Scotland’s Steven Ray (16-5) will be making his highly-anticipated UFC debut this coming weekend against hometown favourite Marcin Bandel (13-3) at UFC Fight Night 64 in Kraków, Poland.
On Saturday night, Steven “Braveheart” Ray will become the third Scottish mixed martial artist in history to step foot inside the world famous Octagon. The lightweight competitor will be following in the footsteps of teammates Joanne Calderwood and Robert Whiteford.
Ray, 25, trains out of the famed Dinky Ninjas team in Glasgow and is a two-time Cage Warriors Lightweight champion. He’s been a regular competitor on the UK scene for the last five years and has collected the scalps of Curt Warburton (twice), Sean Carter and Jason Ball along the way.
Ray is very well-rounded. He was primarily a grappler at the start of his career, however under the guidance of James Doolan, his boxing has shown noticeable improvements in recent performances.
His opponent Marcin “Bomba” Bandel is a 25-year old submission-oriented fighter training out of the Zenith BJJ team in Lodz, Poland. He made his UFC debut last October, however unfortunately for Bandel it only lasted a total of 61 seconds, as he was blasted by a pair of right-hands courtesy of Mairbek Taisumov.
Bandel’s approach to MMA is very similar to that of Japenese leg-lock legend and former Cage Rage champion Masakazu Imanari. He is very much a one-dimensional fighter, with little to offer in terms of striking and wrestling, but is lethal on the mat with submissions, with a strong preference for heel-hooks and armbars.
Bandel is a quick starter, having secured all thirteen of his victories (twelve submissions, one TKO) inside the opening three minutes. It’s tough to get an idea of how his cardio will hold up if this fight gets out of the opening stanza, as he’s only ever been out of the first round once and that was nearly five years ago.
If Ray was coming into this bout with a full training camp behind him, I’d pick him to win this with a lot of confidence. His overall skill-set is vastly superior, he’s more experienced against a higher level of competition and frankly, Bandel is just too one dimensional to be successful at this level in the sport. With that being said, Ray is stepping up on just twelve days notice. His performance will not only likely suffer from the last-minute weight cut, but there’s also a strong chance he’ll be experiencing the infamous UFC jitters, which is not good news against a quicker starter like Bandel.
Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, Bandel is excellent with heel-hooks. Heel-hook defence is something that requires a decent amount of preparation for in camp and I just don’t see Ray having that kind of time to prepare given the late notice.
Whilst I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bandel snatch something early, I do think Ray is by far the more well-versed and overall superior mixed martial artist. Provided Ray leaves the first round with his limbs intact, this fight should be his for the taking.
Ray will likely have to overcome some adversity early on as Bandel will employ his usual tactic of attempting to spam submission attempts from all angles. I do favour Ray to survive the early onslaught however, and once Bandel begins to slow Ray will inevitably take over. I predict Ray will use his superior wrestling to keep the fight on the feet in the second when Bandel starts to fade, whilst chewing up the Pole with his newly improved boxing.
Prediction: Steven Ray via TKO in round 2