STEPHEN THOMPSON VS DARREN TILL
I can’t wait to hear how loud the crowd at Echo Arena will get on Sunday when Darren Till makes the walk to the Octagon to face Stephen Thompson. But will they still have something to cheer about at the end of the night? Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Thompson feasts on opponents who are overly aggressive and Till certainly fits that description. But, the good news is that Till is also a huge welterweight, and if he can dodge some incoming fire and make this a war on the inside, he’s got the strength and power to control matters at close range. This will start out as a chess match, but once both men start to make their moves and we see where the battle takes place, it will become a fight, and a memorable one at that.
NEIL MAGNY VS CRAIG WHITE
If you didn’t know Neil Magny was one of the good guys of the sport, realize that he will be donating $15,000 of his purse from this weekend’s fight to help aid in funding the treatment of young Presley Mae O’Doherty, who is battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy. That’s a story that should be everywhere this week. But there is still a fight to be fought, and Magny may be facing a newcomer in Craig White, but the Brit is a 21-fight veteran who has finished all 14 of his wins, 11 in the first round. Impressive stuff, but it could be his downfall, because if he chases the finish too aggressively, Magny is one of those crafty sorts who can – and will - make him pay and add another finish to his own record. But hey, win or lose in this fight, Neil Magny is a winner.
ARNOLD ALLEN VS MADS BURNELL
Denmark’s Mads Burnell is one of those guys who should get an asterisk next to his UFC debut loss to Michel Prazeres, given that he came in on short notice, moved up a weight class, and was still facing someone who missed weight. Luckily, Burnell rebounded in his second bout, defeating Mike Santiago, but he’s in for another tough challenge in Arnold Allen. Unbeaten since 2014, Allen is one of the top talents to emerge from the UK in recent years, but inactivity has kept him from getting any sort of momentum. That could change this weekend, as he hopes this bout will be the first of three in 2018, and if he gets his wish and keeps winning, watch out featherweights.
JASON KNIGHT VS MAKWAN AMIRKHANI
A prime candidate for Fight of the Night honors, Jason Knight makes the trip to England to face “Mr. Finland” himself, Makwan Amirkhani. Both featherweights are aggressive scramblers able to take any opponent’s mistake and turn it against them in seconds. But will recent losses make either of them more careful than usual? We’ll know once the Octagon door closes.
DAVEY GRANT VS MANNY BERMUDEZ
Manny Bermudez came to the UFC with a lot of hype and he lived up to it in submitting Albert Morales, but he didn’t just walk over the Californian. That adversity will serve to make Bermudez stronger, but it should also give Davey Grant confidence that the kid from New England isn’t invincible. But just like a couple fights earlier on this list, Grant’s aggression could be his downfall against a slick ground wizard like Bermudez.
ERIC SPICELY VS DARREN STEWART
After a brief stay in Las Vegas, Eric Spicely is back where he trained for his first two UFC victories – Montreal’s Tristar Gym. That’s not just an edge for Spicely physically when he faces Darren Stewart, but it’s a mental one as well, because he’s in a place where he’s experienced Octagon success as well. And while Darren Stewart has the power to turn out the lights on anyone, Spicely has to be seen as the favorite simply because of his huge edge on the ground.
CLAUDIO SILVA VS NORDINE TALEB
What can you say about Claudio Silva circa 2018? Yes, he’s won 11 in a row, a streak dating back to 2007 that includes two UFC wins, but he hasn’t been in the Octagon since November 2014 due to injury. On Sunday, he returns against a tough foe in Nordine Taleb who has won two straight over Oliver Enkamp and Danny Roberts. And while Silva has been very good for a long time, nearly four years of ring rust has to be a factor, making this an impossible fight to gauge.
DANIEL KELLY VS TOM BREESE
Maybe even more than Arnold Allen and Darren Till, Tom Breese was seen as the member of the new breed of British talent that was going to hit the top of the UFC first. That was around 2015-16, when he raced out to 3-0 UFC record before suffering the first loss of his career against Sean Strickland in June 2016. He’s been out of action since, but on Sunday he returns to face Daniel Kelly. Australia’s Kelly enters the bout on a two-fight losing streak, the first of his career, but after his wins over the likes of Rashad Evans and Antonio Carlos Junior, I would never count the 40-year-old out against anybody. Breese is still a promising talent, though, and if he can regain the form he showed a couple years ago, he’s one to watch.
BRAD SCOTT VS CARLO PEDERSOLI
Brad Scott hasn’t had the best of luck as of late, losing his March bout against Jack Marshman just days before fight night, and then he lost opponent Salim Touahri earlier this month. Luckily, Scott has a fight against Italian newcomer Carlo Pedersoli, and expect to see the TUF Smashes finalist bring it from start to finish, just happy to be back to work.
MOLLY MCCANN VS GILLIAN ROBERTSON
If TUF 27’s Luis “The Violent Bob Ross” Pena has any competition for best nickname in MMA, it’s got to be “Meatball” Molly McCann. Liverpool’s McCann joins Darren Till as the hometown favorites on Sunday’s card, and she’s likely to be swinging for the fences early and often against ground specialist Gillian Robertson. This one is probably going to come down to where the fight takes place and that’s no secret to either flyweight.
ELIAS THEODOROU VS TREVOR SMITH
Trevor Smith is the veteran that can spoil anyone’s evening, and while I haven’t confirmed this with “Hot Sauce,” he probably enjoys that reputation. Canada’s Elias Theodorou is the rising star hoping a seventh UFC win gets him in the middleweight top 15, but there’s Mr. Smith, hoping to be the one that foils that plan. Good stuff at 185 pounds.
GINA MAZANY VS LINA LANSBERG
A sneaky good fight at bantamweight to kick off the night between Las Vegan Gina Mazany and the “Elbow Princess,” Lina Lansberg. Lansberg loves a fight, and Mazany is no stranger to getting into one. Expect some early fireworks here.