It’s time to step into the Octagon once again as we take a look at the UFC’s latest trip to good old Blighty, shown live this past Saturday night on BT Sport here in Britain.
The broadcast began with the thirty-minute “pre-show”, and after a highlights package featuring action from the preliminaries it was on to the main show and the flyweight encounter between Phil Harris and John Lineker.
This proved to be a nice little opener. After a brief feeling out period both men began to land with some nice shots, but as time went on it was Lineker who was getting the better of the exchanges, and the man dubbed “Hands of Stone” had a static target in front of him.
Harris’ foot work just wasn’t that good as he basically stood in front of the Brazilian, so it came as no surprise when a big right put the Brit on his backside. Harris got back to his feet quickly, but he was rocked again with a left a few seconds later.
Harris basically looked out of it as he back-pedalled as fast as he could, and when Lineker connected with a right to the liver he slumped to the canvas. A few more blows followed until the referee stepped in to give Lineker the TKO win.
Then it was up to the middleweight division as Alessio Sakara took on Nico Musoke.
Now this was a fight. They began trading heavy leather as soon as the action began, and it was only a few seconds into the fight that Sakara rocked his man with a nice combination before taking him down with what looked like a belly to belly suplex. Hey, don’t forget I’m a wrestling blogger as well.
Anyway. After delivering a few well-placed blows Sakara let his man back up. It proved to be an unwise move as Musoke began to unload with the combinations himself as he took his turn to rock his man, and with the frantic pace it looked like we were going to get a flash knockout, until Musoke instigated a clinch against the cage.
Moments later the Swede took the fight to the ground and showed some great skills as he transitioned to side control in search of an arm triangle. Sakara managed to defend against this before suddenly exploding back to his feet and going into Musoke’s guard.
But as he looked for the ground and pound Musoke countered with an arm bar. There was nothing Sakara could do but verbally tap to give Musoke the highly impressive submission win.
Lightweight action followed as Norman Parke went up against Jon Tuck.
Tuck began his shift in the cage with a variety of kicks, and he looked highly impressive when executing these particular moves, and as the round progressed his striking looked top notch. A punch to the eye had Parke on the back foot a little when he claimed it was an eye poke, and it wasn’t really until the end of the round that the Northern Irishman started to come into his own as he scored with the takedown just when the round ended.
From the second round onwards it was all about Parke. Tuck began to look exhausted early on, and it was then that Parke took complete control. His striking looked perfect as he began to use the man from Guam as his personal punching bag. Tuck still managed to get in a few good blows of his own, but the problem was that they weren’t in combinations, and as Parke stalked him down and the second became the third it became more than obvious to everyone just who was going to win this thing.
But with no finish in sight the judges were called upon for the only time during the main show as they gave their unanimous decision to Parke.
Then it was up to the light heavyweight division as Jimi Manuwa faced Ryan Jimmo.
Jimmo began this fight by racing across the cage as if he’d been shot out of a cannon. He managed to deliver a couple of blows before the action settled down a little. It was then that Manuwa began to show what he was all about.
His work in the clinch was almost perfect. A series of hard knees to the thighs saw Jimmo noticeably wincing and limping, a sign that they had had their desired effect. The Poster Boy added in a few good combinations as he took control of the action.
As they moved into the second round Jimmo tried to take that control away with a series of clinches against the fence, but these ultimately led nowhere when the referee separated them because of inactivity, and as the round neared the end Manuwa kicked it up a gear when he connected with a knee to the head. Jimmo took a few steps backward and then collapsed to the ground as his left leg gave out on him. The referee quickly stepped in to stop the action as Manuwa the TKO win.
The co-main event featured lightweight action as Ross Pearson faced Melvin Guillard.
This looked like it was going to be a cracking little fight, but sadly it will be remembered for a somewhat controversial incident and decision.
Both fighters came out looking to dispense with the water testing period, and as the seconds ticked away Guillard began to get the better of the exchanges.
But when Pearson went for a flying knee Guillard caught him and took him down. Pearson then tried to get back to his feet as Guillard connected with a couple of knees to the head, and while the first one was legal the second one landed when Pearson’s hand was on the mat, which made the Brit a grounded fighter and the blow illegal.
The knee also opened up a nasty cut on Pearson’s forehead, and the referee stepped in immediately to stop the action. Confusion then reigned for a few moments before the official announcement of a no contest.
The main event featured middleweight action as Lyoto Machida took on Mark Munoz.
We had quite an extensive feeling out period in this one, but when the end came it came quickly.
Both guys tested the waters with a few leg kicks, and as they squared up to each other trying to gauge the distance it looked like we were going to get a few good rounds of action.
Then, from out of nowhere, Machida connected with a left kick to the head. Munoz fell to the canvas like the proverbial sack of spuds. No follow-up ground and pound was needed as the referee quickly stepped in to give Machida the knockout win.
In conclusion – I think in terms of fight action the UFC’s latest visit to merry old England could be termed a great success. The main show fights certainly gave us the full gamut of finishes from decisions to submissions to knockouts, and the performances of those involved certainly can’t be faulted.
Sadly I can’t say the same about the overall presentation of this show. For years the various companies that have beamed the UFC into British homes have been happy to give us the shows without any major changes to production standards.
This wasn’t the case with this show. Gone were the the presentational skills of messrs Anik and Rogan and all the pre- and post-fight hype that the UFC do well. In their place BT Sport gave us Caroline Pearce and John Gooden in the studio as well as several accomplices at the arena.
It was the kind of thing that Sky Sports do when they cover a live boxing show from across the pond, with a knowledgeable presenter leading a panel of experts as they discuss the evening’s events.
If this is what BT Sport were trying to achieve then they failed. Pearce just wasn’t up to it as a presenter, and while Gooden was more then capable of analysing the action he clearly needed someone to play off, someone who could have offered a different point of view.
But enough of that rant, let’s get back to the matter at hand, and that’s the fight of the night no-prize. This time around the prestigious award goes to the action-packed middleweight encounter between Nico Musoke and Alessio Sakara, although Norman Parke almost got the nod.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give the UFC’s latest offering the thumbs up, and to give BT Sport’s rather annoying handling of the coverage a big thumbs down.
By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!