+143 Alex Nicholson (7-3) vs. -163 Jack Hermansson (14-3)
Alex Nicholson: Apopka Florida’s Alex “The Spartan” Nicholson’s last UFC bout was a back and forth war with Sam Alvey that saw both fighters on the verge on being knocked out multiple times. Alvey ended up winning a close decision but both fighters earned the respect of anyone watching.
Nicholson and team mate “Platinum” Mike Perry have been making waves since coming on the scene earlier this year. The self described “Basketball Brawler” is selling himself short when it comes to his technical abilities and this match up should be a terrific showcase for his growth as a striker.
Jack Hermansson: Swedish Cage Warriors middleweight champ Jack “The Joker” Hermansson recently lost for the first time in four years. His nine fight win streak was snapped by Cezar Ferreira who submitted Hermansson with an arm triangle choke last November.
Hermansson moved slightly Northwest from his native Uddevalla to Oslo Norway where he currently lives and trains alongside fellow Scandinavian Emil Meek. Hermansson has no glaring weaknesses, but has not overly impressed in any one area in his two octagon performances. This hometown fight could be the ticket to his breakout in the octagon.
The Fight: Hermansson had trouble dealing with Mutante’s size and Nicholson is even larger than Ferreira. Nicholson is a enormous 6’4″ Middleweight that won regional titles at Heavyweight and he will overpower Hermansson if they clinch. If they stay at range Nicholson will finish him with his Boxing. Nicholson KO 1st
+370 Oliver Enkamp (7-0) vs. -465 Nordine Taleb (11-4)
Oliver Enkamp: 25 year old undefeated Swedish prospect Oliver “The Future” Enkamp will make his long awaited UFC debut filling in for Emil Meek on two weeks notice. Enkamp is the most exciting young fighter to ever come out of Sweden and this call up has been a long time coming, think of a young Wonderboy with better grappling.
Enkamp is a dynamic Karate striker who wont hesitate to throw flashy high risk, high reward strikes in search of the knockout. His main camp is the Pancrase Gym in Sweden, but his has trained abroad with GSP at Tri Star and Dominick Cruz at Alliance.
Nordine Taleb: A rare two season TUF alum Nordine Taleb has long been considered one of the best fighters at Montreal’s Tri Star Gym, but until recently his impressive sparring has failed to translate to the octagon. The French fighter has appeared much more comfortable in his last two bouts and has been able display his full striking arsenal.
35 year old Taleb is a polished veteran striker who’s textbook Muay Thai will make him a perfect test for young fighters attempting to break into the promotion. If he has championship aspirations Taleb can ill afford any future setbacks.
The Fight: Enkamp is an exciting fighter that we will see many more times in the future, however he does not match up well with Taleb in this one. Taleb’s technical striking defense will prevent him from falling victim to hook and wheel kicks and he will be the much stronger fighter allowing him to take Enkamp down if he gets in trouble. Taleb Unanimous Decision
-235 Adbul Razak Alhasan (7-0) vs. +200 Omari Akhmedov (16-3)
Abdul Razak Alhasan: Ghana’s Abdul Razak “Judo Thunder” Alhasan exploded onto the mainstream MMA scene with a 0:53 knockout of Connor McGregor’s training partner Charlie Ward at UFC Fight Night 99. The KO was the explosive African’s seventh first round finish in his seven professional fights.
The most exciting part about this knockout artist is that he started striking three years ago. Alhasan entered MMA through his extensive Judo background where he was a 2012 Olympic hopeful. Sokoudjou 2.0 appears to have the total package and it will be interesting to watch the progression of this 31 year old.
Omari Akhmedov: 29 year old Dagestani fighter Omari “The Wolverine” Akhmedov put a halt to his two fight skid with a short notice unanimous decision victory over Kyle Noke on Noke’s home turf. Akhmedov beat the Aussie in his own game out striking Noke in a clear cut decision.
Akhmedov has the Combat Sambo credentials that you would expect from a Dagestani fighter, but he has relied much more on his striking than many of his countrymen. He has not had the success of some of his compatriots, like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rustam Khabilov, but he puts on entertaining fights, already pocketing two fight of the night bonuses.
The Fight: Alhasan’s god given knockout power + Akhmedov’s love for a striking match and questionable chin = Alhasan’s eighth first round knockout. Alhasan KO 1st
-115 Peter Sobotta (16-5-1) vs. -105 Ben Saunders (21-7-2)
Peter Sobotta: German native Peter Sobotta got back in the win column with an impressive unanimous decision victory over Dane Nicholas Dalby at Fight Night 93 last September. Sobotta was 0-3 in his first UFC stint from 09-10, but has looked impressive since his 2014 return going 3-1
Sobotta is a protege of BJJ legend Dean Lister and has the grappling credentials that you might expect from a student of Lister. He has tried to integrate striking into his MMA tool bag, but usually is worse for the wear when he tries to stand and trade. Sobotta’s future success in the octagon relies on his ability to get fights to the floor.
Ben Saunders: American Top Team /10th Planet fighter Ben “Killa B” Saunders made a successful return to the octagon following a one fight hiatus. The TUF season six alum defeated hard nosed scrappy veteran Court McGee in a grueling unanimous decision, bring his overall octagon record to a respectable 8-4.
Saunders is a dynamic Muay Thai striker and extremely creative on the ground, his 6’3″elongated frame gives him unique positional opportunities that not many welterweights share. If he can avoid getting caught with hard shots Saunders has the ability to be an exciting, marketable contender in the welterweight division.
The Fight: This Striker vs. Grappler match up is not a good one for Sobotta, Saunders can more than handle himself if winds up on his back and has the fire power and technique to win a striking battle. Saunders will win this with vicious work in the clinch. Saunders TKO 2nd
+345 #5 Volkan Oezdemir (13-1) vs. -415 #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-2)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Volkan Oezdemir: Swiss striker Volkan Oezdemir pulled off what was considered a moderate upset defeating the #6 ranked Ovince St. Preux in his UFC debut. Oezdemir out struck OSP and stuffed all of the Tennessee Volunteers take down attempts on way to a decision victory.
Oezdemir’s journey to the #5 in the rankings has been a eventful and entertaining ride, read about it in our profile piece from February Volkan Oezdemir: From The Alps To The Octagon.
Misha Cirkunov: Latvian born Canadian Misha Cirkunov picked up his fourth octagon victory this past December when he submitted rising Ukrainian star Nikita Krylov in the first round. Cirkunov shrugged off the 24 year old Tae Kwon Doe fighters’s high kicks before finishing him with an air tight guillotine.
This will be the first fight of Cirkunov’s new six fight deal that will keep him employed for the next couple years. Cirkunov has been perfect in his four performances thus far and will be in immediate title contention with a win in this co-main event.
The Fight: Oezdemir is going to want to keep this fight at a distance and use his superior Muay Thai. Cirkunov is going to want to close the distance and use his Judo background to get the fight to the ground. This will be the first time Cirkunov will not have a significant strength advantage over his opponent and it will give him issues in the clinch. Oezdemir will keep it standing and pot shot his way to another upset victory. Oezdemir Unanimous Decision
-300 #1 Alexander Gustafsson (17-4) vs. +250 #2 Glover Teixeira (26-5)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Alexander Gustasfsson: #1 Light Heavyweight contender Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson put an end to his two fight skid with a hard fought decision victory over Jan Blachowicz this past September. Blachowicz gave the heavily favored Swede all he could handle in a closer then expected fight that went the distance.
The 30 year old Gustafsson’s next fight will be the winner of the July Cormier vs. Jones title fight if he can win this hometown showdown. The Alliance fighter is in the prime of his career and at a time where Jon Jones is a huge question mark and our champ is pushing 40 this will be Gustafsson’s best opportunity to become the Light Heavyweight champion.
Glover Teixeira: Brazilian knockout artist Glover Teixeira returned to his winning ways with a uncharacteristic Wrestling based victory over Jared Cannonier this past February. Teixeira showed he is more than a heavy handed brawler in this rare grappling showcase.
The American Top Team fighter has made short work of all of the current Light heavyweight contenders other then Jon Jones. A win here sets the 37 year old up for a second chance at the 205 strap. Whether it’s a rematch with Jones or a showdown with Cormier he has the tools to make it an epic battle.
The Fight: Gustafsson is going to want to use his length to pick Glover apart and stay out of his wheel house. If Glover decides to turn it into a grappling match he may wear himself out in a five round fight. The Super Swede will use his speed and length to out strike Glover and avoid the big shots to win this on the cards. Gustafsson Unanimous Decision