This Weekend’s Warriors: Norman Parke and Makwan Amirkhani

It’s been 4 months since we’ve had any Irish MMA to discuss, but This Weekend’s Warriors is back! If you’re new here, welcome aboard! This is a column focused on professional Irish MMA fighters competing at home and abroad. 

Despite the world essentially being placed on hold by the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC have managed to operate on a relative business as usual schedule, albeit without fans in attendance. Rigid protocols have been developed and improved on over time, and excitement is building among fans as the promotion finally heads to “Fight Island” this weekend for UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal. While there are no Irish on the card, SBG Ireland’s Makwan Amirkhani will feature on the prelims when he takes on Scotland’s Danny Henry.

Earlier in the evening, Polish MMA giants KSW return to the MMA world when they host their first event since the beginning of May. Northern Ireland’s Norman Parke headlines KSW 53 in a trilogy fight for the undisputed KSW lightweight championship. 

Both cards are well worth checking out for a variety of reasons. Why, you ask? Allow my good friends Ian O’Neill and Sean Denny to hold your hands as they preview the full UFC 251 and KSW 53 cards, respectively.

For now though, let’s focus on Irish interests…

Norman Parke (28-6-1) vs Mateusz Gamrot (15-0)

Where do I begin? Parke and Gamrot are no strangers, having previously fought twice. with Gamrot emerging victorious in their first encounter via Unanimous Decision, while the second fight was deemed a No Contest due to an eye injury. Both contests were marred by controversy, with Parke claiming to have been bitten by Gamrot in the first fight, and the No Contest occurring due to repeated eye pokes by Gamrot in the second. Adding to that, when Parke confronted Gamrot after the second fight was called off, well, you can check out what happened between Parke and Gamrot’s cornerman below.

So yeah, BAD BLOOD. Since their last bout, Parke has amassed an undefeated 5-fight streak, capturing the interim KSW lightweight title with a win over Marcin Wrzosek in his last outing under the KSW banner, which took place in London last September. The Next Gen I.M.M.A fighter has looked rejuvenated since being released from the UFC in 2016, and he has overcome almost every fighter that KSW have put in front of him. However, it is Gamrot who he will face on Saturday evening, and it is Gamrot who is the one man to defeat Parke during his post-UFC career.

“Gamer” has competed just twice in MMA since he last fought Parke, and Saturday will be the first time he steps into the KSW cage since December 2018, when he dropped down to 145lbs to secure a 2nd KSW title with a submission win over Grzegorz Szulakowski. While Parke may have the momentum coming into their trilogy fight, it’s hard to overlook Gamrot’s previous performances against “Stormin.”

Parke and Gamrot’s first two fights were close-fought affairs. Parke pressed the action for most of every round, wading forward through Gamrot’s counter striking. To the naked eye, it was a constant pressure that had Gamrot on the back foot. However, MMA fights are not won or lost based on pressure, cage control or any other way you want to describe it. Effective striking and effective grappling are what win fights, and it was Gamrot who consistently landed the more impactful shots in most of the rounds they have fought to date. While Parke never stopped coming forward, Gamrot inflicted more damage. If Parke is to finally emerge victorious over Gamrot, and prove once and for all that he is the KSW lightweight champion, I think that he needs to make some adjustments to his gameplan, lead with his head less, and perhaps sacrifice some forward pressure to instead pick Gamrot off on the feet.

Regardless of the outcome, this should be an entertaining matchup between two men who truly dislike each other. If you would like further evidence of their disdain, check out their encounter on Polish TV in the video above.

Photo by Esther Lin / MMAFighting.com

Makwan Amirkhani (15-4) vs Danny Henry (12-3)

Alright, so Amirkhani may be “Mr. Finland,” but he trains under the tutelage of John Kavanagh in SBG Ireland. Here at This Weekend’s Warriors, we welcome all adopted Irishmen, so indulge me please as I discuss “Mr. Ireland” heading to “Fight Island”. See, there are all sorts of nicknames that don’t make sense. 

Anyway, the fight…

Amirkhani announced himself to the UFC faithful in spectacular fashion, knocking out Andy Ogle in just 8 seconds to secure a dream UFC debut win back in 2015. Since then, Amirkhani has gone 4-2 in the UFC, his most recent win coming over Liverpudlian Chris Fishgold, whom he submitted via anaconda choke. The SBG Ireland featherweight fought rising star Shane Burgos in his last appearance in the Octagon, ultimately losing via KO in the third round. An amateur wrestler since he was 4 years old, Amirkhani displayed some impressive wrestling and threatened Burgos with submission attempts in the first round, but he appeared to significantly slow down as the fight went on. Burgos punished Amirkhani on the feet in both the second and third rounds, and Amirkhani appeared completely gassed before referee Keith Peterson waved the fight off to protect Amirkhani from further unnecessary damage. 

It will be interesting to see how Amirkhani’s cardio holds up when he takes on Scotland’s Danny Henry at UFC 251. “The Hatchet” is a former EFC featherweight champion, and has 8 finishes (4 subs, 4 KOs) in his 15-fight pro career. After winning the EFC featherweight title, Henry was signed to the UFC, beating undefeated Daniel Teymur and prospect Hakeem Dawodu in successive fights. Like Amirkhani, Henry is coming into this fight off the back of a loss, after being submitted by Dan Ige in the first round of their contest last March.

This is an evenly matched fight, in my opinion. Both Amirkhani and Henry excel in the grappling areas, and while neither are known to be elite strikers, they certainly have knockout power in their arsenal. This should be a fun, exciting contest for the fans.

Enjoy the fights, and I’ll chat to you next time!

Andy Stevenson is a writer for SevereMMA.