You know how this works by now…
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.
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.
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
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