The UFC's return to Manchester was supposed to feature Manchester's own Michael Bisping against Mark Munoz in the main event. With Bisping sidelined due to a detached retina, former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has stepped in to face Munoz. It's Machida's middleweight debut and he'll fight a top 10 opponent straight away.
Before we get into the main event (which has its own separate primer), we'll take a look at the other five fights on the main card, including a key co-main event between Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard, and top 10 flyweight John Lineker against Phil Harris. The UFC Fight Night 30 main card airs live on Fox Sports 2 at 3 PM ET/12 PM PT.
The night's co-main event sees Ross Pearson looking for his 3rd straight win at lightweight since his unsuccessful 1-2 run at featherweight. Following a TKO loss to Cub Swanson, the TUF 9 champion moved back to 155 lbs and was chosen to coach opposite George Sotiropoulos for the first edition of TUF: UK vs. Australia. Pearson used his boxing to finish the Aussie on the show's finale in December 2012. "The Real Deal" then stopped Ryan Couture in the co-main event of UFC on Fuel 9 in Stockholm this April. Pearson's volume striking has proven difficult to handle for several of his lightweight adversaries, but Guillard is the toughest opponent he's faced in the division since losing a split decision to Edson Barboza at UFC 134.
Guillard went through an extremely rough patch in his career in 2012, losing to Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, and Jamie Varner while only picking up a single win against Fabricio Camoes. Melvin has switched camps 4 different times, and now finds himself with American Top Team in Florida. "The Young Assassin's" only fight this year was an impressive dismantling of TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig at UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle. That win gave Guillard the most knockouts in UFC lightweight history at 8, and he'll probably need a 9th to take down the Brit this evening.
Ryan Jimmo (18-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. Jimi Manuwa (13-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) - Light heavyweights
This is Jimmo's 2nd trip to England this year, with his first ending in a decision loss to James Te Huna at UFC on Fuel 7 in London. Jimmo nearly ended the fight in the opening round with a head kick, but Te Huna bravely hung on and won the final two rounds. The Canadian, who was heavily criticized for dreadful fights in Maximum Fighting Championships, made his UFC debut last year by knocking out Anthony Perosh in just 7 seconds. Jimmo's last fight was unfortunately one of his uglier "Jimmo-esque" performances, and few were pleased with his unanimous decision win over Igor Pokrajac.
Manuwa is one of the most dangerous strikers in the UFC's light heavyweight division. He has a relentless Muay Thai based attack that has led to a string of KO/TKO wins. His UFC debut in September 2012 saw him batter Kyle Kingsbury around the cage en route to a much needed corner stoppage. A few months later the 33-year-old beat Cyrille Diabate when Diabate was unable to overcome an early ankle injury. This fight should be a test of how good Manuwa can be and whether or not he'll be able to handle the grinding style Jimmo normally presents.
Parke won the inaugural edition of TUF: UK vs. Australia by beating Colin Fletcher in the lightweight final. The Northern Ireland native did not put in the greatest of fights against Kazuki Tokudome, but it was enough to earn him a unanimous decision nod. The victory over Tokudome extended his winning streak to 8, and he'll look to make it 9 in a row (with 3 in the UFC) in his return to the United Kingdom.
Tuck is the first (and only) fighter in UFC history to come out of Guam, and he first made it to the major MMA scene via TUF 15. Unfortunately he suffered a broken toe and lost a 10-9 decision to Al Iaquinta in the qualifying round. He was still granted a UFC shot, and he made the most of it by beating Zhang Tiequan at UFC on Fuel 6. Originally, Tuck was supposed to face Parke at UFC on Fox 7, but Tuck pulled out with an injury thus a rescheduling of this bout.
Sakara has been in the UFC since 2005, but he wasn't won a fight since 2010, when he stopped James Irvin. The closest he came to a win was when he fought Patrick Cote last year at UFC 154, but he turned a likely TKO win into a DQ loss when he repeatedly hit Cote in the back of the head in an effort to finish the job. That brought the Italian's losing streak to 3, which he had previously never experienced in his MMA career. The former pro boxer is now in the unenviable task of having to win to keep his spot in the UFC safe.
Musoke is the 3rd different opponent chosen for Sakara on this card. First it was Tom Watson, who withdrew because of an injury, and recent UFC 164 winner Magnus Cedenblad stepped in. Cedenblad is now hurt, so fellow Swede Nicolas Musoke will make his UFC debut. He's undefeated in his last 6 fights, with his latest loss coming against Irish prospect Cathal Pendred. Musoke is a welterweight who is moving up a weight class to take this fight, so the size advantage will be fairly noticeable for Sakara.
While John Dodson understandably gets all of the accolades for his power, Brazil's John Lineker is not too far behind. Lineker has stopped Jose Maria Tome and Azamat Gashimov in his last two fights, and also holds a decision win over Yasuhiro Urushitani. Lineker's ridiculously high offensive pace and striking (admittedly at the expense of his defense) make him a consistently fun fighter and a potential title challenger. If anything, Lineker's biggest issue thus far has been the ability to make the 125 lbs weight limit. He missed weight again yesterday and has been fined 25% of his purse, making this 3 times in 5 UFC fights that he's gone over the limit.
Harris was supposed to meet Lineker at UFC 163 in Brazil, but pulled out with an injury and was replaced by the aforementioned Tome. Phil "Billy" (get it? Get it?) was submitted by Darren Uyenoyama in October of last year, but potentially saved his status as a UFC fighter with an uninspiring but effective win over Ulysses Gomez in London. The injury may be a blessing in disguise for Harris, who now gets to fight Lineker on home soil instead of in Brazil, although the task ahead of him is still difficult.