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|Grit Britain: Tom Watson survived a few rough spots in a Wembley thriller Saturday.|
LONDON -- British Association of Mixed Martial Arts middleweight champion Tom Watson put on a career-best performance as he stopped Murilo Rua in the third round of the BAMMA 6 main event on Saturday at Wembley Arena.
Watson and Rua went to war in Round 1. Rua ate a brutal right hand that rocked him, but he stormed back into the fray. In the second, Watson stepped up his pace, as his chopping kicks to Ninja’s lead leg caused the Pride Fighting Championships veteran to hobble uncomfortably. It looked like it was only a matter of time before the Englishman’s attack caught up with him.
Round 3 followed the same script. A forlorn Ninja, urged on by younger brother and cornerman Mauricio Rua, went for one last takedown attempt. It failed, and his time was up. A crushing kick knocked the Brazilian’s head back and left him staggering. Referee Marc Goddard intervened but not before a couple more punches hit their intended target.
“My coaches told me not to get into a brawl with him,” Watson said. “Ninja’s always dangerous. The first time I caught him, I wasn’t sure if he was gone. It was tempting, but I bided my time. I knew I’d catch up with him in a five-round fight, so I waited for the opportunity. Then, when he was completely gone, I jumped on him.”
In the co-main event, UFC veteran Frank Trigg took down John Phillips in their first engagement -- a wise move when fighting someone nicknamed the “White Mike Tyson.” He went on to land some hellish elbows, one of which opened a cut above the eye and convinced the doctor to call a stop.
Trigg, who has won back-to-back bouts since being released by the UFC in 2010, insisted he was aiming to take out the Welshman on the feet.
“The plan was to take him into the later rounds,” Trigg said. “He’s got great power, but I have very straight, clean punches. We’d noticed a few holes appear the longer he goes, so I would have been able to take advantage of that.”
Phillips was disappointed but understood the doctor’s decision.
“I thought I could have gone on,” he said. “When the ref came over, I thought he was just standing us up. I’m not going to complain, though. The doctor did his job. I’m not going to complain.”
Boos and slow hand claps accompanied the middleweight contest between Ivan Salaverry and Matt Ewin, as the Brit took center cage and Salaverry circled for much of the match.
Ring rust may have been to blame for the lack of action, as the pair of 40-somethings failed to land much of anything of note. A first-round overhand right, a takedown against the fence, Salaverry’s bloodied nose and a slightly more aggressive approach were likely the factors that swayed the judges to render a unanimous decision in Ewin’s favor.
Salaverry, who came out of retirement for the bout, had not fought since submitting to a Rousimar Palhares armbar at UFC 84 three years ago.