WOW! Who saw that coming?
Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal put on a great fight for as long as it lasted in the UFC London main event. It had everything! A running kick to Till’s groin inside of four seconds, a knockdown by Till on Masvidal just a few seconds after the restart, plenty of great back-and-forth exchanges, and then a lethal second-round KO from Masvidal to stun the home fans. Till was out before he hit the canvas, having been cracked by a leaping left hook that stiffened his whole body.
That is a huge win for Masvidal against a recent title challenger. He was coming off more than a year’s worth of inactivity, hadn’t won in two years, and he overcame his frequent “I got knocked down in round one” moment to largely outstrike Darren up until the KO. As for Till, that’s another hammerblow for his career. He went from rising star to thoroughly embarrassed by Tyron Woodley to completely flattened in this fight. Masvidal has more layers to his striking than Till, and I think it’s fair to say that Till’s defense is historically not good. We can trace his issues as far back as the Nicolas Dalby bout. And I wouldn’t have been surprised if those body kicks from Jorge had taken a toll on his cardio already.
Oh yeah, and before I published this, shit just got real between Jorge and Leon Edwards. Welp.
- Leon Edwards is for real. “Rocky” outstruck Gunnar Nelson and showcased impressive takedown defense and grappling that rendered Gunni ineffective for much of the contest. Edwards nearly KO’d Nelson with a wicked elbow and punches in round two, and survived Nelson’s full mount in the final minute of the fight to take a split decision. The judge who gave Nelson two rounds is presumably blind. Edwards has won seven straight and called out the winner of Darren Till vs. Jorge Masvidal, saying he didn’t understand why Ben Askren was even there.
- Maybe it’s me, but I didn’t have much issue with 205 lb prospect Dominick Reyes getting the split nod over Volkan Oezdemir. It was by no means a particularly good fight, but it felt like the commentary team — Dan Hardy in particular — vastly oversold Oezdemir’s work and ignored Reyes’ counterpunching and third-round body attack. Regardless of who you think won, Reyes certainly wasn’t all that impressive, and the non-reaction from the crowd when he said he was coming for Jon Jones summed it all up. He’s still got work to do.
- The UFC is inducting former middleweight champion Michael Bisping into its Hall of Fame, and they made the announcement in the UK, complete with a great video package. He’s undoubtedly a UK MMA pioneer and after repeatedly failing to reach the top of his sport, his incredible run to the title really sealed a HOF spot for him. For me, his knockout of Luke Rockhold to win the 185 lbs belt is one of the most incredible moments in UFC history, and as someone who didn’t care for him early in his career, he became a lot more of an endearing figure towards the end and my thoughts on him have changed considerably. Congrats to “The Count.”
- Nathaniel Wood really exemplifies how deep the men’s bantamweight division is. The rising prospect turned in a comprehensive showing, as he choked out Jose Alberto Quinonez to improve to 3-0 in the UFC. There’s a smoothness to his game that I really enjoy watching, and I think he should be getting a top-15 opponent next.
- Claudio Silva vs. Danny Roberts was a wild mess. Silva was way better than Roberts on the ground but couldn’t submit him in rounds one or two, and got badly rocked multiple times in round two and three. Things got weirder from there, as Roberts’ preposterous willingness to be in Silva’s wheelhouse saw him get caught in an armbar, and the referee intervened due to Roberts apparently yelling in pain, hence a verbal submission. We never heard or clearly saw any evidence of that, and this ref was certainly... very active in there, but the result stands. That’s a tough loss for Roberts and a bizarre ending to a really entertaining fight.
- John Phillips might regret not pouncing on Jack Marshman after knocking his fellow Welshman down in round one. Alas, he gleefully let him back up to stand and trade, and proceeded to lose a split decision in a fight that got exceedingly worse to watch as it progressed. It was a very “unranked middleweight” contest and it might be the end for Phillips, who is 0-3 in the UFC.
- Featherweight prospect Arnold Allen won what felt like a glorified sparring match over Jordan Rinaldi, as Allen outstruck his foe in every round to get a clear-cut decision. Allen remains unbeaten in UFC competition.
- It looked like Marc Diakiese was on his way to being a busted prospect, but the English lightweight looked sparkling against Joseph Duffy, dominating the Irishman with a complete performance and a shutout decision. Diakiese battered Duffy with fast and powerful calf kicks, and dropped Duffy with an elbow in the opening round. You could tell how much the fight meant to him too, as he was overcome with tears in the post-fight interview. Diakiese’s three-fight losing streak is over, while Duffy’s return after a long layoff couldn’t have gone much worse. Oh, and happy birthday Marc!
- In one of the worst displays of MMA I’ve seen in a UFC fight in a long time, light heavyweight Saparbek Safarov got away with 2500 fence grabs, losing just one point along the way, and beat up Nico Negumereanu for much of the contest to “earn” a decision. Paul Felder was enraged that Safarov got away with that much fouling, and striking Nico even well after being told to stop. That was ridiculous. I don’t want either of those dudes in an Octagon ever again.
- Dan Ige won his third straight fight, as the Hawaiian featherweight hurt Danny Henry early and then sunk in a slick rear-naked choke in just 77 seconds. Afterward, Ige addressed the crowd and sent out his condolences to the dozens killed in Friday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was a great speech and Ige seems like a real nice dude, and that was one of my top moments from this card.
- In an action-packed women’s flyweight bout, Liverpool’s Molly “Meatball” McCann largely had her way with Priscila Cachoeira through two rounds, but a right hand pretty much rendered McCann’s left eye shut and looking like a meatball. McCann made it to the end of the fight, but not without a doctor checking on her in the last minute of the bout. Despite no evidence her eye was actually going to open again, the contest continued, and McCann got the decision. Oh, and McCann flipped Cachoeira off for a cheap shot, so we got this camera view.
- The prelims started with awesome action, as featherweight Mike Grundy’s UFC debut saw him get rocked in round two by Nad Narimani, only to drop Narimani later in the frame and get a standing TKO. That was a crazy-ass fight and a solid introduction to the big leagues for the former Commonwealth Games bronze medalist in wrestling.