The UFC came to London this Saturday with a fight card headlined by rising star Alexander Gustafsson and 14 and 0 killer Jimi Manuwa, 13 of whose wins have come by form of KO and who has never gone the distance. I question the wisdom of sticking one of your best up-and-coming stars in Gustafsson, who’s coming off a narrow thin, fight-of-the-year decision loss to Jon Jones, on a UFC Fight Pass-only card that only the hardest of the hardcore fans (ie me) were going to see. With the popularity of the UFC waning, you’d think Gustafsson-Manuwa is exactly the kind of fight the UFC would want to get in front of as many eyes as possible, the kind of fight capable of converting new fans. Then again, what do I care about new fans? I enjoy watching the fights without some bloated dick in a Tapout shirt asking me if I think “Kimbo could f this dude up, right?”
For those of use who did see it, it was a great card, with submissions, knockouts, and close decisions, with not a bad fight on it, and a main event that lived up to its billing. Gustafsson won via TKO, which was the best possible outcome for the UFC. The big Swede gets to keep his number one contender status and set up a rematch with Jones, and with Manuwa still being a jacked black dude who knocks people’s heads off, I don’t see him losing much appeal after a first loss either. In the aftermath Dana White has said Gustafsson will fight the winner of Jones-Teixeira for the title. So basically, if Jones wins, we still get the Gustafsson-Jones rematch everyone wanted, and this Fight Pass card was a freebie. Not too bad.
And with laidback Brits John Gooden and Dan Hardy calling the action (their first card as commentators), I was able to enjoy the whole thing without some wannabe Howard Kosell screaming into his microphone like it’s a Korean War transistor radio during a firefight. More Dan Hardy, please. Jon Anik gives me a headache, and I find his eyebrows offensive.
FULL RESULTS AND RECAP:
Louis Gaudinot def. Phil Harris via arm-in guillotine, 1:13 of Round 1
Gaudinot comes out rocking the green hair like it’s ’98. Which I appreciate because I once owned a puka shell necklace and at least 10 ska records. It turns out to be a quick one with Gaudinot winning with a guillotine off basically the first shot. The judo black belt Harris pushed Gaudinot against the cage looking for the takedown, with Gaudinot defending by threatening with the guillotine. Cycle, rinse, repeat, until Gaudinot actually got his left tricep on the back of Harris’s neck, and then pulled guard with his legs wrapped above Harris’s waist, separating his torso from his legs. Harris tried to flip out of it, but Gaudinot just finished the guillotine from the top.
Igor Araujo def. Danny Mitchell via Unanimous Decision (30-27 on all cards)
Brit Danny Mitchell comes out rocking the epic mullet and the awesome nickname “The Cheesecake Assassin.” Between the haircut and the fact that he doesn’t even have a wikipedia page, Mitchell is looking like local hero cannon fodder, the UFC equivalent of a bringer show. “Thanks for getting your family to buy tickets, bud, now go out there and get punched to death!” Surprisingly, it ends up being a great fight, assuming you like BJJ (which I do). Lots of scrambles and leg lock attempts. Mitchell probably would’ve had a good chance if he’d tried harder to keep the fight standing, but it went to the ground almost immediately in every round, helped along by Mitchell himself when he pulled a couple bonehead moves like attempting a flying triangle at the end of the second and inexplicably shooting for a takedown at the beginning of the third. I believe that’s the Meisha Tate strategy, trying to go to the ground with a world class grappler.
Cláudio Henrique da Silva def. Brad Scot via Unanimous Decision (29-28 on all cards)
This is one of those fights that should’ve been a draw if we could get some judges that actually use the scoring system like it’s meant to be used. Brad Scot won the second round by a much bigger margin than Silva won 1 or 3, which should be the criteria by which you award a 10-8 round. Scot is still the winner in spirit, smashing up Da Silva’s face and routing him if you score by Diaz Bros whoever-looks-the-most-f*cked-up-afterwards-loses rules. But Da Silva controlled Scot on the ground in rounds one and three and rides the victory straight to the hospital to get some stitches in his face.
Luke Barnatt def. Mats Nilsson via TKO 4:24 of Round 1.
Great fight, big win for Barnatt. Nilsson is a cute little Swede with brown hair and jug ears that looks like he belongs on a Kinder package. Barnatt, as always, looks way too slow to be fighting in the UFC, but the aptly nicknamed “Big Slow” manages to use his range, elusiveness, and technique to break Nilsson down. I don’t know how he does it. Nilsson was getting inside and hitting Barnatt with shots at the beginning, but soon got stuck at the end of Barnatt’s jab and eventually got stopped with a big slow super man punch to partially blocked head kick combo that wobbled Nilsson, followed by some punches and body shots until Nilsson crumpled.
Ilir Latifi def. Cyrille Diabaté via Neck Crank 3:02 of Round 1
It’s Latifi time! A classic striker vs. grappler match up between 6’6″ Cyrille “The Snake” and 5’10” Ilir “The Sledgehammer.” Reffed by Leon Roberts, who looks like he could be Latifi’s brother. Slow feeling out process, with Diabate trying not to overcommit to strikes and get taken down, while hoping to time a knee with Latifi’s first shot. Latifi ends up taking Diabate down with a quick ankle pick without a single punch being thrown. Latifi works to half guard and then subs Diabate with some kind of no-arm D’arce/head crank/guillotine thing that only a really stocky buff guy could pull off. He looked like he was trying to pop the head off his sister’s Barbie, probably a good thing Diabate tapped.
During the post-fight interview, Dan Hardy, referring to the sub, asks Latifi “This is something you’ve had success with in training?” But the way he runs his words together it sounds like “This is something that you’ve had sex with in training?”
Gunnar Nelson Def. Omari Akhmedov via Guillotine 4:36 of Round 1
Akhmedov comes out to the Last of the Mohican theme, which is my new favorite walk-up song. He’s rocking the beard-no-mustache look like an extra in the “Amish Paradise” video. Once the fight starts, Nelson comes out looking like the Viking Machida in his karate stance, nailing Akhmedov with a straight left out of southpaw, then finds and holds mount, dropping brutal elbows until the last 10 seconds when Akhmedov creates a scramble and Nelson finishes him with a guillotine. Nelson is a BEAST. He passed Akhmedov’s guard like it wasn’t even there and just rode him the entire time. It’s always nice to watch a guy who knows how to hold mount position, so much better than watch two guys battle for half guard. You don’t see people going for mount as much these days, but for my money, nothing beats a tight mount.
Brad Pickett Def. Neil Seery via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
A great nickname match up with “One Punch” Pickett taking on “Two Tap” Seery. Seery doesn’t have a wikipedia page and looks like he’s about 47 years old, which doesn’t bode well. Pickett’s walk-up outfit is my favorite, rocking the brown derby (?) hat with wifebeater and matching suspenders. That’s not a skinhead thing, is it? It’s really hard to differentiate between anglo and skinhead sometimes. Tale of the tape says Seery is actually one year younger (34) than Pickett. I don’t believe it. Fight starts and it’s a hell of an entertaining slobber knocker with both guys trying to take each other’s heads off. At least it is for half of each round until Pickett realizes “Oh yeah, I train at American Top Team and I’m fighting an Irishman,” and takes Seery down. Seery mostly retains guard or half guard, but the takedowns are the difference and Pickett wins via UD.
Michael Johnson vs. Melvin Guillard via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Just like the white man to try to pit young black men against one another, isn’t it? A pretty even match up betwen two guys with more or less the same skill set (wrestling base, athleticism, hard punches). Sort of boring throughout the first two rounds with Guillard moving away, trying to get Johnson to attack first so he can counter punch. Johnson gets frustrated, appealing to the crowd as if to say “why won’t he let me bang, bro?” Guillard staggers Johnson with an uppercut he slips underneath Johnson’s arm in the first, and Johnson staggers Guillard with a straight left in the second. They finally mix it up in the third and Johnson gets the better of the exchanges pretty easily. His timing is incredible. Johnson leaves pissed that Guillard wouldn’t exchange with him, Guillard leaves pissed because the ref didn’t call an eye poke, and the crowd leaves pissed that the fight was kind of dull. Sad face. Johnson is a real deal contender though.
Alexander Gustafsson Def. Jimi Manuwa Via TKO (knee and punches)
We’ve got a classic Swedish beanpole vs. jacked black guy in this one. Gustafsson seems like the least likely guy ever to have a dock-eared pitbull tattooed on his chest, but it turns out that he did spend 15 months in Swedish prison, so who knows (I hear the meatballs SUCK in Swedish prison). Gustafsson is four inches taller than Manuwa, but actually giving up half an inch of reach (probably because of Manuwa’s broad shoulders). Seems like most of Sweden’s in the crowd, probably all on their annual six-month vacation. No one in Europe works, and even when they do they drink two liters of beer at lunch (and they never get fat because of olive oil). Lucky bastards.
They exchange in the first and Gustafsson wisely takes the big punching Manuwa down. He works for a far side kimura/americana/straight arm bar submission chain from half guard, but he can’t get out of half guard and it’s hard to sub a guy as strong as Manuwa without perfect position. The second starts and they exchange again. Manuwa hits scary hard, but Gustafsson is still standing after taking a few and that seems to give him confidence. Gustafsson punches inside Manuwa’s range, grabs a Thai plum and lands a huge knee right on the chin. Manuwa goes wobbly, Gustafsson swarms, hits Manuwa on the chin again, and Manuwau has no chance to recover. TKO at 1:18 of round two. Great fight.