FightWatch: UFC 253
One of the most anticipated cards of the year went down today on Fight Island. The main event saw a battle of undefeated fighters for the UFC Middleweight Championship- Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa. Someone's 0 had to go. In the co-main, two 205ers battle for the vacant Light Heavyweight Championship after Jon Jones decided to pursue a run at heavyweight. The man who took Jones to the limit last time, Dominick Reyes. A veteran who has had a career resurgence, Jan Blachowicz.
Going to be a hell of a show, right? Let's do this.
Fight 1: Light Heavyweight (205)- Danilo Marques def. Khadis Ibragimov via unanimous decision (29-28 X2, 30-27)
WORTH A WATCH? First fight of the card, and I can comfortably say this is the worst fight I've seen since I restarted doing my FightWatch reviews. Even Anik and Felder had to mention that the fight was a bit of a staring contest, and found time to joke about the fighters not having decaf in their hotel rooms with very little actual action to call. Grappling heavy, but with the grappling activity completely sapping both men's gas tanks, nothing of note happened on the ground or against the fence, besides an egregious amount of fence grabs by Ibragimov. Literally anything else would be a better use of 15 minutes than watching this fight.
Fight 2: Heavyweight (265)- Juan Espino def. Jeff Hughes via submission (scarf hold) at 3:48 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? This was a textbook example of effective, entertaining grappling. Even before the finish, Espino was active as hell with takedowns, ground and pound, transitions and submission attempts. The submission looked rough, as Felder was saying, typically a move that is more uncomfortable than anything else, but Espino was able to really crank it and Hughes was forced to tap quickly. Wonderful work.
We've got interviews back in the cage! Anik talks to Espino, asking when he'll be back in the cage. Espino says, "give me one now." I like this guy!
Fight 3: Light Heavyweight (205)- William Knight def. Aleksa Camur via UD (30-27 X2, 29-28)
WORTH A WATCH? A mild recommendation for this one. Action-wise, somewhere between the first two fights. Not a barn-burner, not a bore-fest, a decent scrap with flashes of great action, but also spells of inactivity. Knight had crazy power and athleticism, and he used it at the end of R1 for some power punches, then shifted towards domination with takedown slams and submission attempts, including a nasty attempt at a keylock in the waning seconds of R2.
Fight 4: Catchweight (150)- Ludovit Klein def. Shane Young via KO (head kick and punches) at 1:16 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? Hell yes. Klein sent Young to the shadow realm, which I kind of enjoyed seeing after the Kiwi's antics at the weigh-ins. There's a slight question mark on this after Klein missed weight, but it wasn't the scale that landed that sweet combination.
Fight 5: Welterweight (170)- Jake Matthews def. Diego Sanchez via UD (30-26 X 3)
WORTH A WATCH? Matthews was the biggest betting favourite on this card, and he fought like it. Diego kept trying to storm the Aussie, but Matthews stayed patient and cerebral, piecing him up with a nice jab. After comfortably winning two rounds, Matthews turned up the heat and looked for a big finish with some brutal ground and pound, earning him a 10-8 round on all judges' scorecards. Sad if you're a big Diego Sanchez fan, but this was a true coming out party for Jake Matthews.
Fight 6: Lightweight (155)- Brad Riddell def. Alex Da Silva via UD (29-28 X 3)
WORTH A WATCH? The usual entertaining scrap by Riddell. Some trouble early with Da Silva's size and power causing problems, but he rallied in R2 and 3 with better defense and frequent landing of right hands. Not an amazing battle, but definitely worth your time.
Fight 1: Catchweight (150)- Hakeem Dawodu def. Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
WORTH A WATCH? No. Just no. Slow first round, picked up a little in the middle, and the last round featured a solid 2 minutes at least of Tukhugov on his bike, completely avoiding the fight. It seemed like Tukhugov thought he won the first two rounds and completely disengaged from the fight after that. So just for that mentality, I'm glad he lost, even though I had money on him to win.
Fight 2: Women's Bantamweight (135)- Ketlen Vieira def Sijara Eubanks via UD (29-28 X 3)
WORTH A WATCH? This was a decent scrap. Not a FOTN contender, but the activity in spurts was entertaining, with Vieira having a noticable advantage in the volume and power of her strikes. Credit to Sijara for the quick turnaround and she looked game throughout. but Vieira appeared to have too many physical advantages to overcome.
Fight 3: Flyweight (125)- Brandon Royval def. Kai Kara-France via submission (guillotine choke) at 0:48 of R2
WORTH A WATCH? This was a well deserved Fight of the Night. The first round was absolutely insane, both guys getting rocked, dropped and nearly finished with submission attempts in the first five minutes. Royval had the advantages in that frame, and when Kai tried to rally with a big takedown slam, Royval locked in the guillotine deep for a dramatic and impressive victory. Also, awesome nickname for Royval... "Raw Dawg"!
Fight 4: UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (205)- Jan Blachowicz def. Dominick Reyes via TKO at 4:36 of R2
WORTH A WATCH? Great performance by Blachowicz. Honestly a little stunning that he ran through Reyes with such ease, when you consider that many (including myself) had Reyes beating Jon Jones earlier this year. The first round saw Jan wreck Reyes with body kicks, the second saw him go upstairs and land devastating punches that had Reyes' legs going like Bambi on ice wearing rollerskates. Jan called out Jon Jones in the post-fight interview but I feel like Jones is 100% done with 205.
Fight 5: UFC Middleweight Championship (185)- Israel Adesanya (c) def. Paulo Costa via TKO at 3:59 of R2
WORTH A WATCH? Masterful execution by the Last Stylebender. Broke him down with a ton of leg kicks, then attacked the head and the body fell shortly after. Similar approach and outcome to the co-main event actually. Costa looked somewhat outclassed- I think Adesanya is simply that good. Intelligent and skilled beyond just about anyone we've seen in the middleweight division. It's Israel Adesanya or Anderson Silva for best UFC middleweight of all time I feel... and Izzy's only been in the UFC for 2.5 years! Some of his antics are a little grating, but his pure talent cannot be denied.
This card, particularly the top two fights, was billed as potentially being "Fights of the Year". It didn't quite hit that mark, but Kara-France and Royval gave us maybe the round of the year, and we saw two extremely impressive performances at the top of the bill. AND NEW in the co-main, AND STILL in the main, both looked awesome.
Until next time, take care,