The UFC returns to England’s green and pleasant lands this Saturday as the Phones 4 U Arena in Manchester plays host to UFC Fight Night 30. The main event of the evening is set as Lyoto Machida makes his middleweight debut against ‘The Filipino Wrecking Machine’, Mark Muñoz. Machida is an injury replacement for Manchester’s own Michael Bisping, who had to withdraw from the bout due to an eye injury. Acting as co-main for the evening is a lightweight battle between Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard, which follows on from a light-heavyweight clash featuring Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Jimmo. The rest of the main card is rounded out with lightweights Norman Parke and Jon Tuck, middleweights Alessio Sakara and Nicholas Musoke, and flyweights Phil Harris and John Lineker.
Now, as always I am here to brief you on what you should be looking out for on the undercard. So let’s get started…
Al Iaquinta vs. Piotr Hallmann
Headlining the undercard is Paul Taylor vs. Anthony Njokuani. Nope, that one fell through as Paul Taylor got injured and subsequently retired. Headlining the undercard is Anthony Njokuani and Al Iaquinta. Nope, not that either as Njokuani withdrew with injury as well. So, third time lucky? Headlining the undercard is a lightweight bout between Al Iaquinta and Piotr Hallmann. Nailed it.
Al Iaquinta secured his first UFC victory last time out at UFC 164 back in August when he defeated Ryan Couture via unanimous decision. Best known for his exploits in the TUF house, Iaquinta will be looking to keep that momentum going with a victory over the European, Hallmann.
Like Iaquinta, Piotr Hallmann also secured his first UFC victory in his most recent bout back in September which was the Pole’s debut in the promotion. Hallmann is currently on a 11-fight win streak.
With both men taking the fight on short notice, neither will feel as though they are fully prepared nor at their best for this one, and to be honest I’m surprised they did not just scrap this fight from the card. When both are fighting fit and have had a full training camp behind them, I’d go for Iaquinta. Iaquinta should have enough power to trouble Hallmann on the feet and will always carry the threat of the takedown to keep Hallmann out of his comfort zone.
Prediction – Iaquinta via unanimous decision.
Luke Barnatt vs. Andrew Craig
Here we have a middleweight scrap featuring Luke Barnatt and Andrew Craig.
Barnatt will be familiar to fans of the TUF franchise, having competed on the 17th season of the reality TV show earlier this year. Barnatt would go on to reach the quarter finals of the competition to Dylan Andrews, but was one of the more memorable characters of the series due not only to his fighting skills but also his, at times, forthright personality. Barnatt debuted in the UFC in his last performance back in April at the end of season finale show where he overcame Colin Hart via unanimous decision.
Andrew Craig is coming off of the biggest victory of his career to date, having defeated Chris Leben via split decision at UFC 162 back in July. Save for a lone defeat to Ronny Markes in a fight prior to his Leben victory, Craig had begun his UFC career in solid fashion with victories coming over Kyle Noke and Rafael Natal. A victory over Barnatt should see Craig rewarded with a crack at a middleweight in the top-15 of the division or at very least another fading name like Leben.
Both Barnatt and Craig like to throw leather and both have had success doing so. For me, Craig takes this one on the basis that I think the durability and punch resistance he has displayed in his UFC career so far, should place him in a position where he will be able to take a few shots of Barnatt’s to land his more powerful and diverse strikes to conclusion.
Prediction – Craig via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.
Rosi Sexton vs. Jessica Andrade
Up next is a women’s bantamweight clash as Rosi Sexton takes on Jessica Andrade.
Unfortunately for Rosi Sexton, her UFC debut did not go exactly as planned. Back in June at UFC 161, Sexton was matched up with Alexis Davis and was edged out in a closely contested affair losing via unanimous decision. Sexton is a highly experienced competitor having competed in a variety of British promotions as well as BodogFight, EliteXC and Bellator, and will be looking to kick-start her UFC career this Saturday with a win in front of her home crowd.
Similar to Rosi Sexton, Jessica Andrade was also on the losing end of her UFC debut in her most recent clash. Andrade was paired off with Liz Carmouche back in July at UFC on Fox 8, but being welcomed by a former title challenger proved to be a step too far for Andrade, as she succumbed to strikes at the midway point of the second round.
If Andrade is to stand any chance of success, it will likely come on the feet where she will have a significant power advantage over Sexton. However, I can’t see Andrade defending the takedown of Sexton and when they hit the mat, Andrade will struggle to defend Sexton’s superior ground game.
Prediction – Sexton via submission in the 3rd round.
Andy Ogle vs. Cole Miller
A featherweight tear up is on the cards as Andy Ogle squares off with Cole Miller.
Like many on this card, Andy Ogle is most familiar to fight fans from a stint on TUF. Ogle competed on the 15th season and while he did not win the competition, Ogle did impress enough to warrant a shot in the UFC. Having lost out in his debut to Akira Corassani, Ogle bounced back in his last performance with a victory over Josh Grispi back in February of this year.
It feels like Cole Miller has been in the UFC forever, when in actuality it has only been since 2007. During that time, Miller has hardly set the lightweight and now featherweight divisions alight but has often been good value. Miller finds himself in a particularly rough patch of form having only won one out of his last four.
This one could be interesting. Both Miller and Ogle have solid striking that they tend to utilise in order to get an opponent either up against the fence or down to the mat where they then prefer to either rain down shots (Ogle) or look for a submission (Miller). For me, Miller should have just about enough to best Ogle and may well take victory here but this will be tight.
Prediction – Miller via unanimous decision.
Tags: Al Iaquinta, Andrew Craig, Andy Ogle, Cole Miller, Jessica Andrade, Luke Barnatt, Lyoto Machida, Mark Munoz, Mixed Martial Arts, MMA, Rosi Sexton, UFC