The UFC's 2017 return to London was a generic European card. A lack of big names didn't prevent the tickets from selling out in moments, and the promised main event never actually appeared, leaving the solid but far from dazzling Anderson vs. Manuwa tilt as the headliner. It wasn't great, it wasn't awful, but it did feel like just another event with a lack of name power. The most interesting showing of the night was Joe Duffy who last fought in July 2016. Duffy boxed the face of Reza Madadi into a blood caked mess over three rounds and showed why his hands are often considered some of the smoothest in MMA.
Actually that boxing was only done in the second and third rounds, after Madadi secured a takedown in the first round then attempted to drag Duffy off the fence and wound up on the bottom.
Duffy slowly worked to strike from top position and near the end of the round opened a cut above Madadi's brow with an elbow. Of course, the worst places to get cut are above the eyes because the blood will run down into the eyes of the fighter. As Duffy began his excellent work with the jab in round two, Madadi's own bodily fluids were already blinding him to half of Duffy's blows. Duffy's timing and anticipation carried him through the fight as Madadi over-reacted to the things he did see, and had his head snapped back by the things that he didn't. Here Duffy begins methodically moving in with a double jab, Madadi rapidly back tracks well in excess of what is needed, and so Duffy gives up, waits for Madadi to come back to him and steps in with a beautiful one-two.
Madadi has had success in the past by ducking in and hammering his man's body. In his last bout, against Yan Cabral, Madadi was able to use these body shots to set up a level change uppercut which scored him a TKO victory.
However his successes against Duffy were fleeting.
Soon Duffy began to make use of Madadi's slips and level changes. Whether that be by simply following him to his new position with the jab, or trying to time the step up lead knee strike to the head. A constant feature of this bout, Duffy would use the knee to step into a one-two—if Madadi got hammered by the knee, great, but if he stood upright he would be in position for the following punches.
This became even more effective when mixed with body work, a method which naturally brings the opponent's head down.
It seemed like the only times Madadi got to attack were the occasions when Duffy wanted him to move forward. There was a fair bit of that MacDonald vs Woodley style of fighting along the fence—allowing the man to attack off the fence and punishing him as or after he did. Here Duffy looks for that classy fake side step to returning jab but Madadi isn't there for it. Duffy then shows him the jab numerous times to get the reaction he wants and knees Madadi in the head when it comes.
There were a couple of moments where Duffy got himself clipped. Notably off the right hand lead to right side step which he had been showing throughout. Many fighters use this with a weave or a slight level change as they side step, though with good anticipation it is fine to simply side step while upright. Here Madadi lands a good left hook as Duffy recovers his guard from the side step.
Duffy took a controlling decision victory and looked great doing it. It is easy to forget that Duffy is now 4-1 in the UFC, with the sole loss being a close decision loss to Dustin Poirier. While he is no longer the 'last man to beat McGregor', Duffy's record is great and that angle will always appeal to some. Furthermore as the Irish fanbase has become so important to mixed martial arts, he will always appeal to that demographic. It seems like the UFC could be doing a better job of marketing him, but Duffy has been in contract negotiations with them for a while and has been talking about testing free agency.
The co-main event tilt between Alan Jouban and Gunnar Nelson was enjoyable. Nelson made the interesting decision of playing the pressure fighter, despite always having a low output. He ate a good few kicks to the legs and body from his long stance, but in the first was able to get Jouban to the fence when he needed to and control from the top on the ground. In the second round Jouban attempted to step up the pace, took a short right hand to the chin and found himself on wobbly legs. Nelson, knowing what he does well, opted to go for the guillotine and successfully finished the fight.
Marc Diakese came out like a wild man against Teemu Packalen with jumping two-touch back kicks and spins. Packalen realized what everyone does against a dangerous and aggressive kicker, he needed to be moving forward. As Packalen marched forward hesitated on a lead hook, Diakese switched onto the counter and decked Packalen with a lovely overhand.
Finally in the main event Jimi Manuwa delivered a walk off knockout against Corey Anderson. Anderson used constant movement to try to hide his level changes with strikes and vice versa, but he never seemed comfortable stepping in and so whether he was striking or shooting he was doing so through a couple of yards of distance and Manuwa had all the time in the world to retreat and respond.
On another attempt at a level change uppercut, Anderson ate a jab which stunned him. Manuwa moved in and caught Anderson circling along the fence with a feinted jab to left hook behind the guard which put him out.
Overall UFC Fight Night: Anderson vs Manuwa was an average night of fights to send us into lengthy break until UFC 210.