Ask most Irish people what MMA stands for and they will stare at you with a blank expression. Ask them who Conor McGregor is and it’s a different story. Conor has captured the hearts of the nation from his appearance on the Friday night family show, “the late-late show”. He charmed his way into home all over Ireland, his refreshing confidence and self-belief was an alien concept to many of the typically modest Irish viewers. This “cage fighter” is becoming a house hold name but he needs a big fight on home soil to complete his transition to Irish sporting superstar.
The challenge that awaits him in the form of American Top Team standout Cole miller is one that the Dubliner had asked for. Cole started the rivalry by calling Conor out after his most recent win, a call McGregor was happy to answer. Cole has competed successfully in the UFC’s lightweight and featherweight divisions after a successful stint on the ultimate fighter. The fighter has an inconsistent record in the UFC but he is coming off an impressive submission of the night win over Sam Sicilia in January. The BJJ black belt has 15 career submission wins, an area many feel will be a huge advantage against Conor.
Conor has two career losses, both coming by way of submission. However the last time Conor lost was in 2010. Four years on Conor has shown an ever improving ground game, controlling the durable Max Holloway on the ground with torn ligaments in his knee. Miller will bring have a reach advantage over McGregor and on paper the advantage on the ground. However Conor’s versatile striking, sturdy takedown defense and solid ground game will make for an interesting matchup against the American.
Conor’s occasional team mate and long-time hero Gunnar will share the main card with him. The Karate and Renzo Gracie BJJ black belt has shown us a glimpse of what he is capable of inside the octagon, with dominating performances against DaMarques Johnson and Omari Akhmedov. His unorthodox striking and smothering ground game have made him look untouchable so far. The man that will stand across the cage with him is a step above those he has faced before. The New York native has dominated every Welterweight that has stood in front of him, most recently grinding out a win over John “Doomsday” Howard. He has looked outstanding so far with takedowns that look similar to those of a young GSP. If and when this fight hits the mats, grapplers everywhere should have a pen and paper in their hand because they will no doubt put on a clinic.
Ian McCall has looked impressive in his last three outings, however two of those were decision loses to champion Demetrious Johnson and number 1 contender Joseph Benavidez. The explosive fighter takes on fan favourite Brad Pickett, who has picked up three fight of the night bonuses in his last three appearances. The Englishman is sure to put on another one against McCall, a man that fights with an almost identical style.
Another Irish man, Neill “2tap” Serry shares the card. He came in as a late replacement and huge underdog against Brad Pickett last March in the o2, London. Most expected the Dublin native to be blitzed early against the Pickett, currently fighting out of American Top Team. What actually happened shocked most spectators. Serry took the fight to Pickett from start to finish, dropping the favourite several times. In the end Pickett’s takedowns won the fight but Serry won the respect and admiration from the fans and perhaps more importantly, Dana White, as he offer the Dubliner a contract with the UFC. Serry finds himself matched against another English fighter, Phil Harris in another fight that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Harris is coming into this fight on the back of a two fight losing streak so we will see a dangerous and motivated fighter determined to keep his spot on the UFC roster.
Ilar Latifi takes on the dangerous “filthy” Tom Lawlor in an interesting middleweight matchup. Alexander Gustafsson’s stable mate Latifi had an easy nights work against Cyrille Diabate in his last outing, submitting him early after earning his place in the UFC by taking a last minute fight against former Dream fc champion Gegard Moussasi. Lawlor has not fought since April of last year when he picked up a submission win over Michael Kuiper on the same card Latifi debuted on. This bout is sure to be an entertaining one and there is no doubt that Lawlor will have something special in his trade mark walkout for his Irish fans.
With many more fights yet to be confirmed the UFC Dublin card is shaping up nicely. Chris Fields and Cathal Pendred will more than likely play their part in some way but nothing will be announced until TUF is finished airing in the UK.
The atmosphere in the O2 on July the 19th will be nothing short of spectacular. Conor will receive a king’s welcome when he graces the Octagon in front of his people, ready to give the people what he has promised. Cole could upset his homecoming but one thing is guaranteed, there will be some sore throats on Sunday morning when the Irish are finished screaming for their own!
Author: Dwayne Crowley.