UFC London preview – Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal, Leon Edwards vs Gunnar Nelson
Darren Till, the biggest name in British MMA, headlines the show and is desperate to get back on track against the dangerous Jorge Masvidal. His domestic rival Leon Edwards faces Gunnar Nelson in the co-main event.
Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at each fight on Saturday’s main card.
Darren Till (left) takes on Jorge Masvidal in the UFC London main event on Saturday
Darren Till (17-1-1) vs Jorge Masvidal (32-13-0)
The ‘Gorilla’ returns to home comforts after suffering a fair beating by Tyron Woodley in his title shot last September.
Till has been characteristically honest in his self-assessment after that failure but is equally adamant that there will be a welterweight coronation in his future somewhere along the line.
The heavy-handed Liverpudlian loves fighting on home turf and will milk every second of his walk to the cage as ‘Sweet Caroline’ rings around the O2 Arena on Saturday night.
The ‘Gorilla’ (bottom) was comprehensively beaten by Tyron Woodley in his title fight
He’s No 3 in the rankings, meaning no softball opposition to get back on track, just a potentially nasty pot-hole in the shape of perennial contender Jorge Masvidal.
‘Gamebred’ is a bit of a fan favourite, doesn’t take himself too seriously and is one of those fighters you can tell actually relishes the combat itself.
Growing up with fights on the street, Masvidal is unlikely to be overawed by the occasion but cage-rust could be a concern.
By the time he steps into the octagon, the American will have been out of action for 497 days, the longest lay-off of his career.
A defeat by Till would be his third in a row following losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia but the 34-year-old can’t get desperate.
If Masvidal becomes reckless and marches forwards, there is no doubt that Till has the power and size at this weight to switch his lights off.
Till has described the botched title shot as a ‘thorn’ in him that he can’t get out but an emphatic victory would go some way to exorcising those demons.
If he is to go on to fulfill his title ambitions and one day earn a dream fight at his beloved Anfield, these are the fights he must win.
Leon Edwards (16-3-0) vs Gunnar Nelson (17-3-1)
Edwards has been champing at the bit for a domestic showdown with Till.
So far the Birmingham fighter’s appeals have fallen on deaf ears but it feels inevitable that their paths will cross at some point, particularly if he adds to the six-fight winning streak he’s pieced together over three years.
‘Rocky’ overcame Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone last June and has been rewarded by another big name, Gunnar Nelson.
Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards has huge fights on the horizon but Gunnar Nelson is a tough task
As part of of John Kavanagh’s SBG stable in Ireland and training with the likes of Conor McGregor, the Icelander has benefited from some shine-by-association but fully deserves his spot in the co-main event.
He is a ruthless killer on the ground and Edwards will have to avoid a tangle on the mat at all costs.
The British fighter, ranked three spots above Nelson at No 10, will be right in the mix of top challengers if he can escape the black-belt’s clutches with a win.
If Nelson ever moves onto pastures new, perhaps you’ll see him as a professional dancer, his Call On Me take in the build-up to this one was something to behold…
Volkan Oezdemir (15-3-0) vs Dominick Reyes (9-0-0)
‘No Time’ has been having a tough time recently with two successive losses for the first time in his UFC career.
The Swiss fighter fell short in his title shot against Daniel Cormier and was then ruthlessly dispatched by Anthony Smith.
Whether he’s found his level will be determined by how he gets on about unbeaten slugger Dominick Reyes.
Reyes has the longest reach on the whole card at 77 inches and Oezdemir’s lights could go out if he finds himself on the end of one of those shots.
These two could really get the crowd going prior to the co-main and main events to follow.
Volkan Oezdemir (right) suffered defeat in his title shot against Daniel Cormier in January
Volkan Oezdemir (left) will be desperate to get back to winning ways over Dominick Reyes
Nathaniel Wood (15-3-0) vs Jose Quinonez (7-2-0)
Wood will be one of the most supported fighters on the card. London is his hometown and the fans will be baying for blood.
He’s undefeated since joining the UFC but faces the toughest test of his career against the Mexican Jose Quinonez.
On paper they are very evenly matched, Quinonez with a height reach advantage but Wood with lightning speed.
As ever with the bantamweights, the pace of the fight will be pedal to the metal and there should be blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action from start to finish.
If Wood has his hand raised, he’ll be right in the thick of the bantamweight division with a big fight surely to follow.
Nathaniel Wood (top) has excelled since being signed by the UFC and has the crowd on his side
Nathaniel Wood will have the home crowd behind him against Jose Quinonez (right)
Danny Roberts (16-3-0) vs Claudio Silva (11-1-0)
‘Hot Chocolate’ may not yet have drawn the acclaim or attention of his welterweight compatriots further up the card but he’s entering his prime now.
With two victories in his two most recent fights under his belt, the 170-pounder can take a major step in the right direction with a win over unbeaten challenger Claudio Silva.
Silva may have a loss on his record but that was a disqualification for illegal elbows.
He is a submission expert and the thicker man so Roberts would be wise in keeping the exchanges on the feet if he can. ‘Hot Chocolate’ won in the O2 a year ago with a huge KO of Oliver Enkamp (see below)
He’s been training with new welterweight champion Kamaru Usman so should be well battle hardened for this one.
There was some tension between Danny Roberts (left) and Claudio Silva (right)
Jack Marshman (22-8-0) vs John Phillips (21-7-0, 1 NC)
The first all-Welsh fight in UFC history.
This one has been in the pipeline for years as both Marshman and Phillips have been on the same MMA circuits but never crossed paths.
There has been sportsmanship in the build-up but neither will want to head back across the Severn as the beaten man.
Marshman was the only fighter on the card who missed weight and has subsequently forfeited 20 per cent of his purse to his rival.
Karl Roberson (left) defeated Jack Marshman (left) in the Welshman’s last encounter
Jack Marshman (left) and John Phillips face off to kick start the main card this weekend