Tag Archives: Manchester

UFC Fight Night 30: Machida v Munoz

October 26th 2013, Phones 4 U Arena, Manchester

Following last weekend’s spectacular night of entertainment, the question on everyone’s lips was how would UFC Fight Night 30 compare to UFC 166, described by Dana White as ‘The greatest card ever in UFC history?’

High-profile UFC events don’t come to the UK often, so when they do British MMA fans bust their balls to get tickets. This event was originally built around local hero Michael Bisping, but unfortunately he was forced out of the fight after suffering a detached retina in training. The UFC then pulled off a masterstroke by drafting in ex light heavyweight world champion Lyoto Machida to headline the card against Mark Munoz. But I’m getting ahead of myself, there was much more to this card than the headline fight. There’s no point talking about who couldn’t be here. We’re much better off talking about who could…

The prelims were stacked with names familiar to most British fans, kicking off in the middleweight division with English hope Brad Scott of TUF: The smashes fame, against Dutch judo specialist Michael Kuiper. This promised to be an exciting fight, and it didn’t disappoint, Scott tapping out his opponent in the very first round. Elsewhere, the first Scot in the UFC, Robert Whiteford, took the fight against Jimy Hettes at a week’s notice, and it showed as he was heavily outclassed by the American, and Cole Miller spoiled what could have been an impressive victory over Andy Ogle by making some disparaging comments about judges and European fighters, before literally running away flanked by minders. Maybe that’s why he’s still on the undercard at big events, if he’s lucky.

Next, Brit pioneer Rosi Sexton came up against Brazilian Jessica Andrade in the women’s bantamweight division. With both coming off losses, there was a lot on the line here with the loser possibly facing the dreaded cut from a loaded division. Not surprisingly, the crowd was right behind Rosi, and the smile on her face as she entered the Octagon was a joy to see. However, the smile didn’t last very long as she was picked apart over three rounds by a younger, faster opponent. Nobody could fault the heart of the Manchester native, as she did well to go the distance, the referee almost stepping in to save her several times. It was heartbreaking to watch, but the sad truth is that maybe Sexton is out of her depth at this level.

Someone who is certainly not out of his depth is TUF 17 finalist Luke Barnatt, who had a real tear up with highly-rated Andrew Craig. The Cambridge upstart floored his more experienced opponent twice with strikes before ending the fight with a submission. Any observers couldn’t help but be impressed by his striking. Perhaps less-so by his habit of celebrating prematurely. Twice he turned away with his arm raised in triumph, before actually finishing the fight. Headlining the prelims (if such a misnomer exists) was Al Laquinta v Piotr Hallmann in the lightweight division. I like Laquinta, but he hasn’t really proved himself at the top level yet, and here he was up against some stiff opposition in the Pole, who despite flying under the radar up until now, has accumulated a pro record of 14-1-0. His submission rate would indicate that he loves taking fights to the ground, but he didn’t have much of a chance against the classier Laquinta who won the judges decision.

First up on the main card was a flyweight clash between Portsmouth’s Phil Harris and the Brazilian John Lineker (who, allegedly, is named after Gary!). These two have been destined to meet each other for some time, and were originally scheduled to face off in August at UFC 163 where Lineker fought (and beat) Jose Maria when Harris was forced out. Here, they finally clashed. Anyone who was expecting a floor battle would have been disappointed as Lineker lived up to his ‘Hands of Stone’ monicker and rocked Harris with punches several times in the first round before finishing the fight with a solid body shot. Game over for Harris. Perhaps his only saving grace could be the fact that Lineker failed to make weight, not for the first time in his career, which didn’t cast him in a good light with the UFC hierarchy.

Next up was Italy’s Alessio Sakara against Sweden’s Nicholas Musoke at Middleweight. Sakara is the wrong side of 30 and has lost his last three match-ups, admittedly against world-class opposition, so he was probably fighting in the last chance saloon tonight. Despite wins becoming increasingly rare, Sakara usually puts on an exciting fight but in the opposite corner, Musoke, taking his bow in the Octagon, is a largely unknown quantity. Both fighters came out swinging to roars of approval from the crowd, and both were clearly rocked in some frantic opening exchanges. After a spell against the cage, Musoke then took Sakara to the ground, where again it was a see-saw battle with both fighters going for subs. Sakara seemed to be getting the better of it and was throwing some serious leather from the top, until he left an arm out and quick as a flash, Musoke grabbed it and held for an arm-bar. Welcome to the UFC, Nicholas.

Irishman Norman Parke was up next, the 26-year old fighting John Tuck at lightweight. The popular and talented Parke is a familiar name to most UFC followers after winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes last year, beating fellow Brit Colin ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher in the final, but since then has been used sparingly by the UFC, his last appearance coming at UFC 162 where he got an impressive decision win over Kazuki Tokudome. Fellow prospect Tuck was a less familiar name, being relatively new to the UFC, but the MMA Lab product started the night with an impressive career record of 7-0-0, including six first round victories, the only blemish being a defeat to Al Laquinta during the entry rounds to TUF: Live, but as those fights are classes as exhibitions it didn’t go on his record. All eyes on Parke, then, who did a decent enough job. He threw some good combinations and was never in serious trouble, winning a unanimous decision. Parke, who’s record in the UFC now stands at 3-0-0, seems to have all the tools in his locker, but by his own admission he needs to start finishing fights if he is going to make an impression.

Among light Canadian heavyweight Ryan Jimmo’s claims to fame is tying for the fastest knockout in UFC history (7 seconds, against Anthony Perosh at UFC 149). Here he took on London’s Jimi ‘Poster Boy’ Manuwa, the former BAMMA and UCMMA champion going in with a faultless record of 13-0-0, with none of his fights ever requiring a judge’s decision. Fair to say, then, that this was a ‘blink and you’ll miss something’ kind of fight. The opening round was less than explosive, but Manuwa took the center of the cage and delivered some killer knees and kicks at close quarters. To the frustration of the crowd, Jimmo seemed determined to use spoiling tactics, and time and time again the pair were separated by the referee. Then, with just 25 seconds left in the second round, Manuwa caught Jimmo with a knee to the face. He reeled backward, bounced on his heels, and then slumped to the floor holding his leg in the air. Legitimate injury or not, Manuwa walked away with the TKO.

Ross Pearson has won himself a lot of fans with his tireless work ethic and constant desire to improve, myself included. His co-headliner slot on the bill is well-deserved. However, the Sunderland lightweight faced his stiffest test yet against American striker Melvin Guillard, veteran of 46 professional fights and perennial title contender, but with four defeats from his last six, there were signs that the Young Assassin was on the slide. Plus, tonight he wasn’t just fighting Pearson, he was fighting every member of the 21,000 crowd. This was many people’s pick for Fight of the Night. Shame it didn’t pan out that way. After a frantic opening flurry, Guillard pushed Pearson against the cage and caught him with two brutal knees, opening up a nasty gash on the Englishman’s forehead. The only problem was, at least one of those knees were illegal blows. Marc Goddard stepped in quickly and pulled the two apart, while the crowd looked on in bemused silence. From here, the result could have gone a number of ways. Judging by his protestations, Pearson must have thought he’d been TKO’d. Guillard probably thought he was going to get disqualified. But in the end the decision was a No Contest. Another strange and slightly disappointing end to a fight. I’m already looking forward to the re-match.

UFC Fight Night 30 poster

And so here we are at the headline event. Machida v Munoz. Despite an unimpressive record of three wins against three defeats since losing the world light heavyweight championship to Mauricio Rua in 2010, the Brazilian karate specialist remains one of the most popular fighters in the promotion. Who could forget that front-kick on Randy Couture which one Knockout of the Year in 2011? Coming off the back of a controversial split-decision loss to Phil Davies, Machida could not afford another slip-up tonight. This was his first appearance at middleweight after spending his entire career thus far at light heavy, a move welcomed by many in the sport. His opponent, the Filipino Wrecking Machine, is certainly no slouch, having won five of his last six against some of the best opposition in the world (the defeat coming against current champ and Anderson Silva-slayer Chris Weidman) and fresh from a decision win over Tim Boetsch in July. His game plan coming into the fight would have been simple; clinch, grapple, take the fight to the floor. Basically, grab hold of Machida, known as one of the most elusive fighters in the sport, and don’t let go. Of course, having a game plan and seeing that game plan through are two very different things.

Already a favourite, Machida endeared himself to the crowd still further (and showed some impressive local knowledge) by coming out to the Oasis track Fuckin’ in the Bushes and some delirious cheering. At middleweight, he looks lean and mean, and wasted no time taking the center of the cage and immediately embarking on his traditional ‘feeling out’ period. Not that there was much feeling out to be done, with these two being regular training partners. Munoz attempted to stay on the outside, trying to be as elusive as his opponent, and there were early signs that he could have been trying to beat the Dragon at his own game. But then, at about two minutes in, he walked straight into a devastating high kick which dropped him to the canvass. Machida pounced, fists ready, but hesitated, knowing the fight was over. He knew before the referee did, and certainly before Munoz did.

In summary, maybe it wasn’t such a good night for the British fighters, but there was hardly a dull moment in a fine night’s entertainment. Here’s to hoping the UFC comes to these shores again in the not-too distant future. We have some unfinished business, ya’ll.

This post was originally published by the Huff Post UK: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/


A Musical Odyssey (part 1)

Everyone has their own personal musical odyssey, their own journey through the rich landscape of sound. To an extent the journey mirrors and charts our progression and development as people. As in life, within the musical realm we all have our guilty pleasures, and those little dalliances that we instinctively know are bad for us but relish anyway. Some songs or artists are a part of your life for the briefest time, a one-night stand when compared to others with whom you form deep, lasting relationships. To paraphrase a Less Than Jake lyric, the music we listen to is the soundtrack of our lives.

Welcome to my personal musical odyssey.

One of my earliest memories is listening to the Beatles on an old 8-track cartridge on the way to the seaside in my dad’s Volkswagen Beatle. Yep, I’m that old. It was a compilation of their earliest hits, I wanna hold your hand, Can’t buy me love, etc. A perfect introduction to the world of pop. Those things were called 8-track cartridges because they could only physically hold 8 tracks, for a total playing time of about 20 minutes. What a pain in the ass it must have been to be a music lover in the late seventies.

I first became musically aware, in that I began to recognize what I liked and what I didn’t, and started to seek out certain kinds of music around the time I hit puberty in the mid-1980’s. This was probably my most ‘open’ spell when I was still trying to discover what genre I actually liked. I was receptive to everything from Five Star and Madonna to Public Enemy and Anthrax, though was always drawn to the rockier side of things.

One of the first bands I developed a fixation with was Dire Straits. I still remember the TV commercial for Brothers in Arms, showing clips of the Money for Nothing video featuring Mark Knopfler’s famous glowing sweat band. It was enough to make me buy the album. I liked it so much I saved up my pocket money and over the coming months bought Alchemy Live and Love Over Gold as well. Great albums. I always meant to get Making Movies, I thought about it every time I went into a record shop, but it had a shit cover. Those things were important then.

Take Marillion, in their early days the packaging on their albums was so cool, all colourful gate-fold sleeves with lots of hidden pictorial messages. I later discovered they were all designed by the same artist, Mark Wilkinson. Another good example is the Iron Maiden records of the late-seventies and eighties, which were all designed by Derek Riggs. I can’t imagine Maiden being quite as successful is their records came in plain white sleeves.

During my teens I consumed pop music and spent every spare penny I had on vinyl and tapes. Tapes, or cassettes, were all the rage for a while. Sometimes bands put bonus songs on them to entice you into buying them. Cassette singles, or ‘cassingles’ (groan) were a complete waste of time. But even these were a better idea than the copy-proof cassettes you were encouraged to buy. They were more expensive than normal cassettes, and you couldn’t make copies of them. Needless to say the whole concept was an unmitigated disaster. Like most people, what music I couldn’t buy for myself I would either steal from shops or tape off someone else, which was the eighties equivalent to file-sharing. I even watched Top of the Pops and listened to the Radio 1 chart show religiously hoping to discover new avenues to explore.

My first folly into full-fledged fandom was Simple Minds, who released a great album in 1986 called once Upon a Time and had a song on the soundtrack of the supercool Brat Pack movie The Breakfast Club. Me, a few mates at school, and an older cousin who I thought of as some kind of music guru, all declared ourselves fans. I think I was the only one who actually went so far as to join their fan club. It was quite a good deal; you got a regular magazine, some badges, a poster, and some other useless shit. If you joined a fan club these days you’d probably just get an email every couple of months.

Simple Minds at Cardiff Arms Park, summer 1989, was my first live concert. It was a very special time in my life. I was just about to leave school, it was the end of a decade, my future was a blank canvass, and I thought the world was my oyster. The concert was one of the rare events in life that actually lived up to expectation. The Minds, as the cool people called them, were fantastic, even if the set list was dominated by songs from the rather patchy Street Fighting Years album. Also on the bill that day were the Silencers (who, as the opening act, were technically the first band I ever saw live) and Texas, fronted by a very temperamental Charlene Spitteri who kept threatening to go home unless people stopped throwing bottles at her.

At this stage in their career Simple Minds were pure, fist-pumping stadium rock, just what a teenager needs in his life. I loved the passion and the energy. I also became a huge Alarm fan. Their music and lyrics held added poignancy for me, with many of their songs being about Wales. The artist I felt most affinity with, however, was Bruce Springsteen.

I was vaguely aware of the Born in the USA hype in 1984 / 85, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later when Live 1975 – 85 and Tunnel of Love came out that I caught the Boss bug. Somehow, my obsession with the Boss became intertwined with my blossoming fondness for travelling. If you are going to be a Boss fan you have to go and see him play live, so between 1992 and 2003 I saw him 5 times in 4 different countries. Philadelphia, USA; Milan, Italy; Rotterdam, Holland; and London and Manchester, England. Every gig was an emotional, intense experience. At his best, the Boss is one of the best performers the world has ever seen. I cried at the San Siro when he sang ‘Follow that Dream.’ I was going through some massive changes in my life and that song just struck a chord in me. I listened, and I did follow my dream.

For me, there were always tests involved when I travel to see the Boss. It is never plain-sailing. In 1999 I travelled to Philadelphia to see Springsteen play ‘at home.’ My girlfriend and I had tickets for two shows, but one was cancelled because of Hurricane Floyd. What a bitch. Even that wasn’t as bad as the Rotterdam adventure, where I got robbed by three big black guys then strip searched on my way home when my coach got pulled by French border police with guns.

Note to self: Never attempt to travel from Cardiff to Rotterdam by coach again. Life is just too short.

What happened next: A Musical Odyssey part 2


%d bloggers like this: