5. A Cage Warriors inspired UFC 286 card
UFC 286 does not only see the debut of former Cage Warriors middleweight champion Christian Leroy Duncan but it is littered with former champions who earned their first belt on UK soil. Including the aforementioned Duncan, a total of four former Cage Warriors champions will make the walk through the O2 Arena to show why they became champions in the first place, and why the UK is their backyard.
The second fight of the night sees former Cage Warriors lightweight champion Jai Herbert (12-4) look to extend his winning streak to two when he takes on Ludovit Klein (19-4). The early prelims also sees Jake Hadley (9-1), the former Cage Warriors flyweight champion, take on Malcolm Gordon (14-6) in his third bout in the UFC since making the switch.
Following Hadley’s fight, Duncan steps into the octagon for his debut in the UFC before Jack Shore (16-1) hopes to return to the winning column when he takes on Makwan Amirkhani (17-8) in the marquee matchup of the prelims. The former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion is the only one from the four to be currently ranked, at no. 15 in the featherweight rankings, and has already proven to be one of the most exciting fighters to join from Cage Warriors in recent years.
With all four competitors having played a key part in the UK’s MMA scene, expect the crowd to explode when they are introduced.
6. The UFC's flyweight boogeyman returns
Every division in the UFC can claim to have at least one boogeyman, or woman, within their ranks. The purest definition of the term in an MMA context is the one fighter that nobody wants to face because they have all the makings of a future champion but are ranked far too low. The best example of this in recent history is the UFC’s current lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, who had to fight against unranked opponents for a long time before finally getting his shot at the belt simply because no one wanted to test themselves against the 155-pound boogeyman.
This Saturday sees the return of a boogeyman, perhaps the most feared of them all. The flyweight division’s no. 12-ranked fighter Muhammad Mokaev (9-0, 1NC) has yet to face ranked competition but not by choice. You can often find him calling anybody and everybody out on social media yet, the rest of the 125-pound division seems to want to stay as far away as possible from the Dagestani-born British fighter and who can blame them?
Mokaev is not only undefeated as a professional but he also went a ridiculous 23-0 during his amateur career. His elite-level grappling and suffocating pressure, as well as being a rather large athlete for the weight class, make the perfect combination for a notorious boogeyman and it shows. He’s scheduled to face off against unranked and debutant Jafel Filho (14-2) despite showing that on his day, he is almost unstoppable.
Thankfully, it hasn’t deterred Mokaev from his plan to become the youngest UFC champion in history, as he states that he plans on beating Filho, fighting a ranked opponent at UFC 290, winning a title eliminator in Abu Dhabi later down the year and eventually winning the flyweight title before March 2024, per UFC 286's media day.
Whether you are ranked or not, he’s the boogeyman. He is coming to get you.