UFC 189 Co-Main Event & Undercard Preview

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Given the relentless hype for the main event, it’s been easy to forget that there is actually an undercard to UFC 189 on Saturday but that undercard would probably be amongst the best PPV cards of the year even if both Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes suddenly got injured.

The co-main event itself is a fight worthy of headlining any MMA card as Robbie Lawler (25-10, 1NC) looks to make the first defence of his UFC Welterweight title against Rory MacDonald (18-2).

Robbie Lawler’s career would make an excellent movie trilogy, all the way from the youthful prodigy through his journeyman years in the wilderness to his triumphant UFC return and title victory.

6-1 since returning to the UFC and dropping back down to Welterweight, Lawler seems to have reached a point in his career where natural talents, coaching, experience and a maturity have moulded him into a complete martial artist where his always dangerous striking is fully in accord with his grappling game, cardio and mentality.

By contrast, Rory MacDonald has seemed like the heir apparent to the welterweight throne for years. A protégé of former champion Georges St-Pierre, it seemed that MacDonald was always the new big thing at 170lbs even as losses to elite fighters Carlos Condit (losing to a late KO after dominating the fight for three rounds) and Lawler (via split decision) checked his progress towards the seemingly inevitable title shot.

Nonetheless, MacDonald rebounded from both losses by becoming a more dangerous, more complete martial artists and in the five years since first tasting defeat in that fight against Condit.

Now, one of the sports most beloved and skilled veterans faces off with one of the preeminent examples of a modern, well rounded, cerebral and above all, professional MMA fighter with the belt on the line. What more could you ask for?

Well, a promoter would ask for one of them to be a bit mouthier and turn a credible sporting contest into a bit more of a media sensation, but a certain Irishman seems to have pegged the market in that field. In any case, for true fans of mixed martial arts as a sport, this is as credible a title matchwith as compelling a sporting narrative as any you are likely to find.

The main card is filled out with a few excellent fights, all of which could be expected to headline a Fight Pass card in their own right. Firstly, a featherweight contest between two guys who are no stranger to ‘of the night’ bonuses and had been on the outer edge of title contention before some recent losses in the shape of Dennis Bermudez (14-4) and Jeremy Stephens (23-11). A win for either man really places them back in the mix.

Next we have two rising welterweight prospects who met defeat in their last bout against experienced opposition as the exciting Brandon Thatch (11-2) meets smooth Icelander, Gunnar Nelson (13-1-1) looking to recover from losses to Benson Henderson and Rick Story respectively. Both are highly regarded by UFC brass, the media and the fans so the winner here could find themselves a win or two from a title shot.

Opening the main card, Brad Pickett (24-10) returns to 135lbs following a disappointing 1-3 run at Flyweight and is rewarded with the dubious honour of facing undefeated prospect Thomas Almeida (18-0). Pickett would be the biggest scalp of Almedia’s career to date, while a win over the impressive youngster would immediately rehabilitate Pickett to his former spot in the top ten of the bantamweight rankings.

The preliminary card also has it’s share of great fights as ‘Immortal’ Matt Brown (19-13) faces the surging Tim Means (24-6-1) and with a hefty 28 knockout wins between them I don’t think anyone is expecting a dull fight…

We’ve also got former Cage Warriors champion Cathal Pendred (17-2-1) looking to impress after a lukewarm start to his UFC career when he faces the ever-game veteran John Howard (22-11) and Neil Seery (15-10)continues his UFC fairytale against Louis Smolka (8-1) knowing that a win would likely place him in title contention given the shallow waters in the flyweight division.

For once this is a card which actually seems worth staying up late for so let’s hope it lives up to the hype.

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The Good, The Bad & the Ugly: UFC London Edition

You know how this works by now…

The Good:

The action throughout was of a high quality but the undoubted high points have to be the standout performances by Alexander Gustafsson and Gunnar Nelson, with the compelling bouts between Pickett/Seery and da Silva/Scott and big wins for Ilir Latifi, Luke Barnatt and Louis Gaudinot.

The new announce team of John Gooden and Dan Hardy did a fine job, offering informative and engaging commentary while not stepping on the action or indulging in self aggrandisation – a rare and special feat in terms of MMA announcing it seems.

A lot of UK cards have felt a tad second rate in the past, headed by bouts that wouldn’t make the main card of a US show but that criticism simply cannot be aimed here. Two number one contenders were decided and some other fighters took big steps towards the top echelons of the divisions.

Even the late replacements to the card were significant with Neil Seery proving a great test for Brad Pickett and really showing his quality (Dana White was vocally impressed, for one thing) while Michael Johnson added to his win streak with plenty to spare against Melvin Guillard.

The Bad:

A strangely lacklustre co-main event where some promising trash talk resulted in a tepid match with long periods of reluctance to engage interspersed with burst of compelling action was a bit disappointing.

Indeed, I don’t recall another match that had several near knockdowns that proved so unsatisfying and unmemorable.

The new EMEA ring announcer (who’s name I’ve forgotten already) wasn’t convincing and I can totally understand the criticism of some US commentators feeling that his delivery made the show seem like a regional level event. Do we not have anyone in the UK who won’t fluff the information given on their cue cards and doesn’t make their ring announcing sound like a pro wrestling bout in a working men’s social club, circa 1982?

In truth, it wasn’t a great night for British fighters as they went 1-4 on the card, with only Luke Barnatt really adding to his stock (I’m not counting Pickett vs. Seery here as it was pretty much a derby fight) but Brad Scott can feel aggrieved at losing the decision in his fight and Manuwa and Mitchell both showed plenty of skills and entertainment value.

The Ugly – this week retitled, The Funny:

Towards the end of the Igor Araujo vs. Danny Mitchell match, the two fighters were locked in a mutual leg lock and with time winding down, they flailed at each other like (admittedly large and strong) toddlers fighting over who gets to play with the toy bricks.

Totally understandable in the circumstances, but visually hysterical nonetheless.

Disclaimer: We watched the whole show on Fight Pass / BT Sport, so didn’t have first hand experience of the Channel 5 offering of the top fights, but by all accounts their broadcast was embarrassingly bad which shouldn’t surprise anyone who witnessed their half assed attempts on BAMMA shows.

If we’d had the UFC chequebook we would have given bonuses to…

Fight of The Night:

It had to be Pickett vs. Seery for sheer competitiveness, quality and variety of action and a sense that the fight mattered. While not quite the OMG spectacle I had built the fight up to be, it still had a bit if everything and I can’t criticise Brad Pickett for doing the sensible thing and taking Seery down to ensure what was a vital win for him.

Performance of the Night #1:

Alexander Gustafsson, who waited till he had Jimi Manuwa’s measure and then ended his undefeated streak almost at will, choosing to turn up the heat midway through the second round and quickly dropping the powerful Englishman. This was exactly the result Gustafsson needed following his razor thin loss to Jon Jones and he is back as #1 contender once again.

Performance of the Night #2:

Gunnar Nelson for handling the very dangerous Omari Akhmedov with his characteristically unhurried style. Nelson has never been one to rush things or look particularly stressed by a situation, but his calm demeanour through the early striking exchanges and his supremely smooth jiujitsu towards the end made a worthy opponent look like a beginner at Mjollnir MMA that Nelson was demonstrating techniques to.

Surely a top ten opponent for Gunnar next, maybe Mike Pyle or the winner of Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva?

Notable mentions go to Ilir Latifi for a good performance and brutal neck crank submission win, Luke Barnatt for a big KO over a very underrated Mats Nilsson and Louis Gaudinot for his party pooper early sub of Phil Harris.

MAIN CARD

Alexander Gustafsson def. Jimi Manuwa via TKO (knee and punches) – Round 2, 1:18
Michael Johnson def. Melvin Guillard via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) – Round 3, 5:00
Brad Pickett def. Neil Seery via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) – Round 3, 5:00
Gunnar Nelson def. Omari Akhmedov via submission (guillotine) – Round 1, 4:36

PRELIMINARY CARD

Ilir Latifi def. Cyrille Diabate def. submission (neck crank) – Round 1, 3:02
Luke Barnatt def. Mats Nilsson def. TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 4:24
Claudio Henrique da Silva def. Brad Scott def. unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) – Round 3, 5:00
Igor Araujo def. Danny Mitchell def. unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – Round 3, 5:00
Louis Gaudinot def. Phil Harris def. submission (guillotine) – Round 1, 1:13

Conflicted Loyalties – One Punch, or 2 Tap?

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Usually, I know exactly who I’m backing in a fight.  Sometimes it’s an easy question with an exciting, likeable fighter from a nation I hold an affinity to facing off against a dull, dislikeable fighter from a nation I don’t but sometimes the equation is more balanced.

Sometimes there will be a fighter who’s style I like but who’s personality I don’t against a polar opposite, a fighter who I might favour for geographic reasons against one who’s style I like better or any sort of combination of factors.

As a rule I favour fighters in the following order of nationality – Scottish, Irish/Welsh, English/Scandinavian, European, Asian, Brazilian, North American – this often has as much to do with underdog status as anything else and can be completely thrown out if I’m a big fan (or not) of the fighter’s personality, skills or style.

Basically, if I’m backing you purely because of your nationality, it’s because I have no strong feelings about you apart from that, which is not a good thing.

However, never have I been as on-the-fence as I am for tonight’s bout between Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett and Neil ‘2 Tap’ Seery.

I’m a huge fan of both fighters, for their personality, fighting style and the fact that they are both from a similar part of the world to me*.

* I hesitate to say ‘British’ as Seery and most Irish fans wouldn’t like the designation, even if it’s intended as more a geographical than political term, to be used in similar terms to ‘Scandinavian’ – the fact that I am a Scot in favour of Scottish independence, yet quite happy to also self-identify as part of a cultural ‘British’ diaspora (drinking tea, speaking English as a first language etc.) seems to confuse and threaten a lot of people.  Is a desire for self-determination without racism really so hard to understand?

Under normal circumstances, I would pull for Ireland over England (well, I do when they meet in the 6 Nations, it’s a gaelic thing) and the underdog over the established star, but I can’t bring myself to cheer against Pickett, because I like him and my team sports tendency for ‘anyone but England*’ doesn’t extend to MMA, it seems.

* which again, stems more from sheer annoyance at the English sports media and the fact that they are sort of the big dogs around these parts.  

So, I’ll do the sensible thing.  I’ll sit back, watch the match and enjoy the performance of two martial artists that I have massive respect for, cheering and applauding both men.

In a lot of ways, this is something that I love about MMA – it cuts through a lot of the more insidious prejudices that are commonly associated with team sports and at the end of the day, you tend to like or dislike a fighter based on their personality and performances, rather than their country of birth.

Sure, nationality can be a starting point before you get to know the fighter, but it all too quickly becomes a secondary concern for most fans and that’s a really good thing.

Either way, I think this is a lock for our fight of the night and I can’t wait…

Probably The Worst UFC London Preview In The World

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I’m enjoying the build up to this card too much to overanalyse everything so here goes…

This card is stacked with fun fights, but I’m particularly looking forward to the headliner between Alexander Gustafsson & Jimi Manuwa as two European fighters with a penchant for intense striking battles face off with the promise of a title shot on the table. What’s not to love about that?

That said, my pick for fight of the night is the Flyweight contest between Brad Pickett and Neil Seery – two reliably entertaining fighters with a few built in story lines for added value (Pickett’s hunt for a title shot, Seery’s ‘Rocky’ story and the whole England vs. Ireland thing) facing off in a guaranteed barnburner.

Throw in UFC debuts for Danny Mitchell and Mats Nilsson, the fact that every single match (bar the co-main event) will have a an impact on our European rankings and I can’t see any way that Michael Johnson vs. Melvin Guillard and Omar Akhmedov vs. Gunnar Nelson will be dull matches.

I’m also excited to see how the box fresh commentary team of John Gooden and Dan Hardy get on. Gooden has long been one of my favourite announcers and Hardy is easily one of the most engaging figures in MMA, so they should be an excellent partnership.

Our live tweeting will be done from a party (UFC at a civilised hour is a good excuse to gather friends and have a few beverages, no?) and may well include photos and videos of our own merry-making chaos as well as insight on the fights themselves.

We’re gonna have a great night, and we think everyone who attends or tunes in will as well.

Card Information

UFC Fight Night 38: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa
March 8, 2014 | O2 Arena | London, England

MAIN CARD
BT Sport 8 p.m. GMT / UFC Fight Pass, 3 p.m. ET
Channel 5 from 9.45 p.m. GMT for the co-headliners and highlights.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Melvin Guillard vs. Michael Johnson
Brad Pickett vs. Neil Seery
Omari Akhmedov vs. Gunnar Nelson

PRELIMINARY CARD
UFC Fight Pass, 12:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m GMT

Cyrille Diabate vs. Ilir Latifi
Luke Barnatt vs. Mats Nilsson
Brad Scott vs. Claudio Henrique da Silva
Roland Delorme vs. Davey Grant
Igor Araujo vs. Danny Mitchell
Louis Gaudinot vs. Phil Harris

Pendred & Seery vacate Cage Warriors Titles for UFC Debuts

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It’s been a big few days of news from the Cage Warriors camp as Cathal Pendred formally vacated the Welterweight title pending his upcoming appearance on the Ultimate Fighter (which will also feature fellow CWFC alum and SBG Ireland product, Chris Fields) and today, Flyweight champion Neil Seery was announced as the late replacement for Ian McCall and is set to face Brad Pickett in London next month.

Pendred (13-2-1) leaves CWFC on a seven fight unbeaten streak, including wins over UFC vets Che Mills and David Bielkheden and a draw against the similarly UFC bound Danny Mitchell and a pre-CWFC win over current UFC fighter Nico Musoke.

He held the Welterweight belt since March 2013 where he defeated Gael Grimaud via decision and defended the belt once with his June TKO victory over Mills.

Seery (13-9) moves on carrying the best streak of his career, with four victories (all under the CWFC banner) since his 2012 submission loss to Artemij Sitenkov.

His last two victories – a liver kick TKO to Paul Marin and arm bar submission of Mikael Silander to win the Flyweight belt – have been especially impressive and when you remember that Seery has only had 4 fights in a 22 fight career go to a decision, he’s as close to guaranteed entertainment as you get.

 

Kumite would like to congratulate and thank Cathal & Neil for their efforts in the past few years which have formed a big part of Cage Warriors’ success and the rise in profile of Irish MMA.

 

We are sure both guys will be a credit to their country and great ambassadors for their gyms on the biggest stage but we have to say that Seery vs. Pickett just jumped to the top of my ‘must see’ matches for UFC London.

 

Quick Shill – Cage Warriors 62 – Seery vs. Gomez

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Quick Shill – Cage Warriors 62 – Seery vs. Gomez

For their first of three cards in December, Cage Warriors are offering up a world class title fight, a selection of the UK & Europe’s top fighters and some compelling dark horses on the undercard.

Headlined with the exciting Neil Seery making the first defence of his Flyweight title on the crest of a remarkable career resurgence against Ulysses Gomez who was ill served by his UFC release, seeing as a TKO loss to John Moraga (who went on to challenge for the UFC belt) and a wafer thin decision loss on foreign soil to Phil Harris hardly reflected all that badly on him.

Back in the UK, Gomez will be looking for a different result and he’s more than capable of pulling it off but on recent form he’ll find the experienced Seery a very tough challenge in what should be an awesome match.

As to the rest of the card, my pick of the bouts has to be surging and undefeated featherweight Chris Fishgold coming up against the biggest challenge of his career in the shape of the well travelled Olivier Pastor.

Elsewhere we have popular locals Liam James, Curt Warburton and Alex Enlund facing quality opposition in Ian Entwhistle, Wes Murch and Danny Lawson respectively.

Compelling bouts extend into the undercard, with a brace of female fights, Dinky Ninjas (yes, we are biased) Dan Hope and Mark Connor as well as Jordan Deesborough who impressed in taking Brett Johns to the limit as a substitute finalist in the recent Bantamweight title tournament.

It’s a cracking card, it’s on at a reasonable hour (in the UK anyway) and it’s free. What’s not to like?

For tickets and viewing information across the world, go here.

Cage Warriors 62: Countdown Video

Ahead of this weekend’s stacked Cage Warriors 62 card in Newcastle, the promotion have released this Countdown show giving a little more insight into the fighters competing.

Headlined by Neil Seery making the first defence of his Flyweight championship against former UFC fighter Ulysses Gomez and with a great supporting cast including Curt Warburton, Chris Fishgold, Olivier Pastor, Liam James, Alex Enlund, Dan Hope and others it’s a great card.

Don’t take our word for it, watch the video!