MMA Review: #642: UFC Fight Night 130

-Initial reports had this show coming from Dublin, but the UFC switched it in the end to Liverpool – a move that made sense when the main event was announced as being hometown kid Darren Till against former title challenger Stephen Thompson. Hell of a fight right there.

UFC Fight Night 130

Liverpool, England

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Dan Hardy.

Middleweight Fight: Darren Stewart vs Eric Spicely

Bit of an odd opener as Stewart was coming off three straight losses and Spicely off two himself, but I guess the UFC just felt it’d likely end with a finish as Spicely usually tends to get KO’d or manage to grab onto a submission. Given Stewart’s takedown defense hadn’t looked great in previous outings I was taking Spicely.

Round One begins and Spicely looks to reach for the clinch, but eats a couple of punches as he does so. Spicely actually looks to be in better shape than usual here. They exchange some punches from range and it definitely looks like Stewart is the better striker. Spicely does land with a clean right hand though before shooting for a single leg. Stewart defends initially but finds himself pinned against the fence, with Spicely looking to get him down. Knee to the body from Stewart forces Spicely to drop a little lower, but he still can’t get the Brit down. Knee and a right hand break for Stewart and he looks to establish his jab again. Stewart continues to land the better punches but to be fair to Spicely he’s swinging right back and he does land a couple of decent shots. Round ends with the exchange on the feet continuing. 10-9 Stewart slightly I’d say.

Round Two and Stewart lands a solid right hook as Spicely comes out swinging again. Big punches land for Stewart and Spicely looks a little rocked and has to back up. He does recover though to land a solid leg kick and a jab. Right hand from Stewart rocks Spicely though and he’s in trouble. He covers up under a flurry and then fires back, so Stewart clinches and then separates quickly. Left jab drops Spicely this time and Stewart OPENS UP from the top with some RUTHLESS GROUND AND POUND and the ref has to stop it there.

Really vicious finish from Darren Stewart, he knew Spicely was hurt and just didn’t let him off the hook as soon as he hit the deck. Proper killer instinct right there. I doubt he goes much further in the UFC but this was a fun win at least and should guarantee him at least a few more fights.

Welterweight Fight: Nordine Taleb vs Claudio Silva

This was a bit of a weird fight as Taleb was on somewhat of a run – two in a row since a loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio in early 2017 – and I expected him to be given a step up rather than Silva, who hadn’t fought since a win over Leon Edwards way back in November 2014! With that kind of layoff the obvious pick was Taleb.

Fight begins and Silva comes out aggressively, throwing a bunch of kicks and trying to get a clinch, but Taleb defends the takedown and separates. Taleb looks super confident on the feet. Good leg kick lands for him and he stays out of range of Silva’s strikes. Leg kick from Silva is caught and Taleb slams him down and then allows him to get right back up. Big body kick lands for Taleb and he throws Silva into the fence and almost lands with a right hand. Low kick does land for Silva this time but he fails on a takedown and eats a couple of hard knees from the Frenchman. Low kick from Taleb is caught though and this time Silva manages to get him down in a scramble. He instantly passes into half-guard but it’s a loose one and Silva looks to mount. Taleb avoids that and then goes for a kneebar, but as he pulls it over he eats a bunch of unanswered punches that seem to stun him. Silva follows by hitting full mount and Taleb might be in trouble. He takes some more shots and then gives his back, and from there Silva slaps on a body triangle and SINKS THE CHOKE! And seconds later it’s enough for the tapout. Holy shit.

So much for the layoff affecting Silva. He looked super-rusty standing but once he got the fight to the ground he basically dummied Taleb. Looked like Taleb made a major error in going for that leglock rather than trying to scramble to his feet, but yeah, Silva looked like a total beast on the mat and the choke was beautiful. Huge win for the Brazilian and hopefully he can stay a little more active now!

Featherweight Fight: Makwan Amirkhani vs Jason Knight

Despite both men coming off losses – and Amirkhani having not fought since March 2017 – this one looked like a really exciting fight, as neither guy tends to have boring matches and shit, they’re both completely fucking crazy too. Especially Knight. As a big fan of ‘Mississippi Mean’ I was picking him to hopefully win. Dude is awesome.

Round One begins and these guys evidently have some serious beef. Both guys come out mean-mugging and taunting, throwing some early strikes from distance. Clean right hook lands for Amirkhani and he tries a flying knee, but gets taken down. Scramble sees Knight drop to guard and Amirkhani opens up with some hammer fists, then decides to stand free and allow Knight to join him. Crowd are way into this one. Nice right hand lands for Knight but he takes one too and his nose looks bloody. Stiff jab lands for Amirkhani and he talks some trash too. Big left hand glances for Amirkhani. Big exchange sees both men land. Flurry from Knight leads to the clinch, but Amirkhani throws him off. More taunting follows for Amirkhani and Knight is busted open. Wheel kick misses for Knight. Low kick almost buckles Amirkhani’s leg though. Front kick to the body lands for Knight but Amirkhani taunts him again. Combo follows for Amirkhani but Knight counters with a HUGE UPPERCUT and it sends him down! Knight pounces on him and looks to go right into a choke, but he can’t get it and Amirkhani somehow stands up. One minute to go and Amirkhani’s still hurt, but he somehow fires back and tags Knight! Holy shit. Knight replies with a HUGE RIGHT HAND though and Amirkhani is down again! This time Knight looks to lock up a guillotine, then switches to rubber guard, but that allows Amirkhani time to recover. Triangle attempt follows and it looks tight, but Amirkhani does enough to defend as the round ends. Clearly 10-8 for Knight due to the knockdowns and near submission at the end.

Round Two and Knight looks unbelievably confident. He starts out by throwing some kicks and he’s talking trash too, telling Amirkhani “your chin is weak, boy!” Now that’s proper trash talk! Flying knee misses for Amirkhani and Knight glances on a combination. More kicks from Knight force Amirkhani back and he isn’t doing a lot really. Counter right hook lands for Amirkhani but Knight comes right back with one of his own. Another clean counter lands for Amirkhani and this time he follows up with a takedown to guard. Knight immediately stays active from his back, looking for a possible rubber guard, but Amirkhani lands a solid hammer fist before standing over him. Crowd boo that until Marc Goddard stands Knight up. Nice right hook connects hard for Knight but this time Amirkhani’s chin holds up well. He comes back with a right hook and then dumps Knight to the ground with a takedown to side mount. He doesn’t do a lot with the position though, just pinning Knight down before getting caught in rubber guard again. Decent punch lands for Amirkhani as he slides free, but Knight wraps him up again as the round ends. 10-9 Knight for me as he had more offfense and Amirkhani did nothing with the takedowns.

Round Three and Knight takes some potshots from the outside as Amirkhani backs up and then gets a takedown, although Knight might’ve jumped guard. He goes right into rubber guard and ties the Finn up, and Amirkhani just does nothing from the top. Triangle attempt from Knight is missed and Amirkhani does land a couple of shots, but he just isn’t doing enough for me as Knight continues to use rubber guard. Crowd are furious with this now which is sad given how good the fight was earlier. Knight continues to work the rubber guard though and it looks like Amirkhani’s totally stuck. Ref calls a stand-up with two minutes to go and Knight drills him with a stiff right, but Amirkhani goes for the takedown. Knight defends momentarily but gives his back standing, before rolling for a kneebar. That doesn’t work and he winds up on his back in guard again, where he remains active although he takes a couple of shots too. Action again slows down though as Knight continues to wriggle from his back before giving his neck up. He stands, but Amirkhani gets him back down and the round ends there. 10-9 Amirkhani by a hair I guess as Knight had less offense, but I’d go 29-27 for Knight overall.

Judges have it 30-27 Knight, 29-28 Amirkhani, and 29-28 for Amirkhani to take the split decision. Do not agree with that one at ALL as most of the meaningful offense was Knight’s, particularly in the first round where he came close to finishing Amirkhani, and really all Amirkhani got were takedowns that didn’t lead to a lot. Bad judging in my eyes and I’d class this as a win for Knight, hopefully keeping him around in the UFC after a string of losses. Dude remains awesome.

Featherweight Fight: Arnold Allen vs Mads Burnell

Like his previous opponent Amirkhani, hot British prospect Allen hadn’t fought since their March 2017 clash, which made this one tricky to pick despite his record being far more impressive than Burnell’s, as the young Dane had gone 1-1 in the UFC prior to this. I was taking Allen but I was also worried about the layoff.

Round One begins and Allen opens with a hard left hand as they circle around. Lot of movement early on from both men but it’s Allen landing the better punches. Right hand over the top connects for Burnell as he pushes forward. Another one follows as Allen looks to fire back. Takedown attempt from Burnell and he drives Allen into the fence, but can’t get him off his feet right away. Allen manages to switch and force Burnell into the fence instead before breaking off. Good combination lands for Burnell though and he appears to be gaining confidence. Body kick follows for the Dane. Striking exchange continues with Allen now the more active, but Burnell stays right in there by firing shots back. Crisp left hand connects for Allen, but Burnell changes levels and takes him down. He works into Allen’s guard and avoids a reversal, and then passes right into half-guard. Allen gets full guard back quickly though and stays active despite taking some punches. Good job from Allen to explode to his feet, but Burnell takes him down again with seconds to go. Allen pops back up and then lands on top in a scramble as the round ends. Close round but probably 10-9 Burnell I’d say.

Round Two and Burnell again pushes forward, firing shots at Allen before hitting a beautiful double leg into half-guard. Really nice takedown. Few punches get through for Burnell but Allen gets to full guard. Burnell slices back into half-guard and easily avoids a triangle, but he’s not doing a lot with this position really. Allen gets his back to the fence, but he takes some punches from Burnell who really works to keep him down and then takes the back as Allen stands. Allen works back up again, but Burnell remains on him only to release when Allen defends the takedown. Couple of kicks glance for Allen but Burnell’s movement allows him to avoid most of the strikes, and then he hits another takedown to half-guard. Action slows down big time from there as Burnell seems content to just hold Allen down, landing the odd punch along the way. Allen does get to full guard but it looks like he might be tired. Round ends with Burnell on top. 10-9 Burnell, clearly.

Round Three and Burnell gets another quick takedown after eating some early shots. Allen immediately works back up but Burnell gets him down again and easily avoids a possible guillotine to work into half-guard. Allen gets full guard and hits a sweet reversal though, only to get forced into the cage again. Burnell looks to get him down again, but this time Allen defends well. Burnell keeps trying to get him down and switches off to a single leg, but Allen laces up the right arm and tries a kimura. It fails and Burnell gets him down, but he’s still got his back to the fence. Burnell works to move him away from there, but it allows the Brit to his feet. Burnell continues to go for the takedown, but as he drops Allen suddenly synches onto his neck in a ninja choke attempt! Burnell immediately looks to free himself, but he can’t and Allen somehow twists him to the ground and GETS THE TAPOUT!

Wow, that was a hell of a comeback from Arnold Allen. Dude looked rusty as hell and was largely being outworked in all areas, but somehow he still managed to wrap a legit BJJ black belt up in a rare choke variant and tap him out. Unbelievable stuff really. Hopefully he can get back in there sooner this time as he’s clearly a hell of a talent with a lot to offer. Fight was decent enough, a little dull actually but the finish more than made up for it.

Welterweight Fight: Neil Magny vs Craig White

This was the lone injury-changed fight on the main card, as originally Magny would’ve faced fellow top ten contender Gunnar Nelson, but ended up faced with newcomer White instead. Given White had no UFC experience and didn’t exactly sport a gaudy record this seemed like a gimme for Magny.

Round One begins and White comes out pretty aggressively, firing strikes and he looks big for a 170lber too. Magny looks pretty chilled, though. Clinch from White and they jockey for position and the action grinds to a halt from there. Trip attempt from White doesn’t quite work but to be fair he’s doing well to control Magny on the fence thus far. Magny eventually spins him around though and they continue to jockey for underhooks and overhooks. Takedown attempt from Magny follows but White defends that pretty well. Clear-cut low blow follows for Magny though and the ref has to call time. White quickly recovers and they continue, restarting in the centre of the cage. White instantly clinches again though and forces Magny right back into the fence. Knee to the body from Magny causes White to drop for a takedown, but Magny reverses on the way down and lands directly into full mount. White recovers to half-guard and so Magny decides to stand up over him. White tries some upkicks as Magny drops punches over the top, and unsurprisingly Magny decides to let him up. White comes forward swinging and gets back into the clinch, but Magny spins him around and from there he drops him with a knee to the face and finishes him off with some punches on the ground.

Fight was nothing until the finish as White just seemed content to clinch, but in the end Magny did what he had to do and picked up a decent finish over a clearly overmatched opponent. I mean no offense to White but there’s a reason Magny’s a top ten guy right now, you know? Not much more to say really.

Welterweight Fight: Stephen Thompson vs Darren Till

Well, it took a while to put together – apparently due to Wonderboy making some contractual demands – but this was always the fight that everyone wanted as the main event once the UFC announced this show was in Liverpool. Till had put his name into the hat of contenders at 170lbs by destroying Donald Cerrone in October, while Thompson had bounced back from two failed title shots by beating Jorge Masvidal in November, and of course this was Till’s big chance to really become a title threat in front of his hometown. It looked like a tough fight for Till on paper but I was behind him – he’s become one of my favourite fighters and I just couldn’t see him losing at home – even after missing weight pretty badly.

And it’s an ALL TIME CLASSIC entrance for Till as he walks out to Sweet Caroline and literally the whole fucking building is singing along with it. AWESOME.

Round One begins and both men poke some low kicks at one another with Till looking pretty confident. Crowd are insanely into this. High kick narrowly misses for Thompson. Lot of feinting in the first minute but it looks like it’s Till who’s pressing the action more. Low kick lands for Thompson but Till glances with a left hand to pop the crowd. Body kick from Till but Wonderboy counters with a left hand. Quick rush misses for Wonderboy. This is a low output round actually. Nice body shot lands for Thompson. Spinning attack glances for Till. Couple more strikes glance for each man as they continue to throw out a lot of feints. Round ends soon after. Tight one to score but I’d probably go 10-9 for Wonderboy based on a couple of cleaner shots like that one to the body.

Round Two and Till comes out hard and lands with a low kick and a left hand, but circles out rather than blitz Wonderboy. Head kick glances for Thompson. Till continues to look to back Wonderboy up into the fence, but Thompson does a good job of avoiding that. Left hand lands for Wonderboy pretty cleanly. Low kicks from both men connect. Nice left hand lands for Till as he pushes forward again. Rush from Wonderboy is stopped by a clinch and Till lands a knee on his way out. Couple of oblique kicks from Till clearly have Thompson’s left knee hurt and he has to switch stances, but he throws a head kick that narrowly misses soon after. Both men glance on a few more shots as this remains tricky to score. Head kick narrowly misses again from Wonderboy and Till shakes his head at him. Nice low kick from Till and he outright shoves Wonderboy away from him. Crowd are still molten despite the real lack of wild action. Round ends with Till trying to close distance. 10-9 Till I’d say that time, another close one though.

Round Three and Till immediately looks to corral Thompson against the fence. Wonderboy outright runs away at one point and they trade a couple of low kicks. High kick just misses again for Thompson. Left hand glances for Till and forces Thompson to circle way out. Till is pretty clearly the aggressor in this round, backing Thompson up while avoiding his strikes well too. Body kick glances for Thompson. Wonderboy’s hands are so low but his movement’s so good that Till can’t seem to hit him cleanly. Nice counter right hand lands for Wonderboy as Till steps in. Till again manages to trap him against the fence and this time he taunts him, glancing on a left but taking a right hand at the same time. Another exchange sees both men land pretty cleanly. Big flurry misses for Wonderboy. Eye poke from Wonderboy forces ref Marc Goddard to call time, but Till gets the okay from the doctor and they restart. Till really pushes forward from the restart, walking through some kicks to land a big left hand, but Wonderboy seems okay and fires back with kicks as the round ends. 10-9 Till for me, he pressed forward more and the exchanges were largely even.

Round Four and Till comes out firing a jab but he eats a left hand on his way in. Till still keeps pushing forward though, forcing Thompson back towards the fence. Decent right lands for Wonderboy as Till pushes forward. Nice oblique kick lands for Till again but there’s still more feints than strikes being thrown overall here. Nice step-in straight right connects for Thompson. Big left comes up short for Till and so he decides to clinch, but they break quickly with Till glancing on an elbow. Couple of jabs glance for Till but he eats a nice body shot. Seconds to go and it’s a bit of a stalemate. Till looks to chase Wonderboy down with a left but doesn’t land cleanly, and that’s the round. 10-9 Wonderboy as he seemed to land the better strikes but again it was close.

Round Five and it’s likely winner take all I’d say. BRO HUG opens the round before Till backs Thompson up with some punches that largely miss. Head kick misses for Wonderboy. Till is still the one pushing forward and he catches Thompson nicely with a short right hand. Switch kick misses for Wonderboy as more feints follow for both men. Till continues to try to corral him though and almost manages it, but can’t land cleanly when he does. Just over two minutes to go now and this could still go either way really. Body kick lands for Wonderboy. Till forces him back again though and this time he catches him stationary and DROPS HIM WITH A LEFT HAND! Crowd go wild but Wonderboy recovers super quickly and escapes to his feet. Big left hand glances for Wonderboy as he looks okay as Till pushes forward, but Till shakes his head. Takedown from Wonderboy as Till pushes forward now, but Till pops right back up. Low kick lands for Till. Seconds to go now and Till taunts Wonderboy a little but largely stays out of range. Round ends with some more feinting, and I’d call it 10-9 Till for the knockdown making it 48-47 Till overall. Could go either way but shit, in PRIDE scoring Till wins for the knockdown too so that works for me!

Judges have it 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46….all for DARREN TILL, sending the crowd into raptures. Not sure about those 49-46 scores but it was really difficult to call who was winning and Till was the guy coming forward so yeah. I’ve got no problem with the decision personally and no offense to Wonderboy, it makes the division a LOT more interesting going forward.

Post-fight – in a sweary promo – Till explains that he was less aggressive than usual due to Wonderboy’s style, really smart gameplan to be fair that I wasn’t sure Till could pull off. But he did and you can’t fault him for it at all. Hopefully he can get a title shot in the future because he’s awesome, but I’m not sure it should be before Kamaru Usman. Who knows with the UFC right now though? As for this fight, it wasn’t exciting per say but it was definitely a fascinating chess match made far more memorable by the hot crowd.

-Show ends directly after that as Till celebrates.

Final Thoughts….

Really good show in the end despite the lack of name value; we got a trio of fun finishes from Stewart, Silva and Magny, a really good fight in Knight/Amirkhani and a hell of a comeback from Arnold Allen to top the undercard off. Main event wasn’t a classic and I’m thinking some people probably outright hated it, but shit, Darren Till won in front of his home crowd and how can you not love that? Two thumbs up for sure.

Best Fight: Knight vs. Amirkhani
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: