Artum Lobov (13-12-1 1NC) vs. Teruto Ishihara (10-2-2)
Artum Lobov: TUF 22 finalist and Conor McGregor’s right hand man Artum Lobov rcently picked up his first octagon victory in his third attempt. Lobov overpowered the Diaz brothers undersized training partner Chris Avila in a unanimous decision. Now 1-2 in his UFC pursuits, Lobov has very little room for error if he wants to stay employed by the world largest mma promotion.
Lobov will clearly never be the talent that his notorious training partner is, but he does have knock out power and can end any fight in an instant. It will be difficult to justify a roster spot for Artum if he losses. If he wins there are a few fun fights at the bottom of the division that would make sense, like Sam Sicilia or Godofredo Pepey.
Teruto Ishihara: On a quest to accumulate hoards of “bitches” for his harem, TUF: Road To Japan co-champion Teruto “Yashabo” Ishihara strolls into Belfast ready to bang. “Yashabo” is slowly building a devout cult that soon may rival Mayhem Miller and his monkeys. 2-0 since his draw in the finals of TUF, Ishihara’s slick, powerful striking is making waves in a division full of talent.
25 year old Ishihara has scary potential if brought along correctly. He has began training with the wrestling based Team Alpha Male. High level wrestling is hard to come by in Japan and it may be the piece needed to create a superstar out of this promiscuous lad.
The Fight: Ishihara will be too slick and too quick for the powerful Lobov. However I do not see Ishihara being able to finish the hard headed Russian/Irish brute. Ishihara out points Lobov in a striking clinic. Ishihara Unanimous Decision
#14 Timothy Johnson (10-2) vs. Alexander Volkov (26-6)
Timothy Johnson: Kodiak Bear stunt double Timothy Johnson has fought his way into the extremely shallow heavyweight top 15 by going 2-1 in his first three fights, including his most recent victory of Polish newcomer Marcin Tybura this past April.
Johnson is a verifiable badass, but him being ranked in the top 15 after three fights is more of an indictment on the current state of the heavyweight division than a praise of his talent. He will do damage to newcomers and guys on the way out but he lacks the speed and explosiveness to take out any fighter in the top 10.
Alexander Volkov: Former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov is the newest guy to jump ship on Scott Coker and sign-up with the bad guys. Volkov earned his Bellator title by winning a tournament that included victories over Vinicius Spartan and Brett Rogers. However his reign was short lived, he lost his first defense to fellow Russian Vitaly Minakov via first round knockout.
Volkov is a much needed talent infusion into the lifeless heavyweight division. The 6’7″ Russian will bring in a striking and submission game that will make for some entertaining match ups with guys currently on the roster.
The Fight: If Volkov was fighting someone other than Johnson I would be tempted to pick him in his debut. Johnson is a redwood of a person, he will be able to eat Volkov’s shots to get in and score takedowns, which will lead to very heavy ground and pound which will lead to a win. Johnson TKO 2nd
Ross Pearson (21-11-0 1NC) vs. Stevie Ray (19-7)
Ross Pearson: TUF: 9 winner Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson will be stepping into the UFC cage for the fifth time this year, making him the most active UFC fighter of 2016. Though it has not exactly been a banner year for the Brit banger, 1-3 in his last four, Pearson has come out on the wrong side of his last few decisions including a brief move up to welterweight were he was overwhelmed by Jorge Masvidal.
At 32, Pearson’s seven year UFC stint is an accomplishment in itself, in a company where back to back losses typically means you’re done, Pearson has made a career fighting for the UFC, statistically a huge feat. 10-9-0 1NC in that time Ross has become the quintessential gatekeeper at lightweight, his troubles with upper echelon fighters is evidence that a title run is not in his future. That being said, he is good enough to stay on the UFC roster for another four or so years, doing his part to thin the heard.
Stevie Ray: 26 year old Scot Stevie Ray received this huge co-main event opportunity after James Krause was forced to pull out of a fight with Pearson for the second time. The Dinky Ninja/Tristar fighter came back from a one year layoff this past September, his return did not play out the way he drew it up, Brazilian Alan Patrick was able to smother out any of his attacks and he lost a unanimous decision.
It’s a rare occasion that a newish fighter follows a loss up with a co-main event fight. If “Braveheart” can get a victory against a vet like Pearson his recent setback will be long forgotten and he will immediately be in the mix for a top 15 spot.
The Fight: Ross is too technical of a striker to be beaten in the standup, he rarely goes to the mat due to his stellar takedown defense and as far as the one punch knockout goes, Ray has some pop but Ross can can take quite the beating to the head and continue on (see Masvidal fight). Ray’s path to victory is extremely narrow. Pearson Unanimous Decision
# 5 Gegard Mousasi (40-6-2) vs. #10 Uriah Hall (13-7)
Gegard Mousasi: Last September’s surprise loss to Uriah Hall has seemed to awaken a new fighter in Gegard Mousasi. Since the defeat Mousasi has won his last three fights emphatically, including a one sided beating of Vitor Belfort that may have officially eliminated the phrase “Vitor is back” from the mma lexicon.
At 32 Gegard is in his prime and has looked better than ever as of late. Pending lighting not striking twice he will be one fight away from earning his first title shot. If Rockhold’s knee injury keeps him sidelined for any time at all a rubber match with Jacare could be in Mousasi’s near future.
Uriah Hall: TUF: 17 runner up Uriah Hall has not fared as well following the last time these two met. Hall has lost back to back fights to Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson since the biggest knockout of his career last September. Luckily for Hall, both of his losses were to top 10 opponents, which means he is still in the mix at 185.
5-4 since his time on TUF, when Hall fights it is must see TV. He lives up to his “Prime Time” moniker landing flashy kicks that most of the mma world did not think were viable in a “real fight”. His kill or be killed mentality has earned him a substantial fanbase and even if he is not able to make a run at the title, he should maintain his spot on the UFC roster for many years to come.
The Fight: I expect this fight to be very similar to the first round of their first bout. Mousasi has a huge advantage on the mat and while he may also have the advantage on the feet, we’ve seen that Hall’s power cannot be taken lightly. Mousasi takes this to the ground and is able to end it with vengeful ground and pound. Mousasi TKO 2nd