The last UFC London card in March was described by Dana White as “the biggest Fight Night in the history of the UFC.” The energy and atmosphere was electrifying in the O2 Arena on a night that saw Molly McCann almost guarantee a KO of the Year award, Paddy Pimblett show off his submission skills and Tom Aspinall bulldoze Alexander Volkov.
The prelims that night were superb as Paul Craig somehow found a way to submit Nikita Krylov despite being outfought in the opening round, Muhammad Mokaev blitzed Cody Durden with a flying knee followed by a guillotine, and Jack Shore defeated Timur Valiev in a three-round barnburner.
This time round, we’re going to take a look at the prelims of Saturday’s card and what to watch out for as the card gets underway.
- Betfred's latest UFC London Odds*
Kicking off the card is Claudio ‘Hannibal’ Silva vs Nicolas ‘Lokomotivo’ Dalby, a welterweight clash between two veterans and taking place in London as Silva emigrated to London back in 2007. ‘Hannibal’ has been fighting in the UFC since 2014, and is known for his split decision victory over Birmingham’s Leon Edwards back in his early days. ‘Lokomotivo’ is a Danish former Cage Warriors champion, who had mixed successes since rejoining the company in 2019. Dalby’s biggest moment came in a Fight of the Night winning-draw with Darren Till in Dublin.
The women’s flyweight division then takes over the second fight of the evening, as Germany’s Mandy Bohm faces Victoria Leonardo. The pair are still waiting to get their first win in the UFC, with Bohm losing to Ariane Lipski last September. Leonardo is a graduate of Dana White’s Contender Series and since making her debut in January 2021, has lost twice to Manon Fiorot and Melissa Gatto.
The lightweights Jai Herbert and Kyle Nelson follow, as the “The Black Country Banger” Herbet aims to rectify his devastating KO loss to Ilia Topuria back in March. Herbert is a veteran of the UK MMA scene, but with just one win from four fights in the UFC, he needs to get back on the right side of the column this weekend to have a future in the organisation. Nelson is in a similar position, with the Canadian also holding a 1-3 record since signing up to the championship. He’s not had a fight in over 18 months and makes his return in an environment that won’t be kind to him.
If we were to tip potential fight of the night candidates, right at the top of the list is the next fight between Muhammad Mokaev and Charles Johnson. Aged just 21, Mokaev signed up to the UFC as the youngest fighter in the entire roster with ambitions of being its youngest champion. ‘The Punisher’ enjoyed a stellar amateur career, with 30 wins and zero losses so far in his combined pro and amateur history. Fighting out of Wigan, England and South Florida, the Chechen-born star needed just 58 seconds to submit Cody Durden in March and is one of the most exciting future prospects on the entire roster right now.
His opponent, Johnson, is a former LFA Champion that arrives in the UFC for his debut on the back of a four-fight win streak in MMA. At 31-years-old, he has a wealth of experience that he’s gained from 13 fights. The pair have been going back and forth before the fight on Twitter, comparing their backgrounds and pedigree before going into the fight. We might see some extra edge on Saturday night between the two.
Finnish featherweight Makwan Amirkhani is returning to London after his successful trip last time where he submitted Mike Grundy via anaconda choke in 57 seconds. ‘Mr Finland’ has been fighting for Dana White since 2015 and has faced the likes of Arnold Allen, Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza in his 12 UFC scraps.
His opponent is another Contender Series alum, Jonathan Pearce. “JSP” is no stranger to hostile atmospheres, making his debut against legend Joe Lauzon in Boston. You don’t get much bigger than that. Wins over Kai Kamaka III, Omar Morales and Christian Rodriguez since have proved his worth and should make for a great fight.
Next up, London’s own Nathaniel Wood will be hoping to bounce back into form with a win against veteran Charles Rosa. Wood was a Cage Warriors champion before entering the UFC four years ago, and he arrived with a buzz and hopefully it can be reignited after an 18-month absence. He lost his last fight against Casey Kenney, a 140-pound catchweight fight at ‘Fight Island’.
Against Rosa, the Englishman will face a tough and dynamic featherweight who is used to raising his weight to lightweight. He’s fighting on the back of two consecutive losses after alternating between wins and losses in his 11 fights prior. For ‘Boston Strong’, a win in enemy territory will be enough to ruin the hype around a prospect and put his name forward for more main event action in future.
The final two fights left in the preliminary card involve British-Congolese fighter Marc Diakiese against Damir Hadzovic and Wales’ Mason Jones vs Slovakia’s Ludovit Klein. Diakiese, aged just 29, seems like he's been a stalwart of European MMA for a lot longer than he has. Starting his career with a 3-0 hot-streak, he’s overcome recent obstacles by sticking to his guns, most recently beating Viacheslav Borschev via unanimous decision in Columbus earlier this year. His opponent, Hadzovic, has experience of fighting in London and is a bit of a globetrotter in terms of fights. Fighting away from home should be no problem for a man that’s experienced Croatia, Sweden, Brazil and Germany before London again on Saturday.
Mason Jones is a late replacement for the featured bout of the prelims, stepping in for Ignacio Bahamondes who was unable to get a visa in time for UFC London. Jones is a former two-weight champion of Cage Warriors and has so far had a hat-trick of results since debuting in the UFC, earning a loss-NC-win in his three fights so far. There’s no doubt that Jones will have wanted to fight in front of a home crowd, and he gets his chance despite only having 13 days' notice.
His opponent Ludovit Klein is another young and hungry fighter like Jones, hoping that a win in London will earn them a shot at the top 20 fighters in the most stacked division in the UFC. Klein won his last fight at UFC 272, beating Devonte Smith via split decision, and is hoping for more of the same this weekend.
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