Mixed Martial Arts landed in the UK last weekend with UFC204 in Manchester, its first Pay Per View outside North America since 2010 – and we were there to soak up all the action.
The event brought the best of British fighting to stir up a Manchester crowd and show why it’s one of the most entertaining sports out there. Keeping to the original air time for US audiences (where the largest stronghold of mixed martial arts fans reside), the main card is already being touted as one of the best in 2016; with the loudest crowd, most exciting match-ups, and a fight of the year contender in the bag.
The UFC always brings one helluva fight. Nine out of 11 of the fights at UFC204 were determined by finishes. This means lots of exciting knockouts, submissions and huge cheers for the fans.
The best fight on the prelims was without a doubt Mike Perry’s bout with Danny Roberts. Perry was picked apart by Roberts throughout the fight with crafty kicks and unpredictable combinations, only for Perry to eventually land a devastating knockout blow with 1 minute 20 seconds left on the clock in the last round, stunning the crowd. It was his determination, and a good chin, which gave Perry the opportunity to survive.
On the main card, London-born Jimi Manuwa’s spectacular knockout victory over Ovince Saint-Preux was a definite highlight, putting his name into contention as a top contender in the Light Heavyweight division by finishing an unorthodox opponent – and doing something Jon Jones couldn’t do within five rounds.
However, neither of these come close to the main event of the evening in terms of excitement: a five-round, edge-of-your-seat bout between Michael Bisping – the first-ever British-born UFC champion – defending his belt against Dan Henderson – whose right hand is nicknamed ‘H-Bomb’ for its knockout power.
There has been some bad blood between these two in the past, and knowing this, the crowd intensified. The lights dimmed and the war commenced, with Bisping showing heart (and an iron chin!) to make it through the first and second rounds after being knocked down in both by Henderson’s huge overhand right.
However, the roaring crowd spurred Bisping on, and from here on in the Mancunian headed the warning signs, and displayed incredible fitness, composure, and with unrelenting pressure, turned the fight around to secure the win in the last three rounds; a true showcase of skill and technique overcoming power.
It was a masterclass of boxing, with the two athletes reluctant to take it to the floor, instead standing toe-to-toe for 25 minutes. In the end, both men picked each other up after a fight, congratulated each other on their performances and received a standing ovation from an awestruck crowd.
This was special not just because it was Bisping’s homecoming, but also Henderson’s last ever professional fight. The fan’s rightly cheered the American they had been booing at the start of the night, giving respect due to a veteran at the end of his career.
And then Bisping did what he does: dressed down the top four contenders in the division in the after-fight Octagon interview, calling them all out. With a busted face and battle scars under his eyes, Bisping announced “win a fight, get off the couch and let’s do this”; as if ready to go another five round right there and then!
The UFC is relatively new. Next month is only its 23rd birthday, and yet it was sold for a whopping $4 billion a month ago, making it one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. It has opened an office in the UK, and is constantly looking to expand its fan base in Europe; this could be you!
So next time the UFC hits the UK, mark the date and get yourself a ticket for the most intense show around.