I have to think that the UFC is a bit disappointed with the way Saturday night played out at UFC on Fox 19. They are always hoping to have some of the best action bouts of the year taking place on the FOX cards and that didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that the fights sucked, but these fights are where they are hoping to catch the casual fans that fall in love with the barn burning brawls (ala Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar). Alas, that didn’t happen. The night shouldn’t be seen as a complete loss, though, as it ended with a highlight reel KO from Glover Teixeira and a nice fight between two of the top strawweights that produced a new number one contender.
Rather than ramble on in the introduction, here are the details:
I thought Teixeira would walk out of the fight with the W, but not like that! It was slow going at first with Teixeira stalking Evans around the cage. A couple of attempts from Teixeira to attack didn’t result in success before he finally connected with a clean left hook on the chin of Evans that dropped him like a sack of potatoes. Evans tried to get back up only for Teixeira to attack with a right hand that put him out cold and put a stamp on Teixeira’s unexpected contendership claim.
Most expected Teixeira to be in no-man’s land with a victory as not good enough to be contending for the title thanks to his previous loss to Jon Jones. Basically, he would just be floating around likely picking off younger fighters looking to jump into contention. The way that he dispatched of Evans made it clear that he has found a training regiment that works for him and he is possibly better than ever. He called for a fight with Rumble Johnson and I can’t say that I wouldn’t be excited to see that. Considering Jones still has to wait for Daniel Cormier to get healthy before Jones has his date with Rumble, there would be plenty of time for Johnson and Teixeira to take care of business. It would be a risk as there is a big contingency more excited about Jones-Rumble than they are Jones-Cormier, and that would be derailed if Teixeira were to walk out with a victory. But the UFC can’t have their best commodities sitting on the shelf, and Rumble’s power makes him a very valuable and marketable commodity.
Evans’ days as an elite light heavyweight are over. He didn’t look very elusive even when he was able to dodge Teixeira’s earlier attacks and it seemed like a matter of time before he got caught. For someone who relied so heavily on their speed for their success, that is a recipe for disaster. He’s never been a very big light heavyweight so there are many who believe that he’ll drop down to middleweight, but I don’t think so as he has never seemed to be keen on dropping more weight. There are still fights to be made for him at 205 anyway as he still has yet to fight Shogun Rua despite that being a contest that was supposed to happen over five years ago, plus he would be a sound litmus test for the likes of Patrick Cummins and Corey Anderson. He may not be elite any longer, but Evans can still fill a role in the UFC. However, here’s hoping that KOs like this one don’t become the norm for him…
Rose Namajunas defeated Tecia Torres via unanimous decision
Damn that was close. I didn’t agree with the decision as I felt Torres took the first and third round, though I still felt Namajunas was the better fighter at the end. Confusing? Torres did just enough to eek out the first and third rounds in my mind while Namajunas took the second round with plenty of room to spare. So even though Torres took two rounds in my book, I wouldn’t really argue with anyone saying Namajunas took one of those rounds… particularly the underwhelming third round. Torres fought a smart fight though as she attacked Namajunas’ lead leg with lots of kicks to the point that Namajunas no longer had a stable base to explode into her strikes from which led to her lackluster third round after ending the second round with all sorts of momentum. Namajunas really found her range in that round though as she established her jab, mixed in side kicks, and had Torres chasing her at various points which led to her countering Torres’ offense. What may have made the difference was Namajunas ending the first and third rounds with takedowns which probably put her over the top in the minds of the judges. Don’t count out a rubber match in the future…
This was the result that the UFC wanted as Namajunas is the more marketable of the two, in addition to being the more explosive by far. She had moments that the UFC were hoping for in the fight, but was unable to do so with consistency as Torres stayed busy enough to prevent her from finding a rhythm except for that stretch in the second round. She showed flashes of her wildness too as she slipped to the ground on a kick attempt in the second and went for a reckless flying knee in the third. If she can strategically mix those in at more opportune times, it will certainly be to her advantage. Now she will probably wait around to see who wins out of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha as there isn’t anyone else nearly as deserving at a title shot as she currently is. Even if she losses that, I don’t think it will be her last shot as she is still only 23.
Torres is a bit of a case of frustration as this was her best performance in the UFC despite it being a loss. She seems to either play up or down to the level of her competition which will make it difficult for her to gain traction amongst the fans as it is hard to award her high level fights when she is only squeaking by lower ranked opponents. The loss doesn’t drop her too far out of the title picture though as two wins (maybe even just one) could be enough to get her a shot. Keep in mind this was the division in which Valerie Letourneau got her shot at the title. Though she may not be as young as Namajunas, Torres is still plenty young enough at 26 to get significantly better.
Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Darrell Horcher via TKO at 3:38 of the second round
As happy as I am to see Nurmagomedov finally get back into the cage after a two year absence, the fight went very much like I expected it to with Nurmagomedov’s smothering wrestling making for a dominant yet somewhat boring performance. It took a while for Nurmagomedov to get his wrestling going as a tentative standup exchange took place for the first half of the first round with neither gaining a real advantage. Once he did get the takedown, he beat on Horcher and nearly got a stoppage at the end of the first round. More of the same occurred in the second with a crucifix being applied, this time with Horcher unable to move as Nurmagomedov rained down punches. Horcher did eventually escape from the hold, but was so worn down that he soon turtled up as Nurmagomedov continued the punishment before the stoppage came.
Nurmagomedov called out the champion he beat two years ago in Rafael dos Anjos as he still has yet to be beaten. It isn’t like he just beat dos Anjos either… he absolutely dominated him. Dos Anjos has some business to take care of in a fight with Eddie Alvarez in July before that fight can be made, but there should be little doubt that Nurmagomedov is the top contender once they finish their business. Though he was a bit rusty against Horcher, he looked like his old self once he got into the grove of things and I’m prone to believe that he’ll be ready whenever he gets the opportunity now that he has his return out of the way. Despite that, I don’t think a victory for him is a given as dos Anjos is the rare champion that continues to improve and he will clearly have the advantage standing. In that case, Nurmagomedov could be in trouble if it takes him a while to score his first takedown once again.
It didn’t look like Horcher wanted to be there based on his body language during the introductions, but he put up a good fight for a while. I didn’t see anything out of him offensively to make me think he’ll make much of an impact, but I did like his efforts and technique to escape from the crucifix in particular. His next fight will be a much more accurate telling of his abilities and his future in the UFC.
Cub Swanson defeated Hacran Dias via unanimous decision
Despite taking a hell of a beating in his previous two appearances, Swanson isn’t finished yet as he proved with a clear decision victory over a durable Dias. The first round was very tentative with neither looking to commit to a large exchange with Dias’ leg kicks being the most significant strikes. The second and third rounds were all Swanson as he scored takedowns in each round, the first one coming off of a punch with the second on a head kick. That isn’t even counting when he sent Dias to the ground off of a leg kick ever so briefly in the second! Dias slowly lost his confidence after the first knockdown and was never the same from that point.
Swanson looked nothing like the fighter who had his ass handed to him against Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway, looking refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s hard to imagine him getting a shot against anyone ranked ahead of them as he has already fought and lost to all of them sans the champion Conor McGregor. That means he’ll probably get to play the gatekeeper role for a while until he rings up enough wins that he can’t be ignored… or losses to much. Dennis Bermudez is the only fighter in the top 10 Swanson hasn’t fought yet which makes him a very distinct possibility. That would be a hell of a fun fight.
Dias blew his chance to break into the top of the division and his tentative style will prevent him from receiving another opportunity to do so again any time soon. He’s still a legit talent in the division that will serve as a gatekeeper into the top 10, but I think he’ll be hard pressed to get any further than that now. Not the most active fighter, I feel it will be a while before we see Dias fight again as he has totaled six fights in four years in the UFC.
Michael Chiesa defeated Beneil Dariush via submission at 1:20 of the second round
Is there a fighter more talented at getting the back than Chiesa? Dariush is a world class BJJ practitioner but even he couldn’t keep Chiesa from getting his back and finishing him off. Dariush took the first round by avoiding going to the ground, picking apart the former TUF winner with hard leg kicks and punches as Chiesa was overaggressive. That aggression paid off in the second round as he scored an early takedown, transitioning to Dariush’s back as Dariush tried to stand back up. Even though Chiesa never got underneath Dariush’s chin (and Dariush removed the hold on the first attempt), he got the hold tight enough around Dariush’s chin to elicit a tap and score the upset.
While Chiesa’s performance highlighted his heart and resilience, it also highlighted his weaknesses as a striker throughout the first round. He was calling for Tony Ferguson in his post-fight speech which would certainly be an entertaining fight, but I think that might be biting off just a bit more than he could chew unless he can tighten up his striking defense. I don’t see that happening as his defensive holes are more attributed to his aggressiveness which is also a key attribute to his success which is why I struggle to see him breaking into the elite. He might steal a win or two he shouldn’t but he’ll also drop one or two he shouldn’t. If the Ferguson fight happens I’ll watch intently, though my gut tells me Chiesa won’t get his wish this time.
Dariush looked fantastic the first round and I think I’ll be walking away from this fight with that more intently in my mind rather than his tapout. At only 26, he has plenty of time to get to the top and I see him using this as a learning experience much like his loss to Ramsey Nijem served. His stock does take a bit of a hit though nothing major. A fight with the loser of Dustin Poirier and Bobby Green in June would seem to be the ideal next option though I must admit that there are plenty of other options out there available.
Raquel Pennington defeated Bethe Correia via split decision
Close fight. Fun fight. Good fight. Pennington got the judges nod and I agree with the call, but I won’t argue with anyone who says Correia should have taken the victory as any round very well could have gone either way. Correia’s boxing was exceptionally technical as usual, catching Pennington with a bunch of counter strikes though Pennington did land her share. Pennington got the best of the clinch exchanges with a bunch of hard elbows. However, Correia had a bit of success there herself. See why this was a close fight? Pennington closed out the last two rounds strong with work from the clinch which is probably what pushed her over the edge in the eyes of the judges as she picked up the most important win of her career.
While it wasn’t the breakthrough performance I thought it would be, Pennington did look improved in this fight even if it was only slight improvement. She is still a slow starter as she didn’t start to find her groove until Correia had hit her a few times. She needs to find a way to start strong as she has dug herself a hole in all of her UFC bouts thus far. I wouldn’t give her a shot at an elite fighter yet, but Liz Carmouche would appear to be an appropriate next opponent, someone that they’ve tried to match her up with before. Correia isn’t in danger of being cut as she still has some name value thanks to her feud with Ronda Rousey, not to mention the entertainment value of this bout. This fight really showed fighters on Pennington’s level are about where Correia’s ceiling is at and she should continue to get opponents in that skill level. Valentina Shevchenko is the best currently available option.
Santiago Ponzinibbio defeated Court McGee via TKO at 4:15 of the first round
I knew Ponzinibbio could hit hard, but I really thought McGee’s chin would hold up. Clearly I thought wrong. There was a lot of leather thrown in this short fight with Ponzinibbio keeping the former TUF winner up near the fence throughout the fight, landing a high volume of hard shots looking for the one that would crack the notoriously hard chin of McGee as McGee answered with his own lighter punches heavily complimented with leg kicks. Ponzinibbio eventually found what he was looking for and swarmed when McGee got hurt, eventually forcing McGee to turtle up before the referee jumped in to give Ponzinibbio an impressive victory.
I guessed Ponzinibbio’s improvements would have stalled by now, but he continues to improve as this was by far his most impressive performance. His technique never broke down even after McGee would start to turn the momentum in his favor which is exactly why McGee was able to turn the corner. Ponzinibbio’s takedown defense held up too, another component of his game that showed improvement. I wouldn’t say he’s ready for a ranked opponent yet, but he isn’t far off. McGee’s striking looked sharper than it did against Marcio Alexandre after McGee returned from a two year layoff, but he couldn’t avoid Ponzinibbio’s return fire and Ponzinibbio was hitting a lot harder. There are still a bunch of winnable fights for him out there, but he could be on the chopping block with one more loss.
Michael Graves defeated Randy Brown via submission at 2:31 of the second round
The UFC hasn’t matched similar prospects up with one another very often and this was one of the rare occasions in which they did. Graves spent half of the first round looking for a takedown as Brown fought him off and landed more strikes in the clinch. Once Graves got the takedown, he was in the driver seat for the rest of the fight, maintaining top position for the rest of the round and getting one early in the second round. Brown tried to escape in the second and ended up giving up his back. Graves took it, flattened him out, and scored a submission victory with the RNC.
It’s easy to forget how good Graves could be as he hadn’t fought since July with a takedown heavy bout that had little in terms of highlights. As young as he is, he still has a long ways to go in terms of his ceiling. He still needs a lot of work on his striking if he wants to break into the upper echelon though he made it clear his wrestling and grappling is good enough to keep him hanging around for a while. Everyone knew Brown had a ways to go in terms of his wrestling game meaning this outcome wasn’t necessarily surprising. He’d probably be best served finding a larger camp with plenty of bodies to work with to go to as he is still working out of a local camp. Whether he does or not, I still expect him to look improved in his next appearance.
John Dodson defeated Manvel Gamburyan via TKO at 0:47 of the first round
Maybe Dodson hasn’t lost a step. Maybe Demetrious Johnson’s own speed made Dodson look slow in their last appearance. No doubt though that Dodson’s power translated up to a new weight class as he rocked Gamburyan with some short shots before loading up once he realized Gamburyan was hurt. The punches kept coming after Gamburyan dropped until the referee stepped in and Dodson’s work shift was cut short.
Dodson couldn’t have made a better impression upon his return to 135. Gamburyan isn’t a contender, but he has proven to be a tough and durable veteran and Dodson plowed him right into the ground in less than a minute. Dodson will get a highly ranked opponent next for sure and will probably get some talk as a potential title contender in the next year or so. Some have suggested T.J. Dillashaw already, but I would save that for a later date as I don’t think it quite makes sense yet despite Dodson’s victory over the former bantamweight champion over four years ago. I think Michael McDonald makes more sense. Gamburyan has been under the Zuffa banner since 2007 and the clock could very well be winding down. He’ll get at least one more chance as he is one of the strongest bantamweight around. Problem is that he is also one of the slowest too.
Cezar Ferreira defeated Oluwale Bamgbose via unanimous decision
There were moments that were a lot of fun here, but for the most part it was a pretty boring fight as Ferreira played is safe coming off of three first round KO losses in his previous four appearances. Bamgbose tried to explode through Ferreira’s defenses in the first round as he bum-rushed Ferreira with punches despite Ferreira having his head protected. He did catch Ferreira with a punch while Ferriera was off-balance to send him to the ground, When Bamgbose couldn’t get the finish, he was finished as he telegraphed his actions loading up not to mention that he had already blown his wad (thank you Joe Rogan). Ferreira took him down every round and did just enough GNP to keep the referee from standing the fight up.
Bamgbose still has the brighter future despite the loss and should be able to take this loss and grow exponentially from it as he had never even left the first round in any of his previous professional appearances. If he can learn when to be selective with his energy expenditure, he could tap into the vast potential he has flashed. Ferreira saved his job with the win by fighting a boring (but smart) fight. I don’t blame him as getting into a firefight would have played right into Bamgbose’s strengths, but he’ll need a win (or perhaps an exciting loss) in his next appearance to avoid being cut.
Elizeu dos Santos defeated Omari Akhmedov via TKO at 3:03 of the third round
An excellent way to pull the curtain up on the card as both fighters had their moments and put on a hell of a show for the audience. The first two rounds could have arguable gone either way (I had Akhmedov taking both by a hair) as Akhmedov match dos Santos’ greater volume with a few takedowns and an impressive kimura attempt to compliment his own return strikes. Akhmedov’s hard-throwing style has had a tendency to drain him though and he had almost nothing left to offer in the third round as dos Santos turned up the volume as soon as he realized how drained Akhmedov was gassed. A series of punches and knees in the clinch was enough for Dan Miragliotta to step in with about two minutes left.
Dos Santos saved his job and could very well have a sound future as an action fighter. Considering many expected his UFC tenure to come and go without a single victory, accomplishing that would be something to be proud of even if he ends up maxing out as a lower tier gatekeeper. Akhmedov will probably be cut as the UFC has shown a shorter leash as of late. He was impressive enough during his run that he could end up back in the organization with a few wins on the regional circuit.
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