'Ais Daly is among the UFC strawweight elite' - John Kavanagh writes exclusively for The42

The latest column from Ireland’s top mixed martial arts coach.

John Kavanagh:
John Kavanagh: "I think this fight on Saturday will be one-sided in Aisling's favour."
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IT’S BEEN OVER three months since we’ve had a Straight Blast Gym athlete in the Ulitmate Fighting Championship’s octagon, but that wait will come to an end on Saturday.

Aisling Daly’s bout against Randa Markos at UFC 186 in Canada this weekend marks the beginning of another busy period of UFC action for our SBG fighters.

Preparations are currently in full swing for Cathal Pendred’s bout against Augusto Montano in Mexico on 13 June, and then Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson have some business to take care of in Las Vegas on 11 July.

Paddy Holohan is also keen to be pencilled in for his next win during the summer. The UFC’s first ever event in Scotland on 18 July is what he’s got his sights set on, so hopefully we can make that happen.

It’s great — perfect, actually — to have Gunni on the UFC 189 card along with Conor. He’s fighting John Hathaway, and there’s a nice little historic angle to that fight too, because Hathaway was the first fighter I ever coached one of my own guys against in the UFC.

Tom Egan fought Hathaway at UFC 93 in Dublin in 2009. It didn’t go on our way that night, but given that we have an SBG fighter headlining the card in a world title bout in this next meeting with the Englishman, I think it’s a fair indication that we’ve done okay for ourselves in the meantime.

Cathal’s bout against Augusto Montano in Mexico City should be a very exciting one. This guy is a tall, lanky kickboxer, so he’ll have long arms to lock on to and a big neck to choke. I think there’ll be a lot of opportunities for Cathal to get a good submission here.

We’re going into an area where close decisions are notorious for not going in the visiting fighter’s favour. In fact, I don’t think any decision will go our way. We definitely have to get it done within the three rounds, but it’ll be a good chance for Cathal to pick up a nice bonus for himself.

Aisling Daly arrived in Montreal a couple of days ago for her fight against Randa Markos on Saturday. It’s been a strange few weeks for Ais but she’s handled it excellently, despite the goalposts unfortunately being moved.

Ais was due to fight Claudia Gadelha in Poland on 11 April but the Brazilian girl pulled out. We were very disappointed initially, because we felt there would have been big rewards to go with beating Gadelha, but thankfully there’s still a fight to look forward to.

Because the date of the fight was changed at the last minute, I won’t be with Ais this weekend due to a prior engagement elsewhere. But Paddy Holohan will be her right-hand man, as he has been many times before. And she’s very well-prepared so there are no concerns whatsoever on that front.

This is a much more straightforward fight, to speak plainly. Ais trained with Randa Markos in The Ultimate Fighter house and had a lot of success in doing so. It’s a big step down, because we were preparing for who I think is the best girl in the division — Claudia Gadelha.

Aisling Daly Aisling Daly, who fights Randa Markos in Canada this weekend. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the current champion in the UFC’s strawweight division, but I think Gadelha edged it when they fought a few months back. It was razor-close and a different set of judges might have given it the other way. I believe Joanna, Ais and Claudia are the elite in this division. I expect this fight on Saturday to be one-sided in Aisling’s favour.

This win might not get Ais the title shot immediately, but we’re just looking at it as another fight off the contract and another pay-day. We can’t underestimate anybody, we have to go in as sharp as possible, but there’s no denying that a title fight would have been next after a win over Gadelha.

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One SBG fighter who’s not in the UFC — yet — is Artem Lobov, who accompanied Conor McGregor recently during the UFC 189 media world tour. It was a nice opportunity for Artem to put his name and his face out there, and he did a good job in that regard.

He needed to be seen in the videos and to be talked about. And now everybody’s talking about ‘The Russian Hammer’. He’s got his own personality and he’s met all the top brass at the UFC, so fingers crossed he gets a call up-soon.

It’s hard to think of anybody on the scene who deserves a shot more than Artem. He’s fought the best out there and he has a mixed record due to taking some tough fights on short notice at different weight classes.

But there’s nobody who’ll run through Artem at 145lbs. He’ll give anyone a good fight, it’ll be exciting and he’s a very fascinating fighter to watch. I had hoped to get him on the recent Poland card but it didn’t happen, unfortunately. With shows coming up in Germany and Scotland, hopefully it won’t be long before we see him in there.

Finally, we recently announced that a new SBG gym will be coming to Tallaght later this year, under the guidance of myself and Paddy Holohan. As you’d expect, we’ve had huge interest in it since we made the announcement.

As a team, we’ve got quite a few things going on over the next few months (see above), but we’re working hard on putting the plans in place as we speak. We’re aiming to have the doors open in September or October, so watch this space for more details.

Originally published 21 April, 18.03

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