The UFC makes its debut in the Netherlands this weekend when it heads to Rotterdam for UFC Fight Night 87. The card is full of European fighters, and while it is aimed towards the Euro market, there are still a number of solid fights that should make for a fun night of action for MMA fans.
Despite the relative lack of household names on the card, there is still a lot going on. Let’s take a look at the top five things to watch for this Sunday at the Ahoy Rotterdam.
Dutch superstar Alistair Overeem fights for the first time since his upset knockout win over former champion Junior dos Santos. This time he’ll be taking on Belarus’ Andrei Arlovski in a five-round heavyweight tilt that serves as the main event. After struggling in his first few UFC fights, Overeem has come on strong as of late, winning four of his last five fights and inching closer to a heavyweight title shot. With his loss to Ben Rothwell being “written off” because Rothwell lost to JDS, Overeem is the clear-cut No. 1 contender in the division should he get by Arlovski, who is coming off of a KO defeat to Stipe Miocic.
Arlovski and Overeem actually train at Jackson’s – Wink, which adds another layer of interest to this bout, but most of all it’s two of the sport’s greatest heavyweights ever going head-to-head trying to knock each other’s heads off. With both men possessing big-time power as well as questionable chins, both have a legitimate chance to win. However, if it’s Overeem who does get his hand raised, he’s almost a lock to fight the winner of UFC 198’s Fabricio Werdum vs. Miocic for the belt. And while Overeem is rightfully the favorite entering the bout, don’t write off Arlovski just yet, as the veteran still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Two top-15 heavyweights meet in the co-main event as Brazil’s Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva battles the Netherland’s Stefan Struve in what could prove to be the final bout in one of these fighters’ UFC careers. Although both have been mainstays in the heavyweight division for a number of years, both men have been losing fights in devastating fashion as of late and another loss – particularly a KO defeat – wouldn’t benefit either man’s long-term health and safety.
Silva has just one win in his last six fights and he’s been knocked out four times during that stretch, while Struve has lost three of his last four with two knockout losses over that time period. Moreover, Struve has battled health issues with regards to his heart. Although both men have had solid careers in the Octagon, neither man should take their health lightly, and if the UFC doesn’t outright release the loser of this bout, perhaps that fighter should call it quits on their own volition.
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Two of the youngest welterweights ranked in the top-15 collide in what should be a fantastic fight as Russia’s Albert Tumenov takes on Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson. Tumenov, who is only 24, is a striker with big-time knockout power. “Einstein” is already an impressive 5-1 in the UFC but he really needs to beat a ranked fighter to take that next big step forward. Nelson, who is 27, is 5-2 in the Octagon, and while he is coming off of a lopsided defeat to Demian Maia, he still represents a threat in the division because of his impressive ground game.
This is a big fight for both men, but perhaps more so for Nelson, because a loss would pretty much eliminate him as a contender at 170lbs. For Tumenov, on the other hand, it’s a chance to get a win over a ranked opponent and move into the top-10 against the elite welterweight fighters in the sport.
When Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz takes on American Heather Jo Clark in the opening main card bout, it represents a big opportunity for the undefeated female strawweight fighter to inch one closer to a title shot. Kowalkiewicz won her UFC debut with a split decision win over Randa Markos this past December and is overall undefeated at 8-0 in her career.
The former KSW champion is very marketable, and a win over Jo Clark in what looks like a mismatch will push her further up the top-10 in her division and nearing a title shot against the champion, fellow Pole Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
One of the UFC’s rising stars in the light heavyweight division returns to the Octagon as Ukraine’s Nikita Krylov takes on Brazilian Francimar Barroso on the preliminary card. After losing his UFC debut via TKO to Soa Palelei, “Al Capone” has won four of his last five fights in the Octagon, with his only loss coming to recent title challenger Ovince Saint Preux.
All four of Krylov’s wins in the UFC have come via first-round stoppage, and every time he steps in the cage something exciting happens. Only 24 and riding a three-fight win streak in a shallow division, an impressive win by Krylov over Barroso should earn him a date with a top-10 opponent his next time out.