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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Fight Night London: Prelim preview Part 1

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Get the lowdown on the early fights from UFC London, featuring an underrated contest between Leon Edwards and Vicente Luque.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about this card. I mean a LOT. And there is reason to complain. No disrespect to Jimi Manuwa or Corey Anderson, as the matchup between the two on its own is a good contest. However, they should not be headlining a card, even if it is a Fight Pass event. There are things to like about each one, but they don’t have the qualities that make them a potential star in the near future enough to justify their status. Even worse, the UFC doesn’t seem to care that they are shortchanging fans.

Buried beneath the heaps of trash fans are piling on the card, there is some genuinely good matchmaking done here by Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard. Take the first contest I’m reviewing. Leon Edwards and Vicente Luque are both flying under the radar in terms of prospects to watch. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see one enter the official UFC rankings by the end of the year. The fact that their styles match up well in order to put on an exciting contest only makes this fight that much better. Trust me, there are reasons to pay attention to this card. Edwards and Luque are a perfect example of that.

The prelims begin on Fight Pass at 1:30 PM ET/10:30 AM PT on Saturday.

Leon Edwards (12-3) vs. Vicente Luque (11-5-1), Welterweight

Perhaps the most underrated contest on the card, Edwards and Luque are both talented 25-year-old prospects who prefer to stand and trade a haymaker or two. Don’t be surprised to see the winner get a shot at a ranked opponent next.

Luque is the better known of the two, thanks to his stint on TUF a few years ago, not to mention receiving a spot on UFC 205 where he picked up a highlight reel KO of Belal Muhammad. Not only was it Luque’s fourth win in a row, every single one of those victories were finishes. Luque has always had the technique to be a proficient combination striker. Now he’s knowing when to sit down on his strikes off of the counter too. The next thing he’ll need to figure out is how to keep himself from being such an easy target…

While Edwards is a strong counter-puncher with a lot of power himself, he doesn’t operate at a very fast pace. Instead, he takes his time to wait for the right moment to use his extraordinary athleticism to explode. Edwards’ most dangerous weapon are his head kicks, as they tend to land flush as opponents rarely see them coming. His clinch abilities have improved greatly in recent contests too, demonstrating some impressive knees to the body in particular.

Were this contest taking place about a year or so ago, it would probably be near unanimous that Luque would have the grappling advantage. It would be hard to say that with surety now. Luque is still a talented BJJ artist with a dangerous guard, but there hasn’t been any evidence of him improving his takedown defense – easily his biggest weakness at this point. Edwards had focused on improving his own takedown defense in preparation for his contest with Kamaru Usman a while back and it has paid off in every subsequent contest since, in more ways than one. Not only has Edwards developed a great ability to stuff shots, he has also developed some takedowns of his own. His BJJ has been coming along nicely too, though it’ll be a surprise if he is able to submit Luque.

While neither fighter has picked up the subtle defensive intricacies to keep them from eating too much damage at this point, I like Edwards’ ability to get the fight to the ground should Luque start to take control on the feet. Couple that with Luque’s poor takedown defense and I see Edwards finding a way to pull this one off. The one thing that does worry me is Luque’s ability to rack up the volume compared to Edwards, though I like the fight IQ I’ve seen from Edwards thus far. I think he’ll come up with something to combat that. Edwards via decision

Ian Entwistle (9-3) vs. Brett Johns (13-0), Bantamweight

Make no mistake about the narrative of this contest; the UFC is simply looking to get prized prospect Johns a bit more seasoning before throwing him into the deep end of the pool. It should be noted that Entwistle has pulled off the major upset before…

Entwistle may be the least talented fighter on the UFC roster, at least physically. His striking is ineffective and his wrestling could be described in the same manner. In reality, Entwistle is a one-trick pony…but what a trick it is. A leglock specialist, Entwistle either rolls up underneath the legs of his opponent and finish with a kneebar or heel hook, or attempts a flying scissor-lock for the same result. He’s not too bad at taking the back if he can’t get the leglock attempts working in an effort to get a RNC, but that hasn’t proven effective in the UFC.

Johns is far more conventional than Entwistle, relying on a steady combination boxing game while maintaining the threat of a takedown to keep his opponent on their toes. It’ll be a surprise if it comes into play against Entwistle, who is expected to dive at Johns’ legs the first chance he gets. An excellent scrambler and wrestler, Johns scored eleven takedowns in his UFC debut against Kwan Ho Kwak. I realize Johns isn’t likely to get the opportunity to get Entwistle to the ground, but it does illustrate Johns’ ground competence to a certain degree.

Entwistle’s lone UFC win came against Anthony Birchak, a high-risk taker who didn’t respect Entwistle’s abilities until it was too late. Johns isn’t that type of fighter. He’ll know what Entwistle wants to do and be sure to be out of danger before attempting any offense of his own. Don’t expect this to last long as Entwistle has never left the first round in his amateur or professional career. Johns via TKO, round 1

Brad Scott (10-4) vs. Scott Askham (14-3), Middleweight

There is a strong chance the loser of the contest will be cut as there is a glut of middleweights of similar standing. Maybe the narrative will be different if they can put on an exciting contest…

Given the penchant for both Scott and Askham to fight in the clinch, that might be asking a bit too much. Both prefer to fight in close quarters, using their frames to wear down their opponents in the clinch against the cage. Despite the similarities in styles, there is a difference in how they operate.

Scott looks to be a bit too thick for his own good, but don’t let his appearance deceive you. The Brit has a very deep gas tank, pushing a pace that opponents have found difficult to keep pace with. A willing wrestler, Scott has struggled to get his opponents to the ground, which has thus prevented him from enjoying any type of win streak in the UFC as he is at his best from top position, pounding away at his opponent with ground strikes. He is limited at a distance, though his 76″ reach – which will give him an inch on Askham despite Askham’s two-inch height advantage – has allowed Scott to develop a competent jab in which to retain some sort of threat from there.

Despite his height, Askham rarely uses a jab, instead preferring to keep distance behind the threat of his front kick. This approach does help him disguise his head kicks, which he has used to either put out of hurt more than one of his UFC opponents. Outside of uppercuts, he doesn’t provide much of a threat with his fists, which often leads to him struggling to throw enough volume to take a decision. In the clinch, he can be bullied despite his comfort, though his knees can do some serious damage if given enough room to land in the face or body. Like Scott, Askham struggles to get opponents to the ground, though he has shown a dangerous guard and ability to scramble back to his feet.

I love this evenly-matched contest. Both opened their UFC careers with a loss and have since alternated with wins and losses. The pattern is guaranteed to stop here for someone and it isn’t an easy contest to choose who will get the job done. Despite Scott’s track record of durability, I’m favoring Askham’s powerful punches and kicks to hurt Scott at some point, though I’m hardly confident in my pick. Askham via TKO of RD2

Lina Lansberg (6-2) vs. Lucie Pudilova (6-1), Women’s Bantamweight

It isn’t often that you get a chance to exact revenge upon your UFC debut, yet Pudilova gets a chance to do just that as her lone professional loss came against Lansberg.

This won’t be an easy task for Pudilova. In her original contest with Lansberg, Pudilova was dominated by her larger opponent in an uneventful contest only 16 months ago. Not a lot of time has passed. How much better has Pudilova gotten? Making this an even bigger challenge, Pudilova only had a little more than a week to prepare for the rematch.

Lansberg is best known for being willing to step into the cage with Cyborg Justino, which resulted in her being torn apart with ease by the most dominant figure in women’s MMA. Considering that nobody else appears to be on the level of Cyborg, this is going to be a far more accurate representation of her skills than her debut. There is a bit of a role reversal though. She had nothing to lose against Cyborg – besides her health of course – but she has very little to gain by beating Pudilova again.

If Pudilova is to pull off the upset, she’ll need to remain out of Lansberg’s grasp to avoid being dominated in the clinch. She tried getting her jab going in their first contest only for Lansberg to walk through her attempts to keep her distance as there wasn’t enough sting coming from Pudilova to deter Lansberg. Has Pudilova improved her jab and kicks enough to keep Lansberg at bay? I’ve got major doubts about that.

Lansberg is a pretty technical and a well-rounded muay thai practitioner, mixing kicks in with her punches. At 135, the clinch has been her biggest area of strength as she bullies her opponent from there with knees…pretty much like she did in her first contest with Pudilova. Pudilova has potential, making her UFC debut just over three years after her professional debut. Still, it’s hard not to expect a repeat of what happened the first time given the short notice of the contest for the newcomer. Lansberg via decision

I will have the second half of the prelims preview out tomorrow. Nine fights on one section was way too damn much…

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