UFC Fight Night 77 had its fair share of exciting moments from a string of four KO’s on the main card to a shocking referee’s judgement, both of which gave this fight night excitement and watchability that many MMA fans did not expect from a card headlined by a pair of combatants whose combined age is 83.
Here is a look at some of these stunning KO’s and the controversial Referee call in this weeks “Its All Over!”
Vitor Belfort def. Dan Henderson via. KO round 1
Not very often the first strike of the fight is the deadliest but that was just the case in Saturday’s main event.
After a hibernation inducing start to the contest that saw a grand total of 3 strikes thrown in the first 2 minutes, all courtesy of Hendo, Belfort threw his first strike of the fight being a left high kick that Henderson ducked straight into. despite having his hand up to protect his chin, after suffering a defeat by head kick a year earlier, this was not enough to protect Dan as the kick landed square on his chin knocking him into the fence and eventually to the mat.
From here, Belfort pounced on Henderson in his usually spectacular killer instinct style and went straight into his half guard blasting the 45-year-old with punches. Hendo attempted a defense by clinching Vitor off his back, but the fury of Belfort was just too much who easily shrugged off the former Strikeforce champ and continued to throw ferocious punches until referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in for the finish.
This fight shows that sometimes MMA is a waiting game and just how important veteran experience and the ability to stay calm and pick your shots can be. Belfort could have rushed in on Henderson, vintage Vitor style, and ended up unconscious just like ‘The Barbarian’ did, but he chose the much more conservative route for this fight staying well away from the infamous H-bomb and picking his time to strike with lightning fast speed and precision for another highlight reel head kick KO, going some way to prove that there is such a thing as Vitor Belfort post-TRT.
Glover Teixeira def. Patrick Cummins via KO round 2
Glover Teixeira stayed true to two techniques in this fight to get the impressive finish of Pat Cummins, being technical and purposeful boxing and a tenacious ability to recover off his back.
Teixeira got in close early and often to somewhat negate the long shooting takedowns of Cummins. Glover didn’t have the best takedown defense in this contest, being taken down a few times throughout the fight, but what mattered most was his ability to recover and get back to his feet repeatedly and with ease.
The problems started for Cummins with his constant takedown attempts which visibly exhausted him early in the fight leading to him holding his hands very low, giving Glover free rein to unload with crisp boxing technique.
Teixeira finished this fight with a vicious barrage of hooks mixing up angles both over and underneath the arms of Cummins, most of which landed cleanly on Pat’s face causing the referee to call off the fight as Cummins was clearly out on his feet.
What I believe cost Cummins this fight is the same thing that has plagued him before and that is his total loss of technical defense when he gets hit. We saw it time and time again in this fight after eating big punches from Glover Pat would freeze up with his hands low and make no attempt to circle out of range, protect himself correctly with his gloves and head movement, or any real attempts to counter with strikes or takedowns.
Thomas Almeida def. Anthony Birchak via KO round 1
Thomas Almeida solidified himself as one of the hardest hitters at 135lbs with this show-stealing knockout of Anthony Birchak, beautifully marrying finesse and distance management with killer instinct and god given power.
The key phrase for this fight is ‘distance management’, an aspect of MMa few have mastered, but Almeida showed on Saturday night, when it is used in complimentary to strong striking capabilities, this ‘hit and not be hit’ combo can take out almost anyone in the game.
Almeida opened up this fight early with strikes, most notably some very sneaky and effective elbows off the clinch from Almeida mixed with great distance management meant he could hit Birchak often with little retaliation. Almeida’s distance control went one step further, using circling to its fullest effect to make sure Birchak was never able to trap him against the cage and unload with strikes, which spelled the end for Joe Soto in Birchak’s last performance.
This fight finish came late on in the first round with Almeida staggering Birchak with a huge punch and chasing him down with a variety of attacks including a jump kick attempt and a spinning back elbow. Thomas Almeida was able to show experience and composure well beyond his 24 years, stalking Birchak and only throwing strikes when absolutely open to do so. this paid off quickly for Almeida as he landed a beautifully timed left hook and right straight combo, slumping Birchak unconscious against the cage.
Gleison Tibau def. Abel Trujillo via submission (rear naked choke) round 1
Unfortunately for Trujillo, his main weakness plays straight into Tibau’s greatest strength and this spelled the end quickly, if not controversially in this fast fight finish.
One huge downside to Abel Trujillo’s game is how easily he can be taken down in his fights and that is exactly what Gleison Tibau loves to do to his opponents. Tibau wasted no time getting this fight to the mat. Despite recovering to his feet, Abel was taken down again and Tibau quickly transitioned to his opponents back and fished for a rear naked choke finish. In the end, this is where the fight ended but not in a crystal clear way as many would have liked.
As Tibau sunk in the RNC, Trujillo was able to start to turn his body inwards to face Gleison, in a defensive technique that would ultimately negate the rear naked choke. However, as he did this he left his arms down and partially limp prompting the referee to jump in and stop the contest, believeing that Trujillo had been choked unconscious. As soon as the fight was called off Trujillo protested immediately showing the referee and the MMA world that he was not out and did not tap whatsoever.
There really isn’t any technique to review in this finish, but instead let’s look at the insane lack of knowledge from referee Keith Peterson in this one. At the time Peterson called off the fight (1:45) Trujillo had already partially turned his head into Tibau’s bicep in the makings of an escape, this gave Trujillo’s neck clearly visible room to maneuver and therefore, a clear pathway for blood to his brain, meaning that the choke was not sunk in. This is a key aspect to the RNC that an experienced referee like Peterson should have taken notice of. If the referee was still in doubt of Trujillo’s consciousness, he should have either asked him if he was ok, or better yet attempted to lift Abel’s arms to see if there was a response. I believe if the ref had done either of these techniques, Trujillo would have responded and the fight would not have been stopped prematurely.
What is there to take away from this fight? the lesson that MMA referees still make unforgivable mistakes that are screwing fighters not only out of paychecks but also ruining their records and legacies. Just another example of poor referee knowledge and even more ammo to the MMA reformists out there.
Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223
UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.
Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.
After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.
A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.
Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.
Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.
A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April
MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.
The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.
Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.
An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.
His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).
Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.
PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.
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