The UFC returns to Germany this Saturday night for the first time since UFC 122, which was way back in November 2010. The event is headlined by a clash of two top middleweight contenders, as Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi go at it for a chance to place their name back amongst the title talk.
Saturday night also marks the first time that the UFC have held two events on the same night, with The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 also available for our viewing pleasure and you can read more about that fight card later on this week right here on #WHOATV.
Now, on with the UFC Berlin preview.
(#7) Mark Munoz vs. (#11) Gegard Mousasi – 185lbs.
Munoz has not quite looked like the fighter he was before a long injury layoff in 2012/13 after breaking his foot against Chris Weidman. He is still a fighter worthy of a place around the top ten of the division, just not quite the dominating force he once was. Munoz was last seen in action back in October of last year, where he was on the receiving end of a Lyoto Machida head kick KO. The former Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Champion and multi-weight DREAM champion, Gegard Mousasi, also lost out to Machida in his most recent bout, having gone the full five rounds and losing out on the scorecards.
Munoz will look to make this one dirty. Close-quarter clinch work, on-fence grappling and relentless takedowns will likely form the main part of the Munoz game-plan here. Mousasi will be at a disadvantage in the grappling stakes, but has shown in previous bouts that he is as slippery as they come when an opponent tries to pin him down, and when on his back, his rate of attack does not slow. I feel that Mousasi will be able to avoid Munoz for large parts of this bout and pick him off at range with his superior striking, ultimately closing the show with a strong finish.
Prediction – Mousasi via KO/TKO
(#9) Francis Carmont vs. C.B. Dolloway – 185lbs.
Francis Carmont was on the verge of being a legitimate entrant in the UFC’s middleweight contender pool having rattled off 11 straight wins, six of which were inside the Octagon, until having his momentum halted in a decision loss to Jacaré Souza last time out. Dolloway, on the other hand, bounced back from a tough split decision defeat to Tim Boetsch with a KO victory over Cezar Ferreira this past March, taking Dolloway’s UFC record to 8-5.
If I’m being brutally honest, I can’t see this one being up there for Fight of the Night mainly due to the influence of Francis Carmont. Carmont is highly talented and I believe he will beat Dolloway, he’s just not all that fun to watch as he tends to set out to stifle rather than kill.
Prediction – Carmont via decision
Luke Barnatt vs. Sean Strickland – 185lbs.
If he doesn’t already, Luke Barnatt should feel right at home as a UFC middleweight. Following on from his dominating win over Andrew Craig last October, Barnatt last competed this past March, where the 6’ 6” middleweight put on arguably the finest performance of his career, TKO’ing Mats Nilsson to take his MMA record to a perfect 8-0. Strickland will also carry in to this bout a perfect record, 14-0, and ‘Tarzan’ looked impressive in his UFC debut last time out, making quick work of Bubba McDaniel with a submission finish in the first round back at UFC 171.
Strickland’s best chance of victory will be in dominating the grappling exchanges and forcing the takedown when the opportunity arises, but Barnatt is no slouch on the ground. I’m going to side with Barnatt on this one, as I feel he has the required ground game to nullify Strickland and the far superior striking arsenal to that of his opponent.
Prediction – Barnatt via KO/TKO
Tom Niinimäki vs. Niklas Bäckström – 145lbs.
The only fight on the main card of this event not containing middleweights features European featherweight standouts, Tom Niinimäki and Niklas Bäckström. Niinimäki has already competed inside of the Octagon, defeating Rani Yahya last November, but Bäckström will be making his UFC debut this Saturday, having replaced Niinimäki’s original opponent Thiago Tavares on relatively short notice.
Bäckström is one to watch, with a stellar grappling pedigree and evolving striking game, but I feel this opportunity will come too soon for him considering how this matchup came to be. Niinimäki looked very impressive against Yahya and I’d expect him to carry on this form on Saturday.
Prediction – Niinimäki via decision