UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve announced himself as a top-tier contender in stopping Stipe Miocic with strikes in the second round Saturday night at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England, for UFC on Fuel TV. Despite showcasing better defence on the feet than previous outings, and owning over seven inches of height on his American Croatian counterpart, it was Struve who first felt the power of his opponent, staggered by a hard shot midway through the opening round.
But, the kickboxer Dutchman found a home for his hands throughout the following stanza, continually tagging Miocic, a Golden Gloves champion, wearing him down before capitalising on a Miocic slip, blasting with a straight right, then following with a flurry that had Miocic out on his feet, forcing referee Herb Dean to call time at 3:50 of round two.
It’s an impressive win for Struve and one that puts him on a four-fight finishing streak and knocking on the door of a heavyweight title shot. Meanwhile it’s the first defeat for the promising Miocic, slipping to 9-1.
The crowd noise swelled to ear-splitting volume to welcome Dan Hardy to his hometown arena in the night’s co-main feature. The Nottingham native, fighting in the UK for the first time in two years, revelled in the chants and cheers in his honour throughout the first round – finding success in both the clinch and at range against TUF winner Amir Sadollah.
Two unexpected Dan Hardy takedowns won him round two, helped by violent right elbows from the top to finish the period. More punishment from inside the guard through round three put a heavily bloodied Sadollah out of the Octagon with a unanimous decision loss. Hardy leaping on top of the cage and firing mock arrows into the audience to celebrate, echoing his Robin Hood ‘Outlaw’ nickname.
Pocket rocket Brit Brad Pickett sent his Nottingham audience absolutely nuts with a massive right uppercut to put fellow bantamweight striker Yves Jabouin on his back where only a few right hands were required to put the French Canadian to sleep. The pair had been throwing heavy leather for the duration of the bout, Pickett mostly hunting for his dangerous left hook, until ‘One Punch’ lived up to his moniker and forced the stop at 3:40 of round one – and hit the ‘Gangnam Style’ horse-riding dance of Korean pop star Psy as a walk-off.
Liverpudlian submission sniper Paul Sass fell to his own MO against TUF 5 alum Matt Wiman in the first round. Sass took advantage of a Wiman low kick in the opening seconds, taking the fight to the floor where it stayed through a submission battle between the pair. It would be Wiman, however, who would submit his foe for the first time in competition, tapping Sass with an armbar late in the first.
Though torn between supporting one of the two of England’s best welterweights in John Maguire and John Hathaway, the arena’s British onlookers found their voices as Maguire found a home for left hand from the southpaw stance in round one, though it wasn’t enough to win the round. Hathaway’s smothering wrestling, and how it neutralised Maguire’s dangerous guard, was the order of round two, while Maguire was unable to do anything with a takedown towards the rear of the third stanza after tepid striking exchanges. Boos hailed the end of the action, Hathaway taking the unanimous decision, 30-27 three ways.
England’s Che Mills was dominating his welterweight scrap with Duane Ludwig, both on the ground and on the feet, when a left knee injury caused Ludwig to fall to his back from the clinch midway through the first. Ludwig signalled he longer wanted to continue in the opening bout of the night’s main card and referee Herb Dean immediately called it off, with Mills declared the victor by TKO due to injury at 2:28 of the first.
BRIT MANUWA STAR OF THRILLING UNDERCARD, UFC NOTTINGHAM
AKA’s Kyle Kingsbury showed his durability to exit the first round still connect to his senses opposite Jimi Manuwa, long Britain’s top light heavyweight prospect. Despite fending off a guillotine for the first half of the round, Manuwa came with a vicious striking attack in reply, first with a left that staggered Kingsbury and dropping him again later in the round. Extra knees and kicks only worsened a large haematoma above ‘Kingsbu’s left eye through the second, eventually causing the ringside doctor to call off the contest before the start of the third round. Manuwa extends his undefeated streak to 12.
UK fan favourite and TUF: Live graduate Andy Ogle dropped a split decision to Sweden’s Akira Corassani earlier in the evening. Both men, each making their UFC debuts, were cagey in the early going, though both found shots to drop the other in the first. The featherweights found their range, by the second, leaping into the pocket to exchange on numerous occasions. However it was a Corassani right hand that dropped Ogle fractions after the bell that punctuated the period. And despite working strikes to the head of a turtled Corassani through much of the third, it was the Swede who took the split decision.
Great British hope Tom Watson fell to the smart gameplan of Las Vegas-based Brad Tavares in the evening’s third contest. It was the Ray Sefo-trained TUF alum who dictated the majority of both the stand-up and the ground work, taking Watson down with little trouble as the fight progressed, although the Brit was quick to find his feet in the early going. Both men threw hard throughout, each having their own successes finding the other’s chin. Middleweight ‘Kong’ Watson, who entered wearing his trademark gorilla mask much to the delight of UK crowd, could not faze Tavares with his kick-based attack however, and ultimately dropped a split decision after three rounds.
A career spent largely training and fighting in the UK meant a deafening roar greeted Gunnar Nelson’s fight-winning, round-one rear naked choke over late-replacement DaMarques Johnson. The Renzo Gracie black belt and UFC debutant, who admitted “there’s always nerves for any fight,” survived early omoplata and toehold scares after taking the bout to the floor early in round one. Outweighed by over 5lb even after agreeing on a 175lb catchweight, Icelander Nelson soon took his heavier opponent’s back, sinking in the rear naked choke with a little less than 90 seconds left in the round.
The evening’s opening bout was quick to silence to Capital FM Arena crowd, when America’s Robbie Peralta stopped Britain’s Jason Young at just 23 seconds of the opening round. A mid-flurry Peralta right hand sent the ATT product to the canvas where follow-up ground ‘n’ pound ended ‘Shotgun’s night.
Main Card Results:
Stefan Struve def. Stipe Miocic, TKO (Strikes), 3:50, Rd 2
Dan Hardy def. Amir Sadollah, Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), Rd 3
Brad Pickett def. Yves Jabouin, Knockout, 3:40, Rd 1
Matt Wiman def. Paul Sass, Submission (Armbar), 3:48, Rd 1
John Hathaway def. John Maguire, Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), Rd 3
Che Mills def. Duane Ludwig, TKO (Injury), 2:28, Rd 1
Jimi Manuwa def. Kyle Kingsbury, TKO (Doctor Stoppage), 5:00, Rd 2
Akira Corassani def. Andy Ogle, Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
Brad Tavares def. Tom Watson, Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28), Rd 3
Gunnar Nelson def. DaMarques Johnson, Rear Naked Choke, 3:34, Rd 1
Robbie Peralta def. Jason Young, KO, 0:23, Rd 1