There's a showdown in Prague... And we have four tips for you, including a double!
By Christian Broughton
This fight card marks the first European UFC event of 2019 and although it may not be stacked with household names, it promises to be action packed, whilst being on at a great time for the UK fight fan. The headliner for the card is a Light Heavyweight clash that promises an all-out war, with the winner throwing themselves into serious contention for the UFC LHW Belt.
Co-Main Event: Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (28-11-0) vs. Marcos Rogério “Pezao” de Lima (16-5-1)
In the Heavyweight Co-Main Event, we have one of the most well known European talents in Stefan Struve. Infamous for being the tallest fighter in UFC history (7’0” ft.) and his most notable win coming in a TKO stoppage victory over former HW Champ Stipe Miocic. Since his early success as a young up-and-comer to the organisation, his form has fallen with three straight losses, that have now consequently taken him out of the rankings.
Marcos Rogério de Lima is an eight-fight veteran in the UFC, having bounced between HW and LHW, although now finds himself in his second straight HW fight after missing weight twice in his last two LHW outings. De Lima has a history largely comprised of fights ending with early stoppage victories for himself or submission losses to his opponents (typically due to fatigue).
I’m tentative of Struve’s ability to take big shots but with his staggering 10-inch height and 11-inch reach advantages, I think he can maintain distance on de Lima and slowly outpoint him on the feet. If the fight hits the mat, Struve should have the grappling advantage, boasting 17 career wins by submission. His long limbs allow him to throw up dynamic subs off of his back and maintain dominant positions if he’s on top of a laboured grappling exchange. I’m picking Struve as the current underdog and also taking him to win via submission.
Main Event: #4 Jan Błachowicz (23-7-0) vs. #6 Thiago “de Lima Marreta” Santos (20-6-0)
Jan Błachowicz comes in on an impressive 4 fight win streak comprised of late finishes and decision victories, with two “Performance of the Night” bonuses and a “Fight of the Night” bout against England’s Jimi Manuwa at UFC: London last year.
Thiago Santos nicknamed “Marreta”, meaning “Sledgehammer” in Portuguese will be fighting in only his third LHW bout since moving up to the division (from Middleweight). He himself has just added two more bonus honours in his back-to-back spectacular KO/TKO finishes over Eryk Anders and the aforementioned Manuwa.
We can expect a fast start from Marreta as he likes to move in with malleolus intent and throw with reckless abandonment, his style always guarantees action from the off as he’ll look to back Błachowicz up against the cage and catch him with a devastating shot early. Błachowicz, however, will seek to slow Santos down and utilize his more calculated striking and underrated grappling. The fight is a close one to call as the odds suggest, but with Santos’ style, I can see Błachowicz (known for having a great chin) surviving the early onslaught to either wear Marreta down or even catching him early, just as David Branch did in April of last year.
Main Card/Prelim Double
Ankalaev (10-1-0) has looked all but unstoppable in the UFC barring his last-second shock submission loss to Scotland’s Paul Craig almost a year ago. If he looks as good as we know he can be, then there is decent value on him in his bout with the UFC newcomer Klidson Farias de Abreu (14-2-0).
Veronica Macedo (5-2-1) has not shown us a lot to her game so far in the UFC (currently 0-2 under the promotion), she does show some promise, however Robertson (5-3-0) looks to be the play. Robertson’s demonstrated enough skills against higher level competition to tell us that she’ll be able to chip away at Macedo and control the grappling with an expected strength advantage.