After a week off, the UFC will be holding its second and final event of May with a special Sunday Fight Night card in Stockholm, Sweden tomorrow. Headlined by the top two ranked Light Heavyweight fighters in the company (aside from the champion and interim champion,) the card is a pretty solid one from an entertainment perspective.
The prelims, albeit without big names, is very fun on paper. Some terrific prospects, finishers, etc will all be on display in what will be a morning slate for folks in the states. The Fight Pass prelims will begin at 10 a.m Eastern time, and the FS1 prelims will begin at 11a.m. Eastern Time. It’s a pretty good slate for an overseas Fight Night card, and here are my predictions for all six of the prelim bouts on deck.
Fight Pass prelims (10am/9am CT, UFC Fight Pass)
Marcin Held (22-6) vs. Damir Hadzovic (10-3)
A pair of European Lightweights will kick off the card, in what should be a fairly fun bout. Bosnian Hadzovic may have gotten knocked out in his UFC debut last April and not fought since, but that’s the only time he ever got finished, and against top-level prospect Mairbek Taisumov to boot. There’s no shame in losing to him, and aside from that knockout loss, his only losses came via decision. As for his victories, eight of his ten have come via finish, including five via knockout. Only four of them came in the first round, meaning he does have a gas tank, and can finish fights if they go past the opening round.
Held, however, will provide a challenge the likes of which Hadzovic hasn’t dealt with before. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Held has won 12 fights in that fashion. What’s more is that Held has wins via toe hold, kneebar, and heel hook, making him all the more dangerous on the ground. He may have lost both of his UFC bouts to date, but those were against Diego Sanchez and Joe Lauzon, a pair of UFC veterans, with the latter bout being one that many thought Held had won. Held needs the win, has a distinct grappling advantage, will likely be able to take this fight to the ground and as a result, I believe the former Bellator mainstay will finally get a UFC victory. Prediction: Held via submission, round 1.
Darren Till (13-0-1) vs. Jessyn Ayari (16-3)
The headlining Fight Pass bout pits England against Germany, in Sweden. Welp! Till hasn’t fought since October 2015, in a fight where he wound up with a draw against Nicolas Dalby. It was just his third decision bout in 13 contests, with 11 of his 14 career bouts ending via finish, including nine via knockout. Of those eleven finishes, only four took place in the first round, meaning his best work comes after the opening stanza. Whether that happens in his first fight since 2015 or not though, remains to be seen.
Ayari is a submission specialist, with eight of his 16 wins coming in that fashion. Make no mistake though, that doesn’t mean he’s dependent on getting a submissions to get his wins. He’s pretty well-rounded, and that shows in his game. Plus, he has never had a losing streak, previously having win streaks of four, three, and then two fights, before sustaining his last loss in February 2013. In four-plus years since, Ayari is 7-0, including a split decision win in his UFC debut last September against fellow veteran Jim Wallhead.
It’s a tough fight for Ayari though, since his weakness might be his striking defense. Against a guy who has a near 70% knockout rate, that could spell trouble. If Ayari’s defense has improved enough in the last eight months, and Till’s striking has become a bit rusty due to the time off, then Ayari’s got a very good shot. Sadly for him, I think Till will connect down the road, and will take the victory as a result. Prediction: Till via tko, round 2.
Televised prelims (11/10am CT, FS1)
Nico Musoke (13-4, 1 NC) vs. Bojan Velickovic (14-4-1)
Stockholm’s own Nico Musoke will open up the televised portion of the card, when he takes on Bojan Velickovic. A pro since late 2007, Musoke has proven he belongs in the UFC, with three of his four career losses coming against UFC opponents, as well as four of his wins. He came into the UFC with five wins and a no contest in his previous six bouts, and has gone 3-2 in the UFC, with his lone losses coming against Kelvin Gastelum and Mairbek Taisumov. His game has changed up since 2012 though, no question about it. In his first 11 bouts, Musoke had only gone the distance twice. In the seven bouts since then, six have gone the distance, including his last four UFC bouts. He still has nine finishes in his career, with five submission and four knockout wins, but he’s become a much “safer” fighter in the last five years.
As for Velickovic, the submission specialist is 1-1-1 in the UFC, and something’s gotta give. He’s never been finished in 19 career bouts, and while he’s 11-0 with eight submission wins in fights that end early, he’s just 3-4-1 in fights that go the distance. That’s a huge difference, so the former RFA Welterweight champion will need to channel his old self in this one. While eight of his last ten bouts have gone into the third, he’s still got what it takes to finish fights.
Honestly, everyone seems to be picking Musoke, and I get it. He’s the hometown guy, better known, etc. However, I’m going for the upset here. In my opinion, Velickovic is much better than he’s given credit for, and he’ll show that in this fight. The logical pick is Musoke via decision. I, however, won’t accept into that narrative. Prediction: Velickovic via tko, round 3.
Reza Madadi (14-5) vs. Joaquim Silva (9-0)
Initially, Silva was supposed to take on fearsome finisher Mairbek Taisumov. However, Taisumov got injured a few weeks ago, and Madadi stepped up on short notice, in what may very well be his retirement fight. Silva is an unbeaten Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with eight finishes in nine wins. The TUF: Brazil 4 contestant has finished all eight of his finishes in the opening round, including three within the opening minute. He’s 2-0 in the UFC, and a win over a known name like Madadi could put him on a featured Brazilian fight night card down the road, before he gets some mainstream limelight.
Madadi won’t make it easy for Silva though. A high-level freestyle wrestler, Madadi will be fighting at home, in a fight that’s almost must-win for him. He’s 3-3 in the UFC, with all three wins coming via finish, and all three losses coming via decision. He’s never once been finished in 19 career fights, and has eight submission wins to go with his three knockout and submission wins apiece.
Madadi is possibly fighting in his final fight, which adds a wrinkle to the story. Will he walk away as a winner at home on short notice against a legitimate and scary prospect? Or, will he get dusted and dominated? Either is a legitimate possibility. Either Madadi wins a decision or gets a late finish, or Silva destroys him early. Head pick: Silva via first round tko. Heart pick: Madadi via decision or late finish.
Trevor Smith (14-7) vs. Chris Camozzi (24-12)
If you’re wondering what a pair of vanilla journeymen who have nothing to do with Sweden are doing in a bout on a Fight Night card in Sweden, it’s very understandable. Originally, Camozzi was supposed to take on Sweden’s own Magnus Cedenblad, before Cedenblad got injured. Smith stepped up in his place, and now, we have this fight on tv. Smith went 2-2 with Strikeforce before his contract was absorbed by the UFC after Strikeforce ended. He’s 4-4 in the UFC, with six of those fights going the distance. He’s got nine submission wins, but the last one happened five years ago. It really is as vanilla as it gets.
As for Camozzi, the former TUF 11 contestant began his UFC career with a 7-2 mark, before losing four straight and subsequently getting cut in late 2014. After winning two straight fights via first round tko following his release, he got re-signed in early 2015, and went 3-1 in his return. He’s lost two straight since, and now is on the verge of getting cut yet again if he loses. He’s a fringe UFC fighter more often than not, but is great outside the UFC by all accounts. He’s 10-9 in the UFC, but 14-3 outside of it. He’s not very good with takedown defense, so he could very well get taken down and grinded out by Smith. Or the opposite could happen. Either way, this fight likely won’t be anything to write home about, but I hope we all wind up being surprised. Probably not though. Prediction: Toss-up, with either man getting a decision win.
(12) Pedro Munhoz (13-2, 1 NC) vs. Damian Stasiak (10-3)
The headlining prelim isn’t gettung much traction at all, but that’s no surprise, seeing how it’s a foreign Fight Night card in which the bout will take place in the morning for the majority of the United States.
Very quietly, Munhoz has cracked the rankings in the UFC’s Bantamweight division. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with eight of his 13 wins coming via submission, the former RFA Bantamweight champ was thrown straight to the wolves for his UFC debut. That’s where he had to take on one of the best Bantamweights in the UFC, Raphael Assuncao, just a month after defending his RFA title. He accepted the bout, and while he lost the decision, he looked pretty good and garnered the good graces of the UFC right from the start. That good grace evaporated when he tested positive for testosterone after a 39-second submission win over Jerrod Sanders in his third UFC bout. However, with back to back submission wins and performance of the night awards in his last two fights, he’s now a ranked Bantamweight looking to get a major bout at some point this year.
Stasiak is no joke though. A black belt in Karate, Stasiak has won seven of his 10 career wins via submission, and has never been finished. He’s won four fights via first round submission, and since moving to Bantamweight, has won both his UFC bouts. That said, it can’t be denied that he was getting beat down by a returning Davey Grant in his last fight at UFC 204, and Munhoz is a much better grappler than Grant is, although Grant is very good on the ground too. This is a bout that is pretty much guaranteed to go to the ground, and if it does, I have much more faith in Munhoz to finish the bout, than I do in Stasiak avoiding getting finished. It’ll be fun while it lasts, and while I would love to see this be a bout that goes on for some time, I see Munhoz getting the finish sooner rather than later. Prediction: Munhoz via submission, round 1.