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27th Feb 2016

UFC London: SportsJOE picks the winners so you don’t have to

London calling


Drink it in because, win or lose, this could be one of the last times we’re going to see Anderson Silva take to the octagon.

The record-breaking middleweight legend takes on Michael Bisping who is hell-bent on earning his first UFC title shot in front of a sold out O2 Arena.

Two more middleweights will battle it out to join Bisping and Silva at the top of the pile at 185 lbs when Gegard Mousasi takes on Thales Leites in the co-main event.

Pendred-slayer Tom Breese features in what could be another demolition against Keita Nakamura and hometown favourite Brad Pickett looks to get right back into the win column against Francisco Rivera.

Here’s what our MMA writers’ records for the year look like thus far. 

Bourbon Ben Kiely: 18-9

Darragh The Quizmaster Murphy: 17-10

Anderson Silva (33-6-1NC) vs. Michael Bisping (27-7)

BK: Anderson Silva hasn’t had an impressive performance over a top quality opponent in what, four or even five years? The only fighter he’s faced who was in his prime in the last half decade was Chris Weidman, and we all know how those fights turned out.

In comparison, it all seems to be coming together for Bisping as although his body may be aging, his fight IQ has been steadily increasing. It may not be the popular choice but I think Bisping’s superior fundamentals trumps Silva’s lustreless flair. Gramps might even get KO’d. Bisping by decision

DM: Do I think Anderson Silva is the peak of his powers? No. Do I think Michael Bisping is at the peak of his? No. Do I anticipate you hating self-answered questions as much as everyone else? Yes.

People are hating on Anderson because of the fact that he must have aged considerably in his year away from the octagon in terms of his speed.

I don’t like to go off of guesswork and I might be in the minority in saying this but Silva’s performance against Nick Diaz impressed me a lot more than Bisping’s against Thales Leites.

Bisping almost threw that fight away whereas ‘The Spider’ was in control throughout his last outing.

Silva, to me, is the greatest of all time and I’m not picking against him when he’s up against someone of Bisping’s level. Silva by decision.

Gegard Mousasi (37-6-2) vs. Thales Leites (25-5)

BK: My faith in Mousasi will never be broken. Every time he gets some momentum going, he seems to get Lyoto Machida’d or Jacare’d back a few notches whereas, for a while there, it looked like Leites couldn’t be beaten.

The difference is, Leites wasn’t fighting the likes of Jacare or Machida. As soon as he got matched up with a top tier middleweight in Bisping, he lost. Mousasi is more experienced than the Count and poses a different type of threat that I don’t think Leites will be able to deal with. Mousasi via TKO (round three)

DM: Gegard Mousasi is one of the most well-rounded middleweights in the world, simple as.

Thales Leites doesn’t have an advantage anywhere in my eyes.

On the feet, Mousasi is more cerebral, more technical and more accurate. On the ground, Mousasi’s ground game has come on leaps and bounds to the point that it now takes a ‘Jacare’ to get the tap from him.

And it took a striker like Uriah Hall to take him out. Thales Leites isn’t ‘Jacare’ or Uriah Hall. He’s a one-dimensional fighter who, for want of a better word, is basic. Mousasi by decision

Tom Breese (9-0) vs. Keita Nakamura (31-6-2-1NC)

BK: To paraphrase the great Four Leaf Tayback from Tropic Thunder, after the first exchange, Nakamura will be begging for a body bag if it means a ride home. Breese is the future of the welterweight division. I’d fancy him to beat most ranked 170-ers right now, he’s that good. Breese via first round TKO (death)

DM: Tom Breese can do what he wants in this one.

He has some of the most promising boxing in the welterweight division and, if truth be told, you’d worry about Keita Nakamura here.

I don’t envision a situation that Breese even struggles to put Nakamura away, let alone a scenario in which he can be beaten. Breese via definite first round knockout

Francisco Rivera (11-5-1NC) vs. Brad Pickett (24-11)

BK: The old “whoever lands first” cliche might come into play for this one. Huge fan of Pickett, he always comes to throw down, but his high-risk style makes him susceptible to getting tagged.

Rivera’s not having the greatest of times in the UFC at the moment, but at least he’s the right side of 35 and can strike with the best of them. Rivera via KO (round two)

DM: SURELY Brad Pickett’s chin must give up sooner or later.

The 37-year-old has been in some absolute wars and it pains me to even hint at it but… what better stage than London to hang up his gloves?

This isn’t a call to sign his retirement papers as he proved in the first round of his UFC 189 clash with Thomas Almeida, he can still hang on the feet but every day that passes takes a little bit away from the veteran.

Rivera’s 1-3 in his last four fights fails to properly represent his talent and I just think he has too much power for Pickett, especially at bantamweight. Rivera via TKO (round two)

Norman Parke (21-4-1) vs. Rustam Khabilov (17-3)

BK: As much as I’d like to be biased, I simply can’t here. Parke wasn’t great against a Reza Medaddi who just came off the couch to fight at UFC Dublin. He did just about enough to get the victory, and if he is to defeat Khabilov, I expect it will be done by similarly unsatisfying means.

Parke is a great martial artist, solid in every department but not really spectacular anywhere. He can hold his own against anyone, which he proved with his impressive display of grappling against juice-head Gleison Tibau.

However, on that occasion, the Brazilian was given the nod by the judges. I get the feeling Parke is going to hang in there, have moments where he’s on the cusp of brilliance but ultimately be bested. The Dagestani’s sensational wrestling could prove to be the deciding factor between the two. Khabilov by split decision

DM: Yeah, I learned a long time ago not to pick against the Dagestani fighters.

I don’t know what’s happened in the past 12 months or so but the killer instinct that Norman Parke made a name out of seems to have abandoned him.

Reza Madadi was there for the taking in Dublin but he played it somewhat safe and that won’t work against Khabilov.

As good as Parke’s Judo is, I fancy Khabilov in the grappling exchanges here.

Plus, any lightweight with a victory over Jorge Mazvidal is a top of the heap fighter in my books. Khabilov by decision