Get all the integral information on UFC Stockholm’s main card, including a barrage of welterweight contests featuring vets like Ben Saunders to exciting prospect Abdul Razak Alhassan.
I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit harsh on the quality of the fights for the UFC Stockholm card in my last couple of previews. Harsher than I needed to be. So I’m going to lighten up a bit on the main card portion. That doesn’t mean I’m going to call these fights great… I have to be honest after all. But I will state they are better than good.
The main card begins Sunday at 1:00 PM ET/10:00 AM PT on FS1.
Peter Sobotta (16-5-1) vs. Ben Saunders (21-7-2), Welterweight
Saunders and Sobotta have looked much better upon their returns to the UFC after less-than-successful first stints. Sobotta in particular has greatly progressed after going winless in his first three contests as he has now won three of four since returning. While his improved wrestling has played a big part in his development, his increased confidence has played just as big of a part in his success as he no longer looks tentative out there. It has allowed him to relax and throw his kick-heavy offense with ill-intentions. The aforementioned improvements to his wrestling have also contributed to him opening up his striking as opponents have to show some concern for his ability to get the fight to the ground.
Saunders, one of the longest welterweights on the roster, will create many problems for Sobotta in his attempts to execute his outside attack. Even though a jab and the occasional front kick are key staples to Saunders’ attack, he’s most dangerous in the clinch as he leverages his height to bury his knees deep into his opponents’ mid-section or face. It isn’t easy to escape from his Thai clinch either. On the ground, few better utilize their long limbs than Saunders as he possesses a fantastic guard. It should be noted that he owns the only omoplata finish in the UFC’s history. Saunders has given away rounds due to his comfort off of his back, though he has shown a greater urgency to get back to his feet in recent contests.
Saunders is the rightful favorite, but too many are dismissing Sobotta too easily. Sobotta is probably the better wrestler in this contest as Saunders has never been a great defensive wrestler. That isn’t bringing up the questionable chin possessed by Saunders. I’m still going to pick Saunders, but I won’t be surprised to see the German pull off the upset, in part since Sobotta has been undefeated in Europe since his first UFC stint came to an end. Regardless of who wins, expect a close contest. Saunders via decision
Abdul Razak Alhassan (7-0) vs. Omari Akhmedov (16-4), Welterweight
If you ignore the names of Alhassan’s opponents, his record is about as impressive as it gets. Every one of his seven victories has not only come via KO/TKO, none of them have even lasted 90 seconds. Alhassan obviously has a lot of talent and power, though he has also shown a wild streak that an experienced counter striker would be able to expose. Though it hasn’t been seen, Alhassan also owns a judo background that could be seen if any of his fights ever hits the two-minute mark. If the fight does get to that point, he’s still very much a question mark.
Is Akhmedov the type of experienced counter striker that could piece up Alhassan? Not really. Akhemdov is capable of countering, but he generally doesn’t have the patience to exercise that type of game plan, typically leading with his own powerful hooks. Akhmedov has a habit of gassing quickly thanks to his tendency to expend great amounts of energy in his shots and punches. He showed a bit more restraint in his last contest with Kyle Noke, though he was still exhausted by the time the third round rolled around. Then again, given Alhassan’s track record, that is likely a moot point.
Akhmedov is by far the more proven commodity. He’s fairly well-rounded with strong wrestling, more than adequate submissions, and is dangerous on the feet. However, he’s also been KO’d in two of his last three contests, showing a questionable chin. He may be able to ground Alhassan and grind out a victory, but the odds are more likely that Alhassan will catch Akhmedov as the Russian leaves more than a few holes in his striking defense. It probably won’t last long, but it should be a lot of fun. Alhassan via KO of RD1
Oliver Enkamp (7-0) vs. Nordine Taleb (12-4), Welterweight
After Emil Weber Meek was forced to pull out due to injury, Enkamp stepped in on short notice to ensure that Taleb didn’t waste his time preparing for a fight. He represents a major change in styles as Meek was a bit of a grinder while Enkamp comes from a karateka background. Despite coming from a striking background, the Swede has picked up most of his victories via submission thanks to a creative submission game highlighted by a flexible guard. Capable of putting together wonky combinations from range, Enkamp’s power has begun showing itself to add another dimension of danger for his opponents.
There is very little flashy about Taleb. He’s very big for 170 with a plodding but technically sound kickboxing game. Well, that was the book. Taleb has added a bit more spring to his step in recent contests, showing a surprising amount of improvement for someone who has been around as long as he has. A stiff jab complimented by the occasional round kick to all levels are his primary weapons, though he’s also proven to be very effective in the clinch. Considering the big size advantage that he will possess over his younger opponent, look for Taleb to try and be the bully in this contest.
Enkamp has potential. However, I think the youngster could struggle with the size of the welterweights on the highest stage as he is a very small welterweight. Perhaps he’ll grow into his frame in time, but that doesn’t mean a thing in this contest. Enkamp should have a few bright moments, but look for Taleb to answer most of his offense with a counter in addition to wearing him down in the clinch. Taleb via decision
Jack Hermansson (14-3) vs. Alex Nicholson (7-3), Middleweight
Hermansson and Nicholson both tend to put on entertaining contests, putting this matchup on the short list of FOTN favorites. With a statement like that, you’d expect two brawlers to throw down. Nicholson fits that description, though Hermansson doesn’t. Hermansson isn’t a physical specimen by any means, but he does have a long 77″ reach, good footwork, and a ground game that will allow him to survive with the majority of competitors in the UFC, including Nicholson. However, he panicked when Cezar Ferreira presented him with a sound strategy which led to his demise.
Fortunately for Hermansson, Nicholson’s aggressive nature should play right into the Swede’s style. Though being regarded as a brawler is typically a negative – and is meant to be to an extent – Nicholson is also very unpredictable and durable. He’ll charge with a flurry of punches and when his opponents thing they’ve got him where they want him with the counter, he pulls out a spinning back-fist or some other out of nowhere attack that lays them out. Though Nicholson shows some submission defense, he never looks to take the fight to the ground voluntarily.
I was high on Hermansson after his debut against Scott Askham as he showed brilliant strategy and tactics. Then he erased that good will against Ferreira. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as Ferreira has transformed himself into one of the better tacticians at 185, something Hermansson wasn’t ready for. Expect him to use angles to pick apart the American. Given Nicholson’s power and durability, he’ll be threatening Hermansson the whole way. Hermansson via de