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08th Feb 2018

If Premier League teams were UFC fighters

We've put a lot of thought into this

Darragh Murphy

Brought to you by EA SPORTS UFC 3

Once upon a time, fight fans were lucky to get a handful of UFC events a year.

But, nowadays, we’re treated to a stellar UFC card on an almost weekly basis which makes mixed martial arts a very easy sport to follow, despite the sleepless Saturday nights.

While football supporters typically look forward to Saturday afternoon kick-offs, UFC fans often have to re-jig their weekend sleep schedule on this side of the Atlantic in order to get their fight fix.

We’ve decided to mash the worlds of football and MMA together and figure out which Premier League teams are most like the world’s favourite fighters.

Here’s what we came up with.

Arsenal – Vitor Belfort

Both Arsenal and Vitor Belfort were fearsome in the late 1990s and early 2000s but have come off the boil in recent years.

Always entertaining to watch, the Gunners and the Brazilian make for great viewing but their days of challenging for titles look to be behind them at this point in time.

Bournemouth – Rose Namajunas

Undeniably likable, both Bournemouth and Namajunas appeal to the neutrals like few others.

Both have recently been written off as underdogs, only to shock fans with dominant victories over heavy favourites.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Justin Gaethje

These newcomers always bring it, with Brighton never ones to shy away from a back-and-forth game and Gaethje unaware of the concept of a boring fight.

Both had plenty of promise coming in but have come unstuck recently.

Burnley – Khabib Nurmagomedov

Burnley and Khabib Nurmagomedov have the potential to produce thrilling performances but, more than anything else, they’re efficient and prefer wearing down opposition rather than displaying anything overly flashy.

With a perfect knowledge of the fundamentals, Nurmagomedov rightly puts victory above entertainment value in the same way that Sean Dyche sets his side up.

Chelsea – Mauricio Rua

Both know what it’s like to be champions but inconsistency has plagued Chelsea and ‘Shogun’ in recent years.

They’re always going to be in and around the top contenders and have the ability to beat absolutely anybody on any given day but you’d hesitate to bet your house on either.

Crystal Palace – Uriah Hall

Capable of feats of incredible flashiness, Uriah Hall can be a frustrating fighter due to his unpredictability.

It’s a bit like watching Crystal Palace tear full backs apart with the wing play of both Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha only for the side to fall asunder the very next week.

Everton – Robbie Lawler

Big Sam has re-introduced the grit and fight into the Toffees since taking over last November with the side struggling.

Fighters don’t come much more game than Robbie Lawler, with his battles against Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit proof of Lawler’s fondness for getting down and dirty.

Huddersfield Town – Aiemann Zahabi

Newbies with a lot of potential but have flattered to deceive thus far at the elite level.

Aiemann is the younger brother of MMA genius, Firas Zahabi, and Huddersfield boss David Wagner is best friends with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp but, apparently, being close to top quality doesn’t necessarily mean it rubs off.

Leicester City – Michael Bisping

Nobody gave Michael Bisping a prayer when he stepped up on short notice to fight Luke Rockhold for the UFC middleweight title but the ultimate underdog story was realised when he knocked out one of his fiercest rivals to claim gold for the first time in his storied career.

Sound familiar? Who doesn’t love a fairytale?

Liverpool – Alistair Overeem

When going forward, they’re simply terrifying but question marks remain over their respective defences.

The Reds can’t stop conceding and Alistair Overeem’s chin has seen better days.

Manchester City – Conor McGregor

They’ve both got a lot of money and neither is afraid to flaunt that fact.

Coming from nowhere, Manchester City and Conor McGregor are now the most dominant forces in the game.

Think of McGregor’s left hand as the equivalent of a Kevin De Bruyne through ball.

Manchester United – Demetrious Johnson

We’re not saying Manchester United are the greatest in the world right now, because they’re not, while there’s no denying Demetrious Johnson his place as the pound-for-pound best.

But the trophy cabinets speak for themselves. Nobody’s won more Premier League titles than the Red Devils and ‘Mighty Mouse’ now holds the record for most consecutive title defences.

Newcastle United – Alexander Gustafsson

Both came within a whisker of winning the Premier League/UFC light heavyweight title but were just pipped at the  post by some legendary opposition.

The potential is there and the fanbase is there but, thankfully, Alexander Gustafsson doesn’t have a Mike Ashley overseeing his every decision.

Southampton – CM Punk

The less said about the strikers/striking, the better.

There was once plenty of excitement about Southampton and the UFC debut of former WWE superstar CM Punk was hyped for almost two years.

We feel the need to apologise to Saints fans for this one…

Stoke City – Jose Aldo

Both used to make opposition lives’ miserable, with the reputation of Jose Aldo’s leg kicks comparable to the adage: “Can they do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke?”

Unfortunately, the prospect of facing either is not as daunting nowadays.

Swansea City – Lyoto Machida

Swansea’s style of play used to be lauded as expansive and dynamic, with excitement guaranteed from the Liberty Stadium side in years gone by.

They’re really struggling to implement their attacking options to the degree that they once did, which reminds us of former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.

Machida’s karate-based striking struck fear in the hearts of the world’s best 205lbers once upon a time but his stand-up is far less unpredictable nowadays.

Tottenham Hotspur – Joseph Benavidez

So close but yet so far! Spurs have been in touching distance of the Premier League on more than one occasion, only to fall at the final hurdle in an act known as “being Spursy”.

Benavidez has fought for the UFC flyweight title twice but just couldn’t get the job done.

Watford – Stipe Miocic

Absolutely likable and completely inoffensive, the world heavyweight champion is not dissimilar to Watford just due to his adaptability.

The Hornets keep switching managers and styles but, hey, they’re getting results.

Miocic decided to stand with the accomplished grappler Fabricio Werdum but put on a wrestling masterclass against the heavy-handed Francis Ngannou.

West Bromwich Albion – Tyron Woodley

The styles of both have been criticised by fans but when the going gets tough, they have the ability to get results. West Brom don’t mess about with free-flowing moves in the same way that Woodley isn’t eager to insert himself in a firefight when the most intelligent course of action is to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents.

Woodley doesn’t feel the need to put on a show all that often, he’s more concerned with defending his title, while West Brom have a certain reputation for robust, old-fashioned tactics.

But that’s not to say that Woodley doesn’t have the power to knock any given opponent out, the same way that the Baggies can punish anyone from a set piece.

West Ham United – Ronda Rousey

Neutrals love to take the Mick of out of David Moyes in the same way that fight fans adore nothing more than quoting Edmond Tarverdyan’s infamous call for head movement.

Rousey’s long-time head coach Tarverdyan is often criticised for the way he managed ‘Rowdy’, hyping her striking abilities when everybody else considered her somewhat one-dimensional, while Moyes’ time in charge of Manchester United has turned him into one of the most meme-able bosses in Premier League history.

Rousey and West Ham were/are very good when opponents allow them to play to their strengths but it’s become very apparent that neither have the full set of tools required to compete against elite level competition.

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