What a great night of fights we all got to witness as the UFC invaded the Wembley Arena in London for UFC on FUELTV: Barao vs McDonald! We are a variety of fight styles and a record tying 9 fights going to the judges. We also witnessed the implementation of the UFC Ranking system that is now in place in all divisions!
The card opened with two decision wins by Phil Harris and Vaughan Lee but then BAMMA star and Englishmen Tom “Kong” Watson and Stanislav Nedkov took to the cage. If the crowd wasn’t on their feet before the fight started they were by the end because Watson and Nedkov went toe to toe and threw bombs until the man known as “Kong” finished it with a barrage of knees and punches in the 2nd round. Before the fight Watson told the world he “only wanted to commit to exciting fights” and he lived up to his word as he was award not only the Knockout of the Night but the Fight of the Night award as well.
When it was time for the main card the fans were ready to explode and you could sense something in the air, like something special was about to happen tonight.
The first fight saw Matthew Riddle take on fan favorite Che Mills in what was a classic striker vs grappler match. Riddle was aware of the elite striking ability of Mills and took that away for the first two rounds by keeping him on the mat with his superior wrestling. In the third there was a brief exchange where Riddle felt the power of Mills and realized taking this man down was the way to win. He did just that and got the decision.
Ryan Jimmo vs James Te-Huna was almost the upset of the night as Jimmo caught Te-Huna with a huge headkick and looked to finish the fight early but Te-Huna would not be beaten on this night and his solid defense and amazing heart got him out of the round. In rounds two and three Te-Huna beat on the exhausted Jimmo and took hom a unanimous decision. After the fight Te-Huna would say he was very close to being knocked out a couple times in the first round but somehow survived.
The much hyped 24 year old, Gunnar Nelson showed just why top guys such as Chael Sonnen have been pushing his name to anyone that will listen. In his last appearance Gunnar choked out DeMarques Johnson at UFC on FUELTV: Struve vs Miocic and this match up with Brazilian Jorge Santiago would be a huge step up in competition. Gunnar was relaxed the entire fight (dare I say Fedor-like) but was precise on everything he threw and looked amazing. His flat foot attacks (think Machida and Zombie) and amazing ground-game (remember he beat Jeff Monson in a grappling tournament) baffled Santiago all night and Gunnar went on to win via decision.
Then out came the #1 ranked LHW fighter in the U.K., Jimi “The Posterboy” Manuwa and he backed up all the hype I have been talking about him for the last 3 years. The former UCMMA Light Heavyweight Champion and BAMMA standout kept his unblemished record in tack as he defeated kickboxing specialist Cyrille Diabate. Late in the first round Manuwa landed a take down that Diabate tried to defend but twisted his leg. It would be revealed on the corner came that he injured his calf and would not come out of the corner and Manuwa would get the victory.
The co-main event featured a featherweight bout that on paper had Fight of the Year potential as Cub Swanson took on Dustin Poirier. These two came in right next to each other in the new UFC Ranking system (ufc.com/rankings) as #6 Swanson and #7 Poirier. These two would not disappoint as Swanson came out on fire with his striking and showed a couple impressive flying knee attempts. Poirier knew he was in trouble but stayed calm and in the second came out firing on all cylinders and had Swanson backing up for most of the round. It all came down to the third but when Poirier went for a throw off the cage Swanson reversed it and moments later had Poirier mounted. With this control for the rest of the round Swanson won the fight via decision and now awaits a top 5 opponent.
The main event of the evening featured interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao facing off against ultra aggressive Michael McDonald. This aggressiveness and his power seemed give Barao some trouble in the first round and a half but when he figured it out and got his timing the champion put on a clinic. With all the power punches and always pressing the pace McDonald seemed tired in the 4th round and Barao could sense it, he took the fight to the ground and got the challenger in an arm-triangle choke which was the deciding factor and also made Barao some extra cash as it was named Submission of the Night.
Overall it was a solid night and it answered some questions:
Just how good is Gunnar Nelson? Yeah he is as good as advertised.
Is Cub Swanson back to is WEC form or has he been lucky? He is back and he is pissed off, watch out.
How will Ranan Barao look now that he is champion? He looks like he is going to give Dominic a run for his money as soon as he gets healthy.