In 1986, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin was a smash hit and peaked at number one on the US Billboard Top 100. Nearly 28 years later, the city of Berlin is looking to take our breath away with their first ever UFC event on UFC Fight Pass. UFC Fight Night Berlin will feature Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Muñoz taking on Gegard Mousasi. Both men are looking to rebound after both suffering a loss to middleweight number one contender Lyoto Machida. Also on the main card we have Francis Carmont vs CB Dollaway, Luke Barnatt vs Sean Strickland, and Tom Niinimäki vs Niklas Bäckström.
To start off the main card, we have two warriors looking to make a name for themselves in the featherweight division. First, we have Tom Niinimäki (21-5) who is riding a twelve fight win streak and coming off a split decision victory against Rani Yahya. Niinimäki was expected to face Thiago Tavares, but injury forced Tavares off the card and now Niinimäki will face newcomer Niklas Bäckström (7-0). No, I’m not talking about the NHL goaltender for the Minnesota Wild, I’m talking about the undefeated fighter with 5 stoppages. In his recent “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, Alexander Gustafsson was asked by a user “Are there any up and coming fighters in Sweden we should watch out for?” Bäckström was one of the two names mentioned. And if the Mauler says you should watch out for him, then you should watch out for him.
The next fight will feature a fan favorite from the Ultimate Fighter season 17, Luke Barnatt (8-0) who impressed coaches in his opening fight against Nicholas Kohring. Luke impressed coaches so much that he was Chael Sonnen’s first pick and the first pick overall. Although he didn’t win the season, he did go on to defeat Colin Hart in the finale via decision and then go on to win his next two fights by stopping his opponents –Andrew Craig by a rear naked choke in the second round that earned him Fight of the Night honors and then TKO’ed Mats Nilsson in the first round. Barnatt is looking to continue his winning ways this weekend against Sean “Tarzan” Strickland (14-0). His most recent win in the Octagon was in his UFC debut at UFC 171 against Barnatt’s fellow castmate Bubba McDaniel. This is my pick for Fight of the Night; these 185lb sluggers are coming into the fight with a combined 22-0 record with 17 combined stoppages and they’re not coming in looking to squeak out a decision.
And in the co-main, we have two middleweights trying to claw their way up the rankings. Standing in at #9, Francis Carmont (22-8) is coming off a loss to Jacare Souza after riding an eleven fight win streak. Looking to rebound, he’s looking to use his top level grinding and ground skills to start another win streak and go on to follow in the footsteps of his friend and mentor Georges St-Pierre and bring another championship back to Tristar Gym in Montreal. However, standing in his way is the Ultimate Fighter season 7 alumnist, CB Dollaway (14-5). Dollaway is coming into this fight after scoring a brutal KO of Vitor Belfort’s protégé and the Ultimate Fighter Brazil tourney winner, Cezar Ferreira. Both of these guys are coming into this fight looking to silence their critics and to put on a performance that will open the door to opportunities that will lead to fighting top level contenders in the middleweight division.
Then the main event of the night. Both of these contenders are coming off a loss to the number one contender to Chris Weidman’s middleweight belt, Lyoto Machida. Mark Munoz (13-4) is coming off a brutal headkick KO loss from the Dragon, but he is still a very dangerous fighter. The former Oklahoma State wrestler is looking to get back in the win column by using his elite wrestling and deadly ground and pound to get the momentum he had back in 2011. That was back when he was destroying a who’s who of fighters such as CB Dollaway, Demian Maia, and Chris Leben. If the Filipino Wrecking Machine can get back to that 2011 form, expect him to be back at the top of the middleweight division and going after the belt. His path, however, is blocked by one of the best strikers in the game today in Gegard Mousasi (34-4-2). Mousasi is coming off a unanimous decision loss to the Dragon in his second trip to the Octagon. The Dreamcatcher has tasted gold when he was in Strikeforce, but now he wants to get a taste of UFC gold. Before he was in the UFC, Mousasi has gone through some great fighters such as Melvin Manhoef, Jacare Souza, and Babalu Sobral. This middleweight clash is the perfect example of “grappler vs striker” and it’s a clash any MMA fan wouldn’t want to miss