UFC Fight Night 30 Date: September 4, 2013 Arena: Phones4u Arena City: Manchester, England Middleweight bout: Andrew “Highlight” Craig (-185) vs Luke Barnatt (+160) Fight Breakdown: The UFC Fight Night 30 preliminary card on FOX Sports 2 will feature a barnburner between two middleweight prospects in Houston’s Andrew “Highlight” Craig and England’s own Luke Barnatt. Craig is currently the favorite heading into this bout at -185 ($185 to win $100), while the kickback on the underdog Barnatt is +160 ($100 to win $160) at Several Bookmakerss. ANDREW “HIGHLIGHT” CRAIG (9-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) is set to make his fifth Octagon appearance, coming off a split decision win against Chris Leben at UFC 162 nearly four months ago. That made it three wins in the promotion for Craig, but although I think he is a talented mixed martial artist, I don’t believe he has been very impressive in his time inside the UFC cage. His first victory in the promotion came against the Australian Kyle Noke. Noke won the first round, then blew his knee out, and ended up losing the final two rounds because of that fact. I had picked Noke to win that fight and his knee screwed both of us. Craig was unable to finish a one-legged opponent, but he managed to walk away with a 29-28 win. His next time out was against the Brazilian Rafael Natal, a fight in which Natal dominated Craig for the majority of two rounds, and nearly finished him in the second. Craig showed incredible heart and durability by being able to take Natal’s shots and survive. He made a recovery, got the fight back to the feet, and as Natal got overly confident, Craig landed a beautiful headkick that put the Brazilian to sleep. He followed that by losing for the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career, in a fight against another Brazilian in Ronny Markes. It was a close fight, but Craig came up short. In his next and now last outing against Leben, he did enough to walk away with the judges’ nod. The 27 year old Houston native is a talented striker who started training in Karate during his childhood. While playing football and hockey, the athletic Texan began to dabble in wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and fell in love with grappling and submissions, which started his road to MMA. Craig is well-versed in the sport and is a well-conditioned athlete. He still trains out of his hometown of Houston, T.X., which I feel may be a mistake. He needs to move to a more renowned gym to better hone his skills and further his career. That said, he is a tough fighter who is always a threat, regardless of where the fight goes, and he will be game for a 15 minute war on enemy soil against the Brit, Barnatt. LUKE BARNATT (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over fellow The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 17 cast-member Collin Hart. Barnatt made it to the quarterfinals on the series, but was eliminated by Dylan Andrews. He is a tough fighter who has exceptional striking skills and is fun to watch on the feet. He loves to finish opponents, having four finishes in six professional mixed martial arts bouts. Two of them have been knockouts and two were submissions, but the submissions came after he hurt his opponents with his limbs, at which point he secured his chokes. Barnatt moves around the cage well, has good footwork, and puts together excellent combinations. He works well inside the clinch, as well, preferring to use vicious knees and elbows to hurt his opponents. His conditioning seems to be improving, but I don’t think he will have an advantage in that department as he heads into this bout. If anything, Craig will have the cardio advantage. Barnatt will undoubtedly have the reach and height advantage, but he might have trouble using it to his benefit against a fighter like Craig, who is both very tough and talented. The Brit has good takedown defense, and if taken down, is capable of holding his own on the mat. That said, should the fight hit the mat, that is another area where Craig will have an advantage, and I would not be surprised to see him stopping Barnatt with either strikes or a submission. Fight Prediction: I think Craig will push the pace and start to hurt Barnatt. He will keep the pressure on the entire fight, either winning a decision or stopping him. If this were a five-rounder, I would have all but guaranteed a stoppage, but in a three round fight, it’s not quite as likely. That said, I like — Gabe’s Pick: Andrew Craig by TKO (punches, 4:47 round 3) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Andrew Craig -170 for a big play, and keep an eye out for Craig in Round 3 at huge dog odds for a small play.