3A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 109 card at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Alexander Gustafsson (17-4) vs. Glover Teixeira (26-5)
Class: Light heavyweight
Line: Gustafsson -325
Storyline: As long as Jon Jones remains inactive and Anthony Johnson stays retired, Gustafsson and Teixeira technically remain as the top two contenders to Daniel Cormier’s title. Gustafsson is the rightful favorite to still be in the mix after they meet Sunday. He’s incredibly athletic and makes good use of his exceptional length. Teixeira has been so successful for so long, but finds himself in a difficult spot against such a talented opponent in what will be a very hostile environment. This could be Teixeira’s last real shot as a legitimate title threat. Gustafsson has close losses to both Jones and Cormier. He has been relentlessly pursuing rematches with both and needs an impressive win to accomplish that goal.
Hill’s Pick: Gustafsson by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Gustafsson by fourth-round knockout
Volkan Oezdemir (13-1) vs. Misha Cirkunov (13-2)
Class: Light heavyweight
Line: Cirkunov -450
Storyline: Oezdemir scored a somewhat surprising split-decision win over Ovince Saint Preux in his UFC debut in February and will look to follow it up as he draws another difficult assignment. Cirkunov may prove to be too big of a step up, however. Cirkunov is a rising star in the division. After a contract squabble, he is back in the mix and ready to make a title run. He is an explosive athlete on his feet and possesses exceptional grappling skills honed from a successful judo career. This co-main event spot on Fox Sports 1 should serve as a showcase for Cirkunov to kick off his new six-fight deal in style.
Hill’s Pick: Cirkunov by second-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Cirkunov by third-round submission
Peter Sobotta (16-5-1) vs. Ben Saunders (21-7-2)
Line: Sobotta -115
Storyline: An intriguing matchup featuring two fighters who have returned to the UFC after being released and then finding success back out on the regional circuit. Saunders has actually been released twice, but has won five of his last fights overall with four of the wins coming in the UFC. Sobotta has gone 3-1 in the UFC since his return. Both fighters are very skilled on the ground. While Sobotta has an edge in pure jiu-jitsu ability, Saunders is as creative as they come on the mat. Saunders should have a decided edge in the standup, however. He is accurate with his kicks from the outside and lethal with his knees in the clinch. He has a tendency to fatigue, so he’d be wise to try to end the festivities early.
Hill’s Pick: Saunders by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Saunders by decision
Abdul Razak Alhassan (7-0) vs. Omari Akhmedov (16-3)
Line: Alhassan -230
Storyline: It would be almost impossible for Alhassan to have done any better than he has against the seven fighters who have had the unfortunate luck of being locked in a cage with him so far in his career. Seven fights, seven knockouts within the first 90 seconds. Only five of those opponents have lasted more than a minute. The raw power is absolutely remarkable. The list of victims really is not. Akhmedov is far from an elite fighter, but will be the toughest matchup of Alhassan’s career by a wide margin. Fortunately for Alhassan, Akhmedov will more than likely be willing to engage in a slugfest. Akhmedov does have the capability of taking him down, though, and that would seem to be worth a shot despite Alhassan’s judo background. It certainly seems like a better idea than just trading punches. This will either serve as a true test for Alhassan or show that he may truly be for real.
Hill’s Pick: Alhassan by first-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Akhmedov by second-round knockout
Oliver Enkamp (7-0) vs. Nordine Taleb (11-4)
Line: Taleb -400
Storyline: Taleb is a very technical striker who trains with Georges St. Pierre at Tristar in Montreal. He was expecting a showdown with Emil Meek, but Enkamp agreed to step in on late notice to make his UFC debut after Meek suffered an injury. Enkamp could be quite dangerous with nothing to lose in his home country. Taleb is disciplined and talented, however. He should be able to stick to his gameplan and find a path to victory.
Hill’s Pick: Taleb by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Enkamp by decision
Jack Hermansson (14-3) vs. Alex Nicholson (7-3)
Line: Hermansson -165
Storyline: Hermansson, a former Cage Warriors champion, is a native of Sweden who will be fighting in his native country for the first time. He is a well-rounded middleweight who tends to be more comfortable on his feet. Nicholson has gone 1-2 in three middleweight fights, but the losses have come to pretty quality competition. He has competed at both heavyweight and light heavyweight and has now settled in at 185 pounds. This should actually be a close matchup with Hermansson getting a slight bump for fighting in Sweden.
Hill’s Pick: Hermansson by decision
Fang’s Pick: Hermansson by second-round submission