UFC kick start their dominance of Europe with a fun-looking card in London, England, headlined by a highly anticipated tilt between the undefeated Jimi Manuwa and the man who gave Jon Jones the fight of his life, Alexander Gustafsson. Manuwa is a heavy underdog in this one, but his undefeated record and knockout power gives him a chance against the man ranked #1 in the world at light heavyweight. The winner may get a title shot in their next fight, making this one very intriguing.
In the co-main, Michael Johnson and Melvin Guillard square off in a battle for lightweight relevance, while Brad Pickett hopes to introduce himself as a top flyweight in his 125lbs debut against Neil Seery. Elsewhere, top European prospects Gunnar Nelson and Omari Akmedov square off, Cyrille Diabate fights for the final time against Ilir Latifi and the likes of Louis Gaudinot, Luke Barnatt and Brad Scott are all in action.
There are just nine bouts in this UFC Fight Night 37 card, after Davey Grant was forced to pull out due to a torn meniscus after an MRI scan deemed his knee injury more serious than first feared.
Jacob Cooper will be providing play-by-play for the preliminary card, while Matt Galea is covering the main card.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Will Gustafsson make a statement, or this too much of a let down? Can Manuawa shock the world? Let’s see!
Round 1 - Straight jab and low kick from Manuwa both connect to start the fight. Big take down by the Mauler, smart move. You have to think this is what Manuwa has been training for. Gustafsson working for Manuwa’s left arm, but he’s defending it well. Gustafsson is controlling him on the ground, but no real damage, more looking to gain advantage in order to apply a submission. Great scramble, and they are back up. Nice knee from Manuwa. Great body shot as well. Manuwa had the stand up, but Gustafsson controlled it on the ground. 10-9 Gustafsson, but close.
Round 2 - Eye poke starts round 2, which seems to be a common thread tonight. Manuwa is fine, and the round continues. Manuwa, does look the better fighter on their feet, but Alexander connects! Huge knee in the clinch, flurry of punches knocks Manuwa down. Gustafsson follows through and Manuwa is out! Big win.
Winner: Alexander Gustafsson via KO, round 2.
Jon Jones, I want my title shot. I’m right here. Whenever you want.
And he deserves it. Point proven.
Michael Johnson vs. Melvin Guillard
Both of these fighters must be sick of the word “potential” by now.
Round 1 - No touching of the gloves to start – no surprise there. Guillard with some patience, which is a nice change of pace from him. Johnson looks like he wants to make statement, but could get caught if he’s not careful. Accidental kick to the groin by Johnson. At least I hope it’s accidental. Johnson presses and connects, but Guillard counters nicely. Johnson looks pissed off, but Melvin very relaxed. Interesting to see the maturity of Guillard here, win or lose. Johnson frustrated with the lack of engagement of by Guillard, but he’s playing it smart in my opinion. Tough round to score. Going 10-9 Johnson, for being the aggressor.
Round 2 - I think Guillard opens up a bit in round 2. Two minutes in to the round and the fighters are trading. You get the feeling everyone, including the fighters, are waiting for a bomb to drop. Crowd is booing, and Johnson throws up his arms in frustration. Johnson is easily the busier of the two. Finally some action, Johnson with a right, left, and knee, wobbling Guillard to the cage. Melvin comes back with a right of his own. Johnson 10-9.
Round 3 - Guillard takes a chance and Johnson briefly takes him down. Guillard needs to push forward here, he’s definitely being too patient. More trading, but Johnson still looks the better in the stand up, throwing more combinations and countering, as opposed to Guillard who is throwing one punch at a time. Johnson connects with a straight. Melvin connects with a right hand, out of the clinch. Johnson now getting the better of the stand up. Melvin complained of an eye poke, but he is ignored and Johnson decks him with a series of punches. Melvin needs a knock out. Doesn’t get it, and Johnson is super unhappy with Melvin’s lack of pace. Meanwhile, Guillard is upset with the ref for not pausing the fight with the eye poke. Johnson 10-9.
Winner: Michael Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Johnson says Guillard ran the whole time, which isn’t much of an outlandish statement.
Is M.C. Hammer really that big in England?
Brad Pickett vs. Neil Seery
Neil Seery looks like Vinnie Jones minus 150 lbs or so. You have to think Seery comes out throwing like crazy, absolutely nothing to lose. This could be short, spectacular and brutal! Huge fight for Pickett, who has already beaten the champ Demetrious Johnson and maybe one or two fights away from a title shot. I say a big win here, earns him a title shot.
Round 1 - Both guys standing in front of each other, throwing. They are both just swinging for the fences. Pickett just missed a huge right cross. Pickett takes Seery down, in a bit of a surprise. Nice slam by Pickett, as Seery does a nice job holding on to Pickett’s arms. Pickett is obviously the better fighter on the ground and it is showing. Pickett gets an arm triangle and it looks good, but Seery does a great job escaping. Both fighters are back to their feet to end the round. Scoring it 10-9 Pickett.
Round 2 - Seery looks to be gaining confidence as the fight continues. Both guys trading again as the round starts. Seery is countering nicely, but Pickett is the aggressor. Single leg by Pickett, but both guys are quickly up again. After some scrambling around, Pickett takes him down again. He seems much more comfortable on the ground, perhaps the stand up of Seery is surprising him. Pickett works him over on the ground with some elbows as the round ends. 10-9 Pickett
Round 3 - Of all the fights on this card, I did expect to see a third round in this one. The third round starts the same way, with both fighters trading. A thumb to Pickett’s eye pauses the round. After the pause, both guys are THROWING! Seery looks very good on his feet. No matter how the fight goes, you’d have to assume he gets another UFC fight. Pickett with the take down. This has essentially been the story of the fight; they trade, Seery looks good, Pickett takes him down. Pickett looks like he’s going for another arm triangle, but they’re up again. Seery is definitely gaining some fans with this stand up performance. Pickett, once again with the shoot and slam. This is one of those fights where there is no loser. Pickett looks a bit disappointed, I think he’s surprised this is going to the judges. 10-9 Pickett.
Winner: Brad Pickett via decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Pickett calls out Mighty Mouse after the fight, hoping for a TUF coaching slot against him.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Omari Akhmedov
Looking forward to this clash. We could be hearing a lot about these two guys in the not to distant future. Will be interesting to see if Akhmedov can continue to ride the wave of Russian fighters, storming the MMA game. He’s a finisher, but Nelson is a big step up in competition for him. Gotta love the “Braveheart” entrance music. Nelson looks calm and confident for a guy who hasn’t fought in a while.
Round 1 - Nelson has a very similar stance to Lyoto Machida, and the karate background as well. Both fighters measuring each other out early. Akhmedov misses a cross and Nelson counters, staggering the Russian to the ground. Nelson transitions to full mount and Akhmedov is bleeding. Nelson throwing some big elbows from a dominant top position. Nelson switching between attempts to grab an arm and the elbows. The elbows are doing some real damage. Nelson is being super aggressive, he’s got a guillotine, and it’s over. Akhmedov had no choice but to tap. Dominant from beginning to end for Nelson.
Winner: Gunnar Nelson via submission (guillotine choke), round 1.
Thank you to Mr. Jacob Cooper for covering the preliminary card, I’m ready to take you through the main card. Love the all English set up for tonight’s Fight Night, breath of fresh air for the event. Let’s do this!
Cyrille Diabate vs. Ilir Latifi
Round 1 - Ilir Latifi is hoping to get his first UFC win after his short notice fight with Mousasi, while Diabate is coming into his last professional fight at 4-3 inside the Octagon. Latifi looks in far better shape than the Mousasi fight, but it’ll be interesting to see how he can get past the huge reach advantage Diabate has at his disposal. Latifi comes in to the Rocky theme, surely they should save that for JDS’s use only. Can Latifi do better with a full camp? We are underway. It’s immediately apparent that Latifi will have to charge forward if he had a chance. The first minute is just the two fighters feeling each other out, both very tentative. Latifi shoots in and gets the takedown before a strike is even thrown, and Diabate has his guard passed quickly. Laitifi goes for a d’arce but let’s it go shortly after, controlling ‘The Snake’ on the ground. The Swede is going for any choke he can find and his power is really something to behold. He gets a power guillotine and Diabate taps! Wow, that’s one way to get back on track, and Diabate has another L on his record before retirement.
Result: Latifi via submission (guillotine choke) at 3:02 in round 1.
Luke Barnatt vs. Mats Nilsson
Round 1 – The Brits are 0-3 so far. Barnatt is on a tear at the moment and is the favourite coming into this one after an impressive win over Andrew Craig. Nilsson is making his UFC debut. ‘The Big Slow’ has a significant reach advantage and is one of the most popular fighters coming out of the UK scene. Barnatt immediately establishing his reach advantage with Nilsson pushing forward and trying to land. Barnatt is getting some really nice one-two combinations and imposing his jab on the Swede. Mats is struggling to find his range and as he charges forward, he doesn’t land cleanly. Barnatt looks so comfortable and is unloading with some lovely techniques. But Nilsson is still dangerous and he looks like he has some power. It’s just a matter of whether Nilsson can come inside and hit the Brit. This must be a frustrating fight for Nilsson as for every shot he lands, Barnatt lands three or four. You can definitely tell Barnatt has appeared in the Octagon before, he looks eerily relaxed and is showing off all tools in his arsenal. He rocks Nilsson with a head kick and unloads punches and knees, finishing the Swede against the cage! The crowd erupts! What a performance from Luke ‘Big Slow’ Barnatt. He slams his coach Robbie Olivier in the celebration!
Result: Barnatt via TKO (strikes) at 4:24 in round 1.
Brad Scott vs. Claudio Henrique da Silva
Round 1 – Scott is 1-1 inside the Octagon, while Silva is making his UFC debut. Scott was very impressive in his last fight and has the home faithful behind him once again. And we’re underway. Silva attacks early and is pushing forward but Scott is countering well. Silva is really unleashing some kicks but he looks very sloppy, keeping his arms down while attacking. Scott is taking the more measured approach but Silva gets a takedown, proceeding to get half guard quickly. Silva gets the mount and controls Scott’s attempts at getting a better position, but Scott explodes to his feet. Silva tries to get the fight to the ground again but Scott stuffs it and does well to get to his feet and pushes forward. Silva is breathing out of his mouth already and unloads, making several sloppy telegraphed takedown attempts which Scott stuffs with ease. Scott is far better conditioned and is pushing forward with full control. An eye poke from Silva halts the action for a brief moment. Silva with a brutal head kick but Scott pushes through it, before getting taken down again with Silva getting half guard. Silva maintains top control for the final 30 seconds.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Silva.
Round 2 – They touch gloves and Silva starts by pushing forward, trying some unorthodox techniques which do not land. Another stuffed takedown attempt from Silva. Silva looks very sloppy and slow, and Scott has a good chance here if he can keep it standing. Not much is happening in the opening couple of minutes other than Silva swinging recklessly. Scott hit him with a body kick but Silva fakes that it’s to the groin, but the referee urges them to continue. This is crazy! Scott has stopped out of sportsmanship but he could have finished it there. Scott is opening up on the Brazilian and it could be over soon. Silva tries to pull guard but the Brit is having none of it, and unloads with body shots on the feet. Silva attempts a knee but other than that, he’s landing little. Another poor takedown attempt and Scott is really taking over here. A minute left and Scott smells blood. The Brit is pushing forward but Silva is still attempting some crazy techniques that don’t land. Silva gets him in the clinch but Scott reverses and controls the Brazilian for the final seconds of the round.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Scott.
Round 3 - Scott is so much fresher coming into the third and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t get the finish in this one. Silva starts by pushing forward and throws a head kick and proceeds with jabs, followed by another takedown attempt. Scott stuffs again and pushes forward, landing a stiff right jab. A third accidental eye poke from Silva and surely the ref should be taking a point away now. The doctor gives Scott the go ahead, and no point deduction. Poor refereeing here. He gives a warning but that’s all. Silva’s eye seems to be closing, and that breather has definitely helped him recover a little, pushing forward and attempting another takedown which Scott struggles to stuff before Silva gets his back. Silva now has Scott’s back while the Brit is standing and he’s stealing this fight back from Scott now! Scott needs to do something as the judges could have this in the Brazilian’s favour. The Brit shakes Silva off and gets half guard, but Silva goes for a leg lock which ends up with the Brazilian getting top control. The fight is here for the taking but Scott just can’t get the fight to the feet. Full control from Silva on the feet, and this is a surprisingly impressive round after how gassed he looked coming into it. Scott gets to his feet but there are just 30 seconds left and Claudio is working for another leg lock. Silva ends up on top and could get the nod in this one. Scott is saying to his corner “I’m sorry, that was s**t.” He seems very dejected.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Silva (29-28 Silva).
Result: Silva via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
Igor Araujo vs. Danny Mitchell
Round 1 – Igor Araujo won his UFC debut via decision over Ildemar Alcantara, while Danny Mitchell is making his UFC debut here. Mitchell has the home crowd behind him in this one, however. As a side note, ‘The Cheesecake Assassin’ is perhaps the most unusual nickname in mixed martial arts. And we’re underway. Araujo starts with a head kick attempt, followed by a bizarre spinning kick. Both miss, but he seems confident here. He then attacks Mitchell with a single leg attempt but the Brit reverses and gets top position. Araujo is utilising a butterfly guard, and he reverses Mitchell getting half guard and constantly tries to improve his position. Araujo gets mount momentarily but can’t control the Brit in that position. Mitchell goes for the heel hock but Araujo looks cool and collected, he escapes and regains top control. He unloads some elbows to the body and short shots to the head. Mitchell gets to his feet right at the end.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Araujo.
Round 2 – Mitchell seems a lot more relaxed on the feet and attacks Araujo with kicks. Araujo goes for a takedown and Mitchell stuffs once again but ends up on the bottom. The Brazilian is attacking the body and once again seems content to just keep top control. He takes a measured approach and looks very relaxed in there, but then makes a mistake and Mitchell is back on his feet. He really needs to get it going here because Mitchell is struggling. He puts Araujo in the clinch but does little in terms of offence, hitting the Brazilian with knees to the legs. Mitchell goes for a flying triangle but it’s a very sloppy attempt and Araujo ends the round on top.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Araujo.
Round 3 – They hug and round three is underway. Mitchell needs to finish the fight in this one as he has been dominated for the most part of two rounds. He starts pushing forward and attempts a single leg takedown, but it’s too predictable and Araujo counters with full control in the clinch. The Brazilian pulls guard and sets up a triangle choke, which looks to be sunk in pretty deep. Mitchell doesn’t look phased and tries to punch Araujo while in the position, before getting out and getting top control. Mitchell attempts to get any submission possible but nothing ends up working, with Araujo too skilled on the floor to get caught in anything. They exchange hammer fists in a wild exchange on the bottom in a Frye-Takayama esque manner. And it goes to the judges.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Araujo (30-27 Araujo).
Result: Araujo via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
Phil Harris vs. Louis Gaudinot
Round 1 – Both fighters really need a win in this one. Both exchange early with Gaudinot pushing forward. Harris goes for the takedown but Gaudinot stuffs it, the Brit relentlessly trying to get the fight to the mat in the early going. Gaudinot gets head and arm control but Harris is still attempting to get him down. Gaudinot synching in a guillotine choke, Harris tries to get the fight to the mat but Gaudinot reverses and the choke looks tight. Harris taps and it’s all over!
Result: Gaudinot via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:13 in round 1.