UFC Fight Night London: Werdum vs Volkov

The UFC rolled into the London on 17th March, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the promotions visits to England. Amid initial vocal displeasure from fans due to the name quality of fights announced, and a lack of polarizing fights for divisions on the whole, media members and analysts were more optimistic. To add to the fans upset, and understandably so, the card was left without a main event for a long time despite efforts from SBG Ireland headcoach John Kavanagh almost seemingly orchestrating a heroic salvation when he seemed to have bartered an agreement on social media between fellow Mjolnir/SBG Ireland fighter Gunnar Nelson and Liverpool’s Darren Till, but for various reasons this didnt materialise. Instead, London Fabricio Werdum was brought into the fray late on, much like his move at UFC 216 to fight the rising heavyweight in Alexander Volkov.

Another topic of discussion for UFC London was UK MMA standout: Micheal Bisping. Having recently vocalised his thoughts on his career coming to an end and talking about a retirement bout “having to be in the UK”, many fans wanted to see The Count headline this card. Names like Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort and Rashad Evans being touted as potential opponents. Whilst we didnt see Bisping grace the Octagon, we did see him announce the UFC Gym venture onto the British Isles, promising 100 gyms to open over the next 10 years, showcasing and training MMA to all comers and levels. Personally i think the best take on this was from Andrew McGahon of The Mac Life who rightly argues that its unlikely that many well established UK MMA coaches will leave their own gyms in favour of a move into one of the UFC Gyms and this leaves the promotion at risk of not only harming their product with a venture not hitting the intended mark, and a potential to dilute the product. But worse still, promoting and teaching a poor standard of martial arts to other people.

Of course, the fight cancellation merry-go-round had another turn in London with the usual round of cancelled bouts occuring during the weigh-ins. The most notable being Brad Scott vs Jack Marshman. Both men were dropping to 170lbs from 185lbs to face off – Jack Marshman unfortunately struggling with his weight cut and the UFC pulling him from his bout, Brad Scott on the other hand did weigh in successfully for the bout, and whilst UFC did not find him another opponent, he also quickly learnt he was not going to be paid. This has now been partially cleared up with Scott being paid a portion of his purse, but this does show a glaring hole in the contract negotiations with the UFC for bouts. Personally i would like to see the UFC make this a standard practice in order to protect fighters should this type of thing happen. We also saw the Haqparast vs Narimani fight, which was moved to UFC Liverpool due to an eye injury to Haqparast.

Onto fight night and the card itself, which in reality, was a very good one. UK fighters stood up on their home soil and turned in some wonderful performances, stand outs in Danny Henry, Hot Chocolate Roberts, Jimi Manuwa and the buzzer beaters of the night, Paul Craig and Leon Edwards. The atmosphere inside the 02 Arena was at its usual level of raucous, plenty of people turned out and watched a good majority of the fights with Manuwa vs Blachowicz getting a well deserved reception and Werdum getting a great pop during his walkout. A point made by Sean Sheehan of Severe MMA I think is a prevalent one; though the UK fans always turn up, and the UK fighters certainly hold up their side of the bargain, complaints about the lack of big names is not going to change if this attitude continues. Numbers are what drives the new WME/IMG machine that is the UFC and if they are able to provide cards of this calibre (again, on paper) and the UK fans will still come out in droves to watch live, then they will do that. This is a business at the end of the day.

As a final note before I dive into the recaps of the fights themselves, I wanted to give a special mention to Dan Hardy, whom in my opinion is the best, if not one of the best analysts that the UFC has on their roster at the moment, alongside the likes of Dominick Cruz (who I also think is fantastic), Hardy just has such a raw and unadulterated passion for this sport, and that shows in abundance when he combines excellently well with his hours of pre-show work, and depth of technical, practical knowledge from his own past and current martial arts career. An absolute fundamental piece of the future success of the UFC broadcast product.

The Main Event – Werdum vs Volkov:

The main event saw Fabricio Werdum, a veteran and ex champion in the Heavyweight division take on the new face in the UFC in Alexander Volkov, whilst being a new face in the UFC, Volkov certainly is not a new face to MMA, having racked up a record of 30-6 in his career.

The fight in practice was a little strange, Fabricio came out in the first round and looked to shoot early for takedowns, which he completed, and stayed in the guard of Volkov for much of the first round without taking or dishing out much damage to the Russian. The second round was similar, i noticed that Volkov seemed to be a little perplexed, and maybe this was the occasion and seeing a man that he had grown up watching standing infront of him conquered him early in those two rounds. Werdum however, got the takedowns again and threatened with a moment of brilliance, he tried twice to hit a deep half guard back take, and succeeded with the third attempt, using supreme technique to take the back, but then he seemed to rush to the kimura grip and armbar attempt that Volkov was wise too, and he came on top. This was the beginning of the end.

Round three came, Volkov upped the striking and Werdum looked to have gassed. He had taken the fight on relatively short notice and i think sensed late in the second that the deep half back take to armbar was his chance to win, and post that almost submitted to the fact Volkov was going to take over. Volkov clearly took the third with lots of clean striking, and then wrapped it up in the fourth with a TKO due to culmination and volume of strikes.

All in all, i think this was a passing of the guard to the newer, fresher faces at HW. Volkov isnt a huge hitter, but at 6ft 7, with ability to use dynamic and combination based striking, he can wear plenty of strikers down by using that and working in his own massive range. Takedown defence can be worked on, but he looked good in his ground game defence, to stave off any Werdum attacks.

HW looks to be on the re-build, with named like Ngannou, Tai Tuivasa, Curtis Blaydes, Volkov and the idea of Lesnar coming back. I can see Volkov, now ranked #3 getting one more before going onto the winner of Stipe/DC, maybe on a PPV card later in the year. But dont be surprised if they make that fight to capitalise on the momentum early.

Jimi Manuwa vs Jan Blachowicz:

War. That is the only way that i can describe this one. Hark back to Manuwa vs Blachowicz 1 in Poland, on the co-main event of Gonzaga vs Cro-Cop was a UD win for Manuwa and not the most exciting fight to watch. We went to the polar opposite in this fight. Round 1 began and after a brief feeling out process they started to land, and land well. Blachowicz utilised his jab so well throughout the whole fight, and it was the jab that setup the combination that stunned and dropped Jimi in the first. Jimi battled his way through it, showing the London crowd his heart and toughness, coming back into the round and landing his own strikes.

As always with Manuwa he is looking for his motto shot of “One shot, One kill” and he very nearly landed it with a big headkick in the second. Jan took his turn to show his toughness and ride it out, getting back on the bike and using his jab to setup either his takedowns or his favoured combination of the 1,2 followed by an uppercut, right hook.

Round 3 I came round and Jan was decisive in his sticking to the gameplan, continuing the good work that he had put in during the previous two rounds and landed a few more takedowns for good measure. The tale of the fight really was Jan utilising his jab, volume striking, shutting down Jimi looking for the single shot counter. A better gameplan and better fight IQ on the night secured the win for Jan and i would be more than happy to see the rubber match. Jan has called out Shogun Rua, who is now matched with Volkov so maybe do those fights around the same time, and you can match Jimi with the Volkan rematch and Shogun with Jan should the results fall kindly.

Tom Duquesnoy vs Terrion Ware:

This was certainly a fan favourite before the match up, and it didnt let anyone down. Both guys wanted to exchange in the pocket, and show off their dynamic striking abilities. We saw vintage Duquesnoy in the first round, starting off with really heavy leg kicks, that to his credit, Terrion wore very well. Lots of movement and dynamic striking saw Tom Duqeusnoy saw him take R1 convincingly.

R2 we saw some improvements in Tom’s takedown defence, stuffing some shots from Ware and when he was taken down, working quickly back to his feet. Though the old demons of old came to haunt Duquesnoy when we saw him start to slow down, and Terrion Ware start to come into the fight more and more as R2 and into R3 who made it a close R2, landing plenty of his own strikes.

R3 for me was Terrion Wares round, he showed his grit and determination after taking alot of strikes in the two earlier rounds, he came into his own in the final 5 minutes. Tom looked considerably more tired than in R1 and R2 and was moving more defensively than to setup heavier strikes. Overall, I think the right call was made by giving it to Duquesnoy 29-28, but i think the UFC put him in there to maybe put Terrion away and to get a highlight to add to his reel, but that wasnt the case. He is very young, and working in Albuquerque at Team JacksonWink will do him wonders, but he needs to start kicking on now, and rounding out the holes in his game.

For Ware, i dont think this should be the end, hes had three tough fights and should be given another chance in my mind.

Leon Edwards vs Peter Sobotta:

The madness of last second bell stoppages continued in this fight, with Rocky Leon Edwards getting the TKO over a tough and seasoned BJJ veteran Peter Sobotta.

The start of the first round saw both fighters feeling each other out, before Leon landed a big left hand and dropped Sobotta, maybe a little hastily Edwards rushed in to finish the feet and ran into an armbar attempt from Sobotta but nothing was doing and Edwards escaped, staying in guard for the majority of the round.

From then on I think Rocky wanted to prove that he could hang on the ground with someone who is so well known for their ground game, taking Peter to the ground and working from full to half guard landing dominant ground and pound.

The final round saw Peter cut with an elbow over his left eye, Leon moved Peter to turtle position and started to land a furious plethora of strikes, Sobotta who had begun to wilt under the earlier pressure of the round, and the cut obviously affecting him, stopped to defend intelligently in the eyes of the referee who stopped the bout at another buzzer beater of 4:59 in R3.

Leon then jumps on the mic and delivers a perfect one line callout of Darren Till, expressing that it should be England vs England, Birmingham vs Liverpool at UFC Liverpool, to which Till just smiled and shook his head. If that fight doesnt go ahead, i want to see Rocky get someone in the top 15, his time is now.

John Phillips vs Charles Byrd

This fight was over by the time that it had started really. Phillips wanted to land heavy hands from the offset, and Byrd stepped in landing a power double leg takedown, forcing Phillips to the fence. From there he progressed to move through Phillips’ guard landing some heavy ground and pound at points before locking up the rear naked choke to get the tap.

I am pleased to see Phillips make his UFC debut and there is no doubt that he will add more levels to his game under John Kavanagh at SBG, and be back much stronger. For Byrd, that was a very good game plan executed to perfection, and he moves on to bigger things.

Danny Roberts vs Oliver Enkamp:

Roberts vs Enkamp continued the electrifying pace that had been set by the earlier prelims. Roberts coming into this fight coming off his second loss in the UFC at the hands of Nordine Taleb. Enkamp however had been vocal about wanting to fill out his frame, adding lean muscle this camp and focussing on his strength and conditioning to add to his Karate black belt. This is probably a good strategy given his short notice call-up in Stockholm saw him drop a UD loss, also to Nordine Taleb.

Unfortunately it looked to be similar here for Enkamp, whilst he started pressuring with his flashy style of front and back leg kicks. Roberts seemed to dwarf him in body style, Roberts counter striking also looked very good, some excellent slips and counter boxing set up the monster left hand that crippled Enkamp in the first.

Danny Roberts, fresh from his fight and taking little to no damage, should be high on the UFC’s list to get on the UFC Liverpool card upcoming in May.

For Enkamp, I think he is on the right track with adding size to his frame, maybe he can take some real time out and do just that, or change his style a little to branch out his fundamentals which will allow him to land his flashy, highlight reel kicks.

Danny Henry vs Hakeem Dawodu:

Another Scottish talent walked to the cage in Danny Henry, after having a grueling, though successful debut against Daniel Teymur, brother of 155lbs prospect David. His opponent, Hakeem Dawodu, another debutant on this card walked to the octagon with a lot of hype on his shoulders, a 7 fight veteran in WSOF and having recently moved to SBG Dublin and a name high on many peoples prospect lists looked to follow in Henry’s footsteps and earn himself a successful debut win.

It was not to be for Dawodu though, as Henry caught him very early with a bomb of a right hand, dropping him hard. Henry then dived onto his opponent, with clinical killer instinct, and begun to wrap a guillotine. Dawodu valiantly attempted to escape, rolling three times whilst Henry tightened and cranked it with every revolution. Eventually Henry finished the choke half standing, with Dawodu falling unconscious. A great performance by Henry, who with his massive frame for the weight class, is certainly one to watch.

Paul Craig vs Magomed Ankalaev:

This fight was the spark that lit the flame for the rest of the undercard for me. Paul Craig came into this fight wanting to prove that his last outing was not the ceiling of his performances in the UFC, and following the debuts of Russian talent, Magomed Ankalaev rolled into this bout with considerable hype behind him, notably being touted and awarded in Russia by The Last Emperor himself, Fedor Emelianenko

The tale of the fight was a very dominant performance from Ankalaev, backing up the hype he came to the fight with – seemingly cruising to a 30-27 win over the tough Scot who had been dropped in R1 and then taken down in the two following rounds. Craig found himself pushed up against the fence when the 10 second clapper sounded, throwing caution to the wind Craig throws up a triangle, and squeezes with everything he has, getting the tap from Ankalaev with SIX TENTHS OF A SECOND TO GO. Incredible scenes as Paul Craig breaks the record for the latest finish in a 3 round fight in the UFC.

A true showing of never say die attitude, and that in MMA, you are never safe from any of the elements. What makes it even crazier for me, is that after the fight we find out that it was Paul Craigs last fight on his contract, to which he has been awareded with another one. Ankalaev will learn from this, being his first loss and i still expect big things from him in the UFC.

Stevie Ray vs Kajan Johnson:

Stevie Ray, a staple of UK MMA shows and ex Cage Warriors champion was back in the UFC on a short notice step up after a controversial period of failed contract negotiations, a change of management and then an eventual re-signing to the promotion on a 4-fight deal. His opponent Kajan Johnson, who was first chalked to fight Rustam Khabilov (backed out due to injury) has also been in the headlines due to his Project Spearhead work.

The fight was a very enjoyable one, and a difficult fight to score and judge. A good showing of MMA from both fighters, lots of pressure from Ray, met by a countering style of Johnson.

Lots of people have taken umbrage with the post fight speech by Johnson who was upset with the London crowd for taking the SD win, he mentioned that all fighters were warriors and should be respected as such and i agree. Whether this is a subtle ploy to the unionisation efforts he is involved with or not, i think that any two fighters that step into a cage for our entertainment and produce a good fight should be respected, regardless of the outcome.

Mark Godbeer vs Dmitry Sosnocskiy:

The opening bout of the night was between Godbeer and Russian debutant Dmitry Sosnocskiy. Mark Godbeer started well, having success in round one and defended the takedown attempts well, his opponent looking severely tired as the bell rang.

The second round though was a different story, Sosnocskiy caught his second wind, got the fight to the ground and got the finish at 4:29 via rear naked choke.

Feel free to comment, or send me any thoughts to either @The5thRoundMMA or @HarryPowellMMA over on Twitter.

UFC 219: Cyborg vs Holm Review

Last night the MMA community came together to watch the final sunset go down on 2017’s UFC schedule, at it’s new resident home the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.

On paper, the card was set up for a good night of fights, with the co-main event harking back to the roots of the UFC, a pure striker vs grappler matchup – featuring the return of one of the best grapplers to step into the octagon “The Eagle” Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza, one of the most dangerous strikers in all of MMA. The main event, a contest for the women’s Featherweight championship on the line, and amongst fans the unofficial title of the female G.O.A.T between one of the pioneers of womens MMA, undefeated in over a decade Cris Cyborg vs “The Preachers Daughter” Holly Holm who was looking to become the first woman to hold UFC titles in two weight classes.

The MMA God’s struck in the unwavering, unrelenting and omnipotent fashion we, as fans have become all too accustomed to in the form of the destructive “Hands of Stone” John Lineker being pulled from his fight with the fast-rising Team Tiger Schulmann product Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera due to a tooth infection, causing him to have emergency surgery. As a result, the card was left to roll on with ten fights, which is unusually light for a PPV card.

In reality, due to the amount of decisions on the card, there was some evident restlessness during some fights, but on the whole I think the card delivered, the co-main and the main event soon wiped any distaste from the audiences memory with two classics on display. Tim Elliot, Vettori vs Akhmedov, Calvillo vs Esparza and Hookers finish all high points. The theme that shone out for me in this card was heart and courage, in the face of sometimes overwhelming adversity and domination. Notably in aforementioned Barboza, Holm, Esparza, Vettori and Akhmedov.

Pay-Per View:

  • Cris Cyborg (Chute Boxe) vs Holly Holm (Jackson-Wink MMA)This was the David vs Goliath matchup. A monolith of women’s MMA, is Cris Cyborg. A wrecking machine in her early career, blazing past anyone that dared stand in her wake in Invicta FC, then makes her long awaited debut in the UFC against the very game Leslie Smith, instantly making her stamp on why she deserved to be with the elite MMA organisation all along, winning via R1 TKO. Following up that win with two more over the willing Swede Lina Lansberg, and the gritty veteran wrestler Tonya Evinger, both coming via TKO and the latter crowing her as the UFC’s featherweight champion, continuing her decade long undefeated run.Across the Octagon stood Holly Holm “The Preachers Daughter” best known for her world title accolades in female boxing, kickboxing and the famous head kick over the biggest female combat superstar ever, Ronda Rousey. After the loss to Meisha Tate, in which she went out emphatically to a dying second rear naked choke in the fifth round, she stepped up a weight class to fight Germaine De Randamie, a Dutch Muay Thai specialist for the Featherweight title, in a close, controversial bout that saw Holly get rocked with two after the bell incidents, yet land possibly the most significant strikes of the fight by way of a straight left that dropped her opponent and her signature head kick, Holly was judged to have not done enough to secure the title. De Randamie then suffered hand injuries that forced her out of action for a while, before vacating the belt due to inactivity, and publicly stating that she did not want to fight Cyborg due to her previous anti-doping infractions. She then bounced back with a highlight reel Question Mark kick KO of Bethe Corriea to come full circle and setup the bout with Cyborg many thought she had won in the first place. A big part of Holly’s arsenal is the team she had behind her, the great game planning minds of Jackson-Wink MMA, Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn One of Holly’s greatest assets is her ability to stick to a game plan, and if she were to beat Cyborg she would need to not lose focus stick well to the plan devised for her.

    Many felt that Holm might hold the key to the Cyborg lock given that she is an excellent counter striker, with good kickboxing, and great timing. Her lateral movement always allowing her to dictate the range of the fight to fight her game plan. Cyborg on the other hand, having shown a more measured approach in her bout against Evinger, methodically breaking her down and wearing her out before ending the fight with knees, was thought to need a mixture of that same tactic mixed in with her old school Chute Boxe aggression to overwhelm Holm, or use her wrestling and legitimate black belt BJJ credentials to take the fight to the mat secure the victory.

    The first two rounds were a close affair, both women landing. Holly using her movement to setup her offensive moments, and rushing Cyborg when she came in. Cyborg was calm and composed, measuring Holly’s attacks and landing well in the pocket. What came as a surprise was Holly’s strength and ability to impose her will on Cyborg in the clinching exchanges, in the clinch Holly repeatedly powered Cyborg up against the fence and held her there to catch a breath and frustrate Cyborg, this was a useful tool for her in the fight. Two judges scored Holly the first two rounds and I whilst I gave Holly the second and not the first, both rounds were close.

    As the fight wore on, Cyborg began to crank up the pace and capitalise on Hollys lack of creativity in the different looks she was showing, Holly began to slow, her kicks not carrying the same snap as in the first two rounds with Cyborg now reading her repetitive combinations and still landing hard shots, causing swelling to the bridge of the nose and under the left eye of Holm, whilst not out of it by any means, needed to change up her attacks. Which seemed to come when she landed a nice combination topped off with a straight left that caused Cyborg to bleed from the nose for the first time in her professional fights. Holly to her credit had not lost focus once, landing when she could and sticking well to her game plan, i think she had begun to realise she would need more from the game plan if she were to succeed.

    The fifth round was the most open, Cyborg had really turned up the pace and was her most aggressive, continuing on from her work in the fourth landing hard kicks to the legs and body. Early on Holly read an elbow on Cris and threw it, missing only by fine a margin, showing that she was still well in this fight if even down on the scorecards. Again, some good clinch work got her a reversal and put Cyborgs back on the fence, giving her a further moments rest, on the break Cris now chasing Holly down, landing more body kicks and again pressing on the front foot. One thing I noticed that was also picked up by Dominick Cruz in the commentary booth was that Cris started to read Holly’s body and low kicks and then threw kicks of her own at the leg Holly was standing on, I thought this was a great little detail to Cris’s game, that came about from both her opening her arsenal and her reads on Holly’s strikes. Intelligent. Cyborg had also now gotten the read on Holly’s stepping right hook, and was making her pay for it with body kicks and jabs, causing Holly to second guess her techniques. Whilst the last two minutes of the fight was mostly Cris imposing her game, starting and ending her combinations before and after Holly, landing the harder shots and slipping most of Holly’s kicks, Holly stepped in and landed a beautiful straight left that caught Cris square, Chute Boxe Cris took over in response and rushed into the clinch and landed some good knees before Holly reversed and pushed her to the fence. That called time on the round, and the fight.

    Overall, a really good showing by both ladies. Holly proved that Cyborg can be hit, can be stunned and that she can be taken all 5 championship rounds and should take no shame in losing over 5 rounds to the most dominant woman to ever step into the octagon. Cyborg though proved why she is revered in women’s combat sports, she respected Holly’s ability and game plan but proved that she could land the cleaner and harder shots, could fight intelligently and patiently, could turn up the pace throughout the fight when she wanted too, and whilst being surprisingly dominated in the wrestling exchanges against the fence, could dominate the stand-up exchanges enough to stamp her authority on the majority of the rounds. A high-level women’s MMA fight, credit to both women.

    Cyborg via Unanimous Decision.

  • Khabib Nurmagomedov (American Kickboxing Academy) vs Edson Barboza (Ricardo Almeida BJJ)The epitome of a striker versus grappler matchup. Khabib Nurmagomedov, returning from a turbulent year with injuries, failed weight cuts and fight cancellations had something to prove going into this one, not only to the people doubting that he can make weight, but also that he is still one of the greatest fighters on the planet. The Dagestani native, one of the few fighters in the top echelon still holding an undefeated record (24-0) walks into this knowing that a win should cement him a place in a contest with either Interim Champion, Tony Ferguson, or the Champion, Conor McGregor. Edson Barboza, on the other hand, riding a four-fight winning streak, the holder of the greatest wheel kick knockout in UFC history, holder of two finishes via leg kick and a highlight reel to rival the best also knew that a win here would loft him into the same position.There was good reason that this was one of, if not the most anticipated fights on the card. Could Edson get off his ultra-fast, powerful striking to combat Khabib’s suffocating grappling? Would Khabib be able to close the distance without being caught, how long could he stand with Edson? Could Edson, if taken down be able to work back up and keep the fight where he wanted it to go?

    The result, was a complete mauling by the Dagestani native. From the opening bell Edson landed three hard low kicks, he was circling and moving trying to avoid the onslaught from Khabib. Khabib on the other hand was chasing him down, cutting off the cage and forcing Edson to defend – his pressure suffocating any meaningful attack that Edson could muster. Inevitably, Khabib caught Edson against the cage and with a beautiful body lock and trip, took Edson to the ground, to where he not only stayed for the remainder of the round he imparted a seriously heavy beating. As the bell sounded for the end of the first round, you could tell by Edson’s face, not just the marks and cuts he was wearing but his expression was the same as most after Khabib grabs hold of them, astonishment. The way Khabib stays on his feet and applies his top pressure through his hips and knees is astonishing, he patiently holds and waits for his opponent to move whilst slamming them with strikes, and when they do he finds the opening to move into a more dominant position. At one point he had triangle’d both of Edson’s legs above the knee, for him to be able to use all his weight to smash Edson against the fence. This continued into the second round. I don’t think anyone would have been aggrieved if Big John McCarthy the referee or Edson’s corner had put a stop to it, but Edson, through grit and an incredible showing of heart, made it to the third round.

    The third round started with Edson coming out to a flying knee, a low kick and a 1-2. Khabib marched through it, sensing that his demolition job on the ground had left his opponent severely depleted wanted to prove his worth on the feet, tagging Edson a couple of times with straights and hooks. On the minute mark, Khabib got another partial takedown, that Edson valiantly fended off for around two and a half minutes, they then broke and moved back to the striking exchanges, Edson threw two wild wheel kicks, one of which connected, but Khabib ate like it was nothing and kept coming. After some good clinch work from Khabib he dragged Edson, like a predator his prey to the ground, his control is incredible, he had again triangle’d Edson’s right leg with his own, and had caught his left with his right hand, leaving Edson posted on one arm, helpless, getting smashed by Khabib whilst trapped against the fence. The technical detail to that control was sublime. Edson eventually managed to clamber back to his feet with sub thirty seconds of the fight, a barrage of strikes from both men brought the bout to a close. An epic display of dominance from Khabib, met with an epic display of heart by Edson Barboza.

    Khabib via Unanimous Decision.

  • Marc Diakese (American Top Team) vs Dan Hooker (Strikeforce Auckland)Bumped up to the main card due to John Lineker and Jimmi Rivera falling off, fans were excited to see a clash of the classic Muay Thai style in Hooker vs the flashy, powerful Tae Kwon Do/Kickboxing hybrid style of Diakese. Hooker, coming off that brilliant knee KO of  UK’s Ross Pearson in June was eager, not only to show that 155 was the weight class he was meant for but that he should also be working his way toward a ranked spot in a shark tank division that is Lightweight. Diakese on the other hand, coming off his first professional loss to Drakkar Klose in July was just as eager to bounce back and prove that the buzz around his name was warranted.The first two rounds of this one were tentative, both fighters trying to feel each other out, Marc attempting to get a little space to fire off one of his spinning attacks, or bait Dan in to be able to counter with something and Dan doing well to pressure and feint Marc into either not throwing or throwing something whilst on the defensive that Dan was able to nullify and counter. Both corner teams at the end of the second called for a little more action to prove their case to the judges, Diakese taking the initiative and coming out fast, catching Hooker with some good, hard shots and ending with some good kicks. The tide seemed to be moving into Diakese’s direction until Marc shot for a takedown up against the fence, Hooker managed to reverse it and slide an arm in for a guillotine choke, he then stepped over, wrapped his legs into closed guard and finished the choke, Diakese tapping almost immediately. Not the fight that the fans would have expected, but a great win for Dan Hooker who has now won 2 out of his last 3.

    Hooker via Guillotine choke (R3).

  • Cynthia Calvillo (Team Alpha Male) vs Carla Esparza (Team Oyama)The Calvillo hype train had certainly been rolling into Las Vegas, with high praise being garnered from UFC president Dana White and her Alpha Male coaches, Cynthia Calvillo came into the 219 bout with former champion Carla Esparza looking to improve to 7-0 as a pro and continue her push for a title shot in 2018. But standing in her way was a Carla Esparza who has her own title  redemption ambitions in 2018. The first round went how many expected the entire fight to go, with Calvillo staying busy on the feet, getting the fight to the ground, gaining top control and working toward a submission with her extravagant ground game. Though that wasnt to be the case, Esparza regrouped and came out in the second and the third and made good adjustments, she utilised her low kicks to setup her striking exchanges, landing her own takedowns and gaining top control, though she didn’t manage to hold down Calvillo for long, she was certainly getting the better of Calvillo in the striking exchanges, first to the punch and landing with the more damaging shots. Calvillo will be back, and still has vast potential, but a good performance from Esparza showing that she isn’t one to be counted out.Esparza via Unanimous decision.
  • Carlos Condit (Jackson-Wink MMA) vs Neil Magny (Elevation Fight Team)The return of the Natural Born Killer versus the underrated unrelenting style of Magny opened the 219 Main Card, whilst the crowd was not a full one inside the T-Mobile Arena, it was clear from the ceremonial weigh ins the day previous that plenty of fans were excited to see Condit back in the octagon for his 41st professional MMA bout. The fairy-tale return, it did not turn out to be for Condit though, as from the first bell he seemed unable to use his main setup weapon, the low kick to begin his combinations due to Magny countering immediately and effectively whenever he threw one, either by catching it and forcing a grappling exchange, or with punches. That really discouraged the offensive style that we are used too from Condit, and he looked tentative throughout but credit to Magny who came with a great game plan and executed, who used his own tools, impeccable cardio and a great pace to force Condit into positions he didn’t want to be in, completed takedowns and did well on the ground when he had established top control to control the hips of Condit and not allow him to move for sweeps of submissions. Though dropping a fight to RDA in his previous bout, I would like to see Magny receive his requested callout and get a top 5 fight next to once again see if he can prove he can hang at that top level.Magny via Unanimous decision.

Four FS1 Prelims:

  • Khalil Rountree Jr (Syndicate MMA) vs Michal Oleksiejczuk (Gornik Leczna)This was a tale of heart and will, newcomer and 22 year old Oleksiejczuk stepping in on short notice to replace Gokhan Saki (training injury) against the heavy handed and explosive Rountree Jr. Rountree is known for his fast and powerful starts and nothing changed in this one, he managed to tag the young newcomer several times in hard exchanges forming a cut above the right eye, but Oleksiejczuk shied away from no exchange, although only 22 he boasts nearly double the experience in professional fights to Rountree (12-2 to Rountree JR’s 6-3 record). He weathered the early storms, and used his superior technique, cardio and volume striking to get it done via a unanimous decision. An excellent start to his UFC tenure.Michal Oleksiejczuk via Unanimous decision.
  • Myles Jury (Alliance MMA) vs Rick Glenn (Team Alpha Male)In his second fight of 2017, after his long layoff of 2016 Jury was looking to continue his winning ways with a match up against Rick Glenn, who himself was coming off a bloody and brutal win over newcomer Gavin Tucker at UFC 215 in September. This fight would seethe continuation of the rivalry between Alliance MMA and Team Alpha Male, notably fronted by UFC commentator and the former Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz and Alpha Male members, Cody Garbrandt and Urijah Faber. Though that rivalry did not show in this one, this was a clinic from Jury, he was too fast, too slick for Glenn in all areas, rounds 1 through to 3 he was catching Glenn with well timed teeps, low kicks and nice stepping hooks to setup a spectacular flying knee attempt that whilst not connecting as Jury would have liked, showed Glenn what he was capable of at any moment. Glenn did show signs of success when he was able to push Jury up against the fence and begin some grappling exchanges, but that wasn’t enough to work him to a decision. Jury concludes his 2017 campaign 2-0. Excited to see what 2018 brings for him.Jury via unanimous decision.
  • Marvin Vettori (Stabile Fight Team) vs Omari Akhmedov (American Top Team)Marvin Vettori vs Omari Akhmedov was a real slobber knocker of a fight. Vettori at 23, just starting out his UFC career, before this fight holding a 2-1 record. His loss coming against the 9 UFC fight veteran in Antonio Carlos Junior, who is now riding a 4-fight win streak after recently submitting the likes of Jack Marshman and Eric Spicely. His dance partner for the evening was the seasoned fighter Akhmedov, holding a record of 17-4 (5-3 UFC) before their bout, notable name wins like Kyle Noke and Abdul Razak Alhassan.The first round saw both guys come out fast, each landing huge shots, Akmedov loading up on every punch and every kick, saw him test the chin and will of Vettori early, having him hurt more than once. But Vettori was up to fight fire with fire and came back with big power punches of his own, Akhmedov has the Dan Henderson wooden look about him, bones made of steel and joints not too dissimilar, Vettori looked thick too, for the weight class. I think due to landing the more damaging strikes, Akhmedov took the first round, possibly by a 10-8 margin. The second round was similar in its action packed nature, with Vettori this time having more success due to his opponent starting to tire. The third, though both men showing their own signs of wear and tear I gave to Vettori. The Italian caught his second wind and powered on late, sensing the depletion of his opponent, having him hurt a few times but without the killer instinct to put his man away. The fight ended in a majority draw, with one judge giving it to Vettori, I don’t have a huge problem with the result watching it back, though at the time I had scored the bout to Vettori.

    Majority Draw.

  • Louis Smolka (Hawaii Elite MMA) vs Matheus Nicolau (Jackson-Wink MMA)With the rise of Hawaiian MMA, pioneered by the young Featherweight King Max Holloway, eyes were on Louis Smolka to turn around his 3-fight skid on the first fight of the FS1 pre-lims. Up against Brazil’s Nicolau, making his first appearance after a yearlong suspension from USADA for the use of Anastrozole (Anastrozoleis a specified substance in the category of Hormone and Metabolic Modulators) and looking to improve to 13-1 (3-0 UFC).It was the Brazilian who came out of the blocks fast, the first-round saw Nicolau come out swinging, his head movement and fast boxing proved to be a real problem for Smolka, who was dropped three times before the klaxon sounded. Smolka was struggling to time Nicolau’s left straight and that was proving to be money for the young Brazilian. All credit to Smolka for surviving the first and two subsequent rounds, showing his grit and toughness to keep walking down Nicolau who persisted with his stick and move game for most of the fight. It was not Smolka’s night, although he closed the gap in the latter of the fight as Nicolau slowed, and Smolka made some good adjustments to counter Nicolaus work, it was the Brazilians boxing and footwork that proved to be too much for Smolka on the night, who even when the fight went to the ground, was not able to fashion any dominant positions to construct his varied and fluid submission game.

    Nicolau via Unanimous Decision.

Fight Pass Prelims:

  • Tim Elliot (Glory MMA & Fitness) vs Mark De La Rosa (Skrap Pack).Tim Elliot’s second stint in the UFC has been a mixed bag, going 2-2 in his last four. A competitive loss against arguably the G.O.A.T in “Mighty Mouse” Demetrious Johnson and a win against fellow 219 fighter Louis Smolka and last night’s win over the newcomer in De La Rosa. Known for his unpredictable style, fast scrambles and solid wrestling it was predicted that De La Rosa would have his hands full on his full octagon debut. This turned out to be the case, Elliot used his superior striking and grappling experience to spend most of the first round on top, landing good ground and pound and opening De La Rosa up to cuts, who had adopted for a more traditional guard game from bottom, De La Rosa however did come close to closing an armbar late in the first, but Elliot managed to slam his way out. The second round was much the same, a scramble allowed Elliot to sink in a deep anaconda and forced the tap from De La Rosa.Elliot via Anaconda Choke (R2).

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