UFC Fight Night 37 Results: Grades for Every Main Card Fighter
The UFC returned to London Saturday with its first serious offering on Fight Pass, its subscription Internet service. Headlined by Alexander Gustafsson besting local hero Jimi Manuwa, the card served up some serious violence for the promotion's English fans.
With eight guys all vying for position at UFC Fight Night 37, here are the grades for every man's performance.
Omari Akhmedov embodied the worst of the perceived negatives of the UFC's rapid, massive expansion plans, as the Russian looked to be far from UFC-caliber, despite already holding a win in the Octagon.
Matched with a truly enticing prospect in Gunnar Nelson, he took a sustained beating for nearly five minutes before it was mercifully ended by a guillotine choke that he basically jumped into during a transition.
This was about as bad a showing as a guy can have in a UFC bout that didn't happen on extremely short notice.
The heavily hyped Icelander showed the world what he's capable of in his first fight in a year, absolutely demolishing Akhmedov without breaking a sweat. He won exchanges on the feet before securing position on the ground, riding a suffocating mount and dropping huge elbows until a submission opened up.
People have raved about Nelson since before he ever hit the UFC roster, but now without a loss in 13 pro bouts and looking totally nonplussed in his three UFC fights, it may be time to give him a serious step up in competition.
Neil Seery was a far tougher out than anyone expected coming into Saturday, as he dragged Brad Pickett into a war that he surely hadn't signed up for. With crafty counterstriking and a solid chin, Seery made the veteran Pickett work for every inch he got.
For a short-notice replacement that the entire world expected to come in, take a beating and go home, he acquitted himself admirably. The UFC might well have stumbled into a new face at flyweight, the loss notwithstanding.
Brad Pickett looked physically strong and in good cardiovascular condition for his flyweight debut, but he struggled with a late change of opponent. He was routinely beaten to the punch on the feet and had to rely on his capable wrestling to snatch a win that many thought was a foregone conclusion.
The tools are there for Pickett at 125 pounds, as he's still a decent fighter who showed none of the usual pitfalls of a man dropping down in weight in his first try. At 35 years old, age isn't his friend, though, and he's put major miles on his body thanks to his explosive style.
Pickett's time is now, and he can't afford to be surprised by the unknown anymore if he's trying to fast-track his way to contention.
Melvin Guillard was excessively strategic in London, calmly and reservedly electing to counter the oft-charging Michael Johnson. It worked well in the early going, but as Johnson found his pace and range, Guillard slowly saw the fight slip away.
The up-and-down career of "The Young Assassin" is a bizarre thing. He's the ultimate prospect who hasn't worked out—the guy with every tool to succeed who can't find the key to his own toolbox.
He goes back to the drawing board again, as this was another unspectacular showing. One has to wonder how many more of those the UFC will allow from him.
Johnson continued his emergence as a contender at lightweight, showing that he's developed his considerable athleticism into something beyond a game predicated on takedowns and winning uneventful decisions. While Guillard tried to draw him into one big punch, Johnson had none of it and was content to win the fight from the outside.
With his upward trajectory and expanding skill set considered, he has major options opening up at 155 pounds. He looked as good in London as Guillard's game plan allowed him to look, and you can't ask anything more than that.
Jimi Manuwa looked game but a little overwhelmed in his first UFC headliner. Fighting the best man not holding the title at 205 pounds, with a stadium of manic fans bellowing their support, he couldn't put it together.
The first round saw him ragdolled and then handled with ease on the ground, while the second saw him throwing with force but also with reckless abandon. When his opponent honed in on that, it wasn't long before a knee from the clinch planted "Poster Boy" on the canvas for the night.
The loss was more a product of the step up in competition than of Manuwa's ability. He should be well down the ladder again in his next appearance.
Gustafsson did what everyone thought he would in dispatching Jimi Manuwa, though it was perhaps more one-sided and violent than even his biggest supporters would have anticipated. "The Mauler" had a field day in the first round, dominating on the ground, and then he scored a rare flush knee from the clinch for the eventual TKO.
There wasn't much question as to who the second-best guy at light heavyweight was coming into this one, and Gustafsson needed a big showing to maintain his momentum. This one was a trap fight of the highest order against an opponent he easily could have slept on, but in the end, the only one sleeping was Manuwa.
Gustafsson's next tilt will again be for the title.