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Hindsight – UFC London: Manuwa vs. Anderson in retrospect

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Delve into an in-depth look at the events of UFC London, from the opening bloody women’s contest to Jimi Manuwa’s walk-off KO of Corey Anderson.

UFC Fight Night London was a card that flew under the radar. That it wasn’t on television is the biggest reason for that, but that wasn’t the only reason. Do casual fans know or care about Jimi Manuwa or Corey Anderson? Gunnar Nelson attracts attention from hardcore fans, but they would likely be watching the card whether he was on there or not. Those who decided to catch the card were likely pleasantly surprised…at least once they got to the main card. The prelims had many counting sheep – or at least on the verge of doing so – before every contest on the main card delivered the goods.

Here’s my thoughts on the UFC London, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.

Lina Lansberg defeated Lucie Pudilova via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Pudilova took the contest on about a week’s notice, limiting her preparation. They had fought 16 months earlier with Lansberg scoring a dominant decision, further convincing pundits of a likely victory for Lansberg. The fight started slow, dominated in the clinch by Lansberg with knees, uppercuts, and elbows. Pudilova began to find her range the second half of the bout, dominating and bloodying Lansberg in the final round. Lansberg stayed active enough to prevent a 10-8 round, scoring a unanimous 29-28 win.
  • Lansberg: Lansberg looked a bit flat, though she also said that she had been ill all week heading into the contest. I hope that is the case, otherwise she won’t be the potential impactful new face the women’s division needs regardless whether it is at bantamweight or featherweight. She looked strong early on, using great head positioning to control Pudilova and wear her down. She had little to offer late as she tired, but she kept throwing and was even the aggressor at times despite her lack of energy. Lansberg is already 35 years old, but she started her career late. I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of her yet.
  • Pudilova: The young Czech looked better than I thought she would…by far. Her clinch work looked improved from her first contest with Lansberg – even if Lansberg was still the better fighter from there, it should still be noted – in addition to doing a better job of maintaining distance. She showed a lot of snap in her punches too, resulting in Lansberg’s right eye swelling shut. Pudilova is only 22 years old with minimal experience. Here’s hoping the UFC is patient with her as I believe she is on her way to being a longtime mainstay at the very least.

Brad Scott defeated Scott Askham via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: Despite their reputation as clinch fighters, those in the know were looking forward to seeing these two throw down. Not having a clue who would win made it that much more anticipated. Scott found his range first, knocking down Askham in the first and piecing him up. Askham made a comeback in the second despite an obvious leg injury Scott failed to capitalize on properly. The final round was the deciding round, with both standing in the pocket and trading heavy blows. Though Scott walked away the victor, it really could have gone either way.
  • Scott: This was by far Scott’s best performance of his career. Knowing Askham has struggled outside of the clinch, Scott’s improvement in his boxing and overall movement was obvious from the beginning. There were times I forgot I was watching Scott as his lack of speed and athleticism wasn’t as apparent as it has been in the past. I’m disappointed he didn’t capitalize on Askham’s leg injury more as I feel he could have picked up the finish, but I can’t be too critical seeing as he got the win in the end. Will his improvement be enough to advance him out of the middle of the middleweight pack? I’m prone to say no, but he still deserves that opportunity.
  • Askham: The lanky Englishman now sits at 2-4 in the UFC. That usually warrants being cut, but I really hope that isn’t the case. Askham hasn’t been finished in that time, putting on scrappy performances each time out. In other words, his 2-4 UFC record is one of the best 2-4 records I can recall seeing. I really hope he doesn’t get cut. Most impressive was the heart he showed by gutting out his injury, putting on stronger performances in the second and third round than he did in the first when he was fresh. Askham needs to find a way to avoid slow starts as they have plagued him in every one of his losses.

Marc Diakiese defeated Teemu Packalen via KO at 0:30 of RD1

  • Expectations/Results: Diakiese was a very heavy favorite going into this contest, thanks to his massive advantage in athleticism. Still, Diakiese had struggled with grapplers, an area where Packalen is strongest. Didn’t matter. Diakiese opened with a series of athletic kicks, including a hard spinning back kick to the gut. Packalen recovered and tried to engage only to eat a brutal right hand that stiffened the Finn on his feet to give the young Englishman a very impressive KO victory.
  • Diakiese: The fight may have only been 30 seconds, but we learned a lot about Diakiese’s recent progress since moving to ATT in that short amount of time. The kicks he threw were not only powerful, they were surprisingly accurate too. And that punch he landed on Packalen…may the MMA gods have mercy on us all. I’ve been skeptical about how far Diakiese would be able to climb as I felt he relied too much on his athleticism. He’s getting the technical training now to fully exploit his abilities and I expect he’ll be in the official UFC rankings in about a year. I know it is still early, but I think Diakiese will be a star.
  • Packalan: Packalen is big, strong, and a very capable grappler. But he is also a bottom tier athlete – for UFC standards – and his standup hasn’t shown any noticeable improvement. Given the amount of depth in the lightweight division coupled with the lack of potential offered by Packalen, I don’t expect to see him hang around very much longer. He can pull off the upset if his opponent doesn’t respect his grappling, though it is hard to think of anyone on the roster who can’t beat him if they take him seriously.

Leon Edwards defeated Vicente Luque via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Not to be a braggart, but I’m very happy to say that I picked Edwards. Yes, Luque has looked sharp in his four-fight win streak, but he hasn’t faced many – if any – notable names thus far. I went with Edwards due to his vastly improved wrestling coupled with Luque’s poor takedown defense. Yet, most pundits were still picking Luque. For once, I was right about how the fight would play out. Edwards scored a number of takedowns, granting him control for a good chunk of the final two rounds. However, it was the thudding kicks to the body of Luque that the Brit scored that ensured the judges saw things his way.
  • Edwards: Even since Edwards made it difficult for Kamaru Usman to get him to the ground, I’ve liked his potential to become a major player. Then he ends up beating Albert Tumenov and now Luque. Edwards continues to impress. The body kicks he landed were brutal enough that I was surprised that Luque didn’t clutch at his mid-section. What I liked seeing most was Edwards showing signs of a headlock game of his own as well as being more willing to put together punching combinations. Edwards isn’t a contender yet by any means, though he isn’t far. I don’t think he’ll get his wish to fight Donald Cerrone, but I like the idea of a contest with Ryan LaFlare.
  • Luque: While it was pretty clear that Luque came up short and looked flat over the last half of the contest, the loss shouldn’t be seen as a complete loss. He did show improved takedown defense, an area that has been his Achilles heel and looked great in the first round. Edwards continued to force him to defend takedowns though and Luque ended up gassing pretty quickly. Luque was been participating almost solely in standup battles in recent fights, so I don’t think he was used to stuffing takedowns. Luque still has plenty of time and talent to become a real player. I expect this contest will be more a learning experience than a setback.

Timothy Johnson defeated Daniel Omielanczuk via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: It’s hard not to like Johnson. He’s got the look of a classic circus strongman, his self-deprecating humor usually gets a laugh, and he has zero ego. Yet, I often struggle to get excited for his fights. I picked him anyway as Omielanczuk has struggled big men who know what they’re doing in the wrestling department. That describes Johnson to a tee. It wasn’t a very fun contest as it was mostly spent in the clinch with Johnson exercising greater control…in other words, exactly why I’ve never been excited to watch Johnson. Omielanczuk had his moments as well, particularly when given space to operate, but it wasn’t enough.
  • Johnson: What is there to break down? Johnson grinded out another opponent who is smaller than him…largely since there isn’t another heavyweight out there who is bigger than him. Even though I find it difficult to get up for Johnson’s fights, I’m still happy to see the big man get the win. He’s a difficult test for anyone as he is incredibly strong and just as durable. Though his lack of mobility will always limit him, he showed his strengths were enough to overcome his limitations. I was hoping to see more of the jab he flashed against Alexander Volkov, but getting the win certainly has to be more important.
  • Omielanczuk: Even though Omielanczuk was unable to keep enough room to let his standup fly enough to get the victory, I noticed a bit of improvement in his wrestling. He’s always been pretty good to get back to his feet quickly once he hits the ground, but he didn’t hit the mat as often as I thought he would. Then again, Johnson has struggled in recent fights to get anyone to the ground. I guess it is easy to prepare for when you know it is coming. Omielanczuk could end up on the cutting room floor as he has now lost two in a row. Hopefully it doesn’t happen. Omielanczuk can be an entertaining kickboxer if he is put in the right contest in addition to be a tough and durable test.

Francimar Barroso defeated Darren Stewart via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Stewart scored an early stoppage when these two met back in December. The problem is that it came off of an illegal though incidental headbutt and the decision was later overturned to a no contest. Despite Stewart’s fast start, I picked Barroso to win, anticipating he’d weather an early storm and grind away on the small Englishman from there. I don’t get to say it often, but the fight played out exactly as I predicted. Stewart looked brilliant early, beating on the Brazilian with an aggressive attack. The problem is he didn’t have much left after the first round as Barroso was still around. There were a few fun flurries between the two of them, but it was Barroso’s wrestling, clinch work, and hard kicks that proved to be the difference.
  • Barroso: I’m sure there are plenty of MMA fans who wish Barroso would just go away. He’s extremely patient, often resulting in contests that hardly get the blood boiling. But he’s also aware of his limitations, knowing what he is good at, and strategizes accordingly. Unfortunately for us, it is almost always boring. If it gets him wins though, it’s hard to fault him for the strategy. Considering the larger weight classes don’t age as fast as the smaller ones, it’s hard to guess how much longer the 36-year old will remain in his position as a gatekeeper for relative newcomers.
  • Stewart: The commentators were talking about Stewart being the stronger fighter as he controlled Barroso in the clinch. I don’t know if I agree with that assessment. I think Stewart exerted more energy than Barroso in the process and the results were soon readily apparent as Stewart ended up being controlled with ease by the larger Brazilian. Regardless of whether or not Stewart is stronger than Barroso, he doesn’t have the size to consistently move around bigger opponents without paying a major price. Thus, I think he’d be better off moving down to middleweight.

Joseph Duffy defeated Reza Madadi via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: While I agree Duffy deserved to be the favorite, I can’t for the life of me fathom why in the hell some oddsmakers had him at a -700 favorite. Yes, Duffy is a hell of a striker, but he’s been very unproven in his wrestling. Madadi tried to expose that deficiency and had some success early, getting Duffy down quickly. A slick reversal later, Duffy stole the momentum and never gave it back. Madadi couldn’t get the fight back to the ground and was split open, blood dripping down his forehead after Duffy laid the punishment on thick and never let up. Impressive win for the Irishman who is unlikely to return to the UFC.
  • Duffy: It has been well-publicized that this was the last contest on Duffy’s contract as he and the UFC have been at an impasse. Given the new ownership’s willingness to let talent walk, it’s doubtful we end up seeing Duffy come back. Seeing as how Duffy showed improved takedown defense following Madadi’s initial takedown, I would think they might want to reconsider. Duffy is as sharp of a boxer as there is in the lightweight division and if he can continue to make steady progress in his wrestling, he could end up being a contender in the near-future. Don’t forget, he’s one of three men who own a victory over Conor McGregor too. The UFC hasn’t exactly been mentioning that lately…
  • Madadi: The book on Madadi is established: he’s a durable and tenacious wrestler whose striking is limited. However, if you take him lightly he’s likely to catch you by surprise. Duffy has never been one to take an opponent lightly. I guess that is why oddsmakers were so unfavorable to the Swedish import. Given few understand how to keep their distance better than Duffy, Madadi had little chance of finding success with his hard hooks. Madadi still has value as a gatekeeper even if he is turning 39 this year.

Arnold Allen defeated Makwan Amirkhani via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: Given Allen’s general lack of direction in his fights, most were picking the opportunistic Amirkhani to find a way to get the finish. While that didn’t happen, I was extremely happy with how the contest played out. Amirkhani established early control with his takedowns before Allen adjusted and began scoring a few takedowns of his own with plenty of reversals from both competitors. Amirkhani showed signs of fatigue in the second round, allowing Allen to slowly pull ahead with a combination of winning the striking exchanges and coming out ahead of the native Finn in the majority of the scrambles late.
  • Allen: While it took Allen a while to get going, he looked vastly improved from his previous appearance. He knew what he wanted to do and was prepared for Amirkhani’s later takedown attempts. He may not have stuffed many of them, but he was prepared as the reversals and back takes showed. What was most encouraging to me was the growth on the feet he showed, effectively countering Amirkhani’s jabs with relative ease while teasing with some flashier strikes such as the spinning back-fist he missed with. Allen is still incredibly young, but now that he has direction fighting at Tristar, I anticipate his development should end up being accelerated. Expect big things from the youngster.
  • Amirkhani: While I admit Amirkhani appears to have made some progress on his striking, I still question his approach to fights. He’s still treating his opponents like they’re on the regional circuit, expecting a quick finish every time around. Once Allen survived the early onslaught, Amirkhani began to fade and it cost him with his first loss in the UFC. It’s a correctable problem and I’d anticipate he’ll reevaluate things now that it has cost him a W. Even though he showed some progress with his strikes, he still has a long way to go. I wasn’t impressed with his leaping jab as it left him wide open to Allen’s counters.

Marlon Vera defeated Brad Pickett via TKO at 3:50 of RD3

  • Expectations/Results: Many breathed a sigh of relief when Pickett announced this would be his final contest. The longtime veteran had become very chinny in recent years and unable to stand up to the punishment he was once able to absorb. Still, the UFC gave him a favorable contest by matching him with Enrique Briones. Briones pulled out just over a week before the contest, leaving Vera to fill in on short notice, further pushing the odds in Pickett’s favor. Pickett controlled the contest for two rounds, using his wrestling and boxing to easily dictate the fight. Vera stayed in the fight, landing a barrage of leg kicks in the last round before adding the finishing touch: a brutal head kick that dropped the longtime vet with just over a minute to go. Pickett seemed to recover quickly, but not before the referee had stopped the fight after Pickett ate a few undefended follow-up punches.
  • Vera: Even though we didn’t get the storybook ending we were all hoping for, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have Vera walk out the winner. The young Ecuador representative has talent and it wouldn’t reflect very well on his progress to have him lose to an opponent on his way out the door. Granted, Vera was losing the fight until he wasn’t, but he did get the job done. Plus, what better way to remind people of your explosion than to snatch victory from your opponent at the last minute…literally. Though he did work to get off of his back faster, he is still too content to just stay in the guard. He’s got a long way to go in his wrestling too. Still, Vera is on the right track.
  • Pickett: This was easily Pickett’s best performance in years. He timed his level changes well. He put together good punching combinations. He controlled Vera on the ground effectively. Things were going perfectly. Then the third round came around. Vera began landing the leg kicks which were visibly bothering Pickett and helped to set up the head kick that ended his career. Yes, it sucks Pickett didn’t get to end his long and illustrious career on a win, but did we really want Vera to lie down for him? Pickett acknowledged later that he would have eaten that kick in his younger days, a further sign he is making the right move in calling it a career. Best of luck to Brad and may he find joy in his future endeavors.

Gunnar Nelson defeated Alan Jouban via submission at 0:46 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: There were a lot who were excited about Jouban’s chances to pull off the upset on the stoic Nelson. Don’t get me wrong. Most were still picking Nelson to emerge victorious, but Jouban was a more popular chic pick than I anticipated. Once the fight began, Nelson dominated Jouban on the feet the first round, an event most didn’t anticipate due to Jouban’s pronounced reputation as a brawler. Jouban came out strong for the second round only to settle back and allow Nelson to catch him with a weak-looking right hand that was on the button. Jouban stumbled around before Nelson landed a head kick and took the back for a RNC finish.
  • Nelson: Absolutely dominant performance from the only notable Icelandic fighter in MMA. As always, Nelson was calm, cool, and collected while showing great timing on his strikes. He still stands straight up with an invitation for opponents to touch up his chin, though he has yet to pay a heavy price for that in his career yet. He isn’t on the precipice of title consideration yet, but this contest was a big step in the right direction. However, it should be noted that his lone victory over a ranked opponent came against Albert Tumenov who is no longer employed by the UFC. That doesn’t exactly help Nelson’s value if his best victory in terms of ranked value – which came less than a year ago – came over a fighter no longer on the roster. I’m a bit inclined to pump the brakes on his success until he scores a win over a proven vet. There is no reason not to give him that opportunity in his next contest.
  • Jouban: I got a feeling this is going to end up being the highest profile fight of Jouban’s career and it couldn’t have gone much worse. He looked like he was trying to mimic the disciplined and counter-heavy approach he used against Mike Perry, something I don’t think was well-suited against Nelson. Jouban won’t go back to fighting guys on the fringe of being cut as he did after his prior UFC losses, but it’ll be hard for him to climb back to this level of competition as he is 35 years old and kept a very busy schedule. This was his ninth UFC fight in 31 months, a tough pace for someone his age to maintain. Someone like Court McGee or Nordine Taleb could be a lot of fun in addition to being appropriate.

Jimi Manuwa defeated Corey Anderson via KO at 3:05 of RD1

  • Expectations/Results: I understood why Manuwa was the favorite going in. He had a stronger list of names on his list of victims, including his last victory being a stoppage of Ovince Saint Preux. But Manuwa had yet to show he had developed much takedown defense and Anderson’s wrestling was his wheelhouse. Thus, I picked the youngster. I was dead wrong. Manuwa fended off the early takedowns and made Anderson pay a heavy price the last time the American went for a takedown, landing just enough damage to scare him off. Anderson tried to regroup by circling away from his dangerous opponent. Manuwa stalked him down and landed a perfect left hook which was all that was needed to end the contest, launching Manuwa’s name into title conversation.
  • Manuwa: If it was odd for you to read that last comment, it was just as odd for me to type. Manuwa looked good evading Anderson’s takedowns and that is the only thing I need to take from this contest. Manuwa’s striking prowess has always been apparent. Now we need to see if he can improve his performance against the divisional elite. The light heavyweight division is by far the thinnest division in the UFC and has only been compounded with the departures of Ryan Bader and Nikita Krylov. A contest with Bader would have made a lot of sense for Manuwa, but that isn’t happening now. Do we really want to feed Shogun Rua to Manuwa? The only other options are to have him face Jon Jones when the former champion returns, Glover Teixeira should he get past Alexander Gustafsson, or give him a title shot should Daniel Cormier retain. None of those options are favorable towards Manuwa, but someone deserves an opportunity to break through the top of the division and Manuwa is the best candidate to do so.
  • Anderson: While this is a setback for Anderson, it shouldn’t be too damaging for his long-term prospects. At 27 years old with 12 professional contests, Anderson is still just a pup at 205. I am a bit unsettled that he was unable to get Manuwa down even once, but Anderson has come back strong following every one of his losses thus far while attempting to address his weaknesses. I see no reason why he won’t continue to improve. I know the UFC is desperate for contenders, but it is their own fault they have no depth. Bader wasn’t a contender, but no one was better at separating them. Nikita Krylov could still develop into that. Phil Davis was another quality name they let walk a few years ago. But they will be making a huge mistake if they continue to rush Anderson back into the spotlight. Give the kid time to put his skills together. I know the popular pick is to match up Ilir Latifi, but I see the UFC trying to squeeze out what little is left of the name value of Lil Nog while they still can. If nothing else, it will give him a chance to get a notable scalp, even if Lil Nog is shot.

Well, those are my collective thoughts. Until next time…

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