FightWatch- UFC 245
We end the PPV year of the UFC with a big one! The end-of-year UFC PPV card is usually pretty stacked, it's up there with July's International Fight Week in terms of importance. UFC's last PPV was a big one on the calendar as well- the annual November card in Madison Square Garden. They put some big fights on that one, but in lieu of a big title fight with a reigning divisional champion defending his belt, they just... made a belt up. The BMF Championship. This time around, however, we have legit title fights. Not one. Not two. Three title fights. Not sure why they didn't just move at least one of these fights a month earlier to the Garden, but the BMF thing worked out, I guess. Kinda.
UFC 245's main event is one that I feel would have been interesting, taking place in front of the notoriously rowdy and outspoken fans in New York City, mostly because of the antics of the challenger. A couple of years ago, Colby Covington was a fairly unassuming fighter. Very skilled, with a good record, but didn't really capture attention in a notable way. He's an accomplished wrestler with seemingly endless cardio, which saw him secure dominant decision victories over men like Bryan Barberena and Dong Hyun Kim. Covington felt the need to make a change in recent times. I guess he felt being a dominant wrestler in the welterweight division, racking up unanimous decision victories wasn't enough. He must have paid attention to the career of Jon Fitch, who racked up a great win streak in mostly boring fashion, and Dana White cut him at the first possible opportunity when he finally took a loss.
So Covington revamped his public image. Taking a page out of the book of outspoken men like Conor McGregor and Chael Sonnen before him, Colby began dressing in fancy suits and giving bombastic, braggadocious interviews. To compete the ensemble and put his own twist on things, he started wearing MAGA hats and continually threw his support behind the polarizing president of the United States, Donald Trump. This act made him a bad guy to most who don't support Trump, and others simply think the schtick is cringy and forced, but nevertheless, mission accomplished- people talk about Colby Covington a lot more now than when he was grinding out victories. And to Colby's credit, he's still getting the results in the cage. That's what led him to this main event spot, challenging for the UFC Welterweight Championship after statement victories over Rafael dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler, the former briefly awarding him an interim UFC title.
The obstacle between Covington and undisputed UFC gold is a man known as the Nigerian Nightmare, Kamaru Usman. Usman joined the UFC after winning The Ultimate Fighter 21. That's a show I haven't watched in years, I wonder if it's still going? Seems like Dana White's Contender Series has essentially replaced it. Anyway, Usman went on a similar run of dominance through the UFC, using high pressure wrestling to steamroll the competition. After a Performance of the Night over Rafael dos Anjos, he got a title shot against Tyron Woodley... and completely obliterated him. Woodley looked lost and unable to come up with an answer, and Usman took welterweight gold back to Nigeria. Usman is a man who lets his actions do the talking, so Covington has provided most of the trash talk leading into this fight, calling the champ "Marty Fakenewsman", which makes little sense, but hey, it's an appropriation of a Donald Trump expression, and very little of what that dude says makes sense. Stylistically though, Usman vs. Covington was an intriguing match-up. Two men with similar skill sets and fighting styles clash, who will prevail?
The co-main event was the true main event in my eyes, the fight I was looking forward to more than any other on the card. The UFC Featherweight Championship is on the line, as Max "Blessed" Holloway defends against Australian buzzsaw, Alexander "The Great" Volkanovski. Not only is Volkanovski a fellow Aussie, he's a local boy! He lives about 20 minutes away from me in Windang and a few of my friends know him personally, which is pretty damn cool. But besides the local pride/bias, Volkanovski is a genuinely great fighter. He was on the UFC radar for a long time, racking up wins on the regional MMA circuit before getting the call to step into the Octagon. He wasted little time in working his way up the ranks and continuing his winning streak, but it was last December that Volko's stock rose big time, knocking out former UFC title challenger Chad Mendes and sending him into retirement! He would follow this up by shutting down Jose Aldo- in Rio, to boot. Volkanovski was the undeniable number one contender. He wanted to get onto the UFC 243 card in Melbourne (would have made it a much more PPV worthy card, but I digress), but Holloway wasn't ready to fight on that date. The big time end-of-year UFC PPV in Vegas is a nice consolation prize though.
Then we have the co-co-main event. In the third title fight of the evening, the women's champ-champ Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight crown against the first UFC Featherweight Champion, Germaine de Randamie. UFC promote Nunes as the GOAT women's MMA fighter, and while Dana and his company are often prone to promotional hyperbole, I believe it's accurate in the case of Nunes. Essentially all the other possible women's GOATs- Cyborg, Rousey, Holm, Tate- Nunes destroyed them all in the first round. She's vicious, she can knock you out or submit you, crazy strength and ferocity.
As for de Randamie... look, I have some level of respect for every UFC fighter. Stepping into a cage to fight another human being, especially highly trained and dangerous ones, is something that most of us will never do. But that level of respect is as low as it could be for GDR. She fought dirty in her title winning effort over Holly Holm, hitting her blatantly after the horn on two separate occasions and showing no remorse or indication that it was even accidental. Then UFC tried to set her up to fight Cyborg, and she chose to relinquish her newly won title rather than accept that fight. So I'm firmly Team Nunes for this one.
After putting three title fights on the card, there's no question that this fight card is stacked on paper. Really, the UFC could have easily filled up the rest of the card with low-level fights and it'd still be worth the PPV cost. Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, the UFC matchmakers, have certainly put together weaker PPV cards in recent times (and to be fair to them, UFC are running more shows and have more fighters on the roster than ever before. Not an easy job). But for this Vegas card, they pulled out all the stops. The PPV main card was rounded out with two undeniable legends of MMA. Former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo makes the drop to 135 pounds for the first time in his career, taking on top ranked bantamweight, Marlon Moraes. And to kick off the main card festivities, it's the recently un-retired Urijah Faber, taking on young gun Petr Yan.
The prelims had some pretty tasty match-ups, too. Let's. Do. This!
Fight 1: (185) Punahele Soriano def. Oskar Piechota via R1 KO (punches) at 3:17
Worth A Watch? Absolutely, what a way to get the action started! Soriano was making his UFC debut, but didn't let the famed Octagon Jitters (TM) affect him, knocking Piechota down early. Piechota survives and gets back to his feet, but soon after, it's lights out. Killer instinct by the newcomer.
Fight 2: (Catchweight-131) Jessica Eye def. Viviane Araujo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X 3)
Worth A Watch? A solid performance from Eye, but not the kind of fight you're going to remember by the end of the night. Give it a miss. It's a shame that Jessica Eye missed weight, as well.
Fight 3: (125) Brandon Moreno def. Kai Kara-France via UD (29-28 X 2, 30-27)
Worth A Watch? All the yes. This was an absolute war. Kara-France was game and continually throwing strikes, but they seemed to have little effect on Moreno, who taunted and mocked the Kiwi as the fight went on. Moreno's striking was on point, busting Kai's face up significantly. It didn't win Fight of the Night, but they deserve some kind of pay bonus after that one.
Fight 4: (145) Chase Hooper def. Daniel Teymur via R1 TKO (punches and elbows) at 4:34
Worth A Watch? Hell yeah! This was a wild round. Hooper was discovered on Dana White's Contender Series- hence me being unsure if TUF is still a thing. Going to research after I write this. He's only 20 years old, but massive for the featherweight division at 6'1. He eats a massive overhand from Teymur early, I have no idea how that didn't drop him. Hooper soon gets into his realm with his grappling, and Teymur looks really stuck with the lanky limbs of his opponent. He somehow survives a deeply sunk rear naked choke, but Hooper is relentless, trapping him and finishing with ground and pound. Damn. He's one to watch. In his post-fight interview, he talks about wanting M&Ms. Rogan laughs it off as a "kid" thing to say, but honestly, I'd probably want some junk food after the BS of cutting weight. I'm trying to change my eating habits at the moment and it's not easy, so I couldn't imagine the hell that pro MMA fighters put their bodies through.
Fight 5: (170) Matt Brown def. Ben Saunders via R2 KO (ground and pound) at 4:55
Worth A Watch? When is a Matt Brown fight not worth watching? Both he and Saunders are grizzled vets at this point, and they always put on a show. The first round is a bit of a chess match, with Saunders trying his hardest to make Brown submit to a triangle, but he stays calm and gets through the round without taking really any damage. Towards the end of the second, Brown cracks Saunders and drags him to the mat, time running out on the clock but Brown is relentless, getting the clean KO with punches and elbows in full guard with seconds remaining. Great stuff, and goes to show the round isn't really over until it's over.
Fight 6: (185) Omari Akhmedov def. Ian Heinisch via US (29-28 X 3)
Worth A Watch? Not really. I'm writing this all from memory a few days after the show and I'm having trouble recalling specific moments from the fight, which tells you a lot. A quick look at a play-by-play report indicates much of the same. No big moments on the feet, no one getting a real clear cut advantage, and they go back and forth on takedowns and such. A whole lot of meh there.
Fight 7: (135) Irene Aldana def. Ketlen Vieira via R1 KO (punch) at 4:51
Worth A Watch? Damn! Absolutely! Aldana seemed more in rhythm with her striking throughout the first round, scoring with jabs and low kicks, but it was a BOMB of a left hook that put Vieira out cold! That's Aldana's first UFC finish, and it shakes up the women's bantamweight rankings quite a bit, with #10 sparking #2 like that.
Fight 8: (170) Geoff Neal def. Mike Perry via R1 TKO (head kick and punches) at 1:30
Worth A Watch? This was outstanding! I read this take on one of the forums I frequent (it'd be either Wrestling Forum- which has a little MMA section- or the UKFF- which has a larger MMA section), and it was spot on, so I'm going to steal it here- Mike Perry is a beatable fighter. With his brawling fight style, he's going to lose a decent amount in his career, maybe even in the double digits by the time it's all said and done. Not a knock on him, but he has that "live by the sword, die by the sword" fight mentality. But you will rarely see Perry get obliterated like this. Geoff Neal ran through him like a hot knife through butter. Cracked him early with the head kick, and it quickly became the beginning of the end for Perry. Huge statement for Neal in the welterweight division
PPV Main Card
Fight 1: (145) Petr Yan def. Urijah Faber via R3 KO (head kick) at 0:43
Worth A Watch? This was an excellent fight. Yan, the younger man, was simply sharper and fresher than Faber. The California Kid is a young 40 years old, but he's still 40. He showed incredible heart and toughness in continuing to fight on, especially in the second round where it looked like he got a busted orbital. Big time swelling around the left eye of Faber. The head kick finish was extremely impressive, as they were in close range, and Yan just flicked his leg over the shoulder of Faber and clipped him in the jaw. Onto big and better things for Yan. I don't know about Faber. He finished a young guy a few months ago in his return- although I felt the stoppage was premature- but he looked completely outclassed here. Either he takes a step down in competition and doesn't fight top ranked contenders, or maybe it should be back to the retired life. Continuing to fight on against top 15 featherweights probably won't end well for the UFC Hall of Famer.
Fight 2: (135) Marlon Moraes def. Jose Aldo via Split Decision (29-28 X2, 28-29)
Worth A Watch? Two for two for high quality fights on this PPV. Aldo, despite looking like Skeletor during his weight cut, looked fresh and healthy here. He got cracked early by a Moraes kick, but recovered and rallied to put on pressure and bust up the former title challenger. He looked sharper than he has in a long time. Commentary seemed to think Aldo won, and it seemed that way to me too, but I'm going to have to watch it back, had some streaming issues during this one.
Dana White said post-fight that they're going to treat it like Aldo won, and champion Henry Cejudo called Aldo out quickly in a video posted online. I don't know if I like that. It sucks when judges make bad calls, but if Dana's just going to overrule them when he feels like they're wrong, why even have judges there in the first place? Just ask Dana who won every fight and go from there. There should be some level of sporting merit to the UFC, surely. It's bad enough that they clearly have preferential treatment for certain fighters who make the company more money, like when guys like Tony Ferguson get snubbed to hand Conor McGregor title shots. I always say about pro wrestling that "wins and losses matter", but shouldn't that apply ten-fold for an actual legitimate sport in MMA?
Another example of Dana just ignoring fight results and doing what he wants to do- Israel Adesanya is apparently defending his Middleweight Championship against Yoel Romero next. If that rumour comes to pass... dude. Romero lost his last 2 to Whittaker and Costa. Some people thought he won those fights (I didn't), but again, if we're just going to ignore the official judges' scoring, what's the point of them?
Fight 3: UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship- Amanda Nunes def. Germaine de Randamie via UD (49-44, 49-46, 49-45)
Worth A Watch? Wasn't the greatest fight of all time, but definitely worth a watch. Nunes came out guns blazing to get a R1 finish, but de Randamie survived. Then in R2, the challenger hurt the champ with strikes, especially some well placed knees, a great comeback from GDR to win R2. Then Nunes opted to go with the path of least resistance, knowing she had an advantage on the ground, she leant on her wrestling game to win on the cards. Asides from a moment where GDR threw up a Hail Mary triangle attempt, it was pretty pedestrian and one-sided from there. But the first two rounds had a lot of great stuff.
Fight 4: UFC Featherweight Championship- Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway via UD (48-47 X 2, 50-45)
Worth A Watch? I loved this! And don't get me wrong, I'm definitely biased towards Volko, but I'm a fan of Max too, so I don't think the blinders were on too much. It was a masterful strategy by Volkanovski. The continual leg kick attacks stopped Holloway in his tracks, he couldn't implement the pressure and high volume striking he's known for, because his legs were getting chewed up. I thought Volkanovski had every round, I could maybe see an argument for Round 4 for the champ? Ultimately, the former Warilla Gorilla came through with the win, completely shutting down a fighter who was being hailed in some circles as the featherweight GOAT (mostly by Rogan and his friend, Daniel Cormier. I think win or lose, Holloway had to extend the resume a bit longer before eclipsing Aldo). So happy that we once again have an Aussie as a UFC Champion. Been on Volkanovski's hype train since before he joined the UFC, he's a beast.
Fight 5: UFC Welterweight Championship- Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington via R5 TKO (punches) at 4:10
Worth A Watch? This was wild! We wondered what would happen when two imposing, high pressure wrestlers faced each other... and the result was, not a whole lot of wrestling. True to the bad blood that they had going in, Usman and Covington largely traded big shots for 20+ minutes. At some point in the fight, Colby's jaw got shattered, but he continued to fight on. He might be a dick, but you've got to respect his fighting heart there. The finish was the second latest stoppage in UFC title fight history, I believe. Mighty Mouse defended his belt and won at 4:59 of the 5th, so I think he has that record sown up.
UFC 245 was stacked, both on paper and in practice. The UFC matchmakers loaded up the card with as many titles, ranked fighters and big names as they could. We saw a wide variety of fights and fighting styles, and the day/night of fights flew by. An excellent way to close the PPV year of the UFC. Up next, some Irish guy is fighting. Conor Mac...something. Eh, might give it a watch. If I'm not busy cleaning the house that day.
Until next time, take care,