UFC on FOX Thoughts- The Rise of the Reaper
One of the more entertaining free fight cards in recent memory resulted from the UFC's first trip to Kansas City. Most fighters on the card brought it with balls-to-the-wall action (or maybe flaps to the wall for the female fighters) and while some fighters dominated as expected, there were a couple of mild upsets to the betting favourites that showed that you never know what to expect in the sport of MMA, particularly in its premier organisation, the UFC. And yes, that last part of the sentence was for those filthy casuals that don't understand the difference between the two acronyms. You don't train UFC, bro, in the same way that you don't play NRL on the weekends with your mates on the footy field (unless Win or FOX Sports happens to broadcast your games).
Anyway, I didn't get to watch the Fight Pass prelims, and in an attempt to make brevity my friend with this particular post, I won't watch those fights to analyse them here, I'll just watch them at my own leisure. I will say that I did well in my predictions league- I was correct in thinking that Zak Cummings would win by sub, and Anthony Smith would win by KO/TKO. Go me. Slightly disappointed that Aljamain Sterling took Augusto Mendes to decision, only because I expected a statement finish with someone of his talent level fighting someone below it.
I did get to see the majority of the FOX prelims, and it started off with one of the most fun flyweight fights I have ever seen, in Louis Smolka vs. Tim Elliott. Elliott has been a revelation since returning to the UFC. He lost 3 straight in the Octagon a few years ago, only to return through the "Tournament of Champions" TUF after winning a belt in a smaller organisation. He took champ Demetrius Johnson to the absolute limit in his UFC return, even having a couple of moments where it looked like he might get the sub. Even though Elliott lost there, his stock went up, and he continued that forward momentum when he faced Smolka. I've thought highly of Louis Smolka for quite some time- he's the only fighter I'm aware of to finish a fight by Sweet Chin Music, for fuck's sake- and the two flyweights had a tremendous battle here. Both men are excellent on the ground, and for anyone that thinks ground fighting is boring, watch this. Guys like Jon Fitch and Marcin Held and Daniel Cormier that just hold position, sure, boring as shit, but Smolka and Elliott were scrambling and transitioning like the mat was lava. I read on a forum somewhere that a poster compared the moves and reversals to lucha libre, and being the wonderful wordsmith that I am, I'm going to steal it. Elliott with the decision win, and with how shallow the flyweight division is, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get another crack at the champ soon.
Next up, Rashid Magomedov vs. Bobby Green. Brian Stann and Jon Anik on commentary weren't shy in letting the TV audience know that the big knock against Magomedov was a lack of activity/volume. While this was a marked improvement from his previous fight against Beneil Dariush, Magomedov did seem to be waiting too long to attack, and as a result won a narrow split decision. Frustrating, because we see flashes of Rashid's immense talent, but he either seems to coast, or maybe it's just bad strategy where he's waiting to counter and his opponent doesn't engage enough to offer those opportunities.
Newcomer from France, Tom Duquesnoy (pronounced "Du-Cane-Wah") makes good on his considerable pre-fight hype by starching Patrick Williams in the opening seconds of the second round. After getting cracked early by Williams, Tom could have conceivably ended the fight on the horn at the end of the first, crushing Williams against the cage with a standing elbow strike. The ref let the fight go on, but Williams was clearly in no state to continue. Impressive debut by Duquesnoy, and definitely looks like a future contender at bantamweight. Let's see him against better competition before we start booking him against Garbrandt though.
Didn't get to see Alexander Volkov vs. Roy Nelson, had a brunch date with a pretty lady that prevented me from seeing Big Country and his blubber roll around the Octagon, but I see Volkov won by decision. Very impressive- Nelson seldom gets finished, and while he's getting on the older side, a win over him is still impressive. Curious to see how that fight went down.
Onto the main card!
I missed the opener of Jeremy Stephens vs. Renato Moicano. Who the fuck are those guys?
Honestly, had no idea who Moicano was. A quick Wiki search shows he debuted in UFC at the end of 2014, subbing Tom Niinimaki (who I've heard of), had a year and a half layoff, beat some other nobody by a split decision, and then got on the main card of FOX against Stephens- who, as much fun as it is to give shit to him, is one of the top featherweights and a UFC veteran. Huh? Anyway, Mr. Moicano won another close split over Lil Heathen. I'm interested to see what this mystery man is all about.
Came in just in time for the finish of the next one, and because it's the main fight I was interested in on this whole card, I tracked the whole fight down and watched it before writing this- Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker!
Stann and Anik give Whittaker props during the intros, but you can tell by the way they speak about Jacare that they fully expect him to roll through Whittaker. Old mate Rob had some other plans though. Jacare tries his hardest to get an early takedown, and when he tries to pull some tricky high level jujitsu moves to pull Whittaker to the ground, the Reaper scrambles up in a manner almost reminiscent of the earlier Smolka vs. Elliott fight. Following that struggle, Jacare almost looks a little panicked, and Whittaker uses his speed and precision to land some nice shots, while avoiding most of the counter attempts.
Whittaker's coach and the commentators seem in agreeance that Round 1 went to Rob, and just as they bring in DC and Cruz to add more analysis, Whittaker drops Jacare! Souza wants Rob to come to the ground, but he's not having it. Whittaker's got the range and timing down, landing increasingly harder shots, until the head kick- dead on shin to the jaw- wobbles Jacare. Follows up with elbows of doom on the ground, Jacare turtles, and it's done!
They're calling it an upset, but I've been saying it since the Smashes- Robert Whittaker is the real deal. He was scheduled to fight Michael Bisping at UFC 193, but Bisping pulled out and proceeded to go on his "Legend Killer" tour, beating greats like Anderson and Hendo when they're well past their prime, and is now lined up to fight GSP. He got the middleweight belt because Luke Rockhold took him lightly and fought like an idiot- and admitted as much- and I think Whittaker would annihilate him to become Australia's first ever UFC Champion!
He's a good mate of mine, too! Got to meet him up in Brisbane. Super polite and humble guy considering how much he destroys people in the cage. And yeah, this pic reminds me that I need to lose weight. But, it's Easter Monday and I've got chocolate that needs eating, so suck it!
Co-main event time as the strawweights get set for battle- Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson. Waterson, the Karate Hottie (an apt moniker), is coming off a demolition job of UFC's golden girl, Paige Van Zant, so she gets this spotlight. It's clear as the fight starts that Rose has a decent size advantage, and Michelle smartly uses judo techniques to get the fight to the ground. Rose is no slouch on the ground though, and reverses the position to take her back (minds out of the gutter, boys- and maybe some girls) to win the round.
Early into Round 2, Namajunas lands a violent head kick that drops Waterson hard! Who said the 115 pound division doesn't have power? Waterson survives through sheer toughness, and even though she looks badly hurt, she tries with all her might to throw up an armbar. But Rose is relentless, landing more ground and pound to open up the opportunity for a submission. Rear naked choke locked in (don't look at me like that, it's what the move is called) and Waterson taps! Huge win for Rose Namajunas, who probably secured the next title shot with a win like that. Incredibly impressive and entertaining performance.
Next up, main event time! For the UFC Flyweight Championship, Demetrius "Mighty Mouse" Johnson vs. Wilson Reis! And... I fell asleep.
I don't mean that as a slight on the fighters, I've been fatigued as all hell lately. But it probably speaks to the excitement level that MIghty Mouse and his division bring that my body decided to give out at that point. First of all, Mighty Mouse is one hell of a fighter. He used to be guilty of kind of wrestling his way to decisions... but as he got into his championship reign, he got increasingly more dynamic in his fight style, finishing contenders left and right. Basically the reverse of what GSP did- St Pierre became champ and opted for the safe approach, Johnson got more aggressive. He reaps the rewards in this fight with an armbar submission of Wilson Reis.
And here lies the problem. Reis basically only got a shot because Mighty Mouse has slayed everyone else. They had to create a whole season of TUF just to find a worthy challenger at 125! Johnson is so far ahead of the pack that it's hard to invest as a fan. You could also point to the fact that it is the flyweight division, and traditionally, sub-155 divisions have a tough time drawing interest. Maybe if Johnson had a personality like Conor McGregor- who fought only 20 pounds heavier- he might get that million dollar payday he's after. Honestly though, I think the lack of competition is the problem. If Sergio Pettis goes on a good run, he might be a threat. There's Magomed Bibulatov who debuted last weekend. We need to look to the younger or newer fighters in the UFC to pose a challenge, or just wait for Johnson to age himself out of his top spot. At 30 years old, we might be waiting a while.
But to me, this show belonged to fellow Aussie Robert Whittaker, and to a lesser extent, "Thug" Rose Namajunas. Very interested in what happens next for those two fighters. But overall, from what I saw, very fun show that I recommend highly. Time to fill in the gaps on those prelims!
Until next time, take care,