This weekend was a good opportunity for Europe to make an impression in MMA. A UFC card in Prague and a Dublin card for Bellator allowed some of Europe’s top talent to shine, showcasing a lot of fighters who may not otherwise be in the spotlight. Both cards weren’t stacked with names but as is often the case with these type of events, especially in the UFC, this gave many of the fighters more motivation to step up and impress. Without further ado, here is my backseat matchmaker picks following UFC Prague and Bellator Dublin.
We start with Chris Fishgold, a man I originally wasn’t going to include. Along with many UK fans, I’ve been watching “Fishy” for a while now so it was very satisfying to see him pick up his first UFC win at the weekend with a second-round submission against Daniel Teymur. The reason I was not going to matchmake the former Cage Warriors champion is he has only had 2 fights in the UFC, a loss to a very good fighter in Calvin Kattar and now this win, so it is hard to really find an exciting opponent for him. If I was to book his next fight, it would be someone who is also still in the early days of their UFC career, giving both men the opportunity to build some momentum as they make their way towards being ranked. Then a name came into my head. Kron Gracie.
I couldn’t get this fight out of my head so I decided to put it in. Fishgold is a good grappler, not to the level Kron is at but the story of the fight would be can Chris Fishgold hold his own when grappling enough to keep the fight standing because we really haven’t seen Kron tested there and Fishgold is a powerful and experienced fighter. It’s an intriguing match-up that I don’t see happening but hey this is backseat matchmaker, it’s fantasy booking and that is a great fight.
Staying with UFC Prague, one of the most anticipated bouts on the card was between bantamweights Petr Yan and John Dodson. It’s a classic narrative of Yan taking Dodson’s place in the division with the young and dangerous prospect taking on one of the key staples of the division who remains a top contender. Dodson has a lot of merit in the UFC but has struggled to put together back-to-back wins since 2015, making him a perfect fight for Yan to announce himself as a top contender in the division. After beating Dodson very convincingly, I took to social media to judge the fans’ pulse on Yan and it was clear to me who people wanted to see him fight next.
The winner of John Lineker vs Cory Sandhagen sets Yan up perfectly whoever wins. If Lineker wins, Yan will take on another respected member of the 135-pound roster in a fight which many will feel he has a good chance of winning. If Sandhagen wins, it’s another winnable fight, this time against another guy who has been making a lot of noise in the past few months. Both are great fights and match-ups though it should be said I would not be mad at seeing Yan in there with the winner of Garbrandt vs Munhoz which takes place this weekend whilst Lineker vs Sandhagen is not until the end of April meaning that may make more sense schedule wise.
My final fantasy fight of the week is the first cross-promotion fight in the series. There are no rules to backseat matchmaker after all. James Gallagher was the clear star of the show at Bellator Dublin, submitting his opponent in the first round and satisfying a hungry crowd inside the 3Arena. His performance from a grappling standpoint was very well executed and he made good use of the platform given to him by Bellator. Matchmaking Bellator fighters can be tricky when wanting to look a little deeper as their rankings are not as clear and their roster of fighters is not as deep as the UFC‘s. Hence why I went elsewhere when trying to find another top European prospect for Gallagher to lock horns with. I considered Brett Johns and Nathaniel Wood in the UFC but decided they were on different paths currently to Gallagher.
I settled on Jack “Tank” Shore who is the current Cage Warriors bantamweight champion. This to me was the most compelling match-up of the bunch setting up the battle of Gallagher’s submission game and Shore’s dominating ground and pound style. Both are confident strikers also so this fight would be entertaining wherever it goes. The added flavour of Wales vs Ireland gives this fight that something extra to get the fans passionate about it and who knows, we may even see this one down the line at some point.
Thanks for coming by for another edition of backseat matchmaker, as always if you liked my picks or think you’ve got some better ones, get involved and let us know. See you next week when we will have potential picks from UFC 235, Bellator 218 and Cage Warriors 102.