It’s not a coincidence that this is the UFC’s seventh visit to The O2 Arena in London (and 10th London visit overall). The Brits love their MMA and won’t settle for second-rate fight cards. To that end, we offer the FIGHT PASS exclusive Fight Night London; an event packed with heavyweights that smell a title shot, a pivotal rematch, local boys made good, and yes, the debuts of still more prospects deserving of their hype.
These are the reasons to watch Fight Night London.
Former Champs Collide in Main Event
One of the UFC’s most legendary heavyweights, Fabricio Werdum, looks reborn at age 40, having walked through Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura since his last loss back at UFC 213. He’s made no secret that recapturing the title before he retires is his ultimate goal and opponents shouldn’t underestimate a fighter who senses his window is closing, especially not a fighter with Werdum’s power.
Alexander Volkov also knows what it’s like to be the champ, having done so at his two previous promotions. At only 29, Volkov has more time on his side, but that hasn’t slowed his roll. Undefeated since arriving in the UFC, he can taste his path to a third championship.
Another twist that makes this fight interesting is that the two men have sparred together. Werdum, in fact, is reluctant to discuss his game plan or Volkov’s skill, certain that he has identified a weakness. Likewise, Volkov has his own tactical takeaways from those sessions.
A Rematch Destined To Happen
Jimi Manuwa got the unanimous decision win against Jan Blachowicz when the two first met back in 2015. This stat is notable in that it was the only decision win of Manuwa’s career; the other 16 were all by finish. This fact is not lost on Manuwa, who has stated he’ll be gunning for the finish from the opening bell, respecting his as opponent “dangerous.” Like Werdum, Manuwa can hear the ticking of his internal clock, and knows he needs to be impressive against “Drago” if he wants a shot at his stated goal of taking the light heavyweight belt from Daniel Cormier.
Finishing Blachowicz is no easy feat, however. In fact, he hasn’t been finished since his pre-UFC days way back in 2011. He’s riding a two fight win streak, and looks like a fighter reborn since returning to his old coach, Robert Jocz. “I’m going to be a completely different fighter than in our first fight,” he recently told Tom Gerbasi of UFC.com. The longer the fight goes, the more it will look to favor the Poland-native’s style.
On paper at least, the winner of this one looks to be the fans.
More Hot Arrivals
It’s only March and yet 2018 has witnessed a barrage of emerging, next generation talent in the UFC, and Fight Night London looks to be no exception with a trio of promotional debuts. Aside from merely being new, Hakeem Dawodu, Dmitry Sosnovskiy and Magomed Ankalaev all enter the UFC with the distinction of being undefeated in their professional careers.
Canada’s Dawodu continues an emergence of hot kickboxers like fellow newcomers Israel Adesanya and Curtis Millender. And like those two fighters, Dawodu will look to go home with a Performance of the Night bonus after taking on local favorite Danny Henry.
“Wicked Machine” Sosnovskiy trains out of Moscow under the tutelage of Oleksiy Oliynyk and in his 10 professional fights, he has only gone beyond the first round twice. Skilled in wrestling and grappling, early success could signal a huge disruption in the heavyweight division.
Ankalaev is the latest Dagestani star to sign with the UFC, and like his countryman Khabib Nurmagomedov, his goal is utter domination. ‘Well-rounded’ can be a backhanded compliment to suggest someone lacks prowess in a particular skill, but in the case of Ankalaev it’s truly a credit to the breadth and mastery of his MMA toolbox. Paired with a fearless brawler like Paul Craig, and it’s not likely to be a bout that will go all three rounds.
A Kingdom United
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Like their cousins The Aussies, the MMA fans of the United Kingdom are a rabid and loyal bunch. Tickets for the O2 event on Saturday are scarce, and the capacity crowd will have a long list of hometown heroes to cheer and raise their pint glasses to. In addition to the aforementioned Manuwa and Craig, Mark Godbeer, Danny Roberts, Jack Marshman, Bradley Scott, Danny Henry, Stevie Ray, Nad Narimani, and John Phillips will all try to keep the crowd on their collective feet through a full slate of sneaky-good matchmaking.
Steve Latrell is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve