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Renan Barao can work wonders with the smallest windows of opportunity.
Barao submitted Michael McDonald with a fourth-round arm-triangle choke and retained his interim Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight crown in the UFC on Fuel TV 7 headliner on Saturday at Wembley Arena in London. McDonald (15-2, 4-1 UFC) conceded defeat 3:57 into round four, his career-best eight-fight winning streak snapped inside a champion’s clutches.
A victor in 20 consecutive bouts, Barao (30-1, 5-0 UFC) caught the choke on the transition, tightened his grip with confidence and waited for the tapout. It was a thing of beauty.
McDonald did his best work in the first round, where he rattled the Brazilian with a series of short right hands in the clinch. Barao dropped to his knees but quickly recovered and slowly took command of the fight with his diverse offensive game. He bloodied McDonald’s nose with a picture-perfect spinning back kick in the third round and opened a cut above his left eye in the fourth. Barao then dragged his 22-year-old challenger to the canvas, transitioned to the choke and finished it.
“I feel great,” Barao said. “There was a lot of hard work. I left my family four months ago, and I’ve been training very, very hard.”
Resurgent Swanson Outpoints Poirier
In the co-main event, resurgent Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Cub Swanson took another significant step towards title contention at 145 pounds, as he bested the highly regarded Dustin Poirier by unanimous decision. Swanson (19-5, 4-1 UFC) swept the scorecards by 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 marks, posting his fourth consecutive victory.
Speed was the most glaring difference between the two featherweight contenders. Swanson wobbled the American Top Team representative with an uppercut in the first round and invested heavily in punches and kicks to the body.
Perhaps sensing the bout was slipping away from him, Poirier (13-3, 5-2 UFC) buzzed the Californian with a stout combination early in round three. Swanson answered with a takedown and later scored with a beautiful head-and-arm throw in the center of the cage. He countered Poirier’s response on the ground as well, rolling into full mount in a slick transition. Poirier spent much of the last minute of the bout in defensive mode, with Swanson attached to his back.
Diabate Suffers Fight-Ending Leg Injury, Manuwa Moves to 13-0
A leg injury sustained by Cyrille Diabate resulted in a technical knockout victory for unbeaten former Ultimate Challenge MMA champion Jimi Manuwa in a featured clash at 205 pounds. Diabate (19-9-1, 4-3 UFC) was deemed unfit to continue in between rounds one and two.
It was fun while it lasted. Manuwa (13-0, 2-0 UFC) went after the Frenchman with power punches and sporadic kicks, and even mixed in a pair of takedowns. Diabate answered with a series of savage knee strikes to the body from the clinch. Unfortunately, the injury brought about an anti-climactic conclusion to what had been one of the most anticipated bouts on the card.
Welterweight Prospect Nelson Stays Undefeated
Icelandic prospect Gunnar Nelson remained undefeated and passed the most significant test of his career, as he captured a unanimous verdict over former Sengoku champion Jorge Santiago in a welterweight showcase. All three judges sided with Nelson (11-0-1, 2-0 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Santiago enjoyed some success with knees from the clinch and occasional right hands, but Nelson kept him off-balance with his awkward karate-based standup style. The 24-year-old Renzo Gracie protégé turned the tide in his favor with a dominant second round, as he struck for a takedown and scored with standing-to-ground punches and elbows before ultimately mounting his fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Nelson did a number on Santiago (25-11, 1-5 UFC) with uppercuts in round three, but the Blackzilians representative refused to stand down. Though weary, he lashed out with lefts and rights, the last one of which caught Nelson clean on the chin in the closing seconds. Santiago’s efforts, however, went for naught, as he lost for the fifth time in six career appearances inside the Octagon.
Te Huna Authors Stirring Comeback, Halts Jimmo’s Streak
Australia-based kiwi James Te Huna roared back from a harrowing first round to defeat Ryan Jimmo in a featured battle at 205 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Te Huna (16-5, 5-1 UFC): 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28. The defeat snapped Jimmo’s 17-fight winning streak.
Te Huna needed every ounce of his pride and resolve to secure his 10th victory in 11 bouts. Jimmo (17-2, 1-1 UFC) drilled him with a perfectly timed head kick inside the first minute and pounced with punches and elbows, opening a gash below his foe’s left brow. Te Huna somehow weathered the assault, maintained his composure as his blood spilled onto the ground and inched the fight towards a second round.
From there, Te Huna got his second wind. The heavy-handed 31-year-old struck for takedowns in each of the final two rounds and mauled a fading Jimmo with ground-and-pound from top position. A former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder, Jimmo had not lost since his professional debut in February 2007.
Riddle Overwhelms Mills, Notches Split Verdict
A steady diet of takedowns, ground-and-pound and superior topside grappling drove “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 alum Matt Riddle to a split decision over Che Mills in a welterweight showcase. Two of the three cageside judges scored it for Riddle (8-3, 8-3 UFC) by 29-28 and 30-27 counts; a third cast an inexplicable 29-28 nod for Mills (15-6, 2-2 UFC).
Riddle imposed his will on the former Cage Rage champion, delivering takedowns in all three rounds. He did his best work in round two, where he kept Mills pinned to the mat, moved to mount, transitioned briefly to his back and fished for a rear-naked choke. Outside of a few uneventful standup exchanges, Mills was essentially a non-factor in the bout.
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