Issue 204

May 2024

There are not many fighters who can win a fight from the brink of defeat, but Paul Craig is certainly one of them. The Scotsman has made a career off the back of upsets. Isaac Barnett takes a look back at five fights that have made “Bearjew’s” rollercoaster UFC career.

Henrique da Silva, UFC Fight Night: VanZant vs. Waterson, December 18, 2016

“Bearjew” entered the UFC with a perfect 8-0 record, seven submission victories, one by technical knockout, all finishes. His octagon debut saw him face off against Brazil’s Henrique da Silva.

Silva was known for his striking, as opposed to his ground game, but Craig was full of that undefeated confidence, out-landing Silva on the feet in round one.

He went on to pull guard in round two and attached himself to Silva’s arm forcing a tap to an armbar. Craig earned the first of his many ‘Performance Of The Night’ bonuses for his debut finish.

Magomed Ankalaev, UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov, March 17, 2018

After his Performance Of The Night debut, Craig went on a two-fight skid losing to Tyson Pedro, and Khalil Rountree Jr. both by KO.

Craig was on the last fight of his UFC contract at the time, and after he got matched up against the undefeated Magomed Ankalaev, he felt his time in the promotion was at an end.

He told the UFC: “They put me up against this up-and-coming young Russian who was being tipped as the next Khabib.

“I remember just walking out and my song that I picked, there was a line in it, and it was about leaving your dreams in the gutter, and I remember just hearing it and I could have cried.”

“It felt like going to the gallows, this is me, I’m done in the UFC. I got in the octagon, and it was all or nothing, I took a beating for 15 minutes.”

“My ribs were shot, he’d broken my ribs, I had a hole in my chin, he hit me with a shot and split my chin in my beard.”

“I remember hearing the banging for the last ten seconds, and thinking it's all or nothing, isn’t it? So, I just threw up a triangle and it resulted in one of the best submissions of my life.”

Craig’s Hail Mary submission earned him yet another Performance Of The Night bonus, and another contract to keep his dreams of being in the promotion alive.

Mauricio Rua, UFC Fight Night: Blachowicz vs. Jacare, November 16, 2019

Craig’s form was a bit hit-and-miss following the Ankalaev upset, going 2-2 in his next four before facing the legendary Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in their epic first fight.

Craig took himself into enemy territory, facing the Brazilian in Sao Paulo, where the local fans are well known for being hostile, but was extremely confident that he could take out the aging Rua.

The bout was extremely close, with Craig landing a lot of kicks, and a late flurry of punches in the first round which put “Shogun” in serious trouble.

The next two rounds resulted in Rua controlling Craig on the ground, earning a total control time of 8:19 across the whole bout, and earning him the second round comfortably.

By the end of the third, Craig finished on top and was convinced he had won the fight. Bruce Buffer’s announcement of a split draw saw the arena filled with boo’s and both fighters were extremely disappointed.

In his post-fight interview, Craig said: “I wish I had done better, a draw is not good enough, I was coming here to retire him, sorry guys.”

Jamahal Hill, UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori 2, June 12, 2021 

Going into his bout with Jamahal “Sweet Dreams” Hill, Craig found his rhythm, following two finishes including a rematch victory over Rua, breaking into the light heavyweight rankings in the process.

"Sweet Dreams" was 8-0, and outspoken, and Hill and Craig had a touch of animosity towards each other during fight week.

Craig believed Hill was emotional going into the fight, and during the ceremonial weigh-ins, the two exchanged provoking words and had to be separated by UFC staff.

The fight, however, was as one-sided as it could have been. In the early moments of the fight, Craig pulled guard and latched onto Hill. He then proceeded to break Hill’s arm, and the referee failed to stop the fight instantly resulting in Craig landing elbows and strikes on Hill while his broken limb flopped around helplessly.

Craig earned yet another Performance Of The Night bonus, taking his total to six and handed the future light heavyweight champion his first career loss.

Andre Muniz, UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs. Tybura, July 22, 2023

At 205 tbs, after suffering back-to-back losses to Volkan Oezdemir and Johnny Walker, “Bearjew” decided it was time to change weight classes, and drop down to 185 lbs.

The Walker fight made him realise that he was at a disadvantage fighting at 205 against huge opponents when he knew he could fight at 185.

Speaking to TNT Sports he said: “After the fight against Johnny Walker, I have never cut a lot of weight as a light heavyweight, and it became massively apparent that I had to cut a little bit of weight.”

“Because I stood across the octagon from Johnny and he was massive, he wasn’t the same guy who weighed in yesterday.”

In his middleweight debut, he faced Andre Muniz, a fellow grappler and Craig felt it was a good opportunity to get back in the win column even though he was a +190 underdog.

The two men had plenty of exchanges both on the feet and the mat in the bout, but Craig displayed his excellent positioning ability in the second round.

He found himself in full mount in the last minute of round two, unleashing a barrage of elbows which forced the referee to step in and end the contest.