THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne – now in it’s 10th year!
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British MMA was back on the agenda this past Wednesday night as Ultimate Challenge presented their latest show, Never Back Down, on Sky Sports, hosted by Dave O’Donnell and Jason Barrett, with Rob Nutley and Pierre Guillet handling commentary duties.
The show began with welterweight action, as Dyson Roberts faced Jamaine Facey. This was certainly an explosive encounter. Both guys went at it full tilt from the opening bell, both swinging for the trees, and when the fight went to the ground it was just as frantic. The second round was just as good, and after Roberts scored with another take down, Facey quickly reversed, took his man’s back, and synched in a rear naked choke for the submission win. An explosive and highly enjoyable way to start the show.
It was down to the lightweight division for the next fight, with Djo Lema taking on Scott Jansen. The second fight in a row to be contested at a frantic pace saw both fighters trading blows early on. Lema almost got the submission with an arm bar, which Jansen managed to escape from. Moments later Jansen went for a standing guillotine. Then, he made his mistake, pulling guard. Lema’s head popped out, and seconds later he finally got the arm bar submission he was looking for, ending another great fight.
Then it was on to UK1 kickboxing action, with Luke Sines taking on Mark Epstein in the middleweight division. Interesting to note the change in rules here as the fighters are now allowed to wear MMA-style gloves, instead of the traditional boxing gloves. This was probably the best UK1 fight I’ve seen so far. Epstein did a good job of defending Sines’ kicks early on, but early in the third round Sines connected with a kick to Epstein’s ribs that sent the Beast down. From there it was all Sines, and Epstein looked like a beaten man as Sines earned the unanimous decision.
It was back to MMA action for the next fight, as Reza Meldavian challenged Jimi Manuwa for the Light Heavyweight title. Meldavian did a lot of showboating at the beginning of this one, but a Manuwa left hook to the side of his face put him on his backside and put paid to all of that. From there the fight belonged to the Poster Boy, and a left hook/right uppercut combination sent Meldavian down again, with the referee stepping in when Manuwa went for the ground and pound, keeping Manuwa’s unbeaten record intact with another highly impressive performance.
The main event saw Stav Economu challenge Neil Grove for the Heavyweight title. If ever an MMA fight reminded me of King Kong versus Godzilla then it’s this one. Early in the first Economu knocked Grove down and went for the rear naked choke, and he probably would have got the win had he managed to get the hooks in. From there the two big men unloaded with the heavy artillery, neither unable to put the other away. The fatigue began to show on both fighters as the fight progressed, and it really could have gone either way, but with the fight going the distance the judges were called on to render a decision. One went in favour of Economu, one went in favour of Grove, while the third couldn’t separate them, meaning that the official decision was a split draw, with Grove retaining his title. An exhausting and entertaining fight, but surely these two will be matched up together again.
In conclusion – it’s another strong outing for Dave O’Donnell and his crew. Their latest television offering delivered in spades, with the main event brawl the best spectacle of the night. So this definitely gets the thumbs up as another example of British MMA at it’s best.