Review & Photos by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
LONDON – Ultimate Challenge UK is ramping up its shows and Saturday night played host to the first of three events back-to-back between now and October – quite a busy time for promoter Dave O’Donnell and his team. Headlining the event was an encounter between one-time UFC debutant Neil Grove and German import Marcus Hip. Unfortunately for all in attendance, Hip withdrew from the fight after a spate of vomiting and went to get checked out for Meningitis.
Drilling down into the rest of the card showed a good mix of all weight categories, but it was the featherweights who once again stole the show with a mix of speed and technique that couldn’t be matched.
Heading this charge and picking up clear fight of the night honors was the encounter between Brad Pickett and David Lee who eschewed the standup in order to put on a relentless grappling display during the short time they were in the cage.
Starting out with a big takedown, Lee looked to push the pace and force Pickett into a mistake, but years of training with the American Top Team and his own Team Titan had him well prepared. Fending off several triangle attempts, it was Pickett who capitalized on his opponent’s ring rust to lock on a tight guillotine for the tap.
Continuing with the featherweights, 18-year-old Brad Wheeler impressed by taking the vastly more experienced Paul Reed all the way to the judges. Having kept the pressure on throughout the first round with a wily jiu-jitsu game, conditioning took its toll and Reed started to really edge forward with superior positioning. Unwilling to just roll over and highlighting his resilience, a bloodied Wheeler made his adversary work hard up until the bell.
In light heavyweight action, heavy-handed Jimi Manuwa recorded a brutal left hook knockout over opponent Luke Blyth, but it wasn’t until the second round after Blyth had blown his gas tank out. A good fight by all accounts with Blyth almost catching a triangle on his highly vaunted opponent. Manuwa picks up another victory and retains his Ultimate Challenge title.
Jamie Hearn made a big entrance to the cage leading up to his encounter with Shaun Lomas, but didn’t really settle into a groove during the fight, a shame because the audience was looking to seeing Hearn’s trademark low kicks. Instead, it was Lomas who was driving home with his shins. A brief spell on the mat with Lomas working his ground and pound offense led to a reversal of roles, but inactivity took hold prompting a restart. Clinching fast, Lomas seized the chance of a standing guillotine and forced the tap.
Wesley Johnson continued his trademark game plan by using his hands to close range before getting stuck in a wrestling battle with opponent Danny Fletcher. Sensing a need to mix things up, Fletcher dropped to hook a leg for a takedown, giving his opponent the invitation to setup a triangle; locked home, Fletcher had the choice of tapping or passing out.
Triangles seemed to feature heavily during the card and the fight between Jack McGee and Richard Griffin was no exception. Griffin has shown that he has the chin and hands to be a danger on the feet in previous outings in the cage, so McGee played it smart and went for a big takedown. Securing mount position, he worked himself into place for a triangle. If Griffin felt he could reverse off his back, unaware of the danger, that’s exactly what he did, and got caught in a submission he was unable to break.
Ashley “Lock-it-in” Pollard and Ian Hawkings threw caution to the wind and battered each other with reckless abandon like something from a video game, Pollard landing the clearer shots and eventually forcing referee Grant Roberts to halt the action.
Lee Doski picked up a controversial win over Jamaine Facey with a rear naked choke at the 4:09 mark of the first round. It was controversial because of Facey’s protestations at the stoppage; having been fighting off the submission attempt for the best part of a minute, Facey appeared to be motionless or waiting for something to happen – although from the outside he appeared to be lucid – just unable to improve his position or escape. Referee Leon Roberts had a clearer view of the action than us and it was his call that the fight should be stopped. Fighter safety is paramount.
Rounding out the card, John Kelly knocked Alex Harvey out on his feet after a very tough first round of action, and Radek Piechnik put a beating on Roy Allison for the ground and pound stoppage
-Jimi Manuwa def. Luke Blyth via KO at 4:22, R2
-Brad Pickett def. Dave Lee via Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 2:26, R1
-Shaun Lomas def. Jamie Hearn via Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 3:42, R1
-Paul Reed def. Brad Wheeler via Unanimous Decision, R3
-Wesley Johnson def. Danny Fletcher via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 1:02, R1
-Ashley Pollard def. Ian Hawkings via TKO at 3:10, R1
-Lee Doski def. Jamaine Facey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:09, R1
-Jack Mcgee def. Richard Griffin via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 1:02, R1
-John Kelly def. Alex Harvey via TKO at 2:59, R2
-Radek Piechnik def. Roy Allison via TKO (Strikes) at 2:24, R1
-Jason Young def. Azran Quasid via Unanimous Decision, R3