MMA Review: #596: UFC Fight Night 107

-This was the UFC’s first visit to London since last February’s Bisping vs. Silva card and the main event here was hardly as big on name value – not that Manuwa/Anderson was a bad fight, it just isn’t a big time main event, but then it’s been tough this year on that front anyway. If nothing else the show looked like a decent action card on paper.

UFC Fight Night 107

London, England

-Your hosts are Jon Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Featherweight Fight: Arnold Allen vs Makwan Amirkhani

This opener looked like a lot of fun, with two of the division’s better prospects facing off, both coming off back-to-back wins. Both men had also been out since the last Fight Night in the UK meaning ring rust would be a big factor, although not an advantage for either. Tough fight to pick but I was leaning towards the Brit Allen just because.

Round One begins and Amirkhani comes out leaping with a knee, but Allen manages to dodge it. Allen pushes forward and backs the Finn up into the fence, but he misses with a wild left hand. Takedown attempt from Amirkhani and he gets Allen down, but the Brit quickly pops back up to his feet. Amirkhani stays on him and manages to hit a slam down into side mount, but a scramble allows Allen up, only for Amirkhani to snatch the neck. He goes for a possible guillotine but Allen manages to avoid it, despite Amirkhani really wrenching on it. Allen winds up flat on his stomach with Amirkhani still working on the neck, but Allen stands and lands with a knee to the body before hitting a takedown of his own. He lands on top in half-guard, and both men exchange from there with Allen really working the body with punches. He adds in some sharp knees to the body from top position in a cool move too. Amirkhani manages to reverse back to his feet though, and now he goes for the takedown again and manages to plant Allen with a single leg. Allen reverses that and gets back up, and they muscle for position with neither man able to gain a real advantage. Ref calls a break with seconds to go and Allen comes in with a jumping kick but eats a right hand on the counter. He pushes through it though and seems to stagger the Finnish fighter with strikes as the round ends. Very tight round to score but I’d go with Amirkhani I think as his neck attacks were probably the key sequence.

Round Two and Amirkhani shoots from the off and gets Allen down, taking his back in the process. Allen scrambles but gives his neck again and Amirkhani looks to lock up the guillotine, and from there he switches to a D’Arce and flips the Brit over. Allen manages to avoid it though and slips free, but Amirkhani tries an armbar instead. Allen manages to slip free of that though and winds up on top in half-guard. More good shots connect from the top for Allen and he manages to pass into mount for a second before Amirkhani escapes to half-guard again. Really nice shots get through for Allen though and then he manages the mount. Amirkhani manages to get one butterfly hook back in to stop the mount, but he can’t shake Allen out of top position. Two minutes to go and he does manage to escape to his feet, where he lands a front kick to the body and a right hand. Takedown attempt from Amirkhani is stuffed and Allen goes for a guillotine of his own, but Amirkhani avoids and gets top position in half-guard. These guys are very equally matched. Amirkhani works to pass into mount, but Allen keeps him in half-guard and then scrambles into full guard. Armbar attempt is avoided by Amirkhani and he ends the round on top. 10-9 Allen though as his top position work was superior, so 19-19 going into the third.

Round Three and Amirkhani presses forward with some right hands that miss, and then they exchange some jabs before Amirkhani shoots. Allen hits a nice sprawl to block though and then exits a clinch with a slightly missed spinning elbow. Big left hand connects for Allen in an exchange but somehow Amirkhani takes it well. Allen tags him with a couple more shots, but evidently Amirkhani has an iron chin as he seems fine. Stiff jab connects for Amirkhani and snaps Allen’s head back, and he follows with a takedown attempt. Allen tries to avoid it, but Amirkhani manages to force him down and takes the back with a rear waistlock. Allen pops back up but can’t shake the Finn off him, and from there Amirkhani drags him down. Allen reverses up again though and then hits a nice hip throw of his own. Amirkhani reverses back up and shoots again, but Allen sprawls to avoid and almost takes the back before Amirkhani reverses that and trips him down. Allen scrambles and lands a couple of elbows before diving on a kimura, but Amirkhani avoids and winds up on top in half-guard. Hell of a scramble there. Action slows down as Amirkhani settles down on top, before Allen escapes to full guard. Referee calls an odd stand-up despite Amirkhani clearly working from the top, and from the restart he shoots again and drives Allen into the fence. Allen reverses and looks for a trip, but Amirkhani avoids and eats a knee inside instead. Nice takedown from Allen and he manages to get on top, then mounts and takes the back! Amirkhani is in trouble as Allen slaps on the choke, but he can’t finish it before the buzzer. Allen’s round 10-9, so I’ve got it 29-28 for him.

Official scores are a split decision; 29-28 Amirkhani, 30-27 Allen and 29-28 for Arnold Allen to keep his win streak intact. Really fun fight though and I don’t think Amirkhani loses much momentum even on the wrong end of the decision, both guys lived up to their hype as two of the best prospects in the division as they showed amazing skill throughout, particularly in the scrambles. It felt like Allen had just a little more left in the tank in the later part of the fight and that’s what pulled him through in the end. Not sure about that referee stand-up in the third round but whatever. This was a great opener regardless.

Bantamweight Fight: Brad Pickett vs Marlon Vera

Initially this would’ve seen Pickett facing Vera’s fellow TUF Latin America castmate Henry Briones, but a late injury to the Mexican saw Ecuadorian prospect Vera step in on late notice. Regardless of the opponent, this was announced as Pickett’s retirement fight – a long time coming given he’s been fighting since 2004 and has honestly looked a bit past his best for a few fights now. Still, even past his best I felt like Pickett had enough left in the tank to beat Vera, especially in front of a hometown crowd, and so I was taking him via second-round submission.

First round begins and the crowd are massively into Pickett. Big size advantage for Vera though. Body kick lands for the Ecuadorian. Pickett pushes forward though and glances with a right hand before looking for the takedown. Vera gets his back to the fence in an attempt to defend, but Pickett slams him down anyway and lands in side mount. Vera manages to roll and get to his feet though before taking any damage. Good leg kick lands for Vera but he takes a counter right from Brad. Another nice inside leg kick lands for Vera. Big right hook answers for Pickett and backs him up. Pickett walks through some more strikes to land another right hand, but he is taking a few shots here. Right-left connects for Pickett. They trade some low kicks before Vera lands with a knee and then catches Pickett coming in with a couple of lefts. Flying knee misses for Vera though and a left hook drops him for a split-second. He pops back up, but he got hurt there. Big right hand follows for Pickett and he shoots for the takedown, but Vera defends it well. One minute to go in the round and Pickett goes to the body and then the head with a left hand. Big trade sees both men landing cleanly. Round ends with Pickett backing Vera up a little but taking a handful of kicks before delivering a right. 10-9 Pickett, close round though.

Second round begins with a chopping leg kick from Vera. Pickett pushes forward though and lands with a hard left hand. Nicely timed knee answers for Vera and he follows with a low kick and a glancing head kick. Vera’s kicks are really good. Jumping knee sets up a right hand for the Ecuadorian but Pickett fires back with a right and shoots for the takedown. Vera works to stuff it, but Pickett almost gets him up for a slam. Good work from Vera allows him to avoid, but a second attempt is successful and Pickett dumps him to the ground in half-guard. Butterfly guard for Vera but Pickett nails him with an elbow from the top. Few more elbows get through for the Brit and he’s in firm control here. Vera manages to get his hips up and then lands a couple of illegal kicks, but Pickett ignores and stands back up. Right hand glances for Pickett. He continues to stalk forward but eats a decent jab in the process. Nice inside leg kick from Vera. Pickett fires back with a left hand and blocks a head kick too. Right hand backs Vera up but a head kick answers for the Ecuadorian. Good knee and an elbow land for Vera but he misses a wheel kick to end the round. 10-9 Pickett for the ground work mainly.

Third round and Vera comes right out swinging but Pickett obliges and fires right back. Crowd are loving this. Step-in left hook lands for Pickett. Knee glances in answer for Vera. Pair of low kicks land for Pickett and he shakes off a plum clinch attempt. Nice combination follows for Pickett. Body kick lands for Vera. Left hand follows into a high kick. This is a hell of a fight actually. Both men continue to exchange with a Pickett left hand landing before a knee from Vera narrowly misses. Wild swings just about miss for Pickett. Front kick glances for the Ecuadorian. Nice low kick connects and buckles Brad’s leg for a second. Pickett comes back though with a left hand and a nice combination to the body. Halfway through the round and another low kick lands for Vera. Big uppercut glances for Pickett. Another hard leg kick lands for Vera. Pickett is looking badly marked up now. Both men glance on more shots with Vera landing hard with a body kick. Just over a minute to go and a BIG LEFT HEAD KICK FROM NOWHERE flattens Pickett, and much to the horror of the crowd, Vera pounces in with two slashing hammer fists for the stoppage. Damn.

Post-fight Pickett tries to protest the stoppage, but the replay shows the second hammer fist had him limp and it was a good call from referee Grant Waterman. This was a hell of a fight in the end with Pickett basically using his ground game to win the first two rounds despite taking some hard kicks from Vera, but in the end his chin just couldn’t hold up to a big, clean shot. I guess that’s why he’s retiring and it makes a lot of sense for him to do it now – he’s not into dangerous territory but why not hang it up before you get there? For me Brad goes down as a top five British fighter of all time, a tremendous ambassador for the sport in this country and shit, not many people can say they have a win over Demetrious Johnson after all. Maybe not the storybook ending Pickett was hoping for but he went out on his shield for sure.

Welterweight Fight: Gunnar Nelson vs Alan Jouban

This was a cool-sounding co-main event and a late addition to the card too, with Nelson coming back from an injury following his May 2016 win over Albert Tumenov, and Jouban looking to follow up his December win over Mike Perry. My pick was Nelson feeling he could survive standing with Jouban for long enough to get him to the ground and tap him out, but both guys are among my favourites to watch at 170lbs and so I was excited for sure.

Fight begins and Jouban opens with a nice leg kick as Nelson goes into his classic karate stance and bounces around on the outside. Another leg kick lands for Jouban. Kick is almost caught by Nelson and he lands a clipping right hand before clinching. Crowd begin the Iceland football team Viking chant which is always awesome even if it brings back horrible memories for me, you know what I mean, ha. Anyhow, Jouban stuffs the takedown and breaks, landing another low kick. Another clinch is avoided by Jouban and he stays on the outside, landing a glancing head kick. Few more strikes come up short for Jouban and Nelson sets up a takedown attempt with a right hand. This time he gets Jouban down, but only for a second as the model scrambles up. Nelson trips him back down though and passes immediately into side mount. The guy is insanely slick. Lot of pressure follows from Nelson and he takes full mount. Jouban is in deep trouble here. He tries to shove off the fence with his legs but Nelson’s mount is too strong and he remains firmly in control. It looks like he’s setting up for an arm triangle choke, but Jouban manages to avoid that. He can’t escape the mount though and he eats some elbows as the round ends. Clear round for Gunnar Nelson; 10-9.

Into the 2nd and the Icelandic chants start up again. Low kick lands for Jouban to open the round and he follows with a body kick and a flurry. Nelson avoids the majority of it though and then lands with a BEAUTIFULLY TIMED RIGHT HAND that buckles Jouban’s legs! Jouban stumbles back and Nelson follows with a NASTY head kick before snapping him down right into a high-elbow guillotine! Jouban tries to defend but Gunnar rolls into a mounted guillotine and gets the tapout right there!

Tremendous finish for Gunnar Nelson and arguably his best UFC performance to date. He was up against probably the best striker he’s ever faced and didn’t take much damage outside of a few leg kicks, dominated the first round on the ground and then he basically had Jouban out on his feet with that right hand. The best part was the fact that rather than flurry on him, he snapped him down right into the guillotine and well, with a guy as good as Nelson on the ground a stunned opponent like Jouban had no chance. For me Nelson’s living up to his potential now and I think he’s a legit title contender. Get him a top five or at least a top ten opponent next please? The guy is awesome.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jimi Manuwa vs Corey Anderson

While this wasn’t the most anticipated main event of all time – fans were massively disappointed with it when it was announced for the most part – to be fair it was at least a match between two top ten fighters in a division where a title shot could come quickly given the dearth of talent there – especially with the likes of Ryan Bader and Nikita Krylov now gone. It sounded like most analysts were going with Anderson, feeling Manuwa wouldn’t be able to defend the wrestler’s takedowns, but I was siding with the Brit instead after seeing him starch OSP last year, as he’s one of those guys who just has awesome fighting instincts and I thought he could catch Anderson, who realistically is still quite inexperienced.

Round One begins and Manuwa takes the center of the cage as Anderson circles on the outside. Inside leg kick opens things for Anderson as Manuwa seems to be trying to gauge the timing. Lot of feints from Anderson and he shoots, but Manuwa easily blocks it. Left hand lands to the body for Manuwa. Jab follows to force Anderson backwards. Couple of glancing shots land for Anderson and he’s faking the takedown now too. Big takedown attempt from Anderson now but Manuwa stuffs it well again. Another attempt sees Manuwa sprawl, but he takes a couple of glancing punches on the way out. Anderson leans in for another attempt, but this time he eats a short left hand that buckles his legs for a second. He circles out, but Manuwa follows him across and lands a CRUSHING LEFT HOOK that kills Anderson STONE DEAD. And it’s a walk-off knockout too as he doesn’t even need to follow it up. Nice!

Post-fight Manuwa calls for a title shot and then randomly calls out David Haye, which is pretty ludicrous but par for the course in the UFC right now. The title shot might not be so ludicrous though – particularly if Jon Jones isn’t back any time soon. If he is of course though then I suspect they match Manuwa either with the Teixeira/Gustafsson winner or Shogun next, either one works for me. At least he’s a new-ish contender at 205lbs which is a major plus right now, and it’s nice to see another British title contender too! The knockout was vicious to boot – you probably won’t see many better in 2017 I’d guess – and a hell of a way to end the show. I’m sure Anderson can bounce back at some point but he got hit HARD here.

-Announcers wrap up the night’s action – plenty of praise for Manuwa and Nelson of course, as well as a brief highlight of the Marc Diakiese knockout from the undercard – and that’s it from London.

Final Thoughts….

From all reports the prelim card on this show wasn’t much cop but the main card turned out to be fantastic, with a great fight between Allen and Amirkhani to open up and then three awesome finishes from Vera, Nelson and Manuwa, with the Nelson/Jouban fight especially being great. If you missed it last week then check the main card at least out on Fight Pass. Two thumbs up.

Best Fight: Allen vs. Amirkhani
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: