This weekend at UFC Sao Paulo we see the return of one of the most interesting, exciting light heavyweights on the promotion’s roster.
Paul Craig might not have the most dynamic striking style, and he may not have steamrollered opponents in spectacular fashion with his knockout prowess, but what “Bearjew” brings to the octagon is something very different, and it has made his fights must-see matchups.
That’s because the former BAMMA light heavyweight champion always gives the impression that he’s flying by the seat of his pants when he fights. The UFC’s light heavyweight division, once-maligned, is now the hunting ground for a new crop of athletic, dangerous 205-pounders who are looking to make an impact in the months and years to come.
Craig knows this because he’s been thrown in with a host of them.
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From Australian fan-favourites Tyson Pedro and Jimmy Crute, to Russian danger man Magomed Ankalaev, Americans Kennedy Nzechukwu and Alonzo Menifield, Craig has found himself facing off against a host of light heavyweights who have been earmarked as possible contenders of the future.
As a result, his results have been somewhat mixed.
But he keeps getting these fights because there’s simply no quit in the man. That fact was displayed in remarkable fashion in London back in March 2018, when he found himself on the receiving end of a three-round battering at the hands of Russia’s undefeated Ankalaev.
This was a man who, to all intents and purposes, looked like a light heavyweight Khabib Nurmagomedov. And, for almost the full duration of the fight, he fought like him, too.
But Craig’s never-say-die spirit never left him and, with the final seconds counting down, he unleashed his own equivalent of a knockout punch, his submission game, as he fought from his back, trapped Ankalaev in a tight triangle choke and forced the tap with ONE SECOND to go.
It was the latest submission we’d seen in a three-round fight in UFC history, and undoubtedly the comeback victory of the year.
??????? @PCraigMMA has a habit of leaving it late! ? #UFCSP pic.twitter.com/jhNEz1P2Hk
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) November 13, 2019
Things like that don’t happen very often in MMA, yet Craig repeated the feat just two bouts later when, seemingly on his way to defeat on the cards against Nzechukwu, his trusty triangle choke came into play again as he finished his man with just 40 seconds of the bout remaining.
Both of those incredible come-from-behind wins not only gave Craig eye-catching submission finishes, they also saw him snap the undefeated records of both men as he proved that if you give him even a glimmer of an opening, he’ll take it like a flash.
Most recently, Craig picked up another submission victory, this time in the first round, against Vinicius Moreira, to send him into Brazil this weekend, where he faces the biggest name, and biggest test, of his mixed martial arts career.
Legend! ?@ShogunRua in his 38th bout this Saturday at #UFCSP! pic.twitter.com/17rio48ZRa
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) November 14, 2019
Craig takes on former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Roa in the night’s co-main event on Saturday. He’ll almost certainly need every ounce of his intestinal fortitude, and another show-stopping submission, to seal victory over the ageing, but still world-class, Brazilian legend.
If he’s successful, it’ll be the biggest win of his career. Defeat will be expected by many, but the man who hails from the Scottish Hit Squad will head into enemy territory ready to spring another shock.
After all, he’s done it before and if you’re looking for a long-odds value punt for the weekend, “Bearjew” might just be your man.
SELECTED PAUL CRAIG ODDS
Paul Craig to win by submission – 6/1
Paul Craig to win in Round 3 – 16/1
Paul Craig to win by submission in Round 3 (combo) – 22/1
* All odds correct at time of posting.