UCMMA: Manuwa Continues To Reign At Never Back Down
UCMMA showcased their latest effort in front of another sold out crowd at the Troxy Theatre in London. Despite some late pullouts the card still contained some top domestic talent with Neil Grove and Stav Economou headlining in an intriguing heavyweight title contest.
Stav Economou vs Neil Grove (champion): Heavyweight Title fight
(Economou lands with a right hand in the heavyweight title contest)
Defending heavyweight UCMMA champion Neil Grove was coming off a fine early knock victory at the expense of Martin Thompson. With consecutive bouts against UFC-bound Karlos Vemola falling through however, it has been a while since we had seen Grove in the cage. Economou managed to bounce back from a quick TKO loss to the aforementioned Vemola, recording two consecutive victories. The bout looked well matched on paper but with Economou wilting under Vemola’s power in the past the question remained over how durable he could be when Grove’s power punches connected.
It didn’t take too long for the answer to come with Grove landing some heavy blows in the first round. Grove’s monstrous left hand found its place on more than one occasion with the challenger seemingly content to trade blows from the opening round, looking to get inside Grove’s power shots and work from the inside. Certain aspects of Grove’s game have been brought into question in the past but his knockout power with either hand has never been in doubt. This made Economou’s tactics even more impressive as he literally walked through some of Grove’s shots before landing uppercuts and body shots on the inside. One hook in particular looked to momentarily shock Grove. Grove could perhaps have made more use of leg kicks as a number of very heavy strikes looked like they could cause real damage to Economou.
Each round would follow a similar pattern with both men taking it in turn to trade big shots. Grove would perhaps land the harder single shots but when Economou put multiple shots together he would rock the massive “Goliath” backwards. Grove would do well to avoid a number of Economou takedown attempts but whenever the action did eventually hit the floor, little of note was landed or worked from either man. The first round was a very close affair with each fighter taking it in turns to land shots standing. In the second period, a tired looking Grove appeared to make a concerted effort to finish the fight looking busier. Economou finished the third and final round strongly which will have no doubt made an impression on the scorecards. The judges would eventually return a draw verdict with one judge siding with Economou, one Grove, and the other judge scoring the fight 29-29. Some sections of the crowd appeared unhappy with the result (perhaps due to Economou’s strong finish) but from my position it was certainly a close contest. A rematch down the line is a mouth watering prospect.
(The fighters look bemused with the draw decision being rendered)
Reza Mahdavian vs Jimi Manuwa (champion): Light-heavyweight title fight
(Manuwa’s ground and pound helps him retain his UCMMA title)
Reza Mahdavian spoke of not deviating from his wildly open style before his bout with undefeated light-heavyweight champion Jimi Manuwa. He certainly kept his promise early on in the fight, waving his hands wildly in the air and beckoning Manuwa in to trade during the initial feeling out process. His attitude and tactics were to take a dramatic U-turn, however, as soon as the champion landed with a hard counter left hook. With Mahdavian stepping up to take the fight on late notice and fighting way out of his weight class, the look on his face after feeling Manuwa’s power indicated that the reality of the daunting task ahead had literally just hit him. Manuwa took his time and countered at will with measured counter hooks anytime the challenger looked to come forward. After rocking his man again this time Manuwa would follow his opponent to the floor before despatching some ground and pound forcing the TKO stoppage 3:19 into the first.
Earl Brown vs Paul Cahoon
(The story of the fight as Cahoon lands some big shots)
Paul Cahoon is perhaps one of the toughest tests possible for any domestic middleweight. As a result many people, including Cahoon himself, would pay tribute to Earl Brown for stepping up to fight on two weeks notice. Cahoon threw every shot with bad intent from the opening bell. The crowd were out of their seats as the first powerful hook of the fight sat Earl Brown onto the canvas. Brown however refused to be walked over and showed amazing heart to stay standing through a number of barrages from former Cage Rage light-heavyweight champion Cahoon. Not only would Brown show a sterling chin in the standing exchanges, he would also nullify Cahoon’s top game as he avoided shipping any heavy ground and pound and also managed to shake off a leg lock attempt on the floor.
The second round would show more of the same but Brown looked to be troubled by some sort of eye injury. This didn’t stop him replying sporadically to Cahoon’s combinations however with some good work on the inside. Cahoon looked to really up the pace and after having Brown hurt up against the cage he would run in with a jumping right hand more often seen in the movies. At this point Brown was bleeding heavily from the nose and Cahoon secured a takedown before landing some ground and pound sending blood splattering onto the commentary team cage side. With time running out in the second Cahoon secured a leg lock forcing Brown to tap literally on the bell for the end of the round. As the fight was waved off, confusion as to the end result filled the venue before it was confirmed that Brown was in fact retiring in-between rounds due to the aforementioned eye injury.
Djo Lema vs Scott Jansen
Scott Jansen started furiously as he looked to catch late replacement Djo Lema cold. After overwhelming his opponent on the feet Jansen would follow Lema to the ground to land some ground and pound before nearly succumbing to a Lema armbar attempt. Lema showed great hips from his back and Jansen was lucky to escape the submission attempt. The London based fighter would fail to heed the warning from his relatively unknown opponent and eventually he was caught in the same submission later on in the round, being forced to tap 3:05 into the first.
Dyson Roberts vs Jermaine Facey
After a heated press conference both men had the crowd on the edge of their seats as the anticipation grew during a tense stare down. Many felt that the matchup could be a striker vs grappler type of affair, with Roberts looking to work the top game and Facey looking to work strikes from distance. As it happened, both men looked content to stand from the start, much to the delight of the crowd. Roberts looked to work the inside from a traditional boxing guard whilst Facey looked to pepper and taunt his opponent from the outside with his hands low down to his waist at points. With both landing shots in the stand up exchange, Roberts’s corner and fans cheered as their man managed to eventually get the action down to the floor.
Coming unstuck on the ground in the past Facey now looked like a new fighter as he effortlessly swept his man to land on top. From there Facey dished out some ground and pound and eventually looked to secure a choke as Roberts gave up his back. Roberts did well to avoid the submission attempt and each transition and sweep would be greeted by cheers from the opposing fans.
With the aggression and tension in the bout, both men looked to be showing signs of fatigue in the second with Facey in particular open-mouthed, looking for air. After another stand up exchange the action would end up on the floor and after taking some decent ground and pound from Roberts, Facey would again manage to sweep his man on the ground eventually transitioning to his back . This time Facey would make no mistakes with the choke stopping Roberts 2:37 into the second.
Lee Wieczorek vs Dean Bray
Dean Bray looked to be controlling the standing action from the outside against fellow welterweight Lee Wieczorek. Bray peppered his man with kicks and punches making good use of his reach and footwork. As Bray grew in confidence, however, he would throw caution to the wind and a flying knee attempt would see him taken down to the ground. From there Wieczorek showed grappling dominance, transitioning to a tight looking north south choke, thereby forcing the tap 2:52 into the first period.
Welterweight Colin French would delight his large following by dominating Jody Cottham on the ground and forcing a first round stoppage due to ground and pound at 3:51. Michael Brown dominated the standing exchanges but once Andy Gooch got the action to the floor he looked in trouble. Gooch eventually passed to mount before stopping his man via ground and pound 4:47 into the first. Luke Newman stopped Carl Kinslow with some heavy strikes. Despite Kinslow refusing to go down, the referee had no choice to step in and call a stop to the bout 2:09 into the first. Featherweight Tom Dixon won his debut fight against Dan Shortman via first round triangle.
Images and text by “Dangerous” Dave Lethaby.