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The UFC will go London calling this weekend when the promotion heads back to the United Kingdom for a UFC Fight Night event peppered with talent from around the world. The undercard in particular is littered with fighters who are looking to make an impact big enough to land in a featured bout in the future.
The headline fight on the prelims will showcase a true 'David vs. Goliath' matchup as 6'6" striker Cyrille Diabate takes on 5'10" Swedish light heavyweight Ilir Latifi. Also on the card is former Ultimate Fighter competitor Luke Barnatt, as he looks to extend his undefeated streak when he takes on Octagon newcomer Mats Nilsson.
Today's fantasy preview will examine a few of the fights from the undercard to see who you should keep an eye out for in London, and which competitors may walk out with an exciting finish or a bonus in their back pocket.
CYRILLE DIABATE VS. ILIR LATIFI
Ilir Latifi getting inside of Cyrille Diabate's incredible 81-inch reach will likely be a big key in seeing how this featured bout on the preliminary card breaks down. Diabate is a long, lanky striker who loves to fight tall, which means he uses his reach perfectly against a shorter opponent - and at 6'6" tall that's going to be most of them. On the ground, Diabate is also slick because long arms and long legs allow him to transition quickly into triangle chokes and armbars, not to mention getting stuck with him on your back, locked into a body triangle.
Latifi returns to the UFC for the second time, but this go round he has the advantage of a full training camp instead of his last bout, which he took on just a few days’ notice. Latifi is a strong wrestler who works best from the inside, against the cage or on the ground. In terms of ground control, he has a clear advantage over Diabate, but whether or not he can get through the striker's range remains to be seen.
Diabate is an underrated talent considering the level of competition he's faced throughout his career, and if he can keep Latifi on the end of his punches, this will be a long night for the Swedish fighter known as “The Sledgehammer.” So long as Diabate isn't waiting on Latifi to attack out of fear of the takedown, the French fighter should be able to tag his opponent at will from the outside and earn a unanimous decision victory.
LUKE BARNATT VS. MATS NILSSON
Another Swede will look for his first UFC win as Mats Nilsson debuts on Saturday with a tall test against former Ultimate Fighter standout Luke Barnatt. Nilsson is a solid rookie with a good record, but he's going to have to work awfully hard to get a victory facing Barnatt in this fight.
Barnatt is the latest fighter to compete on the reality show who improves with each fight inside the Octagon. When he entered the series, he was a 5-0 fighter with a tall body but not much experience. Now two fights and a lot of serious training later, and Barnatt is going to be a dangerous matchup for anyone at 185 pounds.
Nilsson is primarily a grappler with a brown belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, and he has won five fights by submission. He's fought three opponents in the past who have competed in the UFC, so he's no stranger to top competition. The biggest struggle he'll face in this fight is attempting to get inside on Barnatt's legs and dragging this fight to the mat.
Barnatt has 83.3 percent takedown defense, so getting him to the ground won't be easy, but when you combine his 78-inch reach with an insane 6.85 strikes landed per minute, he's going to make Nilsson work hard for everything he gets in this fight. What he's most likely to receive is a brutal welcome to the UFC courtesy of Barnatt's fists and kicks, with the night ending in a knockout.
DAVEY GRANT VS. ROLAND DELORME
Former Ultimate Fighter finalist David Grant will look to erase the memories of his heartbreaking loss against Chris Holdsworth from last December when he takes on another submission specialist in Roland Delorme.
This fight really does come down to Grant's desire to keep it standing and Delorme's ability to get it to the ground. Delorme is a bit more well-rounded than Grant when it comes to proficiency on the mat and on the feet, but he's always going to prefer the ground to standing. Grant has also struggled with submissions in the past, most notably in his fight with Holdsworth.
Where Grant has a great opportunity to steal this fight is with his powerful hands and avoiding the takedowns. Delorme only lands at just over 32 percent accuracy with his wrestling, but he will go for three or more attempts per fight, so Grant has to be aware at all times. Grant doesn't have the pressure in this fight that he did in the finale, so that should help his psyche because he's been an emotionally-charged fighter for most of his career.
If Grant can calm his nerves and attack with the kind of ferocity that got him to the Ultimate Fighter finals in the first place, he should be able to stave off Delorme's takedowns and beat him to the punch on the feet. If he does that over and over again during all 15 minutes, Grant should be able to get his first UFC win, and a weight he's placed on his own shoulders lifts, which allows him even stronger performances in the future.
LOUIS GAUDINOT VS. PHIL HARRIS
A matchup between two flyweights could end up stealing the entire show when Louis Gaudinot takes on British fighter Phil Harris on the undercard in London this weekend.
Harris is a strong ground fighter who loves to get into a scramble with opponents, and fights with a do-or-die attitude that has cost him a few losses, but doesn't take away from his overLL appeal inside the Octagon. Gaudinot was on a path towards a title shot until injuries and a recent loss to Tim Elliott derailed those plans for the time being.
Gaudinot fell to defeat in his last fight for the same reason he dropped down to flyweight in the first place - size. Elliott is a massive fighter for 125 pounds, and Gaudinot just had no defense against his opponent's ability to move him around the cage or land powerful shots throughout the course of three rounds. While Harris has fought at bantamweight before, Gaudinot won't deal with anything close to the same disadvantages he had in his last fight.
Gaudinot is lightning fast on the feet and in transitioning to the ground, while also employing a non-stop pace, which is then combined with a great chin to take anything his opponents throw at him. Gaudinot should win the exchanges, but he has to be wary of Harris' takedowns because he's landed at 75 percent accuracy thus far in his UFC career while the green-haired former Ultimate Fighter competitor defends a miserable 16.67 percent of those attempted against him.
Gaudinot has to be fast on his feet, elusive and stay away from the takedown. If he does that, outworking Harris while standing and in the scrambles should result in a decision win for him to take back home to America.
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