Robert Whittaker and Darren Till didn’t exactly bring crazy action in the Octagon tonight in the last of the Fight Island bouts, but I found it very entertaining nonetheless. Dan Hardy called it a “technical matchup”, and that describes it well. Both men used a variety of offensive weapons, and it definitely came across like a violent chess match. Whittaker mixed in some wrestling, but he got caught with some big shots too.
Whittaker went down in the first from a beautiful elbow. Till went down in the second from a right hook. Whittaker got cut pretty bad by a Till shot in the fifth. In the end though, it was Whittaker’s feinting and his kicking game that helped him eke out a decision victory. Frankly, I had Till taking the fifth round and the fight overall, but it was hardly a robbery or anything. It was just a good fight that lived up to my expectations, even if it didn’t live up to everyone’s.
- Shogun Rua and Lil Nog put on a decent fight that was a bit tentative at times. They threw down here and there, and Nogueira’s lead left was continually finding a home. But in the end, Shogun was awarded a split decision. He’s one of my favorite fighters of all time, but I don’t think Shogun won that fight. Nog deserved that W, and I imagine that it’s immensely frustrating to end your career on such a low note.
- Is Fabricio Werdum the greatest heavyweight submission artist of all time? I don’t think it’s even close any more. I’m a huge Big Nog fan, and Frank Mir had his moments, but Werdum showed again tonight how crazy dangerous he can be if you let him get you in a compromising position. Alex Gustafsson can grapple and has great sub defense, this is not a secret. And Werdum melted him like butter in under a minute once he got him down. That was super impressive. I don’t know how much Vai Cavalo has left in the tank, and apparently he’s taking his talents out of the UFC after this fight, but I could watch him grapple all day. He’s amazing,
- The matchup between Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez really magnified the issues with scoring in MMA. Esparza controlled the fight on the ground for large portions of all three rounds, but when Rodriguez got her opportunities, she landed the much more damaging shots. Esparza was messed up. I gave the nod to Esparza based on the unified rules, but to me it was pretty clear that Marina won the fight.
- Paul Craig is not a man you want to put on his back, because he might just strangle you. Gadzimurad Antigulov was just the latest victim. Craig was patient with it, set it up correctly, adjusted, and got the first round tapout with some fine grappling.
- Alex Oliveira and Peter Sobotta didn’t put on the banger of a fight that Cowboy is known for, but Oliveira did more than enough to win. His body kicks were on point and he bloodied Sobotta up. He also landed a kick to the junk and a gnarly eye poke, but that’s not exactly unusual for him. It’s a fight you can probably skip if you’re going to watch the card back though.
- Khamzat Chimaev is for real. The undefeated fighter took his second fight in 10 days, and thoroughly dominated once again. I’m not even sure if Rhys McKee landed a strike in the fight, he was just mauled and eventually finished. I don’t like putting a ton of hype on a newer fighter until they’ve faced some really tough challenges, but Chimaev is a bad, bad man. I think they could throw him in there with a ranked welterweight already and he would be very competitive. But I understand trying to build guys too, so it’s probably better to bring him along slowly.
Preliminary Card (Mookie)
- Francisco Trinaldo is my hero. Sure he missed weight but he’s 117 years old and I’ll give him a pass. He had one hell of a scrap with Jai Herbert that was dramatic and entertaining from the start. “Massaranduba” edged out round one on my scorecard, nearly got knocked out to start round two, then rallied in round three with a massive left hand that knocked Herbert halfway back to England. Herb Dean stood there as if Herbert wasn’t completely out of it, and Trinaldo was forced to punch him four more times before Dean intervened. Dan Hardy and Paul Felder were rightfully outraged over that, as Herbert was way gone. I’m thrilled for Trinaldo, who intends to go up to 170 next, but that was atrocious from Herb.
- Hot damn, Jesse Ronson! His first UFC spell years ago ended with three appearances and three split decision losses. The Canadian finally returned to the Octagon, went up a weight class to 170 lbs, and sensationally dropped and submitted Nicolas Dalby in the opening round. What a way to get your first UFC win at long last, and I loved that he just kep calling out tall people to fight
- Remember when Jake Collier washed out of the UFC as a middleweight? Well he ballooned up to heavyweight and got quickly washed out by newcomer Tom Aspinall, who drilled him with a knee to the body and then a 1-2 to end his night inside of a minute. A hell of an arrival on the big stage for Aspinall, who looks like Giant Ben Askren with a splash of Frank Mir.
- Movsar Evloev was able to survive a tight d’arce choke from Mike Grundy, and then he really poured it on with a ramrod jab, superior overall striking, and good takedown defense to render Grundy largely exhausted and one-dimensional. A well-earned decision for Evloev, who’s another solid prospect at featherweight.
- Canadian heavyweight god Tanner Boser stepped up on short notice and got himself another knockout win, this time stopping Raphael Pessoa in round two. A counter left hook clearly busted up Pessoa’s orbital, and Herb Dean waited too long to stop the fight. Boser has such an awesome personality and he looks like he’s developed the skills to make a run at the top-15. I hope he does because he can be a fan favorite.
- Bethe Correia damn near got knocked out by Pannie Kianzad after mistaking the ten-second clapper for the end of round one. She largely got outstruck through the rest of the fight and Kianzad picked up a deserved unanimous decision. All things considered, this was arguably Kianzad’s best performance of her UFC career.
- Russian welterweight Ramazan Emeev did get clocked pretty good by a Niklas Stolze knee in round one but otherwise was largely in control of things and got an unspectacular unanimous decision win. He might have one of the quieter 4-1 records on the UFC roster.
- To kick off the night, English bantamweight prospect Nathaniel Wood bounced back from his TKO loss to John Dodson with a solid, comfortable outclassing of John Castaneda. I’m still a believer in Wood as a potential contender so good to see him return to form on this occasion.