If you have the intention of watching all of the UFC fights on May 31st, this is where you will start. I'm warning you my friend, you will have a very long day ahead of you. Or perhaps this day will be your nirvana as you get to watch mostly high level competition all day. Whatever the reasoning, here is the essentials if you don't want to watch blindly.
Story Thus Far: Opening up his UFC career with a failed attempt to enter the house on the live edition of TUF, Dober went back to the regional scene going 5-1 with his only loss to Bellator interim champ Will Brooks. Getting a late call as an injury replacement in November at welterweight, Dober makes his lightweight debut in the Octagon and should find more success at his natural weight class.
Hein is one of the top German prospects if not the top one. Well... its hard to call a 30 year old who only recently made the drop to lightweight a prospect, but there you are. He isn't the only one on the card who benefitted from his German heritage in making it on this card, but he is the most deserving. With the MMA scene in Germany still fresh, he hasn't faced top competition, but has done well against some of the best Germany has to offer.
Fighting Style: If you look at Dober's method of victories, you'd get the wrong idea about him as he reminds me of a poor man's Donald Cerrone. He has 8 submissions and 2 KO/TKO's, but he is a kickboxer more than anything as he throws a lot of kicks to... well, everywhere which belies his stocky frame. But even more telling is that two of those subs came by way of strikes. Once he gets his opponent staggered or knocked down is when he goes in for the sub, preferably a RNC. Thats about the only solid grappling he has as he is a poor wrestler.
Hein's judo is highly apparent in his fights. He exhibits great balance and agility and has a wide arsenal of trips and throws to get the fight to the ground, so he is great at dictating where the fight takes place. He doesn't show a lot of grappling prowess (just enough to get by), but even scarier is his very apparent discomfort on his feet. His fists are the only weapons he uses with any sort of regularity and its obvious he feels out of his element. Get his opponent on the ground and he can apply GNP... but who ever looks uncomfortable doing that?
What to Expect: Classic striker vs. grappler match... in a way. Dober is clearly the striker and will look to throw a lot of kicks and punches at Hein. He'll be wary of closing the distance as Hein's trips and throws are awesome. I'd expect a focus on Hein's legs to go after his base to take away some of his balance. But Dober is solid at looking for openings and will go where the opening is for his strikes.
Hein knows his only hope is to close the distance. Even if he was a more rounded striker, he doesn't have a reach advantage and it would be stupid to ignore his judo. I'm not sure if Hein will know what to do with Dober once he gets him on the ground (Dober is much more savvy than any one else he has faced), but he will get it there.
Hein's best chance will come if Dober is going for the kill. Hein is very much a point fighter and will look to score takedown after takedown. If Dober is aggressive with his kicks, he could leave himself wide open to those takedowns. I haven't seen Hein's chin tested, so I don't know if it can withstand a lot of punishment. But I have seen improved movement out of him.
X-Factors: As Hein's level of competition has risen, his finishes have dried up as he ones just one since 2010. Dober will have to cross the Atlantic for the fight, but Hein has never been under the bright lights of the Octagon. I don't think Hein has ever made the cut all the way to 155 either, though he has been close.
Who Will Win: Either Hein grinds this one out or Dober tees off on him all night. I feel as though Dober's additional experience pays off for him here, as does his more apparent killer instinct. I don't recall seeing Hein face a grappler of Dober's caliber and he pays for it here. Dober by TKO 3rd Round
Story Thus Far: Cedenblad is Alexander Gustafsson's teammate and has one of the most likeable personalities in the sport as he is anything but stuck on himself. He lost his UFC debut to Francis Carmont (no shame there) and followed that up with a victory in under a minute over Jared Hamman. Cedenblad doesn't look like the type who would stick around the organization for a while at 32, but it isn't like he is a gimme by any means.
Jotko surprised a lot of people with his debut over Bruno Santos where he outgrinded a well-known grinder. He has some good physical tools to work with, but there is still a lot about him that is largely unknown. As a result he could be a dark horse to develop into a contender over the next few years or he could end up washing out of the organization in a year or two. Its hard to say.
Fighting Style: Cedenblad is a scrapper through and through. A lanky 6'3 with a 79' reach, Cedenblad prefers to stand and let the fists fly first and foremost. When he gets the dominant position on the ground he is tough as hell to get rid of and will rain down some good GNP on his opponent. His biggest problem is when he doesn't get the dominant position. I know that sounds obvious, but he lets more damage through than most and is fairly easy to control as 3 of his 4 losses have come by submission. For Cedenblad, it is more important than it is for most to make the first move count in the fight.
I can't recall Jotko being in an aesthetically pleasing fight. In space he looks uncomfortable and unsure of himself. His style looks awkward, but it looked as though it works for him as his opponents aren't sure what to think of it. He rarely comes forward with strikes. If he does come forward it is to close the distance and clinch up in order to get the fight to the ground (remember I said he outgrinded a grinder). A brown belt in BJJ, he does a great job of avoiding damage in disadvantageous situations as well as good submission defense.
What to Expect: This is fairly easy to figure out. Cedenblad is the much more polished striker and will look to keep his distance from Jotko and pick him apart with a combination of leg kicks and jabs. Jotko certainly wants to close the distance, but he was reluctant to be the aggressor against Santos as he waited for the Brazilian to initiate. He can't do that with Cedenblad as Cedenblad has zero interest in fighting a style of fight that favors Jotko. Jotko will absolutely need to close the distance.
Cedenblad has shown little resistance to being taken down, but I haven't exactly been impressed by Jotko's takedown abilities either. I'm prone to believe that Jotko will own the advantage in this area though as he has more room for improvement between the two, not because he is the worse, but because he has the higher ceiling.
I expect Jotko will try to lure Cedenblad into a brawl. His punches are solid from a short distance and Cedenblad doesn't look as solid with the distance closed. Cedenblad seems to be excitable and I can see him forgetting his game plan and going balls out for the victory and wade into territory that Jotko is comfortable with. If he does, look for Jotko to push things against the fence if he can't ground the Swede.
X-Factors: Neither fighter has been terribly active as of late, but this will be Cedenblad's third fight since 2012. Inactivity leads to ring rust. When you throw in the fact his last fight was less than a minute... Cedenblad could look rusty out there.
Who Will Win: Every time I watch Jotko I get the feeling that his greatest ability is that he finds a way to win. You wonder how he does it... but he does. Cedenblad struggles with grapplers and that is what Jotko is most comfortable doing. It will likely be a boring affair, but Jotko will pick up his second UFC win. Jotko by Decision
Story Thus Far: Alcantara was looked at as a dark horse candidate in the bantamweight division after he made the drop to 135 and promptly destroyed his first two opponents (the fact one of them ended in a no contest is irrelevant). Urijah Faber stomped out that idea last summer, but not without suffering his own scare from Alcantara. At 33, Alcantara is an older bantamweight and will need to move quickly to make a run at the title.
Lee was looking at a potential release heading into his last bout with Nam Phan if he lost as his record was at 2-3 with his victories coming over a pair of fighters without a UFC win on their resume. Then he came out like a man possessed against Phan and put on what was easily the best performance of his career. The only thing missing was the finish. The question now is whether that performance was a one time affair or if he has turned the corner.
Fighting Style: Alcantara is a massive bantamweight and knows how to use that to his advantage. The question is in what way will he use it. Will he use his long 71' reach to keep his opponent at a distance or will he overwhelm his opponent using his more than solid top control? Clearly it depends on the situation, but Alcantara is very well-rounded to allow him to fight accordingly. His black belt in BJJ is legit and he has a lot of power in his punches and the roundhouse kick he favors. Scariest thing about him is the speed he has for his size as he can flurry and have his opponent out before they know it.
Lee came into the UFC with a reputation as a submission artist, but has largely tried to avoid the ground in his last few fights... including two submission losses in his last four fights. A good amount of that is due to the fact that he is undersized for a bantamweight and can be overpowered on the ground. He is an expert scrambler though and is most dangerous to slap on a quick sub in that situation. He throws a lot of leg kicks and a solid boxing game that is mostly limited by his lack of reach. His head movement looked much improved against Phan as Phan only landed 12% of his strikes. Damn.
What to Expect: Alcantara represents the type of fighter that Lee has had problems with in the past: large for the class with a serious ground game. Alcantara always seems to be aware of what his opponent does best or what they struggle with and he is going to try and smother the smaller Lee. If Lee won't go down he'll put him against the fence or in the clinch and use his knees to wear down the Englishman.
Lee found a lot of success with his boxing against Phan... but when was the last time Phan had any success in taking a fight to the ground? He knew he could box with Phan without any worry of being taken down. Won't be able to do that with Alcantara. Lee looked like a world-beater against Phan, but he is going to be much more cautious against Alcantara. He won't be able to stay in the pocket with Alcantara's reach, so look for him to dart in and out using a lot of angles.
In somewhat of a contrast to an earlier statement (the one where I said "If Lee won't go down"), Lee doesn't possess the best takedown defense and if Alcantara wants his opponent down, he usually goes down. You see where I'm going, right?
X-Factors: Alcantara has never fought in Europe whereas it is Lee's native continent. Chew on this though: Lee's three UFC losses have come to Chris Cariaso (top 10 flyweight), T.J. Dillashaw (UFC bantamweight champ) and Raphael Assuncao (potential top contender). The man has been facing some beasts. Another fun fact: All of Lee's UFC victories have come against those of Asian descent (Kid Yamamoto, Motonobu Tezuka, and Nam Phan).
Who Will Win: I maintain that this is the type of match that Lee loses. I had heard rumors that Lee was considering dropping to flyweight which would have been brilliant for him as he could avoid these matches. Alas, he didn't and I he pays the price for his choice here. Alcantara by Submission 1st Round
Story Thus Far: One of the best things a fighter can have going for him is to be of the nationality of a country the UFC is trying to make headway into. Without that, its likely Sobotta wouldn't have made it back into the UFC. It isn't that he is a bad fighter and he has gone 5-0-1 since his first stint in the UFC (in which he went 0-3 and never won a round)... but is it just by chance that the UFC signed him back when they are making a return to Germany? I don't think so.
Pawalak is Polish... which isn't quite Germany but is close enough. At 25 he may actually be a prospect that hangs around for more than his nationality. The Polish scene is still developing, but he is one of the best fighters on the scene and has finished 9 of his 10 opponents, most of them by KO/TKO. With a good camp he legitimately could develop into a mainstay for the UFC.
Fighting Style: Sobotta has a hell of a kicking arsenal which is kind of ironic cause none of his KO/TKO's have come by way of kicks. The problem is that his boxing is still rudimentary, which means if he isn't given the proper space to get his kicks off he is in trouble. His grappling is his best asset as he owns 9 victories via submission, most of them via RNC. His problem in the UFC was being able to get the fight to the ground as he isn't very big and strong and his technique is good-but-not-great. He has shown improvement as he has won 5 fights in a row via RNC, all within the first round.
Watching Pawlak the first word that comes to my mind is patience. He isn't in a hurry to make anything happen whether he is on his feet throwing kicks and punches or on the ground waiting for an opening to develop. As young as he is, that could be his biggest strength as he doesn't create a lot of openings for his opponents to capitalize on his mistakes, particularly in his grappling. I can't recall him stringing together any combos (unless you count a feint followed by a leg kick), which will affect him more at the higher level due to his lack of power.
What to Expect: Pressure fighters are the best against Sobotta... but that really isn't Pawlak's style. Being content to wait for things to happen while throwing one punch at a time is the worst thing you can do against him... and that is is Pawlak's style. Sobotta is going to attack him with a large variety of kicks and will likely find a home for them as he is pretty good at stringing them together. Sobotta hasn't been a high volume striker... but he'll look to be.
If the fight goes to the ground, look for a standstill between the two of them. They both have solid ground games and I don't see a major advantage that one has over the other. Sobotta is the more aggressive in seeking position of the two whereas Pawlak has been more aggressive with his GNP. I expect Pawlak will trust his ground game more than the German and will look to take it there more actively. Sobotta has a good sprawl though and Pawlak's takedown abilities don't seem to be at the UFC level.
Two areas Sobotta struggled at in his previous UFC stint: working in the clinch and stopping his opponents leg kicks. Pawlak is only OK from the clinch, but he does throw some good leg kicks. Look for a lot of the latter to try and wear down Sobotta.
X-Factors: Even though Sobotta has been overwhelmed by each of his opponents in the UFC, he has at least shown good composure and been to the big show. This will be Pawlak's first trip. Octagon jitters perhaps?
Who Will Win: This is likely to be a very close match as neither fighter has a major advantage over the other. Sobotta's experience is what I'm looking at as the edge in this fight. Are Paul Taylor, James Wilks, and Amir Sadollah world beaters? No, but they are better than anyone else Pawlak has faced. Sobotta by Decision
Story Thus Far: It is damn near impossible not to like Ogle. The spunky Brit was introduced to the UFC world on the live edition of TUF and was immediately seen as the underdog, a role which is still applied to him. His 1-3 record in the UFC really isn't disappointing... more appropriate. His fighting spirit is what keeps him around and I'm not disappointed to see him get Leonard Garcia treatment despite coming off of loses to Cole Miller and Charles Oliveira.
Blanco is the polar opposite of Ogle. Blessed with an abundance of natural physical gifts and a successful run in Sengoku as well as the title of Lightweight King of Pancrase, Blanco also sports a 1-3 record in the UFC, including one of those losses by DQ. If Blanco is ever able to get the mental side of the sport down, he has the ability to become a contender. For now though, the loser of this fight is likely unemployed.
Fighting Style: Ogle is the definition of a scrapper. He doesn't have a lot of power in his punches and isn't a submission expert by any means, but he is always there at the end of the fight and you won't ever doubt the effort that he puts forth. His submission defense has been excellent as he went the distance with Josh Grispi and Miller, two reputed submission artists as well as resisting numerous attempts from Oliveira before succumbing. A kickboxer more than anything, Ogle has a nice left jab and hook with some good accuracy, but isn't going to put many to sleep at this level. He isn't exactly all that sharp with his movement either and tends to get hit a good amount.
Blanco is a world-class wrestler... at least on paper. He participated in the 2007 Pan American Games in freestyle wrestling and damn near medaled. But since he transitioned into MMA he has discovered that he enjoys hitting people a lot more. His repertoire is limited by nothing as he throws wild punches, kicks, knees, elbows... I'm sure he'd evoke memories of Mark Coleman if head butts were still allowed. Since he was recently DQ'd against Akira Corassani and was deducted a point for a groin strike in his last loss to Felipe Arantes, Blanco may be gun shy about turning the fight into a brawl.
What to Expect: Blanco would be stupid to try and change his strategy. He is at his best on the attack and being aggressive. Yes, it has cost him, but the worst thing a coach can do is make a fighter something that he is not. Coming out of Jackson's MMA, Blanco's coaches understand this. Blanco will come out hard and fast at Ogle, especially considering he has a decisive size and strength advantage over Ogle. He could easily end up overwhelming him as he did to Corassani until the illegal knee occurred.
Ogle hasn't done a bad job of stopping takedowns, but hasn't dealt with an animal like Blanco. I may have made it seem that Blanco has abandoned his wrestling which isn't true at all. His most efficient strategy is when he does a quick double leg into quick GNP. Ogle needs to be aware of this. Ogle would much rather stand and trade as he is a much more technical striker. Though I said that Ogle has good submission defense, that is irrelevant with Blanco.
If Blanco ends up committing a foul, he's likely finished. After he was deducted against Arantes, he lost all passion and fought a very conservative fight to lose a decision. Ogle won't quit coming, even if Blanco has given him a beating. Blanco will need to be aggressive, but can't go overboard or he will beat himself one way or another.
X-Factors: Ogle has a gas tank that will go all day and Blanco has shown a good one too. But if Blanco has one of his go-for-broke flurries and Ogle survives (very plausible), will he have the tank to finish the fight? Blanco's mental state is by far the biggest X-factor. Will he be there.
Who Will Win: I've been burned by Blanco his last few fights. He is undeniably talented. But he is also a head case. I'm sure I will regret this, but I'll put my neck out there for him one more time. Ogle is the definition of heart and I won't be surprised if he finds a way to pull it off... but I still feel like it will be Blanco. Blanco TKO 1st Round
Story Thus Far: This is a battle of European big men as the UFC continues what seems to be an endless and futile attempt to build depth in the heavyweight division. Pesta is young at 23 at a solid 240 lbs. on a 6'4 frame. He has only beat youngsters fresh to the scene and a veteran that it seems everyone in Europe has beat. The Czech Republic native is very rough around the edges, but has a long way to go.
Magomedov has actually beat two notable UFC veterans (and former champions) in Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez. Then again, if you look at their recent resume and it isn't quite the accomplishment it would seem to be. The Dagestani has a similar frame to Pesta and has that he is from Russia going for him. Don't tell me you haven't noticed the success of his fellow countrymen? Its also worth noting he has spent some time with Greg Jackson's camp.
Fighting Style: Pesta is aggressive and reckless as he rushes towards his opponents unleashing a barrage of haymakers that have little if any technique. That isn't to say that he doesn't train any technique as his Muay Thai clinch is impressive and follows with very good knees. But the standup isn't where he wants it. His favorite position by far is the mounted crucifix where he can rain down elbows and punches on his opponents head with little resistance until his opponent submits or the ref steps in. He has great power in his takedowns, but little technique. He needs to improve there at the next level or he is in trouble.
Magomedov is much more patient and allows the action to come to him. I don't want to call him a counter puncher (though he certainly can do so), but he'll let his opponent wade into range before unleashing a short combination of kicks and/or punches. Speaking of his kicks, he does a great job of mixing them to the head, body, and legs which isn't something you see out of men his size too often. To put it simply, he has a kickboxing background in there somewhere and I'd believe its his base.
What to Expect: This should be spelled out pretty damn simply. Pesta is gonna come out swinging at Magomedov and try to overwhelm him early. Magomedov is perfectly comfortable with this and it may (I said may, not will!) play right into his hands as Magomedow could catch Pesta with a combination and stun him. Then again, Pesta could just as easily catch Magomedov off balance and floor him for his GNP.
Everyone knows that heavyweights have a tendency to avoid going the distance and Pesta's style lends to this statement. But Magomedov's doesn't. Pesta's aggressiveness will decide this. If he respects Magomedov's striking and doesn't rush in there, it will drag out. But I can't recall having seen Pesta sitting back like that.
Outside of Pesta outmuscling opponents to the ground to pound things out, neither have shown a lot on the ground. Magonmedov seems he would be easy to get to the ground and he hasn't shown any great ability to get back to his feet without the refs help. But he did show some offense from the guard a few years back with a nice armbar submission. Pesta could get himself caught as few of his opponents have shown any type of ground defense much less offense.
X-Factors: I haven't seen Pesta go the distance (he has done it, I just can't find the footage), so I don't know if he has a good tank. Magomedov does. I also think Magomedov's experience fighting larger names will help him out as both make their UFC debut and will be dealing with jitters.
Who Will Win: This is a very difficult fight to predict and I could see it going either way. I haven't said anything yet about Magomedov's composure though (he doesn't get rattled) and I think that will be the difference. Pesta will suffer an adrenaline dump midway and Magomedov will capitilize on that. Magomedov by TKO 2nd Round
Record for last Card: 6-6 Record for Year: 107-69-1