Our UFC expert Philip Hanna fills us in on the weekends big fight.
Late Sunday night in Ireland, the eyes of Irish MMA fans all over the country will be on Boston’s TD garden arena. Conor McGregor will be competing in the main event of a UFC show for the second time and if he wins, he gets a UFC featherweight title shot, this is the one before the big one. Competing alongside McGregor in Boston are his team-mates Cathal Pendred and Paddy Hoolahan. The Irish will travel, thousands of Irish American’s are expected to be in attendance, it will be a sea of green, white and orange three thousand miles from Ireland. I break down the fights below and look at what’s in store for the trio from Dublin.
Conor McGregor VS Dennis Siver
This time the man standing across the octagon from McGregor is number 10 ranked featherweight Dennis Siver. The German-Russian is a seven year UFC veteran with a career record of 22-9. Most recently he won a decision victory in a hard fought back and forth battle in Sweden against Charles Rosa, the fight was awarded fight of the night honours. He is decent everywhere with his spinning back kick being his most dangerous weapon. Having previously fought at lightweight for several years he is also strong and heavily muscled. There are no bad fighters in the UFC, but with Siver at the age of 36, with questionable cardio and having been caught using steroids in the past, his best days are probably behind him. This is his first UFC main event and the media attention will be unlike anything he has ever experienced, in a recent interview he admitted needing a sports psychologist to prepare for the fight with Conor. He needs to push the pace here, get in McGregor’s face, stay in close and make it a dog fight. Dirty boxing, clinching against the cage and looking for takedowns may be his only way to win. If he stands off and looks to counter he will be facing a superior striker and giving him time to work. It’s no secret that this fight is being viewed as a showcase for McGregor. He’s younger, faster, has more weapons, hits harder and many see Siver as nothing more than a stepping stone to Conor’s eventual title shot. The betting odds also have McGregor as a huge favourite. Conor will be his usual calm self inside the cage, he needs to intimidate Siver into being hesitant to exchange and move in for the knock out. Anything can happen when two men face off inside the octagon, but with five rounds to work, throwing hard technical strikes and tae kwon do kicks from all angles, the smart money here is on a McGregor KO victory.
Prediction: Conor McGregor wins by KO in under three minutes.
Cathal Pendred VS Sean Spencer
Coming of the high of his bonus winning come from behind victory at UFC Dublin, Cathal Pendred’s last outing in Sweden was a disappointment to the Irish welterweight. Although he ended up winning a split decision, his opponent spent much of the fight backing off and looking to throw counter punches. Pendred did his best to push the pace which is ultimately what gave him the win, however the contest was not the most exciting fight you are likely to see. Cathal was born in Boston and lived there until the age of four, he holds dual Irish and American citizenship. Seeing this as a homecoming, Pendred is hoping for a more eventful contest this time out and he’s likely to get it from Spencer. The American holds a professional record of 12 wins and 3 losses, he is known for multiple back and forth wars usually lasting all three rounds. His strength is unquestionably his striking, what he lacks in technical prowess he makes up for in sheer power and volume. The good news for Pendred is that Spencer’s grappling is weak, while wrestling has always been Cathal’s area of dominance. Spencer will look to keep the fight on the feet, expect him to start fast and come out swinging. In his last two fights Pendred had been dropped by strikes, it’s not a good sign, however on both occasions he got up and went on to win. Conor McGregor said it best, “You just can’t beat that guy.” Cathal will look for the takedown early and often and hope to use his ground and pound to set up a rear naked choke. It’s a closely matched contest, but if Cathal can survive the early onset and resist the desire to stand and bang, he should walk away with the win.
Prediction: Cathal Pendred by decision.
Patrick Holohan vs. Shane Howell
Holohan made his UFC debut last July in Dublin, opening the card with a phenomenal rear naked choke victory. He had hoped to continue his streak in Canada but lost out in a close decision to Chris Kelades. In Boston the young Irishman they call ‘The Hooligan’ will look to get back on track as he takes on Shane Howell. Howell lost his only previous fight in the UFC, he was rocked early and submitted with a rear naked choke, come Sunday night Holohan will look to do the same. Paddy needs to use his superior speed and movement on the feet and look to take the fight to the ground for the submission finish. With strong Irish support in Boston it will feel like Dublin all over again. I expect Paddy will be too strong for Howell, there is always a chance that the first time octagon jitters got the best of him in his debut, but this is Holohan’s fight to lose, expect a tea reference in his post fight interview.
Prediction: Patrick Holohan via Submission – Rear naked choke in round 1.
Irish viewers can look forward to not getting much sleep on Sunday night. Conor’s fight is expected to start between 4 and 4:30 am. A victory will mean a title fight in Dublin or Vegas, this is Irish sporting history in the making. Monday might be a good day to call in sick.