The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – UK Fighters At UFC Vegas 36

Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 191 provided a mixed bag of results for British fight fans. The dream debut, heartbreak in the main event, devastating finishes and more. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from bouts involving British combatants. 

The Good

Paddy Pimblett:

We couldn’t start anywhere else, could we?

The magnitude of hype surrounding Pimblett’s UFC debut had not been seen for a British or Irish fighter since a certain Conor McGregor back in 2013. Having knocked the promotion’s approaches back twice, he was ready and he accepted the offer at the third time of asking.

Although the bout only lasted 4:25, it was as crazy of a debut as you could expect. After getting caught with a looping left hook less than a minute in, Pimblett’s legs appeared to go from beneath him and he was taken down. However, the Scouse sensation recovered quickly and was straight back, trading with Luigi Vendramini. With only 50 seconds left of the first, Pimblett caught Vendramini with an uppercut, followed immediately by a big right hand. Smelling blood, Pimblett went hunting for the finish, which he found with 35 seconds left on the clock. 

Paddy Pimblett has well and truly announced himself to the UFC.

Molly McCann:

The general consensus was that ‘Meatball’ needed a victory in order to save her UFC career. On a two fight skid, with losses to Taila Santos and Lara Procopio, it was vitally important that McCann had her hand raised at the end of this one. 

The opening round was far from perfect for ‘Meatball’ when an unintentional clash of heads during an exchange sent McCann crashing to the mat. The 15 fight vet used her experience, working on a single leg in order to give herself time to recover. Round 2 provided the tenacity and gritty work synonymous with McCann, walking Kim down, not taking a step back and really raking the fight to her South Korean opponent. Looking more than comfortable in the third, the 31-year-old continued her immense forward pressure, neutralising Kim’s astonishing 10 inch reach advantage by working her way inside and unloading heavy shots.

To cap off one of the biggest performances of her career, McCann was rightly awarded the $50,000 fight of the night bonus.   

Tom Aspinall:

Immediately taking the centre of the cage, Aspinall picked his shots carefully, all the while eliminating the wrestle heavy Sergei Spivac’s opportunity to close the distance and look for a takedown. When the chance presented itself, Spivac went looking for the takedown but once entangled in the clinch, Aspinall created just enough room to land a big elbow to the template of Spivac, whose legs gave way and ended up on the mat. Aspinall pounced and with still half the round left, the referee waved the contest off.

With a wise head on his shoulders, Aspinall is in no rush to be facing the men at the very top of the division, opting to work his way up through the rankings systematically, facing the athletes directly above him in order to claim their stop on the rankings.

In one of the most wholesome parts of the evening, the UFC captured the moment Aspinall found out his fantastic display had been rewarded with a performance of the night bonus. News which led to the Heavyweight sobbing while receiving a warm embrace from his father. 

Jack Shore

Nobody’s lead up to Saturday night’s fight night could compare to that of Jack ‘Tank’ Shore. 3 opponents in less three weeks, a change in opponent coming once he’d landed in the states and, unbeknownst to anyone until post fight, a torn bicep tendon.

None of this deterred the Welshman from putting on a clinic on his way to a 30-27 unanimous decision victory over Liudvik Sholinian. The victory extended his unbeaten run in the UFC to 4-0, his unbeaten run across the amateur and professional ranks to 27, and was another step closer to solidifying him as one of the biggest prospects coming out of the United Kingdom right now.

Although not causing him too much of a hindrance on the night, Shore admitted that Saturday marked his first and last time entering the cage knowing he’s carrying an injury, he said post fight: “Looking back, it could have gone horribly wrong if it had torn completely during the fight. But thankfully I was able to keep it at bay. But I won’t be going into the fights any more if I’m not 100 percent.”

The Bad

Darren Till:

After a relatively successful night for British athletes, the main event led to heartbreak for many UK MMA fans, with Darren Till succumbing to Derek Brunson in the third round of their headline bout.

From the outset Brunson’s game plan was clear, get the fight to the ground. A game plan which he executed perfectly, landing clean takedowns and dominating from there throughout in all three rounds. Till found some success with his striking during the third. However, this led to Brunson immediately shooting in, pushing Till against the fence and looking for the takedown, which he secured before finding himself in full mount, then cranking on the rear naked choke when the opportunity presented itself, to finish the bout. 

The origin of the nickname ‘Gorilla’ came from Till’s welterweight physique; cutting a dominating and intimidating shape compared to his 170lbs opposition. However, since his shift to Middleweight, Till has looked relatively equal to the bigger, stronger men he’s met at 185lbs. With that in mind, it has to be believed that Till would fall firmly in the back of athletes who would benefit from additional weight categories being implemented in the UFC.

What next for Till? A move back to Welterweight? A change up in gym? Who knows. But one thing is for certain, Till will be back and look to right the wrongs, seal the holes in his game and return to the upper echelon of the division.

The Ugly

Modestus Bukauskas

So, oblique kicks…

The sole reason Bukauskas’ loss to Khallil Rountree falls in this segment is due to the rampant debates across social media about whether the strike which ended the contest should be allowed in mixed martials arts.

The debate has drawn all sorts of opinions, along with criticism thrown towards Rountree for executing the kick. Ever the gentleman, Bukauskas took to social media to address the criticism, he said: ‘and yo, please give my opponent some slack, that kick was all good, it was my job to defend and I didn’t. Let the man enjoy his victory.’

It was a tough night all round for Bukauskas, not only suffering what looked like a serious injury but also collecting his third loss on the bounce in the UFC. As history goes, athletes generally find themselves being let go by the promotion following back to back to back losses. Although the future for Bukauskas is unclear, it’s very clear that the debate over the strike which ended the bout will be contested for weeks to come.