Oktagon 51 Preview; Veličković v Michailidis, Vémola v Pirát

Oktagon will be one of the last promotions to put on a show this year. Oktagon 51 will be their traditional end of year show which is becoming one of the staples of the holiday season. The O2 Arena in Prague will host proceedings this Friday, and we’ll see ten fights, with one for an interim championship and another tournament finale. Open scoring will be used for the first time in promotional history.

The Tipsport Gamechanger Welterweight tournament reaches its crescendo on Friday night with the finale, and a rarity in MMA in that no alternates were needed all tournament. Bojan Veličković (24-12-2) is a UFC and PFL veteran who beat Ion Surdu, Christian Jungwirth and David Kozma to qualify for the finale. The Serbian is a fantastic grappler and submission player with devastating ground and pound. The 34-year-old is brave and competitive on the feet. Andreas Michailidis (16-6) is also a UFC veteran and was victorious versus Apollo Silva, Marcel Grabinski and Louis Glismann on his side of the bracket. The Greek is a very well rounded fighter both offensively and defensively. The 35-year-old is a solid kickboxer with seven knockout wins, while also being no slouch on the deck with six submission victories. He looked slightly more impressive as the tournament progressed.

Patrick Kincl was due to defend his OKMMA Middleweight title, however had to pull out late due to injury. That leads to an interim strap being on the line on Friday night. Vlasto Čepo (12-2) is a man who was born to finish fights. The first round is his playground and puts opponents to sleep quicker than an anaesthesiologist. The 28-year-old has eight knockouts and showed his bravery by stepping in to box Hector Lombard. The Serbian also has four submission wins. Piotr Wawrzyniak (11-5) is the Babilon MMA Middleweight champion and has been fighting since 2011. The Pole is on a four-fight win streak and trains out of Czerwony Smok, home gym of Borys Mankowski and Mateusz Gamrot. The 32-year-old started out as a judoka, however hasn’t had a submission win yet. It’s his boxing that’s been most impressive over the last stretch, with three knockouts in four bouts. He has never been knocked out in MMA competition. As late notice opponents go, it doesn’t get much tougher.

Next up is a clash between Oktagon legends. Karlos Vémola (36-7) is one of the country’s MMA pioneers and is a former UFC veteran. The Czech loves to back his opponents into the cage, wrestle you down to the mat and go to work. The 38-year-old OG has nineteen submissions on his record. On the feet, he has the power to change things quickly. Samuel “Pirát” Krištofič (16-6) is another fan favourite and is the former interim Middleweight champion. The 34-year-old is a well rounded fighter and is a particularly dangerous striker early on. In the grappling exchanges, the Slovak has a particularly mean head and arm choke. At the top level of competition, he’s great at closing out decisions.

Martin Zawada (29-18-1) is a KSW veteran and he runs his own gym with his brother David. The 40-year-old is a big striking threat and has won eighteen via knockout. The German does have a strong BJJ background, however it’s been many years since we’ve seen it. He’ll be looking to get this done within the distance as decisions haven’t been his friend. Daniel Škvor (6-3) will likely oblige him one way or the other. The Czech trains out of the infamous Reinders MMA in Prague. The 34-year-old is a heavy hitting Muay Thai stylist and causes huge problems with his knees and punches. He picked up his first submission win last time with a guillotine choke.

Ion Surdu (14-5) is one of the most exciting fighters at his weight in Europe. The Moldovan is a KSW veteran and is a heavy hitting kickboxer with ten knockout wins. The 28-year-old has a cracking head kick, punishing knees and dynamite in his hands. He trains out of Ankos MMA in Poznań, where he’s been working very hard on his wrestling. Stefan Paternò (15-4-1) is a Bellator veteran and one of his nation’s most popular fighters. The Italian is at his most dangerous in the striking, whether that’s on the feet or with ground and pound. The 28-year-old is a decent wrestler with a solid submission game. He’s a fast starter who aims to get you out of there early.

Karol Ryšavý (12-6) is a man who always brings an entertaining style to the cage. The Slovak is heading into his fifteenth Oktagon bout. The 30-year-old is nicknamed Bomby due to his powerful knees and punches, and the volume with which he can throw them. He’s a risk taker who tries to finish up to the final bell and has a wicked armbar to stay clear of. Henrique Madureira (5-4) steps in at the last moment in this one. The Brazilian is a PFL veteran. The 34-year-old has had the most success in the knockout game, with four on his record. He’s had one submission win and is likely to go hell for leather to get this done quickly.

Chiara Penco (8-4) is a Bellator veteran who will make her Oktagon debut after signing recently. The Italian is a submission specialist and has five wins via that method. The 28-year-old has a slick armbar, tight wrestling and good ground and pound. Eva Dourthe (7-5) is coming in from Hexagone MMA and is a Cage Warriors veteran. The Frenchwoman mostly goes to decisions and when she gets a finish, it’s via submission. Some of her losses were to tough opponents such as Cory McKenna and Katharina Dalisda

Kallum Parker (2-2) is a prospect who’s competed for Cage Warriors and Uriah Faber’s promotion. The 23-year-old is a good grappler who’s biggest threat is in the submission game. The Brit’s stand-up has been in need of improvement so it will be interesting to see if he’s levelled up. Radek Roušal (1-0) beat Ireland’s Armand Herczeg in his pro MMA debut. The 28-year-old Czech comes from a pro boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai background.

Magdaléna Šormová (11-4) is another MMA pioneer for her country. The Czech is a former KSW and Invicta fighter, and is a submission expert. The 34-year-old specialises in armbars and rear naked chokes. She’s durable and does nice work with elbows on the inside. Mallory Martin (7-6) is a UFC, Invicta and LFA veteran. The American is a very strong wrestler on a three-fight skid. The 29-year-old also likes to hit rear naked chokes, and she also employs heavy ground and pound.

Hassan Shaaban (2-1) returns to the free YouTube prelim section of the card. The Lebanese trains out of UFD Gym in Düsseldorf and is a very solid wrestler. The 23-year-old is still looking for his first finish, however his striking is fine. He also likes to mix in some ground and pound. Tomáš Fiala (7-6) is a former IMMAF competitor and XFN veteran. The Czech is well rounded and his submission threat largely comes in the shape of a triangle choke. On the feet, his main dangers are elbows and punches.

Oktagon 51 is live from Prague on Friday night from 17:00 Irish time on Channel 4, Oktagon.tv and DAZN.

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.

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