Tom Watson (left) dominated Murilo "Ninja" Rua. | Photo: David Lethaby/Sherdog.com
LONDON -- British Association of Mixed Martial Arts middleweight champion Tom Watson put on a career-best performance, as he stopped Murilo “Ninja” Rua in the third round of the BAMMA 6 main event on Saturday at Wembley Arena.
Watson and Rua went to war in round one. Rua ate a brutal right hand that rocked him, but he stormed back into the fray. In the second, Watson stepped up his pace, as his chopping kicks to Ninja’s lead leg caused the Pride Fighting Championships veteran to hobble uncomfortably. It looked like it was only a matter of time before the Englishman’s attack caught up with him.
Round three followed the same script. A forlorn Ninja, urged on by younger brother and cornerman Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, went for one last takedown attempt. It failed, and his time was up. A crushing kick knocked the Brazilian’s head back and left him staggering. Referee Marc Goddard intervened but not before a couple more punches hit their intended target.
“My coaches told me not to get into a brawl with him,” Watson said. “Ninja’s always dangerous. The first time I caught him, I wasn’t sure if he was gone. It was tempting, but I bided my time. I knew I’d catch up with him in a five-round fight, so I waited for the opportunity. Then, when he was completely gone, I jumped on him.”
In the co-main event, UFC veteran Frank Trigg took down John Phillips in their first engagement -- a wise move when fighting someone nicknamed the “White Mike Tyson.” He went on to land some hellish elbows, one of which opened a cut above the eye and convinced the doctor to call a stop.
Trigg, who has won back-to-back bouts since being released by the UFC in 2010, insisted he was aiming to take out the Welshman on the feet.
“The plan was to take him into the later rounds,” Trigg said. “He’s got great power, but I have very straight, clean punches. We’d noticed a few holes appear the longer he goes, so I would have been able to take advantage of that.”
Phillips was disappointed but understood the doctor’s decision.
“I thought I could’ve gone on,” he said. “When the ref came over, I thought he was just standing us up. I’m not going to complain, though. The doctor did his job. I’m not going to complain.”
Boos and slow hand claps accompanied the middleweight contest between Ivan Salaverry and Matt Ewin, as the Brit took center cage and Salaverry circled for much of the match.
Ring rust may have been to blame for the lack of action, as the pair of 40-somethings failed to land much of anything of note. A first-round overhand right, a takedown against the fence, Salaverry’s bloodied nose and a slightly more aggressive approach were likely the factors that swayed the judges to render a unanimous decision in Ewin’s favor.
Salaverry, who came out of retirement for the bout, had not fought since submitting to a Rousimar Palhares armbar at UFC 84 three years ago.
Thai boxers Joao Paulo "Tuba" de Souza and Valentino Petrescu never considered a takedown, as they traded leather and shin for three rounds. Petrescu’s kicks appeared to have more snap, while De Souza’s punches were crisp and came in bunches. The judges favored the kicks, as Petrescu was awarded a majority decision.
Nova Uniao’s Leonardo Santos’ Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills are off the charts, so when the seven-time world champion caught Jason Ball in a tight rear-naked choke, it looked all over. Miraculously, the Yorkshire product kept his nose in the fight and managed to escape on the horn signaling the end of the second round. Santos’ aggression on the floor, even though it was stoutly resisted by Ball, was the story of the fight and resulted in a unanimous decision for the Brazilian.
Another jiu-jitsu ace, Marcio Cesar, struggled to take Che Mills to the ground, eventually pulling guard and falling to his back. The former Cage Rage welterweight champion took advantage, blitzing the Brazilian with accurate shots from the top until the referee stepped in.
Scott Jansen was simply too hot for Craig Chesters, putting on a muay Thai clinic in the first round before dropping his man decisively early in the second. He finished it on the ground.
Catalin Zmarandescu met Sharif Mohammed Ali’s charge, dumped him and scored a submission with a front choke.
Unbeaten Southend southpaw Shane Omer made it a perfect seven for seven as a professional with a devastating technical knockout win over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 alum Aaron Wilkinson. A huge left hand from “The Omen” found its target, and it was lights out for the Wolfslair representative.
For the second BAMMA running, Lee Cohoon’s rabid fans lifted the atmosphere. The travelling Mancs stuck with their man, even though he spent the majority of the 15 minutes on his back eating punches from Sam Watling, who took a unanimous decision.
The judges controversially scored the Jeremy Petley vs. Costas Doru fight as a draw. Doru owned round one but appeared to be outworked in two and three. Post-fight, Doru got on the microphone to let the fans know he thought his Canadian opponent deserved the win.
Lumpini Southampton’s Lee Taylor dropped Kenny Moyston with a right hand and kept the pressure on to ground-and-pound his way to a stoppage win.
Ryan White had Fraser Opie smacking the canvas hard. The ZT Fightskool product took down the renowned striker and then applied a guillotine choke for the finish.
In the opener, Essex product Murrey Fullerton submitted Charles Scott with an armbar.