The Sunday Aftermath

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Following arguably the biggest UFC pay-per-view of the year last week, it was another busy weekend of mixed martial arts this time around with some nice shows on Friday night before the big action got underway on Saturday with two UFC events both of which Irishmen fighting.

The Battle For Notoriety

On Friday, Bellator returned with a pretty under-the-radar card which saw Daniel Straus knock out Justin Wilcox after just 50 seconds in the main event after an undercard featuring a win for former TUF winner Kendall Grove and not much else. The biggest news from Bellator, though, was the announcement that kickboxers Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling will thrown down in what promises to be an epic confrontation on the card headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar on November 15th.

The most talked about event on Friday night, though, was the eight-man one-night tournament held by start-up promotion “BattleGrounds MMA”. Roan Carneiro fought and won three times on the night, beating Brock Larson in the final, to take home the $50,000 dollar prize. The main, or maybe only, reason why the event harboured so much interest, though, was because of the two men in the commentary booth – former UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen and former WWE announcer Jim “JR” Ross. The pair performed their duties well but it was in front of an extremely odd backdrop with reports of a tiny crowd in attendance – a juxtaposition to the buzz online where the event could be bought on pay-per-view. In a sport where it seems impossible to get noticed online unless you’re the UFC, no matter how good of a card you put on, BattleGrounds MMA has shown the way forward. You just need that something outside of the box, something special. MMA fans love a circus and will lap it up every time. Add in a well run product with the x-factor booth member(s) and you could be on to a winner. Promoters, take note.

Bittersweet SBG

The first UFC event of the night saw the Octagon return to the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden and it was Irishman Cathal Pendred’s fight with Russian Gasan Umalatov which led to most of the talking points on the undercard. It was a clear first round for Pendred who pushed the pace and landed the uppercut to seal it. In the second, Umalatov saw the big punches coming and was able to counter better in a fight where jabs were basically non-existent. His straight right hand, which dropped Pendred, made the last round the decider. As seems to happen all too often in the UFC, neither man did enough to be certain of taking the last period. Pendred clearly pushed the pace again and landed some hurtful leg kick in a round where not much at all happened – and in the end that was enough for the SBG student to take the split decision win. For a first fight back to his natural weight Pendred will be glad to have just secured the victory and will hope to be better next time out.

In the main event, Pendred’s SBG teammate Gunnar Nelson entered his fight with Rick Story as a hot favourite – but it didn’t quite go to plan. Nelson started the fight well as he kicked and jabbed his way in and out while Story let go with some powerful shots, a lot of which Nelson avoided. In the second, Story found his timing and began to get some success off both hands as Nelson struggled to get the all important takedown. By the time the third was underway Story had taken over and was landing his straight left down the pipe at will. The tired Nelson had no answer for the brilliant gameplan of Story and was dropped in the fourth as the American went on to win the final two rounds with both men trying constantly to finish it. It’s back to the drawing board for Nelson who was magnanimous in defeat after losing what turned out to be a split decision as he acknowledged a wonderful display from Story who will now be pushed towards the welterweight top 15.

Canada Shines On Home Soil

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada homed the Octagon for the second fight card of the night where another Irishman, Paddy Holohan, was featured. The Dubliner was initially scheduled to fight Louis Gaudinot but when the green-haired American was forced to pull out, Nova Scotia’s own Chris Kelades stepped in to take the fight on just one week of notice. The first round was all Holohan who landed hard with his strikes before taking down the Canadian at will. A late right hand from Kelades which stunned Holohan wasn’t enough to overturn the work already done. The second round played out almost totally on the ground with fantastic transitions from both men. Kelades was unsuccessful with a guillotine attempt but managed to mount Holohan late in the round, almost stopping him with strikes before the bell rang as Kelades was trying to extend an armbar. The Dubliner was badly shaken between rounds and Kelades capitalised on it as he took Holohan down and wrestled him expertly for five full minutes. Holohan was unsurprisingly disappointed in his display afterwards as he gave up position frequently throughout the bout and struggled to escape the Canadian’s grasp. Nevertheless, It was a brilliant unanimous decision win for Chris Kelades after taking the fight on such short notice and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

The main event saw Canadian Rory MacDonald take on the last ever Strikeforce champion Terec Saffiedine in a fight which was more than likely to decide the next in title to challenge for the welterweight title currently held by Johny Hendricks.

The fight started like many Rory MacDonald fight do with the first round looking like a real feeling out process. MacDonald stuck out his jab while dodging the leg kicks from Saffiedine, when possible, while the Belgian throw power in all his shots. A takedown from MacDonald and two bruising legs shots from Saffiedine were the biggest shots in an uneventful period. It was more of the same in the second as Saffiedine had a little more success with his hands while still being stuck, for large parts, at the end of the MacDonald jab. Saffiedine started the third better as he stopped an early takedown before unloading and landing a nice three punch combination. MacDonald, though, was unfazed and immediately got back to his jabbing clinic. Saffiedine clearly grew in confidence after his early success and attacked MacDonald with great urgency. That played right into the game of the Canadian. As Saffiedine backed him up against the fence MacDonald unleashed a whipping right-left combination which laid his opponent out cold. A wonderful finish after a picture perfect display.

After the win MacDonald is now surely next in line for a shot at the title being defended by Johny Hendricks in December against Robbie Lawler. Whoever wins that fight, MacDonald wont be too worried – the unflappable Canadian will be more than confident of bringing the UFC welterweight title home to Tristar gym in Montreal.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma