UFC Hamburg was a bad card. It wasn’t wall-to-wall terrible fights, but for a show short on name value or proven top-tier talent, the next best thing was brutal finishes and/or competitive, entertaining scraps. That seldom materialized for much of the card, and we were treated to a ridiculous, record-tying string of largely forgettable decisions, bereft of high-level MMA skill. A meandering river of meaninglessness, if you will. It’s cards like these that have made watching the UFC feel like a chore, especially when you know the next offering after this one is 1000x times better on paper.
Anyway, the headliner saw Anthony Smith hit the factory reset button on Mauricio Rua, knocking him out cold in about 90 seconds. Rua ate a ton of heavy shots, including a front kick to the face and several punches, a brutal elbow, and the PRIDE legend was unconscious while standing. Smith has now just thrashed Rashad and Shogun in the span of over a month, and this win puts him in the top-10. He’s called out Alexander Gustafsson, who needs an opponent for UFC 227, and you know what? Let’s do it. Smith is a mad man, fun as hell to watch, and this is as good a time as any to see if “Lionheart” is capable of beating the elite of a weight class he just joined.
Update: So much for Gustafsson vs. Smith at UFC 227.
Well, before everyone gets too excited about Gustafsson-Smith, I’m told by multiple UFC officials that Alex is actually hurt and out of 227.— John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) July 22, 2018
More thoughts on Sunday’s event:
- ...I guess we’re not getting Daniel Cormier vs. Shogun Rua. We didn’t need to see that. Your heroes get old. Accept it for your own good.
- Ten decisions out of thirteen fights, tying a UFC record for most decisions on a card. Decisions that look like Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi are great! These... did not fit the bill.
- Corey Anderson notched the biggest win of his career, replacing the injured Ilir Latifi on very late notice to outstrike and outwrestle Glover Teixeira on his way to a unanimous 30-27 decision. This likely puts Anderson in the top-5 of the light heavyweight rankings, while the seemingly shopworn Teixeira is surely done at the top level.e
- Abu Azaitar defeated Vitor Miranda in a display of really sloppy MMA in every facet manageable. I have no analysis to offer, so instead, here’s Karim Zidan’s excellent feature on Azaitar’s criminal past for you to read.
- Marcin Tybura used takedowns to grind out a win over Stefan Struve in a really awful fight, apart from Struve hurting Tybura with a front kick in round 2, and also Struve getting the nastiest of cuts. Struve used to just get knocked out whenever he lost, now he’s losing boring decisions because he can’t stop takedowns.
- In a crazy, scramble-heavy bout, English welterweight Danny Roberts won a somewhat controversial split decision over short notice replacement David Zawada, who had Roberts in trouble with a D’arce choke in the final round, only for Roberts to escape and ultimately get sustained top control time. I thought Zawada deserved the nod (certainly not 30-27 as that one judge had it), but it was a back-and-forth bout all the way. Roberts then called out Neil Magny, which... that’s ambitious, but it’d be fun to watch!
- Lightweight Nasrat Haqparast got a convincing victory in front of his home fans, dominating and repeatedly hurting Marc Diakiese on the feet to take the unanimous decision. Diakiese is pretty much a busted prospect at this point, seeing as he’s lost three straight and is getting bossed by other prospects. Haqparast, who definitely looks a bit like Kelvin Gastelum, is an entertaining fighter and I’m interested to see how he develops.
- Bosnian lightweight Damir Hadzovic notched another UFC win by taking a split decision vs. Germany’s Nick Hein. The decisive moment came in round 3, as he rocked Hein with a right hook and almost put him out.
- Emil Meek’s takedown defense and his decision-making are absurdly bad. He started his welterweight fight vs. Bartosz Fabinski with a flying knee, and predictably got taken down. In the final round, with Fabinski totally spent and hurt from Meek’s strikes, Meek went for a kimura for some bizarre reason and wound up on his back for the closing minutes. Fabinski wins in his first bout since 2015, while Meek has a whole lot to figure out moving forward.
- Nad Narimani’s wrestling and scrambling abilities on the mat helped mitigate Khalid Taha’s striking, and it earned the former Cage Warriors featherweight champion a shutout win on the scorecards. A good win in his first foray into the UFC.
- Aleksandar Rakic just totally owned Justin Ledet, who moved from heavyweight down to light heavyweight. Rakic chewed up Ledet’s legs with hard kicks, and demolished him with ground-and-pound. 30-25, 30-24, 30-24 is “fight probably could’ve been stopped between rounds” territory of ass-whooping. Sign me up for more of Rakic, especially in a division as talent-deprived as 205.
- On the Fight Pass prelims, bantamweight Liu Pingyuan got off to a winning start in his UFC debut, defeating veteran Damian Stasiak by unanimous decision. Light heavyweight Darko Stosic also had his hand raised in his first Octagon appearance, as he put Jeremy Kimball on his back and quickly TKO’d him with ground-and-pound. Apparently this also doubled as Kimball’s retirement bout. Lastly, bantamweight prospect Manny Bermudez dazzled by dropping Davey Grant inside 30 seconds, then put his opponent to sleep with the “Bermudez triangle” shortly thereafter. This guy is worth your attention.