Big Fight Preview: UFC London

Renan Barao in action against Scott Jorgensen on February 4, 2012
© AP Photos
Sports Mole previews the Ultimate Fighting Championship's return to London with a bantamweight title fight at Wembley Arena tonight.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is back in London this weekend with a bumper card featuring a world title fight at Wembley Arena.

Feared Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Renan Barao takes on talented young striker Michael McDonald in the card's main event for the interim bantamweight crown.

Eight British fighters also get their chance to shine in the capital for the world's leading mixed martial arts promotion.

Here, Sports Mole breaks down a card full of quality and tries to pick a winner in each of the five feature bouts.

Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald:

Interim champ Barao is riding an incredible 29-fight win streak but should get the toughest test of his career against McDonald tonight. The 22-year-old has left a trail of contenders in his wake with a precise, clinical style and has yet to taste defeat in the UFC octagon. Something has to give over five rounds and McDonald's comparative inexperience will quickly be tested by a ferocious Barao. If the Californian contender can use his crisp boxing to pull off a huge win at Wembley he will become the youngest champion in UFC history.

Sports Mole says: Barao continues on a path to meet Dominick Cruz by edging a back-and-forth battle to claim a tight unanimous decision victory.

Cub Swanson vs. Dustin Poirier:

A featherweight bout that promises fireworks between Cub Swanson and Dustin Poirier will see both men stake their claim for a title shot at 145lbs in the co-main event. Swanson is an aggressive striker that has been rejuvenated in the last 12 months, knocking out three consecutive opponents in ruthless fashion. Poirier had analysts predicting a quick ascendancy to title contention before being stopped in his tracks by Chan Sung Jung last May. Both men have forged their reputations with a crowd-pleasing style and promise a fight that purists and casual fans can both look forward to in equal measure.

Sports Mole says: Swanson rides his wave of momentum to edge a spirited Poirier and makes a statement in doing so with a late knockout win.

Jimi Manuwa vs. Cyrille Diabate:

London's own Jimi Manuwa gets the chance to impress his home crowd against French kickboxing champion Cyrille Diabate. The 'Poster Boy' has turned his life round following a spell in prison to launch an unbeaten MMA career that gathered pace with a crushing victory in his UFC debut last year. Manuwa should get every chance to continue his knockout run against Diabate, a wily veteran that is no stranger to a stand-up war.

Sports Mole says: Diabate has success early on at range before being overwhelmed by a persistent Manuwa barrage. 'The Poster Boy' wins by second round knockout.

Che Mills vs. Matt Riddle:

Gloucester-born welterweight Che Mills takes on American wild-card Matt Riddle in the evening's closest bout according to the bookmakers. Mills has a 2-1 record since joining the UFC and is a striker with enough accuracy and power to trouble any opponent standing up. Riddle is carving out a niche as a fighter that likes to challenge British competition and continued that streak with a win over John Maguire in November.

Sports Mole says: Look for Mills to push the pace from the outset before being taken down by Riddle consistently as the fight develops. The American has enough tools in his arsenal to grind out an important win if he fights smart and gets the job done by split decision.

Gunnar Nelson vs. Jorge Santiago:

Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gunnar Nelson is in UFC action for the second time tonight against Jorge Santiago. Nelson is an Icelandic native with a difference and is already being touted as a future contender in the welterweight division. Santiago has plenty to fight for on his UFC return and should provide Nelson with a stern test thanks to a well-rounded striking game.

Sports Mole says: Nelson showcases his grappling skills and chokes out Santiago in the first round to send out a message that his submission skills are a match for anyone at 170lbs.

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