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Lyoto Machida makes middleweight statment in Manchester

Sports Mole sits cageside as the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Manchester for Lyoto Machida's middleweight debut.

As the UFC returned to Manchester all guns blazing last night they needed to present a potent reminder of their mission statment as the world's premier fight franchise, a message karate kid Lyoto Machida clearly took to heart.

Machida was pitted against friend and former training partner Mark Munoz in the main event of a topsy-turvy UFC Fight Night 30, looking to press home his claim for instant title contention in the middleweight division.

The 'Dragon' patiently waited for an opening in the first round and ruthlessly pounced to strike Munoz, planting a precise left head kick on his temple to send the 'Flipino Wrecking Machine' sprawling to the canvas.

Munoz was unable to recover as the Brazilian delivered a truly spectacular closing salvo, with the former light heavyweight champion improving to 20-4 as he strengthened claims for a future scrap with countrymen Vitor Belfort.

On the domestic front it was a mixed night for British battlers, with Ross Pearson in particular the victim of misfortune.

Pearson looked ready to rumble with Melvin Guillard in the co-main event, but was stopped in his tracks early in the first round by a knee to the head, which was swiftly followed by another that the referee ruled an accidental foul.

A gaping cut soon opened up on the Sunderland native's head, which the doctor decided he could not continue with. Pearson later had 32 stitiches to close the wound in his forehead, with the UFC's European supremo Garry Cook revealing that a rematch has already been booked for March 8 in London.

Croydon knockout artist Jimi Manuwa fared rather better as he clocked up a 14th successive stoppage victory, albeit benefiting from an injury to opponent Ryan Jimmo.

The Canadian appeared to suffer knee ligament damage as he struggled to stay standing after a knee to the head, leaving the referee with no choice but to raise the 'Poster Boy's' hand in victory.

Manuwa has made a perfect start to life in the UFC, adding three successive victories to a flawless 14-fight professional career which only began aged 28.

British fans had plenty to cheer across a six-hour mixed martial arts marathon, which included former The Ultimate Fighter contestants Luke Barnatt and Norman Parke both proving their credentials with wins.

Barnatt received an extra £50,000 fight-of-the-night bonus for his efforts, choking Andrew Craig into second-round submission after setting up the opportunity with a pair of knockdowns.

Parke's success came in less-eye catching but equally important fashion, picking apart Jon Tuck on the feet to score a unanimous decision victory.

History was made on the undercard earlier in the evening, as Cambridge graduate Rosi Sexton fought Jessica Andrade in Europa's first professional MMA fight between females.

Sexton's night was a painful one though, taking a sustained and savage beating from a Braziliian contender who has the potential to cause concern for any contender in the womens' division.

Elsewhere there was a debut win for Swedish newcomer Nicholas Musoke, who submitted Italian veteran Alessio Sakara with a swift armbar after an opening exchange which saw both men throw caution to the wind.

John Lineker also shone in the night's opening main-card bout, scoring a third straight knockout success by stopping Portsmouth scrapper Phil Harris with a rib-splitting body shot.

As the UFC spent much of this week unravelling plans for aggressive European expansion their fighters showed why the product has become a runaway success in other parts of the planet, with the case very much 'watch this space' for 2014 in the UK.

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