We now have a #UFCLondon card, fourteen fights deep and only two months away. The card was effectively “saved” with the addition of Anderson Silva Vs Michael Bisping as the headline bout and the sold out 02 arena is set to host one of the biggest fights on UK soil when Silva and Bisping meet.
But as we have seen in the past and will continue to see with the sheer amount of UFC cards which are put together, the cards are subject to change and whilst that brings bad fortune to those fighters who are forced to withdraw from fights due to injury, it does lead to some unexpected fortune to those who get called up at short notice and asked to fight.
From a European perspective we have seen this play out a few times in 2015 with the likes of Arnold Allen, Stevie Ray & Paul Redmond all stepping up on very short notice to grasp the opportunity of a lifetime.
And whilst I am by no means looking to curse the cast of #UFCLondon I have compiled a list of five European fighters who I feel are all more than suitable replacements should anything happen to the already announced card;
Jack Hermansson (11-2 MMA)
With four Middleweight fights already announced there is a big opportunity for Hermansson to fill in should one of the eight, ok let’s be realistic, one of the six (he isn’t going to headline an event on his potential debut) get injured. “The Joker” has rattled off six back to back wins (four by stoppage) since suffering his only two losses under the Bellator banner back in 2012/2013. And those wins have come against strong credible European fighters such as Ion Pascu, Norman Paraisy and Karlos Vemola which support Hermansson’s credibility on the European scene. He is managed by Graham Boylan who has a good record of getting his fighters into the UFC and so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to see Hermansson fill in for any potential injuries the 185lbs portion of #UFCLondon may suffer.
Jake Bostwick (MMA 17-8)
Another man on an absolute tear is Jake “Brutal” Bostwick who is riding a very impressive ten fight win streak and is well within the realms of reaching the UFC either at #UFCLondon or at some point in 2016. He made his return to Middleweight in his last outing but if the UFC come calling you know he would be more than willing to make that drop back to 170lbs. It’s a real tossup between Bostwick and Hermansson in my eyes as to what guy the UFC would reach out to first if there was an injury to one of their Middleweights already on the card. One thing that Bostwick does have in his favour is that he is born and bred in London but not sure how much that would sway things, on the flipside we all know that the UFC tend to lean on record alone when making these decisions. I definitely foresee a time where we get to see him make the walk in the UFC on one of the European cards and if I were a betting man would be quietly confident that this will happen in 2016.
Brad Wheeler (MMA 15-9)
Wheeler is another young man currently having the best period (six fight winning streak) of his MMA career and picked up the WFS Lightweight Title in his last bout. He will be on the UFC’s radar and attended the TUF tryouts but was unsuccessful in getting onto the show given their stance on fighters records (15-9). Wheeler has improved in recent years to establish a strong all-round game and whereas in the past was seen as a “submission only guy” has honed his boxing skills which are now arguably his most dangerous weapon. One thing which probably would come into question is his weight and so a late call-up may be tough for him to deal with but you can guarantee that given half the chance he would relish the opportunity and do whatever he could in his power to reach the 155lbs mark. We have seen fighters suffer in doing this (Paul Redmond) but also on the flipside others who have made the cut and reaped the rewards (Stevie Ray). Another Intensiti FM managed guy which could certainly do him no harm.
Mansour Barnaoui (MMA 12-3)
Barnaoui is one of the best Lightweights in Europe without a shadow of a doubt and although he is coming off a loss, let’s remember it was at Featherweight against Ivan Buchinger, arguably the best Featherweight outside the UFC. Barnaoui is used to fighting in England having competed under the BAMMA and Cage Warriors platform and the travel from France to England wouldn’t be a significant issue for him to deal with on a short time scale. There are three bouts at Lightweight which have been announced so far and two at Featherweight and I suspect he would be more than willing to dabble at either weight should he be given the opportunity. Prior to his decision loss to Buchinger he had rattled off four back to back wins all by way of stoppage with three of them inside the first round, proving that he is one of the most exciting fighters in Europe on his day.
Brett Johns (MMA 12-0)
Welshman Johns just continues to improve fight after fight and his recent performance against Anthony Gutierrez was definitely one of the best in his short career to date. Johns has only been competing since 2012 but has racked up twelve wins on the bounce, picked up the Cage Warriors and Titan FC Bantamweight Titles and is arguably one of the best Bantamweight fighters outside of the UFC. His one downfall in getting a last minute call-up would be his weight and Johns would attest to that, but like many of the others I have mentioned above you could be certain that he would do everything to make sure he weighed in on point. With two Bantamweight bouts on the card Johns will be keeping a close eye to ensure that he is ready should he get the phone call he deserves.
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