When I first saw the hashtag #UFCRochester my heart skipped a beat.
Could the UFC REALLY be coming to my home town, bringing the ultimate proving ground, the world-famous octagon, to the historic Kentish city that was home to Charles Dickens during his youth?
Sure, we have a venue that has played host to live MMA events in the past. It’s true the Casino Rooms nightclub has held small regional MMA events in front of a couple of hundred spectators, and it’s certainly true that the venue has seen a scrap or two over the years (most of the unlicensed, pub-car-park variety). But a UFC venue it certainly isn’t.
Nope, instead of cabbing it into town for a local fight night, I’ll be burning the midnight oil with the rest of the UK and Irish fight fans to watch the action from Rochester, NEW YORK.
And while the venue may not be close to home, there are one or two familiar faces on a fight card that could well produce some exciting action.
BIG NIGHT FOR ‘THE MOTOWN PHENOM’
Detroit’s Kevin Lee (11/10) has been out of action for a while since his decision loss to Al Iaquinta. It seemed like victory in that fight would have propelled him into title contention, but an unexpected (by some, at least) defeat has thrown a spanner in the works of that plan.
So Lee has taken stock, moved up to welterweight and plans on immediately forcing himself into contention in a much more comfortable weight class for his body.
Standing in his way is one of the best all-round martial artists on the UFC roster. Brazil’s Rafael dos Anjos (4/5) is a former lightweight champion who has moved up to 170lbs with great success. Now he wants to get a statement win over Lee to put himself in line for a title shot.
Can Lee use his outstanding wrestling and grappling game to overpower dos Anjos, or will ‘RDA’ prove just too strong in all areas for a man making his 170-pound debut in the UFC?
The oddsmakers can barely split the two, with dos Anjos a narrow favourite at 4/5 compared to 10/11 shot Lee.
But I reckon Lee is a fighter with a higher ceiling at this stage in their respective careers, and and I’m taking ‘The Motown Phenom’ to edge it, most likely by decision.
CHARLES IN CHARGE AGAINST ‘THE CARNY’
Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira has faced Nik ‘The Carny’ Lentz twice before, and on both occasions he forced Lentz to tap out.
The first time was wiped out and changed to a no-contest as a result of an illegal knee strike that created the opening for the submission. But Oliveira left no doubt in the second matchup, as he submitted Lentz cleanly in the third round.
Now Lentz (11/4) is back for more, and it seems pretty sensible to follow the template set in the first two fights – especially when you consider Oliveira (2/9) has the record for the most submission finishes in UFC history (13).
And as impressive as that stat is, even more impressive is the fact that those 13 submission finishes came from his 14 career wins in the UFC. In short, when Oliveira beats people, he does it by submission.
And he’s likely to do it again on Saturday night.
‘HOT CHOCOLATE’ TO SCORE A SWEET VICTORY
Mixed martial arts throws up the odd ‘character’ from time to time, with viral videos of crazy moves regularly shared across the internet. One man who became the topic of some of those stories is Brazilian welterweight Michel Pereira.
His fighting style is unorthodox, to say the least, with pro-wrestling style moonsaults and some crazy off-the-cage manoeuvres punctuating his February fight with a less-than-elite level opponent for Asian promotion ROAD FC.
But for all the flash and showmanship, Pereira looked slow, sloppy and not too effective in what he was actually trying. Therefore it was something of a surprise to hear that he had been signed to the UFC, and even more of a shock to see them book him against Brit Danny Roberts.
There are levels to mixed martial arts, and based on the fun, but not all that good, footage of Pereira, he doesn’t look remotely on the same level as Roberts who had the chance of a hometown win taken from him by a controversial submission stoppage against Claudio Silva at UFC London in March.
But despite that heartbreaking loss in London, Roberts has the power to end your night, and spectacularly.
‘Hot Chocolate’ is a legit talent at 170lbs, and has been involved in some superb matchups during his UFC career. And with his pinpoint striking and excellent movement, he could make Pereira’s UFC debut a short, but painful, one.
*All odds correct at time of posting