Much like last week’s event in Wichita – if you can remember that far back – UFC London started out slow before ending with a bang. Leon Edwards secured a decisive win over Gunnar Nelson in the co-main while Jorge Masvidal stunned the world with a brutal KO of Darren Till in the main event. Unlike UFC Wichita, the fireworks didn’t end with the conclusion of the main event as Masvidal instigated a brawl with Edwards amidst a backstage interview. We don’t know the repercussions of the brawl quite yet – including if Masvidal will lose any of his $100K in bonus money – but there is almost certainly going to be some sort of negative consequences for Masvidal. Some may say the event ended on a sour note, but at least it was memorable….
Leon Edwards: Edwards made a hell of a statement that he deserved to be in the main event over either of the competitors, shattering the face of Nelson with some brutal ground strikes to close the second round. Don’t let the split decision fool you, Edwards won that fight comfortably, winning the clinch exchanges with elbows on every single break. It was an emphatic statement. However, what may have been the biggest positive for him was his backstage altercation with Masvidal. It puts a spotlight on Edwards that wasn’t previously there and will likely result in a high profile contest with Masvidal.
Nathaniel Wood: There were questions how well Wood would do against a grinder like Jose Quinonez. Wood squashed all of those concerns by shellacking Wood from the opening bell until he elicited a tap from Quinonez midway through the second round. One of the more unheralded prospects at bantamweight – a division loaded with young talent – Wood has successfully distinguished himself from many of the other prospects that came in around the same time. I’m just wondering how much longer he can hold onto the nickname of “The Prospect.”
Claudio Silva and Danny Roberts: Lots of controversy on this one. I didn’t hear a scream from Roberts, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If it did, screams from pain do count as a verbal submission. Controversy aside though, it was a fun contest that Silva was clearly winning before the ref stepped in. Even if Silva was winning, Roberts showed more ability on the ground than anyone thought he possessed, even if it wasn’t the most technical display. Given the controversy of the ending sequence, I couldn’t find it in my heart to put Roberts in the losing column, even if it did appear he was on his way to a loss. What pushed me over the edge is people are talking about him and his stock went up. Yeah, it’s a good night for Roberts in the long run.
Marc Diakiese: I was wondering what the hell UFC matchmakers were doing when the pit Diakiese against Joe Duffy when the Englishman was riding a three-fight losing streak. It appears they know better than me (this time). The youngster put together the most complete performance of his career. In the process, he reignited interest in him after many had written him off. If he can build off the discipline he’s added to his striking, Diakiese could fulfill the once lofty expectations that were thrust upon him a couple of years ago.
Saparbeg Safarov: I don’t want to put Safarov here. Never in the history of MMA has there been such egregious fence grabbing that deserved a DQ. And yet, Safarov got away with it to pick up his first UFC win. Until the referees can get over their fear of directly affecting a contest – it is their job to do so when the circumstances call for it – we’re going to get performances like Safarov’s out of the fighters… and I can’t blame them. We may not like how Safarov won, but what would you do if your job was on the line?
Dan Ige: Before I get to Ige’s impressive performance, props to his post-fight speech about the tragedy in New Zealand. Ige proved himself a class act and anyone who disagrees can go to hell. Ige also proved he’s a badass, disposing of an uber-tough Danny Henry in 77 seconds. I still have concerns about Ige’s gas tank, but that isn’t going to be an issue if he continues to dispose of the competition this quick.
Molly McCann: McCann’s mutilated eye might be the image we all walk away with stuck in our head following her barnburner with Priscila Cachoeira, but McCann’s improved ground game should be noted as well. The Brit still has a long way to go there, but it opened up her striking enough to allow her to comfortably take the first two rounds before her eye was swollen shut in the final frame. She looks like she’ll be an action fighting mainstay.
Mike Grundy: You’d expect a world-class wrestler would have secured an impressive grinding victory. Nope. Grundy made a point to showcase his power on the feet and secured a standing stoppage as he laid the punishment hard and heavy onto Nad Narimani. Already 32, I’d like to see the UFC fast track the Englishman.
Ben Askren: Things have been great for the Funky one. He secures a controversial win over former champion Robbie Lawler and has everyone in the division calling for a shot at him. All he does is continue to make public appearances to keep himself relevant. With all the people who want a piece of Askren, he has his choice of fights. Fighters might want to take lessons from him on how to promote themselves.
Darren Till: While it ended up being a bad night for Till, let’s not take away from his solid performance in the first round. He floored Masvidal very early in the first, arguably winning him a competitive first round. However, his long standing defensive habits came back to bite him in the ass and Masvidal KO’d him. With two definitive losses in a row, Till isn’t anywhere near the title conversation. It’s likely he never will be again either… at least at welterweight. The 24-year-old’s difficulties in making 170 have been well documented and talks of him moving to middleweight have long been circulating. It’s hard to believe he won’t do it now when he has a hell of a climb back to the title picture at welterweight. Plus, you never know how a fighter will react to the first KO loss of their career. This represents a pivotal point in Till’s career.
Jose Quinonez: While I expected Quinonez to lose, I expected him to be more competitive than that. He came into the contest on a four-fight win streak – all in the UFC – only to look like he didn’t deserve to be in the same cage as Wood. In other words, Quinonez was a beneficiary of favorable matchmaking heading into this bout. Yeah… I’m not excited about his future in any way.
Jack Marshman and John Phillips: To be fair, there were flashes of what these two can do. Phillips had a knockdown in the first, Marshman scored one in the second. Other than that, it was just Phillips chasing Marshman with the occasional potshot from one or the either. It certainly wasn’t the fireworks we were all expecting out of this contest. When your reputation is that of an action fighter, you better deliver when paired against someone else with that rep. These two didn’t deliver.
Jordan Rinaldi: I don’t want to hate too badly on Rinaldi. He went the distance against a fighter physically superior to him in every way. However, Allen also gave Rinaldi just about the most winnable fight Rinaldi could have expected and he couldn’t come anywhere close to snatching a victory. Yeah… putting Rinaldi in the loser’s column is appropriate.
Joe Duffy: I don’t know if Diakiese injured Duffy’s leg so damned early that he never looked like himself or if he simply has lost a step. Regardless, Duffy never looked right. In fact, it even calls into question just how good Duffy ever was. What’s his best UFC win? Reza Madadi? I know he has a win over Conor McGregor, but that was also back in 2010. You know, before Josh Koscheck challenged GSP for the title. Yeah, much has changed since then. I think I’m getting off the Duffy train at this point.
Nicolae Negumereanu: While I do feel for Negumereanu given all of the cheating he was at the receiving end of from Safarov, it isn’t like the newcomer showed anything to make anyone believe he deserves his roster spot. Safarov hadn’t come across as deserving of his roster spot beforehand and Negumereanu was dominated. The youngster will need to make some HUGE strides if he hopes to hang around for a while.
Danny Henry: I was enjoying Henry’s underdog story. Then Ige wrecked his world, securing a submission in just 77 seconds. Henry isn’t a great athlete, but he is tough as nails and can take a lot of punishment. In the right matchup, he’s fun as hell. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get to display that against Ige.
Nad Narimani: 30 seconds into the contest and I was regretting picking Narimani. His body language was devoid of confidence and it showed in his performance. Aside from the brief period where he rocked Grundy in the second, there was never a point where Narimani was in control or threatening. This loss screams out to me why Team Alpha Male needs a head coach as Narimani didn’t seem to have a direction he wanted to take the fight.
Leon Roberts: Did you see how many fence grabs Safarov got away with? Roberts is responsible for allowing Safarov to get away with murder in the cage, ensuring the Russian picked up his first UFC win. I don’t care if he took a point, it should have been a disqualification. Very poor officiating from Roberts.
Referees: I know I already singled out Roberts – his problems were more egregious than the others – but it was a poor night for officiating in general. Even before the contest between Silva and Roberts was stopped, there were several questionable calls from referee Kevin Sataki. And did you see the eye injuries on McCann and Nelson? Those fights probably should have been stopped. Yeah, things weren’t good.
Ringside Doctors: Admittedly, I can’t completely blame the referees for not stopping the contests involving McCann and Nelson. The doctors have more authority in that call than the refs. The fan in me was glad the contests continued – especially with McCann as it would have cost her a victory – but doctors aren’t supposed to care about the competitiveness or entertainment value of a contest. They’re supposed to protect the fighters from themselves. I don’t think they effectively did that.
Jorge Masvidal: I did not want to put Masvidal here. At the immediate conclusion of the event, he was the biggest winner of the night. His KO of Till was an early contender for KOoTY. He reinserted his name into the top of the division. Then he got into it with Leon Edwards – the fighter – in the middle of an interview with Laura Sanko. It didn’t negate all the positives for Masvidal, but it sure did stain Masvidal’s victory and could very well lead to a suspension. The fact that the UFC regulated the event is probably in favor of Masvidal as I’d imagine they’ll go lighter on him than a state athletic commission would, but it’s still a bad thing.
Dominick Reyes and Volkan Oezdemir: I know a lot of people disagreed with the decision, but I thought Reyes’ volume proved more damaging over the final two rounds. That said, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a disappointing performance from the youngster, nor would I have been upset had the judges favored Oezdemir. Reyes had some very high expectations coming into this contest and didn’t live up to them. Nobody is excited to see him against Jon Jones next, so that definitely isn’t happening. Nonetheless, given the difficulty he faced, this could prove to be an effective learning experience for him.
As for Oezdemir, he put together the most complete performance of his UFC career, mixing wrestling with his heavy-handed offense. It wasn’t enough to get the job done in the end, but he’s still a solid top ten light heavyweight despite his three-fight losing streak. I can’t call him a loser after that performance.
Arnold Allen: The only reason Allen isn’t a winner is because I have high expectations for him… just like I do for Reyes. The kid looks like he’s sculpted out of marble, is an excellent scrambler, and is tough as nails. There were flurries when he had Rinaldi on the ropes, but he should have mauled Rinaldi. Rather than hate on me, look at my high expectations as a compliment. Allen can be good. Very good. I’m still waiting to see that out of him.
Priscila Cachoeira: I’m not going to sell anyone snake oil. Cachoeira isn’t very good. I should probably be putting her in the loser’s column. But damn it, she has so much damn heart that I can’t find it in me to put her there. It’s hard not to admire her toughness as she has taken two vicious beatings in her two UFC contests. I’ll be shocked if she can secure a win at some point, but she will make whoever she is in the cage with earn it.