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Hindsight - UFC Singapore: Holm vs. Correia in retrospect

Take a closer look into all the happenings of UFC Singapore, from Holly Holm’s vicious KO of Bethe Correia to the curtain jerker between Lucie Pudilova and Ji Yeon Kim.

Hindsight

Is it just me, or did UFC Singapore feel like a bit of a letdown? I recognize there wasn’t a lot of hype behind it to casual fans, but there were some fights that looked fantastic on paper to those in the know. Three former UFC champions were featured on the main card, plus a former Strikeforce champion. It isn’t like there wasn’t any star power. There may have been a vicious head kick KO delivered by Holly Holm to Bethe Correia, but the first eleven minutes of that contest were a cure for insomnia. The other three contests weren’t that bad, but they didn’t exactly do a lot to excite either. Rather than continue complaining, I should simply acknowledge there were some key developments from this card, far more than we usually get from a Fight Pass exclusive card.

Here’s my thoughts on the UFC Singapore, 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.

Lucie Pudilova defeated Ji Yeon Kim via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Result: Though a very evenly matched contest on paper, I noticed more people picking Pudilova over Kim as she owned a better track record. Pudilova was the aggressor early, pushing the pace with her jab. Kim began to find a home for her counter right, forcing Pudilova to change gears, clinching up and making things dirty. Nothing happened there for a while, only for Pudilova to eventually find a couple of guillotine chokes that swung the momentum back into her favor which also gave her the contest.
  • Pudilova: Even though Pudilova walked out the winner, a call that I agreed with despite it being a very close contest, I walked away less impressed with her. Her clinch was very inactive and she abandoned her striking once Kim began slipping Pudilova’s jab. Where were her kicks? Where were her combinations? At least she got her wrestling and grappling going, though it was almost too late. I’m not overly concerned as Pudilova is still young at 23, but adjustments need to be made if she hopes to be a mainstay.
  • Kim: By the time the second round rolled around, it was obvious Kim was the superior striker. Her right hand found its home time and again with counter hooks and uppercuts, rocking Pudilova’s head back on multiple occasions. However, while I may have knocked Pudilova’s activity in the clinch, Kim was even worse. Kim also gave her neck up to Pudilova, making it easy for the Czech to steal the victory with her submission attempts. Still, I liked what I saw from Kim on the feet. She could be an action fighting mainstay in a division that could use one.

Naoki Inoue defeated Carls John de Tomas via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Result: Given his familial bloodlines – Mizuki Inoue is his sister – Inoue was the pick for most pundits. He didn’t disappoint. De Tomas had some success early on the feet with his boxing, but the best thing that could be said after those early moments is that he was able to avoid tapping to Inoue’s multiple submission attempts. Inoue put on one of the better ground performances in recent memory, chaining attempt after attempt, from RNCs to triangle chokes to armbars.
  • Inoue: I expected Inoue to win, but I didn’t expect him to look this sharp. His transitions from each subsequent submission attempt was very smooth. What surprised me the most was the success he was able to find in stuffing De Tomas’ takedown attempts. It isn’t just that he stuffed them, he often reversed them into a submission attempt or getting top control. Inoue could become a feature player at 125 sooner than anyone anticipated heading into this contest. His youth and aggressiveness for submissions could be just the breath of fresh air the flyweight division needs to help attract more fans.
  • De Tomas: Given De Tomas is only 20 years old, I don’t want to bag too much on him. But he weighed in five pounds overweight and had moments where he did nothing but eat jabs from the lanky Inoue in addition to being dominated on the ground. Not an inspiring performance in any way. I’ll give him credit for his determination to avoid being submitted, but that isn’t a recipe to stick around for very long.

Russell Doane defeated Kwan Ho Kwak via KO at 4:09 of RD1

  • Expectations/Result: Momentum can be a difficult thing to swing in your favor. After four losses in a row, there were many who didn’t believe Doane could do that without leaving the confines of the UFC as Kwak was the slight favorite. It played out as expected early too, Kwak scoring often with his kick-centered offense. Doane bided his time, got his timing and distance down, and struck when he saw an opening. Getting Kwak’s back against the fence, Doane scored on a couple of hard hooks that sent Kwak face down to the canvas, snapping Doane’s losing streak.
  • Doane: It was never a question of whether Doane had the talent to find success in the UFC. Amongst other things, it was whether he had the fight IQ to stick around. He fought very smart this time around, allowing Kwak to jump to an early lead and get comfortable before unleashing his fury. Even during his losing streak, it was clear Doane had been improving his power and accuracy in his punches. He finally put them to good use.
  • Kwak: Ouch. Kwak looked fantastic early on, landing his kicks and showing a bit of improvement in his fists too. His defense has always been a weak point of his, but his chin has also held up very well. Not this time. With two losses in a row, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the UFC cut him loose. I hope they don’t as Kwak still has a lot of potential and that was on display even in this contest. Someone like Andre Soukhamthath or Davey Grant would be ideal opponents to match him up with to determine if he should remain on the roster.

Li Jingliang defeated Frank Camacho via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Result: Though the consensus was that it would be an entertaining brawl, it was also largely agreed that Camacho’s lack of size and late notice in taking the contest would cost him. The size difference wasn’t nearly as noticeable as Camacho’s shallow gas tank, but that didn’t mean Camacho was dominated. The Guam native landed some heavy bombs the first round and a half, rocking Jingliang and threatening to put him to sleep. Jingliang maintained his consciousness, got his bearings about him, and began to pick apart Camacho with jabs and leg kicks. As Camacho’s mobility faded, Jingliang started landing his own bombs in the third round. He may not have put away Camacho, but Jingliang did put an exclamation point on the victory.
  • Jingliang: Jingliang is slowly developing a cult following – led by my colleague Connor Ruebusch – as he now rides a three-fight win streak. However, those wins have come against opponents owning a combined UFC record of 0-4. Jingliang is fun to watch and has improved since he first entered the UFC, but I can’t help but believe that his recent surge has been overstated. Had Camacho had a full training camp, he likely would have had the gas tank to maintain his attack, take the second round, and snap Jingliang’s win streak. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jingliang. But I also can’t help but think his success will evaporate as soon as he gets a noticeable step up in competition.
  • Camacho: I’ll admit that I underestimated Camacho. He landed a lot of bombs early, showing an exceptional ability to close the distance with his bombs. Early on, it seemed only a matter of time before he put the Chinese fighter to sleep. He stuffed Jingliang’s takedown attempts too, though I’d attribute that more to Jingliang’s poor attempts more than Camacho being particularly difficult to take down. But the lack of a training camp cost him as he couldn’t maintain his early pace. Camacho’s frame may be better suited to lightweight, a division he has fought at before. We’ll have to see.

Ulka Sasaki defeated Justin Scoggins via submission at 3:19 of RD 2

  • Expectations/Result: Owning a victory over potential title challenger Ray Borg, most expected Scoggins to make a successful return to flyweight. Opening the contest with a suplex and dominating the standup with an array of kicks, Scoggins was well on his way to securing an easy win. That wasn’t even the most devastating part of his game as he landed some HEAVY ground-and-pound on Sasaki, making it seem the end would soon be nigh. Scoggins began to tire, let up just a bit, and Sasaki capitalized. Forcing a scramble, he gained the top position and was able to jump on Scoggins’ back. Soon he sunk in a RNC, resulting in Scoggins tapping soon after.
  • Sasaki: Easily the most impressive aspect displayed by Sasaki was his resilience as he was being manhandled by Scoggins in all areas. It would have been easy to give up after Scoggins dominated on the feet and landed some heavy elbows. Instead, Sasaki persevered, showing a deeper gas tank as Scoggins faded. From there, it was classic Sasaki as he secured the tenth RNC victory of his career. The win doesn’t launch him into contendership as he’ll need a few more wins before that happens. I’d like to see him face someone who doesn’t have a history of beating themselves. John Moraga seems ideal.
  • Scoggins: There is no doubt Scoggins is his own worst enemy. The 25-year-old has beaten himself in three of his four contests, giving up two guillotine chokes and a RNC that could have been avoided in those losses. However, he is still only 25. Scoggins has time to turn around his career and become the contender that many believe he can become. He did look fantastic before the fight-defining scramble. Perhaps he would be better off at bantamweight as he seemed to gas when he gave up his back to Sasaki. Though I can’t guarantee the UFC will bring Scoggins back, I believe they will. If they do, it will be do-or-die for him.

Alex Caceres defeated Rolando Dy via TKO at 5:00 of RD2

  • Expectations/Result: Though Caceres was a rightful favorite against an unproven Dy, many were expecting the inconsistent veteran to slip into bad habits and give the fight away. Instead, Caceres came out on fire, putting together smooth boxing combinations with the occasional kick, rocking Dy multiple times in the first round. A legal punch to the eye of Dy caused major vision problems for the Filipino combatant, forcing him to fight the rest of the way with his eye closed. After the doctor examined him and consulted with the referee, the contest was called off.
  • Caceres: This contest perfectly exemplified Caceres. He looked fantastic in the opening round, showing great movement and footwork to avoid damage while dealing more than his fair share. A finish appeared inevitable if he could keep up that type of performance. Nope. Caceres seemed to go into cruise control in the second, allowing Dy to land some good offense of his own, perhaps even taking the round. There may not be a more untrustworthy fighter in the UFC than Caceres. Fortunately for him, he got the stoppage thanks to the injury. Despite all his potential, don’t ever expect Caceres to be more than an action fighting gatekeeper.
  • Dy: Which Dy is the real Dy? The one that struggled to get his offense going in the first round or the one that made a comeback in the second round with one good eye. I’ll admit that I underestimated his abilities, thinking his success was due more to poor competition than Dy being a good athlete. He does have a lot of heart in addition to some raw physical abilities. I don’t know if it will be enough for him to hang around – I think some more time on the regional scene would have done him good – but he’s got a better chance to do so than I originally gave him.

Walt Harris defeated Cyril Asker via TKO at 1:44 of RD1

  • Expectations/Result: As uber-athlete Harris continues to improve, he had looked more and more like a potential contender all the time. Asker…looked like another active body. Asker did do his homework on Harris upon coming into this fight, catching the big man with a few hard punches before Harris dropped him with a hard one-two. Harris wasted no time getting on top of Asker, dropping some heavy elbows and punches that forced the referee to step in and rescue Asker.
  • Harris: That one-two was beautiful. And that ground-and-pound…damn! I won’t say Harris has arrived quite yet, but he has come a long way from the raw prospect who first entered the UFC almost four years ago. He’s is a perfect example of why I want the UFC to stick with prospects or at least give them another opportunity should they send them back to the regionals. Harris lost his first three UFC contests, but they brought him back after sending him down and he’s now won three of his last four, all in violent fashion. There are still improvements to make, but he’s much better defensively now, developing a better knowledge of how to use his athletic gifts in the cage. Harris and Curtis Blaydes are the unranked heavyweights to keep an eye on.
  • Asker: With all due respect to Asker, this wasn’t unexpected at all. He simply doesn’t have the physical gifts to compete with the majority of the heavyweight roster. His stocky frame has power to it, but it also prevents him from finding much success in the standup outside of the pocket. To his credit, he showed some improvement in his standup, but it still wasn’t enough for him to even last two minutes against Harris. I do think he can end up serving as a low-level gatekeeper for the heavyweight division, but that’s about it.

Jon Tuck defeated Takanori Gomi via submission at 1:12 of RD1

  • Expectations/Result: A shell of his former self, Gomi had been unable to even escape the first round in his previous three contests, all losses. Thus, despite Gomi’s legendary status, Tuck was an easy pick going into the fight. A shopworn Gomi was unable to withstand the kicks to the body Tuck landed, wincing in pain as Tuck came out aggressive from the gate. Tuck didn’t let up, jumping all over Gomi and taking his back, soon sinking in a RNC which forced Gomi to tap out.
  • Tuck: Considering a victory over Gomi is no longer an impressive feat, it’s hard to get to hyped up over Tuck’s performance. He does deserve credit for coming out aggressive which does go a bit against type as Tuck typically paces himself. So perhaps it’s his fight IQ I should be lauding in this contest. Still, I see this win only extending his time in the UFC rather than launching him into an extended win streak of any type. Here’s hoping he proves me wrong as Tuck is a hell of a good guy.
  • Gomi: I know it isn’t my place to tell someone when to retire and I hate doing it to anyone. But someone close to Gomi needs to tell him that he doesn’t have it anymore. Four losses in a row, all in the first round, this one to a guy who would have been out of the UFC if he couldn’t dispose of Gomi. He just can’t take the damage like he used to. Maybe the years of beer and cigarettes have finally caught up to him. For his health, I hope he hangs it up.

Rafael dos Anjos defeated Tarec Saffiedine via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Result: Moving up to welterweight, Dos Anjos was expected to make a successful debut as Saffiedine has struggled against the established names of the division. Regardless of the predictions, every round was very close. Dos Anjos pressed forward with a series of jabs and kicks to keep Saffiedine moving backwards, not to mention a few takedowns over the first two rounds. Saffiedine landed his share of counters, throwing a few slick combinations and hitting a takedown of his own in the first round. What was likely the difference was dos Anjos forward movement as he was the constant aggressor.
  • Dos Anjos: As good as Dos Anjos is, I struggle to see him competing for the title at welterweight. This contest did nothing to change my mind. He did look much healthier at weigh-ins, but he also didn’t look like he had any additional energy in the cage. Not that it was a problem as he never appeared gassed when fighting at lightweight. He has always pressed a hard pace and did so here. Dos Anjos wasn’t overpowered by Saffiedine, but he did struggle to get him down more than he usually does and Saffiedine isn’t a large welterweight. I shouldn’t completely crap on his performance as the former lightweight champ did pick up a deserved win, limiting Saffiedine’s opportunities for effective offense. The move up in weight will probably extend his career and Dos Anjos will find his share of success in his new home, but don’t count on him becoming a contender.
  • Saffiedine: In many ways, this was a make-or-break contest for Saffiedine. Coming off losses to Rick Story and Dong Hyun Kim, Saffiedine needed this win if he wanted to be seen as more than just a gatekeeper. Though he was competitive, he couldn’t get the job done. That isn’t to say Saffiedine looked bad. He looked better than he has at any point in his UFC career in my opinion. His strikes were accurate and he made Dos Anjos work for every inch of ground. With three losses in a row, the UFC could end up letting him go. I believe that would be a mistake. We’ll have to see what happens.

Colby Covington defeated Dong Hyun Kim via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Result: Going into the contest, Kim had shown signs of decline while Covington had continued to improve. You can already see where I’m going with it. Covington absolutely smothered Kim over the course of 15 minutes, giving the Korean mainstay zero breathing room. Even when unable to complete the takedown, Covington was sticking to Kim like glue, preventing him from getting off any decent offense. Outside of a flurry towards the end of the second round, Covington didn’t have any significant offense of his own, relying solely on his control to win the contest.
  • Covington: While Covington secured a dominating win that will vault him into the standings, he is still a long way away from securing a title shot, something he seems to call for with every subsequent win. Covington doesn’t seem to understand the UFC wants entertaining fighters at the top of the division. Covington’s grinding style isn’t entertaining. The occasional spinning back fist isn’t going to solve that either. Regardless, this was a huge win for the ATT representative and the few times his striking was on display, it looked good. Don’t expect him to slow down any time soon either as there aren’t a lot in the division that match up favorably against him. If Covington can remain active and get the right matchups, look to see him making a push to join the top five.
  • Kim: I don’t know that Kim looked any worse than usual. I just don’t think he matched up well with Covington. He did secure a couple of nice trips as Covington continued to grind away in the clinch, but that was all he was able to do to score points. It wasn’t all bad. Considering Kim has never been known to have a deep gas tank, his energy levels looked good late in the contest. He’s still a tough and durable gatekeeper even if the slim dreams he had of becoming champion were squashed with this loss.

Marcin Tybura defeated Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Result: Even though Arlovski had lost four in a row heading into this contest, they were all against top competition. He even had his moments against the likes of Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. Thus, it wasn’t a sure thing that he’d be on the receiving end of another loss against up-and-coming Tybura. Tybura secured the mount position in the first round and came very close to obtaining a stoppage. Arlovski moved around just enough to ensure the ref didn’t end the contest and scored a flurry of offense at the end of the round when he was allowed back to his feet. Arlovski’s assault on the feet continued in the second, but it was Tybura’s top control in the final round that secured the win for the Pole.
  • Tybura: While this was easily Tybura’s biggest win of his career – and he looked very good in some situations – it wasn’t the way he was hoping to get it. Had he been able to secure the finish in the first, we’d be singing a different tune. That he couldn’t get it says more about Arlovski than it does about Tybura. What is concerning is how tired he was after that first round, offering nothing in the standup department after that. However, I was very impressed with his ability to advance position on the ground, getting the mount multiple times. Not the win Tybura wanted, but it should still be considered impressive nonetheless.
  • Arlovski: This loss really depresses me. Arlovski showed zero quit and put on a very admirable performance. He even showed a new wrinkle with the spinning back kick to open the fight. In the end though, it was the fifth loss in a row for Arlovski. Will the UFC bring him back? He clearly can still compete with opponents outside the top ten. However, the last time I checked, he had a very large salary attached to him. If he can’t beat anyone in the top ten, I don’t see the UFC wanting to bring him back with a heavy price tag. I won’t be surprised if he is back for one more contest, but I’m not counting on it.

Holly Holm defeated Bethe Correia via KO at 1:09 of RD3

  • Expectations/Result: Neither Correia nor Holm have found much success since their contests with Ronda Rousey, securing a single victory in six attempts between the two of them. However, no one would deny that Holm had also faced greater competition in that time. That, combined with her significant length and reach advantage, made her a sizeable favorite. The fight started out horribly as neither were willing to commit as Marc Goddard stopped the contest to let the women know they needed to engage. Though they still didn’t engage a hell of a lot more after that, all it took was a beautiful head kick from Holm – and a single follow up punch -- to secure the highlight reel finish to get Holm back on track.
  • Holm: Wow. That head kick seemed to come out of nowhere. Fortunately for her, it will make up for the lack of action early in the fight as that was about the only thing worth remembering from this fight. It is a bit disappointing that she still doesn’t know how to effectively use her length on the attack. I feel like Correia was getting more blame for the lack of action, but Holm should shoulder just as much of the blame. Holm needed this win a lot more than Correia. She immediately became one of the biggest stars following her win over Rousey only to subsequently lose three in a row. Was she a fluke? While she may not have been as good as many thought following that win, this victory not only gets her back on track, but it helps solidify her legacy too.
  • Correia: It seems every time Correia begins stepping up the trash talk, she pays the price. She was motioning Holm forward right before the head kick connected. Maybe she should back off on the cockiness for a little while. The loss doesn’t lower Correia’s value in my eyes. She’s about as poor of an athlete as you will find in the UFC, which will limit how far she can climb. Basically, she’s almost always going to lose to an athlete the caliber of Holm. Despite her physical limitations, Correia can still serve as an effective gatekeeper to the top ten. Fights with the likes of Katlyn Chookagian or Alexis Davis could be fun.

Well, those are my collective thoughts. Until next time....