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FightWatch: UFC Tampa

The Arena blog is all about following forms of combat, real or fake, sport or entertainment. I'm guilty sometimes of letting the pro wrestling content override the MMA stuff, so I'm looking to rectify that in the next couple of posts by doing FightWatch reviews!

UFC has a very busy schedule, holding events most weeks. As an Australian, the time zone difference is usually pretty helpful. What is typically a Saturday night event in America takes place Sunday morning in Australia, and lasts through to Sunday afternoon. Watching some fights ain't a bad way to spend a lazy Sunday at all.

Of course, that's all dependent on me having a lazy Sunday. When UFC Tampa took place, I was down in Adelaide having a bit of a mini holiday, catching up with old friends for a few days. Last week, when UFC Boston went down, I missed most of the fights because I was exhausted (but exhilarated) from a massive Colosseum weekend spent up in Sydney.

So here we are! UFC Tampa. It was headlined by a highly important fight between two of the best women fighters in the UFC, in the strawweight division. Former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (damn her for losing the belt, so I can't get away with writing "Joanna Champion" anymore) was set to take on "The Karate Hottie" Michelle Waterson in a 5 rounder. Also, top featherweight contender Cub Swanson takes on Kron Gracie, who is making his second appearance in the Octagon. Gracie made a strong debut in choking out Alex Caceres, but how will he handle this significant step up in competition?

Experimenting with different ways to structure these reviews too. Trying to lessen the word count while still providing worthwhile reading and analysis. So what I've decided to do is to provide results for the prelims and highlight the fights that are WORTH A WATCH, and for the main card, I'll provide thoughts on every fight, as those are typically more significant fights for the respective divisions, regardless of fight quality. And I'll try and stick to overall thoughts on the fights rather than doing play-by-play.

In the words of former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Brock Lesnar- LET'S DO THIS!

Fight Pass Prelims

(125) JJ Aldrich def. Lauren Mueller via UD (30-27, 29-28 X 2)

WORTH A WATCH? Aldrich showed some improved striking and it was a solid 3 frames of competitive action. Mueller hung tough throughout, but the consistency of Aldrich got it done.

(185) Marvin Vettori def. Andrew Sanchez via UD (30-27 X 3)

WORTH A WATCH? Yeah, Vettori was sharper and seemed more powerful in his striking. He was the more complete fighter in the cage, but Sanchez was gritty and game, and never seemed completely out of it even though he was behind.

(170) Miguel Baeza def. Hector Aldana via R2 TKO (leg kick and punches)

WORTH A WATCH? This was the official UFC debut of Baeza after an appearance on the Contender Series. He shone with a focused attack on the legs, and Aldana absolutely crumbled after a well placed calf kick. Certainly could be a young prospect to keep an eye on at welterweight.

(135) Marlon Vera def. Andre Ewell via R3 TKO (ground and pound)

WORTH A WATCH? This was a really fun fight. Vera kept up a constant pressure and attack, but Ewell had his moments too. Vera's win takes him to 5 straight finishes, which is the kind of run that could earn him a shot at a ranked bantamweight next time out.

ESPN+ Prelims

(125) (#3) Deiveson Figueiredo def. (#6) Tim Eliott via R1 Submission (guillotine choke)

WORTH A WATCH? Absolutely. Highlight reel win for Figueiredo, who cracked Elliott early and seemed to have a significant power advantage. That had Elliott tentative for a couple of minutes until he shot for a takedown, which lead to the immediate choke. Very impressive.

Post-fight, Figueirdeo calls out Joseph Benavidez through his translator. Credit to the translator who delivered the English translation with the appropriate emotion, rather than just flatly recitiing as most translators do. Man was fired up!

(170) Alex Morono def. Max Griffin via UD (29-28 X 2, 29-27)

WORTH A WATCH? This was a Fight Of The Night contender. Incredibly active, violent, back and forth fight. Neither man took a backward step. Round 2 was especially exciting with Griffin landing a big punch and swarming with a flurry, but Morono survives. Later in the round, he lands a head kick and drops Griffin, coming super close to finishing with follow up strikes. Excellent stuff.

(155) Mike Davis def. Thomas Gifford via R3 KO (punch)

WORTH A WATCH? I mean, Gifford absorbed about 150 strikes before succumbing to the KO. So... yes and no. It was incredibly violent, but also incredibly one-sided. Even Michael Bisping on commentary was calling on the referee and the corner to stop it... as early as R1. It was one of the worst one-sided beatdowns I've ever seen in the UFC. It got a little uncomfortable. Davis was just superior at every aspect. Striking, power, speed, intensity, cardio... Gifford apparently had a ground advantage, and when it went there he rolled and attempted submissions, but invariably just took more punches. It resembled what a fight between me and Robert Whittaker would look like... Gifford had basically nothing at all to trouble Davis, just a hell of a chin. But I don't think I could have lasted until R3 with that level of punishment. That was absolutely brutal.

(205) Ryan Spann def. Devin Clark via R2 Submission (guillotine choke)

WORTH A WATCH? Yeah. This was a much more competitive fight. Bit of a slow, feeling out process in the first round, but the second round saw both light heavyweights swing and connect. Spann gets the better of the exchanges, and locks in the choke quickly when Clark ducks down. Nice work.

Main Card

(185) Eryk Anders def. Gerald Meerschaert via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28 X2)

WORTH A WATCH? Honestly, there were a few better fights on the prelims to fill 15 minutes. They seemed a little too respectful of each other for the first couple of rounds, although Anders did score an early knockdown. The last minute or so picked up the aggression, but if you're looking to cherry pick top fights or top moments from this card, maybe leave this slightly average scrap on the cutting room floor.

(155) Matt Frevola def. Luis Pena via SD (28-29, 29-28 X2)

WORTH A WATCH? More action-packed that the previous SD fight, Frevola immediately went in full-throttle with an attack, and Pena was able to hang in there and return fire across 3 frames. Fun battle, I'll always have time for Violent Bob Ross. But again, if you're short on time, you wouldn't miss anything exceptional by skipping this bout.

(115) Amanda Ribas def. Mackenzie Dern via UD (30-27 X 3)

WORTH A WATCH? I mean, if you like looking at Mackenzie Dern, sure. But from a fight standpoint, really basic, with the superior striker Ribas scoring often while Dern was swinging wildly and missing 90% of the time. Feels like the wheels really came off the Mackenzie Dern hype train with this one.

(170) Niko Price def. James Vick via R1 KO (upkick)

WORTH A WATCH? Not only was it a KO, it was a Round 1 KO. And not only was it a Round 1 KO, it was a KO via upkick! I can't recall ever seeing that! Plus, it's kinda fun seeing Vick get knocked out. He talked a big game and kinda whined until he got big fights, and then showed himself to be unable to handle those big fights.

(145) Cub Swanson def. Kron Gracie via UD (30-27 X 3)

WORTH A WATCH? Holy hell, what a fight! This one kind of snuck up on me. I knew going in that this fight won FOTN. First round, Cub put on a striking masterclass. Movement, footwork, changing levels, punches and kicks. A LOT of body work. But pretty one-sided. I was thinking, "This won FOTN? It's the Swanson show!" And then R2. Cub got tired, and Kron started connecting. He was just wading forward, looking for the clinch, and when he couldn't quite secure it, he'd just land some punches in close range. Both guys spent the last 2 rounds fighting in the proverbial phone booth, and it was awesome!

(115) Joanna Jedrzejczyk def. Michelle Waterson via UD (50-45 X2, 49-46)

WORTH A WATCH? Hell yeah! Joanna is a goddamn buzzsaw. Her striking is so damn good! Fast and precise. In the space of a second she can land a kick to the leg, body and head. Not "or". "And". She's that quick. And that's the kind of speed and pressure that Michelle Waterson was forced to deal with. And to her credit, she was constantly fighting back, usually with a smile on her bloody face. And I mean "bloody" quite literally in this case. There were a couple of moments that looked promising for the Karate Hottie, where she got the back and almost had a RNC. Ultimately, Joanna showed why she was champion for so long, and Waterson is a warrior as well. Too bad for them that Swanson and Gracie had the battle that they had, otherwise this would have been a deserving FOTN winner as well. Highly technical and entertaining.

Post-fight, Joanna says she could fight 5 more rounds, but also that she broke her foot in the 2nd round. Could not have picked that at all, she fought like she was 100%. Awesome stuff. Waterson is emotional when she gets an interview, but she'll be back better than ever. Joanna endorses her and says that she'll be the champ one day. All class.

I wanted to cut down on the word count by not writing about fights that weren't good, but honestly just about every fight on this card had something to offer. I gave lesser recommendations to the first couple of main card fights, but honestly they were still fun. Just trying to curate a list of fights to pick out highlights and save people time by not watching all the fights. Really the only disappointing fight of the lot was the Mackenzie Dern fight. While it's clear that the UFC would like to promote her heavily, the skills in the cage aren't at that level yet. And in that we have the biggest difference between UFC and WWE- being pretty and marketable will only get you so far.

Anyway, that does it for this edition of FightWatch. Kept it under 2000 words, so I'm happy with that. I'll be back in a few days with a similar review of UFC Boston! Any feedback is welcome at my e-mail, :)

Until next time, take care,


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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