From Michael Bisping’s injury withdrawal to some disappointing endings to main-card bouts, we can’t say everything went as planned for the UFC’s return to England with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 30 event.
What we can say is that we got a full afternoon’s worth of action on cable TV, and some of it might even have meaningful consequences for a few key divisions.
Some notes from the UFC’s FOX Sports 2-televised journey to Manchester, England…
1. Did Lyoto Machida just become a middleweight contender with one partially blocked head kick?
Seems like it, even if that seems a little weird. Here he is, taking a short-notice fight against friend and training partner Mark Munoz (13-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) – a fight in which very little actually happens – and somehow one of the five strikes he lands in the fight (between the two of them, they only threw 13) ends up changing everything for him.
That’s how quickly fortunes change in MMA. A month ago Machida (20-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) was a former light heavyweight champ on a gradual downward trend following his decision loss to Phil Davis. Now we’re talking about matching him up against Vitor Belfort (23-10 MMA, 12-6 UFC) in a fight that would almost inevitably catapult someone into a title shot. And it all happened because of one kick that didn’t even land cleanly.
OK, maybe it was more than the kick. It was also Machida saying yes to the fight in the first place, even though he had his pick of reasons to say no. He put his friendship with Munoz aside, and now he’s on the rise while his buddy is tumbling down. It’s a rough business, this professional prize fighting. Maybe it’s best to keep your friends in different weight classes. Though, as Machida’s possible collision course with Anderson Silva reminds us, even that isn’t guaranteed to keep things nice and civil in the gym.
2. Jessica Andrade’s battering of Rosi Sexton again forces us to wonder when enough is enough.
Just one week after Junior dos Santos played punching bag to UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez, one of MMA’s brightest minds waded head first into what seemed to be an unnecessary amount of brain trauma, as Andrade (10-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) pelted Sexton (13-4 MMA, 0-2 UFC) with blow after blow. Sexton has a Ph.D. and is plenty smart outside the cage, all of which makes you wonder, should she have known when to quit? And if she doesn’t, should someone else do it for her?
I’m reminded of what Josh Barnett said to MMAFighting.com‘s Dave Doyle recently. On the subject of Velasquez-JDS, “The Warmaster” insisted it shouldn’t have been stopped because, “The fighter knows best. Let them do their job. If they want to quit, they’ll quit. Junior will live to fight another day, so will Cain, everybody’s OK. The worst thing you can do to a fighter is stop it before you give him a chance to give all he’s got.”
I like Barnett, but I think he’s wrong here. The fighter doesn’t necessarily know best. Especially not when the fighter is already concussed and might not even remember any of this later. That’s a fighter whose decision-making skills are compromised, and we have all these safeguards – refs, doctors, cornermen – in place to override the fighter’s will when necessary.
It’s difficult, because you don’t want to render the fighter’s sacrifices meaningless by stopping it too soon. At the same time, what was the point of Sexton stumbling into more punches long after the outcome had been decided? We know these people are tough. We should also know that sometimes that can work against them.
3. Two very different disappointing endings mar main card proceedings.
When Ryan Jimmo (18-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) came up lame in the second round of his bout with Jimi Manuwa (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC), it almost seemed like a relief. At least this one was over. At least Jimmo’s reign of boredom was over after he spent the first frame clinching us all to sleep.
If anything, it was Manuwa who got cheated out of a finish, and just when that was looking imminent. But the no-contest in the Ross Pearson-Melvin Guillard fight, that was different. Maybe it was even more of a bummer because, though we didn’t get a conclusive resolution, we also didn’t really have anyone to blame for it.
You could accuse Pearson (15-6 MMA, 7-3 UFC) of “playing the game” by putting his hand down and then picking it up, but he seemed more concerned with survival then trickery just then. You could also accuse Guillard (31-12-2 MMA, 12-8 UFC) of kneeing a downed opponent, but really, how is he supposed to keep a close eye on Pearson’s fingertips during the flow of action? You could blame referee Marc Goddard, but it was such a close call and in such a critical situation that I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt and save your rage for genuine referee screw-ups.
It’s just a bad situation all around, and now we’ll have to wait until March until they can do it again (brother!) in front of the British faithful. No word yet on how many of the U.K. fans truly feel it’s a rematch worth waiting that long for.
4. Cole Miller looked fantastic, but his post-fight callout could use a little work.
Maybe it’s the jiu-jitsu nerd in me, but Miller’s sweeps and near submissions were the highlight of the prelims as far as I’m concerned. That he couldn’t finish Andy Ogle (9-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) was more a testament to Ogle’s toughness and defensive skill than a knock on Miller (20-8 MMA, 9-6 UFC).
I also like that Miller took advantage of his post-fight mic time to pick a fight with high-profile Irish featherweight Conor McGregor (14-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC). At least, I think that’s who Miller meant when he said, “Colin McGoober,” though I guess I can’t be sure.
Look, make fun of a guy’s name all you want. Just don’t make so much fun of it that it’s tough to tell who you’re talking about. That said, let’s go ahead and book that fight. Time to find out if McGregor (or McGoober, whoever he is) can hang on the mat with a man who’s a real threat to submit him.
5. John Lineker may be the scariest flyweight who is actually a bantamweight.
The good news for Lineker (23-6 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is that he scored his third straight TKO victory on Saturday thanks to a first-round pasting of Phil Harris. The bad news is that, of those three, he missed weight for two of them. In fact, in five fights with the UFC, Lineker has missed weight more than he’s made it, which is downright unacceptable.
If you want to be a flyweight, you have to make 126 pounds – 125 pounds if you ever hope to fight for a title. If you can’t do that, Mr. Lineker, then guess what? You’re a bantamweight. Sorry, but there is no 128-pound division in the UFC.
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 30, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
(Pictured: Cole Miller)