On Saturday, May 31, the UFC heads to Germany for the first time since 2010 for UFC Fight Night 41. This will mark the UFC’s third event in Germany, but the first that the organization has held in the country’s capital of Berlin.

Headlining the event at the O2 World is a bout between middleweight stars Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi. Both men are coming off losses to middleweight title challenger Lyoto Machida, and both are hungry for a victory to get back into contention.

Also featured on the card is a middleweight clash between former NCAA All-American C.B. Dollaway and Frenchman Francis Carmont. The winner of this bout will cement their position in the top 10 of the UFC’s 185-pound weight class.

The main card is rounded out by a middleweight tilt between undefeated up-and-comers Luke Barnatt and Sean Strickland and a featherweight showdown between Niklas Backstrom and Tom Niinimäki.

Saturday is sure to be a busy day for the UFC and fight fans around the world, as the UFC will be hosting The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale later that very same evening in São Paulo, Brazil.

UFC Fight Night 41 will air exclusively on the UFC’s Fight Pass digital subscription service. The preliminary card broadcast begins at noon ET, and the main card kicks off at 3 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Dan Kuhl, Riley Kontek and RJ Gardner break down the entire card in this edition of Round Table.

FW: Niklas Backstrom (7-0) vs. Tom Niinimäki (21-5-1)

Kuhl: Tom Niinimäki is a longtime MMA veteran who is currently in the middle of a very successful second life. The Finnish fighter was on an impressive 9-2 run, finishing the majority of his opponents, between 2002 and 2004 before getting handed a draw, followed by three losses in a row. He retired from the sport in 2007, and many thought he was simply done. After a career renaissance in 2010, though, the well-rounded mixed martial artist has gone undefeated in 11 fights and is making his second UFC appearance against undefeated Swede Niklas Backstrom.

Backstrom trains out of Allstars Training Center, the home gym of Alexander Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi. In his five-year pro career, he has racked up four knockouts, one submission and two decisions, showcasing his ability to both finish fights and go the distance, if need be.

Niinimäki is a much more experienced mixed martial artist who has a tremendous fire in his belly. He is not ready to drop his second UFC fight to the promotional newcomer. That being said, Backstrom comes from a damn good pedigree and is equally ready to put on a big display against the veteran. Unfortunately, that drive will not be enough to overcome the experience that Niinimäki brings to the table.

Niinimäki by second-round submission.

Kontek: Backstrom is an awesome prospect who has a bright future in the UFC, but he is really getting a stiff test in his Octagon debut against Niinimäki.

Niinimäki made his Octagon debut in the deep end of the pool, as they say, by taking on jiu-jitsu ace and UFC/WEC vet Rani Yahya. He made the fight a surprise by out-grappling Yahya and out-hustling the Brazilian en route to a decision victory. It showed that Niinimäki is not only competent on the feet, but can also keep up on the ground.

Backstrom is more of a striker, like his aforementioned countryman and teammate Gustafsson. His priority here is to defend the shot from the Finn and light him up with his technical striking on the feet. If he does that, he could secure an upset.

However, Niinimäki has fought tougher guys than Backstrom with success. He should earn his second UFC win here over Backstrom, likely taking a clear-cut decision from the Swede.

Gardner: Niinimäki is and has been one of Europe’s best featherweight fighters since making his return to the sport in 2010 after more than two years of inactivity. Niinimäki’s 11-fight winning streak includes finishes of seven of his opponents.

As good as Niinimäki is, though, Backstrom may just be that much better. The undefeated prospect has shown great ability on the feet, and he is looking to make a statement in his UFC debut.

Niinimäki is as tough as they come. He is going to give Backstrom a run for his money, but the youngster will be too much for the veteran. In what will surely be the “Fight of the Night,” Backstrom will win via unanimous decision.

MW: Luke Barnatt (8-0) vs. Sean Strickland (14-0)

Kontek: Lanky striker Luke Barnatt of the United Kingdom takes on American Sean Strickland in a clash of 185-pound top prospects. It should be a good one.

Although this fight holds the potential to be an exciting contest, it also shows a problem with how the UFC builds up top prospects. This may be a case of too soon when it comes to matching up two of the brightest prospects in the division, especially considering Strickland is only in his sophomore UFC appearance. Both guys represent the future and should be built up against other competition instead of each other at this point.

In terms of a match-up, the biggest x-factor is Barnatt’s size and reach. He stands 6-foot-6, which will always be an advantage for him in a fight. However, he has shown in the past that he can be taken down, and Strickland is extremely gifted at taking opponents to the mat.

Strickland can bang on the feet as well, though. He likes to throw meat hooks, most of which are accurate and devastating. If he can mix that up with work from the clinch and takedowns on the longer Barnatt, he will be extremely successful.

Strickland will be able to wear Barnatt down with his varied attack and eventually finish him late in the bout.

Gardner: This fight has some serious potential. Whenever two undefeated up-and-comers are matched up, good things tend to happen. I don’t disagree with my colleague’s assessment that the UFC could be sacrificing one good young prospect in this fight to the benefit of another, but that is the way the fight game goes.

Barnatt’s length and reach will be difficult to overcome, but Strickland has the tool to do it with his far superior grappling game. Once Barnatt really learns how to use his height as a weapon, he will be dangerous. He isn’t there yet, and he still has some learning to do.

It will take Strickland a little while to gauge the distance and close the gap. But once he does, look out. Strickland has heavy hands, and he will hurt Barnatt once he finds his range. His striking will set up the takedown and, ultimately, the finish.

Strickland wins this one via second-round submission.

Kuhl: The one point I would like to make that I feel my colleagues are missing is that Barnatt’s length is not just an advantage in his striking game. He may have three of six wins by knockout, but the same is true for his rear-naked chokes. He has only been beaten once, on The Ultimate Fighter, by TKO, but he has never been submitted, because his frame is also a challenge to deal with on the mat. Just because Strickland has the ability to get him to the mat, which has yet to be actually proven, there is no guarantee that he will be able to deal with the Brit’s size there either.

Strickland is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and even at the age of 23, he fights like a veteran, which is part of his whole back story. However, Barnatt also fights like a guy who has more than six pro battles under his belt, and his striking game is very forward-pressing. He doesn’t just sit back and wait for his opponents to come into range.

I like Strickland’s chances in this one, but I feel that it will be so difficult for him to get inside that he will do something brash and get caught in the process. I’m going against the grain and calling this one for Barnatt by TKO.

MW: Francis Carmont (22-8) vs. C.B. Dollaway (14-5)

Gardner: The night’s co-main event features a middleweight battle between two fighters looking to gain some momentum in an ever-deepening division. Francis Carmont is coming off a unanimous decision loss to former Strikeforce middleweight champion and grappling phenom Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, and his opponent, C.B. Dollaway, is coming off a devastating knockout of Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira.

Dollaway has always been a tough fighter to gauge. He is a high-level wrestler with a nice submission game and his striking is coming along, but he has yet to get over the hump. Carmont, on the other hand, needs to get back on track after losing his first fight since September 2008.

On the feet, Carmont is the much more advanced striker, but Dollaway has the edge in the grappling game. This fight will come down to who is able to dictate where the fight takes place. If Dollaway can drag Carmont to the ground, he will likely be able to grind out victory. That is easier said than done, though. Carmont is a very talented athlete, and his wrestling game is good enough to keep it on the feet, where Carmont will pick Dollaway apart all night.

Carmont wins this contest via unanimous decision.

Kuhl: I think anyone would have to agree with my colleague’s assessment of Dollaway. The ASU standout has always been very difficult to get a read on. He may have pulled off a couple of knockouts in the Octagon, but his striking defense leaves a lot to be desired and his penchant for going to tough decisions makes me uncomfortable about his chances against a dynamic striker like Carmont.

Despite his last loss, in which he went the distance with Jacare, Carmont has been on a tear in the UFC. Granted, he has been to quite a few decisions, but he has been winning in more dominating fashion against top guys like Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin. He trains with Georges St-Pierre at Tristar Gym in Montreal, and, even though he is a great striker, he also holds 10 pro wins by submission.

These guys have finishing ability on the feet and the mat, but I just don’t know if they are going to do what it takes to stop each other. I’ll agree with my fellow panelist and take Carmont by decision.

Kontek: Dollaway has been a surprise in his last couple fights. He went from a guy on the chopping block to a guy on the brink of contention. However, he is running into a freight train called Francis Carmont.

Both guys are wrestlers. Carmont is a lot stronger and larger than Dollaway and trains with the likes of St-Pierre, which means his wrestling is top notch. However, the Frenchman also has good Muay Thai, which he can use if he can’t plant Dollaway on the mat.

Dollaway does have a puncher’s chance, though. Nobody expected him to run through Ferreira the way he did, but he showed that if he lands a punch, he can turn the lights out on anybody. That will be tough against a grinder like Carmont, though.

I have to echo my colleagues here. Carmont is athletic, powerful and relentless moving forward. He will press Dollaway against the cage, put him on his back and make it a long 15 minutes for the former collegiate wrestler.

MW: Mark Munoz (13-4) vs. Gegard Mousasi (34-4-2)

Kontek: The main event of the evening (or afternoon for us Americans) sees two top-15 middleweights square off. Netherlands-based fighter Gegard Mousasi, who has a great chance of making a run at 185 pounds, takes on Mark Munoz in what amounts to a rebound fight for both men.

Mousasi has shown susceptibility against wrestlers before, most notably against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in Strikeforce. However, that seems to be an isolated incident, and his takedown defense has tightened up a bit since then. Of course, if Munoz is smart, he will look to put Mousasi on his back early and often, even though Mousasi is still dangerous on the bottom.

On the feet, the great advantage goes to Mousasi. His boxing is so crisp and refined, whereas Munoz is more of a power hurler with hands of stone. Technically, Mousasi is superior. In terms of power, it would likely go the way of the American.

Munoz is the most overrated middleweight at this point in time, though he has beaten some tough guys. Mousasi, on the other hand, is extremely underrated in the division, and he is rarely talked about. Mousasi will use his footwork and quickness to stick Munoz and move. That will lead to Mousasi scoring a close decision that puts him back in a contender role.

Kuhl: Basically, to echo what Riley said, Munoz is a good striker, but he has some serious flaws that contributed to his last two losses. He throws those power rights with his head down, which, in his fight with Weidman, resulted in him nearly getting knocked out with an elbow, of all things. It’s definitely something that’s coachable, but he has yet to really show growth in that area. To make matters worse, that has proven to be his most effective striking skill. Against Machida, who has a very elusive striking style, similar to that of Mousasi, he didn’t fully get the importance of protection. When Machida threw the fight-ending head kick, Munoz tried to block it with a single, open hand, which any kickboxer will tell you is pretty much like not having any block there at all.

On the ground, Munoz will have the upper hand in wrestling, but Mousasi has earned 11 submissions in his career to Munoz’s one, and the Iranian-born Dutchman is very difficult to take down, showcasing a skill set that is a combination of his black belt in judo and 40 pro MMA fights. On top of that, Munoz statistically has one of the lowest takedown accuracy percentages of all NCAA Division I wrestlers in the UFC, which doesn’t bode well for him when dealing with a guy who has a five-inch reach advantage.

Munoz will always have a puncher’s chance in the Octagon, but Mousasi is a more skilled, finesse-type fighter. I agree with Riley’s prediction that Mousasi will take this one on the scorecards.

Gardner: This is a great match-up, but I have to question whether or not this is really main-event material. However, that is a discussion for another day.

Munoz and Mousasi can both be killers when they are on, but they lack consistency and sport glaring weaknesses in their fight games. Munoz is one of the best wrestlers in the middleweight division, and he has some vicious ground-and-pound, but his stand-up game is rudimentary at best. Mousasi, on the other hand, is a great technical striker with terrible defensive wrestling. This fight is all about what Munoz shows up. If the dominant NCAA wrestling champion takes the cage, he will win this one. If he tries to stand and trade with Mousasi, he will be taken to school.

After being viciously knocked out by Machida, Munoz would be wise to stick to what he is great at, and I think he will do just that. No one has ever knocked Mousasi out, but Munoz is an animal on the ground and Mousasi will be in real trouble when the fight hits the ground.

Munoz wins this one via third-round TKO.

Preliminary Card
HW: Ruslan Magomedov (11-1) vs. Viktor Pesta (9-0)

Kuhl: The night kicks off with two very successful combatants making their respective UFC debuts. Ruslan Magomedov is a tall, Fairtex-trained Muay Thai practitioner who has spent time training at Fairtex’s flagship camp in Thailand. Viktor Pesta is a powerful, aggressive wrestler. Magomedov will rely on his striking prowess, but Pesta’s well-rounded game will prevail. Pesta by second-round TKO from the ground.

Gardner: Magomedov and Pesta are two big, powerful newcomers looking to make a splash in the UFC’s very thin heavyweight division. Magomedov is the more skiller striker, but Pesta is the better all-around fighter. If Pesta is able to dictate the pace of the fight, then he will win. But Magomedov has competed against and defeated Ricco Rodriguez and Tim Sylvia, two former UFC heavyweight champions. Granted, both are well past their primes, but the wins still have some value. Magomedov takes the victory by way of unanimous decision.

Kontek: Magomedov has been a guy whose UFC debut I have been eagerly anticipating for a while. Pesta is also solid, and that should make this a good fight. However, Magomedov is just too good. Anywhere the fight goes, he will prove the better man. The Russian takes the win via TKO.

FW: Maximo Blanco (9-6-1) vs. Andy Ogle (9-4)

Gardner: Maximo Blanco and Andy Ogle are both in dire need of a win. Both guys have lost their previous two bouts, and the loser will likely find himself in the unemployment line. At age 25, Ogle still has a bright future ahead of him, but Blanco’s wrestling and control will be too much for him to overcome. Blanco wins this one via unanimous decision.

Kontek: Blanco ran into some unfortunate trouble in his last fight. He was on his way to finishing Akira Corassani before throwing an illegal blow that ended the fight. He has serious power and good wrestling chops. I don’t see Ogle having too much to offer against the Venezuelan. Blanco finishes Ogle with a late ground-and-pound barrage.

Kuhl: Both of these guys are 1-3 in the UFC, and, as RJ suggested, this is the proverbial “pink slip” filler fight for a pretty light card. Ogle was a lovable, emotional guy when he was on The Ultimate Fighter, but I don’t think anybody saw anything dazzling from him that spoke to his longevity in the Octagon. Blanco may have been disqualified against Corassani, but Riley was correct in his assertion that Blanco had that one in the bag. I really feel like the UFC is throwing Ogle into the wood chipper on this one. Blanco by TKO.

WW: Pawel Pawlak (10-0) vs. Peter Sobotta (13-4-1)

Kuhl: Peter Sobotta is making his return to the UFC on his home turf after a pretty dismal Octagon run a few years back. Actually, I shouldn’t say dismal, since he was beat by decision three times in a row, but it was nothing to write home about. Now back in the saddle, he’s riding a Rousey-esque winning streak with five first-round finishes in a row by rear-naked chokes. Pawel Pawlak is an undefeated Polish fighter who is mean as hell. He has finished nearly all of his opponents by a variety of striking attacks and a couple inverted triangles. Sobotta may be on a streak and have his homeland on his side, but Pawlak is a tough-as-nails badass ready to make the world very aware of his presence. Pawlak by early TKO.

Kontek: Poland has become a hotbed of MMA talent, and Pawlak is no exception. Sobotta is a good ground fighter, but Pawlak is ferocious on the ground as well. He probably has better takedowns than the German, too. I’ll echo Mr. Kuhl’s prediction of a Pawlak win, but it will come by decision against the extremely tough Sobotta.

Gardner: There is no question the Sobotta is tough, but he has never faced a fighter as fierce as Pawlak. Pawlak may only be making his UFC debut, but he has “future star” written all over him. It’s hard to pick against a fighter who has won five in a row by stoppage and who is fighting in front of a home crowd, but Pawlak is that good. Pawlak wins this one via first-round TKO.

BW: Iuri Alcantara (29-5) vs. Vaughan Lee (14-9-1)

Kontek: Vaughan Lee has been a dark horse throughout his UFC tenure, but he is really getting a tough match-up here against Iuri Alcantara. Lee showed great improvements against Nam Phan, but Alcantara has been facing the best fighters in the 145- and 135-pound divisions for some time now. Lee will put up a solid fight, but expect the Brazilian to finish him.

Gardner: Lee is as tough as they come, and he has been in the cage with some of the best fighters in the world. But toughness doesn’t win fights. Lee is game and he will put on a good showing, but Alcantara is an elite fighter with a true killer instinct. Considering Lee has been submitted six times in his career, he is going to be at a major disadvantage when the fight hits the ground. Alcantara wins via second-round submission.

Kuhl: There’s not a whole lot to add to this one. Alcantara is a machine with a five-inch reach advantage, 12 knockouts and 12 submissions. Over half of his eight decisions resulted in victory, and he has only been stopped twice in 35 fights. When I interviewed Urijah Faber last fall before his fight with Alcantara, he was pretty upset that a lot of folks were assuming it was a guaranteed win despite Alcantara’s previous run in which he won 28 of 33, with 24 of those victories coming by some form of finish. I totally agree that Lee is one tough S.O.B., but he will be outmatched in every aspect of this fight. Alcantara will finish Lee at some point in this fight.

MW: Magnus Cedenblad (11-4) vs. Krzysztof Jotko (14-0)

Gardner: Krzysztof Jotko is a fighter to keep an eye on. The undefeated 24-year-old will be making his second Octagon appearance against tough veteran Magnus Cedenblad. Cedenblad is a finisher with stoppages in 10 of his 11 career victories. This is going to be a good test for the youngster, Jotko, but he has the tools to get it done. Jotko has yet to display elite finishing ability, but Cedenblad has been finished in all four of his career losses. Jotko wins this one via second-round TKO.

Kuhl: Jotko is young and hungry, but Cedenblad comes from a stellar camp at Allstars Training Center. He has exhibited grappling prowess in his quick submission of Jared Hamman, and has punched his way to victory on many occasions. Jotko is in a position to continue his winning ways, but Cedenblad’s height advantage is going to prove too much, especially if this one comes down to points, as his last three fights have. I’m going to have to disagree with my colleague and go with Cedenblad by second-round submission.

Kontek: I agree with one of my colleagues here, and that man is Mr. Gardner. Although Cedenblad is a solid fighter and a big man for 185 pounds, Jotko is as tough as they come and has exceeded expectations in just one UFC fight. His debut against Bruno Santos showed that he is capable of beating a grinder with a reputation for being a solid fighter. Jotko by decision.

LW: Drew Dober (14-5) vs. Nick Hein (10-1)

Kontek: The UFC is doing its best to set up German fighter Nick Hein with a win in his Octagon debut in front of his German brethren, but he draws a durable, tough Drew Dober. Hein’s game depends on him getting the fight down, but Dober has the better wrestling. Hein will have his moments, but Dober will outmatch him using a combination of strikes, clinch and paced ground work.

Kuhl: Hein’s record looks better on paper and he has the home-field advantage, but I agree with Riley. Dober is a tank. To make matters worse for Hein, Dober has been training recently with the Elevation Fight Team in Denver, which means his high-altitude cardio is on the up-and-up. Hein is a good fighter deserving of his shot, but Dober isn’t some gatekeeper. He lost a fight to get into The Ultimate Fighter house a couple years back, went on a 5-0 streak to get back in the mix and lost his UFC debut to Sean Spencer by decision in November. With 10 finishes on his resume, he is hungry as ever for a victory to keep his spot on the roster. I have Dober submitting Hein in this one.

Gardner: I have to echo what Dan and Riley have said about Dober—he is tough as nails, and he is a finisher. Hein is a solid fighter who deserves to fight in the UFC in front of his home fans, but this is a terrible match-up for him. Dober is better in all aspects of the fight game. Hein will put up a good fight, but he will ultimately break under the pressure of Dober. Dober via third-round submission.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.