The Octagon travelled to London, England for a Saturday matinee event, but the locals didn’t get much to cheer about across the nine fight card. Brits took on visiting fighters in six bouts and only emerged with two victories. Included amongst those losses was a vicious knockout suffered by Jimi Manuwa (14-1) at the hands of top light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson (16-2). The Swede controlled round one with an early takedown and tried repeatedly to isolate Manuwa’s arm for a kimura to no avail. Gustafsson was more comfortable trading in the second round, and after he backed Manuwa against the cage he landed a vicious knee that was the beginning of the end. Gustafsson solidified himself as the best challenge for Jon Jones’ title, and with a card being scheduled to take place in Sweden later in the year Jones/Gustafsson would be a very intriguing headliner and the atmosphere for that bout would be insane. Manuwa suffered his first career loss, and unfortunately being 34 years-old it’s unlikely he’ll find himself in this type of position again in his career.
The co-main event didn’t have quite the same effect on the fans at the O2 Arena as Gustafsson’s knockout. Michael Johnson (15-8) recorded his third consecutive victory in the lightweight division over Melvin Guillard (31-13-2) in a primarily tepid decision. Johnson now has wins over Guillard, Tibau and Lauzon during his streak, which should earn him a step up in competition. Bobby Green and Jim Miller have an upcoming fight at UFC 172 which I expect Green to win, and him vs. Johnson would likely be what everyone hoped this bout would amount to. The only other Brit to pick up a victory on the evening was Brad Pickett (24-8), who defeated Ireland’s Neil Seery (13-10) by decision. Seery proved a tougher test than almost everyone expected hanging with Pickett on the feet early and clearly outstriking ‘One Punch’ in the final frame. The difference in the bout was Pickett’s wrestling which he used to control the latter portion of each round. It was a solid, if unspectacular, way for Pickett to transition to flyweight and he should be near the title already. I expect that we’ll see Demetrious Johnson take on Ali Bagautinov or Zach Makovsky next, and Pickett will face whichever one doesn’t get the title shot in order to determine the next contender. Before moving on to the next bout; many people are excited to see Neil Seery fight again, and I saw one suggestion on twitter which would be an almost guaranteed fight of the night, Seery vs. Chris Cariaso. Kicking off the main card, Gunnar Nelson (12-0-1) proved he is the prospect everyone thought he was by dismantling Omari Akhmedov (12-1) in what was essentially a flawless performance. Nelson stalked Akhmedov on the feet early, dropped him, instantly transitioned to mount and displayed one of the best mounts we’ve seen in the UFC in recent memory. It was a sterling display of both control and damage, and as time wound down on the round Nelson sacrificed position to go for the finish, which he secured via a guillotine choke. The perfect gatekeeper in the welterweight division right now is Mike Pyle, and with the well-rounded games of both fighters, that would be an excellent bout. On the undercard, Ilir Latifi (8-3) and Luke Barnatt (8-0) garnered impressive stoppages. Latifi stopped Cyrille Diabate (19-10-1) with one of the nastiest guillotines in what was Diabate’s final MMA bout. The takedown came early for Latifi and he was immediately aggressive on the ground, searching for a variety of power moves before settling on the guillotine as Diabate tried to scramble to his feet. I’m sure It wasn’t how Diabate wanted to end his MMA career and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fight again, especially if MMA gets legalized in his native France in the near future. Barnatt was not so welcoming to debuting Swede Mats Nilsson (11-3-1), as he stopped the bout in the first round with a brutal finishing salvo. Nilsson did have some success early, but he was always outmatched on the feet in this bout and foregoing his grappling was not a smart gameplan. The remainder of the undercard was very unkind to the hometown fighters as Brad Scott, Danny Mitchell and Phil Harris dropped the first three bouts of the night. Scott and Mitchell were outwrestled in their losses, while Harris had a guillotine applied by Louis Gaudinot very early in the bout. This event was always looked upon as one of the first real reasons for fans to purchase UFC Fight Pass, and it turned out to be both an entertaining and relevant slate of fights.