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Flying Under the Radar at International Fight Week

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

With all the massive fights we’re going to see at International Figth Week in two weeks time, it’s understandable that a few of the contests have not been given the attention that they deserve.

From Brock Lesnar’s return to the rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, Rafael Dos Anjos defending his title against Eddie Alvarez and Joanna Jędrzejczyk meeting Claudia Gadelha for the second time, this time with a title on the line, it’s been hard to gather yourself and give yourself the time to look through the three cards that will take place on July 7th, 8th and 9th.

UFC 200 has so many amazing contests on its bill that even the heavyweight clash between former champion Cain Velasquez and Travis Browne isn’t really getting a lot of shine. The same can be said for a number of contests throughout the week, so here are some of the bouts that may have flown under the radar with all the media interest and fanfare that surround the headline contests of the week.

Photos by Jeff Bottari and Zuffa LLC

Alan Jouban vs Belal Muhammad

Belal Muhammad will get a baptism of fire on the main card of UFC Fight Night: dos Anjos vs. Alvarez when flashy striker Alan Jouban welcomes him under his new promotional banner.

An unbeaten prospect who just came off an impressive title-winning display against Steve Carl at Titan FC 38, it will be interesting to see Muhammad trade leather with an opponent who excels in the striking realm like Jouban.

9-0 Chicago native Muhammad has a background in boxing and wrestling, but he prefers to go about his business on his feet. Despite his punching prowess, the majority of Muhammad’s wins have come by decision. However, coming off his first annihilation of Brandon O’Reilly, Jouban will demand exchanges with the UFC newcomer.

Photos by Han Myung-Gu and Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Doo Ho Choi vs Thiago Tavares

This is a bit of a selfish choice due to my unhealthy fascination with Doo Ho Choi, but anyone who has seen ‘The Korean Superboy’ in action will be looking forward to his most challenging litmus test to date against Thiago Tavares. The pair is set to lock horns on the preliminary card for The Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs. Team Cláudia Finale.

Nearly a ten-year veteran with the promotion, the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt has proved quite a hit since moving down to featherweight. Each of his three performances at 145 lbs have resulted in bonuses, he even took a ‘Fight of the Night’ honor from his loss to Brian Ortega back in June. Since then, Tavares claimed a submission win over Clay Guida.

The stunning straight right hand of Choi’s has claimed him two first round finishes in as many outings against Juan Puig and Sam Sicilia. Should he claim another emphatic victory, expect a lot of people to catch on to the buzz that is building around this unassuming South Korean.

Photos by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC and Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports

Ross Pearson vs Will Brooks

With all the comeback announcements, Will Brooks’ signing with the UFC and the subsequent announcement of his fight with Ross Pearson has faded into the background to a certain extent.

It’s always interesting to see how champions from other promotions fare against the UFC standard, and Ross Pearson should give us a very good idea as to how far Brooks can go with his new employers. Coming under the new banner with an eight-fight win streak, Pearson’s intelligent boxing should pose a new problem for ‘Ill Will’.

With his last two wins coming by split decision, Pearson will want to put a stamp on his win to gain some momentum against the outspoken American.

Photos by Ed Mulholland and Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Sage Northcutt vs Enrique Marín

Love him or hate him, everybody is keen to tune in when Sage Northcutt gets into the Octagon and there may be more interest than ever in the clean-cut 20-year-old following his loss to Bryan Barberena via head and arm choke back in January.

That night, Northcutt’s first UFC bout as a welterweight resulted in his first professional loss. Returning to lightweight for his bout with Enrique ‘Wasabi’ Marín at UFC 200, there will be plenty of critical eyes cast over the celebrated karateka.

8-3 Marin’s first test of Octagon action finished in a split decision loss when he fought Erick Montano last November, but his tricky submission game will definitely pose some threats to Northcutt should he end up on his back during their clash.

Photos by Todd Lussier and Ralph Freso/Zuffa LLC

Johny Hendricks vs Kelvin Gastelum

When a former title contender meets a winner a TUF season, you’d think there would be a lot more excitement. Unfortunately for Johny Hendricks and Kelvin Gastelum, due to the UFC 200 card being inundated with spectacular encounters, their preliminary bout has faded into the background.

After coming off the most one-sided loss of his career to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, Hendricks will be looking to prove his status as title contender more than ever. Gastelum has lost two very close split decisions in his last three fights, so many are expecting to see him come out guns blazing against Hendricks.

The two fighters notoriously have trouble hitting the scales at the welterweight limit, so let’s hope the new weigh in framework will provide them with some solace on weigh in day. 

 

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