It was thought that the UFC's first fight card in England since 2011 would be an afternoon of exciting matchups. In our official predictions piece, I only envisioned one of the main-card bouts going to the scorecards.
At Yahoo!, my former colleague Iain Liddle saw it similarly: "If you are a British sports fan with a casual interest in MMA and like your fights short, sweet and impactful, then the UFC’s return to these shores will be right up your alley."
How wrong we all were. Instead of a night of fireworks, it was a night of decisions in England. A record-setting night of decisions, it turns out.
Before UFC on Fuel 7, no UFC card had ever featured more than eight decisions. This one had nine, and that was before the main event between Michael McDonald and Renan "Barao" Pegado for the interim bantamweight title.
Barao didn't add to the record-setting numbers, finishing McDonald with an arm triangle in the fourth round. He was the clear winner of the night, but Barao wasn't alone.
In MMA, winners and losers aren't only determined by the official results.
You can win the heart of the crowd with an engaging performance, even if your opponent gets his hand raised. Likewise, you can be a loser in victory, at least with fans and promoters, if you don't even attempt to engage your foe or finish the fight.
Disagree with some of my categorizations? Let me know in the comments.
Barao in previous action
The official champion may be out with a knee injury, but I wouldn't say anyone was missing him.
Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and interim champion Renan Barao are, in many ways, polar opposites. Barao is aggression, Cruz defense.
Barao looks to engage, and Cruz looks to avoid contact.
Barao will soon be beloved. Cruz is merely tolerated.
Michael McDonald gave it his all, pushing Barao to his limits. But eventually, the Brazilian was just too much for him, finishing the bout with an arm triangle.
When it was over, Barao called out Cruz. Here's hoping the champion will be healthy enough to answer the call soon.
Swanson in previous action
Excuse my French but "sacre couilles" was this a great fight.
Cub Swanson has come such a long way since getting starched by a washed-up Jens Pulver all those years ago. Under Greg Jackson's tutelage, Swanson is still aggressive, but it's intelligent aggression. His striking is dynamic, but always under control. That's a powerful combination.
As good as Swanson was, Dustin Poirier was with him every step of the way. The result was MMA the way it was meant to be seen. Grappling, throws and every variety of strike imaginable were on display, and we are all better for having watched it.
Nelson was not as good as announcers Kenny Florian and Jon Anik made him out to be. Hell, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva aren't as good as the Nelson the announcers thought they were seeing.
But Nelson did show enough against veteran Jorge Santiago to establish himself as a real prospect in the welterweight division. He's got solid hands, amazing grappling and the potential to make his mark in the UFC.
I can't wait to see what he does against a real player in the division. It's time for him to step up to the next level. No more nobodies. No more faded veterans. Let's see him against another solid young fighter.
Ryan Jimmo dropped James Te-Huna with a left high kick, and things looked bleak for the Kiwi light heavyweight. But Te-Huna held on. By the second round, his head had cleared. Soon enough, Jimmo was on the defensive, hanging on for dear life on the way to losing a unanimous decision.
Te-Huna deserves plenty of credit for his courage, but the real hero was Leon Roberts, the referee who allowed the bout to continue when things looked bad for Te-Huna.
We often name and shame the officials when they make a mistake. It's time to do the same when they make the right call. Most refs would have stopped that fight. Roberts didn't, which made all the difference.
There's no doubt Matt Riddle had a boring game plan for his fight with Che Mills—boring, but clearly effective. While Riddle deserved the boos from the fans, he also deserved the victory.
One of the three judges didn't see it that way, scoring the fight for the overmatched Mills, a fighter who was essentially the recipient of a 15-minute wrestling lesson. This wasn't a close fight that could go either way. Mills was helpless throughout and clearly fell short in each and every round.
Unfortunately, this isn't an aberration. It is just another in a long line of poor decisions by MMA's professional judges. It's a problem the sport is never going to get under control as long as officials are allowed to fail, over and over again, with no repercussions.
Terry Etim didn't do so well in his comeback fight on Fuel TV.
A TUF Brazil fighter named Renee Forte, a man who has the temerity to pronounce Forte as "Forch," starched him over three rounds. After being knocked out by Edson Barboza last year, and now this, you could forgive Etim if he never wanted to see another Brazilian for as long as he lives.
But, while Etim was a loser on Saturday by failing to solve Forte's hard-charging style, his corner managed to entertain us in ways he simply couldn't. They were speaking something that was clearly like English, but just as clearly not English. Part of Team Kaobon MMA from Liverpool, the men were "scousers," speaking in a native dialect all but impenetrable to most.
Deciphering their advice during the one-minute breaks between rounds was an adventure. I felt like a code breaker in a World War II movie. Sure, they were probably just telling him to fight harder or something mundane, but trying to crack the code was a huge part of the fun.
Grispi in previous action
For years we've waited for him, the next generation fighter to take the sport of mixed martial arts to untold highs. He wouldn't be a kickboxer learning wrestling for the first time or an NCAA champion figuring out the difference between a cross and a hook. He'd be a fighter who grew up surrounded by all disciplines, one who learned individual arts, but always in the context of how those techniques would work in a fight. This unique fighter, soon to be the norm, walks among us now. He's under the radar and still waiting for his star turn.
Sounds like a pretty impressive guy. But sometimes, MMA writers lie. They get it wrong. They spin. Unfortunately, the lying MMA writer in this case was me.
That, you see, is a description of a young Josh Grispi, written three years ago when the young submission artist was on the verge of a WEC featherweight title shot against Jose Aldo. Read the whole thing here.
Grispi, since my glowing profile, has lost four in a row, including his bout with Andy Ogle on Fuel.
It was typical Grispi at this point. After a strong start, he seemed to give up. By the end of the fight, he was clearly just waiting for the bell to ring so he could go home.
He was going through the motions. His body was in the cage, but his mind was elsewhere.
Grispi is done as a cage fighter. I still believe the future will be full of guys who are MMA fighters first and not refugees from other disciplines and sports. But it's clear the poster boy will not be Grispi, who will likely be cut from the UFC after this tepid performance.
Some people believe naming winners and losers is too subjective a process. That it's less science than art. With that in mind, I've decided to share the equation I used to name Tom Watson a winner.
First, Watson came out in a gorilla mask.
Then, he threw said gorilla mask into the crowd.
He followed that up by beating the ever-loving crap out of a very tough Stanislav Nedkov.
Ten billion points.
There were a lot of Watson doubters coming into this fight. To be frank, Nedkov hit him so many times that there will also be a lot of Watson doubters going into his next fight. They may not believe he can beat another top fighter, but they'll be watching nonetheless.
Tom Watson didn't prove he was a great fighter on Saturday, but he proved to be a great entertainer. Sometimes, that's just as important.
The little guys in the 125- and 135-pound divisions are supposed to provide bell-to-bell action. That, at least, is what proponents of the flyweight and bantamweight divisions say in the face of criticism.
Yes, they argue, they are about half the size of a full-grown heavyweight—but aren't they so fun to watch?
Sometimes, I can see that argument. But don't sing me that song on Saturday.
I saw Ulysses Gomez and Phil Harris with my own eyes. The two are both grappling masters, but instead of exciting grappling, we were "treated" to one of the most tentative and inept kickboxing matches of all time.
I found myself wishing that—like referees tend to do when action stalls on the ground—the officials would restart this fight. Not on the feet but on the ground. No such luck.
This was immediately followed by a fight that was, almost impossibly, even worse. Vaughan Lee and Motonobu Tezuka did next to nothing except defend and shoot the single-leg takedown, respectively.
I was primed to like this fight. Tezuka, after all, proudly sports a mohawk. In my book, that put him halfway in the win column from the get-go.
Tezuka and Lee had to work hard to turn me against their fight. They succeeded.
There isn't much better than good cage fighting. Maybe ranch dressing. Maybe. But when it is bad, it's really, really awful. And these were two of the worst back-to-back fights in recent UFC history.
Renan Pegado defeats Michael McDonald via arm triangle in Round 4
Cub Swanson defeats Dustin Poirier via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Jimi Manuwa defeats Cyrille Diabate at 5:00 of Round 1, Diabate could not continue
Gunnar Nelson defeats Jorge Santiago via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
James Te-Huna defeats Ryan Jimmo via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Matthew Riddle defeats Che Mills via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Renee Forte defeats Terry Etim via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Danny Castillo defeats Paul Sass via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Andy Ogle defeats Josh Grispi via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Tom Watson defeats Stanislav Nedkov via TKO at 4:42 of Round 2
Vaughan Lee defeats Motonobu Tezuka via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Phil Harris defeats Ulysses Gomez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)