For an event that wasn’t getting much hype, this turned out to be a very solid card. Sure, the main event felt unnecessary, but it wasn’t even the most unnecessary main event of the day. I’m trying to focus on the positives here….
Ultimately I gauged whether or not UFC Fight Night 99 was a success on whether or not I was absolutely dreading sitting through another six hours of fights for UFC Fight Night 100. Fortunately, I was not, indicating the action from Belfast was of good quality with nothing to cause any real outrage as often seems to happen with these fight cards.
Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on the fallout of the event, here’s my thoughts on UFC Fight Night 99: Mousasi vs. Hall 2, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.
Abdul Razak Alhassan defeated Charlie Ward via TKO at 0:53 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: Neither Alhassan nor Ward looked to be ready for UFC competition. Nonetheless, Alhassan appeared to have more physical skills to work with while Ward was getting his opportunity thanks to his association with Conor McGregor. Both came out swinging with Alhassan knocking Ward down multiple times before referee Marc Goddard having seen enough before stepping in. Definitely fun while it lasted.
- Alhassan: Alhassan comes out swinging every time and did just that. An experienced counter puncher would have easily dodged his wild swings, but no one would mistake Ward for that. All seven of Alhassan’s fights have ended in less than 90 seconds via strikes. While he doesn’t own a quality victory yet, that is an impressive feat regardless of who he has done it to. No one can deny that he is a dangerous striker even if he has holes in his defense. If he were younger than his 31 years, he’d be a scorching prospect. As it is, he’s still a solid prospect.
- Ward: I never believed Ward was worth the UFC bringing to the big show. His best quality is his toughness, a good trait to have but not the one thing you want standing out about you. He did land a few hard shots of his own on Alhassan, though not nearly as many as he ate. At 35-years old, Ward has almost no chance of developing into a keeper. When far better fighters have already been released, I hope we don’t see him back in the Octagon.
Brett Johns defeated Kwan Ho Kwak via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: Hard not to get excited for this contest as both Johns and Kwak are legit prospects. Johns was the favorite, possessing a better all-around game and having faced better competition. He lived up to expectations, but it wasn’t easy. Johns controlled most of the first two rounds with his grappling before Kwak appeared to rock the Welshman to open the third. Johns recovered for the takedown, though Kwak had a chance to end the fight in the final minute only for Johns to survive the final onslaught. Fantastic fight with both showing their vast potential.
- Johns: It was expected Johns would easily control the Korean on the ground and he did just that. What was surprising was his counter striking, particularly in the second round. He had Kwak’s timing down perfectly, winning the striking battle up to that point. He did gas a bit when he was unable to finish Kwak, but that isn’t a surprise considering it was his UFC debut. I’m excited to see where Johns goes next as he appears to be a likely candidate to at least be fighting ranked opponents by the end of next year.
- Kwak: There must be something in the water in Korea as so many of the fighters brought in from there continue to walk forward under a barrage of strikes. Kwak does have some holes that need to be addressed in his overall defense, though his positives outweighed the negatives in his debut despite the loss. His durability and competitive fire will keep him from ever being completely out of a fight until he’s out cold, similar to Chan Sung Jung. He’s a long way from being in the same breath as his fellow countryman in terms of ability, though it is worth mentioning that Jung lost his first two fights under the Zuffa banner before finding his footing. Like Johns, I’m excited to see Kwak moving forward.
Marion Reneau defeated Milana Dudieva via TKO at 3:03 of RD3
- Expectations/Results: Reneau was a clear favorite going into the contest as Dudieva was coming off of a long layoff due to becoming a mother this past year. Reneau controlled the majority of the fight in every phase, utilizing a jab early on before beating up Dudieva in the clinch the second half of the second round. Reneau got the mount early in the third, raining down punches and elbows for nearly two minutes before the fight was stopped.
- Reneau: After being robbed in a decision loss to Ashlee Evans-Smith earlier this year, Reneau stated she wasn’t going to let the fight go to a decision. She wasn’t joking. She got her jab working early, often following it up with a hard straight right. When Dudieva began to tire, Reneau began fighting in the clinch, nearly gaining a stoppage at the end of the second in the process. Bottom line: she looked improved in every phase. She called out Bethe Correia after the fight and that is a contest that makes a lot of sense. I expect to see it put together.
- Dudieva: The Russian should be fighting at flyweight. She is severely undersized at bantamweight, lacking the range to be competitive with the majority of the division. She did have some early success catching Reneau’s kicks and hitting a nice throw to get the fight to the ground in the first two rounds, but the success was fleeting. She may not be cut quite yet due to a lack of depth in the division, but don’t be surprised to see her on the outside looking in either.
Zak Cummings defeated Alexander Yakovlev via submission at 4:02 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: Cummings was the favorite, though not by a wide margin. It was expected Yakovlev would struggle with Cummings massive frame as Yakovlev has been bullied before. If he was to have success, it would be fighting from the outside. Yakovlev had some success with that in the first round, possibly winning that on the scorecards. Cummings turned up the pressure in the second round, keeping Yakovlev near the cage and landing powerful counters. Yakovlev panicked, shooting for a takedown which Cummings stuffed. Shoving Yakovlev down, Cummings pulled off an impressive step over reverse triangle and grabbed an armbar for the tap.
- Cummings: While the win is slightly tainted by Cummings missing weight – the second time he has done that fighting overseas – it was still a very impressive performance overall. Massively strong for 170, there aren’t many who can beat the former light heavyweight on the ground at welterweight. He’s improved his counter striking over the years to the point that his natural power translates very well. It forced Yakovlev to panic and Cummings ended up doing something Demian Maia couldn’t do: submitting Yakovlev. I’d love to see what he can do against either Sean Strickland or Ryan LaFlare. Then again, Zane suggested Sergio Moraes and that flies just as well in my book.
- Yakovlev: This could be the end of the line for the Russian. That’s two losses in a row to bring his UFC record to 2-4. He’d benefit from a realignment of the weight classes as he’s too big to make the cut regularly to lightweight and too small to hang with the larger welterweights as this contest proved. It wouldn’t be impossible for him to pick up a few wins on the regional circuit and make his way back, but it’s unlikely when he is already 32-years old and there are countless youngsters looking for the same opportunity.
Justin Ledet defeated Mark Godbeer via submission at 2:16 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: Godbeer comes from a kickboxing background while Ledet is a former professional boxer. Easy to peg this as a standup battle, right? Wrong. Ledet jumped at the first opportunity he saw to drag the fight to the ground and was successful in getting it there to surprise everyone. A second takedown soon followed as Ledet took the Englishman’s back to sink in a RNC to pick up a win that wasn’t necessarily surprising, though the manner in which it was attained was.
- Ledet: I had heard Ledet had a BJJ background, but had never seen evidence of it. Now I have. Even more impressive was the takedowns as I hadn’t heard anything about his wrestling. Having already proven that he has an impressive standup game punctuated by a killer jab, Ledet proved he has a nice all-around game. Coming into the UFC as a complete unknown in August, Ledet has come out of nowhere to make himself a name to watch out for in a division littered with dinosaurs. At 28 and now fully concentrating on his MMA career, Ledet looks like he could be a player in short order for a very long time. I think Marcin Tybura represents a quality step up in competition.
- Godbeer: That is not how Godbeer wanted to make his debut. I thought he looked good the opening 20 seconds, landing leg kicks and avoiding rushing into Ledet’s jab. That didn’t last long as he appeared to lose his composure upon the first hard shot landed by Ledet as he began rushing in to land his punches. Godbeer has the ability to win fights at this level, but not when he is fighting as dumb as he did here. I’m not saying he’ll win his next contest, though I can almost assuredly guarantee he’ll look better in his next appearance.
Amanda Cooper defeated Anna Elmose via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: Potential was the optimal word heading into this fight. The 25-year old Cooper made it to the TUF finals this summer, though she possessed only three professional contests. Elmose didn’t have much more with four as she made her debut at strawweight after being overwhelmed against a much larger Germaine de Randamie in her UFC debut. What we got was a back-and-forth fun contest that got sloppy at times. What else would you expect from a pair of inexperienced prospects? Cooper had more in the tank to finish strong and take the judge’s decision.
- Cooper: It wasn’t a perfect performance from Cooper, but it was promising. She showed her combination punching, a little bit of wrestling, a little bit of submission grappling, and a lot of heart. Make no mistake, she showed a lot of holes too as she was dropped in the first round when she threw an ill-advised kick and was overaggressive to end up in an omaplata. She did survive those slip ups to finish strongly, nearly scoring an armbar of her own and getting the mount at one point. Cooper would probably be in a better spot if she were plying her trade in Invicta, but she’s in the UFC and at least they are being patient in her development.
- Elmose: I never understood why so many were excited about Elmose. Yes, I admit that her aggression made her a lot of fun to watch, but there were so many holes that I couldn’t see her coming into the UFC and having success. This contest, even though it was a loss, kind of swayed me. Elmose showed more energy than I thought she would have after a drastic drop in weight in addition to a better ground game than I expected. Did I mention her counter striking as well? Elmose has potential to become a fun action fighter, but she would probably be better off honing her craft at a lower level of competition. She may get another opportunity, but I’m not expecting that.
Kevin Lee defeated Magomed Mustafaev via submission at 4:31 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: It was hard to pick this contest between highly regarded prospects. Lee had the wrestling advantage with Mustafaev expected to have the edge in power. It was clear those statements were both true as Mustafaev landed some very hard kicks and punches in the opening minutes only for Lee to ground the Russian numerous times. Mustafaev slowly began to wilt under Lee’s relentless assault, his questionable gas tank coming into play. Mustafaev had fought off multiple submission attempts from the young American, but couldn’t push off the final attempt and went to sleep before the close of the second round.
- Lee: Are we willing to believe Lee is ready for a step up in competition now? Lee fell short last year against Leonardo Santos when he didn’t show the Brazilian BJJ expert the necessary respect. Lee’s swagger is back in full swing as shown in his post-fight speech where he called out Conor McGregor. Will it cost him as he fights tougher competition? Lee did show Mustafaev the proper respect by avoiding the standup battle with the powerful Russian while showing fantastic strides in his BJJ by getting Mustafaev’s back multiple times. After nine fights in the UFC, it is easy to forget that Lee is still only 24-years old. Seeing as how he has struggled with experienced and savvy opponents, I’d love to see Lee challenge Nik Lentz next. Anyone else with me on that?
- Mustafaev: The Russian has nothing to be ashamed of. He showed an excellent fighting spirit fighting off choke after choke before Lee finally got one underneath his chin. Mustafaev also landed some hard shots early as well that stumbled Lee, he just couldn’t finish the job. We didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know about Mustafaev’s gas tank, something he has needed to address for a long time. Perhaps his losing will force him to take it more seriously, or at least adjust his fighting style to conserve a bit more energy. I can’t say whether or not he’ll be able to become a ranked lightweight as many predicted at one time, but it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility even with the loss.
Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Ali Bagautinov via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: Hardcore fans were excited for this contest between former title challengers. Horiguchi was a sizeable favorite, though no one was counting out Bagautinov. The fight ended up playing out very much as expected. Bagautinov had his moments grinding on Horiguchi, landing some punching combinations, and landing a hard slam near the end of the first. But Horiguchi accumulated a lot more volume, particularly down the stretch as he adjusted to Bagautinov’s movement and landed his own takedowns to take a competitive but clear decision.
- Horiguchi: Considering Joseph Benavidez has already lost to Demetrious Johnson twice, Horiguchi appears to be the flyweight most likely to get a second crack at the belt. Most encouraging was the adjustments in the midst of the fight as Horiguchi appeared to do whatever he wanted at the end of the fight, whether it was going on the attack, countering, or landing takedowns. Only 26-years old and finally working with actual coaches at ATT, Horiguchi still has plenty of room for improvement. Don’t think Johnson isn’t paying attention. I was set to say I’d like to see Horiguchi face Jussier Formiga, then Formiga was just barely announced to face Sergio Pettis. Wilson Reis will suffice in that case.
- Bagautinov: The loss ensures that Bagautinov won’t ever get another crack at the flyweight belt. 31-years old isn’t exactly young at flyweight and he already has to deal with the stigma of testing positive for PED’s in his contest with Johnson. Nonetheless, he didn’t embarrass himself against Horiguchi with a fair argument to be made that he won the first round. Look for him to settle into a role as a gatekeeper for the next few years. A contest with either Ian McCall – if he can ever make it back into the cage – or Neil Seery following their canceled contest would be appropriate for the Puncher King.
Jack Marshman defeated Magnus Cedenblad via TKO at 3:32 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: I was confused as to why the newcomer Marshman was fighting Cedenblad who was in the midst of a four-fight win streak. Marshman had the look of an alright prospect, but he didn’t look like a blue-chipper. Next time I should just shut up. Marshman let his punching power be known early on, knocking down the massive Swede in the opening minute. Cedenblad recovered to ground the Welshman and grind out the rest of the round. Cedenblad couldn’t keep Marshman on the ground in the second and the two slugged it out with Marshman getting the better of multiple exchanges. Cedenblad finally fell after being rocked multiple times and it wasn’t long before Leon Roberts had seen enough.
- Marshman: All the credit in the world to Marshman. Few were picking him to pull off the upset as he isn’t a great wrestler and it was expected he would struggle with the range of Cedenblad. While Cedenblad did take him down at will when given the opportunity, Marshman showed the ability to wade through Cedenblad’s length and land clean shot after clean shot. Marshman was willing to eat some shots from Cedenblad in order to get his, a strategy that is will be worrisome moving forward. Nonetheless, Marshman made a statement and should have success moving forward.
- Cedenblad: All of that momentum gone. Don’t expect Cedenblad to get an opportunity against the upper half of the division now. Four wins in a row wasn’t enough to grant him that opportunity and now losing to a newcomer? Yeah, it ain’t happening. I don’t know if Cedenblad was buying into the idea of wanting to have more exciting fights as he had talked about in the past, but if it was, this is often the price of trying to entertain the fans. Cedenblad isn’t going to be cut quite yet, but I’d expect he needs to win to remain employed as he can’t seem to curry much favor out of management.
Artem Lobov defeated Teruto Ishihara via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: Most expected the Russian transplant Lobov to fall to the explosive Japanese playboy as Ishihara had proven to be explosive and rangy. Lobov wasn’t having any of it. He kept the pressure on Ishihara, limiting the amount of room in which the Team Alpha Male representative could explode for a KO. Ishihara did find an opening to drop Lobov in the final round, but didn’t have the energy to capitalize in time. Lobov’s sheer volume ended up being the difference, earning Lobov the highlight of his career as the Irish crowd drowned him in cheers when the decision was read.
- Lobov: Lobov’s durability proved to be the difference. He took a number of power shots from Ishihara, only to shake them off and keep moving forward. His pressure proved to be a bad matchup for Ishihara with Lobov landing a high number of single kicks and punches. I struggle to see any more favorable matchups for Lobov as there is no doubt his friendship with Conor McGregor is the only reason he survived losing his first two UFC contests. Don’t put it past the UFC to bring someone in to give Lobov a favorable matchup as they did when Lobov beat Chris Avila.
- Ishihara: It was clear Ishihara was lost when he realized his explosive counters weren’t having the effect they typically do against the durable Lobov. Out of energy and without a backup plan, Ishihara lost his fire. Fortunately, he didn’t quit as his late counter that dropped Lobov indicated, but that was pretty much the only positive for him over the last round and a half. The end result shouldn’t be much of a surprise as Ishihara had been spoon-fed favorable opponents and rightfully so given his inexperience and potential. This should be a great learning experience for the youngster and I expect he’ll be much improved from this experience.
Alexander Volkov defeated Timothy Johnson via split decision
- Expectations/Results: This was not an easy one to call. Volkov’s length and overall striking was superior to that of Johnson, but Johnson was the superior wrestler, an Achilles heel of Volkov. It started out with a bang. Volkov hurt Johnson early only for Johnson to counter with a HARD uppercut that floored the Russian. The rest of the fight consisted of Johnson trying to get past Volkov’s long arms, which he had some success doing. Volkov clearly took the final round while it appeared Johnson did enough to take the first two. Thus, it was a bit of a surprise when the former Bellator champion was announced the winner.
- Volkov: I may not agree with the decision, but I thought Volkov’s improvements were pretty obvious. Johnson landed a single takedown in the second round, a surprising turn of events as Volkov had been taken down with ease in his last few Bellator appearances. I was shocked at how easily Johnson was able to land his powerful hooks early on, though I think Volkov was concerned with Johnson’s takedowns which allowed the punches to land. Volkov has enough youth that he should continue to improve and become a linchpin as the dinosaurs of the division begin to make their way out to the pasture, though I don’t see him becoming a contender.
- Johnson: I wonder what it takes to put down Johnson? He was rocked early by a flurry from Volkov and recovered quickly to land the uppercut that floored Volkov shortly thereafter. What gave him the loss was his lack of energy as he wasn’t able to do much in the third round other than survive after a strong performance in the first two rounds. With many believing that the loss was undeserved, Johnson should get a good quality opponent rather than a step down in competition. I’d say Daniel Omielanczuk makes the most sense.
Stevie Ray defeated Ross Pearson via split decision
- Expectations/Results: This wasn’t an easy fight to call. Pearson had dropped three of his last four, but he had also been losing to good opposition. On the other side of things, Ray’s wrestling looked like crap in a loss to Alan Patrick. I went with Pearson as he had generally beaten opponents on the level of Ray. The contest really could have gone either wayRay got the decision as he landed more volume over Pearson’s harder strikes. Not a very entertaining contest, but not a wretched one either.
- Ray: All the credit to the Scot as he forced Pearson to be the aggressor in a battle of counter strikers. Movement was the key for Ray as Pearson rarely landed clean strikes. Then again, neither did Ray. Ray landed a high volume of kicks, mixing them to the body and legs. What may have been more surprising was Ray was the one looking for takedowns, though he was only looking to change the pace of things. Ray could have been cut with a loss. Now he owns the biggest scalp of his career. I’ll reserve judgement on how far he can climb until I see him face another wrestler as his loss to Patrick still worries me.
- Pearson: Even if the judges had given the decision to Pearson – which I wouldn’t have argued with – I would still think that Pearson is firmly in decline. He’s now 1-4 in 2016 with his lone victory being just as controversial as this contest was. Pearson has been in the UFC for a long time and taken a lot of damage over his career. There are still fights he can win, but he shouldn’t be facing anyone in the top half of the division any longer. He doesn’t look to be as quick on the draw as he was just a year ago and it’s showing up in the results. Kind of sad, but it does happen to everyone in the athletic realm.
Gegard Mousasi defeated Uriah Hall via TKO at 4:37 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: Hall’s victory over Mousasi 14 months ago was one of the bigger upsets in recent memory. Even though Mousasi is well ahead of Hall in the UFC rankings, he wanted to avenge the fight. He did just that as Hall was competitive in this at all with a spinning back kick that caught part of Mousasi’s chin being the only bright spot. Mousasi’s jab was on point, as were his takedowns and his ground and pound. Trapping Hall against the fence and preventing Hall from using his left arm for protection, Mousasi rained down punches until the fight was called.
- Mousasi: Does this victory do anything to advance Mousasi up the ranks? No. It does ease his conscience about his earlier loss to Hall, but that is about it. Some will say it adds another victory to a winning streak that is beginning to look more impressive all the time, but ask Max Holloway how well that has worked for him. He still can’t get a title fight after winning nine in a row. I digress. Mousasi is clearly a better fighter than he was two years ago and appears to have the fire needed to make a run. He needs to get a win over one of the four middleweights immediately ahead of him before anyone will take him serious as a title contender. He wants those fights and given what we’ve seen out of him this year, I won’t count Mousasi out. A trilogy fight with Jacare Souza seems possible, though I’d be interested to see him face Luke Rockhold as well.
- Hall: Can we please stop talking about Hall and his potential? He’s not a young prospect at 32-years old and has fallen short every time he has received a step up in competition save for his first fight with Mousasi which had a flukish feel to it. This contest only reinforces that. I have nothing against Hall. He’s an exciting middle of the pack middleweight. But that’s about it. His best win outside of Mousasi: Thiago Santos. Like I said, middle of the pack. While he has lost three in a row, he shouldn’t be cut yet as he has fought some tough competition, though a major step down is needed.
Well, those are my collective thoughts. Until next time....