Wow, what a weekend of MMA action. In truth, your writer is still a bit wired from Saturday’s marathon of watching Cage Warriors Fighting Championship live in my adopted home town and then going home to watch the most stacked UFC event in recent memory, and given my possible eye strain and the onset of caffeine overdose, please forgive me if I concentrate primarily on those shows.
There’s really only one place I can start…
Cage Warriors 50 – the Night of the Ninjas
Saturday was the high water mark of Scottish MMA to date as Europe’s #1 promotion came to Glasgow for the first time. A cast of Scottish fighters took on quality opposition from down south and overseas, backed up by a brace of matches featuring Cage Warriors stalwarts like Denniston Sutherland (facing unbeaten Scott Askham) and Bellator vet and BJJ champion Wilson Reis facing Irish up and comer Owen Roddy.
Glasgow’s Dinky Ninja Fight Team had six fighters on the professional card, posting a stunning 5-1 result with a debut win for Alex Davidson followed by impressive decision wins by Mark Connor (who got a smile from my by using Satyricon as his entrance music) and Dan Hope.
Graham Turner continued his awesome run, following on from winning titles in Vision FC and On Top by stopping the very capable Nathan Beer in the first round – he’s surely in contention for a crack at the Conor MacGregor’s Cage Warriors Featherweight title sometime in 2013.
Scott Askham brought a vocal support and unbeaten record into his bout with the always game Denniston Sutherland and proceeded to dominate the majority of the match with some heavy hitting, although he couldn’t put the game veteran away.
Another Dinky Ninja, Alan Johnston took the opportunity of his career by grabbing a gutsy unanimous decision victory over former Ultimate Fighter contestant Aaron Wilkinson to signal his arrival as one of Britain’s top Welterweights.
The co-main event always looked like being the fight of the night as fast rising Irishman Owen Roddy faced bona fide international MMA star Wilson Reis and that’s exactly what happened. A back and forth battle took place largely on the feet, with Reis struggling to overcome Roddy’s longer reach. From our seats, we had a tough time scoring some closely fought rounds but it all became academic when Reis dropped Roddy with a counter punch and swarmed him, laying in some nasty ground and pound before reverting to type and sinking in the rear naked choke.
The main event saw Paul McVeigh, the chief exponent of ‘Dinky Ninjitsu’ face off with quality American Brandon Hempleman in a 130lb catch weight bout as he makes his way down to Flyweight. Sadly, McVeigh couldn’t seem to consistently get past Hempleman’s reach to score with his quality Muay Thai and similarly couldn’t close the distance to make his wrestling and BJJ advantage tell. Thus, despite landing a SWEET front kick to Hempleman’s face, Paul was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision.
I have every faith that Paul will bounce back and achieve his aim of becoming Cage Warriors Flyweight champion while I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Hempleman in he UFC before long, as that seems to be the reward for a win over McVeigh these days…
All in all, Cage Warriors 50 was a great night of fights as we’re more than used to from this promotion, but it was also a standout night for Scottish MMA that when taken along with the big wins for James Doolan and Steven Ray last week at BAMMA 11 and Joanne Calderwood’s upcoming sophomore appearance at Invicta 4 can mean only one thing.
The Scots have arrived, and they’re feeling punchy…
Cage Warriors 50
• Brandon Hempleman def. Paul McVeigh via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Wilson Reis def. Owen Roddy via submission (rear-naked choke)
• Alan Johnston def. Aaron Wilkinson via unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 29-28)
• Scott Askham def. Denniston Sutherland via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
• Graham Turner def. Nathan Beer via TKO (strikes)
• Dan Hope def. Avi Jack via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
• Alex Enlund def. Ahsan Gilani via TKO (strikes)
• Mark Connor def. Andy Young via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alex Davidson def. Sean McDonald via TKO (strikes)
UFC on FOX 5 – Henderson vs. Diaz
I got home from Cage Warriors just in time to brew a massive pot of coffee and catch the main card of arguably the best MMA show ever sent out on free TV.
Annoyingly, it seems we missed some top action on the prelims with a double ‘of the night’ bonus winning effort from Scott Jorgenson, a massive performance from Dennis Siver possibly inserting himself into Featherweight title contention and massive KOs from Daron Cruikshank and Yves Edwards all on the preliminary action. Ho hum, that’s what fight video sites are for…
As predicted the main card kicked off with a great battle between Matt Brown and Mike Swick. The first round was back and forth with some awesome scrambling and BJJ on show and we had it as Matt Brown taking the frame. That was academic in the second as Matt Brown scored the biggest win of his career to date with a beautiful KO.
The next match was the first of two bouts with the potential to be a passing of the torch as young star Rory MacDonald faced living legend BJ Penn. Much of the pre-match hype centred on how fired up BJ would be and whether he would be able to live with the significantly larger MacDonald.
The answer was BJ was plenty fired up and did OK in the first round, but MacDonald’s reach, strength, youth and sheer calmness came through with a supremely dominant second round and almost effortless supremacy in the third. It seemed to us that Rory could have finished the fight any time after the mid point of the second round, but chose not to rush in and finish BJ.
Rory’s calmness and clinical attitude, both in the Octagon and during pre and post fight press conferences seem to have turned him into a heel, especially given that he may well have retired a great fan favourite in the shape of BJ.
To be honest, I don’t want to see BJ fight at welterweight again – for as much as I love him, I don’t need to see him get beaten up by younger guys who’ve got thirty pounds in weight on him. If BJ fights again, it needs to be at lightweight but given he’s 1-4-1 in his last six fights, I think it might be time…
The co-main event between Gustafsson and Shogun was a similar story, although not nearly as clear cut. While Alex clearly outstruck Shogun, he nearly got caught in a few leg locks and while I had that as a solid 30-27 for Alex, I had Rory with a 30-25 win over BJ.
Some cynical folks may cite Gustafsson’s lack of ability to finish Shogun (or Thiago Silva in his last fight) as a case for him no deserving his putative status as no.1 contender but its worth remembering that apart from his title loss to Jones, which came after a year out injured, Shogun hasn’t ever been finished by strikes.
In my eyes, back to back decision wins over two of the most dangerous strikers in the division, coming on the back of four stoppage wins are a great case for Gustafsson being no.1 contender, even though he himself says he’d like to stay active rather than wait until summer for a shot at the winner of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen.
The main event always looked to be a case of Nate Diaz’ aggression and finishing ability vs. Benson Henderson’s strength and wrestling and the winner was very definitely Henderson. To be true, Diaz pushed Henderson into deep water and caused him to be more active and exciting than has sometimes been the case and if it hadn’t been for Benson scoring a solid shot that obscured Diaz’ vision in the first frame, the result could have been much closer.
For all that Diaz was his usual confrontational self in the cage (it’s a tactic, and it works against most folk) both he and Benson showed real class after the bout and in the post fight press conference, and while Benson coming of age as a UFC ambassador is not all that unexpected, the honesty and maturity displayed by Diaz was encouraging. This isn’t his last main event.
Another issue to arise from this match is the almost-confirmed reveal of Ben Henderson fighting with a toothpick in his mouth. Now, when Nate Diaz says you do something weird, then you are doing something WEIRD.
As far bizarre fight habits go, it’s right up there and is deeply illegal. While the risk is mostly to Benson himself, I’m pretty sure athletic commissions across the nation will be taking extra care to inspect his mouthpiece in future…
On the back of such an impressive card containing three perfectly serviceable main events, it’s no surprise that the ratings for this issue of UFC on FOX seem to be the best since the first issue a year ago. Hopefully this trend continues for UFC on FOX 6 which has the Flyweight title bout between Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson and a grudge bout between Rampage Jackson and Glover Teixeira.
UFC on FOX 5 – Henderson vs. Diaz
Seattle, Washington, USA
• Benson Henderson def. Nate Diaz via unanimous (50-43, 50-45, 50-45) – to retain lightweight title
• Alexander Gustafsson def. Mauricio Rua via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
• Rory MacDonald def. BJ Penn via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
• Matt Brown def. Mike Swick via KO (punches)
• Yves Edwards def. Jeremy Stephens via KO (punch and elbows)
• Raphael Assuncao def. Mike Easton via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
• Ramsey Nijem def. Joe Proctor via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28
• Daron Cruickshank def. Henry Martinez via KO (kick)
• Abel Trujillo def. Marcus LeVesseur via TKO (knees)
• Dennis Siver def. Nam Phan via unanimous decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-26)
Scott Jorgensen def. John Albert via submission (rear-naked choke)
This card suffered the ignominy of having its main event, the featherweight tournament final between Rad Martinez and Shahbulat Shamhalaev being called up immediately before it was due to begin on account of Shamhalaev getting food poisoning and spending the whole day with his head in a bucket. Quite rightly, the bout was cancelled by the athletic commission and will now take place next week at Bellator 83.
The best action on this card came from the women’s bout between Jessica Eye and Zoila Gurgel where Eye scored arguably the most impressive win of her career. If you didn’t see it, then I advise you to check it out.
In fact, here’s the link so you have no excuse http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ipOjOWg6lAA.
Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
• Anthony Leone def. Zach Makovsky via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Jessica Eye def. Zoila Frausto Gurgel via technical submission (standing arm-triangle choke)
PRELIMINARY (Spike TV)
• Mike Wessel def. Alexei Kudin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Jimmie Rivera def. Jesse Brock via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
• Darrel Horcher def. Chris Liguori via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Terrell Hobbs def. Brylan Van Artsdalen via submission (rear-naked choke)
• Tuan Pham def. Matthew Lozano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Claudio Ledesma def. Bo Harris via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Im sure there’s something else….
Oh yeah, Ronda Rousey has been confirmed as the first UFC Women’s (Bantamweight) champion and has her first defence booked against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.
Rousey of course has a 6-0 record of first round submission victories and allied to her Olympic judo pedigree, looks and tendency to talk trash that has made her the de facto face of Women’s MMA.
Carmouche (7-2) is perhaps a surprise first opponent for Rousey as matches against Cristiane Santos and fellow Olympic medallist Sara McMann had been touted. Nonetheless, Carmouche is more experienced than Rousey, brings a well rounded MMA game with both TKO and submission wins and is riding a 2-0 streak earned in Invicta FC so she’s no can being brought in to lose to Ronda.
Indeed, the choice of Carmouche means that not only will this be the first women’s match in UFC history, but it will be the first UFC match to feature an openly gay fighter. MMA may actually be entering the 21st century and not before time!
I maintain a healthy skepticism over the UFC’s apparent decision to have a Women’s division of Ronda plus challenger of the season but I’ve got a little theory as to how this could be improved while not asset stripping Invicta FC in the process. This isn’t the place for that so I’ll come back to that in an editorial later in the week.
That’s about it for this week, we’ve got a brace of Ultimate Fighter finales coming up next weekend, so you can expect our usual previews later in the week and our Know the Score column tomorrow, concentrating on octagon control and effective aggression.