The UFC continue their Fight Island schedule with another night of fights from the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi. The main event pits surging featherweight contenders Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige against one another, and despite losing Frankie Edgar vs Pedro Munhoz due to COVID, there’s still a number of brilliant fights on the main card. Read our preview below.
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs Mounir Lazzez
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-1) makes his return to the cage after a tough two years away from the sport. ‘Judo Thunder’ made a blistering start to his UFC career, winning four of his first five all by TKO/KO in the very first round, with his sole loss coming at the very capable hands of Omari Akhmedov. He faced charges of rape after an incident in March 2018, and after a long drawn out case, was found not guilty of any misconduct earlier this year and free to resume his career. Alhassan is very physically imposing and hits like a truck, while having a black belt in judo, he’s yet to showcase any of these skills in the octagon and as his ten first round stoppages would suggest, he’s a very quick and ruthless starter.
Mounir Lazzez (9-1) has made a name for himself in Middle Eastern promotions Desert Force, Brave CF and UAE Warriors and is set to make his UFC debut on Fight Island. The Tunisian is a knockout artist himself and was only signed by the company after his friend saw Dana White in a restaurant and showed him a video of Lazzez in action, White agreed to sign him on the spot. Lazzez has a scintillating set of skills on the feet, from a devastating array of kicks to a good all round boxing base, and is always looking to finish the fight with every strike. With 18 KO/TKO’s from 19 career wins between them, this ones almost guaranteed to end early and violently.
Molly McCann vs Taila Santos
The fourth and final Brit to fight on the second Fight Island card, Molly McCann (10-2) will be hoping to carry her brilliant 2019 form into the new decade. The likeable scouser rebounded from a demoralizing loss in her UFC debut to win three straight last year, and will be well aware another win here could see her set for a big fight next time out in the women’s flyweight division. McCann was Cage Warriors’ first female champion, stopping Bryony Tyrell at Cage Warriors 90 in the headline bout. ‘Meatball’ is much improved and is constantly adding more strings to her already sizeable bow, with her solid boxing game now being complemented with an ever expanding ground game.
Taila Santos (15-1) put together an impressive 15 consecutive wins on route to signing with the UFC, including an Aspera flyweight title triumph and win on Dana White’s Contender Series. Her debut did not go to plan though, as she dropped a split decision to Mara Romero Borella, and certainly has her hands full with McCann. Santos hasn’t fought since her first career loss in February 2019, and has seen bouts with Ashlee Evans-Smith, Ariane Carnelossi and Gillian Robertson fall out due to injury and bad luck. Santos has a huge six inch reach advantage over McCann, which could be pivotal if she is able to use it effectively, and generally prefers to stand and strike as can be seen from her ten TKO/KO finishes.
Jimmie Rivera vs Cody Stamann
Two top ten bantamweights will clash at the bigger weight of 145 lbs as Jimmie Rivera (22-4) is set to face Cody Stamann (19-2-1). Rivera has saw his rapid ascension faulter as he has come unstuck opposite the true elite of the division in recent times. Losses to Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes have forced ‘El Terror’ to revaluate and he now finds himself in a must win situation if he has any hopes of remaining in the title picture. Rivera has racked up 16 wins by decision and only six finishes thus far in his career and has not won a fight by stoppage since his UFC debut in 2015. Stamann is yet to stop an opponent in the UFC and will be looking for his first finish since 2017.
Stamann has overcome enormous personal trauma this year and will be looking for his second win under the current global circumstances. The 30 year old entered the UFC with a near perfect 15-1 record and has since gone 4-1-1 under the UFC banner, with his sole loss coming to Aljamain Sterling in 2018. A former NCAA division II wrestler out of Grand Valley State, Stamann combines his wrestling with tight pressuring boxing set ups that he displayed perfectly last time out against Brian Kelleher. With two men well equipped and comfortable with taking the fight the distance, this one could well be a three round fire fight.
Tim Elliott vs Ryan Benoit
Tim Elliott (15-11-1) has seen it all in the UFC octagon, and has tested himself against the very best of the best. Propping up the UFC flyweight rankings, Elliott comes into this one off the back of three straight losses and spoke of his anxiety of being cut for a second time earlier this week, but instead the UFC gave him a new four fight deal. Elliott is very well rounded, has a good wrestling background, good cardio and is overall a tough guy. The fact three of his last four defeats have come via stoppage is marginally concerning for the 33 year old, but with the security of his new deal we may see Elliott relax in there, safe in the knowledge he’s guaranteed three more fights win lose or draw.
Ryan Benoit (10-6) has had a tough run with the UFC thus far, and as a result has failed to string two consecutive wins together. Impressive victories over the likes of Sergio Pettis, Fredy Serrano and Ashkan Mokhtarian have been punctuated with losses to Josh Sampo, Ben Nguyen, Brandon Moreno and Alateng Heili, making Benoit essentially a 50/50 fighter. However, having never lost back to back fights in his career that may play a factor in this next outing. Benoit is a wicked KO specialist, often focusing more on speed and power rather than technique, making him a tough man to time and predict. While there are certainly holes in the other areas of his game, on the feet Benoit could pose some threats and Elliott will have to rely on his experience to prevail.
Calvin Kattar vs Dan Ige
For a fight card perhaps aimed more at the MMA hardcore’s than the casuals, it is perhaps apt two of the best kept secrets in the sport clash in the headline bout. Massachusetts very own Calvin Kattar (21-4) has had fans drooling over his watertight boxing fundamentals that have seen him become a serious contender at 145 lbs. With huge KO wins over the likes of Chris Fishgold and Ricardo Lamas, Kattar worked his way into a main event slot against the feared Zabit Magomedaharipov, and after dropping the first two rounds, roared back in the third, leaving many fans to wonder how the contest would’ve faired over the five round distance. He followed this up with a highlight reel TKO over Jeremy Stephens with a ruthless elbow in May.
Dan Ige (14-2) is coming off the biggest win of his career, albeit a controversial one over Edson Barboza and has won his last six fights after losing his UFC debut to Julio Arce. While Kattar is a master on the feet, Ige is much more well-rounded possessing very good boxing himself while also having much better credentials in the wrestling, judo and BJJ departments. Ige also showed in his last fight a brilliant chin, being able to take everything Barboza could throw at him and sticking in there till the end, something that could get tested again against Kattar. This one could be a brutal war and has all the hallmarks of a fight of the year contender, as well as potentially propelling one of them into the title picture at 145 lbs.