UFC 120 Punch Drunk Preview

UFC 120 Preview and Predictions

Get ready for one hell of a run of UFC events over the next twelve weeks. The biggest brand in the business is ready to unravel seven events in the next three months, culminating with UFC 125 on New Year’s Day.

First up in the formidable schedule is the UFC’s return to the O2 Arena in London, featuring eight British fighters over eleven fights. Some are emerging young talents who are looking to establish themselves in the UFC moving forward, while others are household names aiming to climb back up the ladder into title contention.

Then there is the Brit competing in the opening bout of the evening.

James McSweeney (4-5-0) vs. Fabio Maldonado (17-3-0)

The UFC doesn’t employ many fighters with sub .500 records. Off hand, I can’t think of any other than the TUF 10 veteran, and even he will tell you that a win here is the only way he will remain on the roster.

McSweeney makes the move to the light heavyweight division after going 1-1 as a heavyweight. While he objected to some of the shots Travis Browne delivered while earning a stoppage victory in his last bout, the Greg Jackson trainee just hasn’t looked good in the cage. He was undersized as a heavyweight, so perhaps the drop to 205 will bring a little more success, but McSweeney is behind the eight ball heading to this bout.

Maldonao may not be someone you’ve heard of before, but his pedigree should give you some indication of what McSweeney is up against in this one. A member of Team Nogueira, the 30-year-old boasts an impressive 22-0 record as a professional boxer in addition to his 17 wins in 20 MMA encounters.

His last loss came to Alexandre “Cacareco” Ferreira, a fighter you’ll hear from in the UFC shortly, back in 2007. Since then, Maldonado has reeled off ten consecutive wins. To put it another way, the UFC newcomer has earned more consecutive victories than McSweeney has pro fights.

Spencer Fisher (23-6-0) vs. Curt Warburton (6-1-0)

The first of the UK newcomers to debut on this event, Warburton is a Wolfslair trainee who has split three fights with TUF 9 lightweight winner Ross Pearson.

From all appearances, Warburton looks like your typical scrappy Brit, with the majority of his win coming by way of TKO. This is normally the point where I would lament the fact that his wrestling could be the undoing of him, but (1) I have no idea what Warburton’s wrestling is like, and (2) he’s fighting Spencer Fisher.

I know that Spencer Fisher has solid jiu jitsu and could conceivably bring this fight to the ground and show us whether or not Warburton has any wrestling chops to speak of, but that just isn’t what Spencer Fisher does. No, he stands and swings and we love him for it.

“The King” is riding a two-fight losing streak, and despite signing a new four-fight deal earlier in the year, wins are the only way to ensure you remain employed, and that isn’t even always the case. Being the guy that welcomes the new British fighter to the company in his backyard should tell Fisher how much is riding on this bout.

Paul Sass (10-0-0) vs. Mark Holst (8-2-0)

A training partner of UFC lightweight Terry Etim, Sass brings his unbeaten record and penchant for submissions to the Octagon against Canadian Mark Holst. Unfortunately for my fellow countryman, this is his “thanks for helping us out, have a second fight” bout, having filled in against John Gunderson on short notice in his debut.

Unless you’re a native of the United Kingdom, or freakishly tuned into the UK fight scene, chances are you haven’t heard of any of the fighters Sass has beaten on his way to ten-straight wins. What you do need to know is that he has a slick ground game, with nine of this ten wins coming by submission, seven via triangle choke.

Holst has reasonable ground skills as well, holding a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and has beaten some reasonable competition on the Canadian scene, but he looks like a lamb to the slaughter here.

You have to think that the UFC would love to cultivate another British talent to trumpet, wouldn’t you?