UFC 290 Results & Thoughts (09/07/2023)
By Mick Robson
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What's up everybody, we're bringing a little MMA flavour to The Arena with this one! It's the biggest event on the UFC calendar, known as International Fight Week. The annual early July UFC PPV is typically among the more loaded cards of the year, and UFC 290 is no exception, with two title fights on the bill, and a heavy dose of Australian flavour.
What separates The Arena from some of the other sites and platforms that cover pro wrestling and/or mixed martial arts is a heavy focus on the Australian scene. Main eventing International Fight Week is perhaps Australia's greatest export- not named Margot Robbie- considered the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world, the reigning and defending UFC Featherweight Champion, Alexander Volkanovski. He most recently chased two-division glory, moving up a weight class to give Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev the toughest fight of his career, but now he's back at 145 to face dynamic striker and the Interim Featherweight Champion, Yair Rodriguez.
Co-main eventing is the UFC Flyweight Championship, as Brandon Moreno defends against Alexandre Pantoja, in a rivalry that goes back to their days on the Ultimate Fighter. There's also a middleweight title eliminator, as #2 ranked former champion (and another Aussie) Robert Whittaker battles #5 South African Dricus du Plessis. A title fight in Sydney against Israel Adesanya awaits the winner.
There's much more to this card, and with 13 fights on the bill, I'm not going to play by play them all, but will offer thoughts and analysis on everything that went down this past weekend in Las Vegas.
Let's do this!
Fight Pass Prelims
Fight 1: (155) Estaban Ribovics def. Kamuela Kirk via unanimous decision (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Great fight IQ by Kirk in the opening round. Ribovics is primarily a striker, so Kirk gets him to the mat with a trip takedown and spends the majority of the round riding his back looking for a choke. Ribovics survives though, and starts R2 throwing with heat and defending the takedown attempts. He's much fresher in the 3rd round, and although Kirk has heart, Ribovics clearly pulls ahead in an entertaining, action-packed start to our card.
Fight 2: (125) Jesus Santos Aguilar def. Shannon Ross via KO (punch) at 0:17 of R1
Thoughts: This saved my word count! Aguilar flattens Ross in seconds. Shame to see it happen to an Aussie.
Fight 3: (135) Cameron Saaiman def. Terrence Mitchell via TKO (punches) at 3:10 of R1
Thoughts: Saaiman is 22 years old. This man was 1 year old when I started watching the UFC. God, I feel old. Anyway, Mitchell goes for a takedown early, but Saaiman uses a guillotine to sweep, and later does the same with an armbar. Commentary talks about him being a K-1 kickboxer, so he's very talented across the board. He gets the back mount and rains down strikes until referee Marc Smith waves it off.
Fight 4: (205) Vitor Petrino def. Marcin Prachnio via submission (arm triangle choke) at 3:42 of R3
Thoughts: Another example of the younger fighter stopping the older one, although this was more competitive than the previous fight. While both men threw heavy strikes, Petrino found an edge by taking it to the ground, and patiently worked towards his first career submission. Certainly a potential prospect at light heavyweight.
Fight 1: (205) Alonzo Menifield def. Jimmy Crute via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:55 of R2
Thoughts: The power difference was evident early as one big Menifield right hand had Crute sprawling. Crute had bad reactions to Menifield's power as the fight went on, and turning to the grappling just made things worse, as the choke was soon snatched up. Crute ripped his gloves off post-fight, but walked back the retirement tease as a display of emotion in a post-fight Instagram post. Back to the drawing board for this young Aussie fighter.
Fight 2: (W-115) Denise Gomes def. Yasmin Jauregui via TKO (punches) at 0:20 of R1
Thoughts: It was a Wanderlei Silva-esque flurry against the cage that ended Jauregui's night almost immediately. Beautiful violence.
Fight 3: (Catchweight-130) Tatsuro Taira def. Edgar Chairez via UD (29-27 x 3)
Thoughts: Taira stays undefeated in an impressive performance! He survived some adversity in R1, getting dropped and put in a guillotine, but turned things around to the point he was raining down elbows in a crucifix to end the first 5 minutes. Further ground domination followed, as Chairez was saved from submitting to a triangle by the horn at the end of R2. Scary moment for Taira in the final 20 or so seconds as Chairez's guillotine almost pays off, but he guts it out. High level of composure and skill, making a statement.
Fight 4: (170) Robbie Lawler def. Niko Price via KO (punches) at 0:38 of R1
Thoughts: This was the final fight of Lawler's career after being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame earlier in the week. That was in the Fight Wing for his war with Rory McDonald, but this was a flawless victory. Lawler quickly seized a clinch and unloaded a precise flurry that turned Price's lights out. Some corners are suggesting "dive", but I don't think so. I think Robbie is just still sharp enough, and Niko is too proud to do such a thing anyway. Thank you for everything, "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler.
Fight 1: (185) Bo Nickal def. Val Woodburn via TKO (punches) at 0:38 of R1
Thoughts: Another sub-1 minute finish on this crazy card. Woodburn was a late replacement, and Nickal treated him like a top level fighter dealing with a late replacement, absolutely starching him. A wrestler with his pedigree showing the ability to throw hands? Nickal just might be worth the level of hype UFC are putting behind him.
Fight 2: (Catchweight-158) Dan Hooker def. Jalin Turner via split decision (28-29, 29-28 X 2)
Thoughts: This was a war! Turner hurt Hooker significantly early, but the Kiwi was like the Terminator, continually plodding forward and throwing offense. Turner eventually slowed down as a bloody Hooker gained momentum, continually launching punches and kicks in his direction. Hooker gutted out the win in a very close, comeback performance, and post-fight X-rays revealed that he broke his arm and face during this fight. What a warrior!
Fight 3: (185) Dricus du Plessis def. Robert Whittaker via TKO (punches) at 2:23 of R2
Thoughts: Huge statement by du Plessis! Rob just seemed to have no answer for the power and awkward striking style, getting cracked early and often. In the second round, a straight punch that caved in the face of Whittaker put him on dream street, and du Plessis pounced for the finish. Adesanya seemed gutted post-fight at the result- no NZ vs. Aus trilogy fight in Sydney- but soon entered promoter mode, stepping in the cage and getting in du Plessis' face, repeatedly calling the white South African the "N word".
Fight 4: UFC Flyweight Championship- Alexandre Pantoja def. Brandon Moreno via split decision (46-49, 48-47 X 2)
Thoughts: This was an all-action fight where both champion and challenger gave us every facet of MMA at its highest level. Lots of fast scrambles on the ground and submission attempts, and striking exchanges that never seemed to stop. Both men were bloody, but barely slowed down over the course of 25 minutes. A classic battle that deservedly claimed Fight of the Night, on a card filled with high quality fights. Not sure about the 49-46 in favour of Moreno, but it was an outstanding, closely-matched fight.
Main Event: UFC Featherweight Championship- Alexander Volkanovski def. Yair Rodriguez via TKO (punches) at 4:19 of R3
Thoughts: The thought coming in was that Volkanovski would struggle with Yair's height and reach. But Volko was a master of timing, defending and moving at the right times, and countering at the correct moments. It was a counter hook that spelled the end in R3, as Yair was going for a kick. The champ smelled blood and poured on the pressure, throwing punches to the body and head. He then threw Yair on the ground- reminiscent of his days with the Warilla Gorillas- and kept raining down strikes until the fight was called off. And still.
The stacked/loaded cards don't always live up to the billing in the UFC. MMA is such an unpredictable sport, sometimes the star-studded PPVs go down like a fart in church, while some tiny little Fight Night will give us more bangers than a British pub lunch special.
UFC 290 looked massive on paper and it delivered in practice. Capped off by a masterful performance against Volkanovski, everything from the first prelim to the main event was more than worth a watch. Not an actively bad fight across the whole thing, and the amount of finishes- many super quick finishes, at that- was jaw dropping.
Could very well be card of the year by the time all is said and done!
Until next time, take care.