MMA Review: #434: UFC Fight Night 30

-This was the first UFC event in England since September 2012, and while it was a Fight Night card rather than a PPV-level show, the two main events of Michael Bisping vs. Mark Munoz and Ross Pearson vs. Melvin Guillard sounded cool. Of course, it wasn’t to be as Bisping tore his retina and had to pull out, and so Zuffa pulled a real ace from their sleeve and got Lyoto Machida – who was due to fight Tim Kennedy in his 185lbs debut two weeks later – to step in for Bisping, meaning that the fight didn’t really lose much of its lustre if at all. Rest of the card looked like your standard European UFC show really.

UFC Fight Night 30

Manchester, England

-Your hosts are Gareth A. Davies and Michael Bisping. Wait, what? Oh, that’s right. As the UFC is now being covered on BT Sport over here in the UK they decided to put together their own presentation for this show with their own hosts and backstage segments and stuff. For the record Davies and Bisping are fine, but the unknown clown in the studio is not. I’m not even sure of his name but I’m pretty sure I’d do a better job as the guy just doesn’t seem clued in about MMA.

-Your other hosts are Jon Anik and Joe Rogan thank fuck.

Flyweight Fight: John Lineker vs Phil Harris

Story behind this one was basically John Lineker’s weight issues. Dude had been supposedly in line for a title shot before his fight with Jose Maria at UFC 163, but he missed weight and only hit 129lbs, and so he was given another fight here. Despite the fight looking one-sided for Lineker on paper, his issue reared its ugly head again and he only made 128lbs – his third weight miss in five attempts making him worse than Rumble Johnson! – meaning the Brazilian basically needed to win to avoid being cut.

Round One and both men throw out some feeler punches before Lineker lands a nice low kick. Combination glances for the Brazilian. Another good leg kick follows. Harris is doing a good job of avoiding the power punches so far and he lands with a nice jab of his own and a left hook. Combinations land for both men. Big left-right combo from Lineker drops Harris momentarily but he shows a good chin and pops right back up. Lineker is really swinging here. Good left hook lands to the body for the Brazilian. Harris circles out with a couple more jabs and a combo. Lineker fires back with a left hook that wobbles the Brit’s legs, and Harris makes the error of fighting fire with fire and trades right back. You probably shouldn’t do that with a guy with the chin and punching power of Lineker and sure enough a right from the Brazilian drops Harris again. He gets back up, but he’s badly hurt and Lineker comes wading in with more punches that wobble his legs. Nasty body shots and a left hand from Lineker and Harris looks zombie-like. BRUTAL right hook to the body lands for Lineker and Harris has the DELAYED REACTION!~! before collapsing and Lineker finishes him off there before celebrating with a nice cartwheel.

Lineker looked awesome here, weight issues notwithstanding, as he chained together some great combinations and showed an iron chin to just completely ignore Harris’s punches as the Brit did land some solid shots of his own. I’d say he’s probably the most exciting fighter in the 125lbs division actually and it’d be great to see him get a title shot – but of course he HAS to make the weight next time out for sure. Red-hot opener.

Middleweight Fight: Nico Musoke vs Alessio Sakara

Largely unknown Swede Musoke – a buddy of Alexander Gustafsson – was actually Sakara’s third opponent on this card after Brit Tom Watson and then Swede Magnus Cedenblad had to withdraw with injuries. Despite knowing nothing about Musoke outside of him being a natural Welterweight, I was actually picking him just because I’ve got no faith in Sakara at all these days.

Fight begins and they trade punches right away with Sakara wobbling Musoke. Nico clinches, but Sakara hits a nice belly-to-belly suplex and lands in side mount. Nico immediately gets to full guard, but Sakara stands over him and drops a left before letting him back up. They trade more punches and this time Musoke wobbles Sakara with a left hand and some knees. Big combo from Nico has Sakara wobbling all over the place, but the Italian fires right back and tags the Swede. Musoke manages to clinch and trips Sakara down into guard. They trade shots on the ground before Sakara tries a triangle, but Nico easily shrugs it off. Into half-guard for Musoke and then he passes into side mount. Sakara hip escapes back to half-guard and then gives his back, but he reverses over and gets on top, dropping heavy punches into Nico’s guard. More good shots from Sakara, but Musoke suddenly locks up a BEAUTIFUL ARMBAR and goes belly-down to force the tapout.

Super-exciting fight and Musoke looked good to weather an early storm, rock Sakara standing and then finish him on the ground. This again showed Sakara’s massive limitations though – he just doesn’t have the chin to rely on trading strikes and he leaves himself way too open for submissions on the ground – and I’m not really surprised he’s been cut from the UFC now after a remarkably long eight-year run. I’m interested to see how Nico can do at 170lbs next time out for sure.

Lightweight Fight: Norman Parke vs Jon Tuck

This one had initially been scheduled for UFC 162, but Guam’s Tuck pulled out and TUF: The Smashes winner Parke had to take out Kazuki Tokudome instead. Tuck looked like a step up from the Japanese fighter, but I was still taking Stormin Norman as I think he’s a pretty underrated guy actually with solid striking fundamentals and a tricky top game.

Round One and they trade some strikes in the opening couple of minutes with neither man really gaining a big advantage. Good left hand lands for Parke and Tuck comes firing back with a knee from the plum clinch. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Parke. Action continues with Tuck landing a shot to the eye that Parke tries to call as an eye poke. Ref doesn’t agree though and Tuck follows up with a couple more shots. About two minutes remaining in the round and Parke seems to have settled into his range, catching Tuck with a sharp counter left hand a few times. Parke begins to taunt Tuck with about thirty seconds to go. Exchange continues with Parke continuing to work the counter left, and with seconds to go Parke gets a nice German suplex to end the round. Very, very tight round but I think Parke just about edged it 10-9. Could’ve gone either way though.

Round Two and Parke looks like he’s trying to push the pace a little more, coming forward and landing the left hand nicely while slipping Tuck’s punches. Good body kick lands for Tuck. Another one follows. Parke comes back with a left to the head and then the body. Parke begins to put together some combos now, landing jabs and right hands to set up the power left. Tuck looks like he’s slowed down a lot. Body kick lands for Parke. He’s catching Tuck over and over with combos now. Beautiful combo snaps Tuck’s head right back. Tuck is definitely breathing heavily. Parke continues to pour it on, pressuring Tuck and landing the left hand practically at will. Tuck is getting owned in this round. Flying knee glances for Tuck but doesn’t really slow the Irishman down and he lands another quick combination. Just under a minute to go now and Parke isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Round ends with Parke continuing to tee off with combos. 10-9 Parke and for me Tuck needs a finish to win.

Round Three and Tuck is sporting a cut across the bridge of his nose. Round begins how the second left off with Parke landing more combinations and pegging Tuck back. Early on Tuck seems to have gotten a second wind but he soon slows down again and continues to take shots. Grin from Tuck and he comes forward with some heavy right hands, but Parke slips them for the most part and lands with sharper counter lefts. Tuck’s face is looking badly marked up. Uppercut connects for Parke. Combo knocks Tuck’s mouthpiece out and as he strangely tries to pick it up, Parke makes him pay with another combo. Parke looks like he might be cut too actually but I can’t tell for sure. He continues to force Tuck back with combos regardless. Couple of shots do land for Tuck but he seems to have lost the pop in his strikes. Body kick lands for Parke. Nice left has Tuck reeling for a moment. One minute to go and Parke lands with a combo to the body and the head. Seconds to go and Tuck really swings, but Parke’s too quick for him and he lands a sharp counter combo before missing with a wheel kick to end the fight. Got to be Parke’s fight, 30-27 or 29-28 would be fair.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for a clear-cut win for Norman Parke. The TUF winner looked very good here, chaining together some excellent combinations, showing great control of range in being able to slide out of the way of Tuck’s punches and land sharp counters, and great cardio too, but Tuck seemed to run out of gas in the first round and then never really went for a takedown. I’m interested to see Parke against a better wrestler who will really look to take him down, but he’s a good prospect at 155lbs for sure.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jimi Manuwa vs Ryan Jimmo

Both of these men had been interesting additions to the 205lbs division in 2012, with Jimmo landing a seven-second KO of Anthony Perosh in his Octagon debut and Manuwa looking spectacular in pretty much destroying Kyle Kingsbury. Since then Manuwa had picked up another win – a second doctor stoppage over Cyrille Diabate – while the hype train had stalled a little for Jimmo following a loss to James Te Huna and a dull win over Igor Pokrajac. With Manuwa having the home country advantage as well as the more hard-hitting style I was firmly behind him.

Round One and Jimmo charges right out with a right hand, pushing forward from the off. Right hand lands for Manuwa as he stays just out of range. They clinch and Jimmo muscles him into the fence, where they exchange some short knee strikes. Referee Neal Hall calls a clean break and Manuwa tags Jimmo with a knee to the body before forcing him into the fence. Manuwa begins to open up with some really hard knees to the left thigh of Jimmo, and it looks like they’re really hurting as Jimmo visibly winces after taking a couple. Crowd begin to boo as Jimmo switches position and forces Manuwa into the fence, but Manuwa quickly turns it around and continues to land the knees. Ref calls another break and it looks like Jimmo’s limping a bit. Hard leg kick from Manuwa. Jimmo fires back with a decent right hand. Body kick lands for Jimmo too. Manuwa comes back with another leg kick. Hook kick glances for Manuwa and he follows with another leg kick. Leg kicks land for both men. Seconds to go and Manuwa lands with a hard left hook. Good counter right from Jimmo as Manuwa lands a leg kick. Round ends there. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Manuwa.

Round Two and they clinch early on after a brief exchange, with Jimmo shoving Manuwa into the fence. Right elbow narrowly misses for Jimi. Jimmo comes back with a solid knee. Another clean break is called by the referee and Manuwa cracks him with a hard body kick. Leg kick answers for Jimmo. Jab into a leg kick combo lands for Manuwa. Stiff jab from Jimmo. Leg kick connects again for Manuwa. Body kick from Jimmo as they’re almost going strike-for-strike now. Combination lands for Manuwa and Jimmo clinches. Crowd begin to get restless as they exchange some knees, but Jimmo takes one to the groin and the ref separates them. No warning for Manuwa as it was clearly accidental and they restart. Good leg kick from Manuwa again but Jimmo clinches and tries to take him down. Manuwa manages to block nicely and they end up clinched on the fence again. This time the crowd outright boo. Ref calls another break with about a minute to go but they clinch again right away. They break of their own accord this time and Manuwa lands a knee from the plum clinch, and as Jimmo steps back he collapses and the ref steps in to call the fight. Weird ending. Replay shows Jimmo’s left leg randomly gave out on him – Joe Rogan suspects a torn hamstring.

That’s three fights and three UFC wins for Manuwa and yet the guy has never subbed or knocked an opponent out, nor won a decision which is genuinely bizarre. He did look good here though prior to the injury and I had him two rounds ahead – he did extremely well in the clinch with a big, strong Light-Heavyweight in Jimmo and he’s clearly due a step up. Whether Alexander Gustafsson is a step too far we shall see, but Jimi is almost 34 so there’s no point in holding him back at this stage in his career. Fight wasn’t all that thanks to the copious amounts of clinching but it wasn’t terrible or anything.

Lightweight Fight: Ross Pearson vs Melvin Guillard

This fight was basically being sold on the premise that even though these two weren’t near the top ten or anything at this point it guaranteed fireworks, and you can’t really argue with that I don’t think as when did either guy ever have a dull fight? Despite Guillard’s harder-hitting style and explosive nature I was taking Pearson’s more clean striking as I thought he’d be able to counter and land on Melvin, whose chin isn’t really all that.

Fight begins and Pearson presses the action with an inside leg kick. Guillard backs him up a little with some punches but Ross resets and lands with another leg kick. Overhand right narrowly misses for Melvin. Good job from Pearson so far of avoiding Melvin’s punches. Guillard finally does get through with a hard right hand, but Ross takes it and seems fine. He pushes forward a bit too much though and Melvin lands with a quick one-two. Melvin seems to be finding his range now. Good knee to the body from Melvin. Flying knee glances for Pearson and Guillard gets hold of him and tackles him to the ground…but in the scramble he lands a BRUTAL KNEE to the head of Pearson that busts him wide open. Referee Marc Goddard immediately calls time, claiming the knee was illegal, and it looks questionable to me from the first replay. A different angle shows Ross’s hand was on the ground though which indeed makes it illegal.

Crowd begin to boo loudly as the doctor stops the fight due to the cut and Goddard calls it a No Contest due to the inadvertent illegal blow. Man, that sucks for all parties really. My personal feeling is that knees on the ground should be legal anyway and so Melvin should’ve won via TKO, but I don’t write the rule book for MMA and so in that case a No Contest (rather than a DQ) was the fair result. Zuffa ended up booking an immediate rematch for the upcoming London Fight Night card, but it’s fallen through due to an injury to Pearson so it doesn’t look like we’ll see it any time soon. As for this fight it ended before it really got going. Massively disappointing.

Middleweight Fight: Lyoto Machida vs Mark Munoz

As I mentioned in the introduction, Munoz was originally faced with Michael Bisping in this main event but when Bisping pulled out things got much more difficult for him. Not that I necessarily think Machida is way better than Bisping, but for a guy like Munoz who relies on his powerful-but-crude strikes and his wrestling, the style of Machida just makes for a bad match, you know? I was taking Machida probably by decision, expecting him to be able to play matador and avoid Munoz’s takedowns and heavy punches. And incredibly – considering this was what, the UFC’s fourth or fifth show in Manchester? – Lyoto becomes the first guy to walk out to an Oasis track in order to get even more over with the crowd. Seriously, I can’t believe nobody’s done it before!

Round One and both men come out looking pretty tentative. Machida throws out some feints but Munoz is keeping way out of range early on. Left hand barely even glances for Lyoto. Munoz needs to get into range if he wants to do a thing here. Body kick from Machida. We’re two minutes in and there’s been like two strikes landed between them. Nice body kick lands for Lyoto as he catches Munoz against the fence. Low leg kick follows. Munoz backs up and Lyoto suddenly cracks him with a HUGE LEFT HEAD KICK and Munoz is OUT. Lyoto doesn’t even need to follow up. Insane ending.

Fight was literally nothing until the last thirty seconds or so, but to be fair Anderson Silva at his peak used to take two-three minutes to feel his opponent out before striking so I don’t hold it against Machida for doing the same. He absolutely starched Munoz here although to be fair you’ve got to question Munoz’s strategy a little as it didn’t look like he was sure how to close the distance and seemed in trouble from the moment Lyoto landed the first body kick. At any rate though Lyoto just knocked out one of the top fighters in the weight class and I think he’s definitely an interesting contender at 185lbs – much more than he was at 205lbs. With Lyoto and Mousasi dropping down, the resurgent Vitor Belfort and then other exciting contenders like Luke Rockhold and Jacare in the wings I think the post-Silva years for Middleweight are going to be fun indeed.

-Show ends with the BT Sport presenters attempting to wrap the night up. Good lord.

Final Thoughts….

For a b-level show I thought this was fine – we didn’t get any truly bad fights although Manuwa/Jimmo wasn’t great and had a bad finish – and one fight out of six going the distance isn’t anything to moan about. On the flipside though nothing outside of Machida/Munoz and maybe Lineker/Harris had any far-reaching consequences and the co-main was a total anticlimax. For the hardcore fan it’s definitely worth a look but if you’re a casual and you missed it first time around it’s probably not worth worrying about.

Best Fight: Musoke vs. Sakara
Worst Fight: Manuwa vs. Jimmo

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: