The UFC attempts to hold two events on the same day on two different continents, the first of which will be held in Germany as the UFC returns to Europe's largest market, albeit with a smaller show.
Airing exclusively on Fight Pass, top middleweights Gegard Mousasi and Mark Munoz jockey for position in the contender ranks while a host of European talent gain more Octagon experience. Will Munoz defy the odds and get past Mousasi or is this the former Strikeforce champion's turn to put himself in line for a title shot? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC Fight Night 41 (UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi)
Where: 02 World, Berlin, Germany
When: Saturday, the six-fight preliminary Fight Pass card starts at 12:30 p.m. ET and the four-fight Fight Pass main card starts at 3 p.m.
Mark Munoz vs. Gegard Mousasi
Mousasi has lost fights or lost round he ordinarily wouldn't have if his takedown defense were better. The Mo Lawal and Keith Jardine fights stand out as two, but there are others. The fact is, though, he's made steady improvements in that phase of the game. While I don't think Mousasi can shut down Munoz's takedown game completely, I do think he'll do it enough to basically nullify it. And on the feet, Mousasi is just a significantly cleaner if more patient striker.
This is one of the tougher calls on the card. Both guys have very similar skill sets, although perhaps Carmont is a touch better as a striker. Still, this one is really one of those bouts where you ultimately have to decide who is ready at game time. I'm going to lean Carmont despite Dollaway's wrestling pedigree. I think the Frenchman is a bit more powerful as an athlete and more aggressive. I know Jacare was able to show he was the superior mat grappler, but I'm not sure Dollaway has those kinds of chops. I guess we'll find out.
I'm just not yet a believer in Barnatt. You see so many of these tall fighters in MMA and the UFC who simply have no use for their own reach. Barnatt is busy as a striker and that's serves almost as a proxy for reach, but not quite. On the ground, I don't think for a second Barnatt is deficient there, but he might be when you measure him next to Strickland. I like the American to take this to the mat where his strengths in positional control are just too much for the lanky Brit.
Backstrom is one of Alexander Gustafsson's teammates and a guy who makes a lot of noise on the Swedish MMA scene. His quick, powerful and undefeated with a nicely well-rounded game. The problem is he's filling in on short notice and doing so against a fighter in Tom Niinimaki who is superbly talented in all phases of the game plus has more experience against better opposition. I have a hard time seeing where Backstrom has the advantage anywhere. It's MMA and crazy outcomes take place, but this is Niinimaki's fight to lose.
From the preliminary card: