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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021
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Uncaged: Breaking down the Irish challenge at UFC Fight Night Dublin

Thousands of Irish MMA fans will pack out Dublin’s O2 tonight. Resident UFC man Brian Kirk takes a close look at the men the home crowd will be cheering on.

Can McGregor take another step on the road to a title shot tonight?
Can McGregor take another step on the road to a title shot tonight?
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE UFC MAKES its long awaited return to Dublin this weekend and there is absolutely no doubting who the star of the show is.

Conor McGregor told Dana White that he would drag the UFC back to Dublin but after witnessing the McGregor explosion, it was a no-brainer to bring a show back to the Emerald Isle.

While all eyes maybe on the main attraction, the knowledgeable Irish MMA community will also have a chance to see some serious Irish talent display their skills at the top table of combat sports.

Here is a breakdown of the Irish on the card.

Conor McGregor Vs Diego Brandao

If you believe everything that Conor McGregor says, then this is just another fight on his way to a shot at Jose Aldo and before you know it Ireland will have its very first UFC champion.

If only it were that simple.

In reality Diego Brandao is a very legitimate opponent for a still quite green McGregor and poses a real and significant danger to the aura that “Notorious” has built up around himself.

Brandao is a solid striker with a real vicious streak and McGregor would do well to hold his hands a little higher than he has done in his previous two UFC bouts to avoid the chance of an almost unthinkable upset victory for the Brazilian here.

The Brazilian’s biggest weakness is his inconsistency. When he has looked good he has looked really good but when he is off key, he is very much there for the taking and you know for a fact that Conor will pounce if he senses that.

Despite the furore around him, McGregor does seem to have this intense focus that grows as the fight draws closer and if he can avoid any early onslaught from Brandao here, he will continue his rise to superstardom and has to be very close to that coveted title shot.

Source: MMACrazyTV/YouTube

Norman Parke Vs Naoyuki Kotani

“Stormin’” Norman Parke has proved that he very much deserves his place in the UFC with two victories and a draw since winning “The Smashes” series a couple of years ago.

McGregor has since stolen some of his thunder and publicity but Parke has shown through his performances in the Octagon that he should be respected every bit as much as McGregor.

His opponent Naoyuki Kotani has fought in the UFC before and although he was cut after suffering two losses, his record does boast 25 submissions so he does pose some danger especially on the ground.

Although Parke is well known for his wrestling and judo skill-set he may be better served utilizing his crisp boxing skills here but it seems as though Kotani is just a journeyman who should be there for the taking and a win will inch Parke further up the lightweight ladder.

Neil Seery Vs Phil Harris

Practically everyone who follows MMA in Ireland was over the moon to see one of the stalwarts of the local scene, Neil “2Tap” Seery, get his shot at UFC stardom earlier this year.

It was testament to the type of man and fighter that Seery is that he put on such a good show on short notice against a pretty formidable opponent in Brad Pickett back in March.

These two fighters have faced off before in 2010 when Harris prevailed but since then Seery has found his feet and more importantly his weight class and will definitely be a tougher proposition for the Englishman this time round.

Harris has been in against some of the best but he has been on a bit of a downward slope recording one win, two losses, and one no contest in his last four fights.

Seery on the other hand has been on a charge, winning four of his last five, and the manner of his performance against Pickett means even his loss feels like a win.

The key to a Seery victory here will be to keep the fight standing and to try and get Harris to engage on his feet while avoiding his takedowns. This is one for the romantics.

Source: MMA Micks/YouTube

Gunnar Nelson Vs Zak Cummings

While he is not strictly Irish, Gunnar Nelson is an honorary Irishman and classes Ireland as his adoptive home with close links to John Kavanagh’s SBG gym in Dublin.

The cool, calm and collected Icelander boasts an unbeaten record and represents the closest thing you can get to a sure thing on this card.

The feeling is that Conor McGregor still has some way to go to legitimise his claims for title glory in the future but Nelson on the other hand seems a shoo-in for a title shot in the future if he continues on his dominant and destructive path.

Zak Cummings is a decent grappler but he will fall short against “Gunni” who is better than him in almost every department. Nelson will make a statement in this fight.

Cathal Pendred Vs Mike King

For a long time Cathal Penred was laden with the quite unfortunate label of one of the best fighters outside the UFC. He tried to gain entry through TUF but ultimately came up a bit short.

That could have been a blessing in disguise however as if he had made the finale of that season, it would have ruled out the chance to make his debut proper against the backdrop of a rabid Dublin crowd.

He faces one of his teammates on the show Mike King who is unbeaten in his five professional contests but is severely lacking in experience in comparison to “The Punisher.”

This is an interesting battle because Pendred didn’t really show what he could do on TUF but he does have real pedigree. What will help him a great deal will be his surroundings and the ability to train at his own gym for this fight.

King will be entering a cauldron and his inexperience shows it could prove to be the mental undoing of him before the fight even starts. With the whole arena behind him, Pendred will grind out a hard fought win here.

Paddy Holohan Vs Josh Sampo

Like Pendred, Paddy Holohan may benefit from an unsuccessful stint on TUF. Holohan made it to within a fight of the house only to be out-wrestled in his qualifying bout.

This learning curve can only help the dangerous and unpredictable Holohan who faces a three-time All-American wrestling champ Josh Sampo. I’m sure the SBG native will have worked hard on his wrestling skills after coming so close to getting that shot at the UFC earlier in his career.

He has since been hampered by some injuries which leaves a question mark against his name and he hasn’t fought in almost a year, but a fit and healthy Holohan is an exciting prospect and he could be the surprise package on this card.

Expect him to start the ball rolling in spectacular fashion.

Source: Bloodstream MMA/YouTube

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