For the second time in 2013, the UFC landed in England for a televised UFC event.
This time, it was UFC Fight Night 30, headlined by former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida making his middleweight debut against friend and rising 185-pounder Mark Munoz.
Both main-eventers are potential factors in their division, but Saturday's fight did not carry title implications for the weight class. That reality was mirrored across the card, with matchups that, while intriguing, are not poised to ripple widely across the MMA pond. Add in the fact that the event started midday stateside, and you didn't exactly have a recipe for excitement.
Longtime fans, though, don't need a recipe. When you're talking MMA, there is always a chance you'll see something special or new. Or strange. Very, very strange.
UFC Fight Night 30 was no exception. Boy howdy. Here's a list of the real winners and losers from a, shall we say, unusual night in Manchester.
Another fight, another dominant win for the Cambridge middleweight. He's now a perfect 7-0 as a pro and 2-0 beneath the bright lights of the UFC.
Barnatt's win Saturday over Andrew Craig was easily the biggest and best of his life. And he knew it. Want to know how I know he knew it? Because he kept trying to celebrate it before it had actually occurred.
A right hand on the proverbial button in the first round put Craig on the ground, but Barnatt raised his hand in celebration during the resulting ground-and-pound, thus letting his opponent off the hook. In the second, a major uppercut felled Craig again, and again, Barnatt tried to shuffle off with the win before it was secured.
Luckily for Barnatt, he eventually followed up and got the win by rear-naked choke. He could have easily been a loser in Manchester, but he ultimately emerged as a winner, even if it took him three near stoppages to do it.
Yikes. This one was hard to watch.
Rosi Sexton played anvil to Jessica Andrade's hammer Saturday night. The 36-year-old was outsized and overmatched in just about every phase, and ate strike after strike en route to a brutal and lopsided loss.
It's especially difficult because Sexton is a pioneer of women's MMA and a pretty smart cookie to boot. No one would have wished this on her, but the fact is, she may not be UFC material at this juncture.
This wasn't the world's most exciting fight in the heat of the moment, but as the rest of this strange main card unfolded, Norman Parke's win looked better and better.
Parke may very well have dropped an active first round to Guam's Jon Tuck, but he came on steadily as the fight progressed, finding a home for his straight left as Tuck began to fatigue.
It was a good win for Parke, who helped keep U.K. fighters from suffering a more ignominious evening.
Yes, newcomer Nico Musoke was more dangerous than some might have anticipated. But he was still an underdog against the veteran Alessio Sakara, who by all rights was fighting for the right to continue drawing a UFC paycheck.
The result? Sakara, a boxer, was outboxed in the first minute. Sakara didn't have much more when the fight hit the ground, and within minutes, verbally tapped to a slick belly-down armbar.
It was Sakara's fourth consecutive defeat, and third straight inside the first round. (I know one was a controversial DQ loss, but still.) It's hard to see the UFC keeping him on a roster that president Dana White recently described as "too full."
Ryan Jimmo is like the King Midas of boring. Everything he touches turns into a stack of old phone books.
Against raw but electrifying knockout artist Jimi Manuwa, Jimmo again worked his magic. He employed his patented clinch at every moment to halt the action in its tracks.
But there was trouble in the kingdom: Manuwa was fighting through it. He punished Jimmo's wall-and-stall with heavy knees to the thigh, and stayed mobile and well away from the fence to avoid tie-ups whenever possible. He was landing big kicks and punches during exchanges, and was even baiting Jimmo into same.
But King Midas of boring was not about to go quietly into that good night. When Manuwa landed a knee to his head during a second-round flurry, Jimmo stepped back, paused, stood there, stood there some more, winced, then simply lied down on the canvas, a victim of what looked to be some kind of leg injury.
Manuwa netted the TKO, but in probably the least-exciting manner possible. As the referee waved off the bout, the crowd looked on in confused silence, robbed of an opportunity to cheer their countryman. You could almost hear the head scratching.
Now, of course, you never want to see anyone hurt, and here's hoping Jimmo, by all accounts a very nice person in real life, returns to full health and the cage. You know what I think might help lift his spirits during this difficult time? Genuflecting. Bow down to Ryan Jimmo, who even in defeat turned a Jimi Manuwa fight in England into a stack of old phone books. Mission accomplished, sir.
Whether it was Andrade's carpet-bombing of Sexton, Tuck consistently walking into Parke's straight left, Sakara and undercard fighter Rob Whiteford's helplessness against submissions or Andrew Craig's general disregard for his own well-being, it wasn't a good night for the defensive aspect of the game.
Insert your own English/European fighter commentary here.
First there was the Ryan Jimmo leg injury, which through no one's fault ended a promising fight early.
Then there was Ross Pearson vs. Melvin Guillard.
The favorite in many ledgers to take home Fight of the Night honors, the fight ended midway through the first round when Guillard landed multiple knees to the head of Pearson. During the second one, it appeared Pearson may have had a hand on the ground, making the knee illegal as it was directed at the head of a "grounded" opponent.
Referee Marc Goodard charged in. After several minutes of confusion, the fight was ruled a No Contest due to a nasty cut Pearson sustained from the illegal knee.
It was a close call to make (especially without the benefit of replay), and undoubtedly an unfortunate one. Both men handled the situation with class, particularly Guillard, who offered to take a rematch in England. This fight will happen again, but that's little consolation for the faithful in attendance, who let their displeasure be known with a profane chant during the reading of the decision.
It may have been only fitting for a card that was originally supposed to feature British MMA hero Michael Bisping, who had to pull out because of an eye injury. Countrymen Paul Taylor and Tom Watson joined him on the sidelines.
In a way, this whole entire card was like one big eye injury.
Mark Munoz was tentative throughout. And it cost him.
With his win over Tim Boetsch in July, Munoz showed he was still capable of winning UFC fights after a gloomy year away from the sport. With his TKO loss to Machida, he showed he is still capable of being finished.
It's hard to know how much to read into this. Is Machida a killer at 185 pounds? Is Munoz, now 35 years old, growing more susceptible to the knockout? Time will tell. But for now, we do know Munoz will leave England unfulfilled.
A lean, mean Lyoto Machida started his middleweight debut on a cautious note. Not atypical, but Twitter denizens began to wonder if the two training partners were going to take it a bit easy on each other.
And then came the head kick.
With no warning, Machida lifted his left leg and cracked a thunderbolt to the top of Munoz's cranium. Munoz couldn't get his hands up fast enough to check it, and he hit the canvas with a thud of finality. And just like that, a strange and unsatisfying card was at least in part redeemed.
It only took about three minutes, so there aren't a great deal of tea leaves to be read. But it's certainly rare to see a kick thrown that quickly land with such devastating effect. For now, it's safe to say "The Dragon" has arrived at 185. His next matchup will be that much more fascinating.
Lyoto Machida def. Mark Munoz by KO, Rd. 1
Melvin Guillard vs. Ross Pearson ruled No Contest (Illegal strike)
Jimi Manuwa def. Ryan Jimmo by TKO (Injury), Rd. 2
Norman Parke def. Jon Tuck by Unanimous Decision
Nico Musoke def. Alessio Sakara by Submission, Rd. 1
John Linekder def. Phil Harris by TKO, Rd. 1
Al Iaquinta def. Piotr Hallmann by Unanimous Decision
Luke Barnatt def. Andrew Craig by Submission, Rd. 2
Jessica Andrade def. Rosi Sexton by Unanimous Decision
Cole Miller def. Andy Ogle by Unanimous Decision
Jimy Hettes def. Rob Whiteford by Technical Submission, Rd. 2
Brad Scott def. Michael Kuiper by Submission, Rd. 1
Scott Harris is a writer for Bleacher Report MMA. For more discussions about winning and losing and fighting and so forth, find Scott on Twitter.