First up on FUEL is the 'brit-bashing' Matt Riddle going up against the Gloucester, England native Che Mills. Riddle's entire pro mma career has taken place inside the UFC octagon, a rarity in today's mma landscape. Che Mills has won two of three UFC outings, against Chris Cope and Duane Ludwig, with a loss to Rory MacDonald coming in between. Riddle is known for his warring style of getting hit and continuing to endure, though Fightmetric shows a higher strikes absorbed per-minute ratio for Mills, who eats 4.78 strikes every 60 seconds on average, compared to Riddle's 2.83. Riddle's average fight length is 13:49, whereas Che Mills clocks in at a 3:29 average fight length. They've both won two of their last three fights, and are looking to break away from the middle of the pack into the top-10 discussion. Riddle is a tough, durable fighter, his nickname is 'Deep Waters', after all, and it's going to come down to the level of finishing ability on the part of Mills. His two UFC wins were stoppages, and of Riddle's three losses, only one was by stoppage, at it was in the third round. I'm predicting Riddle takes everything that Mills can dish out, and 'Deep Waters' leaves the UK with a decision win.
Jimmo's UFC debut lasted a total of seven seconds, starching Anthony Perosh right out of the gate. As impressive as that feat is, it tells us little about Jimmo's abilities outside of his KO power. Te Huna also has a finishing instinct, with four finishes in five UFC wins. Te Huna is on a three fight win streak and Jimmo is on a 16 fight win streak. Te Huna's last fight lasted a lot longer than six seconds, but it was against the tough-as-nails Joey Beltran, who can endure a lot of punishment and still have some gas in the tank to unload a few powerful flurries. This fight has FOTN potential and KOTN potential, and now since I typed that out, it's sure to get SOTN, per usual. I'm going to take Te Huna in this one, as I'm not sure how Jimmo is going to do against someone who hits as hard as he does, and won't go down as easily as Perosh did.
The former Sengoku champion is back in the octagon, this time at 170 lbs, and takes on Icelandic prospect Gunnar Nelson. 'Gunni' is 10-0 in mma, all of which were finishes. Santiago has 25 wins in his 35-fight career, one of which came in the UFC, back in 2006. Santiago has never lost by submission, but there is a first time for everything, and I'm going to pick Gunnar Nelson to find a way to give him his first submission defeat.
The winner of this fight is going to have a huge feather in their cap and a great addition to their UFC resume. A win over Poirier would put Swanson on a four-fight win streak, a streak already containing wins over Ross Pearson and Charles Oliveira. Poirier has won six of his last seven, with a fight-of-the-year loss to Chan Sung Jung in there to break up his win streak. Swanson has the experience advantage, having fought since 2004, whereas Poirier started mma in 2009. Poirier has been showing leaps in his skill level everytime he enters the cage, and his move from Tim Credeur's gym to American Top Team should work to accelerate his progress even further. He has a tough test against the dynamic striking and grappling of Swanson though. Swanson has only lost in recent years to elite competition, like Aldo, Mendes, and Lamas. All of whom are well-rounded grapplers, even though his loss to Aldo was by a quick KO. I see Dustin Poirier feeling out Swanson's striking, and eventually taking it to the ground and pumping out a submission.
(Interim UFC Bantamweight Championship)
Michael McDonald has already says he does not care about titles. Despite his nihilistic pre-fight attitude, I do think Michael McDonald wants to be the youngest champion in UFC history. He's 22, and already has four UFC wins under his belt. Renan Barao has also fought and won four times inside the octagon, but against tougher opposition. Based on the fact that the UFC bantamweight division is still in it's infancy, Renan Barao is thus far the most dominant 135er in UFC history. Like I said, that is a very narrow statement, but it isnt untrue. Per Fightmetric, these two are very close to one another in strikes landed per-minute, strikes absorbed per-minute, and striking defense. There arent any wide chasms, on paper anyway, in the striking game. In reality however, Renan Barao is one of the most feared and dynamic strikers below Anderson Silva. Mcdonald has a higher takedown average per-fight (2.44 to Barao's 1.39), but doesn't defend them as well as Barao (95% to McDonald's 67%). Admittedly, this is a situation where until I see someone beat Renan Barao, I won't think that anyone can. A lot of people see Michael McDonald as that guy. I no doubt see that McDonald will have many title fights as his career continues, but in his first one, I see Renan Barao winning by decision.
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