall with a reach of 80 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 9-1 with one knockout and six wins via submission.
Jeff Hughes is the former Legacy Fighting Alliance heavyweight champion. The 32-year old from Canton, Ohio appeared in the Contender Series in 2018 and earned a UFC contract. He is winless in three octagon bouts and is coming off a loss to Raphael Pessoa last October. Hughes has a record of 10-3 with four knockouts and one win via submission. He stands 6-2 tall with a reach of 77 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Hughes is so much better than what he’s showed inside the octagon. He’s a very good boxer and should have enough pop to overpower Espino in a standup battle. If Hughes shows up and fights to his abilities, he should beat Espino. However, Hughes looked bad in his last bout against Pessoa. Unless he comes out with guns blazing here, I like Espino to take this fight to the mat and work his way to a submission win.
Prediction: Juan Espino
Khadis Ibragimov entered the UFC with a lot of hype. He was the former M-1 light heavyweight champion. However, he is winless in three Octagon appearances and is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Roman Dolidze last July. Ibragimov is an orthodox fighter who stands 6-3 tall with a reach of 78 inches. The 26-year old from St. Petersburg, Russia has a record of 8-3 with two knockouts and three wins via submission.
Danilo Marques fought for the PFC and Gladiator Combat Fight before he was signed by the UFC. The 34-year old from Brazil has a record of 9-2 with four knockouts and four wins via submission. However, even in the smaller promotions, he’s not fought a high-level opponent. Marques stands 6-6 tall with a reach of 77 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Ibragimov has top-notch grappling but he prefers to brawl which has not always been the best strategy for him. Marques doesn’t have much to offer except mediocre wrestling. Either way, he’s going to get beaten up here. I think that Ibragimov’s judo will be too much for Marques. Ibragimov applies a sprawl-and-brawl style and gets the finish here.
Prediction: Khadis Ibragimov
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