Whilst July served as the best month of the year on the weather front, it largely proved to be a bitter month for our ‘Brits Abroad’.
#2 ranked UK MMA Lightweight Ross Pearson (19-12) made two trips stateside in July, falling short in both outings. Pearson, who was originally set to meet James Krause at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on July 8th, wound up welcoming former Bellator Lightweight Champion Will Brooks to the UFC, after Krause withdrew due to an injury.
Brooks came into the contest with a ton of hype and momentum, however it did not appear to faze Pearson in the slightest, as he remained competitive throughout. In the end, it was Brooks that would be awarded with the unanimous decision win, as all three judges scored the first two rounds in the American’s favour, with Pearson claiming the final stanza.
Just five-days removed from the loss; Pearson agreed to replace Siyar Bahadurzada, stepping in to take on Jorge Masvidal at UFC 201. The bout, a mere three-weeks removed from his battle with Brooks, would be Pearson’s debut in the welterweight division.
Unfortunately, the contest would follow in a similar pattern to the Brooks encounter, with Pearson losing the opening two rounds, only to forge a late comeback in the final round. The second round was particularly torrid for Pearson, suffering a left-hook induced knockdown from Masvidal.
The fights took Pearson’s fight tally for the calendar year to four, with six outings in the last twelve months. Despite going 2-4 during that stretch, it is highly unlikely that the Ultimate Fighter winner will receive his walking papers, given his fan friendly style and willingness to step-up on short notice.
There would be more gloom for #6 ranked bantamweight Ed Arthur (7-2) and #7 ranked lightweight Mike Wilkinson (9-3), who made the unenviable trip to Sochi, Russia for Absolute Championship Berkut 41: The Path to Triumph. The event, held on July 15th, had a similar flavour to ACB’s previous events, featuring a plethora of Russian MMA talent taking on international opposition.
Wilkinson was the first to make the walk, taking on the the relative unknown Soso Nizharadze (3-2) – the first bout since Wilkinson’s release from the UFC back in April. Despite owning a significant advantage in experience, Wilkinson would stumble, losing to Nizharadze via unanimous decision.
All three rounds unraveled in a similar fashion, as Nizharadze often countered Wilkinson’s strikes with powerful double-leg takedowns. Wilkinson never appeared to be in significant danger when grounded though, as the stocky Nizharadze primarily looked to control from top position.
With the loss, Wilkinson falls to 1-3 in his past four outings, whilst the win earns Nizharadze the first win streak of his young career.
Former BAMMA Bantamweight champion Ed Arthur competed in the evening’s co-main event, taking on Petr Yan (6-1) of Russia. The two fought at a torrid pace throughout the fifteen-minute encounter, but wherever the fight went, Yan was able to display his dominance.
Yan busted up Arthur in the striking exchanges, he outmuscled and outmanoeuvred him in the clinch, and he was also dominant on the mat too, relentlessly attacking Arthur with ground and pound whenever the opportunity arose. Despite the loss, Arthur turned in a gutsy performance, gamely pushing forward until the final bell. The judges awarded Yan with the unanimous decision victory and the bout was awarded the ‘Fight of the Night’ honours by the ACB brass.
Edinburgh’s Daniel Henry (8-2) brought home the lone win this month and successfully got back on track after losing his EFC Featherweight title this past March. Henry, a protégé of James Doolan, stopped Barend Nienaber (5-3) in the second round of their contest, courtesy of a brutal liver-kick.
The win puts Henry in pole position for a rematch with the unbeaten Igeu Kabesa (7-0), whom took his title back at EFC 47 in March.
Team Titan’s Luis Gonzalez (6-3) also made a trip overseas in July, as he trekked over to Tokyo, Japan to feature on Shooto: Professional Shooto 7/17. Gonzalez, who is currently the #10 ranked flyweight in the UK, made the drop to 115lbs after an eight-fight stint as a flyweight on the UK circuit.
Gonzalez would also fall short in his travels, losing via unanimous decision to Japan’s Yosuke Saruta (13-7-2). With the verdict, Gonzalez falls into the first losing streak of his career, whilst “Tobizaru” Saruta extends his current win streak to three.
Finally, English atomweight Simona Soukupova (5-4-1) was also in action last month, as she travelled to Kansas City, Missouri to compete in her first Invicta FC bout in over three years. Soukupova, who fought the likes of Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Felice Herrig as a strawweight, would also wind up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision verdict, falling short against Tessa Simpson (5-1).
This scrambley Verne Troyer look-alike spends his days down in South London working in the cloud. At night you can usually find this critter on the mats, doing his best to emulate Masakazu Imanari.