FightWatch: UFC Sacramento
In an effort to give some balance to my blog posts, here's the "better late than never" review of UFC's last Fight Night, taking place in the city of Sacramento in California. It wasn't the strongest fight card UFC have ever put together, with a lot of backlash against the headliner. A lot of fight fans didn't see De Randamie vs. Ladd as a worthy headliner, even considering that Fight Night main events are generally at a lower level than PPVs, many fight fans felt that it didn't even meet that lower standard/expectation.
However, one decent selling point of the card was the return of UFC legend and Hall Of Famer, "The California Kid", Urijah Faber. Faber decided to step away from active competition at the end of 2016, after beating Brad Pickett by unanimous decision. Although he didn't compete for the next two and a half years, he remained a prominent presence in the UFC, as the leader of his Alpha Male fight camp, notably supporting Cody Garbrandt on his path to the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Faber felt he still had something in the tank, and at 40 years old the window to make another run gets smaller and smaller, so he signed on for a co-main against rising contender, Ricky Simon.
Let's. Do. This!
Benito Lopez def. Vince Morales via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: This was a really close fight, I actually had it scored 29-28 Morales. Good action to kick the card off. Lopez had an effective strategy wearing out Morales through the rounds with leg kicks, although Morales landed strikes with significant power at several points, especially in Rounds 1 & 3, knocking Lopez down in R1 and rocking him many times in Round 3. R2 was more definitively Lopez's and for the other 2 rounds, it comes down to what is classed as more significant- the consistent leg attacks of Lopez, or Morales' ability to continually rock Lopez with combinations. Easy to see arguments on both sides, so I have no problem with the decision.
Worth A Watch? Yes. Well rounded, technical striking battle.
Brianna Van Buren def. Livia Renata Souza via Unanimous Decision (30-27 X 3)
Thoughts: The judges and I were on the same page for this one. Super impressive UFC debut by Van Buren, who had a level of power and aggression that we don't see that much of at strawweight. Really well rounded game, between the clinch, the striking combinations, and the ability to mix in takedowns. Very bright future for Van Buren, and credit to Souza for hanging in there, I think some lesser fighters would have wilted under the pressure Van Buren was putting on.
Worth A Watch? Yep. Highly recommend this one. Feel like we will look back in a year or two when Van Buren becomes a contender and even title challenger, and we can say "this is where it all began".
Jonathan Martinez def. Pingyuan Liu via KO (knee at 3:54 of R3)
Thoughts: Well, damn. The first finish of the night was a spectacular one. Seemed at first like we were going to get the first disappointing fight of the night, as both men seemed hesitant to engage for much of the first two rounds. Liu did manage to sneak a good combination in towards the end of R1, and that opened the doors for a fun exchange from both guys that I feel Martinez may have edged. R2 was more certainly to Martinez, with Liu simply backing up and circling away for almost the whole round. More urgent start to R3 before slowing down again, and the crowd get on their case with boos. The boos apparently motivated Martinez, who almost immediately after lands the knee that puts Liu's lights completely out. A knockout for the highlight reel, to be sure.
Worth A Watch? At least find a clip of the finish. The first 13.5 minutes weren't anything to write home about, but that knee... it wasn't even a flying knee, just a well timed step up knee to the point of the jaw. Beautifully violent.
Ryan Hall def. Darren Elkins via UD (29-28 X2, 30-27)
Thoughts: Hall has SUCH a weird style. Elkins trying to bulrush him, and Hall just looking to drop and grab a kneebar at any opportunity. Hall starts throwing crazy spinning strikes just seemingly to get in close, then a spinning wheel kick lands and knocks Elkins down! Hall continues to land his unorthodox spinning strikes, looking super awkward- I've never trained in MMA, but I have to believe that technique wise, most coaches would say not to strike the way Ryan Hall does. He kinda flails his limbs around and somehow connects at a decent rate. He comes close on a couple of submission attempts too, but Elkins is super tough. Strange, but definitely fun to watch.
Worth A Watch? Absolutely. A Fight Of The Night bonus was not awarded for this event, but I feel like if any fight deserved it, it might have been this one.
Julianna Pena def. Nicco Montano via UD (29-28 X 2, 29-27)
Thoughts: Nice return to form for Pena after an extended amount of time away from the cage. Montano got the best of R1, but Pena rallied nicely, imposing her will in R2 with takedowns and ground and pound, continuing the pressure in R3, appearing the stronger fighter down the stretch. Huge win for Pena over the former flyweight champion.
Worth A Watch? Yeah. Not a fight of the year or anything, but I'm a sucker for the kind of comeback Pena managed, with sheer willpower getting the job done.
Andre Fili def. Sheymon Moraes via KO (punches at 3:07 of R1)
Thoughts: They wasted no time getting into the action with this one. Success on both sides, then Fili lands a crisp jab/head kick combo that rocks Moraes! He stays patient, looking for another opening... and soons finds it with a counter hook. Ground and pound stops the show. Excellent win for the Alpha Male product.
Worth A Watch? 3 minutes of back and forth action ending in a big time KO? Absolutely!
John Allan def. Mike Rodriguez via UD (29-28 X 2, 30-27)
Thoughts: The light heavyweight division looks to be in good hands with these two. I wasn't familiar with either fighter coming in- as I've mentioned previously, I'm really just getting back into my MMA fandom properly after not following as closely over the past year or so. Rodriguez was signed in Season 1 of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series and has had a couple of fights in the UFC, while Allan was making his official UFC debut after losing in his own bid at the Contender Series. Both men looked in great shape and traded power shots throughout this fight. The difference seems to be Allan's ability to fight on the ground and go for submission attempts, with armbars and gullotines getting thrown up. Allan makes good on the debut, but Rodriguez was right there all the way. Will definitely be keeping a closer eye on these two in their next outings.
Worth A Watch? For sure. Another contender (see what I did there) for Fight Of The Night.
Marvin Vettori def. Cezar Ferreira via UD (30-27 X 3)
Thoughts: My attention definitely waned during this fight. Vettori implemented a gameplan of pressure, keeping in close range with clinch work and short strikes. He mixes in takedowns and manages to bust up Ferreira into the final round, but it wasn't the most exciting stuff in the world. Good confidence builder for Vettori though, gaining a win after a long layoff and the close decision loss to Israel Adesanya just over a year ago.
Worth A Watch? Would probably give it a miss. Workman like performance by Vettori, who seemed singularly focused on getting the victory, without style points involved. Nothing wrong with that approach, but it's not the most fun viewing experience watching someone grind out 3 rounds.
Karl Roberson def. Wellington Turman via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28 X 2)
Thoughts: Really gritty performance by Karl Roberson, Turman put him in some rough spots, particularly on the ground with choke attempts, and he got out seemingly through sheer determination. Some nice escapes give Roberson the advantage at key moments. Turman obviously had a high level ground game, but this was a high level example of fighter's heart.
Worth A Watch? Yeah, you gotta love a story of a fighter relentlessly battling against adversity. And better days lie ahead for Turman based on the skill he exhibited in this fight.
Josh Emmett def. Mirsad Bektic via TKO (punches at 4:25 of R1)
Thoughts: Both guys throwing heat to start this fight off. Emmett has shown a propensity for power punching in past fights, but Bektic sneaks some heavy shots of his own. A sharp jab from Emmett drops Bektic on his ass, and Emmett swarms in with ground strikes. Referee calls it off, and you can't have a much better one round performance than that.
Worth A Watch? 100%. Emmett has become one of the most underrated guys to watch at featherweight. Always seems to be an underdog, but he packs serious power in his striking.
Urijah Faber def. Ricky Simon via TKO (punches at 0:46 of R1)
Thoughts: I think the referee done goofed here. The California crowd was wayyyy behind Faber, and they absolutely exploded when he scored the early knockdown. I think referee Mike Beltran allowed the crowd, the atmosphere, the moment of a UFC Hall Of Famer coming back like this affect him. Simon was coherent and fighting back. Beltran had to literally pry Faber and Simon apart, because Simon was actively trying to fight back and grab at Faber. Super bad call. The Sacramento crowd gave no fucks. Credit to Faber for landing the punch and scoring the knockdown on the young contender Simon, but I truly believe that wasn't allowed to play out the way it should have.
Worth A Watch? I mean, it's 46 seconds. And it is a cool atmosphere seeing the legend Faber come up big in California. Judge for yourselves if you feel it was a just stoppage.
Germaine De Randamie def. Aspen Ladd via TKO (punches at 0:16 of R1)
Thoughts: An even worse early stoppage than the co-main. While I believe Beltran was influenced by the moment of the Hall Of Famer coming out of retirement, Herb Dean may have been influenced by the weigh in footage of Aspen Ladd, who certainly looked in no condition to fight on the scale. Essentially, the first punch dropped Ladd, but like Simon before her, she was clearly coherent and ready to defend, eyes clear and body positioned to guard from further attack. But Herb was pulling De Randamie away before Ladd was even completely down on her back, she was given zero opportunity to show she could fight back. If the booking of De Randamie vs. Ladd wasn't a letdown, the way the fight went down certainly was.
Worth A Watch? Again, to judge for yourself on the validity of the stoppage, sure. But again, Ladd hadn't even hit the ground from the punch and it was already over. In most MMA fights, unless a fighter is clearly out cold, they are given the opportunity to fight on from the ground position. Herb didn't even look at Ladd to see if her eyes were clear, just immediately waved it off.
With the top 3 fights ending in the first round, the main card was certainly over quicker than usual. I think this card will be remembered for being Urijah Faber's triumphant return, first of all. The record books don't say "early stoppage", there's no asterisks, just "winner". But I think the early stoppages will be remembered, and the main event stoppage in particular will be the source of some debate amongst critics, analysts and fight fans for some time going forward. It is the referee's job to enforce the rules inside the cage, govern the actions and ensure the safety of the fighters. Should they take the condition of the fighters at the weigh in into consideration?
For those that don't know, it is common practice amongst MMA fighters (and also collegiate/amateur wrestlers) to "cut weight". Weight cutting means that fighters diet, starve, and dehydrate themselves as much as humanly possible before stepping on the scale at weigh ins. This means that fighters in the UFC routinely weigh up to 20-30 pounds (9-13kg) more in the cage than they do the day before when they're weighing in. Conor McGregor is notorious, pardon the pun, for looking on death's door several times at weigh ins. But then, 24 hours later, McGregor is fed, rehydrated, fighting the best and most dangerous fighters in the world- and knocking them out, full of power and energy.
I feel that the referees should concern themselves with the actions in the cage. If the medical professionals and athletic commissions that work with the UFC determine that a fighter is fit to fight, then they should be treated as a fully fit athlete in the cage. Herb Dean decided that Aspen Ladd wasn't fit to take more than a single punch in the Octagon, without even looking to see the effect that the punch had had on her. I have a hard time believing that Herb made the call within the guidelines of "the fighter was not intelligently defending themselves". Same deal with Beltran in the Faber fight. Simon was still defending himself, and looking to fight back. I've never seen a referee pry two fighters apart to cause a stoppage like that. The Emmett fight- great stoppage. There was a knockdown, there were follow up shots, the fighter took too many unanswered punches without defending, so you call a TKO. The fighter's not out, but if they can't block, move, defend or fight back, the referee should call the fight off. Ricky Simon and Aspen Ladd were not afforded the opportunity to do that.
Until next time, take care,