UFC Fight Island is alive and well and with Saturday’s UFC 251 showcase fast approaching, fight fans have plenty to look forward to. Over the next two weeks, Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates will host four events, four title fights, 46 bouts in total, and around 24 hours of live coverage dependent on your provider. In that sense, it’s easy for a lot of Fight Island clashes to fly under the radar, so let’s take a look at 11 upcoming fights you might have forgotten about.
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka – UFC 251, July 11
Despite the Swiss’s knockout power and undeniable skills, Volkan Oezdemir is perhaps a dark horse in the light-heavyweight division. Although he put paid to Aleksandar Rakic and Ilir Latifi last year, he was coming off a three-fight losing skid so has some ground to make up. Standing in his way is the Czech Republic’s UFC debutant and former Rizin titlist, Jiri Prochazka. Primarily a kickboxer who throws punches in bunches, Prochazka owns finishes over the likes of C.B. Dollaway and Fabio Maldonado, so expect this one to be a stand-up war.
Makwan Amirkhani vs. Danny Henry – UFC 251, July 11
It’s fair to say Makwan Amirkhani was devastated by his setback to Shane Burgos in 2019. He said it “killed” him to think of how his output dwindled, and as such he won’t want to make the same mistake again. “Mr Finland” is a polished striker who fights in spurts but he’ll have his hands full with Scotland’s Danny Henry. Motivated to succeed after over a year away from the Octagon, the 31-year-old once held the EFC Worldwide featherweight title and remains the only man to best Hakeem Dawodu in the cage.
Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov – UFC 251, July 11
Boasting seven knockouts, six submissions, and five decisions across 18 victories throughout his career, it’s clear Tybura has a well-rounded arsenal to call upon. He imposed his will on Sergey Spivak in February, working patiently and passing the guard for the decision, and he’ll be the first man to welcome Alexander Romanov to the UFC. The Romanian’s greatest strength is to spring up the element of surprise, as evidenced by his last two bouts which he won by Ezekiel choke and a slam KO. With that in mind, don’t blink during this one.
Martin Day vs. Davey Grant – UFC 251, July 11
Grinding away with Max Holloway in Hawaii every day must be a useful way to earn your stripes, but circumstances have conspired against Martin Day’s hopes of making a run in the UFC. Losing his Octagon debut to Liu Pingyuan in 2018, injuries forced him out of two outings in 2019 and his next rival, England’s Davey Grant, can identify with his struggles. A crafty submission artist with plenty of range at 135lbs, the 34-year old has only fought five times in the last seven years due to a litany of injuries, and he’ll hope to make the most of his opportunity.
Jared Gordon vs. Chris Fishgold – UFC Fight Night, July 15
Jared Gordon has gone on record as stating he feels he is a bigger, better version of his foe Chris Fishgold, so this could be a case of like-for-like prospects who can fight in spots and finish proceedings once they see an opening. Fishgold’s issue is his lack of form at featherweight after clinching the Cage Warriors lightweight crown – he’s won one and lost two at 145 pounds since dropping down. With that in mind, let’s see if he can utilize his inside-fighting and devilish guillotine choke against the smaller men.
Molly McCann vs. Talia Santos – UFC Fight Night, July 15
Molly McCann became the toast of Boston when she dominated Diana Belbita for a unanimous decision in October, scoring five takedowns and racking up three tallies of 30-25. Her Next Generation gym in Liverpool, England is renowned for producing excellent grapplers and there were many eyebrows raised when McCann – ranked #15 at women’s flyweight – was pitted against Santos who lost her only UFC outing back in February 2019. Still, the Brazilian has an advantage in power and will aim to circle, counter, and inflict damage once the action heats up.
Tim Elliott vs. Ryan Benoit – UFC Fight Night, July 15
If you want to learn more about Tim Elliott’s philosophy for fighting, just watch his forehead-to-forehead thriller with Brandon Royval from back in May. The 33-year-old rushed forward, mixing up dirty boxing and double-leg shoots, but his enthusiasm was in vain as he tapped to an arm triangle choke in round two. With Elliott now sitting at three losses on the bounce, Ryan Benoit will hope to pick up a fourth win in the UFC and put his greater striking clout to use.
Marc Diakiese vs. Rafael Fiziev – UFC Fight Night, July 18
British muay Thai boxer Marc Diakiese faced a curveball in June when Alan Patrick pulled out of their bout only to be replaced by Rafael Fiziev. The red-haired 27-year-old has had to study for a new rival but given the coolness with which he dispatched Joseph Duffy and Lando Vannata in 2019, his head seems to be in the right place. While Fiziev outscored Alex White in September 2019, he’ll enter as underdog due to his time out injured and comparative lack of UFC seasoning. After all, who’s the only man to stop Diakiese? The Kiwi warrior Dan Hooker.
Joseph Duffy vs. Joel Alvarez – UFC Fight Night, July 18
Utilizing some of the most beautiful fakes, feints, and shuffles in the promotion, Joseph Duffy sharpened his handiwork on the pro boxing circuit in his native Ireland. Now well into his MMA tutelage under Firas Zahabi, Duffy showed he can hang on the ground too with submissions over Ivan Jorge and Mitch Clarke. He’ll go for his fifth win in the big leagues when he faces Joel Alvarez, himself a Spanish submission merchant with nine first-round victories via tapout. “El Fenomeno” enjoyed the greater activity in 2019 and 2018 and will look to test Duffy’s sprawls, probing with chokes early when the contestants are still dry.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Gustafsson – UFC Fight Night, July 25
Although the pair sparred together not long ago, many felt a heavyweight meeting between Fabricio Werdum and Alex Gustafsson would be a thing of fantasy. Werdum, a former UFC heavyweight champion, was one of the greatest big men on the planet between 2012 and 2016, while Gustafsson, an ex-AIBA amateur boxing titlist, made his name in MMA at light-heavyweight, running through the likes of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Glover Teixeira and Jimi Manuwa. Still, Gustafsson has reneged on his plan to retire and told journalists he felt he got the better of his gym battle with Werdum. Is he telling the truth? All will be revealed soon.
Mike Grundy vs. Movsar Evloev – UFC Fight Night, July 25
Liverpool, England’s Mike Grundy has all the credentials you could ask for. Commonwealth Games bronze medal in wrestling? Check. European Championships gold medal in no-gi jiu-jitsu? Check. Sweating it out on the mats on a daily basis with Darren Till? You bet. His upcoming foe Movsar Evloev shoots for the takedown early, picking the wrist and taking away posts not unlike his countryman, one Khabib Nurmagomedov. Grundy pulled out of an earlier booking between the two in 2019 citing an injury, so the pair will be determined to make up for lost time and aim for a post-fight bonus at Fight Island.
Alistair Hendrie is a freelance writer for The Body Lock MMA. He has previously written for Mirror.co.uk and Fighters Only. Check out his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain, featuring interviews with Rosi Sexton, Joanne Calderwood and more.