After a small break in action the UFC returns this week, as the ultimate proving ground sets up shop in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb.
While the last UFC bout seems like an eternity ago, with all that’s happened in the MMA world, after just a three week break, the UFC returns this weekend for the first card in a three-week run of successive cards, culminating in Las Vegas with UFC 197.
In part 1 we take a look at the first three fights on the main card, which is stacked with four heavyweight bouts, a light heavyweight bout and a women’s strawweight bout.
Maryna Moroz vs Cristina Stanciu (Strawweight)
In the first fight on the main card, Ukranian fighter Moroz (6-1) looks to bounce back from her first defeat in MMA as she takes on UFC newcomer Cristina ‘Barbie’ Stanciu (5-0). Hailing from Romania, Stanciu has an impressive four first round stoppages in her five MMA bouts.
Moroz will prove to be a huge step up in competition however, and with two UFC bouts under her belt Moroz is likely to be the more comfortable fighter. Moroz herself has finished all six opponents she has beaten to this point, five in the first round and five via armbar. Her sole loss came against Valerie Letourneau in August of last year.
Igor Pokrajac vs Jan Blachowicz (Light Heavyweight)
The second of two Croatian fighters to face each other on the night, Igor Pokrajac (25-12, 1 n/c) returns to the UFC after a poor first stint with the company going 4-7, 1 no contest under the UFC banner last time out. Since then Pokrajac has won three in a row, all first round stoppages.
Pokrajac will be thrilled to be getting a second bite of the cherry in his home country. His opponent Jan Blachowicz (18-5) is an extremely tough first test for the Croat on his return. Hailing from Poland, Blachowicz himself has had a tough time in the UFC with a record of 1-2, losing his last two bouts. Both losses came at the hands of ranked opponents though, and he will be looking not to lose the dreaded three in a row.
Timothy Johnson vs Marcin Tybura (Heavyweight)
The first of four heavyweight bouts to round out the card, Johnson vs Tybura should set the tone for the rest of the evening. While Tybura (13-3) has eleven finishes, nine of which were in the first round, Johnson (9-2) has finished every opponent he has beaten, seven in the first round.
It is set up as a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ fight and could easily go either way. The Polish fighter Marcin, who is making his UFC debut has five KOs and six submissions so he won’t mind where the fight takes place and Johnson has five KOs and four submissions. This writer can’t see this one getting out of the first round.
Paul O’Dea, Pundit Arena