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10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 118 with ‘Cowboy’ looking to snap his first career skid

Here’s hoping you all enjoyed the short break in the UFC schedule we just had, because from now until the end of the year, there’s only one weekend without a UFC event. That weekend isn’t until Dec. 23.

The UFC’s sprint to the end of 2017 begins on Saturday with UFC Fight Night 118.

In the main event, young upstart Darren Till meets Donald Cerrone, the man who just can’t say no when the UFC calls and offers him a fight. Till is unbeaten in his 16-fight career. That run includes four fights in the UFC. Cerrone is on the first two-fight losing skid of his career. With a loss in this contest, the former UFC lightweight title challenger could be at risk of going winless during the calendar year – something that has never happened during his 11 years of fighting.

In the co-main event, former strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz looks to get back in the win column after two straight defeats against UFC newcomer Jodie Esquibel.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland. The entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. Lights, camera, action

After just four fights in the UFC, Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) saunters into his first main event with the promotion full of attitude and confidence. The 24-year-old, faces 25-fight UFC veteran Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), who also knows a thing or two about swagger and self-belief.

There are some, like former UFC fighter Brendan Schaub, who think Till shouldn’t fight Cerrone this early in his career, but Till has something to say about that kind of talk.

“You’ve got people like Brendan Schaub … saying he doesn’t know me, he’s disrespecting me and whatever, saying ‘Cowboy’ shouldn’t be taking this fight, but why shouldn’t I be taking the fight? Let’s get it straight, I’m unbeaten here,” Till said on the “Obviously Fight Talk” podcast. “I’m unbeaten. Nobody’s been able to beat me.”

Darren Till believes the world will see his greatness at UFC Fight Night 118
Headlining a UFC event for the first time, English welterweight prospect Darren Till believes the world will see his greatness at UFC Fight Night 118.

As for the 34-year-old Cerrone, who is ranked No. 10 in the most recent USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, he seems to see a little of himself in his young opponent.

“I was up-and-coming once. I was in his shoes. He might be the next guy,” Cerrone told MMAjunkie. “You can’t look at him like, ‘Oh, this guy sucks.’ He’s undefeated. We’ll see. It’s like going from like a farm team, called up to the big show and now he’s the main event, five rounds – that’s a lot. Lights, camera, action.”

Donald Cerrone welcomes gatekeeper label, but can Darren Till ‘get past the gate?’
Donald Cerrone welcomes gatekeeper label, but can Darren Till ‘get past the gate?’

2. Strange days

Interesting is one way to describe the strawweight matchup between Kowalkiewicz and Esquibel. Kowalkiewicz fought three of the best 115-pound fighters in her three most recent outings. During that run, she defeated Rose Namajunas, dropped a title fight to champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and was submitted by Claudia Gadelha.

A cynic might look at this fight as the promotion giving the No. 4 ranked Kowalkiewicz (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who competes in her home country of Poland for the first time as a UFC fighter, a favorable matchup. After all, Esquibel (6-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who is unranked, makes her promotional debut in this contest.

During her run with Invicta FC, Esquibel went 4-2 with losses to current UFC fighters Alex Chambers and Alexa Grasso at atomweight. Her strawweight debut morphed into a 117.6-pound catchweight contest when her opponent, DeAnna Bennett, came in heavy. Esquibel won that fight by split decision.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz ready to turn things around with a win and a cookie at UFC Fight Night 118
Former UFC title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz says (expletive) happens, but she’s ready to get back in the win column at UFC Fight Night 118.

3. Unsatisfied

Before his UFC debut, Jan Blachowicz was on a five-fight winning streak with victories over four former UFC fighters. In his promotional debut, Blachowicz put Ilir Latifi away in the first round. After that triumph, the Polish fighter went 1-4.

Blachowicz’s (19-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC) opponent, Devin Clark, has gone unbeaten at 205 pounds, including two decision wins with the UFC. In his most recent bout, Clark (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) pitched a shutoutagainst Jake Collier. He dominated the fight, but left the arena disappointed.

Jan Blachowicz says bad luck done, predicts uppercut win at UFC Fight Night 118
Polish light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz is ready to turn his recent luck around while fighting in his home country.

“At times, I just stopped moving and didn’t go for the finish,” Clark told MMAjunkie. “There’s definitely openings, and I got hesitant at times.”

Clark fought at a high pace against Collier and that could be a concern for Blachowicz, who has run out of gas in the past, most recently during his April loss to Patrick Cummins.

Devin Clark comfortable at 205, ready to pick up violent win at UFC Fight Night 118
With back-to-back wins, Devin Clark believes he’s finally on the right track and will prove victorious in a violent matchup at UFC Fight Night 118.

4. A whole lot of finishes

Oskar Piechota made his Cage Warriors debut in June. He claimed that promotion’s vacant middleweight title that night with a 32-second knockout. The quick KO win was Piechota’s ninth finish in 10 fights. Piechota (9-0-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his UFC debut against Jonathan Wilson (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) in this middleweight scuffle.

Hometown hero Oskar Piechota living the dream at UFC Fight Night 118
Fighting just a few minutes from his house, Poland’s Oskar Piechota is living the dream ahead of promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 118.

Wilson began his UFC career with a 50-second knockout of Chris Dempsey in a light heavyweight bout. He followed that victory with two losses. Wilson, a heavy-handed striker with six knockout wins, drops from light heavyweight for this matchup.

If you’re looking for a sleeper pick for “Fight of the Night,” this could be your fight.

No sleep, no problem – Jonathan Wilson predicting fun fight at UFC Fight Night 118
Jonathan Wilson is having some trouble adjusting to the time change in Poland, but he’s not letting that affect his preparation ahead of UFC Fight Night 118.

5. Looking for some traction

The good news for Marcin Held is that he gets to fight in his home country of Poland for the first time in more than seven years. The bad news is the former Bellator lightweight title challenger enters his bout against Nasrat Haqparast (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the worst run of his nine-year career. Held (22-7 MMA, 0-3 UFC), who joined the UFC in 2016, has lost each of his three fights inside the octagon.

When he signed with the UFC in 2016, many felt Held would be a threat in the lightweight division. An excellent grappler with 12 career submission wins, the 25-year-old has been unable to get on track since he joined the promotion.

Haqparast makes his UFC debut as a short-notice injury replacement. This bout marks the first time Haqparast fights outside of Germany. In his nine pro contests, Haqparast has eight knockout victories, six of which have come in the first round. His only defeat came in his professional debut.

6. Local man makes his UFC debut

Adam Wieczorek makes his UFC debut on the strength of a seven-fight winning streak. Each of those victories have come by way of stoppage. Wieczorek, the former PLMMA heavyweight champion, has spent his entire career fighting on the Polish scene. Wieczorek’s sole loss is a 2011 decision to current UFC heavyweight Marcin Tybura.

Wieczorek (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) faces Anthony Hamilton in Poland. Hamilton (15-8 MMA, 3-6 UFC) briefly toyed with retirement after his most recent fight, his third consecutive first-round stoppage defeat. He steps into this contest as a late injury replacement.

7. Looking for his place

Brian Kelleher made quite an impression in his UFC debut. Not only did he submit Iuri Alcantara, he did so in front of a hostile Brazilian crowd, but he then taunted that crowd after he defeated the home country fighter. During his post-fight interview, Kelleher threw the infamous Portuguese “you’re gonna die” chant back at the fans.

Kelleher’s second UFC fight did not go as well. He lost that bout via submission to Marlon Vera.

With both his UFC fights ending early in the first round, it’s hard to get an idea of just where Kelleher, who fought for more than 10 promotions before joining the UFC, fits in the bantamweight division.

Kelleher (17-8 MMA, 1-1 UFC) faces Damian Stasiak. Stasiak (10-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC), a good ground fighter, also lost his most recent fight. He dropped a decision to Pedro Munhoz in that contest.

Brian Kelleher looking forward to silencing another crowd at UFC Fight Night 118
Never afraid to play the bad guy, Brian Kelleher says he’s looking forward to silencing another crowd at UFC Fight Night 118 in Poland.

8. Time to make a move

When Artem Lobov faced Cub Swanson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 108, there were questions about the matchup. With a record of 2-2 in the UFC, the thinking was Lobov didn’t deserve a shot at Swanson who was on a three-fight winning streak and ranked No. 6 in the featherweight division at the time. The oddsmakers seemed to agree. Swanson was a more than a 6-1 favorite and he dominated the contest on fight night. Despite the decision loss, Lobov earned some respect with his performance. He hung tough, despite absorbing 251 strikes.

Lobov (13-13-1 MMA, 2-3 UFC) meets Andre Fili in Poland. Calvin Kattar upset Fili (16-5 MMA, 4-4 UFC) in his most recent bout. The decision defeat keeps Fili on a win one, lose one rollercoaster for his eight-fight UFC career.

Andre Fili finally in love with fighting again ahead of UFC Fight Night 118
After a disappointing result, last time out, Team Alpha Male featherweight Andre Fili is finally, again, in love with fighting and aims to shine at UFC Fight Night 118.

This should be a high-paced striking battle between two fighters desperate to get back in the win column and make a move in the featherweight division.

Artem Lobov says he’s going to touchy, Andre is going to Fili at UFC Fight Night 118

After focusing boxing for the summer, Artem Lobov believes his hands are better than ever and that Andre Fili is going to be in trouble at UFC Fight Night 118.

9. A once hot prospect returns

In 2015, Warlley Alves was on his way up the welterweight rankings. He closed that year with a first-round submission win over Colby Covington. The victory gave Alves’ a record of 10-0. Since then, he’s dropped two unanimous decisions.

This is his first fight of 2017. With nearly a year between fights and with two straight losses, it’s going to be interesting to see what lessons Alves took from those setbacks and how he’s developed.

Alves (10-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) faces UFC newcomer Salim Touahri in this bout. Touahri (10-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has won five straight fights ahead of his promotional debut. Four of those wins have come by knockout.

10. An anticipated debut

The unbeaten 22-year-old Aspen Ladd makes her UFC debut in Poland against Lina Lansberg in a bantamweight bout. Lansberg, a decorated muay Thai fighter, is best known for making her UFC debut against Cristiane Justino this past September. Lansberg lost to Justino via TKO.

Ladd made her pro debut with Invicta in 2015. She went 5-0 with the promotion. Four of her victories were by stoppage.

Ladd (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is an aggressive fighter who likes to pressure, but she’s never met an opponent with as much experience as Lansberg (7-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC). Her previous opponents had seven combined fights before Ladd faced them. Lansberg has nine MMA fights and almost 50 muay Thai contests to her name.

The 35-year-old Lansberg is a very tough fighter who can absorb a tremendous amount of punishment. She’ll be an excellent test for the still-developing Ladd.

After worst week of her life, Aspen Ladd treating UFC Fight Night 118 like any other fight
Aspen Ladd was forced to pull out of her UFC debut earlier this year. She’s taking precautions this time around, but otherwise it’s business as usual for the biggest fight of her life.

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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