After a three week break, the UFC returns in April with an event on every weekend to keep the Inside Fights team busy and the fans entertained. Kicking off the month of fights this Saturday is the UFC’s return to Sweden, UFC on Fuel TV 9. Originally headlined by Sweden’s own Alexander Gustafsson taking on Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi, this was a fight with future title implications. However, a cut in training has now side-lined the Swedish light-heavyweight days before the fight and Gustafsson has now been replaced by his training partner and relative unknown Ilir Latifi. Anyway, before all that, here’s why you should be looking to tune in to the broadcast early and which fights you need to be looking out for.
Michael “The Menace” Johnson (12-7-0) vs. Reza “Mad Dog” Madadi (12-3-0) -
Headlining the prelims is a lightweight contest between Michael Johnson and Iranian-Swede Reza Madadi. 2012 was nearly oh so perfect for Johnson. Heading in to UFC 155 last December, Johnson, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 12 runner-up, had racked up three straight victories and was looking to extend that run and gather momentum and hype ahead of 2013. However, thanks to Myles Jury and a unanimous judges’ decision, Johnson had to make do with an impressive 3-1 stretch over the 12 month period. Johnson has improved immeasurably since his time on TUF and always looks to mix his solid striking with offensive wrestling to good effect. Madadi, a proficient submission grappler, is looking to rebound from a controversial decision loss at the hands of Cristiano Marcello at UFC 153. Madadi will enjoy the ovation from his home-nation crowd, however this is where I feel that his advantages start and end for “Mad Dog”. Johnson’s striking and takedown defence should be enough to secure victory for the American.
Tor “The Hammer” Troeng (15-4-1) vs. Adam Cella (4-0-0) -
Here we have a middleweight contest between two TUF alums whose season is still underway, albeit in the latter stages. While the timing may seems strange as the show is on-going, both men were knocked out in the first round of proceedings and had nothing left to fight for. Dana White has promised to repay each competitor of the series with an opportunity to fight for the UFC and the promotion have wasted little time in booking this fight. Troeng, a native of Sweden, makes his UFC debut on the back of a four-fight win streak and brings to this contest a well-rounded MMA game as well as a serious experience advantage over his opponent which has been built exclusively on the European circuit. In the most publicised fight of this TUF season, Cella squared up against Uriah Hall and for most of the first round he more than held his own and managed to build up some level of momentum with competent striking. However, just before the round was out Hall landed a highlight-reel spinning back kick that resulted in one of the most devastating finishes in TUF history and thus ended Cella’s participation in the process. As the TUF tournament is deemed by the athletic commissions to be an exhibition tournament, Cella will enter the Octagon with a perfect 4-0-0 record. In the few fights he has had in his career so far, Cella has managed to display a variety of finishing techniques with two of his four wins coming via KO/TKO and the other two via submission, all within the first round. Look for this fight to be mainly contested on the feet and for the fans to go home happy.
Marcus “The Bama Beast” Brimage (6-1-0) vs. Conor “Notorious” McGregor (12-2-0) -
Having complained that he has been fed to the wolves and accusing the UFC of using him as a stepping stone for promising fighters, featherweight Marcus Brimage carries in to this bout a perfect UFC record of 3-0. In his previous fights, TUF 14 alum Brimage has disposed of highly touted prospects Maximo Blanco and Jimmy Hettes. Awaiting Brimage this Saturday is another fighter who has had his fair share of hype, Irishman Conor McGregor. Debuting McGregor is a flashy striker with scary knockout power for a featherweight and is currently riding an 8-fight win streak. This will be only the third time that McGregor has fought outside of his home country where he enjoyed multi-divisional success capturing both the featherweight and lightweight title in the Cage Warriors FC promotion.
Tom “Filthy” Lawlor (8-5-0) vs. Michael “Judo” Kuiper (12-1-0) -
More known for his outrageous weigh-in appearances, UFC middleweight Tom Lawlor is beginning to test his employer’s patience with his recent outings. Lawlor is never going to be a contender for the title but is more than capable of putting in exciting performances that prove to the UFC that he is worth keeping around. However, Lawlor is 2-4 in his last six appearances and in his most recent fight against Francis Carmont at UFC 154, he and Carmont conspired to stink the place out. Next up for Lawlor in his shot at redemption is the Dutchman Michael Kuiper. Kuiper, a black belt in judo, has made a steady start to his UFC career by bouncing back from a debut loss with a TKO victory over Jared Hamman at UFC 150 and will look to carry this momentum in to the fight.
Papy “Makambo” Abedi (8-2-0) vs. Besam Yousef (6-1-0) -
First up is an all Swedish match-up between welterweights Abedi and Yousef. Since joining the UFC in November of 2011, Abedi has lost in each of his two outings via first round submission and a third straight loss here would surely seal this particular Swede’s fate. Yousef meanwhile is also coming in to this fight off of a defeat in his UFC debut last April. While another defeat here would, again, likely result in a release; depending on his performance and whether or not there are any Swedish shows planned in the near future that need padding out, Yousef could possibly stick around for one more spin on the carousel.