Fergus Ryan: It's an MMA extravaganza this weekend and here's how you see it all
All the talk this week has been about UFC 196. After the news broke that Rafael Dos Anjos had broken his foot attention immediately turned to who would face Conor McGregor in his absence.
Now we know Nate Diaz has stepped up we can turn our attention back to this weekend’s MMA action.
With Ireland v England kicking off in Twickenham at around early Saturday evening only the die-hard MMA fans will be watching the prelims of both BAMMA 24 and UFC London.
In truth, the majority of names on the prelims for each event will only mean something to die-hard UFC fans or those very familiar with the Irish MMA circuit; but that’s not to say they won’t be worth watching.
Both main cards should kick off around 9pm so there’ll be plenty of time after the rugby to either get down to the 3Arena for BAMMA 24 or find a stream for UFC Fight Pass to watch UFC London.
With 30 fights across the two events, we’ve picked some our favourite fights they we reckon are a must watch.
Event:– UFC London
Estimated Fight Time: - 2200
Match-Up:- Anderson Silva v Michael Bisping
This match-up is special on so many levels. For those in attendance, it is one of the rare opportunities (and maybe last) to get to see MMA legend Anderson Silva, up close and personal this side of the Atlantic.
During the mid-2000’s Silva fought four times for UK promotion Cage Rage after a falling out forced him off the lucrative Japanese circuit. Since then he has gone on to become one of the pound-for-pound greats in the sport and the most dominant middleweight champion in UFC history.
Though he dropped his UFC middleweight title back in July 2013 his records for most consecutive title defences (10), most successful title defences (10), most finishes in UFC title fights (9), most consecutive wins in the UFC (16) and longest win streak in UFC history (16) among others will stand for a long time to come.
At the tender age of 40 it’s safe to say his fighting days are numbered.
Michael Bisping has carried the UK MMA flag for longer and with more success than any other fighter from Great Britain.
Winner of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, Bisping has fought for the UFC since June 2006. His fight with Silva will be his 25th inside the world’s largest promotion. Given his longevity in the sport he is also one of the biggest earners from disclosed UFC pay-outs.
For his most of his middleweight career Bisping campaigned for a title shot. Three times he came up short in contender eliminator fights. He was spectacularly KO’d by Dan Henderson at UFC 100, rose through the ranks again to narrowly lose a decision to Chael Sonnen in 2012 and once again was on the cusp of a title shot only to lose to Luke Rockhold in 2014.
To highlight the quality Bisping has shown as a fighter five of his seven losses came at the hands of current or former UFC/Pride FC champions. Only the best of the best beat Bisping.
Leaving history aside, the fight on Saturday could hold the path to a future title shot for the winner.
Should Silva win he will have beaten a perennially top 10 ranked opponent in Bisping. When you couple this with his legacy you can justify him being again in the title picture.
Should Bisping beat Silva he will have conquered a legend, something only five men have accomplished across Silva’s 40 fight career. This would put him on a three fight win streak and certainly sling shot him up into the title picture once again.
A loss won’t take any shine off either fighter’s career but a win would be huge.
Event – UFC London
Estimated Fight Time: - 2030
Match-Up:- Mike Wilkinson v Makwan Amirkhani
Mike Wilkinson has been dogged with injuries since we first saw him on the TUF Smashes back in 2012. In his nearly four years as a UFC athlete he has competed just three times. His last outing reminded us of exactly why he has remained on the UFC’s book by beating Niklas Backstrom with a spectacular KO that earned him a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus.
Makwan Amirkhani has been a lot more visible. In 2015 while Wilkinson was side-lined for the entire year, Amirkani racked up two wins in less than two minutes total action. He spectacularly KO’d Andy Ogle in 8 seconds of his UFC debut and followed up by submitting Masio Fullen just past the 1.40 mark of round one.
Amirkhani has taken a page from the McGregor playbook and has generally predicted and delivered first round finishes for his fights. This one is no different, claiming he will KO Wilkinson in the first.
Wilkinson responded in kind by labelling Amirkhani as a McGregor wannabe referring to the time the Kurdish-Finnish fighter spent at SBG in Dublin recently.
Event – UFC London
Estimated Fight Time: - 1845
Match-Up:- Norman Parke v Rustam Khabilov
This weekend sees ‘Stormin’ Norman Parke make his ninth Octagon appearance. So far he has won five, lost two and drawn one. His opponent Rustam Khabilov has a lesser record with three wins and two losses.
However, Khabilov has only lost to top level opposition. He will also have the added incentive of fighting to save his UFC career. The Russian has dropped his last two against Adriano Martins and Benson Henderson. Typically, a three fight losing streak is enough to get your walking papers in the UFC.
The numbers only tell part of the story with regard to Parke’s record. His two losses were extremely close decisions against tough Braziians. One of them Gleison Tibau has since been suspended for two years for failing both in and out of competition drug tests.
Parke met Tibau in January before the UFC instituted tougher drug testing measures in the following July of 2015.
Parke from Next Generation Northern Ireland was the standout on the local Irish MMA scene for a long time and justified that standing by making it to the UFC. At 29, Parke has plenty of good years left and with a couple of wins will force his way back up rankings towards the lightweight division’s top 15.
Event –BAMMA 24
Match-Up:- Tom ‘Firekid’ DuQuesnoy Vs. Damien ‘The Rage’ Rooney
Tom DuQuesnoy has been the prized possession of BAMMA for a number of years. He is their current featherweight champion but is dropping down to make his bantamweight debut on Saturday in the co-main event.
There to welcome him to his new division will be Damien Rooney from Team Torres in Newry, Co. Down. Rooney boasts a record of ten wins and four losses, with two of his losses coming against UFC fighters Paddy Holohan and Neil Seery when they competed on the local Irish circuit.
Rooney dabbled a weight division lower at flyweight but has returned to bantamweight to make another run at cracking the big time.
While some fighters opt for an easy nights work, Rooney went looking for the match-up with DuQuesnoy as soon as he heard the ‘Firekid’ was dropping down to bantamweight. A win for the Team Torres man will catapult him up in the European bantamweight standings.
DuQuesnoy could be one of the best bantamweights in the world not signed to the UFC and will be Rooney’s toughest test to date. A win for the Frenchman will take him another step closer to the big show.
Event –BAMMA 24
Match-Up:- Nathan ‘Mr. Bag & Tag’ Jones Vs. Peter ‘The Showstopper’ Queally
Peter Queally is determined to get to the UFC. Having flip-flopped between the lightweight and welterweight division he has now settled on the latter.
Currently riding a two fight win streak his impressive 7-2 pro MMA record has been punctuated with losses in the middle of him building some momentum.
A close training partner of McGregor, the SBG man take take another step in the right direction with a win on Saturday.
Names to Remember – MMA prospects
The three fights below represent the future of MMA north and south of the Irish border. Rhys McKee and Mark Andrew train under Rodney Moore at Next Generation Northern Ireland. Both took short notice fights at BAMMA 22 last September and both came away with very impressive victories. They entered the sport together and have encouraged each other through the amateur ranks. If their current flight path continues they could follow their team mate Norman Parke into the UFC.
James Gallagher and Dylan Tuke are both prospects fighting out of SBG. Now sooner had McGregor cracked the UFC than we wondered when team-mates might join him. After Holohan, Pendred and Daly all claimed their place we began to wonder where the future lay. Wins on Saturday night for both Tuke and Gallagher will confirm their standing as two pretenders to the UFC roster.
Event –BAMMA 24
Match-Up:- James Gallagher Vs. Gerard Gilmore
Event –BAMMA 24
Match-Up:- Dylan ‘The Nuke’ Tuke Vs. Mark ‘The Prophet’ Andrew
Event –BAMMA 24
Match-Up:- Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee Vs. Alex Masuku
BAMMA 24: Kone Vs. Phillips will stream LIVE on Lonsdale Facebook Page Worldwide from 7pm - 10pm and will broadcast LIVE on SPIKE TV UK from 10pm and around the world (Check Local Listings).
Some tickets for the event are still available from http://bit.ly/BAMMA24