FightWatch- UFC Fight Night- Covington vs. Woodley
This is one of the more loaded Fight Nights in recent memory. You could throw on any title fight here to top the bill and it'd be a more stacked PPV card than most other fight cards put together this year. The headliner is one full of bad blood, as welterweight top contenders and professional dickheads, Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley, are set to battle in a 5 rounder.
Despite both of them having obnoxious, grating demeanors in different ways- Colby with his cringy MAGA schtick and Woodley crying "racism" at anyone that has a negative word to say about him- they are both undeniably excellent fighters. Woodley is a former UFC Welterweight Champion, and Colby has held the interim strap- which is really like a jazzed up no. 1 contender status, but it goes on his record as a big accomplishment. Woodley and Covington have trained together at American Top Team, and that appears to be where this animosity stems from, with both men talking shit about each other, saying they dominated the other in sparring etc.
Besides the main event, there's a lot of appetising fights to sink our teeth into- the co-main sees perennial crowd favourite, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone hop back in the saddle again, in an attempt to right himself after suffering 4 tough losses- a hard fought decision to Anthony Pettis in May; a high profile starching at the hands of Conor McGregor in January; a first round TKO to current Lightweight Interim Champion, Justin Gaethje; and a second round doctor stoppage against the ever-tough top ranked Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson. No shame at all in losing to those men, they are among the elite at lightweight and welterweight, but no fighter wants to lose 4 straight fights. He draws the aggressive and innovative Niko Price, not a "gimme" fight by any stretch of the imagination. He has a couple of rare and unique finishes to his credit in recent years- putting Randy Brown out cold using hammerfists from the bottom position on the ground, and also KOing James Vick with an upkick, proving that he is a significant threat wherever the fight may go.
But that's not all. Khamzat Chimaev is a name that has exploded into the consciousness of the MMA public in recent months, following back to back finishes in a 10 day span on Fight Island. His style is somewhat reminiscent of Khabib Nurmagomedov, and he has quickly earnt fans with his attitude and willingness to fight anyone at any time. He receives a step-up in competition here, facing veteran Gerald Meerschaert at middleweight after last fighting at welterweight. In quite a unique move by the UFC, they have already lined him up for a fight with Demian Maia before this fight even takes place, drawing the ire of Meerschaert, who understandably feels overlooked.
Also on the card, Mackenzie Dern takes on Randa Markos, top 15 light heavyweights Johnny Walker and Ryan Spann clash, and rising middleweights Darren Stewart and Kevin Holland mix it up. Just hook it to my veins!
Fight 1: Bantamweight (135): Tyson Nam def. Jerome Rivera via TKO (punches) at 0:34 of R2
WORTH A WATCH? This fight had a great feeling of tension throughout, as Nam spent the first round trying to land his bomb of a right hand, and Rivera managed to keep him at bay with some nice kicks, especially to the legs. However, Round 2 saw Nam find his target quickly. Tyson Nam is a man to watch at 135!
Fight 2: Bantamweight (135): Andre Ewell def. Irwin Rivera via split decision (29-28 X 2, 28-29)
WORTH A WATCH? First of all, I'm not sure on what planet that fight was a split decision. But it was definitely a high quality fight worth your time. Ewell picked Rivera apart with his striking, having a significant reach advantage, and prevented Rivera from getting any takedowns until the last few seconds of the fight. Rivera was unquestionably tough, but I don't know how he gets any of the 3 rounds, let alone 2. He was good in the final frame, but still outstruck by a large margin.
Fight 3: Bantamweight (135): Randy Costa def. Journey Newson via KO (head kick) at 0:41 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? Do you like violence? This was a head kick KO that Cro Cop would be proud of, wiping a tear from his eye as he whispers softly into the night, "left kick cemetery". That was basically all that happened in the fight, but all that needed to happen. Watch it!
Fight 4: Featherweight (145) Darrick Minner def. TJ Laramie via submission (guillotine choke) at 0:52 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? Like the previous fight, the impressive finish was basically the whole fight. Laramie shot for a takedown, Minner defended, landed some hard body shots, then jumped on the guillotine. Textbook, terrific work.
Fight 5: Women's Bantamweight (135): Jessica Rose-Clark def. Sarah Alpar via TKO (knees) at 4:21 of R3
WORTH A WATCH? Okay. Yes. This was beautiful destruction. I feel bad for going against a fighter who's nickname is "Too Sweet", but Jessy Rose-Clark is my girl. She's Aussie, hot, has gotten herself in tremendous shape after some issues with the scale earlier in her UFC career, and this fight was an incredible demonstration of her evolving skill-set. Alpar wanted to take Rose-Clark to the mat, and Jessy made her pay for the attempts with vicious elbows and knees in the clinch. Controversy in this one late though- JRC landed a brutal knee that made Alpar's face and nose explode. Referee Chris Tognoni calls time, believing it to be an illegal knee- replay shows it was not. Ref then re-starts the fight, but it should have been ruled a TKO- Alpar was curled up with her face pouring blood. Tognoni was the same referee involving in the Ed Herman fight last week as well. Unfortunate all around, but that doesn't take away from the amazing showing that Jessy Rose-Clark had, ultimately getting her TKO finish a couple of minutes later.
Fight 6: Women's Flyweight (125): Mayra Bueno Silva def. Mara Romero Borella via submission (armbar) at 2:29 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? The first round finishes keep coming! I'll never not recommend a first round finish, but this wasn't quite as spectacular as the earlier ones. Bueno Silva patiently worked her way from triangle to armbar, and Borella just kind of sat there in the guard, letting it happen. It was odd- you could see she was aware of what was happening, almost looking fearful as the submission was being set up, but perhaps she lacked the technical skill to escape. Good finish for Bueno Silva.
Fight 7: Featherweight (145): Damon Jackson def. Mirsad Bektic via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:21 of R3
WORTH A WATCH? Dude! This was a crazy comeback victory by Jackson. Bektic was dominating the fight with grappling work. Big takedowns and ground and pound. Jackson was trying submissions from the bottom to no avail. But he stayed determined, and finally managed to roll into a mounted guillootine in a fight he was losing convincingly. Super impressive.
Fight 8: Flyweight (125): David Dvorak def. Jordan Espinosa via unanimous decision (30-27 X 3)
WORTH A WATCH? It was a good fight, but maybe the weakest of the card so far by default. Good speed and pace from both men, as you would expect from 125ers. Dvorak had a comfortable lead with surgical precision in his striking, sharp hands and chopping leg kicks that really added up down the stretch, while keeping the defensive fundamentals on point to avoid taking significant damage himself. Not a bad fight by any means, but if you're short on time, nothing overly spectacular or memorable happened in this one.
Fight 1: Middleweight (185): Kevin Holland def. Darren Stewart via SD (29-28 X 2, 28-29)
WORTH A WATCH? This was a nice competitive fight. Being the heaviest division to fight on the card so far, you could really hear the impact of the strikes being thrown in the near-empty UFC Apex. Holland had the advantage early on with the volume of his striking, and Stewart rallied late on a fatigued Holland with a big takedown and harsh ground and pound. The big third round wasn't enough though, and the vocally entertaining Holland gets the W- seriously, he never stopped talking all fight!
Fight 2: Strawweight (115): Mackenzie Dern def. Randa Markos via submission (armbar) at 3:44 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? This was submission wizardry (witchery?). Dern wrapped Markos up immediately and started working for subs, patiently working on a triangle choke before transitioning to the armbar. Very patient and technical. Dern's pretty easy on the eyes anyway, but this really was beautiful to watch.
Fight 3: Light Heavyweight (205): Johnny Walker def. Ryan Spann via KO (elbows) at 2:43 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? Absolute madness. Both men got rocked and hurt, Walker looked in serious trouble, even getting mounted at one stage, but somehow escaped and finished the night with elbows of doom, Travis Browne style, while Spann was shooting a takedown. The exciting Johnny Walker is back on the winning track after a stumble against Corey Anderson.
Fight 4: Middleweight (185): Khamzat Chimaev def. Gerald Meerschaert via KO (punch) at 0:17 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? HOLY SHIT. As obvious a Performance of the Night bonus as you're ever going to see. This was the whole fight- Khamzat throws a body kick that grazes. Meerschaert looks a little gun-shy and backs up. Khamzat throws ONE FUCKING PUNCH and puts the lights out! It really has to be seen to be believed.
Fight 5: Welterweight (170): Donald Cerrone vs. Niko Price ends in a Majority Draw (29-28 Cerrone, 28-28 X2)
WORTH A WATCH? This was an excellent fight, a possible Fight of the Night contender, marred only by the unfortunate events in R1, where Price delivered two eye pokes to Cowboy in quick succession, leading to a point deduction. If not for that point deduction, Price would have won a split decision. He took R1 clearly with aggression, hurting Cerrone on a number of occasions, but the eye pokes negated that. R2 was a close affair that could have gone either way, and it appeared the R3 was the one that Cerrone got on all three judge's scorecards, turning up the heat down the stretch on his fatigued opponent. Highly competitive fight where both men looked good at different times, and Cowboy snaps his 4 fight losing streak in a sense by walking away with the draw. It's hard to say if he's lost a step. As I mentioned in the intro, his recent losses have all been to elite opponents, and he looked good in the Ferguson and Pettis fights. I would have liked a little more aggression and volume from him, but athletically and skill-wise he appears still up to task. Hopefully, Cerron-ay can pick up the elusive W next time out.
Main Event: Welterweight (170): Colby Covington def. Tyron Woodley via TKO (rib injury) at 1:19 of R5
WORTH A WATCH? Man, this fight made me mad! But yeah, it's worth a watch. Colby is a dick, but he's a skilled dick. Woodley promised pre-fight that he would "let his hands go", and early on he seemed sharp and willing to live up to that promise. Then Colby ducked an overhand and shot a big takedown, and that alone seemed to almost sap the will of the former champ. Covington put in a great shift, constantly attacking and scoring. R4 in particular was huge for him- he landed 104 strikes and busted Woodley up badly. The reason the fight made me mad- I bet on Colby to win via decision, throwing in a double chance bet of it possibly being a submission too, knowing that Colby doesn't really put people out with his striking. Then Woodley goes and gets a freak rib injury off nothing in R5. Damn it, T-Wood! You can't even lose properly!
Overall, this was a stacked card on paper, and it delivered. Not one bad fight, and although I didn't get the double KO I was hoping for in the main event, it was a compelling demolition by Covington of a former world champion. Dana White seemed to think that Tyron Woodley should call it a day after that "performance", Woodley seems to think otherwise based on his post-fight comments. Well, if he wants to continue fighting, maybe he should do it in Bellator, because he's lost 15 straight rounds in the Octagon.
Also, Dana mentioned having "the talk" with Cowboy Cerrone. I don't know if I agree with that one. Not just bias because I'm a Cowboy fan- he just went to a draw with a young hungry challenger, even winning the fight on one judge's scorecard. Nowhere near the same realm as the flat Woodley, who seems to have lost all sense of hunger.
But this was a card well worth the cost of the Fight Pass subscription. Next time we bring the MMA reviews to The Arena, it's PPV, baby! Two title fights. In the main event, it's a battle of undefeated fighters as champ Israel Adesanya defends against Paulo Costa. And in a post-Jon Jones world, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz fight for the vacant Light Heavyweight Championship.
Until next time, take care,