- UFC London
Brilliant Barao taps out McDonald at UFC London
Renan Barao made a superb first defence of his UFC interim bantamweight title and denied Michael McDonald the chance to become the UFC's youngest champion at UFC London, submitting the youngster in the fourth round to complete a classy display.
Barao, installed as the temporary champion in the absence of Dominick Cruz, continued to show he is a genuine threat to Cruz's reign with a diverse display of striking, claiming an arm triangle stoppage at 3.57 of round four.
McDonald fought gamely, showing plenty of maturity as a 22-year-old, and had the Brazilian hurt on occasions, but he lacked the variation and imagination of Barao, who mixed in takedown offence to give his striking game even more options.
He set his stall out with two takedowns in the first, although McDonald launched an ambush of right hands to stun the champ late in the round. The American did so again in the second, but only after Barao had displayed his own striking talents, landing a front kick to the head as well as a superbly timed left hook-right leg kick combo.
Barao began to swing for the fences in the third, showing real confidence, and such an assault allowed him to ground McDonald in the fourth. From there he quickly transitioned to the arm triangle, staying patient as McDonald eventually tapped.
The co-main event between Cub Swanson and Dustin Poirier lived up to all expectations as the featherweight pair put on a fast-paced showing, edged by Swanson in 28-29 30-27 30-27 unanimous decision that did not truly reflect how close the bout was.
In a packed 145lb division, Swanson is aiming to put his hand up for a title shot and moves to four straight wins with victory, but he had to work hard for it. Poirier, himself a contender, had his moments as the fight went everywhere, with both men rocked at different stages.
Swanson undoubtedly took the opening stanza with heavy hooks to the head and body, mixing his strikes up superbly to hurt Poirier. However, by throwing everything with bad intentions he began to fade in the second, which was arguably taken by Poirier, before a huge takedown midway through the third swung the fight back in Swanson's direction as Poirier began to find his target on the feet.
Jimi Manuwa's career is only heading upwards after yet another opponent of his, Cyrille Diabate, had to pull out between rounds. Diabate appeared to damage his left leg in a first round in which Manuwa dominated, so the Brit moves to 2-0 in the UFC.
Manuwa's first opponent, Kyle Kingsbury, only lasted two rounds before withdrawing on his stool, and this time Diabate was clearly in distress over his leg after the opening five minutes. The undefeated Manuwa had controlled the centre of the Octagon, landed a succession of heavy shots and scored two takedowns prior to the klaxon, and looks a real threat at 205lbs.
In the opening fight of the main card, England's Che Mills saw his major weakness exploited as Matt Riddle claimed a split 29-28 28-29 30-27 decision that did not truly reflect the control he had over 15 minutes.
The American had promised a stand-up war but intelligently turned to his wrestling to put Mills on his back in each round, and even though the Brit landed one particularly spectacular roundhouse kick, he was well beaten despite one judge scoring to the contrary.
Also in the welterweight division, Gunnar Nelson's rise continued with a unanimous 29-28 29-28 30-27 decision win over Jorge Santiago, who drops to 1-6 in the UFC over three spells. Nelson - a world class grappler - had to prove he could mix it on the feet as Santiago proved a game opponent, and the Icelander landed some big shots deep into the bout to influence the judges.
Elsewhere, James Te Huna came through major adversity to beat Ryan Jimmo in the light-heavyweight division. Te Huna was floored by a head kick early in round one and ate a catalogue of nasty elbows, but battled on for a unanimous 29-27 29-28 29-28 decision victory.
Te Huna is no stranger to tough fights, breaking a hand and foot in his last outing, and he was in all sorts of trouble when Jimmo sent him crashing to the mat early. However, he has never been knocked out and used his wrestling to rain down ground-and-pound in the next two stanzas, with the only doubt being whether Jimmo deserved a 10-8 in the first.