After it was announced that the UFC would once again return to Poland, it was clear that with the rising popularity of the country’s top promotion KSW, the UFC wanted to appeal to their Polish spectators.
This, however, has proved more difficult than anticipated, with no tantalizing Polish stars currently making waves in the UFC. The promotion looked to try to sign off on Polish star and former Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki middleweight champ Michal Materla facing Thiago “Marreta” Santos in the main event of the night. This came to no avail however before injuries struck this weekend’s card causing a complicated couple of weeks for Dana White and co.
This weekend, the UFC touch down in Poland for only the second ever time on Saturday for UFC Fight Night 118 at the Ergo Arena in Gdansk; in the last two weeks, injury has struck the UFC Fight Night 118 card resulting in four of the initial bouts having to be altered. Despite being unable to find a headliner more appropriate for the Polish audience, the spectators certainly have the potential to be well and truly entertained as the relentless Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone headlines the card against the undefeated UK man Darren Till.
Unfamiliar territory for Cerrone
This Saturday marks the eighth time in under two years that Donald Cerrone will step foot in the Octagon but now more than ever ‘Cowboy’ has something to prove. Coming into the bout off of two straight losses to Jorge Masdival and Robbie Lawler, Cerrone now finds himself in a position he has never endured during his 12-year career, attempting to bounce back from back to back losses. The American has defeated 12 of his last 15 opponents notching victories over the likes of former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson and Edson Barboza along the way.
Prospect Darren Till currently holding an impressive record of 15 wins 0 losses and one draw and a perfect record of 4-0 under the UFC banner, Till enters the bout hoping to rise to the occasion of the main event and secure his first win over a top ten opponent as well as the biggest win of his career to date. So far in the UFC, the 24-year old has defeated the likes Wendell de Oliveira Marques, Jessin Ayari and Bojan Velickovic in his most recent outing.
The Merseyside man shares the similar attitude to that of his opponent, who is known for his desire to step back in the ring as soon as possible, Saturday’s bout will mark Till’s third fight in 2017, a bout in which would push him to that next level of his career.
UFC proves as silver lining for Esquibel
Making your UFC debut is difficult enough but defeating one of the top 10 women in the Sport of MMA in her home country is even harder, this is the task Jodie Esquibel faces this Saturday when she is welcomed to the promotion by Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Esquibel’s journey to the UFC has been one of good and bad fortune, she was set to face the current ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season 26 alumni DeAnna Bennet at Invicta Fighting Championships 22 before her opponent was ruled out with an injury. Then she had more misfortune after replacement opponent Kali Robbins had to withdraw from the bout following weight cut issues. The 31-year old then stepped in the ring with Bennet at Invicta 22 where she walked away with a split decision victory.
Following this win Esquibel was awarded a title shot against earning a shot at the strawweight title against former champ Livia Renata Souzaback in August. The fight did not come to fruition however as Esquibel had no choice but to turn down the chance at Invicta gold and was forced to withdraw due to injury. Now given a silver lining she will look to change her fortune and end the year on a high with a win on her debut.
Pole’s Kowalkiewicz and Piechota looking to shine in front of home crowd
Fighting in her home country Karolina Kowalkiewicz will hope she can use the home support to break her two-fight losing streak after her unsuccessful title challenge against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205 before falling to a first-round loss to Claudia Gadelha.
The Pole has shown she is one of the elite women on the roster having previously been undefeated for her first ten bouts prior to these two losses. The 32-year old will hope to secure her 4th fight under the UFC banner and once again look to earn that number 1 contender spot.
Elsewhere on the card there is something that will take the interest of the Polish audience as UFC newcomer Oskar Piechota will hope to take his undefeated record to 10-0 when he faces Jonathon Wilson. This record contains his 32-second victory to capture the vacant Cage Warriors middleweight title at Cage Warriors 85. The 27-year old will look to make his mark with the promotion and will no doubt have the support of the local crowd when he walks out on Saturday night.
UFC Fight Night 118 Fight card:
Donald Cerrone (170) vs. Darren Till (170)
Jodie Esquibel (114) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (115)
Jan Blachowicz (204) vs. Devin Clark (205)
Oskar Piechota (185) vs. Jonathan Wilson (186)
Nasrat Haqparast (155) vs. Marcin Held (156)
Brian Kelleher (135) vs. Damian Stasiak (134)
Sam Alvey (189)* vs. Ramazan Emeev (185)
Andre Fili (145) vs. Artem Lobov (145)
Warlley Alves (171) vs. Salim Touahri (171)
Aspen Ladd (136) vs. Lina Lansberg (134)
Felipe Arantes (145) vs. Josh Emmett (145)
* – Alvey fined 20 percent, but bout will go on as scheduled