We're now barely a month removed from biggest night Irish mixed martial arts history when the UFC will take over Dublin in the company of 9,000 screaming fight fans in one of the fastest selling UFC events in history.
Undefeated Dubliner Paddy Holohan, and teammate of Conor McGregor, will make his UFC debut at the event on July 19th. Holohan, who trains out of John Kavanagh's SBG Ireland gym, will welcome US fighter Josh Sampo to Dublin in a flyweight contest.
“I’m so happy, this is going to be something so special," said Holohan to UFC.com. "That stadium is going to be packed and hopefully they’ll all be rooting for me – it’ll be a big moment for me.”
“I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been before," he said. "I thought that injury would be the end of the road for me, but I’m just so appreciative that I can even fight and carry on competing.”
Now that original opponent Cole Miller has been removed from the bill after suffering an injury in training, Conor McGregor will headline the card opposite ruthless Brazilian striker Diego Brandao - winner of season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter. This actually amounts to a step up in competition for McGregor from Miller, in our opinion at least. Whereas Miller potentially posed problems for 'Notorious' on the ground, Brandao has a much more varied arsenal at his disposal and is capable of posing numerous problems. Conor, though, will still be the bookies' favourites to win and we predict he'll do so relatively handily.
This is the challenge that Conor McGregor will see across the cage from him on July 19th
Icelandic welterweight Gunnar Nelson - who spends a substantial amount of time training in Ireland - has also seen a change of opponent for his Co-Main Event bout. Undefeated wrestler Ryan LaFlare has been scratched from the card due to injury and another Ultimate Fighter alum, Zak Cummings, will take his place.
We predict a few more additions to this card before The O2 opens its doors to legions of fanatical MMA fans on July 19th. Now that Chris Fields has unfortunately been eliminated from the current season of The Ultimate Fighter, he is another name who might crop up possibly against Englishman Luke Barnatt.
Fields' teammate Cathal Pendred is still in the competition so his next bout remains unclear at the time of writing.