Fight Island – British Assessment

Tom Aspinall
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 24: Tom Aspinall of England poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 24, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

We recently came to the end of the four-fight series on Fight Island. Kicking off with UFC 251, we saw four events in two weeks, with two-midweek cards. Two title fights, four great main events and a whole host of talking points made Fight Island a success.

There was a strong theme throughout each card, British fighters. We assessed the Brits taking part in the first two Fight Island cards, as well as those taking part in the final two.

Overall, British fighters went 7-12 on Fight Island, scoring four finishes and suffering five. We will assess where the Brits go from here, who had standout performances and who fell flat.

UFC 251

UFC 251 only saw two British fighters compete. We got to see Davey Grant put on a show in the curtain jerker. Scoring a 50k winning knockout in the third round, Grant smashed Martin Day‘s hopes of a win to pieces. Who is next for Grant? Hopefully, he won’t be handed to an up and comer for them to prove themselves against. A fight against the fellow veteran, Louis Smolka makes sense. Neither man is likely to crack the top 15 in the current climate and a bout between the two could provide that name that each other requires.

UFC 251 also saw Danny Henry return to action, unfortunately for him, with a submission loss. Makwan Amirkhani put on a slick performance and was able to choke Henry out cold with an anaconda in the first round. If Henry is to actually climb the ranks, he has to improve his ground game, having suffered back to back submission losses. A reasonable next fight would be to face Sean Woodson, who recently suffered his first loss via sub. Neither man would be interested in taking it to the floor, so we could expect an entertaining stand-up battle.

UFC Fight Island 1

UFC Fight Island 1 saw five British fighters going 2-3. Notable performances from both Jack Shore and Lerone Murphy set the benchmark high for fellow Brits. Shore finished his opponent with yet another submission, the eighth in his professional career. Murphy, after a draw in his debut, scored a first-round knockout of the highly-rated Ricardo Ramos. Shore is still early on in his career and needs an opponent who reflects this. Let’s not rush him into a bout with a fringe top 15 guy yet, give him time to build and wait for his talents to show.

Similarly, with Lerone Murphy, the UFC can’t throw him in with a world-class opponent just yet. His stand-up is slick and with a captivating personality and interesting back story, we need them to grow Lerone Murphy internationally. Julian Erosa is a name due to his TUF days and a match-up between the two could provide the outing that Murphy requires.

Below Par

Unfortunately, Chris Fishgold put on the most disappointing performance from a Brit on Fight Island on this card. Firstly, he missed weight by four pounds on the scales. Facing Jared Gordon, Fishgold should have performed better. Suffering a unanimous decision loss, the 30-26 X 3 cards tells you everything you need to know. Losing on the striking stats 241-27, suffering three takedowns and failing to ‘show up’, this could be the end of Chris Fishgold’s UFC career, for now.

Another man who failed to entertain was John Phillips. Unfortunately for Phillips, he just ran into a beast on Fight Island. We saw the debut of Khamzat Chimaev who is quickly becoming everyone’s new favourite fighter. 124-2 was the scores on strikes in favour of the Swedish fighter, leading to a TKO stoppage in the second. To be honest, there was little Phillips could do and it was impressive that he lasted so long.

Everyone’s favourite flyweight was back in action as Molly McCann took on 15-1, Talia Santos. Largely out classed wherever it went, McCann showed great heart and never gave up. Although it appeared a shutout on the cards (30-27 X 3), McCann fought to the last bell. She struggled with the range, striking and ground game of the Brazillian and wasn’t in the same class on the night. McCann will certainly come again, maybe against the likes of Sabina Mazo or JJ Aldrich.

UFC Fight Island 2

Headlined by a flyweight title bout, we saw Brit’s go 1-3 on the third Fight Island card, with only Welshman, Brett Johns getting his hand raised. Even then it wasn’t easy, Johns showed great adjustment throughout in order to edge Montell Jackson to a unanimous decision victory. Having only lost to two of the elite in the division, Johns could be a real player at 135lbs. Set up Johns vs Andre Ewell or Enrique Barzola next.

The three losses suffered by Brit’s were for Joe DuffyNad Narimani and Marc Diakese. Duffy suffered a guillotine loss to the skilled Joel Alvarez in the first round. Following the loss, he retired from professional MMA and we wish him the best in the future, a true ‘nice guy’ of the game.

Narimani came up against Grant Dawson which was always going to be an uphill battle. Dawson is solid wherever it goes and dominated his way to a unanimous decision victory. Narimani has had an up and down UFC career, going 2-2 since his debut. We hope that he will get another chance, possibly against a debutant or we could see him face Davey Grant in an all British affair next.

Diakese suffered a very disappointing loss. Possibly the worst thing to happen to him was scoring ‘that’ 30 second knockout of Teemu Packalén in London in 2017. Since then he was arguably believed in his power too much, constantly looking for the knockout, instead of point fighting his way to a victory. Although it does make it entertaining to watch, it is frustrating because the talent is clearly there. What was most frustrating about this defeat, however, is that he lost at his own game. His opponent, Rafael Fiziev kept the fight standing and stung ‘bonecrusher’ with heavy shots throughout. We will see Diakese out there again soon, hopefully in a bout where he will be able to showcase his obvious talents.

UFC Fight Island 3

The majority of this card had a British feeling to it. Seven British fighters took to the mat with a record of 3-4. The three wins came at the hands of Nathaniel WoodTom Aspinall and Paul Craig. Each of these three men impressed, especially Tom Aspinall.

Wood worked past John Castaneda and bounced back from his debut UFC loss to John Dodson. Wood can make real waves in the 135lbs division as he is strong everywhere. Quick in and out movement and beautiful footwork makes him dangerous on the feet and with three UFC submissions to his name, we know he’s more than capable on the ground. Next up, Wood needs a ‘name’ to announce himself to the US fans. Dodson proved to be too big a step up in competition so a fight with Ricky Simon or Eddie Wineland would make sense next.

Paul Craig did what Paul Craig does and tapped his opponent out with slick BJJ skills. At just 2.06 into the bout it was all over as a result of a triangle choke from the Scot. Undefeated in three, Bearjew should square off against Jimmy Crute next. Both men have good submission skills and are recognised names at 205lbs.

Tom Aspinall was, without doubt, the star of the Brits on Fight Island. With a 45 second knockout of Jake Collier, Aspinall announced himself to the UFC as a legit prospect at heavyweight. The UFC cannot rush Aspinall, who could be a real star for them in the future. Get him back out in September. Ben Sosoli comes to mind. Decent fighter but not quite on the level of Aspinall.

British losses

We saw Mike Grundy back in action on Fight Island 3. Having debuted in London last year, Grundy was set for his second octagon appearance against Mosvar Evloev. Despite impressing with takedowns early on, Evloev cruised to a unanimous decision victory after changing up his game and making it a kickboxing fight. Grundy will certainly be back, however, as there will be few who can handle his wrestling in the division.

We also got to see Jai Herbert make his UFC debut against the veteran Francisco Trinaldo. Herbert was likely on his way to a unanimous decision victory before he got caught with an overhand from the Brazillian… and we all know the controversy which came along with the stoppage. Herbert will certainly be back and proved that he can cause problems at 155lbs with his awkward striking style.

Rhys McKee was a late addition to the card and unfortunately, we got to see nothing of his game. He was taken down and dominated, not even landing a strike. A rough start for the former BAMMA lightweight champion. Hopefully, we’ll see him back against reasonable opposition next.

Darren Till was the final British fighter to walk out (in silence which was powerful) on Fight Island. Despite dropping a unanimous decision to former champion Robert Whittaker, Till’s stock certainly didn’t drop. A good performance where he really showed that he can be a contender at 185lbs, Till put the division on notice. Let’s see him face Derek Bruson next, who is riding a lot of momentum as of late.

Most Impressive

Without a doubt the standout performers were, Tom Aspinall, Lerone Murphy and Paul Craig.

Less Than Impressive

Those who massively unimpressed were Chris Fishgold and Nad Narimani. Fishgold, in particular, failed to show up, missed weight and performed very, very below expectations.

 

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