MMA Review: #463: UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov

-The UFC’s seemingly annual June visit to Canada was not ruined by injuries at least this year, but the card still came in for a ton of criticism, mainly I guess because of the main event – the Flyweight Title match between Demetrious Johnson and largely unheralded challenger Ali Bagautinov. Personally I thought it was an excellent main card, with a great semi-main of Tyron Woodley vs. Rory MacDonald for a likely Welterweight Title shot, but I guess there’s no pleasing some – particularly casual fans who have something against the 125lbs division!

UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov

Vancouver, British Columbia

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Lightweight Fight: Jason Saggo vs Josh Shockley

This was one of those fights where I’d literally never heard of either competitor, although Saggo had the home country advantage fighting out of Ontario. He was coming in with a 10-1 record with his only loss to UFC veteran Jesse Ronson, while Shockley was 11-2 with his last win over Micah Miller. Coin toss fight then as I didn’t have a clue who to pick.

Fight begins and holy shit does Shockley look like a hippie or a bum or something with his natty dreads. Good leg kick early on from Saggo. They exchange strikes from distance before Saggo looks for the takedown. Shockley defends it and they remain clinched on the fence, but Saggo hits a beautiful hip throw down into full mount. Shockley quickly hip escapes though and gets to half-guard, then explodes to his feet. Saggo catches his leg and takes him back down, but right away Shockley disrupts his base with a butterfly guard and then goes for an armbar. Saggo defends well and takes the back as Shockley looks to roll. He winds up in side mount instead, then steps nicely into full mount. Another escape allows Shockley into half-butterfly guard, then half-guard proper. Pass into side mount for Saggo but Shockley reverses to his feet and goes for a takedown of his own. Good knees to the body from Shockley as Saggo works to his feet. They muscle for position along the fence before Saggo hits another trip to half-guard. Shockley again works the butterfly guard, but he eats a right hand from above from Saggo. Side mount for Saggo and again he takes the back, but Shockley spins to half-guard. Full mount follows and this time he takes the back with both hooks and flattens him out. Shockley rolls into full mount, but he takes some BIG SHOTS and ends up giving his back again. This time he stops defending and the ref calls it there as Saggo lands more hard punches. Fight was basically stopped on the buzzer.

As always with newcomers fighting newcomers we’ve really got no idea of either man’s ceiling although you’d have to assume Saggo’s ceiling is a little higher than Shockley’s. Fight was perfectly acceptable MMA.

Bantamweight Fight: Michinori Tanaka vs Roland Delorme

Tanaka was coming in from Japan with quite a bit of hype behind him as one of the country’s top prospects, as he’d put together a 9-0 record mainly in Shooto and was said to be an excellent grappler. TUF 14’s Delorme meanwhile hadn’t fought since a close loss to Bruce Leroy back in September 2013. I was taking the Japanese newcomer here based on his reputation as Delorme seems like the type of guy UFC use to test hot prospects without actually winning many these days.

Round One and Tanaka shows a lot of springy movement early on. One-twos glance for both men in the opening minute. Chopping leg kick lands for Tanaka. Telegraphed takedown attempt fails for the Japanese fighter. Low kick is caught by Delorme and he tags Tanaka with a right, sending him down and then going right into full mount. Tanaka gives his back and Delorme goes for the choke, but the Japanese fighter spins over into Delorme’s guard quickly. Triangle attempt from Delorme but Tanaka’s base seems excellent and he postures free. Good left hand from the top for Tanaka. Delorme stays really active from the bottom, going for the triangle again, but again Tanaka pulls free. More scrambling from Delorme follows but he can’t get Tanaka off him. Decent flurry of ground-and-pound lands for Tanaka as Delorme ends up wedged into the fence. Good elbows from the bottom from Delorme as he controls Tanaka’s right wrist. Really hard right hand gets through for Tanaka though. Seconds to go in the round and Tanaka ends it on top in control. Close round to score but I think Tanaka just about edged it, 10-9.

Round Two and Tanaka still looks fresh, bouncing all over the place before landing a hard right hand. Glancing combos for both men and Delorme channels his inner Diaz and tells him to bring it on, taunting the newcomer. Delorme’s really lunging in with his punches but largely missing. Into the clinch for Tanaka and he looks for the takedown, tripping the Canadian down to full guard. Again Delorme stays quite active from his back, but Tanaka does a good job of connecting with some ground-and-pound. Few really good punches get through for Tanaka and he passes into half-guard. Delorme looks for a reversal by pushing off the fence with his legs, but can’t get it and ends up in full butterfly guard instead. Full mount from Tanaka in a beautiful pass, and he lands some punches as Delorme manages to escape back to half-guard. More solid punches get through for Tanaka and Delorme looks badly busted up at this stage. Tanaka’s elbows are vicious. Round once again ends with Tanaka on top doing damage. More clear-cut 10-9 for Tanaka there.

Round Three and again Tanaka shows a ton of movement, circling around on the outside and avoiding Delorme’s lunging attacks. Rush from Tanaka sees him land a pair of rights and then get the back standing. Belly-to-belly suplex follows and Tanaka lands on top again. Reversal attempt from Delorme but Tanaka defends it nicely and stays in control, rolling into a choke attempt, but he slips and Delorme gets on top and takes full mount! Whoa. Tanaka gives his back and Delorme gets both hooks in, but it looks like Tanaka will turn into him and he does so, taking top position inside the guard. Good job from Tanaka. Ground-and-pound lands for Tanaka and Delorme’s right eye looks like a mess now. Into half-guard for Tanaka and he drops some really nasty elbows. Full mount follows and Delorme is in trouble. He hip escapes though, getting back to half-guard. Butterfly guard for Delorme but he continues to take shots. He does well to escape to his feet, but Tanaka drags him back down and continues the abuse, this time from the back. Neck crank attempt follows but he can’t quite finish it and instead he ends the round in control with more punches. Clear-cut win for Tanaka, either 30-27 or 29-28 works for me.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Michinori Tanaka. This really was an excellent debut for him as he showed a tremendous top game – Delorme isn’t an easy guy to control and beat up on the ground like that – and while he didn’t really land much of note standing he did prove to be extremely difficult to hit, which is impressive too when you consider Delorme had quite a big reach advantage. Dude definitely has a bright future ahead of him in the UFC. As for Delorme, despite a string of losses I think I’d keep him around – he’s never truly out of a fight and serves as a solid gatekeeper. Good fight overall.

Lightweight Fight: Tae Hyun Bang vs Kajan Johnson

Korean fighter Bang had made his UFC debut in January, losing to Mairbek Taisumov, and strangely enough until I recently checked his record I didn’t realise he was the same guy who lost to Takanori Gomi back in his Sengoku run, although he was known as Seung Hwan Bang back then. No idea why he changed the name. Anyway Johnson – a real veteran who faced Josh Thomson back in 2002 (!) – had come into the UFC off the back of an entertaining run on TUF: Nations, where he reached the semi-finals. Despite a so-so record I was taking the Canadian as I thought he’d be able to outwork the Korean.

Round One and Johnson opens with a leaping flashy kick that misses. Good right hand from Johnson in an early exchange. Bang fires back with a stiff jab, but he eats a head kick. They trade shots and Bang lands a couple of blows, and it looks like these guys are going to throw caution to the wind and just brawl. Nice single leg from Johnson switches things up and he lands in side mount. Bang decides to grab a guillotine, but due to the position he’s got no chance of finishing it. He does use it to reverse though and gets to his feet, breaking with a knee. Couple of shots land for Johnson on the feet though. Nice stiff right from Johnson and he uses head movement to avoid some shots from Bang. Big chant for Kajan, but Bang drops him with a BIG LEFT HOOK. He pops back up and lunges for a takedown, but Bang grabs a guillotine and sprawls out before spinning to the back. Nice roll from Johnson and he goes for a leglock, and from there they scramble and wind up on their feet. This is a pretty crazy round. They exchange some jabs before Bang blocks a takedown but eats a knee to the body in the process. About a minute to go and they TRADE FIRE with both men landing big left hooks. HARD right hand lands for Johnson in another trade and Bang looks hurt. He begins to back up and they trade again before Johnson goes for the takedown. He lands a trip down into side mount, and as Bang reverses free Johnson attempts a guillotine as the round ends. Very tight round to score but I’d probably lean very slightly towards Bang, mainly for the knockdown.

Round Two and Johnson comes out throwing kicks, landing a really hard outside leg kick. Good jab lands for Johnson as Bang looks like he’s trying to draw him into a brawl again. Stiff jab from Johnson. He adds one to the body for good measure too. Big swings for Bang but Johnson manages to just about stay out of range. An overhand right wobbles him though so he goes for a takedown and lands a slam. Bang uses the guillotine reversal again though and takes top position in half-guard. Looks like someone’s bleeding as there’s a ton of blood leaking all over Johnson’s back. Johnson keeps scrambling from the bottom and he rolls into a heel hook, using the attempt to take the back. Looks like it’s Bang’s nose that’s busted up. Johnson looks like he might go for a calf slicer, then decides to take the back instead, but Bang stands. Takedown attempt from Johnson and he dumps Bang onto his back again. Looks like he’s busted open now too. Guillotine reversal doesn’t work for Bang this time though and Johnson decides to bring it back to standing. They trade jabs and Bang misses a really sloppy spinning backfist. Both guys look gassed now. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Johnson.

Round Three and they come out trading punches right away again. Both men look refreshed now. Hard right from Bang drops Johnson to a knee but he pops right back up. Johnson is trying to move and use the jab but Bang keeps dragging him into trading. Takedown attempt from Kajan but Bang stuffs it easily. Couple more jabs from Johnson and he throws a head kick, but Bang counters with a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND that drops Kajan and turns the lights right out. Big John McCarthy doesn’t even let him follow up as Kajan’s clearly DONE. Nasty knockout.

Fight was a ton of fun if a little sloppy. The problem for Johnson was that while he looked like the better striker technically, Bang seemed to have the chin to withstand whatever he threw and he was also able to suck Johnson into brawling and trading and evidently the Canadian didn’t have the chin to survive those exchanges. Good win for Bang but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the end of the road for Johnson, who’s probably taken a horrid amount of punishment in such a long career.

Bantamweight Fight: Yves Jabouin vs Mike Easton

Man, talk about a fall from grace – back in 2012 Easton was seen as one of the top prospects in the Bantamweight division, but since then he’d lost three in a row (admittedly to very good opposition) and was likely fighting for his job here. Jabouin meanwhile wasn’t exactly on steady ground himself, having gone 1-2 in his last three with the win being a very tight split decision win over the since-released Dustin Pague. I was taking Easton, just about.

First round begins and both guys look to fire out some jabs and flash some quick combos at one another. Within seconds Easton takes an eye poke and the ref has to call time. He’s fine to continue though and they get going again quickly. Action continues with the exchange and Easton lands with a leg kick and a good combo too that backs Jabouin up. Jabouin decides to switch things up and takes Easton down, surprisingly enough. Easton uses a butterfly guard and looks to tie Jabouin up. Sweep attempt from Easton but he can’t finish it although it does prevent Jabouin from doing anything at all from the top. Good elbow lands for Jabouin once he manages to free his right arm. Wall-walk from Easton and he’s back on his feet in the clinch. Nice trip from Jabouin puts Easton back down but he pops up instantly. Knee separates for Jabouin but they clinch again and this time Easton goes for a trip. Reversal from Jabouin though and he lands on top in the guard again. Good elbow from Jabouin but Easton pushes off and gets to his feet. Easton shows some aggression on the feet and then gets a trip and works into side mount. Some punches get through for the Hulk but Jabouin reverses to his feet. Spinning back kick glances for Jabouin. They trade shots on the feet with both men landing decently, and that’s the round. Close one to call. I’d go with Easton I think as he did more good work despite being on the bottom a few times.

Second round and Jabouin lands with a nice front kick to the body in the opening exchange. Couple of good combos from Easton but Jabouin lands with the front kick to the body again and a hard uppercut too. Really even exchanges to be fair. Brief clinch is broken and Jabouin lands with a left high kick. Good leg kick from Easton and he follows with a takedown, but Jabouin reverses right away and grabs a front headlock before spinning to take the back. Surprising stuff as Easton’s a BJJ black belt apparently while Jabouin’s more of a kickboxer. One hook in for Jabouin but Easton shakes it off and works back to his feet. Jabouin drags him back down and lands some good punches from the back, before Easton works back up and turns into the clinch. Beautiful combo in the clinch ends with an uppercut for Jabouin and he separates with a head kick and a spin kick. Easton fires back with the plum clinch and a hard knee to the body. Jabouin comes back with a heavy right and a couple of knees to the body. Takedown from Easton fails and Jabouin ends up on top in half-guard. Hard elbows get through for Jabouin but not with enough frequency and referee Kevin Dornan calls a stand-up. Easton tries to swing for the fences, but Jabouin stays in the pocket and fires right back, getting the better of the exchange with a left head kick again. Round ends just after. 10-9 Jabouin.

Third round and a couple of left hooks connect for Jabouin. He’s putting together the better combinations at this stage of the fight. Takedown from Jabouin but they pop up literally the moment they hit the ground. Spinning backfist misses for Easton but leads to the clinch. They muscle along the fence and Easton drops for a takedown after eating a hard knee to the body. Jabouin defends well and elbows the head, and then works to the plum to deliver some knees. They break off and Jabouin lands hard with a kick to the body. Beautiful knee lands flush for Jabouin. He’s just the better striker. Takedown follows too and Easton is seeing this fight slip away from him. He turns for a possible kimura, but winds up giving his back and Jabouin slaps one hook in. Easton desperately tries to turn into him, but Jabouin shows some good control and remains in the dominant position. He lands on top in half-guard, but Easton ties up the arm for the kimura again. He manages to use it to reverse into top position where he keeps going for it, but he can’t quite lock it up and gives up on it. Side mount for Easton but he looks tired. Solid knees to the body from Easton but he probably needs a finish here. For some reason though he spins around into Jabouin’s guard. Jabouin ties him up and that’s that. 10-9 Jabouin for a 29-28 on my card.

Judges officially call it 29-28 all round for Yves Jabouin. Disappointing for Easton but I guess his ceiling was never as high as a lot of people – myself included back in 2012 – figured it would be. This was probably the best Jabouin had looked since his 2012 win over Jeff Hougland, so fair play to him. Fight was, like the opener, perfectly acceptable MMA if nothing mind-blowing.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Valerie Letourneau vs Elizabeth Phillips

Incredibly this was the only fight on the card changed by injuries, as initially it would’ve seen Germaine de Randamie taking on Milana Dudeiva. First though de Randamie was ruled out with an injury and so Tristar Gym’s Letourneau stepped in, and then when Dudeiva had to withdraw as well, Invicta veteran Philips came in on late notice. I was taking Letourneau due to home country advantage and a slightly longer preparation time.

Round One and they exchange punches right away before Phillips clinches and forces Letourneau into the fence. Good knee to the body from Letourneau and she breaks free. Stiff jab connects for Phillips. They’re really trading here. Head kick lands for Letourneau. Phillips answers with a quick combo ending in an overhand right. Nice low kick from Letourneau. Another good right lands for Phillips and Letourneau winces, causing Phillips to really open up on her, but Letourneau answers right back as the trade continues. Combinations land for both women. Letourneau seems to be having issues with her right eye. Phillips is really targeting it with the overhand right too. Couple of stiff one-twos land for Phillips. Letourneau to her credit continues to stay in the pocket and throw combinations right back. Nice head kick lands for her. Beautiful combo from Letourneau ends with an uppercut. Inside leg kick follows but Phillips clinches and forces her into the fence. They break quickly and the exchange continues, with Letourneau hurting Phillips with another head kick. Phillips fires right back and they trade off until the buzzer. Tight round but I’d just about score it for Phillips I think.

Round Two and Letourneau’s eye is BLACK. A real mess. Wow. Phillips comes right out swinging for it but Letourneau fires right back. This is a hell of a fight actually. Takedown attempt from Letourneau is blocked but she uses the attempt to land a quick flurry. Into the clinch and Letourneau busts out a pretty cool elbow strike by pushing Phillips’ head backwards. Takedown attempt from Phillips but she can’t get Letourneau off her feet and they separate. Good leg kick from Phillips but Letourneau counters with a hard right hand. Nice combination from Letourneau. Looks like Phillips might be slowing down a bit. Really slick combo lands for Letourneau. She’s landing with the right uppercut continually now. Phillips continues to walk forward right into the fire but she seems to be getting outstruck by a better technical kickboxer now. Her face is marked up badly too. Another combo connects for Letourneau and she follows with a knee that sets up another combo. Seconds to go and the action continues with Letourneau still landing the better shots. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Letourneau to even things up.

Round Three and Phillips goes for the takedown, but Letourneau quickly stuffs it. Letourneau’s combinations are looking really smooth here. Phillips looks to trade back and the crowd pop loudly as they go into a SHOOTOUT but it’s advantage Letourneau. This is a great fight. More combos land for Letourneau but Phillips clinches and forces her into the fence. Takedown attempt is stuffed though and Letourneau fires back with a knee to the body. Phillips continues to go for the takedown, but Letourneau holds her off well and then trips her down using a whizzer. Phillips pops right back up though. Couple of front kicks land to the body for Letourneau. Phillips needs to land something special here or this is likely Letourneau’s fight. We’ve got ninety seconds to go. Beautiful left hand lands for Letourneau. The exchange continues and it looks like Phillips is willing to take two in order to hopefully give one, rather than try to change it up. Seconds to go and she’s still being outgunned. Hard counter uppercut lands for Letourneau. Round ends with another WILD TRADE. 10-9 Letourneau for a 29-28 win.

Official scores are 29-28 Phillips, 29-28 Letourneau and 29-28 for Valerie Letourneau to pick up the split decision. Think the judges got it right there as it seemed clear to me that the first round was Phillips’ while the second and third belonged to Letourneau. Really good fight actually even if it became a bit repetitive towards the end, as both women were clearly ready to trade off with strikes and didn’t really slow down all that much. Letourneau took that big right hand in the first which probably lost her the round, but in the end her superior technique pulled her through well. I think she’s a great addition to the division actually which to me is one of the most exciting to watch now, and this is coming from someone who didn’t like women’s MMA a few years back!

Welterweight Fight: Kiichi Kunimoto vs Daniel Sarafian

This was Kunimoto’s second fight against a TUF Brazil veteran in 2014, as his UFC debut in January had seen him beat Luiz Dutra via disqualification after he was knocked out by some illegal elbows. I thought he’d lose this one cleanly as I couldn’t see how he could beat Sarafian – dropping down from 185lbs after being beaten by Cezar Mutante – as the Brazilian seemed more well-rounded and had a more violent streak to boot.

Round One and Sarafian does not look healthy at 170lbs at all to me. He presses the action early on as Kunimoto looks to stay on the outside. Sarafian swings for the fences but only glances on a couple of shots early on. Hard low kick from Kunimoto and he follows with a clinch, forcing the Brazilian into the fence. He looks for the takedown as Sarafian tries to break off, and eventually he manages to trip him to the ground. Sarafian goes for a guillotine but Kunimoto avoids and works into half-guard. Surprisingly easy pass to side mount follows and in the scramble he takes the back with both hooks. Sarafian leaves his neck open and from there Kunimoto quickly slaps on the rear naked choke to force the tapout in a big upset.

Surprising result there. I’m going out on a limb – and I might be doing a disservice to Kunimoto here – but I think the weight cut affected Sarafian badly as he just didn’t look himself from the off, didn’t show much aggression and on the ground he looked terrible and in the past we’ve seen him do fine on the ground with guys like CB Dollaway and Cezar Mutante and actually tap a decent black belt in Renee Forte. Good win for Kunimoto but I don’t think his UFC run takes him far, unfortunately. Sarafian would probably be better going back to 185lbs methinks.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St. Preux vs Ryan Jimmo

Both of these men were looking to break into the top ten at LHW – a relatively thin division, meaning you can get into title contention pretty quickly – with OSP already on an impressive 3-0 run inside the UFC while Jimmo had knocked out his last opponent in vicious fashion. My pick here was OSP as I gave him a big advantage in the wrestling department.

Fight begins and Jimmo comes out in full on karate stance, landing a low kick and looking like a pale, bald Lyoto Machida. Good kick to the body from OSP. Big trade follows with OSP using a heavy left hook to back Jimmo up towards the fence. Another left hand seems to stun Jimmo but he recovers quickly and then fires back with a flurry that sets up a clinch. Trip attempt from Jimmo but OSP blocks it. Action slows down a bit as they continue to muscle for position inside the clinch, before Jimmo breaks off with a shoulder butt. Good leg kick from Jimmo. The action’s really slowed down here unfortunately. Left hand comes over the top and glances for St. Preux. Couple more low kicks from Jimmo and he’s avoiding OSP’s shots well. Body kick connects for Jimmo. OSP backs him up though and cracks him with a left hand before hitting a double leg. Jimmo pops right back up, but OSP trips him down hard and then takes the back with seconds to go, where he lands some punches. Jimmo pops up on the buzzer. 10-10 round for me as it was too close to split.

Into the 2nd and Jimmo begins with a low kick into a nice right hand. OSP quickly shrugs off a clinch though. Counter right connects for Jimmo as OSP comes forward. High kick glances for OSP. They trade low kicks and an OSP left hand sends Jimmo down, looked more like he was caught off balance though. Quick pass into half-guard for OSP and then he gets full mount and takes the back with both hooks. Really slick stuff from OSP. Choke attempt follows but Jimmo blocks by hooking up St. Preux’s left arm. Three minutes to go and OSP lands some big punches, but then Jimmo yells out frantically that his arm’s broken and so the ref steps in to stop things. No clue what caused the break there.

Fight was going well until a totally anticlimactic finish. Replay shows OSP actually went for a really vicious kimura when he heard what Jimmo was saying which is pretty terrifying. We don’t get any idea of what actually caused the arm to break but I mean if Jimmo was willing to quit then it must’ve been a bad one. Massively unfortunate ending to what could’ve been a decent fight.

Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Brendan Schaub

Arlovski’s return to the UFC was one of the more surprising moves of 2014 to me, but to be fair he was 7-1 since leaving StrikeForce in 2011 and I guess he still has some name value today as he was a big star in the early/mid TUF era when the UFC was arguably at its peak or near to it. He was faced with Schaub – I guess looking to recapture the legend killer gimmick he had going in like 2011 prior to the Nogueira loss – and while Brendan’s chin is as questionable as Andrei’s, I couldn’t help but side with the TUF veteran due to less mileage.

Round One begins and both men come out tentatively, bouncing around at distance. Arlovski swings his way into the clinch and forces Schaub into the fence, but very little happens and the crowd begin to get pissed off after about a minute. They break off and Schaub lands with a solid overhand right and a follow-up one-two that has Arlovski retreating. He comes back though with a nice low kick. They clinch up again as Mike Goldberg throws out some classic revisionist history, saying Arlovski “took the reins of the Heavyweight division after Mark Coleman and Frank Mir”. Um, Randy Couture anyone? But then fuck that guy anyway, ha. Schaub breaks off again and Arlovski tags him with a left hand in a brief exchange. Uppercut lands for Schaub in the same exchange though. Right to the body lands for the former champ. Leg kick follows. Back to the clinch and Andrei goes for a trip, surprisingly, but Schaub blocks it. Wild shots from Schaub and a right lands to Arlovski’s head, but Andrei takes it and clinches again. Nothing happens from there and they break, and Arlovski stuffs a takedown on the buzzer. Probably 10-9 Schaub I guess for slightly better strikes. Round stunk though.

Round Two and Schaub opens with a jab, but he takes a kick to the groin and Big John McCarthy has to call time. Looked totally accidental and they restart. Overhand right glances for Schaub but he takes a counter left. Right to the body from Arlovski and he follows with another right that sets up the clinch. Once again nothing happens before they break. This fight sucks. Left-right combo glances for Schaub. Looks like Schaub’s got a cut over the left eye somehow. Counter left hook connects for Arlovski when Schaub throws the wild overhand right. They clinch up again and this time Schaub muscles Andrei into the fence. Massive boos now before Schaub drops for a double leg, but Arlovski defends it nicely and they break off. Schaub is just swinging wild with the overhand right, but he keeps missing. Every exchange seems to be somewhat tentative even though they’re swinging heavy leather. Uppercut lands for Schaub and Andrei backs up, but to his credit he doesn’t seem wobbled. Round ends with an Arlovski overhand right. 10-10 round as I couldn’t split it.

Round Three and Schaub again misses with the wild overhand right. He just seems so stiff when he’s throwing his shots. Arlovski lands with a decent left hand but Big John calls time for something I didn’t quite catch. They restart right away and Schaub clinches, but Andrei reverses and pushes him into the fence. Trip takedown from Schaub and he lands in the full guard. Solid ground-and-pound from Schaub as Arlovski just tries to cover up. Schaub’s punches look horrible too, more like he’s doing crap front crawl than throwing bombs. He does land some good ones to the body though. One minute to go and a few clubbing blows do get through, but Arlovski shoves off and explodes to his feet. He forces Schaub into the fence and it looks like the fight’s slipping away from him. They break off with thirty seconds to go and Arlovski swings with a wild right, but Schaub ducks it and shoots. Andrei stuffs it and they separate and that’s pretty much the fight. Looks like Schaub might have a busted jaw as his mouth is horrendously swollen. 10-9 Schaub though and I’d call it 30-28 for him.

Judges somehow come up with a split decision; 29-28 Schaub, 29-28 Arlovski and 29-28 for Andrei Arlovski to get his first UFC win since 2008. Lord knows how they came up with those scores as I’d struggle to give Andrei a round there. But then again, I guess Schaub hardly did much to justify winning either outside of that portion of ground work in the third round. Pretty awful fight although to be fair I’ve seen much, much worse in my time watching MMA, but it just felt like neither guy really wanted to be there – maybe because they were wary of being knocked out, knowing the punching power the other guy was carrying. Ah well. It’s still nice to see Andrei back at any rate.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ryan Bader vs Rafael Feijao

This one really interested me as Feijao is a guy that I felt could be a legit title contender, and Bader seemed like the perfect test for him – a real tough gatekeeper to the elite (read, top five) at 205lbs and with his excellent wrestling I thought we’d find a lot out about Feijao’s overall game. After seeing him crush King Mo a few years back though I thought he’d be able to shut down Bader’s takedowns and take him out on the feet.

First round begins and Feijao opens with an inside leg kick. Left hook from Bader backs him up a bit but doesn’t connect. Good body kick from Bader and he follows with a big right hook that glances. Beautiful takedown from Bader but Feijao pops up instantly. Bader grabs a rear waistlock though and lands some knees to the legs while looking to set up for a suplex. He manages to lift Feijao up and dump him back down, but the Brazilian pops up again. Good knees from Bader and he trips him down again. Feijao once again stands, but Bader stays right on him and refuses to let him go. Good knees to the body from Bader and he keeps tripping Feijao down, but every time he stands back up. Right hook breaks for Bader and they separate. Big right hand misses for Feijao. They exchange a couple of jabs before Feijao steps in with a decent left hook. Stiff jab connects for both men. Incredibly powerful double leg from Bader drives Feijao right into the mat and he lands in half-guard. Feijao scrambles right away and looks to get up, but Bader stays on him and delivers some solid punches to the side of the head. Excellent shots land for Bader and he lands some elbows to the body for good measure. Round ends with Bader in firm control, dropping a HUGE knee to the body, and Feijao basically just covering up. Clear-cut 10-9 for Ryan Bader.

Second round and Feijao presses forward and opens with a nice spinning back kick to the body. Bader fires back with a head kick that Feijao blocks, and then goes for a single leg. Feijao stuffs that nicely though. Big right hand from Feijao allows him to close the distance but Bader separates and then forces the Brazilian into the fence. They break off from there and Feijao tries to close Bader down, but he shows some good footwork and circles out, then drives in for the takedown and forces the Brazilian to the ground, this time in full guard. Haven’t seen Bader’s takedowns look this good in a while. Solid elbows from Bader but Feijao scrambles and gets to his knees. Bader grabs the rear waistlock again and then drops some more heavy knees to the legs. Really hard knees connect to the tailbone before Bader decides to let him back up. Feijao even looks slower on the feet than Bader. Beautiful one-two lands for Bader. His movement looks excellent too. Another combo lands for the TUF winner. Right hand sets up a double leg for Bader but Feijao manages to stuff it. Overhand right connects for Bader. Feijao looks exhausted. Couple of good body shots connect for Bader and then he drives Feijao to the ground again and works some ground-and-pound to close the round out. Bader is owning this fight.

Third round and Feijao backs Bader up with some wild punches, but Bader drops for a takedown. Feijao stuffs it and then really swings for the fences, causing Bader to retreat before shooting again. Feijao sprawls and grabs a front facelock, but he allows Bader to grab his leg. Hard elbows connect for Feijao but Bader manages to force him back into the fence. Another elbow forces Bader back and then Feijao shoves him to the ground, but he pops back up. Feijao’s really swinging wildly now. Bader shoots again and forces him into the fence, before the ref decides to call a break. Left hook glances for Feijao. Bader comes back with a single leg into a double leg, but Feijao again manages to defend it well. Bader keeps going though and dumps him down, landing in half-guard. Punches and elbows to the body land for Bader and Feijao seems content to hang on and cover up. The elbows to the body look incredibly painful actually. Feijao gets to full guard but he looks out of steam as Bader continues to work him over from the top. More ground-and-pound follows until the fight ends. Clear 30-27 for Ryan Bader I’d say.

All three judges unsurprisingly have it 30-27 for Ryan Bader. Crowd didn’t like it and it admittedly wasn’t the most exciting fight of all time, but there’s something to be said for actually fighting to your strengths and Bader did that well by implementing his takedowns and ground-and-pound to completely dominate a dangerous guy in Feijao for almost the full fifteen minutes. His striking and footwork also looked hugely improved even if the fight was more about his wrestling game. Feijao for his part didn’t exactly look great if I’m honest, as he didn’t look in the best shape and seemed to have no answer for what Bader was bringing. Disappointing showing for him but on the flip side this was probably the best Bader’s ever looked in his UFC career I’d say.

Welterweight Fight: Rory MacDonald vs Tyron Woodley

This was a huge fight for the Welterweight division as the word was the winner would be in line for the next title shot – although of course you never know with the UFC these days! Despite Rory having the home field advantage I was taking Woodley here – I just thought his brand of brute punching power and awesome wrestling would be enough to overcome Rory’s more technical, clinical striking style. To most people this was the “real” main event.

Round One and the crowd are super-hot already. Right away MacDonald backs Woodley up and lands with a front kick. He’s really pressuring Woodley back from the off. Massive crowd chant for Rory. Woodley uses a right hand to get into the clinch, and he lands some good knees to the body from there. Good foot stomps connect too. He’s really working with the knees here. Good job from Rory to separate and he lands a couple of jabs and glances on a question mark kick. Woodley fires back with a flurry and a body kick but MacDonald blocks a takedown and fires back with a body shot of his own. Big kick misses for Rory but he avoids the takedown. He’s really backing Woodley up here. Nice body kick from Rory. Couple of shots land for Rory and he lands a knee to the body as Woodley clinches and forces him into the fence. Crowd are incredibly hot for Rory. They break off and right away MacDonald begins to pressure Woodley again. Body kick but Woodley lands a counter right and then hits a takedown. MacDonald scrambles right back up though and lands a pair of front kicks to the body. Hard right hand to the body from Rory. Woodley can’t seem to deal with the fact that Rory’s forcing him back towards the fence. Stinging combination lands for Rory. Another front kick to the body sets up another combo. Round ends there. Big round for Rory MacDonald, 10-9.

Round Two and again Woodley finds himself backing up towards the fence due to MacDonald’s jab. Rory’s use of range and distance is masterful. Axe kick misses though. Single leg from Rory is blocked but he lands with a stiff jab. Good leg kick answers for Woodley. Another one follows but he can’t get Rory to back up and he takes a couple more jabs. Couple more front kicks to the body for Rory but Woodley comes back with a BRUTAL leg kick that folds the left leg inside. Rory answers right back with a couple more front kicks to the body. He continues to use the jab to force Woodley back too. Half-hearted shot is blocked by Rory and he lands with a combo. Woodley just can’t get off the fence. Body kick from MacDonald. Beautiful leg kick into a body kick follows. Woodley’s literally got his back to the cage now. Good leg kick does land for him but he can’t seem to follow it up. Rory’s landing at will with slick combinations. This is beginning to look like Rory’s fight with BJ Penn. Woodley tries to answer back with some jabs, but Rory uses his head movement to snake out of the way before landing his own. Taunting follows, Diaz-style. Round ends with more Rory jabs. 10-9 Rory again and I don’t see how Woodley turns this around.

Round Three and Rory literally comes flying out of the corner. Woodley looks to flurry on him right away and lands with a haymaker to the side of the head, but Rory takes it and quickly takes the center of the cage, backing Woodley up again. Good combo lands for him and Woodley’s back is to the fence again. Joe Rogan is riffing on how Woodley gets tired due to all his muscle but that’s got nothing to do with him losing this fight – it’s all on Rory being able to control the distance and force him onto the back foot. Good leg kick from Tyron but Rory backs him up with some more jabs and an apparent low blow from a spin kick. John McCarthy tells him to continue though. Body shot from Rory and then he uses more strikes to set up a takedown and he actually gets it, forcing Woodley onto his back for the first time in his UFC career. First time I can remember him on his back point blank actually. He gets full guard and grips on, but he’s totally defensive. Very little happens before MacDonald tries to pass the legs and does so, landing a solid left hand. Woodley regains full guard and continues to hold on, but he’s got a minute to win this fight and it doesn’t look likely. Another good left hand lands from above for MacDonald and then he moves into full mount for a second. He slides into side mount instead, and as the crowd chant his name it looks like he’s going for a mounted crucifix. Woodley blocks that but he eats some hard punches. Round ends with MacDonald pounding away. Clear 30-27 for Rory MacDonald in a truly remarkable performance.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Rory MacDonald. That was a truly fascinating and brilliant performance from Rory and in my opinion it was his best ever showing in the UFC. Woodley is an incredibly dangerous opponent, but evidently Rory and his team had noticed that he’s really only dangerous when he’s allowed the space to be aggressive and so Rory never allowed him that space, backing him up to the fence and using his jab and kicks to keep him there, and when Woodley did swing big shots he could never find Rory who stayed elusive enough to avoid them. Sure, he took some really nasty leg kicks but that’s about it. I mean it sounds like an easy way to beat Woodley but in reality it takes a really special fighter to be able to peg him back like that and at this point Rory’s a very special fighter indeed. I’m not his biggest fan but I think he’s definitely the top contender right now and I look forward to seeing his inevitable 2015 title shot. This was a one-sided fight but it was still a very interesting one to watch.

UFC World Flyweight Title: Demetrious Johnson vs Ali Bagautinov

Despite being a title fight with a pretty decent title challenger (Bagautinov had beaten Marcos Vinicius, Timothy Elliott and John Lineker to earn the shot), people weren’t too enthused about this as the main event, I guess because they’re not into the division, Mighty Mouse isn’t really the biggest personality and he doesn’t sell fights, and at this point he looks so far above the rest of the competition in the division that it’s hard to buy anyone as a challenger. Still, I was at least hoping for an entertaining fight given Mighty Mouse had an excellent 2013, finishing two fights and putting on a FOTN with John Dodson too. Mighty Mouse via decision was the most likely bet though.

Bagautinov certainly looks happy to be in the main event upon his entrance, almost comically so, leaping around and slapping hands with the fans and stuff. Muted response for Mighty Mouse which is disappointing given how good he’d looked in 2013. Just goes to show the power of personality in selling fights.

Round One and right away Johnson is all over the place with his footwork while Bagautinov takes the center of the cage. Pretty much nothing lands for either man early on as Johnson begins to force Ali onto his back foot. Body kick lands for the challenger with about a minute and half gone. Wild right hand misses for Bagautinov and Johnson counters with a glancing left. Incredible movement allows Johnson to avoid some quick punches from the challenger. Couple of low kicks from Mighty Mouse before Ali clinches. Good knee to the body from Johnson and he looks to secure the plum. Bagautinov continues to go for a takedown but he can’t get Mighty Mouse off his feet. Few more knees land for him too. One minute to go and Ali lands with a knee to the body of his own. This has been quite a dull round to be fair. Action continues inside the clinch and Mighty Mouse lands a series of really hard knees. Deep double leg attempt from Bagautinov and he gets Johnson down, but the champ pops up before the buzzer. 10-9 Johnson.

Round Two and Johnson opens with an inside leg kick as both men dance around and show some interesting footwork. Takedown attempt from Mighty Mouse and he forces Ali into the fence. Good knees from the plum from Johnson but they break off. Quick flurry misses for Bagautinov. Johnson’s really pressuring him now. Couple of snapping right hands glance for Johnson as does a head kick. Exchange sees Johnson slip a right hand and land one of his own. The speed of Johnson is ridiculous. Pair of leg kicks land for the champ. Big overhand right lands for Mighty Mouse but Ali shows a good chin to take it. Inside leg kick from Johnson and he’s slipping nearly all of Bagautinov’s counters. Head kick glances for Ali. He manages to clinch and force Johnson into the fence, where they exchange some knees. Crowd begin to get restless with one minute to go as Ali tries to swing heavy shots in the clinch, then drops for a takedown. Johnson defends and lands some elbows to the side of the head for good measure, then delivers the Urijah Faber-style jumping knee. Couple more good knees land from the plum for DJ and the round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Johnson.

Round Three and Ali is looking marked up. Couple of leg kicks land for Johnson. He just looks so much faster than Bagautinov. Two rushing left hands land for Johnson and he follows with a head kick. Ali manages to clinch to slow him down a little. Crowd begin to boo again as they muscle for position, before Johnson gets the plum to land a couple of knees before they break. Brutal body kick from Mighty Mouse and he follows with a hard right hand counter. Bagautinov is beginning to look confused. He tries with a head kick but Johnson dodges and lands with a straight left. Mighty Mouse is picking him apart with ease here. Decent kick sets up the clinch though and Bagautinov delivers a BIG GERMAN SUPLEX! Johnson pops right back up however and lands some nasty knees from the clinch again. His use of the plum is tremendous. They break with under a minute to go and Bagautinov tries to go for a single leg, but Johnson stuffs it and lands with two more knees. Takedown from Ali but Johnson reverses up and works him over from the clinch again with more elbows and knees. 10-9 Johnson. This is becoming a bit of a shutout.

Round Four and again DJ opens with low kicks. Head kick glances too. Crowd are dead which is disappointing. Beautiful knee lands from the plum for the champ again. More of the same follows as Johnson continues to land on Ali from the outside while avoiding the majority of the challenger’s strikes. HARD body kick connects for Mighty Mouse. Quick shot is stuffed by Ali but Johnson immediately switches it up to land a knee. Good body kick from Bagautinov but he’s still missing the most of his offense. Sick lunging knee to the body connects for Johnson. Ali manages to clinch and forces him into the fence, but he can’t get the champ down and eats more knees in the process. Good left hand lands for Ali inside the clinch, but he still can’t land a takedown and Johnson takes him down to end the round by taking the back. 10-9 Johnson.

Round Five and a massive swing misses for Ali early on. Johnson hasn’t slowed down in the slightest which is insane. Nice one-two connects for the champ. A weird squat into a jab lands flush for Johnson and he defends a takedown easily before getting the plum to land shots on Ali again. Combo lands for Mighty Mouse before Bagautinov drives him into the cage with a single leg attempt. Some beautiful knees connect for Johnson from the clinch before he drops for a takedown of his own. Ali works to defend it and does so, but Mighty Mouse separates and opens up with a combination before clinching again. Johnson’s all over him here. They break again and Bagautinov tries to get the takedown, but as he muscles Johnson down the champ pops right back up. More knees land for Mighty Mouse from the clinch. Big knee causes Bagautinov to cover up and Johnson flurries on him, but a counter right from the Dagestani slows him down a little. Takedown attempt again from Ali but Johnson defends and they break off. Ali looks exhausted. Couple of kicks miss for Johnson and it allows Ali to go for another takedown, but he still can’t get it. Seconds to go and Johnson secures the plum to land another hard knee as the fight ends. Total shutout. 50-45 Johnson.

All three judges have it 50-45 for Demetrious Johnson to retain his title. Completely one-sided fight as Bagautinov just didn’t have the speed or takedowns to deal with Mighty Mouse at all and while he was tough enough to last the distance, he basically got beaten up for 25 minutes solid. It wasn’t the greatest fight ever although you’ve got to admire the skill of Johnson and I mean, while he didn’t finish it wasn’t really for the want of trying as he hit Bagautinov with everything he had. It’s unfortunate that nobody seems to care about the guy and his fights given he’s quite clearly top five pound-for-pound in the world right now, and it must be said that if he had a Floyd Mayweather-like personality, regardless of how many of his fights go the distance, he’d probably be a massive star and a PPV draw right now. But unfortunately his personality is largely vanilla so it doesn’t work like that. Maybe he ought to take acting lessons or something?

-Highlight reel rolls and the night ends there.

Final Thoughts….

A better show on a rewatch than I originally remembered, this was unfortunately still one of the least memorable UFC PPVs of the year. The problem was that while the prelims were fine, outside of the wild brawl that was Bang/Johnson, nothing really stood out, and on the main card the top three matches were wildly one-sided (with only Rory MacDonald’s performance really standing out as special to me) and Arlovski/Schaub outright stunk. It’s a watchable show but it’s also a very long one and not the most exciting one ever. Thumbs in the middle and only a recommendation for big fans of Rory or Mighty Mouse I guess.

Best Fight: Johnson vs. Bang
Worst Fight: Arlovski vs. Schaub

Overall Rating: **3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: