By Elliot Worsell
ABU DHABI, UAE - Light heavyweight prospect Phil ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Davis proved he has top-notch submission skills to go with his wrestling capabilities, as he tapped out Swedish striker Alexander Gustafsson with an anaconda choke at 4.55 of the opening round in UFC 112 prelim action at Yas Island.
In a battle of unbeaten young talents, Davis immediately took the initiative, as he drove Gustafsson backwards from the get-go. Using every inch of his wide and powerful frame, Davis mauled and yanked at the tall Swede, eager to get the vaunted striker to the floor as soon as possible. Watch post-fight interview
Davis slowly worked on Gustafsson for the first two minutes of the fight, but only momentarily enjoyed success by grabbing on to the European’s back. Gustafsson just as quickly wriggled out and shook him off.
The pair then separated and stood for a little, before Davis was once again demanding the fight head to the ground. He snatched at Gustafsson and dragged him south, instantly landing in a half-guard position. From there he landed spiteful punches and elbows on a hapless Gustafsson, before eventually rolling into a brilliant anaconda choke. Sensing there was no way out, Gustafsson’s tap came almost immediately, thus confirming Davis’ status as the ‘one to watch’ in the 205-pound division. ‘Mr Wonderful’ glides to 6-0.
Johnson rallies back to halt Blackburn in final round
What started out as a kickboxing match eventually turned into a ground affair before DaMarques Johnson rose to his feet and stopped Brad Blackburn in the third and final round, earning KO of the Night in the process. Watch post-fight interview
The welterweight pair swapped punches and kicks for the first half of the fight, with Johnson looking to force the pace and Blackburn content to use lateral movement and counter-punch whenever the opportunity arrived. Blackburn appeared the crisper and cleaner of the two in the early going, finding joy with sharp left-hooks and right-crosses.
Johnson would stalk his opponent behind his left-jab, but struggled to find his range, as Blackburn leaped in and out with snappy combinations to head and body.
A breakthrough arrived midway through round one, as Johnson landed a sharp right hand on Blackburn, a shot that clearly shook Los Angeles-native. Sensing an early night could be on the cards, Johnson steamed in for the finish with a knee, before Blackburn grabbed a hold of him and stalled the action.
Johnson broke free of the clinch and attempted a wild kick, which was duly caught by Blackburn, who proceeded to throw his opponent on the floor. As Blackburn landed on top and worked top position, Johnson attempted a sneaky armbar from the bottom. It didn’t take long for Blackburn to squirm out, however.
The pair returned to standing and trading in the second round, both maintaining a solid work-rate and punch output. Blackburn continued to be the one throwing punches in combination, though. Stalking with arms by his side and mouth open, Johnson was waiting for his second wind and inadvertently giving Blackburn a target to hit.
Blackburn landed a clever flurry of shots mid-way through the round – switching from body to head – and slightly rattled Johnson in the centre of the Octagon.
Not long after that sharp combination, Blackburn decided to start looking for takedowns. He dragged Johnson down, manoeuvred to side-control and then attempted to work a kimura, but to no avail, as Johnson squeezed out from under and stood back up.
Now eager to head to the floor as often as possible, Blackburn went on to secure another big takedown moments later.
This pattern continued into the third round, as Blackburn seemed to abandon any desire to stand with his foe. He nailed another single-leg takedown early on the round and attempted to gain control of Johnson on the ground.
Instead it was Johnson who ultimately grabbed control, reversing Blackburn’s position and then landing inside his guard. Eager to make the most of his position, Johnson began to drop heavy elbows on the face of Blackburn, who seemed to quickly tire.
As the pair scrambled to their feet, Johnson was quickest to the trigger and landed a powerful left-hook on Blackburn as he retreated. The Californian reached for his head, turned away and Johnson duly followed up with a right kick to the ribs, forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to intervene and stop the bout at 2.08 of the final session.
Takedowns tell the ‘Story’ as Osipczak loses a close decision
Takedowns were the order of the day for Rick ‘The Horror’ Story as he grabbed a tight split decision win over frustrated Englishman ‘Slick’ Nick Osipczak. The aggressive Washington-native pitched a fusillade of takedown attempts to eventually force a 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29 points victory. Watch post-fight interview
While Osipczak was able to defend some attempts, the sheer number of shots eventually took its toll.
Story set out his stall from the off, immediately forcing Osipczak back with a southpaw left cross and then moving straight into a takedown.
The American then attempted to land punches while in Osipczak’s guard, but wasn’t able to get off with much. The crafty Brit did a good job of stalling Story and not allowing him to work, eventually causing referee Mark Goddard to stand them both up.
This theme would continue through rounds one and two, as Story would relentlessly seek the takedown and Osipczak would remain clever enough to avoid any punishment. Story looked to land elbows and punches in close, but Osipczak would tie him up and deny him any room. The Englishman even attempted an arm-bar from the bottom towards the end of the opener, as Story continued to dwell in his guard.
‘The Horror’ came out fast for the second round and continued to look for opportunities to take the fight south. The takedowns proved tougher to come by as the bout moved along, but Story was still willing to lock Osipczak up and force him down.
Frustrated and unhurt, Osipczak looked for any chance he could get to land something significant on his feet. He started to introduce kicks in the second round and then began pushing Story backwards in the clinch. The Brit was able to drive Story backwards against the fence and work his sharp knees in close.
Sensing he could find success in a close-quarter battle, Osipczak then turned the tables on Story and started to seek takedowns of his own. He figured a striking battle was unlikely and began to take the initiative, starting with a well-timed takedown in the second.
Osipczak opened the third with more leg-kicks and counter-takedown attempts. Getting there before Story could, Osipczak was now looking for anything he could get. At one point his craving to find a takedown led him into a Story guillotine attempt, which he held for around a minute, but ultimately couldn’t do anything with it.
As the round ticked along, Story found renewed energy sources and started to nail his takedowns the same way he did in the first round. He dumped Osipczak heavily on his back mid-way through the round and attempted to work inside Nick’s tight guard.
As the referee once again stood the pair up, Osipczak scored his biggest breakthrough yet. He clinically walked Story on to a punishing knee, and the rocked American immediately went for his bread and butter, gripping on to Osipczak’s midriff and driving him backwards.
This final sequence summed up the course of the fight and signalled why Story was so keen to continuously take the fight into his domain. In a closely contested fight, the takedowns proved the difference and moved Story to 10-3.
Kelly taps out Veach and reveals new side to his game
“People don’t think I’ve got any subs in the locker, but I do have them – I just choose not to use them,” said Liverpool’s Paul Kelly in the lead-up to tonight’s lightweight bout with Matt Veach. Watch post-fight interview
It took Kelly only 3:41 of the second round to dispel rumours of no ground game, as he impressively submitted Veach with a guillotine choke in Yas Island. The exciting lightweights waged an enthralling ebb-and-flow war, before Kelly secured the finish with a cleverly picked submission
The nature of the finish would have shocked many, not least of all Veach, who appeared to boast the superior wrestling and ground game going into the scheduled three-rounder. In fact, it didn’t take long for Veach to make his early dominance tell, as he ducked a sloppy Kelly right hand and took the Englishman down immediately.
Once on the ground, Veach attempted to work the mount position, before getting his claws into Kelly’s back. As Kelly looked to shake him off and wriggle free, Veach merely worked in a rear-naked choke.
The end seemed near. Kelly fought off the choke attempt, but couldn’t seem to release Veach from his back.
In a demonstration of sheer determination and will to win, Kelly managed to eventually remove Veach’s arms from around his neck and move out of peril. He then reversed the position and landed inside Veach’s guard, much to the delight of the Abu Dhabi crowd.
Now in his domain, Kelly displayed his specialty – ground-and-pound. Utilising his superior physical strength and power, Kelly worked away with short punches and devastating elbows in close. Kelly’s shots began to take their tool on Veach, as large welts appeared around both his eyes.
Nevertheless, Veach was always trying to remain active from the bottom, and found a kimura attempt out of nowhere. Locking Kelly’s right arm up, Veach worked to drive it backwards and force the tap.
Once again, Kelly got out and jumped to a superior position. This time Kelly escaped and got to his feet, catching Veach with heavy punches on the way up.
The pair continued to trade on their feet – with Kelly getting the better - before the Liverpudlian latched on to a guillotine choke as the pair crashed towards the floor. Veach scrambled out and Kelly continued to stand and trade at the claxon, clearly taking the initiative in the bout.
Heading into the second round, Kelly appeared the fresher of the two and the one carrying all the momentum. Veach was gassed, bloodied and shocked by the Englishman’s strength.
Veach tried to get Kelly’s back once more, but yet again got too high and was shaken off. This allowed to Kelly to reverse the situation and wind up in Veach’s guard again, a position he was more than happy to be in.
Just as before, Kelly settled in Veach’s guard and released a hailstorm of elbows and tight punches. Veach’s face quickly became a mess and referee Herb Dean separated the fighters, keen to get a closer look at the extent of the damage.
Allowed to carry on, it wouldn’t be long before Veach’s fate was sealed. Kelly excelled in side-control – again delivering more elbows – before locking in a guillotine choke as the pair were momentarily stood up. The gutsy Brit fell back and forced Veach to tap, capping off an expert display of ground-and-pound. Kelly moves to 11-2 and grabs his first ever UFC stoppage win.
Madsen edges Al Turk in standup show opener
Heavyweight Jon Madsen officially became the first UFC fighter to win in an open-air setting, as he shaded Mostapha Al Turk out of a three round decision. The California slugger left the Middle East happy by scores of 29-28 across the board. Watch post-fight interview
Fan favourite Al Turk – billed out of London, by way of Saudi Arabia – was the fans’ choice throughout, but failed to get to grips with the more mobile Madsen. The English grappler chose to spend the whole fight striking with his opponent and, although he landed some well-picked leg kicks in the second round, never seemed to really trouble or deter Madsen.
Appearing to boast the heavier hands, Madsen found plenty of success in the first and final rounds. He rocked Al Turk with a looping right hand in the opener, and then flurried aggressively to drive Al Turk to the fence in the final session. Whenever Madsen opened up and let his punches go, Al Turk seemed to become flustered and unsettled.
The pair were content to trade right hands for much of the fight, Al Turk plodding with his and Madsen swinging for the fences on the back-foot. The Californian would back away, allow Al Turk to set the tempo and then explode with wild counter-punches.
Al Turk introduced leg-kicks to the picture as the fight progressed, but it wasn’t enough to discourage Madsen or take control of the fight. When the pair would trade shots, Madsen was the one throwing with more confidence and potency.
Though both remained competitive throughout, Madsen punctuated his victory with a dramatic takedown in the final 10 seconds of the bout. He then proceeded to climb aboard Al Turk and attempt to ground-and-pound his British foe. Ultimately too little too late, Madsen nevertheless walked away with a close, yet comfortable decision win, remaining unbeaten in four professional bouts.
*** The lightweight contest between Paul Taylor and John Gunderson was cancelled today, due to Taylor suffering headaches on the morning of the fight. He was ruled medically unable to compete.