Four talking points ahead of UFC Fight Night: Krakow


While the backdrop against which the UFC’s first foray onto Polish soil has been set is a decidedly muted one, that shouldn’t detract from what will surely be a watershed moment for a dedicated indigenous fan base.

The card itself could best be described as an unknown quantity, but lack of expectation for compelling fare often leaves punters pleasantly surprised come night’s end. With that in mind, we’ve selected four of the more pressing issues ahead of this evening’s festivities in Krakow’s Tauron Arena.

Is it wise of Cro Cop to resume hostilities with Gabriel Gonzaga?

When news emerged in January that Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic had signed on for a third stint with the UFC, it was hardly earth-shattering. He departed the organisation in 2011 on the back of three consecutive KO losses and it appeared a storied career had run its course. But, after a run of 3-1 in Japanese and Russian shows, the 40-year-old Croatian is back.

This heavyweight main event, of course, is a re-match. At UFC 70, Gonzaga recorded one of the most memorable KOs in history, when he essentially decapitated Filipovic with booming head-kick. While the bout has been billed as an eagerly-anticipated sequel, the truth is, Cro Cop shouldn’t even be competing. If fighter safety truly is a priority, why is an aging athlete with a questionable chin facing a known powerhouse in desperate need of a win?


Jimi Manuwa returns to the Octagon after first career loss

Undoubtedly, the longer a fighter remains undefeated, the greater his confidence will grow. Self-belief is arguably the most vital component of a successful career. However, as these streaks grow, a needless pressure to maintain them manifest. If and when a loss finally does occur, it is often a seminal moment in a fighter’s career. They can either be undone by it or be liberated by the fact they are no longer bound to their perfect record. That time has come for Jimi Manuwa who, after 14 consecutive finishes, was decisively- defeated by Alexander Gustafsson at UFC Fight Night 37 in London last March.

In reality, after only three UFC fights, navigating the Swede was probably too big a task for Manuwa. In the co-main event, he has the opportunity to demonstrate the depth of his character, when facing Poland’s own Jan Blachowicz.

Just how good is Joanne Calderwood?

When Jo-Jo entered the Ultimate Fighter for TUF 20, she did so on the back of significant hype. The Scot was 8-0 and, from the outset, was one the firm-favourites to take the inaugural strawweight strap. Her subsequent performances proved far from compelling. She won a banal majority-decision over Emily Kagan, before being submitted by Rose Namajunas in the penultimate round.

At the series finale in December, Calderwood got back to winning ways against Seohee Ham, but still failed to give a true representation of her apparent gifts. Yet, if she can up the ante in her bout with debutant Maryna Moroz, Calderwood has an outside chance of being first in line for a crack at new champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who will be sitting cage side.


Among a slew of new faces, Steven Ray’s is the most familiar

If, when perusing tonight’s card, it’s a struggle to recognise many of the names before you, it’s because 10 of the 24 fighters are making their promotional debut. However, for anyone even vaguely familiar with the European circuit, Scotland’s Ray should ring a bell.

The former Cage Warriors lightweight champion has stepped in on just under two weeks’ notice to face Marcin Bandel, whose original opponent, Jason Saggo, was forced to withdraw due to injury.

With the future of Cage Warriors still unknown, the UFC have recruited some of its more promising fighters during this time of uncertainty. Ray, along with Nicolas Dalby, Joseph Duffy and Tom Breese, has been afforded the opportunity to prove his worth on the biggest stage of all.

After Robert Whiteford and Calderwood, ‘Braveheart’ is set to become just the third Scot to step inside the Octagon. With July’s show in Glasgow is fast approaching, Ray will be cognisant that an impressive debut will all but ensure his place on the billing.

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