On paper, the UFC’s first venture to Hildago, Texas wasn’t exactly one to set the fans alight with anticipation.
With 24 fighters scheduled on the card, 18 of those 24 fighters were coming into Saturday night off of a loss. It wasn’t a card filled with much star-power either, but in terms of an excitement factor, this was an event that delivered some high-quality MMA. No fighter wants to go on a losing streak, especially in the shark tank of the UFC, so fighters came into Saturday looking to push the pace and made sure that they brought their A-game to UFC Fight Night 94, possibly no more so than in main event winner Michael Johnson.
Finding himself on a two-fight skid since beating Edson Barboza in February last year, Johnson was given no favours by being pitted against the high-flying Dustin Poirier heading into his very first UFC main event spot. Since Poirier’s return to 155 lbs, ‘The Diamond’ has put on some remarkable performances against the likes of Joseph Duffy and Bobby Green and looked to be on a collision course with someone from the division’s top five.
To Johnson’s testament, however, even with the back-to-back losses to Beneil Dariush and Nate Diaz, Johnson was still an ever-present in the lightweight divisions top 10 and displayed just why he was unmoved from that elite bracket against Poirier.
Throughout his UFC career, Johnson has shown strong fundamentals and an aptitude for fighting on the front foot.Possessing a stinging jab, a lengthy one-two and heavy leg kicks; Johnson has all the tools to make use of his athletic gifts in terms of speed and reach and used them to great effect in the first round of his last fight against Nate Diaz.
It had been expected that Poirier would be able to counter Johnson with his heavy hooks in this bout as he had against Bobby Green but Johnson had other ideas and his own counter-striking stylings were the decisive factor and were employed to devastating effect. Keeping a well-managed distance to retain his skill set, Johnson would start out peppering jabs and kicks towards Poirier and did so at a frenetic pace. That high work rate acted as a constant disturbance to Poirier’s footwork and he could never settle in position to throw his heavy counter punches and as a result was forced to always be on the move.
Clearly frustrated, Poirier had the decision to make to either close the distance himself or hope for a misstep in Johnson’s measurement of space and catch him cold. With 90 seconds gone, Poirier stepped forward with a one-two which raised the hands of Johnson in defence. From there, Poirier uncorked a massive uppercut hoping to get under the guard of the Blackzillians fighter but in his overcommitment to the punch, he was caught flush with a massive counter right hook to the chin and a left over the top.
The fight acted as a staunch reminder of the fine margins of error that come with the fight game and Poirier will now be left to climb the toughest division in the sport once again. For Michael Johnson, it was a much-needed win to remain in the picture and while he may not be gifted a title shot despite his pleas on the mic, he has certainly catapulted himself back into the upper echelons of the lightweight division.
In the co-main event, Derek Brunson continued his remarkable run at middleweight with his fourth consecutive first round finish over the enigmatic Uriah Hall. Much ado had been made over Hall’s bizarre UFC career heading into this bout with the talk yet again being over which iteration of the former Ultimate Fighter contestant we would see. Would it be the Hall who had blasted Gegard Mousasi with a spinning back kick or would it be the Uriah Hall who looks gun shy and hesitant in his attacks?
Truthfully, those questions weren’t fully answered with the short nature of the bout but the same habits that have gotten Hall into trouble in the past did re-occur and Derek Brunson made him pay the consequences.
By applying pressure and backing Hall up, Brunson removed the room needed for Hall’s kicking game and entered into the clinch early. Hall, to his credit, found a way out fairly sharpish and threw out a push kick in the hopes to get the fight into his wheelhouse. Brunson again came forward however and Hall was given little room to move or circle back into the middle of the Octagon. With Hall cornered, Brunson feinted the overhand left and Hall’s body reacted by moving out towards the faked punch with his hands down. Brunson quickly followed up on the feint and unleashed the left straight onto Hall’s exposed chin and dropped ‘Primetime’ to the mat.
Questions were raised as to the legitimacy of the stoppage as Herb Dean stepped in after some attempted ground and pound which on second viewing missed their mark but it appeared to be a matter of time before Brunson landed another conclusive blow. Elsewhere, wily veteran Evan Dunham put in a trademark performance against the short notice replacement Rick Glenn which consisted of all the staples of Dunham’s incredibly well-rounded game.
On the feet, Dunham landed at will and is one of the too few fighters who moves his head off the centre line when throwing combinations. Glenn had real trouble with Dunham stringing his strikes together (which almost exclusively finished with the left straight) and was totally evident in the stats as Dunham landed 144 significant strikes to Glenn’s 58 with 91% of Dunham’s strikes landing to the head.
For as sharp on the feet and dominating on the mat as he is, however, Dunham perhaps shines best in the clinch as he teed off with some thunderous knees and elbows when in close. In the third round, the disparity between the fighters on the night truly began to shine through though as Dunham continually found his mark. Dunham landed 85 of his significant strikes in that final stanza and it begs the question why there aren’t more corner stoppages in MMA?
Glenn was purely too tough for his own good and it comes down to a fighter’s corner to look after their fighters when the fight is getting too far away from their grasp. Glenn will undoubtedly make a return to the Octagon and perhaps will continue to fight at featherweight where he won WSOF’s 145 lbs title but stepping in on short notice against Evan Dunham is a mighty ask for any fighter, never mind one making their UFC debut.
All in all, UFC Fight Night 94 was an excellent fight card and you knew that this card would continue the streak of the ‘unappealing’ cards putting on the most exciting fights as soon as Chas Skelly ran out with a flying kick at the top of the show.
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UFC Announces Liverpool Event, Darren Till Main Event
Scousers are drowning in celebration this evening. Earlier today, UFC officials announced the addition of a Liverpool show to their 2018 event calendar. Liverpool’s, Echo Arena, plays host for the event, which takes place on May 27th.
Liverpool’s own, Darren Till made the announcement this afternoon with Dan Hardy at the UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov, ceremonial weigh-in. When asked by Hardy what it means to have the UFC in Liverpool, he had this to day, “Words can’t describe it. It doesn’t do it justice, words. So, it’s coming and I’m going to be the first Scousers to ever have done it. In 200 years they’re going to remember my name in combat sports in Liverpool. I’m gonna take someones chin off in Liverpool, that’s what’s happening”.
He was also quoted in an release from the promotion saying, “I can’t believe UFC is finally coming to Liverpool and I’m going to be headlining Echo Arena. My name is going to be remembered in 200 years time for being part of this historical event and I can’t even describe how much that means to me”. Till will headline the card, his opponent is yet to be announced.
In the official release, it quotes David Shaw, Senior Vice President International and Content, claiming, “The stars really aligned for the Octagon to touch down in Liverpool. We have seen such phenomenal demand from fans in the region for a live event. Pair that with having such a rising, local star in Darren Till it made absolute sense to bring our first live event to this historical combat sports city in 2018”.
UFC Liverpool lands on a date speculated for a different venue, in a different country. Reports swirled last month, specifically one from MMAFighting.com, which claimed the May 27th date belonged to the UFCs return to Dublin. A return to Dublin doesn’t seem to fall completely out of the realm of possibility. For now, it remains to be seen.
The UFC also announced two bouts, both in the Middleweight division, booked for the event. Elias Therodorou takes on Trevor Smith, and Daniel Kelly goes up against England’s Tom Breese.
Marco Reyes Flagged for Potential Anti-Doping Policy Violation
Earlier today, UFC officials announced that Lightweight, Marco Reyes was flagged for a potential UFC Anti-Doping Policy violation. The potential violation hails from a sample collected on March 8th, 2018, in an out-of-competition test.
Reyes made his way into the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter Latin America, season 2. Competing in the lightweight bracket, Reyes defeated Christhian Soto by 2nd rd. TKO of a preliminary round bout. He then went onto to face Horacio Gutiérrez, in the semifinals of the tournament. Gutiérrez defeated Reyes in the opening round by TKO.
Following his elimination from the tournament, the Mexican fighter met Cezar Arzamendia on the series finale, The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2 Finale. Reyes impressively defeated Arzamendia, whom was the first overall pick for Team Gastelum, by 1st round KO.
From there, Reyes defeated Dong Hung Kim (rd. 1, KO), and Jason Novelli (Split Decision) respectively, before falling to rising contender James Vick. Most recently, the Lightweight fighter dispatched Matt Frevola in the opening round, ruining the Long Islanders promotional debut. His bout against Frevola took place at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi, on January 14th of this year.
The UFC statement on the matter reads as follows:
The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Marco Reyes of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected on March 8, 2018.
USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Reyes. Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full and fair legal process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.
Dillon Danis to make Pro debut against Kyle Walker at Bellator 198
Mixed Martial Arts officially adopted another incredibly talented jiu-jitsu practioner today. Bellator officials announced today the long-awaited debut of Dillon Danis, whom the promotion had signed in the year previous. After zero amateur and countless jiu-jitsu matches, Danis makes his debut at Bellator 198: Mir vs. Emelianenko, against Kyle Walker.
Kyle Walker enters the match up also making his Bellator debut. Walker recently made a resurgence in 2016 after taking off, almost exactly, 3 years. Since returning to the professional scene his record is 0-3, losing each fight by stoppage (2 Sub, 1 KO).
Walker looks to snap his streak yet, his opponent could provide a major challenge. In terms of advantages for Walker, he has a massive and obvious one. His experience. Walkers opponent fights for the first time in the sport of MMA. While Danis competed in many top-level jiu-jitsu tournaments and matches, comparing the competition would stop and end upon examining the rule sets. It is quite obvious, the difference. Danis will have a bit of adversity to overcome, in that respect.
In spite of this, Danis’ team, he trains out of the highly regarded SBG Ireland. Even before his MMA training, he trained under Marcelo Garcia. He earned his black belt in April of 2015, following an incredible 2014. In that year, Danis became UAEJJF World Champion, winning gold in the 82 kg (181 lb.) Brown belt category.
The prospect of what that could look like inside the cage is exciting. He may have developed some striking techniques but, the lack of time dedicated to that training in undeniable. Experience and time is required to develop skills of any kind.
Bellator 198: Mir vs. Emelianenko, takes place on Saturday, April 28th from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Bellator 198 features the third of four preliminary bouts in the promotions Heavyweight Grand Prix, Fedor Emelianenko takes on Frank Mir. It serves as the nights main event. Other bouts on the card feature; Emmanuel Sanchez against Sam Sicilia, Neiman Gracie faces Javier Torres, Rafael Lavato Jr. vs. John Salter, and more.
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