Marc DiakieseJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
March 17, 2017
UFC Fight Night 107 goes down Saturday from London, one of the world’s great metropolises.
With apologies to Jimi Manuwa and Corey Anderson, who do battle in the evening’s main event, this card, airing entirely on UFC Fight Pass, may lack the gleam and charm of its host city.
A more apt analogy between event and host may be the Dickensian London of a bygone era. Let’s travel back to a time when the city was darker and harder, a labyrinth of thick walls, smokestacks and dark alleyways. This is the setting that gave birth to some of literature’s great unlikely heroes, icons like Oliver Twist and Sherlock Holmes.
In this context, we can move forward with our appreciation of UFC Fight Night 107. Several fighters, lesser-known to the casual fan but brimming with charisma and potential, are primed to burst from the shadows and stake their claims to the limelight.
Here are the three of those.
Record: 15-4 (6-2 UFC)
The Louisiana native takes on grappler extraordinaire Gunnar Nelson in the evening’s co-main event. Jouban’s high-octane Muay Thai provides an exciting foil for a ground fighter like Nelson—or anyone else, for that matter.
Alan Jouban (left) hits Mike Perry.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Before his career began, the fighting gods swung low and blessed Jouban with two helpings of marketability. During the day, he works as a mild-mannered fashion model in Los Angeles. This is also where he trains, residing at the flagging but still potent Black House and the famed 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu gym operated by Eddie Bravo (Joe Rogan, among others, also trains here).
Jouban is also good on the mic and social media, a self-effacing presence with the toughness to return fire on opponents and the acuity to always be looking for his next call-out.
Inside the cage, Jouban is a southpaw with stopping power in his left hand and foot. He’s a smart fighter on the whole but still lets himself get drawn into brawls, at which point he becomes fairly easy to hit. All the more fun for fans, if not for Jouban’s gray matter.
The hard work is almost over as welterweight @AlanJouban finishes his training camp & arrives at #UFCLondon 🇺🇸 ✈️ 🇬🇧 https://t.co/2C128yrgtT
3/14/2017, 8:16:02 PM
Wrestling is an improvement area, but he’s active off his back while on the ground and is better with submissions than he gets credit for.
Jouban is on a three-fight winning streak, most recently dispatching lightning rod Mike Perry. But Nelson is at a different level. If Jouban can pull the upset—he can be backed at 3-1, according to OddsShark—he’ll be ready for prime time. Like, TV prime time.
Record: 13-2 (3-0 UFC)
Amrikhani has a little bit of confidence to him. No unassuming person goes by a nickname like Mr. Finland. No, make no mistake. Amirkhani is very assuming.
Makwan AmirkhaniPer Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
He certainly assumes he’s going to win every time, and that instinct has been borne out in his young UFC career, during which time he’s undefeated. He has an even greater dose of swagger thanks to his move last year to the SBG Ireland gym. There, the Iranian-born Finn trains alongside lightweight champion and pound-for-pound swagtator Conor McGregor.
“Everybody in the featherweight [division] should be scared,” Amirkhani told Ken Hathaway and Matt Erickson of MMAjunkie. “When I step into the SBG, when I spend more time there, I’ll be a really dangerous fighter after this when I go there.”
This will be Amirkhani’s first bout with “more time” under his belt at SBG Ireland. It will be interesting to see how his striking chops have progressed in the 13 months since he last competed; unlike the standard European prospect, Amirkhani is a grappler first and foremost.
If he prevails in his fight with the anonymous Arnold Allen, and he’s the 5-6 favorite to win, he’ll keep a good thing going. Two of his three UFC wins to date came by stoppage, and one earned him a post-fight performance bonus. The well-rounded 28-year-old has the ability—and certainly the willingness—to be a high-wattage star from the UFC, particularly in Europe.
Record: 11-0 (2-0 UFC)
Probably the least well-known of this triad, the 23-year-old Englishman is one of the hottest up-and-comers in the lightweight division, be it in the UFC or anywhere else.
Bonecrusher has five knockouts to his name, which kind of gives you a sense of his specialty.
Diakiese was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and moved to England when he was 12. He splits his training time between Allstars Training Center and Atherton Submission Wrestling, but his speed and power are unteachable. As he has matured as a fighter, he has polished his gifts with technique and tempered his aggression with patience, becoming a well-rounded competitor in the process.
One thing that was just fine right from the start? His gift of hype. A relentless trash talker, he once compelled German fighter Nick Hein to block him on social media. He also made a few waves ahead of UFC Fight Night 107 by becaming the first UFC fighter to pose for a gay magazine.
Gay Times Magazine @GayTimesMag
.@Marc_Diakiese makes history as the first ever @ufc star to pose for a gay mag. We’re glad he’s on our side… https://t.co/iixbhgDmU6 https://t.co/pd4wcZnWYJ
2/17/2017, 11:00:14 AM
This is a fairly tight three-month turnaround for Diakiese; his last fight came in December, and it was win over the similarly well-regarded Frankie Perez. He seems to like it that way, though. This is his third fight since joining the UFC in October.
If he can make an impression on this undercard against virtual unknown and injury fill-in Teemu Packalen, he might be able to take a leap to higher-profile slots on future cards.
Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report.