UFC: Fight Night Liverpool may have been one of the most eagerly anticipated Fight Nights in some time, with rapidly rising striker Darren Till taking on perennial number one contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in what was a huge fight for the welterweight division. There were also a number of other important fights on the card, with featherweight contenders Arnold Allen and Makwan Amirkhani both featuring and Neil Magny taking on a UFC newcomer.
Overall it was a fairly solid Fight Night. Nothing that will stand out in the memory of fans for years to come, but certainly enough to justify the price of admission to the event, or the 5 hours that many fans invested into watching the event. Though the ending was extremely controversial, it is fair to say that the landscape in the welterweight division is going to be shifting massively in the coming weeks.
Eric Spicely vs Darren Stewart
Darren Stewart was coming into the octagon on a three fight losing streak, looking for his first win in the middleweight division, in his third fight after moving down from light heavyweight at the end of 2017. Eric Spicely was also coming into this fight on a losing skid, dropping his last two in a row (both losses coming in the second round).
The fight started slowly with both fighters looking to feel eachother out, Eric Spicely landed the first punch, failing to follow up with a combination. Following this Stewart looked the more aggressive of the two, landing some solid jabs and hooks early before Spicely launched for a takedown. The takedown attempt was blocked by Stewart who was then caught against the fence, using a knee to create some separation.
It was in the second round that the fight heated up, with Spicely coming out swinging. With a couple of punches grazing his opponent, before being hit by a solid shot which dropped Spicely. Despite appearing to recover well, Spicely was caught again seconds later by another hard jab, this time unable to return to his feet as Stewart landed some heavy ground and pound, before the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
Darren Stewart def. Eric Spicely via TKO (punches, 1 minute 27 seconds into round 2)
Claudio Silva vs Nadine Taleb
Before this fight Claudio Silva had not fought since a win over Leon Edwards in 2014, coming into the cage on Saturday night on the back of an almost four year layoff. He was however riding an 11 fight win streak, dating back to 2007. Nadine Taleb was looking to build a three fight win streak for the first time since 2015, after taking home the performance of the night in his last fight.
Silva started the fight aggressively landing two quick shots before shooting for a takedown which was stuffed by Taleb. The French fighter then looked to maintain distance, aware of Silva’s dangerous ground game, by throwing a number of leg kicks which in turn caused Silva to switch stances frequently.
Silva was throwing a number of kicks, which Taleb quickly began to predict. Catching one of Silva’s kicks, Taleb managed to turn him around and complete a suplex from which the Brazilian fighter was able to immediately get back to his feet. Following this Silva managed to secure a takedown, stopping his opponent from standing back up and attempting to pass into full guard. It was from here that the fight was lost for Taleb, as he pushed himself off the ground only to be tripped back down, Silva managed to secure full mount and launched some heavy ground and pound. In an attempt to get away from the heavy beating Taleb gives up his back, which allows Silva to sink in a slow rear naked choke and despite flashing a thumbs up to the referee Taleb had no choice but to tap out.
Claudio Silva def. Nadine Taleb via rear naked choke (4 minutes and 27 seconds into round 1)
Jason Knight vs Makwan ‘Mr Finland’ Amirkhani
This was the fight that many fans had marked as the potential fight of the night, with both fighters known for their submission finishes, a combined 22 submission victories between the pair. ‘Mr Finland’ was returning from a one year layoff following a loss to Arnold Allen, before which he was on a five fight win streak. Knight was coming into the fight on a two fight losing streak, knowing that coming out with the win was imperative.
The bad blood between the fighters was made obvious during the ceremonial weigh-ins, but it didn’t take long to show in the scrap between the two. Knight started the bout by throwing a large number of leg kicks, causing Amirkhani to keep his distance, very much a feeling out period for the two fighters. Amirkhani then caught Knight with a huge shot, dropping his opponent, following him to the ground Amirkahni took time to taunt Knight – laughing and sticking his tongue out. Once he got back to his feet, Knight ate another large right hook but this time managed to survive a little better.
Knight landed a huge uppercut which dropped Mr Finland, quickly trying to find a submission and failing Knight has to start again as his opponent gets to his feet. It didn’t take long for Amirkahi to return to the canvas however, as Knight dropped him with another massive blow.
While the first round had fans out of their seat and showing their support for both fighters, things quickly went downhill. There was a hilarious moment at the beginning of the second round as Knight shouted “Your chin’s weak boy” at his opponent, however the remainder of the fight was spent on the ground and almost devoid of entertainment. Amirkhani landed three of his five takedowns, though neither fighter was ever able to accomplish anything on the ground, with the referee having to stand the fight back up a number of times.
At the end of three rounds the fight went to a judge’s decision, with Amirkhani’s three takedowns and overall control time enough to secure him the split decision.
Makwan Amirkhani def. Jason Knight via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
Arnold ‘Almighty’ Allen vs Mads Burnell
Allen came out of the gate quickly in this fight, landing a number of big punches with no return offered from his opponent. Burnell shot for a takedown, which Allen managed to defend however ended with his back against the cage. Once the two break Burnell managed to land some heavy jabs before pulling off a brilliant level change which led into a double leg takedown. It was here that the fight spent the majority of the three rounds, with Burnell pushing his weight down on his opponent in an attempt to wear him down.
Allen was able to power out, pushing Burnell off and standing back up to begin, however as the fight progressed into the second and third round it became obvious that Allen was tiring, after spending over six minutes of the fight carrying Burnell’s weight. Coming out for the start of the third round Allen was swinging wildly, easily taken down by Burnell. It seemed at this point that the fight would be all but over, the third round again following the pattern of ‘Almighty’ being taken down, then managing to get back to his feet.
With three minutes left in the round Allen once again managed to stand himself up, being pushed against the cage by Burnell who then dropped his head preparing for a takedown. Allen got his arms into position and managed to secure a front choke, with Burnell almost immediately dropping to the mat in an attempt to force a break or cause Allen to lose his grip, when this didn’t work he tapped out – from locking in the choke to securing the victory was a matter of seconds for Allen catching not only his opponent, but everyone watching by surprise.
This one came out of nowhere as Burnell had dominated all three rounds of the fight and was on his way to a comfortable decision victory – it goes to show that you can never take your foot off the gas in MMA.
Arnold Allen def. Mads Burnell via front choke (2 minutes and 41 seconds into round 3)
Neil Magny vs Craig White
It was a big night for Craig White who was making his UFC debut as a late replacement for Gunnar Nelson who was forced to pull out of the fight after suffering a knee injury. It was a tough opponent he was facing in the form of the #9 ranked fighter in the welterweight division, Neil Magny.
White came out of the gate fast, throwing a number of punches though not landing much. Magny matched this pace, throwing a number of fists and kicks in return before White managed to secure the clinch and push Magny against the cage. After attempting a suplex, Magny managed to turn the clinch around so White was the fighter against the cage, then inadvertently landing a low blow.
The fight was stopped momentarily to give White some time to recover, who came straight back out to put his opponent against the cage again. The fight headed to the ground, with Magny managing to secure full mount before standing up – White remained on the ground, kicking up at his opponent before the referee forced him to stand.
Again the fight returned to the clinch with White pushing Magny against the cage, and again Magny managed to reverse their position. The end of the fight was somewhat sudden, as White dropped his head to prepare for a takedown, Magny landed a heavy knee. This knee dropped White and was followed up by some brutal ground and pound before the referee stepped in to wave off the fight.
In his post fight interview Neil Magny called out Kamaru Usman – a fight that would certainly make sense for the division, and judging by Magny’s comments there may be a little bad blood between the two.
Neil Magny def. Craig White via TKO (knee and punches, 4 minutes and 32 seconds into round 1)
UFC Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson vs Darren Till (undefeated)
It was time for the main event. The fight that fans around the world had been waiting for. When ‘Sweet Caroline’ hit as Till began to make his walk to the octagon, the chorus of fans singing along to the song was deafening – a sight and sound to send chills down the spine.
The tension in the arena, and in the octagon, was obvious even to those who were watching the fight on TV and there were a number of moments in the first round which caused a raucous Scouse crowd to explode with noise. The first round did not play out as many people may have been expected, with Till taking a slow and cautious approach. Careful not to invite the brutal counter striking of Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. Till tried to close the distance to Wonderboy a number of times in the first round however the kickboxing specialist was always able to slip away, forcing Till to chase him.
As round two began Till came out much more aggressive than he had been in the first, unloading a number of punches (all of which Wonderboy managed to deflect or avoid). There were a handful of clinches in this round, with Till managing to land some powerful body shots though these seemed to do little to phase his opponent. Coming to the end of this round there had once again been no major strikes landed.
At the start of the third Till attempted to force Wonderboy against the fence, this seemed to have worked momentarily before Thompson managed to slip away, again forcing Till to chase. Both fighters threw some tentative shots, neither landing anything significant, though Till was beginning to load up a little more on his punches.
With around 30 seconds left in the round Till was accidentally poked in the eye by Wonderboy, despite Till’s protests that he wished to carry on immediately Mark Goddard brought the doctor into the cage to confirm Till could continue. Moments later the fight was restarted, the hometown crowd raining down boos on Thompson, which Till waved off in a sign of respect for his opponent.
As we entered the ‘main event rounds’ there were some questions over whether or not Till was prepared to go the full five – something he had not done in his career up until this point. This questions were answered as both fighters made it through the fourth round unscathed, heading into the fifth many fans believed that Till needed a stoppage if he was to take the victory.
Midway through the fifth Darren Till managed to land his patented left hand, flush, for the first time in the fight. Knocking Thompson down, who was quickly back to his feet (similar to his bounceback against current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley). The hometown crowd exploded with support, willing Till on, hoping he would be able to land another huge shot to end the fight.
That big shot never came, and the fight ended up heading the judge’s scorecard (Wonderboy’s fifth fight in a row to head to a decision). Many fans were surprised when the result was revealed to be a unanimous decision in favour of Darren Till. While it was a fantastic end to a fairytale night for Till and his hometown crowd, it left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans, claiming that hometown judging was the only reason Till came away with the victory.
Darren Till def. Stephen Thompson via unanimous decision (49-48, 49-46, 49-46)
Elias Theodore def. Trevor Smith via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Gillian Robertson def. Molly McCann via rear naked choke (2 minutes 5 seconds into round 2)
Carlo Pedersoli Jr. def. Brad Scott via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Lina Lansberg def. Gina Mazany via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Tom Breese def. Tom Kelly via TKO (punches, 3 minutes 33 seconds into round 1)
Anyone else had wonderboy winning 4-1? #UFCLiverpool— Shane Burgos (@HurricaneShaneB) May 27, 2018