From a decision heavy prelims to KO central main card, Fight Night Hunt vs. Mir was a great Aussie outing for the UFC and now it’s all over, let’s take a look at some of Saturday night’s finishes.
Steve Bosse def. James Te Huna via KO, round 1
Bosse showed good movement throughout the entirety of this short contest, darting in for a flurry of punches before circling away well after the exchanges between the two men. The end came with Bosse darting in with a one-two combo that although didn’t land effectively, it did cause Te Huna to react and momentarily drop his hands to move in for his own counter strikes. This gave Bosse the opening to step off slightly to the right for defense purposes and land a short right hook that put James Te Huna face down on the canvas out cold.
Due to this fight only landing 52 seconds, there isn’t much to take from it apart from baiting your opponent and setting a trap for them can work wonders. Bosse used the same technique of darting in and out continuously, baiting Te Huna to react and when he did Bosse made him pay for it with his consciousness.
Dan Kelly def. Antonio Carlos Junior via TKO, round 3
Going into the third round of this fight it was one for one on my score cards, meaning someone had to make it clear in everyone’s mind who is the better fighter and Kelly did just that with a late ground and pound finish.
Junior shot for a takedown, only to be sprawled by Kelly who didn’t give his Brazilian opponent any time to get comfortable raining down punches immediately from half guard. Kelly did well focusing on keeping his position, quickly nullifying all of Junior’s attempts at a sweep and didn’t let up with his punches eventually overwhelming Junior and causing the referee to interfere.
Jake Matthews def. Johnny Case via submission (rear naked choke), round 3
This fight finish showed just how effective a prolonged body attack can be as a fight goes on, as Matthews used numerous body kicks throughout the contest to wear down Case eventually giving him the opening for the fight ending submission late in the third round.
The fight ending choke happened as Case was leaning against Matthews against the cage trying to recover from his gassed state. Matthews was able to use strikes to distract Case as he sneaked around behind his arm taking Case’s back and take the fight to the ground from back control. With both hooks in, Matthews used strikes again to distract Case leaving the opening for the RNC. Case was able to defend this submission well, turning his head inwards towards the choke to alleviate pressure on his throat forcing Matthews to relinquish the submission and transition to full mount.
From here Case rolled for defense giving Matthews his back once again. Matthews was much more patient this time around biding his time and allowing Case to attempt escapes in hope it would open him up for the choke once again.Matthews prayers were answered as Case posted on his hands in an attempt to stand up, leaving his chin entirely exposed, allowing Matthews to sink in the rear-naked choke again, this time forcing the tap from Case.
This fight finish showed how cardio can truly affect fighters decision making. Case who has a staggering 27 fights under his belt despite only being 26 years old make a rookie error in this fight finish by posturing on his arms, taking away his main defense for the choke and giving Matthews a free shot at securing in the finish. Case is an extremely experienced and intelligent fighter and I believe this lack of smart decision making was due to him being exhausted by Matthews earlier body assault.
Neil Magny def. Hector Lombard via TKO, round 3
Despite being on the receiving end of a hellacious beating at the start of the first round, Magny showed his toughness and sheer will to survive to weather the storm of Lombard and use his biggest strength against Hector’s biggest weakness, cardio.
After rocking Magny early and spending most of the fight pounding him from his guard, Lombard fell into that dangerous space of not doing enough to finish the contest, but doing just enough to tire himself out and against a man known for his cardio, this spelt disaster for the Cuban.
Magny entered the second round looking completely recovered and fresh, while Lombard looked slow and reserved. Magny played to his reach advantage greatly, picking off Lombard from the outside with strikes. Lombard did land a right hook knocking down Magny, but this wasn’t enough for the win as Magny reversed the position on the ground ending up on top. Magny spent the final minute of the round in mount position pounding Lombard constantly with punches and elbows while Lombard did nothing to intelligently defend himself, only having his hands covering his face and accepting the beating.
Hector was saved by the bell in the second round as referee Steve Perceval refused to stop the contest despite having much reason to do so. Going into the third round we saw much of the same as the range Magny landed from the outside while the gassed Lombard just ate shots. Magny got an easy takedown early in the round and passed straight to mount, locking in a mounted triangle and raining down hammer fists forcing the referee to step in and end this fight early in the final round.
Neil Magny may have some of the best cardio in the welterweight division and once he had outlasted the barrage of Lombard, Magny simply took over being the much more conditioned athlete, picking up the best win of his career.
Mark Hunt def. Frank Mir via KO, round 1
In what was a very tentative contest, Hunt showed that he only needs one opening and one punch to end the contest and unluckily for Mir that’s what he got early on.
This fight started with a lot of circling and feinting from both men, with neither really committing to any exchanges. Hunt was able to sneakily close the distance slowly but surely on Mir and when he saw the opportunity, he fainted a double jab and came in with a straight right. Mir never saw this coming and decided to shoot for a takedown as Hunt was throwing punches, leaving his head completely exposed. Mir caught the shot right on the temple and the fight was over.
There isn’t much technical advice to take from this finish as simply put, Mark Hunt’s hands can do things normal people can’t do. What we can take away is Hunt has tremendous trust in his KO ability and with good reason and knows he only needs that one shot to change your life.
Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224
Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.
The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.
Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).
In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.
UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.
*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224
Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”
In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.
Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.
It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.
In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”
He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.
Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.
When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.
“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.
The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”
“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.
When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.
He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.
UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) February 8, 2018
Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.
This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.
The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.
Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.
For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.
UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.
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