UFC 164 held a trio of heavyweight bouts, all displaying fighters at different stages in their career. For the closing fight on Facebook young prospect and UFC newcomer Nikita Krylov took on returning vet and long time power-puncher Soa Palelei. It was an opportunity for both men to announce themselves to the always tumultuous 265 lb division. A great performance from either fighter could see them shoot up the ranks for a much better slot on a future UFC card. Sadly it was not to be.
In what many are dubbing the worst fight in recent UFC history Krylov and Palelei engaged in a low octane gas fest for two and a half rounds. Palelei came out uncharacteristically looking to grapple. He would reveal later that he had broken a rib two weeks out from the fight, but didn't want to pull out of the bout. Krylov ended up on the bottom quickly, perhaps due to his lack of seasoning, or perhaps from pure surprise at seeing Palelei shoot for a takedown and from there he struggled mightily and fruitlessly to make it back to his feet. When he did later in the round he was able to hurt Palelei with a few flurries, but got tagged hard for his efforts. Palelei tried to throw in the towel from his stool, but his corner talked him out of it. The second round was something of a rinse and repeat, except that now both fighters were thoroughly exhausted. Palelei again talked of stopping the fight between rounds two and three. In the third, both men mentally and physically drained, they traided exhausted blows. Palelei caught Krylov hard with a right and followed with a few strikes from the mount to get the TKO stoppage. The result: Soa Palelei def. Nikita Krylov via TKO (punches) at 1:34 of Round 3.
What was the high point?
Both fighters showed a few flashes of what they were capable of with Krylov throwing a flashy spinning head kick and Palelei delivering some of his huge trademark power... but lets be real here, that made up about 20 seconds of this three round fight.
What was the low point?
Pretty much all of it. Palelei has an excuse, his rib was broken, and having his debut already pushed back several months to make room for Roy Nelson in June he didn't want to miss this opportunity. But Krylov needs to take a serious look at his camp, because if that's the best shape he can get himself in for a fight he has no chance of competing in the UFC.
Where do they go from here?
While criticism is well deserved, both fighters have a UFC future (heavyweight is that thin). For Palelei, he got the win, and a chance to heal with some medical insurance to help. Once he comes back a fight against Derrick Lewis or Geronimo dos Santos would both be a solid lower tier test.
For Krylov, the good news is that he's really young. And if he can get a better camp going from his UFC paycheck he has some promising athletic gifts (stamina not being among them). Big, young, athletic, heavyweights are an extreme rarity so I really hope the UFC doesn't overreact and cut him. For his next fight he should take on Shane Del Rosario just to see if one of them can make a big turnaround.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Never. Never never never.
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