The UFC has made their annual trip to the UK and pulled off UFC on Fuel 7: Barao vs. McDonald in London's Wembly Arena last night. The event set the record for most decisions on a single UFC fight card and featured only a single submission and only two TKOs.
Renan Barao: The Interim champ passed a serious test against the young but dangerous Michael McDonald last night. A very reasonable respect for McDonald's sharp straight punches limited Barao's ability to employ his leg kicks. Without his bread and butter offensive weapon, Barao had to adjust his approach and he did it very well, hurting McDonald on the feet and submitting him on the ground. Now Barao has to await the recovery and return of injured champ Dominick Cruz. Dana White hopes to put that fight on this summer.
Cub Swanson: Swanson trained for Dennis Siver but Siver's injury forced Cub to face a very different, but very formidable Dustin Poirier. It was clear the change in opponents and Poirier's varied skill set gave Swanson a bit of trouble that required numerous mid-fight adjustments in his game plan. Swanson pulled it out with a very dominant third round. Swanson probably needs one more win to earn a rematch with Featherweight champion Jose Aldo who beat him back in the WEC days.
Gunnar Nelson: The heavily touted Icelandic grappler faced a very serious challenge against the veteran Jorge Santiago in his second UFC bout. Nelson struggled a bit, and even ended the fight eating big punches from Santiago, but he came through. Nelson's karate-based striking style seemed to confuse Santiago and he dominated on the ground. It's onward and upward for the young Nelson.
Tom Watson: The British fighter won not one but two Fight Night bonuses, picking up a grand total of $100,000 for his Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night performance against Stanislav Nedkov. He upped the ante with a brilliant post-fight speech that saw him call out any Middleweight on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). In a division with known users such as Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, this is smart self-promotion.
Che Mills, Paul Sass & Terry Etim: While four of the seven British fighters on the card notched wins, the trio highest on the fight card all lost and lost badly. Mills was utterly dominated by Matt Riddle's wrestling and even though one judge inexplicably awarded him the win, everyone else in the arena saw Mills lose and lose badly. Etim and Sass were coming off big losses and once again came up short. Sass' vaunted submission attack failed utterly against the skilled wrestling of Danny Castillo and he took a beating on his back for his efforts. Etim appeared to have never recovered from being on the wrong end of Edson Barboza's 2012 KO of the Year and took another beating from Renee Forte.
The Fans: Despite ending with back-to-back excellent fights, the bulk of the card featured snoozy decision after snoozy decision. Fighters laid on the mat. Fighters leaned into the cage. London fans showed a great deal of patience by not booing the lack of action, but they surely weren't pleased by the paucity of action.
Josh Grispi: The 24-year-old Grispi dropped his fourth straight UFC bout against Andy Ogle and the fight summed up his career - flashes of early promise followed by a failure to adapt and wilting in the face of adversity. After the fight Ogle said, "you're a bad man" and Grispi replied, "I was." That's just sad to hear from a young athlete who should be on the upswing, not on his way out of the UFC.