The Ultimate Fighting Championship brought the goods to London’s Wembley Arena last night, with one of the best cards of the calendar year so far. While the Brits had mixed results in their respective fights, it was fitting that wrestling won the day in several of the fights in lieu of the IOC’s recent decision to omit wrestling from the Olympic program in 2020. So who is to be most pleased and disappointed with last night’s UFC on FUEL TV 7 event? Here’s your winners and losers…
Tom Watson - The 30 year-old Brit brawler (16-5) had a memorable night last night, defeating the previously undefeated Bulgarian Stanislav Nedkov (12-1, 1 NC) in what was to become the ‘Fight of the Night’. A back and forth slugfest looked like ending early thanks to Watson’s impressive work in the Thai clinch, but Nedkov came back into it with some big shots that dropped the Brit, but Watson weathered it to get the TKO win. Not only that, Dana White also handed “Kong” both the ‘Fight of the Night’ (£50,000) and ‘KO of the Night’ (£50,000) bonuses. Not a bad night’s work by any stretch.
Andy Ogle - In a fight that most gave him no chance in, Andy Ogle (9-2) absolutely excelled and dominated the more experienced Josh Grispi (14-5) with a unanimous decision win. Ogle’s domination on the feet and ground was almost a shock but the Brit just looked so comfortable for the majority of the fight. The Sunderland native even sat next to us in the press room after the fight to watch fellow Brit Paul Sass take on Danny Castillo. A great performance and at only 24 years of age the sky is the limit for Ogle.
Danny Castillo - While not a fight for the casual MMA fan to savor, Danny Castillo’s (15-5) performance against the always dangerous and tricky Brazilian jiu-jitsu bottom game of Paul Sass (13-2) was noteworthy. While Sass slapped on a triangle here, and an armbar there, Castillo never really looked in real danger and was clearly content to ride out probably the most professional and dominant three-rounders on the night.
Matthew Riddle - How this fight with Che Mills (15-6, 1 NC) went to a split decision I will never know. In truth, Matthew Riddle (8-3, 1 NC) dominated this fight quite emphatically with some impressive wrestling, much to the chagrin of the London crowd who were promised fireworks in this fight. Riddle wasn’t about to let his animosity with the British faithful dictate his emotions however, as he put in arguably his most impressive performance to date.
James Te Huna AND Ryan Jimmo - Personally this was my fight of the night. From James Te Huna’s (18-5) masterstroke entrance with his corner as the Men In Black to the Jimmo (17-2) dominating the first round and almost finishing the fight, to Te Huna’s weathering of the storm in then taking the proceeding two rounds. It was a great fight between two great entertainers. The MiB vs. The Robot didn’t disappoint. Though Jimmo won’t be too pleased at fading in the third round, both can be proud of their night’s work.
Gunnar Nelson - The ice-cold Icelandic Nelson (11-0-1) looked like he had just woken up upon entering the Octagon to face the veteran Jorge Santiago (25-11). With the most stoic of natures, Nelson’s stance was Machida-esque as he threw some unorthodox strikes against a clearly confused Santiago. He also managed to take Santiago to the mat pretty much whenever it suited him, where he dominated equally as much. An up and coming force in the 170 lbs. division, Nelson could do some serious damage down at 155 lbs. An exciting future awaits the 24 year old no doubt.
Cub Swanson - Swanson (19-5) had a very close unanimous decision win over a very game Dustin Poirier (13-3), in a fight I inexplicably gave to Poirier. Despite this, Swanson is now on a 4-fight win streak dating back to January 2012 and admitted in the post-fight presser that the main thing that’s changed for him is he “ain’t messing around anymore”. At 29, he is nearing his prime years, and with a couple more wins a championship match against José Aldo may just be on the cards.
Renan Barao AND Michael McDonald - This was a title fight that did not disappoint. Both Renan Barao (32-1, 1 NC) and Michael McDonald (15-2) brought the goods with the inexperienced and young challenger arguably taking both the first and second round (though I only gave him the second). Even though proved just too experienced and savvy in the later rounds for McDonald, the 22 year old Californian showed enough in this fight to suggest that he will be in the bantamweight title picture many more times in the future, and a lot sooner should Dominick Cruz fail to recover from his recurring knee injury.
Stanislav Nedkov - I digress at calling anyone who puts their body on the line in a cage fight a “loser”, but for the sake of this article such drastic measures must be taken. Nedkov is in this category for the fact that he had Tom Watson exactly where he needed him to win the fight and silence the London crowd, but he let it slip and let the Brit back into the fight, eventually being TKO’d as he looked to have gassed in the second. Though I don’t think he’ll be too disheartened, as he took home a nifty £50,000 for the ‘Fight of the Night’.
Paul Sass - Void of any ideas outside of throwing submission attempts from the bottom, Sass was overwhelmed by the more experienced and effective game of Castillo, who just slammed his way out of any armbar, triangle and omaplata attempts. Back to the drawing board for the scouser.
Terry Etim - In his first fight since being on the receiving end of the 2012 ‘Knockout Of The Year’ at the hands of Edson Barboza, Etim (15-5) came into this fight against Renee Forte (8-2) as the card’s biggest favorite. For the majority of the fight however, Etim was outstruck en route to a unanimous decision defeat against the Brazilian underdog from Fortaleza. Like his fellow scouser Sass, time to re-evaluate things.
Jorge Santiago - Though losing to Gunnar Nelson is no disgrace, and something the many more fighters will no doubt experience in the future, Santiago is now 2-3 in his last five, with all three losses coming in the UFC. Maybe he just hasn’t got the necessary mentality for the bigger stages.
Those idiot fans that were brawling in the Wembley crowd - So apparently, and none too surprisingly (having seen the intoxication on display) there was apparently a massive brawl between around six British fans as the stewards looked on. With the UFC currently in negotiations for a big television deal in the UK, this will not help the sport’s image in the eyes of the ignorant few that presume the sport is by and for brutish louts.
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