After a dull two-week absence of the UFC, the global MMA leader returned with a bang and delivered a fantastic card, involving just about everything, from slick submissions to explosive knockouts. Here we will recap the fights on the main card, including the headliner, Overeem vs Rozenstruik, and what each fight means for the respective fighters and the division.
Rob Font vs Ricky Simon:
Originally, this fight was scheduled to be the featured bout of the prelims, however, it was moved up to the opening slot of the main card less than two weeks out from the event. I felt in the build-up to the event, this fight was being criminally overlooked and was destined to be a great battle. The fight not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded it and to show that both men came away with the $50,000 fight of the night bonus.
Font picked up the unanimous decision win in the end and won the bout with his crisper striking arsenal and impressive scrambling skills, however, Simon has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, as he showed extraordinary toughness, durability, slick wrestling and great striking skills.
The first round started off with Font establishing the jab and out striking Simon then even completing a double leg. When Simon got back up and gained double under hooks he went for the takedown and got it. They both scrambled wildly, which turned the momentum in Simon’s favour. It allowed him to hurt Font and pressure him against the cage. Font survived the onslaught and went back to his corner after a back and forth round that could have gone either way.
The second round again involved Font establishing the jab, and out-striking Simon with his slick boxing, however, Simon still remained dangerous and threw overhands and body shots that had some success, as well as engaging in the wrestling, which was very even and exciting. Font has always shown phenomenal boxing but here he showed a higher fight IQ and much better scrambling ability. Font took the clearest round 10-9 on all judges’ scorecards by being the more precise, efficient, and damaging striker.
Round 3 started the same, with Font just technically outboxing him however Simon started to have more success and a minute or so into the round hit Font with a beautiful gruelling body shot that hurt Font, Font covered up and backed off with Simon coming forward and looking to follow up however Font moved well and recovered. Font then went on to outbox him for the rest of the round. It was a very high output and very technical round, where neither fighter showed any signs of being particularly tired, despite the high pace they set, which is impressive. Despite the early adversity, Font took the round 10-9 in my opinion.
Two judges scored the bout 29-28 and one 30-27 all to Rob Font. That was an impressive showing for both men. I’d like to see Font go on to fight Cody Stamann next who fought Song Yadong in the fight after Font vs Simon, that fight went to a draw, but many people thought Stamann won. As for Ricky Simon, I’d like to see him take time off, then come back and fight Alejandro Perez who is coming off two losses as well. The winner of that can climb back up into that 15-20 unofficially ranked position.
Cody Stamann vs Song Yadong:
This three-round scrap was also a very compelling matchup on paper going into this event, and like Font vs Simon, it lived up to the excitement expected. The fight was not short of controversy with a first-round illegal blow causing a point to be taken away, and a decision that left fans confused.
The first round started with Yadong getting the better of the striking exchanges, but when Stamann shot for the takedown against the cage he succeeded, Yadong scrambled to his feet and had a hold of Stamann’s neck. As it was looking like Yadong would attack the neck he threw a knee that landed flush on Stamann’s head, Yadong threw it because he thought it was a legal position for him to do so as Stamann’s hands were not down, however, one of Stamann’s knees were down, causing it to be illegal.
The referee separated them immediately, and Stamann fell to his back holding his head, while Yadong walked away holding his head in frustration that he had made the mistake. The referee then went on to take a point off Yadong and they continued to fight. Yadong pushed forward for the rest of the round, out-striking Stamann who did get a takedown towards the end of the round. After seconds of control, Yadong scrambled and reversed the position. In my opinion, the round should have gone down as 9-9, and two judges agreed.
The second round involved more of the same on the feet, with Yadong using footwork and pressure to outstrike Stamann with a much higher output. Stamann managed to get two takedowns in the round but did virtually no damage, and Yadong reversed and took his back both times. I scored the round 10-9 to Yadong making it 19-18 to Yadong.
The third round was the most dominant of the fight by far, and it was in Stamann’s favour. He took Yadong down after a minute and kept him down for the rest of the round, showing an improved and more aggressive top game, even nearly finishing Yadong with strikes. I scored the round 10-8 for Stamann making it 28-27 in Stamann’s favour after all three rounds.
Two of the judges did not see it this way, they scored the first two rounds 9-9 and 10-9 to Yadong exactly how I did but they did not score round three as a 10-8 but a 10-9 to Stamann making it a majority draw, with the other judge scoring it 29-27 to Stamann. I’d like to see both fighters fight a ranked contender again next somewhere in the 7-15 range, however, I wouldn’t be against a rematch after the controversy with the decision.
Aspen Ladd vs Yana Kunitskaya:
In the first women’s bout of the main card, we got to see two top-ranked bantamweights put on a show for us. Exciting prospect Aspen Ladd was looking to bounce back from a 16-second knockout defeat to UFC 245 title challenger Germaine De Randamie, and that she did with her performance on Saturday against the tough Yamamoto Kunitskaya.
The first round was fought mainly in the clinch with a few even exchanges in striking range. Yana was getting the better of the clinch work and seemed to land some nice knees. However, with two minutes left Ladd landed a beautiful takedown and showed a dominant top game landing good ground and pound, until the last 30 seconds where she got a bit sloppy and Kunitskaya managed to scramble on top for the last few seconds of the round. The round was a clear 10-9 to Ladd.
The second round was fairly similar, except with more time spent in the open. Both had success in the striking and clinch exchanges in round two. Kunitskaya was more crisp with the strikes, however, Ladd was more aggressive in the clinch and got a takedown. I scored the round 10-9 to Ladd.
Between round two and three, Ladd’s corner shouted passionately instructing her to move forward aggressively immediately with a high output of punches. Ladd followed these instructions to a tee and within a few seconds of the round dropped Kunitskaya with a left hook. She then followed her down and threw vicious ground and pound. As Yana scrambled to get to safety, Ladd took her back and flattened her out, then proceeded to end the fight with ground and pound in that position.
This was a fantastic performance for the young Aspen Ladd to get back on track. I’d like to see her take on either the winner of Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington or the winner of Ketlen Vieira vs Irene Aldana which takes place at UFC 246 and UFC 245 respectively. As for Kunitskaya, I’d like to see her take on any up and comers the division has to offer as she can serve as a very good gatekeeper within the bantamweight class.
Stefan Struve vs Ben Rothwell:
This clash of veteran giants was never slated as a high stakes match within the heavyweight division, however, both men are still talented fighters and household names within the MMA world. I found this matchup interesting before the event and it played out as very entertaining yet frustrating in an unusual way.
Round one in terms of technical fighting went very well for Stefan Struve, he wasn’t getting hit despite the winging punches of Rothwell and was picking him apart with kicks to the head, body and legs. However, nearly four minutes into the round Ben Rothwell threw a body kick as Struve was circling away, and due to Struve’s height, the kick ended up hitting him right in the cup. Struve immediately dropped in pain and took the full five minutes allowed to recover moving around in agony with the doctors coming in to check on him. Due to the stop in action the crowd got restless and for nearly the whole recovery period every time Struve dropped his head they booed and every time he raised his head they cheered. Struve was not amused. He decided to carry on with the fight and that they did, for the remaining minute of the round Rothwell had some success with punches landing and pressure.
Round two went very similar to the first, with Struve using a kick-heavy strategy to outstrike and even wobble Rothwell at one point. Tragically, nearly four minutes into the round again Rothwell hits Struve with the exact same illegal blow as in the first. Struve drops in pain again, referee Dan Miragliotta shook his head in frustration and Ben Rothwell put his hands on his head in frustration and disappointment in himself. Struve took the 5 minutes allocated again but it was looking like the fight could not continue and that Struve was going to refuse to fight.
As the recovery time had nearly run out, Dan Miragliotta went and talked to Struve who was sitting down against the cage where he controversially said to Struve that there were only a minute and 30 seconds left in the round and that he was probably winning the round. This appeared to be persuasive and caused uproar as a referee should not lean towards one side. Struve then decided to continue the fight arguably because of that and proceeded to throw a leg kick that was checked and caused his leg to buckle badly, Rothwell followed up on that check with a barrage of punches against the cage and managed to drop Struve with an uppercut and get a TKO victory.
The result of the fight, given the circumstances, was not a good look for Miragliotta at all and caused even more backlash from viewers on social media.
As harsh on Struve as the situation was, Rothwell picked up the win fair and square in the end. I’d like to see Rothwell rematch Blagoy Ivanov, they fought in March of this year and Ivanov took away the decision win however I and many others felt Rothwell won that bout. As for Struve, I’d like to see him either commit to his retirement straight away or at least take time off and decide what’s best for him to do next. I have a feeling he will want to get back in there as he feels hard done by.
Marina Rodriguez vs Cynthia Calvillo:
This exciting high paced co-main event saw two top 10 contenders battle it out to a draw. This ended up as a classic grappler vs striker match up, the first two rounds were mainly contested on the feet with undefeated Brazilian Rodriguez getting the better in kicking and boxing range. However, round 3 took place on the ground where Calvillo dominated.
Round 1 specifically involved Calvillo trying to close the distance, but using her crisp kickboxing skills, Rodriguez was able to keep her off her for the most part and hurt Calvillo with knees in the clinch especially and pick her apart as she came in. The round ended as a clear 10-9 to Calvillo.
Round 2 involved more of the same, except with Cynthia having more success on the feet. However again Rodriguez showed she is the more fluent and technical striker for most of the round. Calvillo did get in a takedown but that wasn’t enough to secure the round in the judges’ eyes.
Round 3 was clearly the most dominant round of the fight, Calvillo pushed forward again like she had been the whole time, but this time got Rodriguez to the floor, and not only kept her down for the whole round, but threw some nasty ground and pound, as well as taking her back and looking for submissions nearly finishing the fight on several occasions. This round was a clear 10-8 for Calvillo as Rodriguez got little to no offence off.
When it comes to the career of Calvillo, it’s either time for her to move up to flyweight after missing the strawweight limit for the second time in her UFC career or for her to focus fully on weight cutting throughout camp. As for Rodriguez, I’d like to see her fight another low top 10 contender and further test that undefeated record.
Alistair Overeem vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik:
After a great night of excitement, controversy and all-round entertainment, the fight we had all been ultimately waiting for arrived and in the end it lived up to the excitement we were all thinking about in the 2-week absence of events.
Round one consisted of Alistair Overeem setting a slow pace circling the outside of the cage making reads as I expected, then after a few minutes of him outpointing Jairzinho from the outside, he closed the distance and entered the clinch, which leads to him landing an outside trip right into side control. Overeem landed some nice ground and pound and controlled pretty much the rest of the round from the top. The round was a clear 10-9 to Overeem.
In round two Overeem came out exactly the same, setting a pace identical to round one except with Jairzinho testing the high guard a little more and showing good durability as he took some big left hands and a great body kick from Overeem. Again the round went 10-9 in Overeem’s favour.
Round three was where it looked like the more experienced Overeem was going to completely take over. He came out exactly the same as before but awkwardly tried shooting his way into the clinch more. You could see he clearly wanted Rozenstruik on the ground. With about one minute to go in the round, he got him down and stayed on top, landing some good ground and pound for the rest of the round. Another 10-9 to Overeem which meant Jairzinho would need a finish or two 10-8 rounds to win.
Through the fourth round, they had both slowed down however surprisingly Overeem more than Jairzinho. The fourth round was more successful for Rozenstruik than any of the first three, landing a great high kick as Alistair circled away and throwing barrages of punches when The Reem backed up against the cage. Two of the judges scored that to Rozenstruik and one to Overeem as 10-9 either way. Personally, I had it for Jairzinho.
The final round came and Jairzinho knew he was down on the scorecards at least 3-1, however, he did not fight particularly explosively straight away, despite him needing a finish to win. The round went exactly the same as most of the contest on the feet. They were both fairly fatigued, especially Overeem, who halfway through the round, shot a single leg and pulled guard in desperation. With ten seconds left to go, Alistair started backing up but was dropping his hands in the process, Jairzinho chased him, and with four seconds left threw a left hook which glanced Overeem’s chin and followed it up with a deadly leaping right hook that landed flush on Alistair’s mouth, causing his lip to burst open and dropping him. As Alistair went down and hit the cage it looked like he was out cold however he stood up very quickly and ran to the right, at this point, the referee stopped the fight seeing how neurologically hurt Overeem appeared to be and Jairzinho was celebrating. Alistair, his team and many fans were disappointed about the stoppage given how quickly he got up. Personally, I was not too fussed by it as if Jairzinho really wanted to, he could have followed up with more brutal blows which would have ended up doing more damage to the Reem.
The explosive end to the fight left the legend Alistair Overeem with one of if not the most disgusting post fight injuries ever:
Ultimately, the fight was fun along with the whole card, I’d like to see Alistair retire now but he has shown he is more than capable of winning fights still in recent times so if he wants to carry on I wouldn’t object to him fighting another veteran, maybe even Rothwell or Struve who he already has a loss and win over respectively. As for Jairzinho, I would like to see him take on the winner of Curtis Blaydes vs Junior Dos Santos.
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