As a UFC fighter, a chance to perform infront of your home crowd comes at a rarity if you aren't from Las Vegas. That being said, fighters, from European countries especially, may only get one chance to fight for the UFC in their home countries. Earlier this year Michael Bisping had the chance to perform in England as he defeated Anderson Silva, and in a few weeks many UFC Brazilian fighters return home for UFC 198, with the likes of Werdum, Silva, Belfort and the debuting 'Cyborg' all expecting a raucous hometown crowd, which tonigut proved to pay dividends.
UFC's first trip to Rotterdam, Netherlands provided 3 fighters with an incredible chance to win in their home country with the UFC. The sold out Ahoy Stadium welcomed back Germaine de Randamie, Stefan Struve and headliner Alistair Overeem, and the support for each could be considered a determining factor.
Before I assess the 3 Dutch fighters, here are the results from the impressive card from the bottom up.
- Ulka Sasaki def. Willie Gates by submission (RNC) at 3:30 of R2.
- Leon Edwards def. Dominic Waters by UD ( 30-27 x3)
- Kyoji Horiguchi def. Neil Seery by UD ( 30-26, 30-27 x2)
- Reza Madadi def. Yan Cabral by TKO at 1:56 of R3.
- Josh Emmett def. Jon Tuck by SD ( 29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Magnus Cedenblad def. Garreth McLellan by TKO at 0:47 of R2
- Rustam Khabilov def. Chris Wade by UD (30-27,29-28 x2)
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Heather Jo Clark by UD ( 29-28 x2, 30-27)
- Nikita Krylov def. Francimar Barroso by submission (RNC) at 3:11 of R2
- Germaine de Randamie def. Anna Elmose by TKO at 3:46 of R1
- Gunnar Nelson def. Albert Tumenov by submission (RNC) at 3:15 of R2
- Stefan Struve def. Antonio Silva by TKO at 0:15 of R1
- Alistair Overeem def. Andrei Arlovski by TKO at 1:12 of R2
Germaine de Randamie
The first hometown hero to perform was 'Iron Lady' Germaine de Randamie. Scheduled for a 3 bout with the ever so innocent-looking newcomer, Anna Elmose. GdR would have seen Josh Emmett's valiant victory earlier in the night, and thus understood that you should never dismiss a new-comer. Elmose however, unable to replicate debutant Emmett's success as she couldn't survive a barrage of knees to the body which lead to the TKO late in R1. This was a pre cursor to the impressive stoppages for the Dutch fighters to come.
GdR had praise for the fans in the post fight interview, as she called her walkout 'the most special ever'. It sounded like every one of the 10,000 fans in attendance cheered at every jab which connected for the victorious 'Iron Lady'.
Some regarded Struve's fight a 'Clash of Titans', as the 7ft 'Skyscraper' squared off against fellow heavyweight outsider and giant, Antonio 'Big Foot' Silva.
Just like for GdR's fight, the fans serenaded Struve from the moment the stepped out into the arena in a walkout which lasted longer than the entire fight, Silva, who's career is now in question after suffering his 5th lost in 7(all of which have been R1 TKO/KO's), decided to take the fight to the 28 year old by taking him towards the cage where a big knee slowly brought down 6'4 'Big Foot' and after a flurry of elbows the bout was stopped after 15 seconds. A giant victory for Struve who said the victory is something ' you write in a book', and placed Dutch fighters 2-0 up heading into the main event.
Not only is there pressure of main eventing a UFC card, but infront of 10,000 Dutch fans who had barely recovered from two brutal first round stoppages from GdR and Struve, all eyes were on ' The Reem' who aimed to finish his team-mate for his 41st professional win. His team-mate however, Andrei 'Pitbull' Arlovski who is coming off the back of a R1 KO from Stipe Miocic which saw Stipe climb to the top of the Heavyweight division and earned him a title shot vs. Fabricio Werdum which kicks off in two weeks. Redemption was at the top of Arlovski's agenda as a win for him( + Overeem) would legitimise a title shot claim.
However, three is the magic number, and in the shows main event Overeem completed a trifecta of Dutch victories as he amazingly KO'd Arlovski after a karate kid-esque kick( dislocating Reem's toe) and a left hook which dropped The Pitbull early in the 2nd round.
Wrapping up the event which was a great night for Dutch MMA fans especially, as all three aforementioned fighters picked up a Performance of The Night award, all talk is on Alistair Overeem's title credentials, as he could be the man to face the winner of UFC 198's main event.