UFC Belfast Prelims Review: Ireland's Charlie Ward suffers TKO defeat on UFC debut
Get the lowdown from the preliminary bouts at UFC Belfast right here.
Middleweight: Jack Marshman defeated Magnus Cedenblad via TKO (punches) Round 2
This fight was a war. Welshman Jack Marshman dropped Swede Magnus Cedenbld with his first punch but things weren’t plain sailing from here. Cedenblad landed heavy shots from on top and Marshman battled hard from guard. Both men returned to their corners at the end of a gruelling first round baring the scars of combat. The second round saw more of the same. Marshman landed a heavy combination but the Swede seemed equal to it. Moments later Marshman landed heavy again and this time Cedenblad was dropped. The Welshman followed up to force the stoppage and get a second victory for his country on the night.
Jack Marshman: “Do you think that was a $50,000 win? It’s an amazing feeling. I’m over the moon. It’s an amazing feeling and the crowd was nuts for the Welsh. I’m sure the UFC must be thinking ‘Look at the Welsh guys coming in and getting two wins; s**t we’ve got an untapped market’. I topped the prelim card in my first fight in the UFC, fought a guy who was on a four fight win streak in the UFC and knocked him out in the second round which was the round I said I was going to knock him out in. You can’t get much of a better feeling than I’ve got right now. I’m ecstatic.”
“Honest to God, after I get a few more fights in I’ll start calling guys out. There’s a ton of people that are in front of me. Give me whoever, I feel like I’m one of the best of them. I just knocked a guy out. Give me London in March.”
Flyweight: Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Ali Bagautinov via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
The step up in quality was noticeable for Horiguchi v Bagautinov. Both men had challenged Demetrious Johnson for his flyweight title and it was easy to see why. The Japanese fighter seemed to be a step ahead of the Russian in all three rounds. Though Bagautinov landed some nice takedowns, he couldn’t capitalise. Both men landed hard shots but both showed nerves and chins of steel. Horiguchi was deserving of the 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards. Though fair, the scores don’t reflect how much Bagautinov was in the fight.
Lightweight: Kevin Lee defeated Magomed Mustafaev via Technical submission (rear-naked choke) Round 2
Kevin Lee put on a classy display of wrestling to get the better of Magomed Mustafaev. He timed his takedowns with precision and once on the mat was always looking to slap on a submission. He finally sunk in a deep rear naked choke midway through the second round. Mustafaev opted not to tap and the referee waved off the fight with the Russian face down and out cold. Lee didn’t endear himself to the fans. During his post-fight interview he said he wanted to show how good his wrestling was adding “I could put McGregor on his back right now”. Needless to say the crowd boo’ed and chanted ‘who are ye’ as Lee left the Arena.
Kevin Lee: “I don’t care about the Irish, I called Conor McGregor out because I want that fight. He’s the champ now in this division and doesn’t have anything but some years on me. He’s 28, I’m 24, I have years to catch up to him and I wanted him to know that I’m on that ass, that’s all that was about. He’s got that target on his back and I’m one of the guys that’s chasing him.”
Women's Strawweight: Amanda Cooper defeated Anna Elmose via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
This was really close fight between two rising straw-weights. Cooper gets her first UFC win after falling short in the TUF final against Tatiana Suarez. Elmose can be disappointed as she did an awful lot right in this fight. For me, Elmose won the first with a decisive knockdown, two judges felt the same. Cooper won the third through work rate and a takedown at the death. Cooper shaded the second taking the fight on all three scorecards. Denmark’s Anna Elmose has dropped two in a row now, but her performance justifies giving her at least one more fight.
Amanda Cooper: “Initially, I just want to cry and be really happy after getting my first UFC win. It was awesome fighting in a country that is so big into MMA. I could feel the passion and excitement from all of the fans”
Heavyweight: Justin Ledet defeated Mark Godbeer via Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 1
This one was over before it got going. After some exchanges on the feet Godbeer opted to drag Ledet down to the mat. It looked like Godbeer had secured a leglock, but Ledet managed to escape sneak around to take his back and sink in a deep rear naked choke.
Justin Ledet:“I feel good, man. That went way better than I had it in my head. That was way quicker than I thought and I’m really kind of blown away by the result. I’m in shock right now, this will probably sink in in a couple days. Let me represent in my hometown, Houston! Let’s sell out the Toyota Center. I’m healthy, I’m ready to fight, that’s my job. Let me go out there and prove it.”
Mark Godbeer: “I was nervous. I think I let him get on top of me a little bit, but I know what to expect now. It was just stupid mistakes, it’s just learning how to deal with the situation. It was a big show.”
Catchweight (172.8 lbs): Zak Cummings defeated Alexander Yakovlev via Submission (straight armbar) Round 2
This fight had the whole SSE Arena talking… but not in a good way. Tried as he might, Zak Cummings could not get Yakovlev to engage. The crowd became as disinterested as Yakovlev and opted to chat among themselves. The Russian circled away for as long as the fight lasted. After a moments lapse from Yakovlev, Cummings seized his chance. Throwing Yakovlev to the ground, Cummings dropped down and worked into side control. From there his grappling prowess came to the fore. From side control, Cummings improved to a crucifix before stepping over to lock in an inverted triangle. From this position the straight bar is always an option, which Cummings took. Superb finish, bringing the crowd’s attention back to the Octagon.
Zak Cummings: “Preparation to come here and fight internationally is just to make sure I get here a little early just to get prepared for the time difference, any elevation – whatever it is. I’ve been in this game for a long time so I train to fight, I don’t really train that hard anymore so I can make it easier on my body. I work really hard on my conditioning and then when it comes time for the lights to come on, I know I’m ready. When it’s go time, it’s time to go. I went in with my game plan and knowing that if I stuck to what I’m good at, no one can beat me. So, I just have to show up. I knew that he didn’t deal with pressure very well so I wanted to pressure him and really keep him on his heels. When I got him to the ground, that’s just a sneaky little move that I do and I got him. I was really close to the top-15 before my last loss so I just want someone that’s going to get me back there. Whoever is above me in the rankings.”
Women's Bantamweight: Marion Reneau defeated Milana Dudieva via TKO (punches and elbows) Round 3
Dudieva seemed totally disinterested in this fight, spending the entire fight backing up as Reneau looked to engage. In a slow first round there was a case for Dudieva taking it 10-9 with a takedown, the only real occurrence over the 5 minutes. Rounds two and three were all Reneau. Dudieva was spent by the end of the second. Reneau stayed busy, secured a takedown early in the third and got the finish by ground and pound from the mount.
Marion Reneau: “It was kind of frustrating (delayed flights) because I lost a day to get acclimated and I found myself catching up on sleep, trying to stay up late, taking naps – and I don’t take naps – it was frustrating and it played with me just a little bit. But, I was like let this mean something and the win made it better and it meant something. I was surprised she survived the second round. In fact, I was trying really hard to finish it and I should have pulled the trigger a little bit sooner. I want Bethe Correia because I believe she’s ranked number nine in the division, it makes sense and it will get me closer to where I feel I belong.”
Bantamweight: Brett Johns defeated Kwan Ho Kwak via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Kwak came out swinging hard. After landing a few Johns wanted no part of the stand-up and took Kwak down at will throughout the remainder of the first round. The second saw Johns land well on the feet but mixed in some takedowns make him the clear leader going into the third. With the Korean needing a stoppage, Kwak came out firing. Johns continued to control the fight again with takedowns. Kwak unloaded everything he had in the final 20 seconds but it was too little, too late. Judges declared 30-27 on all three scorecards for Brett Johns, the first Welshman to get a win in the UFC.
Brett Johns: “It was a bit of a barnburner as you can see. It was a tough fight, don’t get me wrong, but all of my fights get tough but I just dug deep and got another win. What a fight to come into it (UFC). I’m happy fighting Kwak, it was a tough fight, undefeated guy. I’ve got the best team in the world, why shouldn’t I beat guys like that? I’ve got a good team, good family behind me who support me all the way and I’m very thankful. The Welsh fans are amazing, they’re the reason why I’m here. I’m very thankful.”
Welterweight: Abdul Razak Alhassan defeated Charlie Ward via KO (punches) Round 1
Both men came out swinging hard on their UFC debuts. Alhassan landed the first heavy shot and droped Ward. The SBG man tried to rally and swung for the fences once back on his feet. Alhassan landed again and once Ward dropped for the third time referee Mark Goddard had no choice but to stop the fight. None of Alhassan’s fights have lasted longer than 90 seconds as he keeps a perfect record, going 7-0.
Abdul Razak Alhassan: “I was surprised, I really thought he was going to be down after the first punch, but then he woke up and I was like ‘What is going on?’ He threw some big punches too. He didn’t hit me with his fist, but rather the back of his palm right in the back of the head and I was like ‘I can’t believe he still has this much power after me hitting him so hard.’ So I decided to take my time so I could measure so I could really hit him really hard. The key to my power and striking is my African genes, I guess.”