ABU DHABI // "Somebody's going to get knocked out, or somebody's going to get choked out" – that, at least, is what Roy "Big Country" Nelson had repeatedly forecast leading into the main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's return to Abu Dhabi after a four-year absence.
The implication in his heavyweight bout with Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira was that Nelson would do the knocking out and Nogueira the choking. Ultimately Nelson held true to his end of the bargain – and how.
Three times in the opening round he put Nogueria down, all with that monstrous right hand. But the final right was on another level, a huge roundhouse that caught his Brazilian opponent flush in the face and laid him out cold.
There was still about 90 seconds left in the first round.
Both men needed the win. Nelson had lost two in a row coming into this, some even suggesting that his UFC future may have been on the line. Nogueira, a legend but at 37 a fading one, was fighting for the first time in 10 months. He had never lost two fights in a row.
Nelson paid due respect to”‘Big Nog” after the fight. “Anytime you beat Big Nog, I mean he’s a legend. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be fighting MMA. My goal was to go for takedowns and go through five rounds but I got that shot in.”
That fight capped an encouraging return for UFC to the region. The sell-out crowd saw a clutch of entertaining fights, including the co-main event, where the popular Clay Guida beat Tatsuya Kawajiri in a unanimous decision.
Guida hit Kawajiri with a hard right early in the fight. Once he had the advantage, he gradually grappled his opponent down and was, as ever, a popular winner. Once he had won, he immediately called out Connor McGregor, the Irishman who has been among the promotion’s hottest fighters recently.
“There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for him, just a chest-hair sandwich,” Guida said to loud cheers.
The evening had begun as explosively as it finished and it set the tone for a raucous night.
Rani Yahya and Johnny Bedford were just 39 seconds in when Yahya got knocked down in a clash that left Bedford with a cut forehead.
At first it appeared to be a straightforward knockdown. But the referee ruled it a no contest, spotting an accidental head-clash as the reason Yahya fell. Bedford was incensed.
“I’m mad, this is ridiculous. He tried to take a shot and I knocked him down.” He demanded a rematch, which he will get, but on another day.
Jim Alers split decision win over the Iraqi-born Canadian Alan Omer came after a quality bout. The win increased his streak to nine and like Guida, he also immediately challenged McGregor to a fight.
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