MMA Review: #429: UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson

-While this show was absolutely loaded on paper – the first of 2013 with two title fights for that matter – the marketing was more than a little odd, as rather than sell the Jones/Gustafsson fight on the fact that Jones had been insanely dominant and so had Gustafsson, beating guys like Shogun and Thiago Silva, instead Zuffa chose to focus on the fact that Gus had a reach almost as long as Jones. I mean sure, that’s a fair point in terms of technique and what it might mean to the fight, but it doesn’t sell a show you know? Thankfully to me at least any show involving Jones and Renan Barao sells itself, so I was pumped.

UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson

09/21/13
Toronto, Ontario

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Heavyweight Fight: Daniel Omielanczuk vs Nandor Guelmino

Two debuting fighters here – Guelmino had of course been pretty much a tomato can for Josh Barnett at the last StrikeForce show, while Polish striker Omielanczuk was riding an eleven-fight win streak. My pick here was Omielanczuk, just because Guelmino had looked awful in the Barnett fight.

Round One and they trade strikes from the off, with both men throwing a lot of kicks early on. These guys are really swinging. Nice left hook from Omielanczuk and Guelmino looks slightly hurt, but he recovers quickly and begins to fire back. Into the clinch and Omielanczuk forces him into the fence. Dan Miragliotta ends up breaking them for inactivity and Omielanczuk goes for a takedown, but Guelmino stuffs it and they wind back up in the clinch. Omielanczuk lands some knees inside but the action is pretty slow here. Another break follows and they continue to trade, with Omielanczuk landing a decent inside leg kick. Couple of punches get through for Guelmino. Body kick from Guelmino but Omielanczuk counters with a solid left hand. Kick from Guelmino is caught and Omielanczuk tackles him down, but the Austrian works right back to his feet. Action slows down in the clinch again and that’s the round. 10-9 Omielanczuk I guess but it wasn’t good.

Round Two and they trade off with some kicks again. Good right hand from Omielanczuk and he follows with a big left. Guelmino looks wobbled and the Pole cracks him with another left hand. Guelmino manages to clinch, but Omielanczuk takes him down. He pops up but gives his neck for a possible guillotine, and then drops to all fours to avoid some knees. Crude scramble follows and ends with Omielanczuk getting a takedown to half-guard. Man that was sloppy. Omielanczuk decides to go for a kimura and rolls to his back in an attempt to finish, but Guelmino grabs his own shorts to defend. Guelmino escapes and ends up in side mount as Omielanczuk looks TIRED. Good shots from Guelmino and Omielanczuk turns into the turtle position. Guelmino takes his back with no hooks, and then ends up turning him over into half-guard. Sweep from Omielanczuk using a leglock attempt but Guelmino sprawls free and takes the back again. Omielanczuk rolls for a leglock again, but he still can’t shake Guelmino off him, mainly due to a weakened gas tank. Couple of shots land for the Austrian from the top. One minute to go and this is looking like Guelmino’s round. Nice short elbows from Guelmino. Round ends with Guelmino on top. 10-9 Guelmino to even things up.

Round Three and Guelmino glances with a head kick. They continue to exchange strikes but man both guys are gassed now. This is degenerating FAST. Both guys appear to be moving through thick treacle now. Into the clinch and Omielanczuk muscles him into the fence. Ref breaks them really quickly and now both guys are hanging their hands badly. Slow trade continues before Omielanczuk clinches again. Very little happens from there as they continue to muscle along the fence. Ref breaks them again and Guelmino appears to knock Omielanczuk’s mouthpiece out with a body kick. Don’t ask. They restart and trade off again and this time Omielanczuk LEVELS GUELMINO WITH A CRUSHING LEFT HAND and that’s that.

Well, the knockout was awesome at least. Fight was not though as these guys gassed FAST. Can’t imagine Omielanczuk doing much of note in the division but I’ve been wrong before to be fair so hey, you never know.

Bantamweight Fight: Alex Caceres vs Roland Delorme

This was an interesting fight as Bruce Leroy – ignoring a positive test for weed in his last fight – was actually on a three-fight win streak and probably should’ve been on a five fight streak in fact. He’s one of my picks for most improved fighter coming off TUF in fact. Opponent Delorme – also a TUF veteran – had beaten Edwin Figueroa at UFC 161 and was looking to win in front of his home crowd, but I was taking Bruce Leroy.

Round One begins and Bruce Leroy flashes out some jabs early before glancing on a spinning backfist. Leroy’s afro is something to behold, holy shit. Good combo from Leroy and he shrugs off a clinch. Nice jabs from Caceres. Bruce Leroy’s hands look awesome so far. Crisp combo seems to have Delorme hurt a little. Delorme is really struggling with the speed and reach. Suddenly though a left hand connects from nowhere and down goes Bruce! Delorme follows down and immediately takes a mounted crucifix, but as he looks to open up Leroy hits a reversal and takes the back! He goes for a body triangle, but Delorme spins over into top position and from there he takes Leroy’s back and gets the hooks in! This is quite the scramble. Delorme gets full back mount and looks to work for the choke, but he can’t quite sink it in. Solid short punches land for Delorme as he continues to control Caceres. Looks like the choke might be sunk, but Bruce manages to escape and he turns and gives up mount for a second. Delorme gets his back again and then looks to transition to an arm triangle, but Caceres gets half-guard. Good job from Leroy to scramble to his feet, but somehow Delorme rolls right over with him and keeps back control! Another reversal follows though and Leroy explodes to his feet and they trade punches to end the round. Great round. 10-9 Delorme.

Round Two and both men come out swinging, missing the majority of their shots early on. Good left hand from Bruce Leroy. Caceres continues to do a good job with his strikes, landing combinations and avoiding Delorme’s shots. Good combo does land for Delorme though. They clinch and Delorme goes down off balance after a trade of knees, and in the scramble Leroy gets his back with a rear waistlock. Good knees from Caceres but he has to separate. Striking exchange continues and it’s again to Bruce Leroy’s advantage. Takedown attempt from Delorme leads to a wild scramble again before they come to their feet with Delorme looking for a possible guillotine. He lets it go and takes a big knee from Caceres. Delorme looks to take him down again and Caceres scrambles well to defend and escape. More sharp jabs and combos from Bruce Leroy and Delorme’s face looks marked up badly. He’s still swinging aggressively though. Good right hand lands for Delorme but he can’t follow with a takedown as Caceres defends with a whizzer. They end up clinched and Caceres continues to defend the takedown, then breaks off with a jab. Good body kick from Leroy. Hard leg kick almost takes Delorme off his feet. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Caceres to even things up. This is an awesome fight.

Round Three and Caceres opens with an inside leg kick. Superman punch and a turning side kick follow but he almost takes a left hook. Bruce Leroy’s movement again seems to be confusing Delorme and he’s landing some good blows. Into the clinch and Delorme goes for a throw, but Caceres defends it and then takes the back standing. Delorme quickly spins free and they separate. Striking exchange continues and Caceres continues to light Roland up with combos. He is dropping his hands though which is a little worrying. Hard three-punch combo from Bruce Leroy and Delorme tries to taunt him but to no avail. Takedown attempt from Delorme and he drives Leroy into the fence and gets him down, but Caceres pops right back up and then swings his way into a clinch. Another takedown attempt follows but Caceres sprawls and spins to take the back. No hooks, though. Good punches land for Bruce Leroy before Delorme stands and eats a couple more shots. Just over a minute to go and Bruce Leroy continues to pick Roland apart. Beautiful spinning back kick to the body from Caceres but he slips on an odd kick variant and Delorme gets on top in the guard. Rogan claims Delorme can “steal the round” but with less than thirty seconds to go that’s insane, sorry. Caceres goes for a triangle but Delorme avoids. He can’t pass the guard though and the fight ends there. Clear-cut 29-28 for Alex Caceres in my eyes.

Judges actually call it a split decision, two going the right way with 29-28 for Bruce Leroy with the lone dissenter calling it 29-28 for Delorme. Well, I have no clue how you’d score that fight for Delorme but hey, maybe Rogan was right after all! It’s a retarded judging score either way. Great fucking fight though as Bruce Leroy brought the goods once again and delivered another exciting one. Dude is becoming one of my favourite fighters to watch in MMA, seriously.

Lightweight Fight: Michel Prazeres vs Jesse Ronson

Prazeres had made his debut in May in Brazil in a losing effort at Welterweight to Paulo Thiago, while this was Team Tompkins fighter Ronson’s debut. Really fun nicknames here too – Prazeres totally deserves the ‘Tractor’ gimmick as he looks like a fucking tank, like a small Toquinho or something, while Ronson is ‘The Body Snatcher’. No idea if that’s a riff on Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura though.

Round One begins and Prazeres throws out a powerful body kick to begin. Prazeres’s purple shorts are SWANK by the way. Ronson snaps out some jabs to begin with but the Brazilian goes for a single leg and drives him into the cage. Ronson defends nicely to begin but Prazeres uses sheer strength to drag him down and he lands some punches en route too. Good job from Ronson to get to his feet but Prazeres trips him down hard and gets into side mount. Prazeres controls him and looks for the north/south choke before mounting, but Ronson explodes to his feet. Big slam puts him right back down though and Prazeres settles into half-guard. Nice pass to mount from Prazeres and then he slips into side mount as Ronson tries to buck him off. Couple of elbows from Prazeres and he uses knee on belly to take the back with both hooks. Ronson is in a ton of trouble here. He manages to defend the choke but he can’t shake the Brazilian off him. Few good punches get through for Prazeres and he continues to soften Ronson up to attempt the choke. He can’t get it though and Ronson manages to survive. Round ends with Prazeres in firm control. Not enough damage for a 10-8 in my book but it was a clear-cut 10-9 round for Prazeres.

Round Two and Ronson comes out looking to strike. Couple of decent shots land early on but Prazeres ducks under and hits a single leg and then takes the back again with one hook. This time Ronson manages to shake him off, but Prazeres shoots right back in and drives him to the ground again. Ronson begins to wall-walk back to his feet using the fence, but he gives his neck and Prazeres grabs a front facelock. He slips free though and Ronson’s back to his feet. Good one-two from the Canadian. Body kick from Ronson and he slips his leg out of Prazeres’ grasp, but the Brazilian cracks him with a right hand and gets a takedown, taking the back once again too. Ronson again does a good job of working back to his feet, but Prazeres stays on him like glue. He continues to look for the takedown, but Ronson manages to separate with a knee to the body. One minute to go and Ronson lands with a nice head kick. Prazeres takes it though with no issue. Body kick follows for Ronson. Couple of punches land too and Ronson then stuffs a takedown. Another attempt follows and again Ronson works to defend it, and the round ends there. 10-9 Prazeres but it was a closer round.

Round Three begins and Ronson opens with a front kick to the body to end a combo. Beautiful uppercut from Ronson. Ronson looks like the fresher man here. Hard leg kick from the Canadian. Head kick glances too. No takedown attempts so far from Prazeres. Ronson is beginning to look more comfortable. Big punches from Prazeres connect but Ronson just takes them and fires right back. Finally Prazeres lunges for a single leg after taking another glancing combo. Ronson defends well though and manages to shrug off the Brazilian to break free. Prazeres stays on his back in the butt-scoot position and Ronson stands over him kicking at the legs. Referee Yves Lavigne forces him back to his feet and he’s clearly tired. Both men land some punches in an exchange but Ronson is landing the slightly better shots. Head kick is blocked by Prazeres who shakes his head. Takedown attempt from Prazeres and he finally gets it this time, putting Ronson on his back in half-guard. Less than a minute to go and he manages to take the back and traps the right arm for good measure. Ronson manages to work to his feet and from there he hits a BIG SLAM, and the round ends in a scramble. 10-9 Ronson, but too little too late and I have it 29-28 Prazeres.

Judges have it another split decision; 29-28 Ronson, but two 29-28’s for Prazeres to pick up the win, pissing off the crowd who boo. Unlike the previous fight I could see how someone would score this for Ronson as he did more damage with his late flurries in the 2nd than Prazeres did with his ground control, and it was a very close fight, but yeah I’d agree with the decision. Decent fight overall as Prazeres trucked Ronson in the first with his ground game but ran out of steam later on and really allowed Ronson back into the fight. Like with the opener I can’t see either man making any real noise in the division but again, I’ve been proven wrong before.

Lightweight Fight: John Makdessi vs Renee Forte

Classic striker vs. grappler deal here with Makdessi looking to stand and bang and TUF Brazil’s Forte looking to get the fight to the ground ASAP. After seeing Forte beat a really tough opponent in Terry Etim with relative ease though I was going for him. Plus I’m biased towards the TUF Brazil guys, sorry.

Fight begins and Forte surprisingly opens with a head kick and throws out some early punches, playing the aggressor. Right hand glances a couple of times for the Brazilian. Makdessi seems cool though and seems to be just looking to get Forte’s timing down. Spinning back kick from Makdessi connects with the midsection. Front kick to the body follows and he catches a Forte high kick but can’t follow up. Jabs from Forte but Makdessi looks to counter and clips him with a left hook. Big right hook misses for Forte and Makdessi MAKES HIM PAY with a pair of rights that drop him face first. Fight is DONE but the ref is too fucking slow and Makdessi has to stiffen poor Forte up with a flurry of punches on the ground for the stoppage.

Refereeing job was criminal there; Forte was done when he first went down and there was literally no reason for him to get knocked completely unconscious and probably end up with a concussion to boot. I mean you can’t blame Makdessi as not everyone is Mark Hunt who walks away when he figures he’s KOd someone, but it was a shit refereeing job for sure. Great performance from Makdessi though who finally has a highlight spot to go along with that spinning backfist he hit on Kyle Watson in 2011. Forte just got too wild in there and you can’t really afford to do that with a kickboxer as talented as Makdessi even if he isn’t overly aggressive most of the time.

Bantamweight Fight: Mitch Gagnon vs Dustin Kimura

This one looked like an exciting fight on paper – a battle of two young, talented and very aggressive grapplers. Kimura had debuted in the UFC in February with an entertaining submission of Chico Camus, while Canada’s Gagnon hadn’t fought in practically a year since tapping out Walel Watson in an entertaining bout at UFC 152. I was taking Gagnon based on his greater experience overall. Love the guy for his sheer wild aggression too.

Round One and they circle and trade some feeler strikes before Gagnon eats a right and looks for the takedown. Kimura stuffs it and we’re back to the stand-up exchange. Gagnon is SWINGING. Good counter left lands for Gagnon after he takes a leg kick. Another good left lands but Kimura fires right back. Looks like Kimura’s sporting a bloody nose. Good leg kick from Gagnon. Body kick answers for Kimura. Good left hook from Kimura but Gagnon OPENS UP with a heavy flurry. He shrugs off the clinch but Kimura comes back in with a left to the body. Nice left hook from Kimura. Nice inside leg kick from Gagnon. Kimura again nails him with a left to the body though and this time Gagnon doubles over! Kimura charges at him, only for Mitch to duck under and tackle him right to the ground. Kimura scrambles from the bottom and goes for a leglock, and it looks like the heel hook might be locked up! Gagnon somehow frees himself though and gets on top in the guard with some big punches. Kimura looks busted up. He kicks Mitch off and pops back to his feet but eats a left on the way out. Left to the body from Gagnon. Nice one-two from Gagnon and Kimura is bloodied and stunned. Takedown attempt from Kimura but Gagnon catches him in a guillotine and pulls guard. It looks tight and sure enough Kimura passes out rather than tap and Yves Lavigne recognizes it straight away and in a great ref job, calls the fight off quickly.

That fight was AWESOME. Seriously. Both guys showed high levels of aggression and came out swinging but it wasn’t crude at all as they were stringing together nice combos and going to the body with hooks and stuff and the groundwork was top notch too from the heel hook into the scramble and finally the beautiful guillotine choke for the finish. Bravo to both guys. And erm, I’m gutted that Gagnon’s fight with Bruce Leroy had to be called off in December as judging on their fights on this show it would’ve been FIREWORKS.

Welterweight Fight: Stephen Thompson vs Chris Clements

Battle of a pair of strikers here with the more traditional Muay Thai of Clements matched against the unorthodox karate stylings of Wonderboy Thompson. Bit of a tough one to pick as Thompson hasn’t quite lived up to the early hype he got when he entered into the UFC, but I was leaning towards him as Clements has never truly impressed me I guess.

First round begins and they exchange a bunch of kicks early on as Joe Rogan gets confused between the terms ‘prodigy’ and ‘protege’ somehow. Thompson’s side-on stance is so unorthodox. CRAZY wheel kick to the legs knocks Thompson off his feet. Holy shit that was like a Van Damme move or something. Clements charges forward looking to capitalize, but Thompson pops back up and clinches. Takedown attempt from Thompson and he completes it, putting Clements down on his back by the fence. Clements pops right back up though and separates. Nice right hand counter by Thompson and he adds a body kick. Clements comes back with a body kick of his own. Another good counter right from Thompson forces Clements to clinch. Thompson turns him around and then breaks off. Big kick sees Clements slip to his back and Thompson quickly enters the guard. He passes into half-guard right away and hits a nice throw as Clements uses a whizzer to pop up, but Clements reverses to his feet in the clinch. They break off and Thompson lands a nice leg kick. Superkick (!) glances for Thompson. Hopping kick misses for Clements and Thompson lands a takedown and stays on top to end the round. Close one to call but I’d lean towards Stephen Thompson.

Into the 2nd and Thompson narrowly misses a hook kick. BEAUTIFUL combination from Wonderboy stiffens Clements up on the feet and drops him, but he clings onto a leg and manages to get to half-guard to survive. Thompson looks to pass into full mount, and then has to sprawl out himself before standing back up. Clements pushes forward aggressively now, but leaves himself open and Thompson NAILS HIM with a hard right counter that puts him on rubber legs. Another shot sends him crashing into the fence and Big John McCarthy pulls Thompson off and calls the TKO.

Replay shows it was a left-right-left combo that sent Clements falling backwards for the finish. Sick accuracy from Wonderboy and this was probably his best performance to date as his strikes were firmly on point and he was able to show enough of his grappling to get Clements to open himself up to being hit on the feet. Total highlight reel finish, too.

Bantamweight Fight: Wilson Reis vs Ivan Menjivar

Originally this would’ve seen Kid Yamamoto facing Menjivar in a fight of real veterans, but unsurprisingly Kid got injured and so Brazilian Reis stepped in on late notice. Reis had garnered some hype in like 2007-8 thanks to his run in Elite XC but he’d ended up in Bellator rather than StrikeForce or the UFC when that promotion crashed, and a few losses there had stemmed the momentum badly. Still, he’d reeled off four wins in a row coming into his Octagon debut and I thought his tight ground game would prove to be troublesome for Menjivar, who seems to be slowing down a bit lately. On a side note, it’s nice to see Zuffa be able to use Elite XC footage to show Reis’s previous fights and I think the EXC library is something that’ll be really good on the Fight Pass digital network as they put on a ton of good fights that have largely gone forgotten these days.

Round One begins and they circle and exchange some kicks before Menjivar catches Reis with a right hand and knocks him off balance as he throws a kick. Good inside leg kick from Reis. Kicking exchange continues and Menjivar shrugs off a clinch attempt from the Brazilian. Reis is swinging with a ton of power actually. Good body kick from Menjivar. Into the clinch and Reis lands some nice punches but Menjivar answers with a pair of hard knees that force the Brazilian to separate. Right hand glances for Reis and forces Menjivar back. Another good body kick lands for Ivan and he lands with a sharp right too to block a clinch attempt. Hard leg kick from Reis. Menjivar answers with one of his own. Right hand lands for Menjivar. Reis’s haymakers are coming up a little short. Takedown attempt from Reis with less than a minute to go and he gets Ivan on his back. Short elbows land for Reis but he doesn’t bother to pass the guard. Round ends with Reis on top. Close round but I’d just about go for Reis as I thought he stole it with the takedown. 10-9 Reis.

Round Two and again Menjivar opens with the body kick. Few wild swings miss for Reis. Striking exchange continues and Menjivar seems to have a slight advantage. Kick from Ivan is caught and Reis manages to drive him down onto the ground in half-guard. Menjivar looks to kick him away and does so, but Reis kicks at his legs from above. Reis goes back down to look to pass, but Ivan scrambles nicely to his feet in the clinch. They exchange knees inside and Reis lands a nice one to the body before Menjivar breaks with an elbow. Good right hand over the top for Menjivar. They circle some more before Reis ducks under a shot and hits a nice double leg to guard. Menjivar ties him up well to avoid any damage, and Reis surprisingly moves him towards the fence. Into half-guard for Reis but Menjivar quickly regains full guard. One minute to go here. Reis begins to open up with some short ground-and-pound, but Menjivar does a good job of kicking him away and escaping to his feet. Good knees inside from Menjivar but Reis breaks free. Round ends with Reis missing a head kick. 10-9 Reis but it was again relatively close.

Round Three and Reis opens with a pair of leg kicks. He seems to be the aggressor early in this round. Good leg kick lands for Menjivar. Menjivar comes up short on a lot of his strikes and he’s running out of time now. Takedown attempt from Reis and he drives Menjivar into the fence as he defends. Menjivar goes for a guillotine and it looks quite tight, but Reis manages to pop his head free. Excellent trip takedown from Reis follows and he lands directly into full mount. Reis looks like he’s setting up for a possible arm triangle, but Menjivar defends well. Couple of punches get through for Reis and he’s in firm control here. One minute to go and he isn’t doing that much damage, but Menjivar can’t seem to get out either. Reis looks to shift his way up for a possible mounted triangle, but that allows Ivan to scramble his way back to full guard. Seconds to go and Menjivar attempts to trap an arm, but he can’t pull it off and the fight ends there. I’ve got this 30-27 for Wilson Reis; I could see it 29-28 but it’s Reis’s fight regardless.

Judges all score it 29-28 for Wilson Reis. Good win for Reis to make his UFC debut with as Menjivar isn’t an easy out by any means, but he did it largely through control on the ground more than anything else and it made for a bit of a slower fight. Not horrible or anything, just sort of, there really.

Lightweight Fight: Myles Jury vs Mike Ricci

This was in my mind a bit of a step down for the unbeaten Jury after he’d knocked off two excellent young fighters in Michael Johnson and Ramsey Nijem, but I guess the UFC had high hopes for Ricci too coming off his win over Colin Fletcher. I couldn’t see him using his size to outgrapple Jury though after seeing Myles throw Johnson around, and so I picked the TUF 11 and 15 veteran to win via TKO.

First round begins and they circle with both men looking a little tentative. Right hand glances a couple of times for Jury. Both men glance on a few more strikes. This is a seriously slow fight thus far. Good right hook lands for Jury cleanly. Ricci comes back with a body kick. Takedown attempt from Jury and he dumps Ricci onto his back with relative ease. Ricci looks to scoot back to the cage but Jury manages to work free of the guard as he does so, practically taking side mount. Ricci looks to use the fence to get back up, but Jury stays firmly on him and he can’t free himself. God this is a terrible round so far. Nice elbows to the side of the head from Ricci though. Ricci gets back to his feet with seconds on the clock and they break. Round ends with a glancing kick from Ricci. 10-9 Jury but it stunk.

Second round and they exchange some more glancing blows with the only one landing fully clean being a body kick from Ricci. Jury is really headhunting with the right hand. Two minutes into the round and this looks like a sparring match. Body kick again lands for Ricci. Crowd are lightly booing now and someone needs to do something, stat. Single leg is avoided by Ricci and both men are still being super tentative. Good right hand from Jury with seconds to go and it sets up a takedown attempt. Ricci works to stuff it and the round ends shortly after. 10-10 round but it should be more like 0-0 as it fucking stunk. One of the worst rounds of 2013.

Third round and again it looks like a sparring match early on. Takedown attempt from Jury and this time he gets Ricci down. Ricci immediately sits up and looks to get his back to the cage, but Jury works to keep him down. Ricci gets to his feet but Jury stays right on him and keeps him pressed into the cage. Another takedown follows. This fight SUCKS. Reversal from Ricci and now he puts Jury on his back. Another reversal sees Jury go back on top and he takes the back this time for a second. Ricci scrambles and Jury ends up on top, not even in the guard really, just with his arms locked around the legs. Jury manages to take the back again and lands a couple of short punches, but Ricci spins and turns into him to take top position again. Scramble from Jury and he looks for a takedown again, but Ricci sprawls out and looks to trap an arm for a kimura. Elbows from Ricci instead and the fight comes to a merciful end. Not sure who I’d give it to. Even less sure if I care.

Judges score it 29-28 Jury, 29-28 Ricci and 29-28 for Myles Jury. Well, that was one of the worst fights of the year for sure. Made Omielanczuk vs. Guelmino look like a FOTYC in fact. No clue what was up with Jury as he’s usually super aggressive but if he fights like that against Diego Sanchez he’s fucking dead. As for Ricci he was released from the UFC after this stinker and I can’t say that I blame them.

Lightweight Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Pat Healy

This was a massively intriguing fight as after whitewashing all of his previous opponents it was clear that Khabib needed a step up, and Healy was certainly a step up given that – weed aside – he’d choked out Jim Miller in an awesome fight in April. This was basically a question of whether Nurmagomedov could impose his game on a dude as tough and experienced as Healy.

Round One and they circle before Nurmagomedov lands with a quick uppercut and a left hook. Healy’s punches are coming up short early on. Takedown attempt from Healy but Khabib shrugs it right off. Combo glances for the Dagestani. Leaping uppercut glances for Khabib too ala the one that finished Tavares. Healy flurries into a clinch but Khabib shrugs him off again. Another step-in uppercut lands for Khabib. Healy’s face looks a bit marked up already. Big swings glance for Bam Bam. Good leg kick from Nurmagomedov. Flying knee follows. Another uppercut and another flying knee follow and Healy is getting tagged a bit now. Big right uppercut lands for Khabib. Healy keeps chasing forward but he’s eating punches. Nurmagomedov is deceptively fast. Referee Yves Lavigne calls time to replace Khabib’s mouthpiece and they quickly restart. Another lunging left uppercut lands for Khabib but Healy answers with a right to the body. Combination connects for Khabib. Flurry backs Khabib up a little but he fires back with a flying knee and a nice left hook. Healy lunges in swinging but Nurmagomedov ducks under and gets a takedown, then takes the back as Healy stands. Healy manages to turn into him though and they break off. Another takedown follows for the Dagestani and once again he gets the back as Healy stands. Couple of hard punches land for Khabib on the buzzer. 10-9 Nurmagomedov in an excellent round for him.

Round Two and Nurmagomedov cracks Healy with a hard combination again. Healy keeps pushing forward but he’s being badly outstruck. Takedown from Khabib and he takes the back again. Healy works back to his feet but Khabib clocks him with a pair of hard punches and stays on him. They break off and it looks like Healy’s badly cut under his left eye. Left hook lands for Bam Bam. Nice counter combo lands for Nurmagomedov ending in a head kick. Left hook follows too. Nice combination from Healy backs Nurmagomedov up a little and he seems to be settling down into a decent rhythm now. Into the clinch and Nurmagomedov has a takedown blocked and Healy gets on top for a second, but he pops back up and then drags Healy back down. Healy crawls to his feet but Khabib stays on the back and lands a flurry as they break. Good one-two from Healy. Clinch from Nurmagomedov and he drops for the takedown. Healy works to defend and Khabib gives it up and lands a combo before attempting it again. Nice counter left hook from Nurmagomedov and he follows with a sweet takedown into guard. Hard elbow connects for Khabib from the top. Round ends with more short ground-and-pound. 10-9 Nurmagomedov.

Round Three and Healy again comes out swinging, and then he stops a takedown. Good combination lands for Khabib though. Clinch but Healy breaks with a knee. Head kick glances for Nurmagomedov. Nice takedown from Khabib and he lands in the full guard. Good body punches land for Nurmagomedov and he moves into half-guard. Nice punches connect to the face as well. Healy turns his back in an effort to get up and does so, but Khabib stays on him, picks him up, walks him across the cage and delivers a HUGE SLAM Matt Hughes style! Wow. Crowd pop big for that one as he lands in the guard. Good ground-and-pound from Nurmagomedov and Healy looks spent. More shots connect for Khabib and Healy’s corner are screaming at him to try to stand up. Nice pass from Khabib into side mount and he’s keeping Healy firmly grounded in this round. Healy gives his back to attempt to stand, but even that doesn’t work this time. He does manage to get to full guard though. Nasty elbows from Nurmagomedov and the round ends with him taking the back. Clear-cut 30-27 for Khabib Nurmagomedov in my eyes.

Official scorecards read 30-27 all round for Khabib Nurmagomedov to remain undefeated. This was an eye-opening performance from him as he thoroughly outclassed Healy in all areas really and while Healy isn’t a guy who I’d consider top five or anything he’s got enough in his arsenal to give problems to anyone, and yet he couldn’t do a thing with Khabib here. The much-rumoured Gilbert Melendez fight makes a lot of sense to me and I think the winner’s probably due a title shot if they go that route. This was a really entertaining fight too just because Khabib’s style tends to make for exciting fights and Healy brought a lot of aggression too.

Middleweight Fight: Francis Carmont vs Costa Philippou

Philippou had cracked the top ten with his win over Tim Boetsch in December, but he hadn’t fought since then and felt like the forgotten man at 185lbs, while Carmont had last fought in April, taking a controversial decision over Lorenz Larkin. With Carmont’s takedown-heavy style and Philippou showing good takedown defense against Boetsch and excellent striking too I thought Costa would have enough to take the win here.

Round One and Philippou looks to work some jabs as Carmont throws out a load of kicks. Takedown attempt from Carmont and he gets Costa on his back. Philippou immediately tries to get back up, but Carmont stays on him and keeps him down. Costa looks to use the fence to get up, but Carmont drags his legs from under him and keeps him grounded. One hook in for Carmont and he begins to work for a choke. He lands some good punches from the back, too. He goes for the choke again but Costa rolls over, ending up on his back in half-guard. Good punches for Carmont before Philippou scrambles into full guard. Armbar attempt from Costa is avoided and Carmont takes side mount. Philippou’s cornerman is yelling “TWO MINUTES COSTAS” and sounds like the dude who cooks sausages outside Turkish’s caravan in Snatch. Philippou bucks his way back into half-guard but he can’t get up so he lands some elbows from the bottom instead. Oma plata attempt from Philippou but Carmont lands some heavy hammer fists to stop that attempt in its tracks. North/south now for Carmont and then back to side mount where he continues to control Costa. Full guard from Philippou and he lands an upkick, then goes for an armbar as the round ends. 10-9 Carmont.

Round Two and Costa comes out swinging punches, looking to establish the jab, but Carmont shows some sick timing to duck under and dump him on the ground with a double leg. Full guard for Philippou. Nice elbow lands for Carmont but Philippou gets his back against the cage and looks to work free. Carmont keeps him grounded though and lands with a couple more short elbows. Crowd aren’t impressed with this but you can’t fault Carmont’s gameplan. Philippou tries to get up, but gives his back and Carmont forces him to the ground again and continues to land punches from a loose half-guard. Ref decides to call a stand-up for inactivity with about two minutes to go, and they restart on the feet. Costa again looks to strike, but Carmont ducks right under and takes him back down. Carmont’s wrestling is looking excellent here. He looks to isolate the right arm from half-guard, working for a kimura, but he gives it up to drop some elbows instead. Excellent ground-and-pound lands for Carmont and he works into side mount. Full mount follows and Philippou might be in trouble. He regains half-guard but eats some more heavy elbows. Round ends with Carmont in firm control. 10-9 Carmont again.

Round Three and Carmont misses a half-hearted spinning back kick to begin. Head kick glances for the Frenchman. Another one follows and Costa just about blocks it. Good leg kick from Philippou and he again tries to establish his jab, but Carmont drives into him with a double leg and ragdolls him to the ground again. Half-guard from Philippou but he takes some elbows en route to gaining full guard. Carmont works right back into half-guard and continues to land shots, doing a lot of damage. Philippou tries to explode to his feet, but he can’t get Carmont off him and he’s stuck in a squatting position by the fence. Carmont brings him right back down and Costa looks for a guillotine, but Carmont easily avoids and goes right back to feeding him a steady diet of elbows. Less than a minute to go and Carmont remains busy with the ground-and-pound. Full mount for Carmont and he lands some hard hammer fists. Fight ends with Carmont on top which is basically the story of the whole thing. Absolute shutout for Francis Carmont.

No shitty judging here thankfully and it’s a unanimous decision for Francis Carmont; 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. Totally dominant performance from the Frenchman and I mean, people bemoaned it for not being entertaining but it certainly wasn’t lay-and-pray as Carmont did a ton of damage with his ground-and-pound and it was a smart gameplan for him to use against a striker as dangerous as Philippou. Whether it’s more telling of Carmont’s developing grappling game or an issue with Philippou possibly linked to him leaving Matt Serra’s camp I don’t know yet, but you cannot sneeze on a 6-0 UFC record which is what Carmont now has. I don’t think he’ll get past Jacare next month but if he does he’s a title contender for sure.

Heavyweight Fight: Brendan Schaub vs Matt Mitrione

These two had been teammates on TUF 10 and when they were matched here the issue became personal for some reason I forget – although I’m sure it’s down to Mitrione somehow! – and they had to be pulled apart during the weigh-ins. Despite Mitrione’s hard-hitting style and Schaub’s dodgy chin I was taking Schaub, as he’s far more well-rounded than Meathead and the wheels are firmly off the Mitrione bandwagon at this stage.

Fight begins and they come out surprisingly tentative. Glancing right hand from Schaub. Mitrione is swinging wildly here but thankfully for Brendan he doesn’t land. Inside leg kick from Meathead. Lunging right hand lands for Schaub. Short left hook from Schaub seems to wobble Mitrione’s legs slightly but he seems okay. Big right hand follows and connects for Schaub. Mitrione comes back with a missed head kick. Clinch from Schaub but Mitrione shrugs him off. Nice inside leg kick from Mitrione. Overhand right glances for Schaub. Nice flurry from Schaub backs Mitrione up and he follows with a double leg and a nice slam to half-guard. Schaub works to pass and as Mitrione looks to reverse, Brendan grabs a tight D’Arce choke. He forces Meathead to the ground and after a bit of a struggle Mitrione passes out. Beautiful choke from Brendan Schaub.

Fight couldn’t really have gone better for Schaub to be honest – he had no issues with Meathead standing and once the fight hit the ground he didn’t mess around and the moment he was given an opening he took it and put Mitrione to sleep. I think people sleep on Schaub a little at Heavyweight which is sort of understandable given his chin issues, but in all honesty he’s still a very dangerous guy to anyone out there and might still be the dark horse in the division. Post-fight they squash any beef that they had which is heartwarming, ha.

UFC Interim Bantamweight Title: Renan Barao vs Eddie Wineland

This one was initially set to main event UFC 161 before an injury to Barao sidelined him. Wineland had been granted the title shot after a pair of good wins over Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett, but to be fair – no offense to Wineland – it felt more like he’d been given the shot because Barao had beaten pretty much everyone else (Pickett and Jorgensen plus the two top contenders, Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald) and for me this was a chance for Barao to earn himself a highlight reel victory to lead him into a 2014 showdown with Dominick Cruz to unify the belts.

Round One and Wineland presses the action as Barao stays on the outside. Left hand connects for Wineland. He pushes in with a right hand too but Barao’s doing a good job of staying out of range of the punches thus far. Takedown attempt from Barao is stuffed and Wineland muscles him into the fence. Referee Yves Lavigne quickly calls a break and Wineland continues to push forward. Head kick misses for Barao and he slips to his back in the process. Wineland lets him back up and Barao glances with a front kick. Low kick from Barao is answered by a combo from Wineland. Wild spin kick misses for the Brazilian. Uppercut glances for Barao. Good right hand from Wineland. Leg kick from Barao. Wineland lands a left to the body. Takedown attempt from Barao is stuffed. Big punches narrowly miss for both men. Good right hook lands for Barao. Big combination connects for Barao but Wineland eats it right up. Good inside leg kick follows. Another combo ends the round for Barao. Tight round but I think Barao just about edged it.

Round Two and Wineland rushes out quickly with a jab. Both men come up a little short on punches and then Barao lands with a body kick. Good combo from Wineland. HUGE SPINNING BACK KICK FROM BARAO AND WINELAND IS DOWN!~! He tries to recover but Barao quickly swarms and finishes him off. Holy fucking shit.

That was one of the best knockouts of 2013, easy. Replay shows the kick landed directly on the jaw and Wineland was done right there – the punches were basically academic. Star-making performance from Renan Barao and being on a Jon Jones undercard this finish should help his standing with the casual fans a lot. And quite rightfully too – dude is one of the most exciting and dynamic fighters in all of MMA. Of course, the Cruz fight STILL isn’t happening as Dominick hurt himself again and so now Barao is the undisputed champion, but personally I think it’s a good thing for Cruz – coming off 2+ years on the shelf to fight this beast would’ve been a terrifying prospect!

UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson

Well, while the casual interest didn’t seem as high for this one as it was for the Sonnen or Evans fights for Jones, for hardcores Gustafsson was certainly the champ’s most interesting test since probably Rashad or maybe even Machida. For starters, he seemed like a guy coming into the prime of his career rather than coming out of his prime like a couple of Jones’ previous victims (Rampage, Shogun) and he had been on a pretty great win streak, even if he hadn’t fought since December 2012. The big issue for me was whether the Swede could stop the takedown, as the only loss he’d had previously came against a great wrestler in Phil Davis. And even if he could stop it, could he deal with Jones’ ever-improving striking and long reach? Personally I thought no, and figured Jones would probably stop the challenger in the third or fourth, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to see the fight!

Fight begins and both men show a lot of movement early on with Gustafsson landing an early kick. Takedown attempt from Jones but Gustafsson escapes. Head kick is blocked by Gus but he takes a spinning back kick to the body. Low kick lands for Jones. Couple of kicks answer for Gustafsson. Good left hand from Jones. Nice counter combo lands for the Swede. Good pair of jabs land for Gustafsson too. Both men continue to throw out some kicks. Nice right hand connects for the challenger in an exchange. Another one follows and lands. Another combo quickly follows and Jones is cut over the right eye. Combo backs Jones up. Jones comes back with a spinning back kick to the body and a low leg kick. Low kick from Jones but Gus counters with a combo and a right hand that lands. Gustafsson seems to be getting the better of these exchanges thus far. Superman punch glances for the Swede. Takedown attempt from Gustafsson…..and he gets Jones down, becoming the first man to do it in the UFC! Holy shit. Jones quickly scrambles up to his feet though. Seconds in the round and Gustafsson takes an eye poke. Big John McCarthy calls time, but Gus is okay and they continue quickly. Spinning elbow misses for Jones. He pushes forward and tries a takedown, but Gustafsson stuffs it only to take an elbow on the buzzer. Close round but I’d say 10-9 Gustafsson by a hair.

Into the 2nd and Jones’ face looks in a bad way – cut over the right eye with badly swollen lips too. Nice inside leg kick from Jones to begin but Gustafsson catches a second one and trips him down. Jones pops back up and goes for his own takedown but the Swede manages to dodge and then runs out of danger. Good body kick from Jones. Into the clinch and Jones looks for a trip but again Gustafsson avoids and this time he lands a right on the way out. Quick combo from Gus and Jones narrowly avoids a big right hand. Hard body kick connects for Jones as does a low kick. Jones is pressing the action some more in this round with his kicks. Head kick lands almost flush for Jones and puts Gustafsson on the retreat. Takedown is stuffed by Jones. Nice jab from the Swede. This is such a close fight. Right hand follows for the challenger as does a combo. Spinning kick to the body answers for Jones. Nice leg kick from Gustafsson. Another head kick lands for Jones but Gus catches it and shoves him down. He pops up and goes for a takedown but again Gustafsson defends it expertly. Hard counter right from Gus. Good inside leg kick from Jones. Head kick again glances for the champ but Gus lands with a combo before Jones shrugs off a clinch. Right hand lands for Gustafsson. Round ends there. Another close round but I’d go for Jones this time to even things up. The best part? Both rounds could’ve gone either way.

Third round and Jones opens with a leg kick, but Gustafsson makes him pay with a heavy combination. Both men throw leg kicks at the same time and clash legs before a head kick misses for Jones. Another takedown is avoided by Gustafsson. Stiff jab connects for the challenger. Counter right follows as Jones throws a low kick. This really is a tremendous fight. Head kick glances for Jones. Combo fires back for Gus. This is by far the most that Jones has ever been pushed. Good body kick from Jones. Gustafsson returns with an inside leg kick. Nice uppercut into a right hand has Jones covering up and Gus follows with a jab to the body. Another right hand connects for the challenger. Big head kick by Jones is blocked and Gustafsson jabs the body. Nice push kick to the knee from Jones. Axe kick misses for the champ but a body kick lands. Jab to the body again by Gus. Body kick into a left hand land for Jones and force Gustafsson on the retreat. Few more kicks land for Jones but Gustafsson uses the jab to set up a combo. Takedown is stuffed by Jones this time. Another quick jab lands for the Swede. Takedown attempt from Jones is again defended by the challenger. Body kick lands for Gustafsson. Spinning elbow glances for Jones and Gustafsson grabs him for a takedown, but the champ escapes. Round ends with a Gustafsson combo leading into a Jones right hand. I’ve got that one 10-9 for Gustafsson putting him 29-28 up leading into the fourth. Amazing fight so far. Jones between rounds looks hurt and visibly concerned.

Fourth round and Gus opens with a right hand. Left hook by Jones. Low kick follows. Gustafsson doesn’t seem tired and lands with another right. Jones’ face is a mess. Body kick lands for him though. Head kick glances too. Good right hand follows. He still fails to clinch with the Swede though and Gustafsson lands again with a right hand. Sneaky uppercut lands for the Swede from the clinch. He follows with a right hand. Nice jab connects for Jones as Gus comes forward. Beautiful inside leg kick lands for the champ. Stiff jab answers for Gustafsson. This is such an even fight it’s insane. Hard left hook connects for Gustafsson and he goes off with a combo. Left and a right land for the Swede. Clinch from Jones and he forces Gustafsson into the fence and drops for a double leg. Amazing takedown defense from Gustafsson and he muscles his way free. Never seen anyone avoid Jones’ takedown like that before. Hard right cross from Gustafsson and Jones is so badly cut. Another combo follows. Gustafsson is winning this round. Another combo connects and he stuffs the takedown attempt that answers. Crowd are going apeshit now. Head kick from Jones but Gus just about blocks it. One minute to go and Jones lands with a hard left. Elbow from Jones and he shrugs off a clinch. Spinning elbow misses for Jones. Second attempt LANDS HARD AND GUS IS ROCKED! He staggers back and Jones quickly closes in and grabs the plum to land with a knee and a pair of NASTY ELBOWS! Gustafsson is in trouble here, holy fuck. He tries to run away, and then still manages to stuff a single leg, but Jones stays on him with another two vicious elbows. Gustafsson is busted wide open now and he takes a flying knee, but survives the round. Incredible round; one of the best of 2013 in fact. 10-9 Jones for the near finish even though he was losing it beforehand. Good lord.

Fifth and final round and this could still go either way. Jab opens for Jones. Right hand comes over the top for Gustafsson. There’s blood running down the Swede’s chest now. Nice kick from Jones but he takes a combo from Gus. Gustafsson shrugs off a clinch attempt. Jones shrugs off one from the Swede but he eats a combo on the way out. Good left hand lands for Jones. Stiff right connects for Gustafsson but Jones steps in and cracks him with an elbow and then lands a left hand. Takedown attempt from Gustafsson is stuffed. Nice right hand counter lands for Jones. Takedown attempt from Jones and he finally puts the challenger on his back in guard. Gustafsson immediately scoots his hips back towards the cage though and works to his feet. Jones stays on him but he’s breathing heavily. They break free and now Gustafsson looks tired, dropping his hands a little. Big head kick lands for Jones. Gustafsson’s face is almost as busted up as the champ’s now. Gus looks exhausted. Another head kick lands for Jones. And another. Takedown attempt by Jones but Gustafsson still manages to stuff it and land a couple of punches. Spinning elbow glances for the challenger. This is an absolute war. Big body kick lands for the champ. Gustafsson seems hurt but he’s trying to mask it with his movement. Jabs into a right land for the Swede though. Another head kick glances for Jones. Seconds to go on the clock and Gus lands with a combo. Head kick lands again for Jones and another one follows as well as an elbow. Trip attempt is blocked by Jones who comes in with a flying knee to end the fight. I’ve got the round 10-9 Jones giving him a 48-47 victory but it was so close. Joe Rogan calls it the best Light-Heavyweight Title fight ever and I’d agree.

Official scorecards go 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46……for Jon Jones to retain the title. Wow. Right decision in my eyes but god damn was it close. For me that was the best fight of 2013 and the best LHW title fight ever. Jones had always been a phenom before but this was the first time he was truly pushed to his limit and we found out that he’s not only incredibly talented but he’s got the heart and desire of a champion too as he had to dig deep for this one. For me the telling moment was after the third round – Jones looked hurt, busted up, and maybe even a little scared. And he came out in the fourth round and got beaten up some more but then somehow managed to roar back and basically tear the title from Gustafsson’s grasp. As for Gustafsson, I don’t think anyone thought he’d be able to push Jones that hard, not after Machida, Rashad, Rampage and all of the others failed to do so. And yet he did and he stopped most of Jones’ takedowns and actually got Jones down. This was two fighters at the absolute top of their game giving it everything they had for the full five rounds. And that’s what makes an epic fight, really. Bravo to both guys.

-Show ends with a highlight reel.

Final Thoughts….

Some of the prelims here (Omielanczuk/Guelmino, Prazeres/Ronson, Jury/Ricci) weren’t up to much but you can’t sneeze at the FOTY in the main event and highlight reel stuff like Barao/Wineland, Schaub/Mitrione, Thompson/Clements, Gagnon/Kimura and Makdessi/Forte backing it up. UFC 165 is an easy thumbs up and if you haven’t seen at least the main event you need to do it or you can’t really consider yourself a proper MMA fan in my opinion. High recommendation.

Best Fight: Jones vs. Gustafsson
Worst Fight: Jury vs. Ricci

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com