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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Fight Night London: Prelim preview Part 2

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Get the rest of the lowdown of of the prelims of UFC London this weekend, featuring Joe Duffy’s last fight on his UFC contract against Reza Madadi.

Yesterday, I talked about an awesome contest between Leon Edwards and Vicente Luque as a reason to tune in to this weekend’s card on Fight Pass. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time finding a contest I can genuinely tout as worth watching on the second half of the prelims. Each contest has potential to be a fun scrap. The problem is each of them have just as much potential to be a stinker, as there is at least one wrestling/grappling based competitor in the contests, and that tends to make for less-than-thrilling fights.

Nonetheless, there are fighters who could develop into major players in time. Marc Diakiese has already received a fair amount of attention. So has Tom Breese. And just about every young light heavyweight that enters the UFC needs to be given a close look given the lack of depth. So even though Darren Stewart isn’t exactly a vaunted prospect, he could prove to be a keeper. Should he lose here, it’s unlikely he’ll be given a second look.

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

Joe Duffy (15-2) vs. Reza Madadi (14-4), Lightweight

On the last fight of his contract, Duffy is looking to put together a dominant performance in order to impress potential suitors. Given the back-and-forth we’ve seen so far between Duffy and the UFC, it doesn’t appear likely that he will be returning.

At least it explains where the promotional push for Duffy went. The UFC was shoving him down our throats for a while and now they aren’t promoting him in any way, shape, or form. Why else would they shove him on a Fight Pass card? Keep in mind, Duffy was fighting Dustin Poirier at the beginning of 2016. Now he’s killing off his current contract by fighting Reza Madadi.

Just because Madadi isn’t at Poirier’s level doesn’t mean that Madadi doesn’t have a chance in hell. In fact, Madadi’s greatest advantage, his wrestling, is exactly what Poirier used to score a decision victory over Duffy. You’d better believe Madadi will look to take the Irishman to the ground early and often. If he can’t, Madadi is just as content to grind away against the fence in the clinch. It isn’t pretty, but it is effective. Though he hits hard, Madadi’s hooks aren’t very technical, nor does he offer much beyond mid-range.

Duffy’s professional boxing background has been lauded non-stop. He is a technical striker with slick combinations and a stiff jab to keep his opponents at bay. He’s also surprised many by mixing in kicks with great regularity. But Duffy’s boxing won’t mean a thing if he can’t keep Madadi off of his hips. Madadi is one of the most durable lightweights in the company, never having been finished at any point of a career that spans all the way back to 2006. In other words, Madadi is willing to eat a few shots in order to get the fight where he wants. Considering Duffy hasn’t shown the best takedown defense against opponents with a modicum of wrestling ability, this could end up being a major upset in the making.

Duffy is a rightful favorite, but I’ve seen as much as a -700 favorite. Those odds are ridiculous. Duffy has been protected to an extent as Poirier is the only opponent in the UFC who offered any type of takedown threat. Madadi does just that and has shown the ability to take a beating. People don’t often talk about Madadi’s submission abilities either, but he is an underrated choke artist. Even though I detect all the warning signs for an upset, I’m still going to favor Duffy to pull out the victory, but expect this to be a lot closer than the betting lines indicate. Duffy via decision

Darren Stewart (7-0, 1 NC) vs. Francimar Barroso (18-5, 1 NC), Light Heavyweight

It’s rare to see an immediate rematch in the UFC outside of the most high-profile of contests. We’re getting one of those rare occasions here after their first contest ended in controversial manner when Stewart accidentally head-butted Barroso, which lead to the finishing sequence.

It’s difficult to take much out of the first contest as it lasted 94 seconds, with about 90% of it taking place in the clinch. Stewart controlled Barroso for the entirety of the time, though one could also see a size disparity between the two as Barroso was much bigger than the Englishman. Given Barroso’s tendency to be patient, it’s conceivable that he was looking to let the newcomer tire himself out in an effort to control him before turning the tide…though that is merely speculation on my part.

Stewart fought exactly as expected, immediately taking the fight to the clinch and looking to deliver as much offense as possible. He is often times reckless in both his entries and in his energy expenditure, thus why I speculated Barroso was simply biding his time. Most of Stewart’s contests have ended in the first round — only three have gone further than that – with the level of competition he has faced being very questionable.

Barroso is a patient fighter by nature. Too patient many would say, considering he falls into long spells of inactivity. Like Stewart, he’s most comfortable operating out of the clinch, using his big frame to lean on his opponent and wear them out methodically. It rarely results in a finish – something he hasn’t delivered since coming to the UFC in 2013 – nor does it entertain fans, but it is effective. His striking from the pocket is a very basic boxing game that doesn’t threaten much, with powerful leg kicks being his best weapon. It isn’t much, but given Stewart’s reckless approach at a similar range – Stewart continually looks for the kill – it should be enough to stay ahead on the scorecards provided he doesn’t get caught.

If there is a finish, expect it to come on the ground. Stewart is relentless with his ground-and-pound, usually not stopping until he has finished the job. However, Barroso has been difficult to take down historically and is an underrated grappler. Stewart hasn’t truly been challenged on the ground, so his grappling is largely an unknown quantity. It isn’t an easy contest to predict, but I’m going to go with the larger and more experienced Barroso just like I did the first time. Barroso via decision

Daniel Omielanczuk (19-6-1) vs. Timothy Johnson (10-3), Heavyweight

I don’t want to be brutal as I like both Omielanczuk and Johnson, but I’m not looking forward to this contest. In terms of being able to produce fireworks, they don’t match up well. Maybe this contest will be the optimal time to take a smoke break…

Even though Omielanczuk has produced some stinkers here and there, he has also put on some entertaining contests. The bigger culprit is Johnson. A division III wrestler, Johnson is incredibly strong and very wide, needing to cut weight in order to get under the requisite 266-pound limit. As he lacks quickness, he has fallen flat in his efforts to get the fight to the ground for someone with his accolades and girth, as he struggles to disguise his intentions. Nonetheless, he is still able to push his opponents against the cage and grind them out with dirty boxing while simply resting his large frame against them.

Omielanczuk has struggled with his wrestling in the past, losing grinding decisions to Jared Rosholt and Anthony Hamilton. While he hasn’t done much to improve his wrestling, he has greatly improved his ability to get back to his feet quickly while negating any serious offense on the ground…at least until having to deal with Stefan Struve. Omielanczuk’s shorter frame made him a serious mismatch against the Dutch giant, making it possible that his loss to Struve was an aberration. However, Johnson could prove to be just as problematic as Struve.

Johnson is a completely different beast than Struve on the ground, but no less dangerous. Johnson isn’t going to bother trying to nab a submission. Instead he’s going to use his frame to keep his opponent on their back. He’s most dangerous if he can get mount so he can land his powerful ground strikes without his opponent escaping. If Johnson does get mount, it’s usually game over from there.

Omielanczuk does have a great chance to win if he can keep the contest standing. He puts together sound kick-punch combinations with occasional power. Despite his short reach, he has a decent jab that he works behind to set up his powerful kicks. Johnson has added a sound jab to his arsenal, but he isn’t going to threaten much outside of the clinch. Omielanczuk has developed sound offense from the clinch himself, meaning he isn’t going to be a picnic to deal with from there.

Both of these heavyweights have very real flaws that will prevent them from ever joining the divisional elite. Despite those flaws, both are skilled enough to be sound gatekeepers and hang around for a while. Though possible, I don’t see the loser will end up being cut. Johnson has proven to be more durable and should be able to get Omielanczuk down and pound him out. Otherwise, Omielanczuk has an excellent gas tank and will make the judges job a difficult one to do as Johnson tires down the stretch. Johnson via TKO in RD1

Marc Diakiese (11-0) vs. Teemu Packalen (8-1), Lightweight

European prospects square off, with Diakiese being the one with all of the hype behind him given his natural athleticism and explosion.

Diakiese’s debut came in October and he has already racked up two wins as he goes for his third in less than six months. It appears he is subscribing to the Neil Magny theory of experience being the best tool for him to continue to grow. Given the 23-year-old has been a professional for less than four years, it’s probably the right approach. He’s been getting by on his physical gifts at this point: huge power in the fists, great burst in his takedowns, and fantastic killer instinct.

Technique and defense are still developing for Diakiese. His striking consists of wild hooks and overhands that will put a horse down…if they connect. His accuracy is a problem and – like most youngsters – he’s often there to be hit. He was outgrappled by Frankie Perez in his last contest for a good chunk of the contest too. His grappling still has a ways to go even if his wrestling is about as solid as it gets for someone as inexperienced as he is in the sport.

Packalen isn’t as athletic, powerful, or explosive as Diakiese, but he does have one distinct advantage that could swing the contest in his favor: he’s bigger and he could even be stronger. Owning solid takedown defense with a far more refined submission game than Diakiese, Packalen could nullify Diakiese’s strong wrestling with his powerful sweeps even if the young Brit is able to get him to the ground. Due his own undeveloped striking game, Packalen will be looking to get the fight to the ground.

In terms of number of fights, Packalen is less experienced than Diakiese. However, he has an extensive amateur career too which gives him a significant advantage in cage time in addition to years training in the sport. He may be the first competitor Diakiese hasn’t been able to bully as well, giving great pause to picking the young Brit. I’m doing so anyway, but not without trepidation. Diakiese via decision

Tom Breese (10-1) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2), Welterweight

Not that long ago, a good chunk of fans were declaring Breese to be the future of the welterweight division. A single loss later and he’s just another dude in a deep pool of fighters. He gets a great chance to rebound against dangerous striker Bamgbose.

This contest is a major clash in styles. About as pure of a striker as you will find in the modern day of high-level MMA, Bamgbose possesses a freakish blend of speed and power that is difficult for anyone to match. His kicks land with an audible smack that is often followed by a sea of groans from the fans as they imagine the stinging pain shooting through his opponents. It isn’t just Bamgbose’s kicks that carry power to them as his punching combinations contain serious KO power in them also. Now if only Bamgbose could provide some sort of threat on the ground…

Breese has it in him to be explosive with his natural power and athleticism, but his head gets in his way. That isn’t to say he doesn’t use his gifts well, just not as well as he could… yet. Taking a very measured approach, look for Breese to use his 6’3″ frame to wear down Bamgbose in the clinch. Bamgbose also owns a five-inch reach advantage, providing Breese further reason to close the distance. Good thing Breese’s wrestling and grappling are his wheelhouse as he’ll have little incentive to engage in a standup war.

Breese has been fine when he gets the fight to the ground using his suffocating top control and surprisingly slick guard passing skills, but he has struggled to get it there. That shouldn’t be a problem this time around as Bamgbose is one of the worst wrestlers and grapplers in the UFC. It’s possible that him dropping down to welterweight will help a little, though Breese being one of the biggest welterweights on the roster coupled with his abilities makes that unlikely.

The only way Breese is going to have problems is if he decides to test his standup for too long. Given Breese’s tendency to overthink, it’s a distinct possibility, though I wouldn’t count on it. While Bamgbose has improved his submission defense, he hasn’t done enough to convince me that he can survive Breese’s ground assault for very long. Breese via submission in RD1

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