Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to London, England, last night (Sat., March 16, 2019) for UFC Fight Night 147. Fight Night cards in Europe tend to be rather hit-or-miss, but the crowds are among the best in the world. 12 match ups were set for the 02 Arena, and largely the matchmaking was competitive and interesting. Adding to the odds of a fun night was an excellent main event, pitting the veteran savvy of Jorge Masvidal opposite the powerful Muay Thai of Darren Till.
Let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!
The Craft of ‘Gamebred’
Fans in the know appreciate Jorge Masvidal. Last week, I was lucky enough to write my love letter to Masvidal’s technical skill and crafty approach to combat in his fighter breakdown. “Gamebred” has been a consistent source of skill and violence in mixed martial arts (MMA) for the last decade, but unfortunately it never produced a title run.
There are a couple reasons for that reality. For one, Masvidal has fought at 155 pounds and 170 pounds throughout his entire career — those are arguably the two most historically talent-rich divisions in the sport. It is not easy to build momentum in such a crowded weight class. More relevant to Masvidal is his unfortunate inconsistency. Over the years, Masvidal has been known to show up to fights in somewhat mediocre physical condition. He also has a strange habit of fighting down to the level of his competition and/or coasting while winning.
The result is a fair amount of split-decision losses that bog down his record.
That was the easiest result to predict in his bout with Till. Till is a much larger man. His cross is the most singularly powerful strike between either man. He’s well-rounded enough to force the type of fight he desires, and perhaps most damning, Till likes to compete in low output, rangy kickboxing matches — the exact kind of fight Masvidal tends to lose a debatable decision.
Luckily for everyone but Till, “The Gorilla” did not play it safe last night. He went after Masvidal, landing plenty of clean shots and rocking him early. However, by forcing the fight to Masvidal, he also drew aggression from the veteran. At the midway point in the first round, Masvidal was landing heavy counter shots even while eating big strikes. By the second, Masvidal was avoiding Till’s straight shots, and his own overhands and follow up hooks were still connecting clean.
All of a sudden, a switch-cross and rolling hook from the Southpaw stance connected perfectly, leaving no room for the judges as Till fell to the canvas (watch it). This deep into his professional career, Masvidal is still looking to be in prime form, and I hope UFC makes the most of it.
Leon The Professional
Leon Edwards is a remarkable Welterweight.
The 27-year-old has plus skills everywhere, which is an accomplishment on its own. A well-rounded game does not make a contender, though — it’s more of a requirement to get far in the first place. What separates Edwards from the pack is a mix of composure and strategy, as Edwards knows precisely what he needs to do to win fights and how to get there.
Two well-established Edwards’ strategies made themselves known. In the first round, Edwards surprised Nelson and the commentary crew by taking the jiu-jitsu ace down. Edwards’ athletic double leg and clinch takedown into back control and the wrist ride has proven an extremely effective strategy for him. Not one you would expect from a British striker, but Edwards won the first round thanks to his wrestling skill.
More violently, “Rocky” smashed his opponent on the break of the clinch with elbows after almost every close range exchange. He did this repeatedly against Donald Cerrone as well, but Edwards took it a step further in the second round by securing an angle and dropping Nelson with an elbow in the second.
That elbow produced the third broken orbital of the night.
Finally, Edwards doesn’t do more than is necessary. Clearly ahead two rounds in the third, Edwards took few chances and picked his shots carefully. When Nelson surprised him late with a quick cross into a nice double leg, Edwards was content to hang on and wait our the clock than take a risk and lose late.
It’s a strategy that may not win him extra fans, but you cannot argue with a seven-fight win streak.
More UFC ‘London’ Thoughts ...
- Nathaniel Wood defeats Jose Quinonez via round-two submission (HIGHLIGHTS): Wood is a worthy successor of Brad Pickett. The English “Prospect” improved to 3-0 in his UFC career, bringing the same aggression and well-rounded approach as his mentor. The ability to apply pressures in all areas is incredibly useful in forcing an opponent off his game. Quinonez is solid in each range himself, but he was constantly put on the defensive. Even when able to land a big takedown in the first, Wood did not rest, continuing the scramble until he was once again in position to be offensive. Eventually, Wood’s constant forward pressure saw Quinonez give up his back for a brief moment — all that was required for Wood to end the fight early.
- Claudio Silva defeats Danny Roberts via round-three armbar (HIGHLIGHTS): There is an argument to be really damn good in one area. Roberts was the sharper striker my a fair margin last night and even slammed his grappler opponent a couple times, but Silva never lost faith in his jiu-jitsu. The Brazilian’s toughness and single-minded approach saw him force grappling exchanges repeatedly. Early on, he was able to gain top position and lock it down, but that became more difficult as he fatigued and his wrestling technique grew sloppier. Undeterred, the Brazilian continued to play his game from his back. Attacking with submissions constantly, Silva eventually sweeping his way back into top position with an armbar and finishing the fight.
- Marc Diakese defeats Joe Duffy via unanimous decision: Perhaps the most surprising result of the night (to me at least), Diakese utterly dominated his opponent. Entering this bout on a three-fight losing streak, the general consensus seemed to be that Duffy’s sharp boxing and potent submission skills would overcome Diakese’s athleticism. Instead, Diakese’s hand speed proved a major advantage, and his calf kicks destroyed Duffy’s lead leg. Committing to the calf kick really helps remove the jab from the equation, which proved disastrous for Duffy. Without being able to make effective use of his educated lead hand, Duffy’s setups were much easier to read, and he was largely stranded in exchanges that did not favor him.
- Saparbag Safarov defeats Nicolae Negumereanu via unanimous decision: Safarov cheated a lot, which was largely unneeded as the Dagestani completely dominated. Against a foe whose skills did not far outstrip his own, Safarov’s toughness and aggression saw him really take control. Looping punches and takedowns along the fence remain a simple, but powerful combination. The most devastating moment came in the second round, when Safarov dropped some brutal elbows from the mount, causing his foe’s face to grow dramatically in a possible broken orbital situation.
- Dan Ige defeats Danny Henry via first round rear-naked choke: Ige is a well-rounded, aggressive fighter to watch at 145 pounds. There isn’t much to break down here though, as a rolling left hook sent Henry to the mat very early and left him vulnerable to the submission finish. Equally interesting is Henry — his three UFC fights have ended rather quickly win-or-lose, making it really difficult to get a full read on his skill.
- Mike Grundy defeats Nad Narimani via round-two TKO (HIGHLIGHTS): The opening bout of the night was a really fun, back-and-forth fight. Grundy entered the bout with a solid reputation for wrestling, but he actually found his range first, landing some clean right hands while Narimani denied most of his takedowns. Narimani increased the aggression in the second, landing a lot more power punches and stunning his foe a couple times. As the momentum seemed to be firmly shifting into Narimani’s corner, Grundy landed a brilliant counter left hook that set up the eventual finish. It was a knockout that really demonstrated MMA as a game of inches: Narimani’s right hand was covering tight, but the left hook landed just barely above his guard on the temple.
For complete UFC Fight Night 147: “Till vs. Masvidal” results and play-by-play, click HERE!