Dana wants the UK! This is one thing blatantly obvious to any MMA observer after watching the UFC put three UK shows on in the last year, each reportedly at a financial loss. The best tool at their disposal has to be successful, marketable scrappers to gain the attention of the British public and casual fans.
While we all know Michael Bisping is making waves at 185 lbs, who are the other shining stars of the UK in the UFC?
Terry Etim – Perhaps one of the best strikers in the Lightweight division, Etim is a danger to anyone on the feet with crisp, rangy strikes and deadly knees. His height is both his advantage and his weak point, giving him range whilst striking, but making it difficult for him to evade takedowns. His only two losses came in the UFC, when he was effectively held down by superior wrestlers in Rich Clementi and Gleison Tibau. His record shows he has excellent submissions from his back, but it seems his future depends on improving takedown defence.
Dan Hardy – Hardy recently went on an eight fight winning streak, punctuated with a controversial disqualification loss, proving himself a dangerous striker and well rounded fighter. And you’d have to be an accomplished stand-up fighter to train alongside Paul Daley, as he did at Team Rough House. He refused to join the UFC until he felt he was ready to be a success. The UK scene has high hopes he will be Britain’s first big thing at welterweight in the UFC. A stern test vs tricky veteran Akihiro Gono lies in the near future, and will act as a useful indicator of the welterweight’s talent.
Paul Taylor – Judging by the reaction to him at UFC 85 in London’s O2 Arena it’s safe to say Taylor has quickly become a fan favourite. Wars with Marcus Davis and Paul Kelly have earned him a reputation as a “greasy fast” striker, as Davis put it, and an exciting man to watch. He recently eked out a decision over Jess Liaudin leaving Brits hoping he has learned how to combine excitement with winning performances. Fireworks are a strong possibility when he clashes with fellow banger Chris “Lights Out” Lytle at UFC 89.
Paul Kelly – Touted as the British Wanderlei Silva, Kelly didn’t disappoint in the first minute of his fight with Paul Taylor in Newcastle, England. They threw down as violently as anyone in UFC memory for the first minute, before Kelly deemed it wise to take the fight to Taylor on the ground. A gritty victory showed his desire to win and a solid ground and pound technique. Kelly trains with Michael Bisping at the Wolfslair, one of the UK’s premier MMA facilities and now sports and undefeated 7-0 record.
Also in the frame are recent UFC signees Mustapha Al Turk and Abdul Mohamed, who have consistently dominated their weight classes on the British MMA scene, but fallen slightly short when stepping up against the upper echelons of world class opposition. Scrapper Neil Wain makes a very tough debut against highly touted Shane Carwin at UFC 89. While somewhat of an unknown quantity, Wain appears excellent entertainment value, having never been out of the first round, winning each of his first four bouts via KO/TKO. Liverpool’s Jason Tan struggled against top welterweight prospects Marcus Davis and Dong Hyun Kim in his first two fights, being stopped by KO and TKO in those fights respectively. His future in the promotion seems uncertain until he can achieve some solid wins.
Rosi Sexton heads up the female UK charge, sporting an impressive 9-1 professional record. Her outstanding submission game and academic credentials (she holds a first class Mathematics degree from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science) have led to her receiving mainstream exposure globally.
A recent influx of top level training partners, such as Cheick Kongo and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, to UK facilities can only serve to accelerate development of UK based fighters. Furthermore, an increase in attention to the UFC can be expected as a result of the reported upcoming filming of The Ultimate Fighter 9: USA vs UK. With an increase in interest in the sport and improved training facilities, the UK can look forward to more success in the near future. After all, who likes a scrap more than the Brits!