The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday touched down in London with an event that featured plenty of action inside and outside the cage. Jorge Masvidal netted the most significant win of his career, as he knocked out Darren Till in the UFC Fight Night 147 headliner and later brawled with co-main event winner Leon Edwards backstage. Meanwhile, Dominick Reyes eked out a split decision over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir, likely putting himself just a win or two away from a fight opposite pound-for-pound king Jon Jones.
The Vanquished as usual focuses on the losers from the main card, giving an appraisal of their performances and a recommending where they should head next.
Darren Till vs. Ben Askren: Till headed into his main event scrap with Jorge Masvidal as the favorite and admitted during the pre-fight buildup that he anticipated a first-round knockout. While “The Gorilla” enjoyed some early success and won the first round on most scorecards, Round 2 saw him on the receiving end of a monstrous two-punch combination that separated him from consciousness. Undefeated at this time a year ago, Till has now been stopped twice in as many fights and will need to make significant adjustments to his game if he wants to make a second run at the title or remain in the Top 5 at 170 pounds. There are no shortage of welterweights calling him out, including Ben Askren, who flew to London ostensibly to rile up Till and his supporters at a Q&A with fans. Askren has been vocal about wanting to face the Till-Masvidal winner, but with “Gamebred” potentially facing a UFC-imposed suspension following his extracurricular scrap with Edwards and his only showing tepid interest in the former Bellator MMA champion, Till-Askren becomes the matchup to make.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Vicente Luque: Nelson started his UFC career with plenty of hype, rattling off five straight victories before Rick Story handed him his first professional defeat. Since then, “Gunni” has struggled to recapture momentum in the talent-stacked 170-pound weight class, winning four of six before running into Edwards in the UFC Fight Night 147 co-main event. Nelson had moments of success during the 15-minute fight and briefly hunted a finish in the final minute of the third round, only to leave with a loss in the scorecards. Having consistently fallen short against ranked opposition, Nelson may well be on his way to gatekeeper status. Whether or not that is the case, Luque would be a fun fight for the Icelandic grappler. The Brazilian is coming off of a “Fight of the Year” candidate opposite Bryan Barberena in February.
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Mauricio Rua: Another former title contender has fallen on some hard times, as the second half of Oezdemir’s UFC career has been the polar opposite of the first. “No Time” strung together three consecutive wins to earn a shot at then-champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 220, but he has gone winless in three appearances since, losing to Cormier, Anthony Smith and now Dominick Reyes. While the scorecards against Reyes were close and Oezdemir gave a decent account of himself in their light heavyweight showcase, the Swiss export nevertheless finds himself in dire need of a victory. A good first step back towards contention would be a fight with Rua, a former UFC champion Pride Fighting Championships grand prix winner that Oezdemir was originally schedule to fight last summer before withdrawing due to injury.
Jose Alberto Quinonez vs. Sean O’Malley: Quinonez never really looked like he was in the fight against Brad Pickett protégé Nathaniel Wood, succumbing to a rear-naked-choke midway through the second round after being largely on the defensive throughout Round 1. His four-fight winning streak derailed, “El Taco” will have to go back to the drawing board before making another assault on the top half of the 135-pound division. As for who comes next, a bout with O’Malley seems sensible. The two men had been booked to fight at UFC 229 before “Sugar” was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the United States Anti-Doping Agency. O’Malley’s suspension is due to end this month.
Danny Roberts vs. Emil Meek: Roberts’ encounter with Claudio Henrique da Silva delivered on all fronts but ended with controversy when referee Kevin Sataki called for the stoppage in the third round due to a verbal submission. The problem? Roberts had escaped the armbar to which he was supposed to have been submitting. Sataki’s decision drew condemnation from the crowd and UFC President Dana White. With the loss, Roberts’ UFC record dropped to 5-3, so “Hot Chocolate” has some serious work to do if he wants to become a factor at 170 pounds. A fight with Meek could be fun, provided the Norwegian brute can stay healthy.
John Phillips vs. Adam Yandiev: Phillips marched into the Octagon opposite Jack Marshman more than two years removed from his most recent professional victory, and though the scorecards were close, “The Welsh Wrecking Machine” walked away with a third consecutive loss. Having failed to earn a single win under the UFC flag, the 33-year-old may well be the recipient of a pink slip in the days ahead. If the UFC gives him one last chance, he should be matched up with Yandiev, a man who lost his promotional debut to Jordan Johnson in September.