Darren Till vs Jorge Masvidal
Darren Till was knocked stone cold unconscious by Jorge Masvidal at UFC London.
This was supposed to be a return to winning ways at home for the ‘Gorilla’ after his title defeat but the air of celebration was sucked out of the O2 Arena.
A seismic left stunned him, the same hand then sent the Liverpool favourite to the canvas before he took another needless blow on the ground.
A hush fell over the arena as Till lay prone and medical staff rushed into the cage. Mercifully, he regained his senses and walked out of the octagon of his own accord.
Jorge Masvidal upset the odds by knocking out Darren Till at UFC London
This was devastating defeat for the man with aspirations of becoming the greatest fighter in MMA history.
When ‘Sweet Caroline’ shook the packed house to their core during the ring walk, this had the feel of another special night.
Masvidal came out of the traps like a greyhound and immediately gave Till a wallop in the crown jewels.
There was a momentary delay and then the ‘Gorilla’ exacted some sweet revenge, flooring the American with a crunching right hand.
To a man, everyone in the crowd leapt to their feet but ‘Gamebred’ survived and even seemed managed to crack a smile as the pair traded blows to see out an enthralling opener.
Masvidal silenced the O2 Arena by landing a seismic left on the Liverpool favourite
Again there was a misdemeanour to kick off the round, this time Till was at fault for an eye poke. Masvidal shook it off. The smiles from his opponent were becoming more frequent and the pantomime villain was gathering momentum, picking up Till’s timing and rhythm.
Midway through the second, Masvidal drew Till onto a feint then landed flush over the top. The combination that followed was venomously accurate. The No 3 contender was out before he hit the ground.
This was a grim reality check for Till but the plaudits must go to Masvidal who showed remarkable composure to come back from his early knockdown and produce one of the most savage finishes in recent memory.
Gunnar Nelson vs Leon Edwards
In the face of the Icelandic Thunder Clap and chants of ‘Ole Ole Ole’, Leon Edwards silenced the naysayers to win his co-main event welterweight scrap with Gunnar Nelson by unanimous decision.
‘Rocky’ showed admirable patience early on, controlling the first round with top position but the flashpoint of the fight came in the second. A stabbing elbow felled Nelson and only the clock saved him from a further pummelling with horrible swelling on his eye.
Nelson came back to win the third, eventually managing to execute a takedown but Edwards clung on as the seconds ticked away.
In this shark tank of a division, the Birmingham native has now earned wins over Cerrone and Nelson, which should put him right in the mix for a match-up with a genuine top level contender.
Leon Edwards beat fellow welterweight Gunnar Nelson by unanimous decision
Volkan Oezdemir vs Dominick Reyes
Volkan Oezdemir marked a step up in class for unbeaten light-heavyweight Reyes but the American acquitted himself well enough over the first couple of rounds.
He trudged back to the corner with a bloodied nose after eating one too many neat, accurate shots from his Swiss opponent but also landed enough kicks of his own to keep the judges interested.
There was a steely determination about Oezdemir following successive defeats and he edged the grappling exchanges without managing to make hay from dominant positions. With a couple of minutes left in the fight, it was Reyes who found another gear, arrowing a knee to the midriff and initiating the exchanges. It was a fight that bubbled along nicely without ever boiling over. There was total uncertainty over the decision but the judges gave it to Reyes by split decision.
Dominick Reyes (right) defeated Volkan Oezdemir by split decision at the O2 Arena
Nathaniel Wood vs Jose Quinonez
The arena shook after hometown hero Nathaniel Wood choked out Jose Quinonez. The Mexican narrowly escaped Wood’s clutches in the opening stanza but succumbed shortly after having his back taken in the second round.
‘The Prospect’ has now won all three of his fights in the UFC and should probably lose his nickname, he’s the real deal and top bantamweights will be looking over their shoulder.
‘I’m going to take a holiday, nice break, get fat and then come back to the drawing board,’ he said. Well deserved and he won’t be buying any of his own beers in London for the foreseeable future.
The O2 shook after hometown hero Nathaniel Wood choked out Jose Quinonez
Nathaniel Wood forces Jose Quinonez into submission in only his third UFC fight
Danny Roberts vs Claudio Silva
The place you don’t want to be against Claudio Silva is on the flat of your back looking skywards. But that’s where Roberts found himself with four agonising minutes to go in the first.
‘Hot Chocolate’ dramatically reversed position late in the round and then rocked the Brazilian. Silva’s legs turned to jelly but he grappler managed to land another takedown. Again Roberts reversed him and the fight was becoming more back and forth than a basketball game.
Roberts pieced Silva apart on the feet and looked sure to win if only he’d have kept the contest upright. His coaching team screamed to get back up when he was in top position but he remained on the mat and found himself battling a variety of submissions. The referee dived in and said he’d verbally tapped out in the third from an arm-bar. The Brit reacted furiously, denying that he’d quit.
‘He got me into a tight armbar, everyone that knows me knows I would take it to the bitter end. We hadn’t finished, I wasn’t done, I’m gutted that it stopped when it did,’ he lamented.
Claudio Silva of Brazil celebrates after his submission victory over Danny Roberts
Jack Marshman vs John Phillips
Anyone west of the Severn river sober enough to see this all-Welsh affair after the Grand Slam hours earlier was treated to a meaty opening to the main card.
Phillips dropped his countryman with a winging right hand in the first, refused to press home his advantage and beckoned Marshman to his feet with a dismissive gesture.
Perhaps his taunt was unwise as Marshman had the better of the second despite Phillips exerting plenty of plodding pressure.
The third was a bit of a dud and a few restless fans let them know it. It looked like Phillips had done enough but Marshman had his hand raised on a split decision, prompting deafening boos from those who saw it the other way.
Molly McCann and Marc Diakiese produced standout performances in the pre-lims.
‘Meatball’ said she looked like the ‘elephant woman’ after suffering a gruesome injury to her orbital bone but she won hearts and minds in the O2 crowd with 15 minutes of brutality, force of will and the occasional middle finger for her Brazilian opponent.
Diakiese could hardly speak in his post-fight interview. Overcome by the emotion of a victory that probably saved his UFC career, he just about managed to thank those in attendance in between racking sobs.
The verbals may have been a struggle but he was so fluid in the cage. ‘Bonecrusher’ hacked Duffy’s left leg to smithereens, controlled the distance perfectly and the magnitude of his triumph hit home moments after the final buzzer.