After what seems like a rather long hiatus, the UFC returns to the U.K. with a smaller card that carries less divisional implications than a stacked pay-per-view event. Still, it's a very commendable card with good prospects and talented veterans who need wins in what should be highly competitive affairs.
Can Hardy keep his momentum going against a 'TUF' winner? Will Struve finally begin to fulfill the promise of his career? Just how good is Stipe Miocic? I'll answer these questions and more in my predictions for UFC on Fuel 5.
Where: Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, England
When: Saturday, the five-fight Facebook card starts at 1:45 p.m. ET and the six-fight Fuel card starts at 4:00 p.m.
If Struve ever used his reach effectively, I'd be a big believer in him. But he doesn't. He consistently lets fighters inside of his reach, forcing himself into wild exchanges to counter or fighting off of his back after he crashes to the canvas. He's game and his guard is formidable. I'm also not entirely sure about Miocic's kickboxing at range. He seemed to look lost against Shane del Rosario. But if he can get inside on Struve, he can put Skyscraper in a position where he's historically shown to be a fish out of water.
I'm not a big believer in Sadollah even if I'm also not the world's biggest believer in Hardy. Head to head, though, this appears to me to be Hardy's fight to lose. He's a more devastating puncher who has fought much, much tougher opposition. Hardy's takedown defense is by no means impermeable, but should be sufficient for purposes against what Sadollah can offer. And Sadollah, while having shown improvement over the years, seems to have stalled out. There isn't a lot to dislike about him as such, but he doesn't have a ton of offensive firepower. Hardy, on occasion, does. That will be the difference.
I like Pickett here fairly big. I bet he could win this fight striking if he wants. He and Jabouin are a bit erratic, but he's still a great combination striker with fearless pocket presence. More importantly, Pickett is a great offensive wrestler. If the Brit so chooses, he can and likely will turn this into a defensive grappling affair for the Tri-Star product.
Yes, we all know Sass is brilliant with his submissions and is especially potent in the first round. I'm still not sold on him. His skill set is great, but ultimately limited and being a very good guard player has its limits. I'll be honest and say I'm not entirely convinced Wiman is the guy to get past Sass' formidable guard, but he does have very good submission defense fundamentals and mat awareness. I'll gamble and say that's enough this time.
Hathway seems inconsistent. On the one hand, he's able to get past Rick Story and Diego Sanchez. On the other hand, he has a close fight with Kris McCray and looks only 'ok' against Pascal Krauss. Maguire isn't a world beater by any means and Hathaway has enough advantages where he should win, but Maguire is a risk taker where Hathaway is not. That can make up for a lot of lost ground when matching ability against ability. I don't think that will earn Maguire the win, but I'm expecting this to be an extremely close fight.
It's a strange day when I'm picking Che Mills to be the better striker in a MMA fight over a long time veteran of Strikeforce and UFC, but today is that day I suppose. I like 'Bang' and truthfully this is as much a pick 'em fight as any on the card, but I'm not as convinced about his ability to take punishment as I am Mills'. Moreover, Mills is probably a better, quicker striker if overall less refined.