As the second leg of their European tour gets underway the UFC makes its debut appearance in Poland, Krakow to be more precise. A fierce local MMA scene has been prevalent for a few years and the UFC will look to capitalise on that with a small card packed with names and local fighters.
Let’s have a look at the odds provided by 5Dimes to see what stands out.
Calderwood v Moroz:
Joanne ‘JoJo’ Calderwood gets her first official taste of UFC action this weekend. The former TUF competitor made her formal debut on the TUF Finale card but this is where the real action begins in earnest. The unbeaten Muay Thai specialist appears to be getting fast tracked to a potential showdown with Joanna Jedrzejczyk in Glasgow, Scotland when the UFC makes its first visit in July. Plans can easily go awry as we have seen recently and JoJo will do well to keep her eyes on the prize against a tough debutant.
Fighting out of Ukraine is Maryna Moroz, a high level submission-based fighter. In only five professional fights she has been called up to the UFC as a potential contender at 115lbs. Sharing similarities with Ronda Rousey she is extremely reliant on her arm bar; it remains to be seen whether she shares the Bantamweight champions other attributes. While the Straw weight division is relatively shallow at present this is about as hard a debut as could have been expected.
With two undefeated records on the line it is clear that someone gains their first loss and it doesn’t take long for me to figure out who. Calderwood beats Moroz in just about every facet of her game with one exception, off her back. If she can keep the fight standing and utilise her striking then this ends early. If she gets taken to the mat then she stands a chance of losing but the experience should see her the better for it. She struggled to put away Seo Hee Ham in her last fight; I don’t think she’ll let that happen again.
Recommendation: Calderwood wins inside distance -111 (9/10) @ 5Dimes
Pawlak v Westcott:
In a strange appearance on the main card we have previous losers Sheldon Westcott and Pawel Pawlak squaring off. Matching losing fighters against losing fighters is no surprise, but it is when they are pushed so high up the card. Sheldon Westcott was a TUF Nations runner up in his only octagon appearance to date. As such he remains an unknown quantity at this level.
Pawel Pawlak has a similar background to his opponent, fighting only regionally until being called up for his UFC debut in Berlin, Germany where he faced Peter Sobotta. The UFC matchmakers were always going to have as many Polish fighters on this card as they could get and Pawlak gets another chance to shine in his homeland.
With Westcott previously fighting at Middleweight his size should be the key factor, if the weight cut goes without issue. Knowing little to nothing about either fighter I find myself looking at the rounds for an edge. Overs and Unders are no different to a coin toss. If you are offering me odds against on a coin toss then I am taking it, and with that I’ll be picking under 1.5 rounds at +145.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds +145 (29/20) @ 5Dimes
Manuwa v Blachowicz:
A latecomer to MMA, Jimi Manuwa found himself coveted by the UFC for a while before finally agreeing that he was ready for the big time. In his first few bouts he didn’t fail to live up to the hype, stopping three opponents in a row with medical intervention. Arguably given too big a step up in class against Alex Gustafsson in London he has had to re-evaluate his skills before dusting off and trying again.
In one of the shocks on the last Stockholm, Sweden card hometown favourite, Ilir Latifi, was brutally stopped out by Jan Blachowicz, with the Pole making his UFC debut. Although spending his career to date in the Polish KSW this should not be dismissed as a hugely lower level. Recent UFC fan favourites Houston Alexander and Rameau Sokoudjou both fought there, both losing to Blachowicz in the process. While true that both were past their prime it does show experience with higher level fighters.
Just over a year ago if you had asked me to pick between Manuwa and a Polish upstart then it was no contest. While Manuwa has never been the most rounded of fighters he had power, and a hell of a lot of it. The Gustafsson fight may have dispelled the myths surrounding him and Blachowicz finishing the durable Latifi inside the first will ask more questions than it answers. Despite a height and reach disadvantage if Jimi gets in the clinch then his punching power should see this end relatively early.
Recommendation: Manuwa wins inside distance -107 (20/21) @ 5Dimes
Gonzaga v Cro Cop:
In life you always hear the phrase “never go back, it’s not the same when you tread old ground twice” and this remains true to MMA. Rarely does a returning fighter capture the same glories as before. This is where Gabriel Gonzaga is at; two fights into his return from retirement and the knowledge that a third consecutive loss will probably see him retired again. On his day he is a beast, up until losing to Brendan Schaub he had only lost to the elite fighters of his division, but he has seen better days as losses to the aforementioned Schaub and Matt Mitrione will attest. He enters last chance saloon time against a pioneer, and legend of MMA.
Pride, K1, Dream and the UFC; these are just some of the organisations that Mirko Cro Cop has fought under. The majority of his time was spent him Pride where he forged a fearsome reputation as one of the greats. His time in the UFC has been less kind, losses to inferior opposition with the gold evading him and it was a mercy when he finally laid his gloves in the octagon and departed. At the ripe age of 40 he is back and ready to embark on another tilt at the top.
Without Bellator trying to sign up every veteran they could find then the UFC wouldn’t have gotten back in contact and we wouldn’t be having this fight. Other than as an exhibition bout it makes no sense other than to the participants involved. For both it may well be the last time they fight and I am sure that each will want to go out hand raised. Neither really has a chin left, Gonzaga was knocked out by Mitrione inside two minutes and Cro Cop was knocked out by Frank Mir. It really could come down to whoever is able to land the first real blow, or at least I hope it does. I am taking the ‘Unders’ on a coin toss and for the sake of sanity I hope it ends early.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds +100 (1/1) @ 5Dimes