The UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and with that comes a Frdiay afternoon Fight Night. Fight Afternoon? I think so. While these Fight Night cards usually have a relatively weak undercard, there’s some good stuff here across a wide range of weight classes. Exciting? Yes. Even if Camozzi/Craig was taken from the card due to Craig’s sudden tonsillitis. But then, isn’t all tonsillitis sudden?
The prelim main event is a heavyweight fight between a fighter I’ve been hyped about for quite a while, Jared Rosholt (9-1), who is taking on Poland’s Daniel Omielanczuk (16-3). This fight is two very large men who predominantly grapple who just happen to have heavy hands. On paper, you have to look out for Omielanczuk’s submissions. He’s taken out 9 fighters via sub, but Rosholt’s NCAA Division I wrestling will more than likely nullify every bit of the Pole’s offense off his back. This will come down to a fight on the feet, where neither man is spectacular. Rosholt has a habit of eating a lot of shots, but as shown in his previous fight, he’s resilient as all hell. That isn’t to say Omielanczuk isn’t resilient as well – both men came back to win their fights against Walt Harris and Nandor Guelmino respectively, but this should end up on the mat. Then again, we’ve seen it time and time again, two accomplished grapplers testing each other on the feet… Either way, I give Rosholt the overall advantage, and considering these guys not finishing fight is as rare as them not finishing a meal, this should be exciting.
From heavyweight to bantamweight, we have Rani Yahya (19-8) will be taking on TUF’s Johnny Bedford (19-10-1). Basically, you have to think Yahya is going to tap Bedford here. Bedford is as scrappy as they come, and he’s gotten a lot better at defending the sub since joining the UFC, but I would be shocked if he could stave away Yahya grabbing at his neck for 15 minutes. Then, I’ve been down on Bedford since TUF, and I probably shouldn’t be. He’s as tough as they come, has great power for a bantamweight and has a huge heart. Still, as big as his heart is, he’s tapped out nine times over his career, and unless he can keep Rani at bay by using his 4-inch height advantage and wear down the fighter who is making his first cut to bantamweight in years, this could be a quick night. With both men coming off losses, you may see each of them go for their respective ‘home runs.’
Thales Leites (22-4) is putting his 5-fight winning on the line against gutsy middleweight Trevor Smith (11-4). You may remember Trevor Smith from his losing effort against Tim Kennedy in the final Strikeforce show, and in his Fight of the Night brawl against Ed Herman last July, which he also lost. Luckily for Smith, Dana White is a fan of his shot-eating, plodding style, and kept him on the payroll long enough for him to get his first win, which was by split-decision against Brian Houston at Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou in January of this year. Smith is a very good wrestler who grinds out submissions, while we all know Leites’ story – he’s a brilliant BJJ fighter who has come into his own in the striking department of late. While Smith is a gutsy performer, Leites has looked fantastic of late, and has complemented his BJJ with some solid striking. This should be Leites’ fight for the taking, but Smith is the type of guy who can make this a dogfight.
To open the show, as seems to be the tradition now, we have two fighters making their debutto the promotion. These featherweight fighters should have a lot to prove, as Jim Alers (12-1) is the former Cage Warriors featherweight champion and on an 8-fight winning streak, while his opponent Alan Omer (18-3) has won his last four fights. One thing to note – Omer has fought only once since 2011 – a February knockout win over Dennis Tomzek. Omer has16 finishes to Alers’ 11, which is an incredible ratio for both men, but Alers has fought better competition and is a lot easier to find tape on, thus he looks like the better bet. Alers has a ton of power in his fists and takedowns. While Omer is no slouch, and you have to suspect he spent part of those 3 years off honing his game, Alers is sharp right now, and is a welcome addition to the featherweight division. He’s quite the prospect actually. If you like your fights full of promise and up and comers – this one’s for you. Give Alers the edge, but fights like these, with those Octagon jitters and all, can get pretty weird.