Whatever happens on Saturday night, give Darren Till credit for not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. In all combat sports, there’s plenty of barking going on, but too few want to bite. Till called for a big-name opponent, and when he got it, he took the fight. So does he beat “Cowboy” Cerrone in Gdansk? He’s got all the tools, but he’s got to put a smart pressure on the veteran and attack the body early and often with kicks. That leaves Till open to a takedown from Cerrone, and if the Coloradan gets it to the mat, he’s in his world. But if he can strike first, fast, and hard, it might not get to that point.
KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ VS JODIE ESQUIBEL
After Karolina Kowalkiewicz went five competitive rounds with Joanna Jedrzejczyk a year ago, it was kind of shocking to see her get submitted in a little over three minutes by Claudia Gadelha. Could it be the sign of a fall for the Lodz native? Probably not, and if it was, we likely won’t find out this weekend when she meets Jodie Esquibel. The Albuquerque newcomer, a former pro boxer, will give KK the standup fight she prefers, and if the ultra-cool, calm and collected Kowalkiewicz is still among the elite, this is her night to prove it.
JAN BLACHOWICZ VS DEVIN CLARK
A durable veteran who has been in with the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Jimi Manuwa and Ilir Latifi, Jan Blachowicz is in the dual role of gatekeeper and local hero when he faces Devin Clark. If Clark gets by the Poland native, he will take that next step in his promising career, but for Blachowicz, it’s a must win battle considering that he’s 1-4 in his last five. So he’ll need to call on all his experience while Clark will have to step up in the biggest fight of his career. It’s an interesting matchup that rightfully landed on the main card.
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JONATHAN WILSON VS OSKAR PIECHOTA
There are a lot of good things being said about Gdansk native Oskar Piechota heading into his UFC debut this weekend, and rightfully so for an unbeaten fighter with finishes in each of his nine pro wins. But don’t forget that his opponent, Jonathan Wilson, was hearing plenty of those same things just two years ago. Two losses to Henrique da Silva and Ion Cutelaba produced some subsequent question marks, and while a move to middleweight could get him back on track, it’s a warning to Piechota that fighting in the UFC is an entirely new beast.
MARCIN HELD VS NASRAT HAQPARAST
If you don’t believe in luck in the world of mixed martial arts, just look at the UFC run of Marcin Held thus far. One of the top free agents signed by the UFC last year, Held first had to face cardio machine Diego Sanchez in the high altitude of Mexico City. Then he loses a split decision to Joe Lauzon that even Lauzon believed should have gone in his opponent’s favor, and to top it off, in fight number three, he is far ahead against Damir Hadzovic heading into the third and final round, and he gets caught by a knee and finished. Now that’s bad luck, and he hopes to turn it all around in Poland against newcomer Nasrat Haqparast.
ANTHONY HAMILTON VS ADAM WIECZOREK
Late notice replacement Anthony Hamilton needs a win in a big way after being finished in his last three bouts, but things don’t get any easier when he meets 6-foot-5 Polish newcomer Adam Wieczorek. Wieczorek has finished all eight of his wins, six in the first round, so it will be up to Hamilton to weather the early storm and take this fight into rounds two and three, where he can use his experience to even the playing field with his opponent.
DAMIAN STASIAK VS BRIAN KELLEHER
Besides having the best nickname in all of MMA, Damian “Webster” Stasiak has become a popular and entertaining competitor in the bantamweight division, where he’s won two of his last three. On Saturday, he gets a home game against Brian Kelleher, a veteran who has the tools to end a fight at a moment’s notice. Just look to his UFC debut win over Iuri Alcantara for proof.
SAM ALVEY VS RAMAZAN EMEEV
Fighting for the fourth time in 2017, Sam Alvey jumped right in to replace the injured Trevor Smith against Octagon newcomer Ramazan Emeev, which tells you plenty about the fighting spirit of “Smile’N Sam.” But will he have the cardio for three hard rounds against Emeev after coming in on short notice? That’s the big question in a fight that can either keep the momentum going for Alvey after his August win over Rashad Evans or halt it completely.
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ARTEM LOBOV VS ANDRE FILI
The sleeper pick for Fight of the Night is right here between Artem Lobov and Andre Fili. Two hungry featherweights who throw hard and look for the finish, the winner of this one may be determined by who has to wade into unfamiliar waters first. For Fili, that means getting Lobov to the ground, but to do that, he may have to eat some thunder first, and it’s in those exchanges where Lobov could hold the edge.
SALIM TOUAHRI VS WARLLEY ALVES
Warlley Alves is a handful on a full training camp. On short notice, let’s just say Salim Touahri is obviously a confident young man with good skills on the feet and the ground who can make an immediate impact in a stacked division if he can pull off the upset over the Brazilian.
LINA LANSBERG VS ASPEN LADD
Highly-touted strawweight prospect Aspen Ladd was forced out of her UFC debut against Jessica Eye due to illness, but she’ll get her second chance this weekend against another striking specialist in Lina Lansberg. And while Ladd has won three of her five fights by knockout, odds are that she’ll be trying to test out her BJJ purple belt against the “Elbow Queen.”
FELIPE ARANTES VS JOSH EMMETT
After going 2-1 at lightweight in his first three UFC bouts, Josh Emmett returns to the featherweight division for Saturday’s matchup with Felipe Arantes. Arantes is also returning to featherweight after a 2-1 run at 135 pounds, and the main question will be who acclimates to the “new” weight class better. On paper, the edge has to go to Arantes, because the Brazilian won’t be dropping the extra weight, but if Emmett is able to make the cut well, this is a pick ‘em bout.