This past Sunday the UFC returned to Glasgow almost two years to the date. The home fans had high expectations but Scottish fighters had a tough test ahead of them.
Last time around the Scottish fans were treated to a magical night. All hometown fighters won but last Sunday unfortunately didn’t bring the same emotional highs as 2015.
Start as you mean to go on
The night started off well, with Scottish newcomer Danny Henry making his UFC debut. Henry was fighting Daniel Teymur who gave up the height advantage in this fight but for the first round that was no problem for the Swede. Teymur made quite the impression early on with a dominating first round, stumbling Henry at points also. The second round brought greater success for Henry with the debut jitters out the way he went to work capitalising on a tired Teymur. As the fight went on Henry got more dominant, almost submitting Teymur but Teymur had heart and stayed in there till the end ultimately however losing a unanimous decision to Henry.
Fans may have thought this was a sign of things to come, Paul Craig, just needs to get his opponent down and JoJo just needs to keep it on the feet to secure victory, sounds easy when you say it but in reality, it was far from easy.
Paul Craig’s opponent Khalil Rountree came out looking relaxed with a stare that would make anyone uneasy, he was in enemy territory about to do battle and there was no sign of fear in his face or body language. Craig came out light of his feet, looking to use kicks to open Rountree up and get in quick to get hold of Rountree but Rountree stuffed the first takedown attempt. There is always a fear when it comes to striker vs grappler match ups, if the grappler doesn’t get that early takedown then they are in trouble, that seemed to be what happened here.
Paul didn’t land the early takedown and Rountree got more and more confident throughout the round, dropping his hands and showing disdain for Craig’s stand up skills. Rountree was in and out, always keeping Craig’s back against the cage, just looking for that finish and to the shock of the fans it came with only seconds left in the first round.
Rountree came in with a left high kick, right hook and left uppercut combo that dropped Craig. As soon as Craig hut the mat, Rountree just went to work with hammer fists, landing one clean on Craig’s chin that made his body go limp. With the referee jumping into to stop the fight the crowd were silenced, Glasgow had witnessed their first hometown defeat.
The crowd soon got back into the swing of things with the back and forth battle between Welsh standout star Jack Marshman and Canadian Ryan Janes. A fun back and forth battle was probably the best medicine for the packed SSE Hydro. Marshman won the unanimous decision victory and in turn made the Welsh two for two on the night with Brett John picking up another unanimous decision victory on the Fight Pass prelims.
Next up was one of, if not Scotland’s top prospects, Stevie ‘Braveheart’ Ray vs Paul Felder. Anticipation for this fight had been building for months, there was no bad blood or beef here for this fight, just pure old fashioned sportsmanship. Both fighters had shown interest in facing each other and even with Felder being slightly lower in the Rankings than Ray, the fight was made, no doubt on the heels of Felder’s impressive outings in the Octagon as of late.
This fight was tipped to be the fight of the night with both fighters building it up over the weeks, Felder a class act inside and out of the Octagon had probably picked the worst opponent to fight in Scotland. If it had been anyone other than a Scot he would most probably of had a roaring reception from the Glasgow crowd but by fighting one of the hometown favourites his reception was not hostile but more neutral, the fans respected Felder but were not about to cheer for him just yet.
The atmosphere from the opening bell was a sight to see and hear, with the entire Hydro bursting in song, fans in every part of the arena were, at the top of their lungs, singing ‘Flower of Scotland’
— Don Wilson (@Moldiver) July 16, 2017
I don’t know how this would come across to Stevie but it was loud and sure to make any opposing fighter nervous, Felder though took it all in his stride and continued with the job at hand. The opening round was a back and forth battle against the cage wall with each fighter landing their own significant strikes, Felder was utilising the short elbows he has become known for while Ray worked his dirty boxing.
Everything seemed to be going to plan, the fight was competitive and both fighters were active but just passed the mid-point in the first round Felder landed a great knee to the head from the clinch that sent Ray to the mat, Ray managed to recover if only for a short time. Felder followed Ray to the mat and went for the finish, Ray was trying to pull guard and lock Felder down but just as it was looking like Ray may make it out of danger, Felder landed an elbow to the temple of Ray that dazed him and left him open for another two that finished the fight. The referee jumped in and stopped it before Ray took anymore unneeded punishment.
Just like that, another Scottish fighter was downed, the crowed silenced momentarily before boos rained out around the arena. As the post-fight interview started, Felder explained that his dad had passed away the week before his training camp had started and that this fight was for him. With that explained the fans boos turned into cheers while Felder expressed his love for the Scottish fans and his respect for Stevie. When the UFC comeback to Glasgow, Felder would be the perfect fighter to have back on the card, just this time not against a Scottish fighter.
Part 2 in the coming day’s