by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Ultimate Challenge put another show at the Troxy, London with a decent mix of fights and a controversial outcome to the main event between Neil Grove and Stav Economou.
First blood went to Economou as he dropped Neil Grove with a right hook whilst breaking the clinch, sending the bigger man down to the canvas but unable to take his back securely. After that they spent the rest of the round trading shots, Grove with his jab and outside leg, Economou with his counters and continual takedown attempts.
The second and third rounds followed suit up until Grove sprawled his way out of a takedown and forced Economou to take guard. Eventually restarting due to inactivity, Economou threw caution to the win and let his hands go, the bell saving his opponent from a trip to the canvas. I don’t know what fight the judges were watching because I had Economou winning the first and third rounds – somehow they decided it was a split draw.
Jimi Manuwa retained his Ultimate Challenge Light Heavyweight crown as expected over Reza Maldavian. It was clear from the start that Maldavian was looking to land a big KO and appeared to have banked his strategy on that. Rather than get into a scrappy exchange, Manuwa picked his shots before landing a blow that sent his opponent crashing to the canvas. Manuwa moves to an undefeated record of 8-0.
Paul Cahoon chalks up another win on his way back to the top, but it wasn’t as easy as he or anyone else expected it to be. Earl Brown took everything Cahoon threw at him, from big left hooks, to overhand rights and a nasty barrage of strikes from side control.
Cahoon impressed with his composure, not getting too excited or charging in after a knockdown- he arguably made the fight last longer than it should have, but it was always heading in the same direction. A kneebar attempt and a heel hook paying homage to his roots, but ultimately, Grant Waterman waved the fight off after warnings from the cage medic that a direct strike to the eye would cause the hematoma to explode and it would be stopped anyway.
Another good fight between Scott Jansen and Djo Lema who was competing in only his fourth professional bout. Both fighters were trading early on as if they were in a kickboxing match, Lema throwing Mark Weir style kicks and Jansen landing a series of hard knees and an impressive spinning backfist. With his confidence as a complete Mixed Martial Artist starting to grow, Jansen latched on a guillotine attempt before jumping to guard. But it wasn’t long before Lema was on the offensive himself, sinking home the second of two armbar attempts in the bout.
Quality scrap between Jamaine Facey and Dyson Roberts- Facey having the technical diversification and Roberts the heart and brute force, colliding hard in the first round. Facey was looking to land a trademark high kick, but despite assurances to the contrary at the press conference, Roberts had enough respect of his opponents skills to avoid giving him the opening. Every time they closed Roberts would try to work hard in the pocket.
Once they hit the mat midway through the bout, it was clear that Facey was the more fluid grappler, executing a fantastic sweep from the bottom and deftly flowing between positions. Roberts managed to reverse by the end of the round, stacking his opponent into the cage, but the bell rang before he could land anything severe.
Sneakily trying to land a high kick while mimicking a touch of gloves, Facey set about trying to land his strikes. Once again, they hit the mat off a scrappy exchange before Facey transitioned to take his adversaries back and latch on the fight-ending Rear Naked Choke. Whilst celebrating, Facey made some comments towards his opponent’s corner along the lines of: it’s all good, were done now, no bad blood.
Dean Bray returned to action looking pretty fluid with his hands, using a lot of feigns and distracting hand movements ala Nick Diaz. Weiczorek for his part remained calm and threw the occasional overhand right or counter-hook. When the opportunity to close came to hand, Weiczorek closed and scooped the Titan fighter up and landed in side control, a quick transition to north/south and he sank the submission in.
Colin French dominated Jody Cottham with a more comprehensive MMA skill set, fighting off only a hint of danger at the start of the round courtesy of an arm-in guillotine attempt. Content to just wait his time, French sensed his opponent re-adjust before exploding out of the hold and landing a huge right hand, ricocheting Cottham’s head off the mat, he eventually took his back and flattened him out before forcing a referee stoppage.
An exciting start to the encounter between Andy Gooch and Michael Brown found leather flying all over the place. But it wasn’t until they hit the mat that Gooch had the upper hand, dominating from the mount and applying a barrage of strikes, which prompted calls from cage-side for the bout to be stopped. In fairness, although it appeared to be a matter of time before Brown succumbed, he was defending himself well against strikes that were both hit and miss. Nine seconds left in the bout and Leon Roberts had seen enough – good call, right on the money.
A short sharp elbow in the clinch immediately changed the dynamics between Luke Newman and Carl Kinslow as the former sensed blood and opened up a series of punches, punctuated by an uppercut, hook, cross combination. A good stoppage by referee Andy Sledge, despite protestations from the loser, his gum shied was on the canvas and his defence was wide open- better to fight another day with teeth!
In other action, Tom Dixon worked his way into a tight triangle from the bottom and submitted Dan Shortman midway through the first stanza.
Ultimate Challenge – Never Back Down
– Stav Economou vs Neil Grove Split Draw 5:00 R3
– Jimi Manuwa def Reza Maldavian via GNP 3:19 R1
– Paul Cahoon def Earl Brown via Referee Stoppage 5:00 R2
– Jamaine Facey def Dyson Roberts via RNC 2:37 R2
– Lee Weiczorek def Dean Bray via North/South choke 2:52 R1
– Colin French def Jody Cottham via GNP 3:51 R1
– Andy Gooch def Michael Brown via GNP 4:47
– Luke Newman def Carl Kinslow via TKO 2:09 R1
– Tom Dixon def Dan Shortman via Triangle 2:38 R1
UK1 (sort-of) rules:
– Dan Smith def Brad Wheeler via Unanimous Decision 3:00 R3
– Luke Sines def Mark Epstein via Unanimous Decision 3:00 R3