By Alastair Magee
The world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion returns to Ireland on November 19th with ‘UFC Fight Night: Belfast’ which will be headlined by a middleweight bout between Gegard Mousasi (40-6-2) and Uriah Hall (13-7-0).
The only Irish representatives included are Artem Lobov , newcomer Charlie Ward and UFC veteran Neil “2 Tap” Seery who will face Ian ‘Uncle Creepy’ McCall in what is going to be his final fight.
It’s a surprise that he’s not been included on the main card for his last bout and fans have been vocal about the issue in recent weeks. Fans on this side of the Atlantic have also voiced their disapproval concerning the lack of Irish fighters featured on the show.
Despite this, UFC Belfast should draw a large crowd to the SSE Arena and TheCity.ie takes a closer look at the stand out bouts on the card.
Middleweight – #5 Gegard Mousasi (40-6-2) v #10 Uriah “Prime Time” Hall (13-7-0)
Number five ranked middleweight, Mousasi, will seek revenge against Hall, the last man to beat him in the UFC, in the shows main event.
Hall shocked fans worldwide when he stopped Mousasi by second-round TKO, thanks to a sublime spinning back-kick in Saitame, Japan, in September 2015.
The rematch pits two of the division’s best strikers against each other once more but Mousasi will be brimming with confidence as he’s been in superb form of late.
He comes into the fight on the back off a hat-trick of wins against Thales Leites, Thiago Santos and most recently Vitor Belfort at UFC 204.
Uriah Hall is desperate for a win and will be hoping for a repeat of his TKO victory when they meet having suffered back-to-back losses against Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson.
It promises to be an intriguing battle and acts as a great replacement for the original main event, a welterweight clash between Gunnar Nelson and Dong Hyun Kim, which was scrapped after Nelson suffered an injury.
Lightweight – Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson (21-11-0) v Stevie “Braveheart” Ray (19-7-0)
In the co-main event we will be treated to an England vs Scotland lightweight showdown.
Pearson is one of the most experienced fighters in the UFC and is a popular choice among fans while Ray has gone (3-1) in the UFC since being signed.
Both men lost their previous fights and will be anxious to win at the SSE Arena.
Pearson lost three of his previous four, most recently, when he suffered a unanimous decision to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 201 after taking just 22 days between fights and temporarily moving up to welterweight.
Ray suffered his first UFC loss last time out, dropping a unanimous decision to Alan Patrick at UFC Fight Night 95 although he had been on a three win streak beforehand.
They are both well-rounded fighters who possess knock-out power but it will be interesting to see how Ray deals with the high-intensity set by the experienced Pearson.
Featherweight – Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov (13-12-1) v Teruto “Yashabo” Ishihara (10-2-2)
SBG Ireland’s Artem Lobov stopped his two fight losing streak with a unanimous decision victory over Chris Avila at UFC 202 in his last fight.
This result likely saved his UFC career for now but he will be hoping to produce another victory when he faces KO specialist Ishihara.
The Japanese fighter was a featherweight finalist on “Road to UFC: Japan” but lost out via split decision in the final.
Since then he defeated Julian Erosa via second-round knockout at UFC 196 and beat Horacio Gutierrez with a bonus-winning first-round knockout at UFC Fight Night 92 to establish himself in the featherweight division.
With eight knockouts on his CV he will be no easy opponent for Lobov but this should create an intriguing stand-up war for fans. Lobov knows that a victory here will speak volumes for his future UFC career.
Flyweight – #5 Ian “Uncle Creey” McCall (13-5-1) v Neil “2 Tap” Seery (16-12-0)
Team Ryano’s Neil Seery will hang up his gloves following his fight with McCall and it should be a fitting send-off for one of the pioneers of Irish MMA.
McCall witnessed two of his opponents in a row pull-out due to injury and offered to fight Seery in Belfast to put on a show for the fans.
Seery accepted and we are left with a very promising bout between to vastly experienced and popular flyweights.
The Dubliner has a (3-3) record in the UFC and returns to action following a unanimous decision defeat to Kyoji Horiguchi back in May.
This will be McCall’s first fight since his loss to John Linekar in January 2015. The American has seen his last three fights fall through and is desperate to get back in the octagon.
It will be an emotional occasion for Seery and his fans and the fight should be explosive throughout.