Live from cageside at Nottingham’s Capital FM Arena, Will Cooling brings you all the action from the UFC on Fuel’s main card
Che Mills vs. Duane Ludwig
An odd fight that begun like the frenetic slugfest we expected but then degenerated into a grappling match! Che Mills was the first to deviate off script as he completed a takedown and began working some not particularly effective ground and pound. An attempt to pass from side control to full mountain left him marooned in Ludwig’s guard. Not a natural grappler, Mills kept putting his all into his punches ignoring Ludwig’s legs gradually rise up his back. Unsurprisingly a triangle choke attempt soon followed although Mills was able to evade. When Ludwig got back to his feet it seems Ludwig tried for a takedown of his own, only for Mills to counter and send him to the ground again. Unfortunately in this rather messy exchange Ludwig’s knee badly popped, leaving Herb Dean with no choice but to call off the fight with less than four minutes gone.
Che Mills defeated Duane Ludwig by TKO at 2:28 of the first round
John Hathaway vs. John Maguire
The first bad fight of the night as Hathaway was content to grind out a victory over the always game Maguire. Whether it was using his superior height and reach to box from distance against the smaller Maguire or his wrestling to hold down for prolonged periods, Hathaway did little to endear himself to the fans that had earlier given him such an enthusiastic reception. Indeed at both the end of the second round and midway through the third they clearly booed his cautious tactics. When Maguire got a surprise takedown towards the end of the fight, the crowd actually cheered, a reversal of their allegiances at the start of the night. While Hathaway deserved the decision victory having proved him the superior fighter this did nothing to help him regain the momentum he had following his destruction of Diego Sanchez in 2010. And indeed while the fans didn’t like his tactics the memory of how thrilling it was to see a British fighter dominate with wrestling still remains engrained in the fanbase, as shown by the polite cheers Hathaway received when his shutout victory was announced.
John Hathaway defeated John Maguire by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Paul Sass vs. Matt Wiman
A tremendously entertaining bout, which saw Matt Wiman return after a year’s absence to make a real statement about his quality as a grappler. Paul Sass was the aggressor early, quickly taking down Wiman and getting to work on a variety of submission attempts. We had him going for heel hooks, triangle chokes, even an Oomaplata. But Wiman was the equal to it, showing why he was able to go twenty fights without ever been submitted. But then Wiman went on the attack. An attempted triangle choke drew audible gasps from a crowd amused at the thought of Sass being hoisted by his own petard. They would be less pleased when Wiman really did make the Brit tap after securing an armbar a minute later.
Matt Wiman defeated Paul Sass by submission at 3:48 of the first round
Brad Pickett vs. Yves Jabouin
It’s just under a year ago since Renan Barao knocked out Brad Pickett in the first round after landing the telling punch of a frenetic scrap. Well it was the same story with a different ending for Pickett on his return to the Midlands, as he cut short what was building into an all-out brawl with a nasty uppercut. Yves Jabouin who had been standing toe to toe with a tight, determined Pickett collapsed in a heap and was powerless to defend against two exclamatory (and unnecessary) follow-up punches on the ground. With this knockout following a submission victory Damacio Page, Pickett is surely moving back into championship contention in a relatively shallow division.
Brad Pickett defeated Yves Jabouin by knockout at 3:40 of the first round
Dan Hardy vs. Amir Saddollah
Maybe not since Randy Couture challenged Tim Sylvia in 2007 has a crowd so lived and died with their favorite. Other than Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy is by far the most popular fighter Britain has ever produced but in his home town emotions were running at a fever pitch. A thunderous reception greeted his entry, as the smaller crowd in Nottingham made a noise louder than managed by audiences twice as big as his previous appearances inside the Octagon on this side of the Atlantic. When the fight would cheer his every move, often erupting into loud soccer-style chants of ‘Hardy’ and ‘In-Ger-Land’.
And luckily for Hardy and all his fans, his recent upturn in performances continued as he secured the crucial victory in a venue just walking distance from his house. The striking exchanges were fairly even, with Hardy’s leaky defense seeing him take plenty of hits on the chin. Perhaps conscious of how his chin gave way in his last fight in the UK, Hardy made the wise decision to mix things up. While ‘The Outlaw’ will never be a natural wrestler, indeed his takedowns look strikingly unnatural, he managed to take Saddollah off his feet in both the second and third rounds. While Hardy did manage to cut Saddollah with elbows in the second, it was essentially a man often inaccurately billed as a knockout artist playing the points and percentages game, using the takedowns to run down the clock with him on top. Whereas the fans patience was tested when Hathaway tried this tactic, they all could see the bigger picture when it came to Hardy. When the result was announced the crowd erupted into cheers with an emotional Hardy summing it up best. “I always dreamed of fighting for the UFC in Nottingham…the only thing that could be better than this would be to bring to the title back to you guys”.
Dan Hardy defeated Amir Saddollah by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Stefan Struve vs. Stipe Miocic
Stefan Struve ended UFC’s return to the UK with an emphatic knockout that went a long to answering the doubts that have surrounded the young fighter’s career inside the Octagon. Squaring off against the former Golden Gloves champion Stipe Miocic many, myself included, were confidently predicting that Struve would fail to use kickboxing and gigantic proportions to properly control the distance and fight at range. And in the first round it seemed that we naysayers were right with Struve allowing Miocic to tag him in a way that should simply not have been possible.
But in the second round something strange happened. While the technical lapses that stop Struve being MMA’s Semmy Schilt were still much in evidence he managed to rise above them and fight fire with fire. As he acknowledged himself his chin has long been a question mark but he was able to stand up to the Bulgarian’s bombs and as the round went on began punishing the undefeated fighter. Before long Miocic crumpled under the Dutchman’s onslaught, securing Struve the most impressive victory of his twelve fight UFC career. With Struve referencing that this victory makes him a top five heavyweight, bigger challenges await the UFC’s own skyscraper.
Stefan Struve defeated Stipe Miocic by knockout at 3:50 of the second round