FightWatch- UFC 257
UFC 257 was a monumental show that lived up to the hype in a number of ways, including some shocking results. Let's not waste any time, let's look at what went down.
Fight Pass Prelims
Fight 1: Flyweight (125)- Amir Albazi def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Zhumagulov landed some hard shots in the early going, and you can't fault his fighting spirit for a second, swinging haymakers until the final horn. Ultimately, it was the grappling advantage of Albazi that made the difference, allowing him to mix up his attack and keep Zhumagulov off his rhythm. With flyweight generally being a shallow division, Albazi looks poised to make a quick ascension up the ranks.
Fight 2: Catchweight (150)- Movsar Evloev def. Nik Lentz via Split Decision (29-28 X 2, 28-29)
Thoughts: The split decision was an early case of "what are the judges smoking?" on this card. However, this was a fun fight, and Lentz was certainly game. He's always a gritty fighter, and he really went for it with submission attempts, especially a couple of guillotine chokes that really made Evloev wince. In the end, Evloev pieced him up on the feet, essentially punching his face off and outpacing him in the final two frames. Despite the dodgy scorecard, this marked two fights in a row where the bouts were competitive, but we had a clear winner each time. Good start to the action on Fight Island.
Fight 3: Light Heavyweight (205)- Marcin Prachnio def. Khalil Rountree via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Rountree had some trouble with the scales, needing an extra hour at weigh ins to hit the 206 pound limit. That may have affected his cardio in this fight. He looked sharp in the beginning, and in the second round landed a few bombs that seemed to really stun Prachnio, but didn't go in for the kill. Commentary questioned whether he knew Prachnio was that badly hurt. I believe he did, but he just didn't have the gas tank to really pursue the finish. Credit to Prachnio, who wasn't landing the harder shots, but simply stayed the course and kept more active as the fight went on while Rountree slowed down.
Fight 4: Women's Bantamweight (135)- Juliana Pena def. Sara McMann via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:39 of R3
Thoughts: The first finish of the night goes to Pena, who managed to get the better of a grappling situation against the decorated wrestler McMann. A bit of poetic justice in this one- Pena lost her last fight in October via a rear naked choke in Round 3 to Germaine De Randamie, so to turn the tables and do the exact same thing to her next opponent was pretty cool to see. With this win, Pena showed that she is still a force in the division. It was a grappling heavy fight and McMann is no slouch in that department, so getting that win and finish is a massive feather in the cap of Pena.
Fight 5: Middleweight (185)- Brad Tavares def. Antonio Carlos Jr via UD (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
Thoughts: This just seemed to be a case of the more well rounded fighter with the high level experience prevailing. As commentary reminded me, Tavares went the distance with current champion Israel Adesanya. Sure, it was early in Izzy's career, but that wasn't really THAT long ago. In this one, Carlos Jr. was trying to get Tavares to the ground to work his submission game, but Tavares prevented it from happening and scored often, especially with shots in the clinch. Not the world's most exciting fight, but definitely a statement that Tavares was a level above, and deserving of the top 15 ranking that he currently holds at 185.
Fight 6: Catchweight (157)- Arman Tsarukyan def. Matt Frevola via UD (30-27, 30-26)
Thoughts: Another instance where I question the judging. Right winner, but they were competitive rounds, that if any were scored for Frevola, I wouldn't have complained massively. But where the hell did they pull a 10-8 round from? This one started with a very high pace. I said to my brother in the opening couple of minutes, "there's no way they can keep this pace up for 3 rounds". To their credit, they didn't slow down a lot. Tsaruken appeared to be the fresher fighter down the stretch, scoring with a big slam. Both fighters were able to mix grappling and striking fairly seamlessly, and considering they both had late opponent switches, I was very impressed with their skills offensively and defensively.
Fight 7: Women's Strawweight (115)- Marina Rodriguez def. Amanda Ribas via TKO (elbow and punches) at 0:54 of R2
Thoughts: The underdog came up big in this one! Competitive opening round, with both ladies having their moments. Then early in the second, Rodriguez landed a hook that made Ribas faceplant. Slight controversy in the stoppage, as it appeared referee Herb Dean put his hands on Rodriguez to stop the fight, but upon the replay you can see that he was leaning over her to get a look at Ribas. The fight continued momentarily, but Rodriguez kept up the attack and Herb soon waved the fight off. Great way to open the PPV portion of the card.
Fight 8: Middleweight (185)- Makhmud Muradov def. Andrew Sanchez via TKO (flying knee and punches) at 2:59 of R3
Thoughts: Competitive, scrappy fight. Muradov was winging huge punches throughout, and barely missing... but then he landed. The power was extremely evident as Sanchez's legs wobbled like he had too much Proper 12, and he started doing the chicken dance. Muradov went for the kill, blasting him with big shot until referee Jason Herzog waves it off! Interestingly, two fights in a row where the fight was technically called while the fighter was in a standing position. In this case though, I think the cage wall simply prevented Sanchez from falling on his ass.
Fight 9: Women's Flyweight (125)- Joanne Calderwood def. Jessica Eye via UD (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
Thoughts: Most of this fight was the Jo Jo Show. Excellent clinch work and aggression, frequently blasting knees and elbows, as well as some nice kicks up the middle that cracked Eye in the face. This also prevented Eye from implementing the grappling heavy plan for the most part, as Calderwood would damage her every time she got close. Eye held on for dear life in R3 and had slightly more success at slowing down the attack at least, but overall, it was fairly one-sided. Great performance by Jo Jo. You love to see it.
Fight 10: Lightweight (155)- Michael Chandler def. Dan Hooker via TKO (punches) at 2:30 of R1
Thoughts: Wow! I picked Chandler to win, I knew he was legit from watching a couple of his Bellator fights, especially the ones with Eddie Alvarez. But I never thought he would make it look so easy! Hooker went from trading kill shots with Dustin Poirier for 25 minutes to falling at the first bomb that Chandler threw. Chandler just kept stalking, applying that forward pressure, and BOOM. His debut couldn't have gone any better, and he was understandably incredibly fired up in his post-fight interview, calling out Poirier, McGregor, Khabib... hell, he'd probably fight me if he thought it would help his cause. Instantly a top contender in the loaded UFC lightweight division.
Fight 11: Lightweight (155)- Dustin Poirier def. Conor McGregor via TKO (punches) at 2:32 of R2
Thoughts: Another shocking result! Not so much that Poirier won, he's obviously come such a long way and competed at the highest level in the UFC consistently for years now. But NO ONE has ever put McGregor out like that. His other MMA losses came via submission, and even in the Mayweather fight, it was a standing TKO that seemed to come more from exhaustion than anything.
Of course, the memes are out in force already. I mean, McGregor kind of made his own bed for it with his antics over the past few years. The money absolutely changed him, and he was acting like a dick a lot of the time. That said, I'm not on board with revisionist history saying he was never a good fighter, and I don't agree with the idea that he's washed up. Conor had a great first round that he comforably won in my view. He did get taken down, but he got up pretty quickly, prevented any further grappling success, and landed some powerful strikes that visibly affected Poirier. In the second round, Dustin adjusted beautifully, attacking the legs with some devastating calf kicks, hindering McGregor's movement, and making him a more stationary target for the barrage that followed.
McGregor claimed inactivity as a reason he lost. Sorry, but I call bullshit on that. If it was an all-round bad performance, maybe that idea would have merit, but he looked as good as ever in Round 1. Poirier just had an answer for his attack, and as we've seen with McGregor's losses inside the Octagon, he has difficulty responding when the tide gets turned on him. He struggles to dig deep to fight against adversity.
That said, I don't think he's done yet. Painting him with the same brush as Rousey, and saying he should jump to WWE... nah. Don't get me wrong, he will. But not yet. Both McGregor and Poirier were immediately talking about a trilogy fight, which makes complete sense as they're both 1-1 now. Also, there's the cash cow of McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3. Uncle Dana's not letting Conor go anywhere until he makes bank off those two blockbuster fights.
As for Poirier, he can only have a title shot in his future. Khabib was watching this show, and his post-fight comments didn't seem to indicate that the reigning lightweight champion has a desire to return to competition. So the only fights that make sense for Dustin going forward are for the vacant title, and you have to imagine that's either against Michael Chandler or Charles Oliveira.
Until next time, take care,