After a terrible start to the card – the opening contest was canceled with poor performances over the first fight-and-a-half – UFC London ended up producing a number of memorable spots. A new heavyweight contender emerged as Alexander Volkov wore down former champion Fabricio Werdum to put him out cold in the fourth round. Jan Blachowicz avenged a nondescript loss to Jimi Manuwa with a Fight of the Year candidate, bringing many to proclaim they wouldn’t mind a rubber match. And after 433 UFC events, a three round contest was finally stopped at 4:59 in the third round for the first time…and was subsequently accomplished again a mere four fights later. Only in MMA…
As always, the winners of the contest didn’t necessarily walk away winners and the losers didn’t necessarily walk away as losers. Let’s delve into who were the actual winners and who were the actual losers.
Alexander Volkov: It may have taken the big Russian a little while to get going, but it was clear by the third round that it was going to take a Hail Mary from Werdum for Volkov to walk out the loser. It’s amazing to think he’s likely a win away from getting a crack at the title given the lack of fanfare around him joining the UFC. Remember, Bellator let him walk away without a fight. Now, he’d probably be the runaway favorite to reclaim the title he once held in the Bellator heavyweight tournament. While there are still parts to his game that can be nitpicked, Volkov has come a long way from when he first entered the UFC. Next stop: a likely #1 contender’s fight.
Jan Blachowicz: Less than a year ago, Blachowicz was sitting at 2-4 in his UFC run, looking at the possibility of being cut. Now, Blachowicz has run off three straight victories to establish himself as a top ten light heavyweight. Those of you who predicted this happening are all lying. Even more encouraging, Blachowicz emerged victorious in an early contender for FOTY. Though I doubt it will take the award by the time the year ends, it was still a hell of a performance from the Polish fighter. I don’t know how much to believe in his revitalization, but we might as well enjoy it for what it is for now.
Leon Edwards: A flawless performance it was not, but Edwards showed the ability to dig deep and overcome a bit of early adversity to secure a very late stoppage over a game Peter Sobotta. Perhaps the best thing Edwards did was put a boisterous Darren Till on the spot in his post-fight call out. Till said he didn’t care who, he just wanted a top ten opponent. Edwards probably won’t be in the top ten by the time the rankings come out, but an argument could be made he belongs there. Plus, Till was thought to be a less developed fighter than Edwards just this past fall. I’m down for that fight…
Charles Byrd: Byrd looked like a journeyman getting a chance at the spotlight when he appeared on the initial showing of the Contender’s Series. Three straight wins in the spotlight later and he looks like a world-beater. No one will accuse John Phillips of being even a decent grappler, but Byrd didn’t allow him to secure any offense whatsoever. That’s impressive. Byrd is already 34, so he isn’t the type of prospect the Contender’s Series usually uncovers. Translation: he can’t waste any time climbing the ladder.
Danny Roberts: Given his professional boxing background, Roberts had been a disappointment throughout his UFC run thus far as his most effective strikes have been his kicks. Roberts finally showed some real power in his fists, putting Oliver Enkamp to the mat in impressive fashion. Brutal KO’s like that have been known to launch runs of success for other fighters. Will this one do the same for Roberts?
Danny Henry: Henry didn’t enter into the UFC with a lot of hype, but he’s made a hell of an impression in his two UFC contests thus far. Rather than picking up a win the hard way in a brutal war the way he did in his first contest, Henry rocked Hakeem Dawodu early before persevering on a choke to put the young prospect to sleep. Maybe we should have paid more attention to the Scottish fighter prior to now…
Paul Craig: Never has someone reversed the course of their career in such a sudden fashion. On the verge of losing his third straight fight and likely finding himself outside of the UFC, Craig threw up a desperation triangle, prompting Magomed Ankalaev to tap with a single second remaining in the fight. Now Craig owns the latest stoppage in a three-round fight in UFC history and will likely be signing a new contract. I think it’s safe to say there isn’t a bigger winner on the card than the man they call the Bearjew. Simply unbelievable.
Kajan Johnson: In a Jekyll and Hyde performance, Johnson emerges as a winner in my book when you throw his UFC debut into the mix. Yes, it was four years ago, but many – myself included – assumed his career was nearing an end. Now he’s riding a four-fight win streak. Take out the miserable first round of his contest with Stevie Ray and Johnson looked pretty damned good. The win ensures he remains a thorn in the side of the UFC brass too…all the more reason to enjoy his run of success.
Fabricio Werdum: Werdum still has something in the tank. He just doesn’t have enough to hang with the elite anymore. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the all-time great is now 40 years old while consistently facing a high level of competition, but it does shock the senses a bit given how sharp he looked in his last performance against Marcin Tybura. Nonetheless, this loss marks the end of the Werdum’s status as one of the best, as there were several opportunities for him to finish the contest where you feel he would have been able to do so if he was still championship quality. It appears the heavyweights who were at the top a decade ago are finally aging out.
John Phillips: On a card with a number of embarrassing performances, Phillips’ probably tops the list. Taken down with a power double seconds into the contest, Phillips was outclassed by a wide margin on the ground. Everyone knows grappling isn’t his forte, but that was bad. Given the excitement he creates on the feet, hopefully the UFC can give him an opponent who won’t be scared to trade with him.
Oliver Enkamp: I don’t know if I should be worried about his chin or if he simply got caught with a perfect strike. Sure, Enkamp went the distance with Nordine Taleb in his last contest, but Taleb usually goes the distance. So does Roberts. It’s still too early to know what Enkamp’s ceiling is, but he needs a win in his next contest if he hopes to maintain his roster spot.
Hakeem Dawodu: Dawodu had the most name recognition out of the hyped prospects making their debut, but he doesn’t want anyone knowing who he is right now. Granted, he didn’t get much time to get his vaunted offense going, but MMA isn’t a sport like basketball or football where you get so much time to before the completion of the game. When you’re out, the contest is over. While it’s hard to believe he won’t come back looking far better in his next contest.
Magomed Ankalaev: While he wasn’t dominating in the fashion many expected him to, Ankalaev was still cruising to a clear decision win. Then he got careless for just a bit and ended up getting tapped to a last second – literally – triangle to Craig. I wasn’t completely sold on the Russian as a world-beater coming into the contest and this doesn’t do anything to change my opinion. To be fair, I don’t think any less of him either, but letting a win slip through your fingers in the manner he did will land anyone on a list of losers.
Stevie Ray: It wasn’t a poor performance from Ray. The first round that was painful to watch wasn’t Ray’s fault either. So why in the loser’s column? He needed this win in a bad way, having lost to Paul Felder in his previous contest. It was a fight he should have won too, at least on paper. Even though he just signed a new UFC contract, ensuring he isn’t going to be released, Ray is on some shaky ground.
Mark Godbeer: Is it just me, or is Godbeer becoming a bit of a punchline in the heavyweight division? While he wasn’t dominated by Dmitriy Sosnovskiy, he fought Sosnovskiy’s fight, which led to him giving up a loss in the end. At least he can put some distance from his last performance where many fans claimed he took the cowards way out in victory…but I’m not sure this outcome is really better.
Jack Marshman and Brad Scott: I was worried about how Scott’s weight cut would go. Turns out I was worried about the wrong guy, as Marshman’s weight cut prompted UFC officials to step in and declare this fight wasn’t going to happen. It came out a short while later about Scott’s financial concerns, prompting him to take this contest at the last minute. Here’s hoping he gets some sort of compensation from the UFC as he didn’t even get a chance to weigh in for his show money.
SBG Ireland: The home of Conor McGregor had about as bad of a night as a camp can have as Dawodu and Phillips represented the camp at UFC London. The amount of significant offense scored between the two: zero. Given the lack of recent success out of the camp – Conor’s last fight wasn’t recent – John Kavanagh might want to consider shaking things up.
Nasrat Haqparast and Nad Narimani: It’s never fun to have a fight canceled. It’s even worse when it occurs just mere hours before the fight was scheduled to take place. Doctors decided to pull Haqparast when it was discovered he was suffering from pink eye. I don’t know if the UFC is going to pay them, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t given their penny pinching ways. Here’s hoping they did.
Jimi Manuwa: I wanted to put Manuwa in the winner’s column as his performance was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it was great. But given he was such a heavy favorite to go over Blachowicz, it would have taken a transcendent performance from both for Manuwa to walk out of London with an L and still go in the winner’s column. Not that they weren’t close, but their fight wasn’t that good. Nonetheless, Manuwa was thought to be a title contender last summer. Now he’s dropping decisions to Blachowicz, even if it is a revitalized Blachowicz. At 38, it appears the door has slammed shut on Manuwa’s opportunity to get a crack at the belt. Despite the impressive performance, I can’t list him with the winners.
Tom Duquesnoy: The young Frenchman is extremely lucky to walk out of London with a W. He started out strong enough, but couldn’t put Terrion Ware away before slowing noticeably in the final two rounds. I’m not saying Duquesnoy deserved the loss. The fight could have gone either way. But much more was expected out of the Fire Kid when he made his way into the UFC. He could still become a premier action fighter – none of his contests have been boring after all – but he’s going to have to make some serious adjustments if he wants anyone to believe he can still develop into the title contender many believed they saw on the regional scene.
Terrion Ware: Given this was his third loss in a row, Ware could very well find himself outside of the UFC. However, I can’t put him in the loser column. Ware has had a very tough road in the UFC thus far; his losses coming to Cody Stamann, Sean O’Malley, and now Duquesnoy. All three of those represent the future of the bantamweight division in the eyes of the UFC. Ware was competitive in every contest, especially this one with Duquesnoy. Nobody would have complained had the decision gone in his favor. If the UFC is smart, they bring him back for another fight regardless of the three losses.
Peter Sobotta: Sobotta put a hell of a scare into Edwards, a greater scare than most anticipated…at least early on. Sobotta wore down the deeper the fight went, which led to Edwards beating him into the mat with ground-and-pound. However, that doesn’t hurt Sobotta too badly as most expected him to lose to Edwards. Hell, most didn’t even think he’d be competitive. Solid showing, even if he didn’t come out on top.
Dmitriy Sosnovskiy: The Ukrainian walked out of his UFC debut with a win which is always worth celebrating. However, it was also one of the sloppiest contests in recent memory. Given his youth and that it was his UFC debut, Sosnovskiy gets a little bit of leeway, which is why he isn’t in the loser’s column. He will need to show more whenever he next steps into the cage, but he gets a bit of a pass…for now.
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