Tag: UFC Recaps

UFC 219: 10 Things We Learned Last Night

UFC 219: 10 Things We Learned Last Night

1. And Still

Cris Cyborg retained her featherweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Holly Holm to close out UFC 219. One official scored the fight 49-46 for the Brazilian champion while the two remaining judges – Dave Hagen and Chris Lee – had the fight 48-47, giving Holm the opening two rounds, meaning the former bantamweight queen could have pulled upset with a more effective performance in the final stanza.

This was Cyborg’s most impressive performance to date. As much as some of the times she’s mauled opponents in no time flat has been fun, it was really interesting and captivating to see her pushed for the first time in forever, forced to deal with an opponent who was able to return fire and take the punishment the Brazilian standout was dishing out. Holm fought a very good fight and likely would have gotten the better of most other competitors on Saturday night in Las Vegas, but unfortunately for her, she was in the cage with an unbeatable superstar who took her best shots and responded with even better offense en route to securing her position as the top female fighter, both now and in the history of the sport.

2. Time to give Cyborg a serious push

I know she just headlined a pay-per-view and has been the main event of a couple televised events, but it’s time for the UFC to really see what they have in Cyborg in terms of her drawing power and star power and give her the kind of promotional push that the dominant, tenured champion deserves.

Give her a pay-per-view main event in Brazil and watch how nuts the crowd goes for her. Give her a chance to connect with fans outside of the MMA bubble and see how well the ferocious fighter who also happens to be a genuine, caring, engaging personality outside of the cage can do when provided with a platform to connect with an new audience.

There are always going to be the legion of troglodytes that spew sad, hateful comments at her, but you can’t hold her back because some people are morons. Cyborg is one of the most dominant fighters in the history of the sport and she should be promoted and marketed as such in 2018.

3. Nurmagomedov is next level

I’m not sure there is anyone that can beat Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The undefeated lightweight returned to the Octagon for the first time in 13 months and trounced Edson Barboza, eating hard leg kicks like nothing as he pressed forward into the clinch, where he was able to dragging the Brazilian to the canvas and open up a can of whoop ass. For almost the entire fight, Nurmagomedov pressed forward, putting Barboza on the canvas and roughing him up. While he didn’t get the finish, the result was never in doubt and the performance affirmed that “The Eagle” is the top contender in the deep and talented lightweight division.

In fact, he very well could be the best fighter in the weight class, superior to titleholders Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson. The only reason we don’t know that for sure yet is because Nurmagomedov has yet to face either one inside the Octagon, but that should change in 2018. Unbeaten in 25 fights, the only thing that has been able to slow Nurmagomedov has been injuries and weight cutting issues, but with the latter seemingly dealt with, it’s seems like the only thing that could stop him from challenging for gold is another injury.

Send up your offerings to the MMA gods now because we’ve been waiting too long to see Nurmagomedov fight for the lightweight title and the opportunity is once again upon us.

4. Hooker finding a home at lightweight

Dan Hooker returned to lightweight for his debut appearance in 2017 and collected a second-round knockout win over Ross Pearson. Saturday night, the New Zealander made it two fights and two finishes (over two Brits) by choking out Marc Diakiese.

Expected to be a back-and-forth striking battle, the first two rounds didn’t feature as much action as everyone anticipated, leading the crowd to rain down boos and social media to shift its attention elsewhere as the fight chugged along. Diakiese came out hot to start the third, pressing forward behind quick, sharp hands and it seemed like business was about to pick up, but just when he started landing, Diakiese opted to dive in on a sloppy takedown and Hooker made him pay, locking in a tight ninja choke that immediately made “The Bonecrusher” tap.

This may be the first time that Hooker has won back-to-back fights in the Octagon, but it seems obvious that the 27-year-old is finding a home at lightweight. He has good size for the division, a bunch of experience and is sneaky-technical, making him an interesting “under the radar” talent to track as we move into the new year.

5. Former champ Esparza halts Calvillo’s climb

Inaugural strawweight champion Carla Esparza bounced back from being dominated in the opening frame to grind out a trio of 29-28 scores to bring an end to Cynthia Calvillo’s perfect start to her career.

After getting taken down early in the first and being controlled there for the majority of the frame, Esparza went on the wrestling offensive herself in the second, mixing in timely takedown attempts with solid striking to keep Calvillo off balance. While she couldn’t keep the Team Alpha Male representative on the canvas for long once she got her there, the former champion did an excellent job of keeping Calvillo guessing and landing the cleaner, heavier shots over the final two rounds to earn the victory.

The victory sets up some interesting options in the division as 2018 draws near as Esparza owns a victory over current champ Rose Namajunas and re-asserted herself as one of the top talents in the 115-pound weight class with this performance.

6. Magny Shines against “The Natural Born Killer”

Neil Magny wanted to get the sour taste from his loss to Rafael dos Anjos out of his mouth before 2017 came to close, so he badgered UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby for another fight. He never expected to be offered a bout with Carlos Condit, but he jumped at the chance to challenge himself against the former interim champion and Saturday night in Las Vegas, he made the most of his opportunity, earning a unanimous decision win to kick off the pay-per-view main card.

The Denver, Colorado-based welterweight fought a smart, tactical fight, catching kicks and completing takedowns, never giving Condit a chance to find his rhythm. He closed the distance and lived in the clinch, and while the offense he offered was never anything too punishing, Magny was able to stay active and grind out a very good victory over one of the most accomplished fighters in welterweight history.

While some might want to put qualifiers on Condit’s performance, noting his lengthy layoff prior to this fight, it would be a disservice to Magny to do so. He fought an excellent fight, sticking to the game plan and playing to his strengths to collect the biggest win of his career.

7. Introducing Michal Oleksiejczuk

If you’re looking for a promising light heavyweight prospect to track in 2018 and beyond, look no further than Michal Oleksiejczuk.

Originally tabbed to make his debut at UFC 217, the 22-year-old was pulled from the card at the 11th hour when his opponent got flagged for a USADA violation, but he jumped at the chance to replace Gohkan Saki opposite Khalil Rountree Jr. here and made the most of it, weathering an early first-round storm to win a unanimous decision over the former TUF finalist.

A training partner of Polish standouts Jan Blachowicz and Marcin Tybura (among others), the UFC neophyte had already logged 14 professional appearances prior to his promotional debut and pushed his overall winning streak to double digits with his victory on Saturday. While there is nothing threatening looking about “Lord Michal,” he’s a patient, technical striker who did a great job mixing in shots to the body and a bunch of kicks to put it on the flagging Rountree over the final 12 minutes of action.

In a weight class where aging veterans dominate the Top 10 and opportunities abound, Oleksiejczuk is one of the few young upstarts competing in the 205-pound rounds who have the potential to climb the ladder and potentially become a factor in the division over the next couple years.

8. Jury back in contention

Following a 16-month hiatus, Myles Jury returned to action in April, dominating Mike de la Torre. Saturday night, the former lightweight prospect showed that he’s all the way back and a contender once again with a solid, professional performance against Rick Glenn.

There were no major highlights moments in the 15-minute affair. Instead, Jury simply offered three rounds of clean, polished offense in all facets to pick up his second win of the year and add his name to the growing list of fighters to watch in the featherweight division.

Having dropped two straight before his time away, it’s easy to forget that Jury was once an unbeaten rising star int he lightweight division; a two-time TUF contestant whose first loss came to Donald Cerrone in a fight where many thought the Michigan native would establish himself as a contender by getting a victory over “Cowboy.” He’s hit the reset button now and returned to training with the elite crew at Alliance MMA in San Diego, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 29-year-old keep rolling and emerge as a serious contender in 2018.

9. Welcome back, Matheus Nicolau

After winning his UFC debut with a Japanese necktie and beating former title challenger John Moraga by split decision in his sophomore Octagon appearance, Matheus Nicolau returned to action for the first time in 18 months and turned in a dominant effort against stupid-tough Hawaiian Louis Smolka.

The 24-year-old Brazilian was on the sidelines after being flagged for a USADA violation which he pinned on a tainted supplement, but the time away didn’t appear to hinder his performance in his comeback fight as he turned in a blistering first round, knocking down Smolka on multiple occasions before controlling the action over the final 10 minutes to earn a clean sweep of the scorecards.

Now 3-0 in the UFC and 13-1-1 overall, Nicolau’s lopsided decision win over the durable Hawaiian should send him into 2018 in prime position to take part in some big fights at flyweight next year. While his suspension forced him out of the rankings, this performance coupled with his previous victory over Moraga should earn the talented returning fighter a place in the Top 10 and with a couple more quality wins, he could find himself challenging for the flyweight title.

10. Bittersweet Victory

Tim Elliott collected an impressive second-round submission win to kick off Saturday’s fight card, connecting on a deep anaconda choke just over a minute into the second round that forced newcomer Mark De La Rosa to tap, but it was a bittersweet moment for the Lee’s Summit, Missouri native.

Earlier this month, Elliott’s coach Robert Follis took his own life and the former flyweight title challenger dedicated this performance to his departed coach. As soon as De La Rosa tapped, Elliott walked over and sat down in a neutral corner, the emotions starting to wash over him. Following the official decision, Joe Rogan handed him the microphone and all the 31-year-old had a simple message: “Robert Follis, I love you.”

The loss of his coach came on the heals of Elliott opting not to compete two week’s ago in Winnipeg after his short-notice opponent Pietro Menga was unable to make the contracted weight. Elliott passed on a catchweight contest and lobbied to get booked again quickly, which he did, but then returned to Las Vegas to the tragic news about his coach.

On Saturday night, Elliott delivered one of the most impressive and dominant performance of his career, turning the page on a terrible month.

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos 10 Things We Learned Last Night

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos 10 Things We Learned Last Night

RDA Deserves Next

Rafael dos Anjos deserves the next welterweight title shot.

Saturday night, the former lightweight kingpin marched into the Octagon and put it on former champ Robbie Lawler for 25 minutes, distancing himself from the vaunted veteran with each successive five-minute round until the final results read 50-45 across the board. It was a third straight victory over a Top 10 opponent (at the time of their fight) for dos Anjos in his new weight class and the kind of drubbing that should land him opposite Tyron Woodley the next time “The Chosen One” defends his title.

While Colby Covington has been talking a blue streak and put up a couple quality wins (and five straight overall) to enter the conversation, dos Anjos’ pressure style is tailor-made to draw an exciting performance out of the champion and there is a difference between grinding out a win over Demian Maia and laying the wood to Robbie Lawler.

Performance, results and reputations need to carry more weight than trash talk and social media campaigns and by those measures, RDA is the clear choice to be the next challenger for the welterweight title.

Upheaval at Featherweight Continues

Josh Emmett made an emphatic contribution to the changing complexion of the featherweight division this weekend, planting a beautiful check left hook on the chin of Ricardo Lamas as the two were exchanging punches in the pocket that left “The Bully” rigid on the canvas as the Team Alpha Male staple celebrated.

In the last couple weeks, long-time champion Jose Aldo was handed a second consecutive loss at the hands of Max Holloway and perennial contender Cub Swanson was choked out by Brian Ortega, shifting the focus at the top of the 145-pound weight class from the established names to the new talent climbing the ladder.

Emmett’s performance on Saturday adds to that as the once-beaten 31-year-old is less than two years into his UFC career and now finds himself in the thick of the title chase. While he still has more work to do before fighting for the belt, Emmett should get the opportunity to face another established contender next time out.

Quality Performance from Santiago Ponzinibbio

There have been a number of fighters who had excellent campaigns inside the Octagon in 2017 and Santiago Ponzinibbio is one of them. The American Top Team product collected his third win of the year with a hard-earned 29-28 sweep of the scorecards against Mike Perry in “The People’s Main Event” in Winnipeg.

Now riding a six-fight winning streak, it has been a slow burn for the former Ultimate Fighter: Brazil contestant who began his UFC career with a loss to Ryan LaFlare and was 2-2 after his first four outings. He hasn’t lost since and has continued to show improvements each time out, displaying more grit and toughness than we’d seen in the past in this back-and-forth battle with Perry.

He’s a man on the rise in the always competitive and freakishly deep welterweight division and someone we should been talking about far more heading into this one and definitely cannot leave out of conversations about the top contenders in the future.

Very few people manage to string together six straight wins and even fewer do it in a shark-infested division like welterweight, so it’s time to start giving “The Ponz” his due and treating him like the contender he is going forward.

Pump the Breaks on Mike Perry Hype

Perry turned in a good effort against Ponzinibbio on Saturday night in “The Peg,” but ultimately, “Platinum” came out on the wrong side of the scorecards and it should bring the hype of the middle-of-the-pack welterweight to an end.

I get that he has a weird magnetism and talks all kinds of junk, but he’s now been in the cage with two quality opponents (sorry Jake Ellenberger) and come away with losses both times. He’s fun to watch and capable of blistering anyone in the division, but he’s also largely unproven, so how about we hold off an treating him like a contender before he’s actually cracked the Top 15?

Far more people were talking about Perry heading into this fight than Ponzinibbio even though the latter was coming off a 90-second knockout win over Gunnar Nelson and sporting a five-fight winning streak.

If you’re wondering why the UFC struggles to create stars and quality fighters fail to connect with the larger audience, that’s why – we spend too much time hyping guys who don’t necessarily deserve it because they’re flamboyant personalities and overlook proven, polished, more deserving talent in the process.

Still Sharp, Still a Contender

Glover Teixeira’s matchup with Misha Cirkunov could have been a passing of the torch situation – a fight where the veteran contender gave way to the younger, more athletic upstart – and early on, that’s how it looked like things were going to play out.

Cirkunov started quick and looked to be finding a rhythm on the feet when a small mistake gave Teixeira a chance to clinch up and quickly bring the fight to the floor. From there, the Brazilian veteran went to work, attacking submissions before transitioning to back mount and unleashing a torrent of strikes that brought the contest to a halt.

This was a savvy veteran effort from Teixeira, who proved he’s still very much one of the elite contenders in the light heavyweight division. Though the might not be in line for the title shot he chatted wit Daniel Cormier about at cageside following the finish, the 38-year-old proved that he’s far from finished and still a tremendously tough out near the top of the 205-pound weight class.

Great Performance, Good Dude

Julian Marquez made an instant impression Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series this summer, icing former prospect Phil Hawes with a head kick. Saturday night, he made his debut in the Octagon and after playing some Rock’em Sock’em Robots with Darren Stewart early, the affable Las Vegas-based fighter finished things in the second with a slick guillotine choke.

Afterwards, “The Cuban Missile Crisis” had some fun on the microphone, challenging Tyron Woodley to a “Best Beard in the UFC” contest, lobbying to fight alongside his teammates James Krause and Zak Cummings in St. Louis and giving a shout out to his mom after saying he’s open to fighting the winner of the upcoming middleweight title bout between Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold.

While it wasn’t quite a star-making performance, it was a great start for the likable middleweight who delivered a wildly entertaining performance in the cage before showing you don’t have to talk trash and be an asshole to get noticed in this sport.

No Substitute for Experience

A sharp right hand dropped Chad Laprise early in his bout with Galore Bofando, but as soon as the Chatham-Kent, Ontario native got back to his feet, he showed why experience is so crucial inside the cage.

A foot sweep brought the fight to the ground, with Laprise landing in side control. A minute of ground-and-pound and control gave him the space to move to mount and from there, “The Disciple” was able to pound out a third-straight stoppage win.

Bofando is fun to watch when he’s upright and offering flashy, powerful strikes, but he was completely out of his element once Laprise initiated the clinch and brought the fight to the floor. The Canadian veteran talked about his edge in the other facets of the game before the bout and wisely played to his strengths after getting stung out of the gate.

As we talk about all the time, there are levels to this stuff and Laprise showed that again on Saturday.

Good Lord!

When a guy partially blocks a headkick and still needs to grab a handful of cage to keep himself upright, you know there was some serious force on the strike.

That’s what happened in the welterweight clash between Nordine Taleb and Danny Roberts, with the former causing the latter to snatch up two hands of cage after catching a kick early in the first. Unfortunately for Roberts, the follow-up right hand down the pipe was something fierce and landed flush, bringing the fight to a sudden halt.

Roberts complained about the stoppage after he was done trying to takedown referee Jerin Valel, but this was a clean finish and impressive performance for the long-time Tristar Gym representative Taleb.

Nasty Knee

Things were moving at a snail’s pace in the middleweight scrap between Alessio Di Chirico and Oluwale Bamgbose more than a minute into the second round. The first five minutes featured little action and the action resumed in the middle stanza, it seemed like it would be more of the same as Bamgbose continued to hang out on the outside, hesitant to engage.

As soon as Di Chirico was able to get his hands on his opponent, however, the Italian brought the crowd to their feet and sent Bamgbose collapsing to the canvas face-first, a well-placed knee knocking him out cold.

There have been a number of impressive finishes off nasty knees this year in the Octagon and this one is right up there.

Big Victory for Jordan Mein

Five years ago, Jordan Mein seemed destined to be a Top 10 fixture in the welterweight division. He was young, aggressive and seasoned, having started his career at age 16 and worked his way to the UFC by facing tough regional vets before a three-fight stint in Strikeforce, where his only setback came by split decision to current UFC titleholder Tyron Woodley.

But injuries and apathy sent Mein into an early retirement a couple years back and the results hadn’t been great since he returned last year at UFC 206. He looked like a hesitant, faded version of his former self.

Saturday night, Mein got back in the win column by getting back to what got him to the big leagues in the first place, coming out aggressively against Erick Silva before taking what the Brazilian gave him en route to a unanimous decision victory. It was the 30th win of Mein’s career, his first since August 2014 and his most complete performance in years.

After a bunch of ups, downs and even a brief departure from the sport, perhaps this is the start of a second chapter for the 28-year-old Canadian.