UFC Fight Night Thoughts- Badass, Thy Name Is Kelvin
I won't always do blogs on UFC Fight Night cards. The obligations UFC have to the FOX Network mean that those cards get spread pretty thin, and we often get some fighters and fights that are not really of UFC calibre. It's been a big criticism I've had of UFC for a couple of years now, and it's been exacerbated by the loss of top draws like Rousey, GSP, McGregor and Lesnar.
But then, this card came along. On paper, it looked outstanding, featuring a mix of upcoming fighters and legends. Plus, it was taking place in Brazil, which if nothing else, provides a rabid atmosphere. Vitor Belfort, who made his UFC debut 20 years ago and has a ton of accolades and great finishes to his name, was matched up against 25 year old Kelvin Gastelum, who won TUF 17 and has had success at both welterweight and middleweight- although weight cutting issues have him fighting up at the latter division for the time being. Let's take a look at this card.
- Holy hell, remember the name Paulo Henrique Costa, ladies and gentlemen! The name is a bit of a mouthful, but his opponent Garreth McLellan won't be taking mouthfuls of anything for a little while, not after that incredible swarm that saw him drop just over a minute into the fight. Facial features rearranged, brutal and highly impressive. McLellan is a tough fighter in his own right, and for Costa to do that with such ease in his UFC debut is a major statement.
-I've liked Rony Jason for a while now, one of the bigger personalities to come out of TUF: Brazil, despite the language barrier, with skills to match. His opponent, Jeremy Kennedy... Kennedy brought the fight right back in a barnburner that went to decision. Great scrap that saw both guys' stock rise. Chalk Kennedy up as another to keep an eye on.
-Michel Prazeres ran through veteran Josh Burkman like a hot knife through butter, rocking him several times on the feet. Credit to ref Big John McCarthy for recognising that Burkman has great durability and instincts, giving him every chance to recover and fight back. However, the show was soon stopped with a rare north-south choke finish. Burkman left his gloves in the cage and according to Brian Stann, retired right there, but that retirement was reneged on before the main card even started. Even Terry Funk and Mick Foley didn't un-retire that quickly.
-Joe Soto vs. Rani Yahya was one of the bloodiest fights I've seen in recent memory. The cut on Soto occurred from an accidental head clash, and to his credit, he fought like a true warrior. Even though Soto took the visual damage, the force of it seems to affect Yahya more, who was never quite the same in the fight after. Yahya was slick early, with improved striking and the usual elite ground game, but he was turtled up taking a beating for the majority of the 3rd. Huge win for Joe Soto, who was on the verge of being cut a couple of fights ago, and could find himself in the top 15 at bantamweight with this result.
-Sergio Moraes vs. Davi Ramos... the only fight out of 12 that sucked. Moving on.
-Trinaldo put a whooping on young Kevin Lee in Round 1, giving him those spaghetti legs, but Lee showed tremendous resilience to come back in the second with a devastating head kick, ending Trinaldo's night and his 7 fight win streak with a brutal rear naked choke. Hell of a statement, always great to see a fighter come back from serious adversity.
-Main card time. Alex Oliveira chokes out Tim Means in short order to keep the finishes and action going on this great card. Don't have much more to say on that, missed the majority of it due to a phone call.
-Hard fought battle between Bethe Correia and Marion Reneau that appropriate ended in a draw. I thought Bethe was an average fighter that was gifted a title shot against Rousey due to trash talk, but she showed real improvements here, effectively mixing striking with well timed takedowns. Then Reneau came back in the 3rd with an ass-kicking good enough to get a 10-8 round- to Correia's credit also, she was on the ground for a long time in the round and prevented every attempt at a submission. Another fight where both fighter's stock rose, and I would definitely like to see a rematch to get a decisive winner.
-Ray Borg and Jussier Formiga had a good battle, although it lacked the violence and aggression of several other fights on the card. Incredible speed and fluidity from both in a razor close fight, and some insane ground transitions. Then again, they're flyweights, of course they don't have enough body weight to hold position. They weigh about as much as my nut sack.
-Knockout of the Year! Edson Barboza does it again. Backing up, on the losing end to Beneil Dariush's aggression, and counters a takedown attempt in a split second with a flying knee. Go watch it. Again and again, like I have (and also my mum, who I showed this afternoon). Fuck it, I want to see Barboza vs. Conor McGregor. I know Edson doesn't have the marquee value of a GSP or Nate Diaz (I could say Floyd Mayweather, but that fight is never happening, it's a dick waving contest), but that would be an insane striking battle.
-Shogun turns back the clock! For the longest time, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has been a guy that has seemed old, but it's just because of the incredible wars he's been in over the last decade and a half. Now, at 35, he's actually getting up there in fighter years, but fought in a very smart, discplined, yet still aggressive manner (Take notes, Tyron Woodley. Yeah, I'm still mad. Bro.) Gets the finish in the 3rd over a very game Gian Villante, who managed to rock the former champ on a few occasions too. Shogun wisely conserved his energy to unload some blistering combinaions late in the fight. Fun battle. Shogun was a tad slow at times and doesn't have the chin he once had, but at this stage of his career, he's a good gatekeeper for the younger guard looking to break into the top 5 at 205.
-The Phenom, Vitor Belfort! Man, is he loved in Brazil. They give zero fucks about Vitor's shady history with PEDs. On that note, Belfort looks a little less flabby than he has in recent fights. I'm hesitant to give him much credit for that, given his shady history and Brazil's lax testing procedures. Onto the fight, and Vitor looks sharp early, throwing his patented flurries and some attempts at spinning shit, but Gastelum stays out of range of most of it. He uses his speed to get inside and land some early bombs, one of which sends Vitor crashing to the canvas! To his credit, the 39 year old recovers and gets to his feet, only to get blasted back down to the mat again in short order. Kelvin Gastelum gets possibly the biggest name win of his career. Great finish to a card that delivered, maybe even over-delivered.
Let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that a guy that calls himself The Phenom got his ass handed to him by a guy named Kelvin. Sounds like a guy that would help you with your Maths homework.
Seriously, track this card down, wherever you can get it, and watch everything bar the Moraes vs.Ramos fight. You won't be disappointed.
Until next time, take care,