Even though Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka put on a show after being promoted to the main event of the last Irish UFC card in October, there is a general sense that the island is owed something big when the world's flagship promotion returns to Belfast in November.
The calamitous countdown to the last event on the island saw both the co-main event and the main event pulled at the eleventh hour. Nine days ahead of the October 24 event at Dublin’s 3 Arena, Ben Rothwell’s bout with Stipe Miocic was called off after the future heavyweight champion sustained an injury. With no time to play with, UFC were unable to find a “suitable replacement” for ‘Big Ben’.
The Wednesday before the fight was set to go down, UFC also pulled Joe Duffy from his main event meeting with Dustin Poirier due to a concussion he suffered ahead of the bout. Poirier was offered Norman Parke as a replacement but decided to wait it out until he eventually claimed a decision win over ‘Irish Joe’ in January.
With UFC Belfast announced at the press conference for UFC 204 at the MGM Grand last week, both fans from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are hopeful that the card will pack a punch.
For that reason, we’ve taken a very optimistic look at how the Fight Night card could unravel.
Main Card – The Big Payback
Ariel Helwani’s report that claims honorary Irishman Gunnar Nelson is being targeted for the main event of the show against Dong Hyun Kim has created a lot of excitement ahead of the November 19 date at the SSE Arena. However, Irish fans will still want what they missed out on back in October.
Although he may not get such a big jump up in competition, you wouldn’t hear many fans complaining if the slick Donegal man was matched with Michael Chiesa for the co-main event.
Having lost out on a heavyweight bout at UFC Dublin in October, why not host the first UFC heavyweight contest since their initial trip to Belfast back in 2007?
Northern Ireland’s Colin Robertson came up on the wrong side of a second TKO to Eddie Sanchez that night, but based on the Rothwell and Miocic matchup Irish fans lost last time, surging European heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Daniel Omielanczuk would be an excellent clash for the main card.
To round it off, Aisling Daly may be able to return to action after a knee injury forced her out of her highly anticipated rematch with Michelle ‘The Karate Hottie’ Waterson at UFC Hamburg. Waterson remains unmatched since Daly’s withdrawal, and the former world championship duo would certainly get the party started in Belfast.
- Gunnar Nelson vs. Dong Hyun Kim
- Michael Chiesa vs. Joseph Duffy
- Francis Ngannou vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
- Aisling Daly vs. Michelle Waterson
Prelims – Fan Favorites and a Hometown Interest
Neil Seery has taken on a cult status in Ireland, and despite his loss at the hands of Kyogi Horiguchi last April, he remains as popular as ever. John Moraga and Seery are two names that fans have dreamt about in a meeting for a long time and with Moraga coming off two back-to-back losses, now seems like the perfect time for the two to meet.
Makwan Amirkhani has banked three wins in as many outings with UFC and seems about time ‘Mr. Finland’ gets a step up in competition. The promotion is in no rush to push the wrestling standout too fast, but New Zealand’s Daniel Hooker could be a perfect test for Amirkhani at this point. The fact that he frequents SBG Ireland strengthens his claim to a spot on the card.
Realistically, Magnus Cedenblad and Krzysztof Jotko would never appear this far down a Fight Night card. Cedenblad has gone 4-1 since his debut with the promotion in April 2012 and Jotko has gone 5-1 with his only loss coming to the towering Swede. It would be a very tasty rematch, but it is highly unlikely that UFC would pit two Europeans on the ascent against each other, especially so far down a card.
As a hometown Belfast boy, light heavyweight Karl Moore has been petitioning for a debut at the event. Currently 6-1, and with a lack of light heavyweight opponents on the European scene, the Fight Academy Ireland is primed for a debut with the world’s flagship MMA promotion after spending some time with Team Alpha Male over the summer.
- John Moraga vs. Neil Seery
- Makwan Amirkhani vs. Daniel Hooker
- Magnus Cedenblad vs Krzysztof Jotko
- Karl Moore vs. Ion Cutelaba
Fight Pass Prelims – More New Blood
At the head of the Fight Pass Prelims sits a fight that the European scene has been salivating for. Patrick Pimblett has captured the imagination of the European scene with his callouts of McGregor and Lobov, and if he secures the Cage Warriors featherweight title on September 10 the people will be clamoring more furiously than ever to see him in the Octagon.
Lobov is coming off his first win under the UFC banner at UFC 202. His opponent Chris Avila barely touched him during the 15-minute contest, and ‘The Russian Hammer’ is ready to step up to the plate in Belfast whoever the promotion put in front of him.
Peter Queally’s upcoming clash at BAMMA 26 with Joe McColgan is far from a given, but the word on the street is that if the Waterford man has his hand raised he will be given a contract by UFC. He recently put his name forth to step in to face Tim Means at UFC 202, but the lack of time available to get a visa cost him the shot, after helping Conor McGregor to prepare for his rematch with Nate Diaz.
- Artem Lobov vs. Patrick Pimblett
- Peter Queally vs. George Sullivan
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