(Interim UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao | Photo via MMA Weekly)
By Elias Cepeda
Interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao withstood some dangerous moments and an overall stiff challenge from Michael McDonald in the main event of the UFC on FUEL 7 card in England yesterday to retain his belt with a fourth round arm-triangle submission win. After three rounds of close action, that saw McDonald land some hard shots to the dome of the champion, Barao was able to drag the challenger to the mat, take his back and then quickly transition to a cross-side knee-on-belly position with a locked arm-triangle and force the tap.
Throughout the fight, Barao looked confident on his feet but clearly wanted to take McDonald to the ground where he’d be safe from the American’s nasty counter-punches and where he assumed he’d have a clearer advantage. McDonald survived being taken down early in the first round and stuffed many more takedown attempts up until the end.
Ultimately, the champion’s conditioning enabled him to continue to doggedly pursue McDonald and keep him on the mat. Barao earned an $50,000 with his Submission of The Night and urged injured regular bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz to come back as soon as possible, in his post-fight remarks. The win represented Barao’s 20th-straight victory, in a stunning streak that dates back to April 2008.
Even if Cruz takes a while longer to heal and return, Barao should have his share of exciting fights ahead of him in the near future. For one, there’s McDonald again if the youngster can get another win or two notched. As Alex Giardini wrote in yesterday’s live blog of the event, it is easy to imagine this fight as the beginning of an compelling rivalry between Barao and McDonald.
Tom Watson and Stanislav Nedkov’s torrid back-and-forth middleweight battle earned both men Fight of The Night honors and $50,000 each extra in bonuses. In the first round, Nedkov looked to have Watson hurt from uppercuts and nearly finished but ‘Kong’ managed to survive into the second. It wasn’t long until Watson had turned the tide, damaged Nedkov and dropped him with a knee in the second. Some ground strikes later and the referee was forced to step in and stop the action.
Watson earned an additional $50,000 for Knock Out of The Night honors as well.
Jimi Manuwa earned a stoppage win over Cyrille Diabate after Diabate could not answer the horn to start the second round due to a leg injury. Welterweight grappling phenom Gunnar Nelson got a unanimous decision win over Jorge Santiago and Matt Riddle showed Britain who’s boss by beating Che Mills via split decision.
Cub Swanson continued his impressive rise back to title contention with a unanimous decision win over the tough and talented Dustin Poirier and James Te Huna got a unanimous decision nod from the judges over Ryan Jimmo.
UFC on Fuel 7 Prelim Results:
Renee Forte def. Terry Etim via unanimous decision
Danny Castillo def. Paul Sass via UD
Andy Ogle def. Josh Grispi via UD
Tom Watson def. Stanislav Nedkov via TKO, 4:42 of round 2
Vaughn Lee def. Motonobu Tezuka via UD
Phil Harris def. Ulysses Gomez via UD