UFC London is here! This weekend, the UFC has touched down in London, England for what is sure to be an epic night of fights. This card is headlined by the long-awaited return of Tom Aspinall, who takes on Marcin Tybura. Here, though, we are breaking down what might ultimately be the best fight on this card – a titanic featherweight matchup between London's own Nathaniel Wood and Andre “Touchy” Fili. Read on below to find out our prediction for this epic fight!
Nathaniel Wood: “The Prospect” Becoming the Real Deal?
Nathaniel Wood is rapidly impressing a lot of people.
Since moving up to featherweight, “The Prospect” has gone about proving that he is, in fact, the real deal, and has been doing so in extremely impressive fashion. Following his move up to 145 lbs in July of last year, Wood has picked up extremely impressive over two Charles', Messrs Rosa and Jourdain. Those two decision wins have proven that Wood is a seriously impressive talent, and perhaps one of the UK's next great exports in the UFC.
This weekend, Wood takes on a very tough task in UFC featherweight veteran Andre “Touchy” Fili, a long, lanky, difficult featherweight who has proven a difficult task for many. There is little doubt that this fight will be the toughest of Wood's career to date, but if he shows the talent and skill that he has displayed in many of his fights to date, then the predictions surrounding Nathaniel Wood's success will surely come to fruition.
Andre Fili: “Touchy” Not Quite Feeling It
Andre Fili has been on a real mixed run of form as of late.
In his most recent outing in September of last year, Fili was able to win a split decision victory over Bill Algeo, but that win has come in the midst of some real up-and-down results. Said recent win over Bill Algeo last year was his first win in two years. Wins over Dennis Bermudez and Myles Jury have been interrupted by losses to Sodiq Yussuf, Bryce Mitchell and Calvin Kattar.
Fili is an exceptionally talented fighter, and always has been, but he has been struggling for consistency for nearly the entirely of his decade-long tenure in the UFC. Sequences of wins have far too frequently been interrupted by losses. Momentum has too often been cut short and limited. In short – Andre Fili really needs to start getting some consistent form, and fast. At 33 years old, he's not going to get a whole lot more time to do so.
Nathaniel Wood: Path to Victory – Pressure, Boxing and Takedowns
What serves Nathaniel Wood in such perfect stead is how well-rounded of a fighter he is becoming.
Nathaniel Wood has shown constantly, both at bantamweight and in his two fights at featherweight, that his skillset has repeatedly continued to evolve and develop. His pressure on the front foot is overwhelming to opponents. His boxing is little short of spectacularly good, and his capacity to land takedowns and work effectively on the ground is equally as impressive. In short – Wood's all-round game is going to win him this fight.
What might cause Wood some difficulty in this fight is the size/reach difference between himself and Fili. Fili is five inches taller than Wood, with a five inch reach advantage. Wood is a pretty small featherweight, it must be said, but he has shown that his speed, movement and pressure are all very valid equalisers that make up for the deficit in physical attributes. This is something that will be extremely interesting to watch in this fight; it is very hard to make a prediction on who will be superior in this regard.
Andre Fili: Path to Victory – Distance Management and Movement
Now, with everything I've just outlined about Andre Fili, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'm giving “Touchy” Fili little-to-no chance of winning this fight – but that's not quite the case.
Yes, Nathaniel Wood does bring a lot to the table – there's no question of that. However, as I've also outlined, Fili has the clear, decisive advantage when it comes to physical attributes – height, reach, etc. and those count for a lot. A five inch height advantage, as well as a five inch reach advantage will serve Fili well, especially since he knows how to use them.
Andre Fili's kickboxing is excellent, and his fundamental boxing is also very good. He knows how to effectively utilise his range and manage the distance, as well as how to glide around the octagon. His stance switches are very effective, and they often allow him to completely switch up his boxing approach. This will present a challenge for Nathaniel Wood to solve. If Fili is able to implement his rhythm into this fight, and also to get that jab pumping early and often, then Fili might be able to substantially limit the amount of wrestling work Wood can do. This would set Fili up very well for an opportunity to win this fight.
Official Prediction: Expect a Very Close Fight
My prediction is that this fight is going to be a lot closer than people may think.
I completely understand and appreciate how good Nathaniel Wood is. I think his movement, pressure and all-round game is truly something to behold. If he can get it going early in this fight and get Fili backing up towards the fence, then this fight dramatically swings in Wood's favour, be under no illusion about that.
However, Fili is going to make this a tough fight. He is a wily, grizzled veteran of the shark infested waters that are the UFCs featherweight division – you don't last this long without knowing how to navigate these waters. Fili has advantages, and he knows how to use them. If Fili can stuff some early takedown attempts that are bound to come, and dictate the rhythm on the feet, then he gives himself an excellent platform to go on and win this fight.
Ultimately though, my prediction is that Nathaniel Wood will win a very tight decision in this fight. My big issue with Fili is that Bryce Mitchell was able to land takedowns at will in their fight, and I fear for him that Wood might well do the same. If Wood gets any kind of foothold in this fight, then it becomes a much more difficult task for Fili.
Official prediction: Nathaniel Wood to win via unanimous decision.