HYDEN’S TAKE: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Bellator 171 and UFC on FOX 23 including continued rise of Ngannou, Shevchenko upset

By Frank Hyden, MMATorch columnist

Francis Ngannou (photo credit Ron Chenoy © USA Today Sports)

Bellator 171 and UFC on FOX 23 were both this past weekend. Let’s get right to the rundown.

Bellator 171

GOOD: A.J. McKee Jr. vs. Brandon Phillips

This was a pretty close fight. McKee is definitely one to keep your eye on, as he continues to improve and grow as a fighter. McKee won the decision and looks to make some waves in the division.

GOOD: Jessica Middleton vs. Alice Yauger

Yauger showed a ton of heart, as she was absorbing tremendous punishment as the fight wore on. Middleton showed great poise and presence as she didn’t get reckless and wild in her pursuit of the finish. She had to settle for the decision, but that’s because Yauger was so tough and relentless. Good fight.

GOOD: David Rickels stops Aaron Derrow

This was a completely one-sided beatdown. Derrow showed good toughness, but Rickels is too tenacious. He was all over Derrow from start to finish and didn’t let up a bit. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, you can only take so much and Rickels just kept coming at Derrow and wouldn’t even let him breathe. A dominating and thoroughly convincing stoppage victory for Rickels here. Another good fight.

GOOD: Chidi Njokuani vs. Melvin Guillard

Njokuani dominated this fight from start to finish on route to the decision win. Njokuani is a rising contender and Guillard is on his way down. He can still beat some guys, I’m sure, but that list is shrinking. This is a nice win for Njokuani.

UFC on FOX 23

GOOD: Jason Knight submits Alex Caceres

Knight proved to be too tenacious for Caceres, as he kept applying pressure when they were grappling on the ground in the second round. Eventually Knight was able to lock in the choke and force the tap. Nice win for him.

GOOD: Francis Ngannou stops Andrei Arlovski

I don’t want to go overboard here, but Ngannou certainly seems like a future title contender. He has crazy power, that right there is enough to get him pretty far in the Heavyweight Division. I know Arlovski doesn’t have a great chin, but Nagannou crushed him with some power shots. It’ll be interesting to see how he deals with guys who can take big shots, but we might have a new fighter in the mix here. I’d like to see a little more from him before getting too excited, but there’s definitely possibility here.

GOOD: Jorge Masvidal stops Donald Cerrone

Things started slowly, as both guys felt each other out, but then Masvidal exploded and basically finished Cerrone at the end of the first round. Cerrone was saved by the bell, literally, as Herb Dean was calling a stop to the fight just as the horn sounded. The second round was essentially a guarantee as Masvidal pressed forward and finished Cerrone officially about a minute into the second round. Bigtime win for Masvidal. This is a statement win, which is helped by a passionate promo after the win calling out anyone who will fight him. Cerrone is tough and Masvidal walked right through him. Wow.

GOOD: Valentina Shevchenko submits Juliana Pena

Shevchenko made her name as a striker, but she showed that she’s much more than that, submitting Pena and looking very good doing it. She showed another angle to her skillset and should be next in line to fight UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes as soon as possible. It’s hard to say exactly when that will be, but she’s the only real choice. Shevchenko previously lost a decision to Nunes in March of 2016, but she’s said this time will be different. We’ll see, both women have grown as fighters since then so we’ll see what changes they’ve made and how they approach things differently this time. This was a good fight and a very good performance from Shevchenko. This card didn’t have a ton of star power, but it delivered bigtime. The Bellator 171 card was also very good. It was a nice weekend for MMA fans.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: HYDEN BLOG: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Bellator 170 including Tito Ortiz’s retirement, Chael Sonnen’s performance

Comments and suggestions can be emailed to hydenfrank@gmail.com and you can follow Frank on Twitter at @hydenfrank.

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