In what was expected to be BAMMA Middleweight Champion Tom Watson's toughest test to date the Southampton, England native made it look easy. Loose and sharp on his feet and excellently setting up his bludgeoning kicks with crisp punches he looked to have his opponent Murilo Rua figured out from the beginning, likely a product of focusing his training camp for this fight at Team Greg Jackson in New Mexico. Murilo appeared a little doughy and possibly out of shape. Even when warming up the Chute Boxe product and Pride Veteran looked to have lost some flexibility in his hamstrings. Had he taken his opponent too lightly?
The story of the fight was Watson being able to land varying levels of kicks to Rua's legs, body and on occasion head. In particular though Watson's hard outside leg kicks soon mangled Ninja's left knee, completely killing his ability to use footwork for striking or grappling leaving him more or less a sitting duck. Watson though wasn't going to underestimate the Brazilian's tenacity and go in reckless for a kill. Watson controlled the centre of the cage, got the better of the exchanges and dictated the pace of the fight.
The third round opened with desperation from Rua rushing to clinch with Watson and drive him against the fence but Watson was able to show off his improving takedown defense, shifting his hips and controlling Rua's head while landing some defensive knees before gaining a separation and continuing his clinical assault. Having missed a lot of head kicks earlier in the fight, Watson was able to land his shin across Rua's neck staggering him severely, the referee closely keeping an eye out before Watson surgically finished Rua with measured punches.
This was the most impressive performance of Watson's career, having disappointed in the closeness of his fight with Alex Reid after making the mistake of fighting Jesse Taylor 2 weeks earlier in a different time-zone at MFC in Canada. Tonight's fight showed Watson's potential while the merit of his performance has surely earned him a chance to cross over to the big stage of Strikeforce or UFC. At 28 years of age he's also young enough to keep improving while entering the prime of his athletic career.
Frank Trigg looks to have returned to his roots wasting no time in taking down slugger John Phillips and exposing the common weakness found in a lot of British fighters: a general lack of wrestling and grappling ability. Despite training with a Gracie Barra affiliate gym Phillips had nothing for Trigg off his back apart from a lone guard retention, but Trigg using his wrestling base and pressure was able to stay on top of Phillips and worked to land hard elbows to the head busting the Welshman wide open. Trigg continued the attack until the referee paused the fight to have a doctor check on Phillips, at this point a crimson mess. The doctor decided to bring a halt to the match despite Phillips protesting him not to. BAMMA commentator OJ Borg suggested Trigg may be next in line to face Watson for the Middleweight title and it's a potentially interesting match to see how far Watson's takedown defense has come along but it's hard not to see Watson making short work of Trigg should they meet. Even if Trigg doesn't get the next shot, he may have found work as Cuba Gooding Jr's bodyguard as the film star was in attendance, throwing his full vocal support to the lone American on the card.
Matt Ewin cautiously but easily outpointed Canadian MMA legend Ivan Salaverry who had come out of retirement to replace an injured Phil Baroni on short notice. Salaverry was noticeably stiff and generally ineffective throughout only landing the occasional jab and a few inside leg kicks while Ewin was loose and landing some good shots but nothing spectacular either. Ewin is actually a year older than Salaverry being 41 years to Ivan's 40, but the fight age gap appeared greater and I'd hope Salaverry goes back to his life as a retired MMA fighter. As for Ewin I can't see him making waves at the higher end of even the BAMMA roster but as long as he's still fit and healthy he may see how long he can stick around and be competitive.
Broadcast fight results:
Tom Watson def Murilo Rua by TKO Round 3.
Frank Trigg def John Phillips by TKO (cuts) Round 1.
Matt Ewin def Ivan Salaverry by Decision.
Valentino Petrescu def Joao Paulo de Souza by Decision.
Leonoardo Santos def Jason Ball by Decision
Che Mills def Marcio Cesar by KO Round 1
Scott Jansen def Craig Chesters by TKO Round 1
Catalin Zmarandescu def Sharif Mohammed Ali by Submission (Forearm Choke of Shame) Round 1