MMA Review: #496: UFC 184: Rousey vs. Zingano

-Prior to a bunch of injuries this card looked like one of the most loaded in UFC history, with a double main event of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort for the Middleweight Title and Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano for the Women’s Bantamweight Title, and then two main card bouts of Antonio Silva vs. Frank Mir and Ronaldo Souza vs. Yoel Romero. Unfortunately things weren’t to be – first to drop was Silva vs. Mir; the fight was moved back a week to main event UFN 61. Next, Jacare contracted pneumonia and so his fight with Romero was scrapped. Finally, Weidman injured himself, leaving us with a shell of a card with Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington serving as the semi-main to Rousey’s title defense – the first time the top two bouts of a UFC card had been filled by women’s fights. Usually that’d put a dampener on things but for me I was still madly hyped as I’d wanted to see Ronda vs. Cat for AGES.

UFC 184: Rousey vs. Zingano

Los Angeles, California

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Featherweight Fight: Masio Fullen vs Alex Torres

These two were castmates on TUF Latin America – Fullen from Mexico, Torres representing Colombia – and this fight had initially been pegged for UFC 180 before being moved for undisclosed reasons. Neither man had done very well on the reality show – both were eliminated in the opening round of their tournament – but every single fighter off that season had brought the excitement so I was at least expecting a fun, if sloppy fight.

Round One and Torres charges in and gets TAGGED right away by punches. That leads to a brief wild trade before Torres backs up. Lot of dancing and taunting from Torres but Fullen tags him a couple of times again. Clinch from Torres is broken quickly. Torres looks like he’s trying the Machida-type style of leaping in and out with his strikes. Announcers are actually talking up Fullen as a TKD guy though which is odd. Straight right connects hard for Torres and Fullen’s legs buckle! He stumbles back and Torres charges him with punches, rocking him again, but he can’t quite land that one killer blow. Fullen is all over the place. He tries to fire back and manages to slow the Colombian up with a right of his own, but Torres is still attacking and he lands with a heavy leg kick. Wild beginning here. Head kick glances for Fullen and sets up a combo, but Torres takes him down only for the Mexican to bounce back up. Nice body kick from Torres. Head kick into a BIG RIGHT HAND lands for Torres and Fullen’s on roller skates again. He tries to fire back but he’s in deep trouble as Torres continues to tag him, but suddenly he seems out of steam and Fullen gets a takedown to guard! Crazy round. Good elbows over the top from Fullen but he decides to stand back up over him. Torres gets up but he looks exhausted. Wheel kick glances for Fullen but Torres comes back with punches that hurt Fullen again. Round finally ends with a trade out of the clinch. 10-9 Torres in an exciting one.

Round Two and Fullen stalks forward but that allows Torres to clinch and force him into the fence. They muscle along the fence with little action, but the Colombian is in control at least. Hard elbow breaks for Torres. Wheel kick misses for Torres on the counter. Takedown attempt by Torres is stuffed but it allows him to force Fullen into the cage again. Nice knee to the body from Fullen and he muscles his way out. Wild trade sees both men land right hands. Torres though seems to have lost a bit of pop in his strikes now. Takedown attempt from Torres is blocked but he does land with a right hand before slipping oddly back into the fence. He’s right back up though. Powerful right hand from Fullen sets up a flurry and now Torres has to cover up. They clinch up and Fullen works the body before breaking. Couple of kicks glance for the Mexican and he backs Torres up into the fence. Head kick glances for Fullen again. Fullen’s really pushing the pace now. Right hand lands for Torres on the counter though and snaps Fullen’s head back. Left hand connects for the Colombian too. Wild flurry ends the round for Fullen. I’d give him that one evening it up into the third.

Round Three and they EXCHANGE from the off with both men being tagged! These guys do not know the meaning of defense. Pair of right hands land on the counter for Torres again as Fullen tries to open up on him. Fullen’s still the aggressor though and he keeps pushing forward. Beautiful combination from the Mexican and he’s got Torres hurt. He unloads on him looking for a finish, but Torres manages to survive and he swings right back too. Nasty flying knee to the body from Fullen and he’s constantly landing now. Torres is on the run and he’s out of steam too. Brutal left hand from Masio. Takedown attempt from Torres but Fullen blocks it, only to find himself forced into the cage again. Fullen breaks but Torres tries the takedown again, getting really deep on a double leg this time, but he still can’t get the Mexican to the ground. Really impressive takedown defense from Fullen. Torres stays on him in the clinch but eventually Fullen spins free. Just over a minute to go and Torres takes another shot and we’re back to the clinch. Looks like Torres just doesn’t have the energy to get Fullen down. He does land with a heavy knee to the body though. They break off and Fullen lands a left hand before Torres shoots again. This time he manages to force Fullen down, but the Mexican immediately reverses back up. Torres drops for another double leg and this time Fullen grabs the cage to avoid and gets a warning. They restart in the clinch and the fight ends there. 10-9 Fullen for a 29-28 comeback win.

Official scores are 29-28 Torres, 29-28 Fullen and 29-28 for Masio Fullen to pick up the split decision win. Eh, I guess you could’ve given the third to Torres, but yeah I think the right man won. Fight was wildly exciting for the majority of the time which is what’s needed really when you’ve got two fighters who – no offense meant – are limited and have gaping holes in their game. Who am I to criticise though when they throw down like this?

Lightweight Fight: Valmir Lazaro vs James Krause

After an upset win over Sam Stout to start his UFC career, big things were expected of Krause but to this point he hadn’t really delivered, being outclassed by Jorge Masvidal in his last outing. This fight looked more winnable for him though – Lazaro had lost in an exciting but sloppy affair against James Vick in August 2014 and I didn’t think he had enough in his arsenal to beat a veteran like Krause.

First round and Lazaro opens with an inside leg kick as Krause pushes forward. Combo glances for Lazaro. Pair of low kicks answer for Krause. Another leg kick sets up a combo for Lazaro as Krause fires out a few times with a stiff jab. Right hand over the top glances for Lazaro. Low kick and a right to the body land for the Brazilian too as he’s doing a good job of picking at Krause from the outside. Beautiful quick takedown from Krause and he gets the back standing as Lazaro pops up. He turns into Krause and works to prevent him being taken back down. Lazaro spins him around and then breaks off, landing a left hand to the body and an overhand right too. Left to the body connects for Krause. Pair of stiff jabs from Lazaro. Takedown attempt from Krause and he forces Lazaro into the fence again. Again though he can’t get the Brazilian down and they break off. Less than a minute remaining in the round now and Lazaro lands on a quick combo. He seems to have found his range now and he unloads on Krause before hitting a very fast sprawl. Krause comes back with a body kick as the round ends. Close round, I’d go 10-9 Lazaro.

Second round and Krause almost takes Lazaro off his feet with a low kick. Lazaro immediately comes back with a combination. Takedown from Krause but Lazaro springs right back up and then avoids the clinch before tagging him with a combo. Looks like Krause’s right eye is busted up badly. They exchange jabs before Lazaro stuffs a takedown. Nice counter left jab from Lazaro snaps Krause’s head back. Right answers for Krause. Exchange continues with Krause landing a left hook to the body. These are really even exchanges actually. Few more shots from Lazaro snap Krause’s head back. Krause is the aggressor but Lazaro is still countering sharply. Inadvertent low blow from Krause forces Big John McCarthy to call time. They restart and the exchanges continue. Both men are really using the jab well but they’re not doing the best of job of defending it. Takedown attempt from Krause is stuffed. Hard left hook sets up a chopping leg kick for Lazaro. Couple more jabs answer for Krause. Takedown is again defended by the Brazilian. Round ends with Lazaro as the aggressor. 10-10 round as both men got in some good shots but took their fair share too.

Third and final round and it’s more of the same with both men exchanging long jabs and combinations. Krause seems to be pushing forward more. I think he’s getting the worse of it though and he’s definitely more marked up. Triple jab from Lazaro. Krause looks like he’s slowing down more. Pair of phenomenal combos from Lazaro end in two chopping leg kicks. Krause gets a takedown but again Lazaro springs right back up. Krause gets his back standing though and somehow manages to land a head kick (!) from there. Lazaro separates though and clocks him with a pair of counter lefts. Good kick to the body from Lazaro and Krause shakes his head which means it probably hurt him. Another sweet combo lands for Lazaro. Exchange continues and Krause keeps pushing the pace. Takedown attempt from Lazaro is easily shrugged off by Krause. Both men look tired now, with thirty seconds to go. Nice right hand lands for Krause. Combo lands for him too as the round ends. 10-10 round again so I’d go 30-29 for Lazaro. Could easily go either way.

Judges have it another split decision, 29-28 Lazaro, 29-28 Krause and 29-28 for Valmir Lazaro. Again I’d say it was a close fight that you could’ve called for Krause, but I’d say the right man won in the end. Pretty decent striking match actually as they put on a fast pace and never really slowed down, even if neither man came anywhere near to a finish.

Heavyweight Fight: Derrick Lewis vs Ruan Potts

On paper if I’m honest this one looked like a squash, as prior to a loss to Matt Mitrione in a wild and short fight, Lewis had looked like a very dangerous man indeed in the HW division while South Africa’s Potts had looked undersized and pretty bad in both of his UFC losses to date. Lewis by knockout seemed like the obvious choice.

Fight begins and they circle before Lewis lands with a hard body kick. Potts looks incredibly awkward with his striking. Half-shot misses for Potts but he manages to clinch and force Lewis backwards. Lewis takes him down for a second though before Potts pops up. They remain clinched and Lewis lands low, forcing referee Jeren Velel to call a clean break. They restart and Potts lands with a couple of kicks as Potts stalks forward. Big shot from Lewis makes Potts stumble and he goes down, and Lewis follows with some bombs before Potts rolls for a kneebar. Lewis actually looks like he’s in trouble, but he rolls and for a split second it looks like he might be tapping, but instead he rolls again and manages to slip free and escape to his feet. Takedown attempt from Potts and he actually gets Lewis down into half-guard. Action slows down as it looks like Potts might be working on a kimura, but he seems more content to grind Lewis down with his elbow. Weird move follows as Potts gives up position and allows Lewis on top. Lewis drops some shots but then has to avoid another leglock attempt. Big right hand drops down from Lewis and Potts is hurt. He tries to grab an ankle, but he’s taking more shots from Lewis. They stand and Lewis lands with some elbows to the head as Potts looks to get him back down. Round ends there. 10-9 Potts I guess, not the best round though.

Into the 2nd and Lewis misses on a big head kick but lands a left hand. Potts clinches and they tumble to the ground, but as they pop up Lewis clocks him with a BRUTAL LEFT and the South African goes down. Lewis continues to punch as Potts clings to the leg before dropping to his back. Lewis drops down into the guard with an elbow, and it looks like both men might be taking a bit of a rest here. Triangle attempt from Potts is easily shrugged off and Lewis moves into side mount for a moment before putting himself back into half-guard. BIG PUNCHES begin to get through for Lewis and Potts is clearly hurt and not really defending. Lewis mounts him and it looks for a second like he’s going to go for an arm triangle (!) but he gives that up to land more heavy blows instead. Lewis just has some ludicrous power in his shots. He’s taking his time too as Potts looks about done. More shots land for the Black Beast and finally the ref calls it.

Potts had more success than I expected actually – mainly due to Lewis being slightly sloppy in the first round – but once the Black Beast really started landing this turned into a largely one-sided beating. Lewis is a limited guy but that power is always going to be a factor, especially at Heavyweight. Potts has since been cut from the UFC in an unsurprising move as he just didn’t seem quite on that level. Not the worst fight ever but it was definitely your stereotypical somewhat sloppy HW fight.

Welterweight Fight: Tim Means vs Dhiego Lima

This one was a tricky one to call as both men had looked decent in their previous fight – Means with a clear-cut decision win over TUF Brazil’s Marcio ‘Lyoto’, and Lima decisioning striker Jorge de Oliveira. Means seemed like the safer pick due to Lima’s chin issues, but I was still clinging to the hope of Lima as a top prospect at 170lbs and was hoping he’d pull out the win.

Round One and they circle with Means landing with a couple of kicks. He’s really stalking Lima right now. Good low kick from Lima. Body kick follows. Combo from Means forces the TUF finalist backwards. Long left hand glances for Means and a combo stuns Lima. Pair of short elbows from the clinch cause Dhiego’s knees to buckle and he goes down, and Means immediately pounces and looks to put him away. Lima rolls and tries to get up, but he’s eating some bombs from Means. He gets to his feet but Means keeps him clinched and NAILS him with an elbow that snaps his head back. Lima tries to trade back but he’s outgunned here. Means backs up before coming back in with another combo, wobbling Lima again with a left. Knee from Means and he shrugs off a takedown, and Lima’s legs are GONE. He tries to fire back but a CRUSHING LEFT sends him down and this time Herb Dean steps in to prevent another flurry from Means. That was a beatdown, wow.

Lima definitely has some chin issues but I’d say that was Means’ best UFC showing yet as he just sliced right through the defences and slaughtered him inside the clinch with elbows and punches. Performance was a lot like Matt Brown actually and of course that’s only ever going to be a positive! Really vicious stuff from Tim Means.

Bantamweight Fight: Kid Yamamoto vs Roman Salazar

Man, I know he’s years past his prime and all but Kid Yamamoto as a prelim guy against someone like Salazar – who got a UFC opportunity due to being a last-minute replacement – never ceases to make me sad. Kid is a legend but I guess because he never fought in PRIDE he’s just not treated the same as a Gomi or Nogueira. Anyway despite him having been on the shelf since February 2012 (!) and not having a win on his ledger since 2010 (!!) I was still taking him to beat Salazar somehow.

Hard to believe Kid is pushing 40 now. Round One begins and Kid comes out swinging, keeping a low stance and taunting Salazar early. He’s dancing around on the outside and looks pretty comfortable in there. Wild swing misses for Salazar. Kid continues to move around on the outside but Salazar lands with a body kick. Wild overhand right misses for Kid. Good knee connects for Salazar. Counter right hand from Yamamoto. Takedown attempt from Salazar is shrugged off pretty easily. Nice lunging right uppercut lands for Kid. Low kick follows. Eye poke from Salazar and Big John McCarthy has to call time to let Kid recover. They restart and Kid continues to circle on the outside before shrugging off a clinch and landing a right hand. This has been a bit of a nothing round actually. Low kick lands for Kid. Seconds to go and Kid stays on the outside before glancing on a couple of shots before the buzzer. 10-9 Kid.

Round Two and Kid lands a solid inside leg kick that Salazar catches and uses to hit a double leg. Good job from Kid to spring back up almost right away though. Right hook glances for Yamamoto. Kid seems to still have a lot of his quickness considering he’s 37. Lunging uppercut glances for him. Clinch from Roman but Kid shrugs him off. Another eye poke follows, this time to Salazar. Big John calls time again and lets him recover before they restart. Nice left hand connects for Salazar. He’s attacking a little more now. Counter left connects for Kid. Couple of combos follow but don’t land cleanly. Roman rushes forward but takes another accidental poke and this one looks bad. Big John calls time and basically says outright that it was an accident. This time a doctor gets called in and Roman is like “Oh my God it’s blurry!” but Big John says he’s got all the time he wants. Doctor apparently says he has a likely corneal abrasion (!) but Big John still seems adamant that he’ll be alright. More time passes by and Salazar still can’t see. Crowd begin to boo which is totally unfair really given the serious nature of an eye poke. Big John asks him one more time and he still can’t see, so the fight’s thrown out there.

Fight is declared a No Contest which is the fair result as it was a total accident. Total anticlimax overall as I was hoping – probably with heart more than head – for a Kid squash and in the end we got a largely uneventful fight with a really bad ending, leaving Kid still looking for his first UFC win.

Middleweight Fight: Mark Munoz vs Roan Carneiro

ATT’s Carneiro was making his return to UFC action following six years on the smaller circuit, and was coming off an impressive victory in a tournament that saw him pick up three wins in one night. Dude was also in Warrior which will always make him cool in my book. Poor Munoz meanwhile had defied calls for him to retire after a pair of one-sided losses to Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida, and was looking for his first win since August 2013. With Carneiro coming up from 170lbs and being 37 years old with 15 years of pro MMA under his belt, this did seem like a winnable fight for Munoz.

First round begins and Carneiro stalks forward and lands with an early leg kick. Takedown attempt from Munoz but Carneiro catches his neck and forces him down, taking top position in side mount. Munoz seems okay but Carneiro’s in firm control. Scramble from Munoz but he gives his back and Carneiro gets both hooks in and SINKS THE CHOKE! Munoz CLEARLY PASSES OUT but for some reason it takes the ref FOREVER to step in and call it. Wow, that was some bad refereeing.

Post-fight Munoz takes a while to come round which is quite scary really. I know he didn’t tap but he was blatantly unconscious for at least a few seconds before the ref stepped in. Bad stuff. One-sided squash really as Munoz made one mistake and let a high-level BJJ guy take his back, and it was over from there. Probably Carneiro’s best career victory in fact. As for Munoz, he could’ve retired after this one and nobody would’ve been surprised but credit to him, he managed to pick up one last win before hanging it up. Beautiful finish from a technical standpoint at any rate even if the ref job stunk.

Lightweight Fight: Tony Ferguson vs Gleison Tibau

Initially TUF 13 winner Ferguson – on a real surge up the ranks since his return from a broken arm in 2013 – was set to face Yancy Medeiros here, but when Yancy pulled out with an injury the fight became much more intriguing to me when longtime gatekeeper-to-the-elite Tibau stepped in. Despite Tibau being a tough out for anyone at 155lbs I’ve long been a believer that Ferguson’s got title contender potential and I was picking him to win here in a breakout performance.

Round One begins and Ferguson comes out dancing around, looking confident. Slip puts Tibau down early but he pops right back up and is unhurt. Good low kick from Tony. Body kick follows and he gets out of the way of Tibau’s counter. Hard left hand lands for Tibau in an exchange. Great head movement allows Ferguson to avoid a combo from Tibau. Beautiful counter right from Ferguson puts Tibau down, but he pops back up after absorbing a couple of shots. Combo lands for Ferguson and as Tibau stays in the pocket and tries to fire back, Ferguson lands with a HARD RIGHT HAND to the temple that has the Brazilian reeling! He’s on rubber legs and Ferguson quickly closes him down with a knee to the body. Weak takedown attempt from Tibau allows Ferguson to grab a front headlock and snap him down. Ferguson gives up on a choke attempt and decides to land punches with the Brazilian on all fours, and from there he spins around and takes the back! More punches land for Ferguson before he gets both hooks in and SINKS THE CHOKE! Tapout is academic.

Awesome performance from Tony Ferguson – just the type of thing I was hoping to see from him in fact and if anything he was even more impressive than I was hoping – nobody had really done that to Tibau before and yet Ferguson made it look easy, hurting him on the feet and then putting him away with style on the ground. It’s taken him a little longer than I expected – I’ve been touting him as a possible contender since 2011! – but I’d say Ferguson is definitely there now and if he can beat Khabib Nurmagomedov in December then a title shot is likely to be his. I don’t think anyone can sleep on him now.

Welterweight Fight: Alan Jouban vs Richard Walsh

This one was interesting as it was a rare fight between two fighters coming off losses that should’ve been wins had MMA been using better judges. Part-time model Jouban – a Cristiano Ronaldo lookalike and slick striker – had come off on the wrong end of a decision to hot prospect Warlley Alves, while Aussie TUF Nations veteran Walsh was robbed against Kiichi Kunimoto in Japan. I was picking Jouban based on the fact that he probably should’ve beaten Alves, who I’m massively high on right now. Side note but it’s absolutely insane, considering how these guys look, that Jouban is actually SEVEN YEARS older than Walsh and is somehow 33!

First round begins and Walsh begins to pressure forward, throwing kicks and landing with a cracking one to the body. Head kick glances for the Aussie and a pair of right hands force Jouban back. Right hand counter connects for Jouban though. Clinch from Walsh and he forces Jouban back into the fence. Two knees to the body land for Walsh but Jouban breaks and lands with a body kick. Overhand right answers right back for Walsh. Head kick is blocked by Jouban. These guys are really swinging. Spinning backfist misses for Jouban. Walsh continues to stalk forward and connects on another nasty body kick. Jouban comes back with a heavy body kick of his own but Walsh somehow walks through it. Tough guy! Straight left lands for Jouban. Clinch attempt from Walsh but Jouban uses his own momentum against him and absolutely CRACKS HIM with a BRUTAL LEFT ELBOW! Walsh’s knees buckle and Jouban UNLOADS ON HIM, dropping him with a flurry and that’s it!

Tremendously exciting fight from start to finish right there. Walsh came out swinging, Jouban was happy to oblige him in a firefight and both men landed some huge shots before Jouban really stunned the Aussie with that nasty elbow and then just put him away with some phenomenal killer instinct. Dude is perhaps too old to be considered a real blue-chip prospect but man is he exciting, and recent reports have him signing a sponsorship deal with VERSACE. Which would automatically make him one of the UFC’s biggest stars in my book! This was brilliant in every possible way.

Welterweight Fight: Jake Ellenberger vs Josh Koscheck

These two former title contenders had been on a real slide in the past couple of years, with Ellenberger’s last win being in March 2013 over Nate Marquardt and Koscheck’s being even further back – a February 2012 win over Mike Pierce. General consensus was the loser’s UFC career would probably be over. In their primes I’d have taken Koscheck but I figured he looked more shot than Ellenberger and so I was taking the Juggernaut by KO.

Round One and both men come out swinging, looking to work with jabs and the overhand right. Takedown attempt from Koscheck and he gets Ellenberger down, working into half-guard, but Jake has his back against the fence and he scrambles to get up. Koscheck takes his back as he stands, but Ellenberger turns into him and works to block another takedown. Foot stomps by Koscheck but he still can’t get Ellenberger off his feet. Both men land knees to the body, and finally Ellenberger breaks free. Koscheck suddenly looks a little gunshy and it’s Ellenberger now who pushes forward throwing the punches. Couple of stiff shots land for him and Koscheck nods in acknowledgment, and seems to be pulling back and wincing due to his left eye as per usual since the second GSP fight. Takedown is avoided by Ellenberger and he lands with a nasty right hand and follows with a left. Koscheck shows a good poker face but he’s clearly hurt here. Seconds to go and Koscheck is firmly on the retreat as the round ends. 10-9 Ellenberger.

Round Two and Koscheck shoots from the off, driving Ellenberger into the fence, but he can’t get him off his feet as Jake shows good defense. Koscheck is relentless and keeps trying, but he still can’t get Ellenberger down. Referee decides to call a clean break and Ellenberger paws at Koscheck with a jab which causes him to turn his head away a couple of times. Nice right hand from Ellenberger wobbles Koscheck’s legs for a second. Koscheck is wiping at his left eye now big time. Ellenberger’s landing with the majority of his shots too. Left hand drops Koscheck to a knee for a second but he pops back up. Single leg attempt from Koscheck and he drives Ellenberger into the fence again. Still no dice on the takedown though and this time Ellenberger wraps up his neck into a choke variant! He forces Koscheck down onto his back and really squeezes, and in a SICK VISUAL the camera catches Koscheck FOAMING AT THE MOUTH before he finally taps out. Wow.

That was Ellenberger’s first submission win in the UFC and his first submission in general since 2006! Probably a career-saver for him too as he really had his back to the wall coming into this one, but the win should give him at least another three or four UFC fights before it’s likely time for him to hang them up. As for Koscheck it was realistically time for him to hang it up after this fight – he couldn’t apply his wrestling game and while his offensive striking seemed fine at first, once Jake hit him he had the same eye problems he’s always had post-GSP – but we’ll talk more about Kos and his situation when I get to his final UFC outing. Fight was fine, nothing special but the sick ending made it more memorable.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington

This fight was initially signed for December’s UFC 181, but was postponed until this show due to an injury to Holm. The hype naturally was all on Holm, a former professional boxing champion who was hyped as possibly a big threat to Ronda Rousey due to her striking game, but realistically she’d been crushing cans for the majority of her pre-UFC MMA career and so Pennington was going to be her toughest test to date, as despite her patchy record, she’s a really good fighter, well-rounded and tough as leather. My pick was Holm just because of that great striking game, but I was definitely expecting Rocky to put up a fight.

First round begins and Holm comes out with a low stance and circles on the outside, throwing a side kick as well as some low kicks and a superman punch. None land cleanly and Pennington shoots for a takedown, but Holm stuffs it and forces her into the fence before breaking off. Couple of punches land for Holly and then she clinches briefly before separating. Combo from Holm and she follows with a straight left. Lot of side kicks from Holm too. Brief trade sees Holm look like the quicker striker and she lands some punches and a knee to the body. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Holm who lands a knee to the body and a right hand on the way out. Good low kick from Pennington. Kick is caught by Raquel who goes for the takedown, but again Holm defends and they end up in the clinch. Both women land some knees inside before Holm breaks off. Looks like Pennington wants to draw her into a firefight, but Holm seems content to stay on the outside and keep her on the end of her punches. Handful of good shots get through for Holm but don’t seem to hurt Pennington. Head kick is blocked well by Rocky. Right hand from Pennington and she tries to stalk forward, but Holm shows good movement to get out of the way. Round ends with a Holm side kick. 10-9 Holm.

Second round and Holm opens with some left hands before Pennington comes back with a hard body kick. Low kick from Pennington is countered by a quick combo. Nice leg kick from Pennington but she’s still eating more punches even if they don’t seem to be really hurting her. Really fast combination connects for Holly. Combo again from Holm and she shrugs off a clinch attempt. She uses the side kick to keep her distance again too. Head kick again just misses for Holm. Pennington is just struggling to get inside to land anything significant. Beautiful left hand to the body from Holm. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Holm again and she lands a knee to the body on the exit. Another attempt is stuffed but this time Pennington connects with a hard right-left. She can’t quite catch Holm though who goes right back to landing shots from the outside. Less than a minute to go and Holm answers a leg kick with a left to the body. Holm’s cardio seems excellent as well as she’s showing no sign of slowing down at all. Clinch from Raquel but she doesn’t do much with it and Holm lands some knees inside and breaks with a right hand. One-two ends the round for Pennington. 10-9 Holm even if she hasn’t really hurt Rocky yet.

Third and final round and Pennington opens with a leg kick and throws a ton of punches, again trying to draw Holm into a brawl. Holm stays on the outside though and lands with a left to the body before dodging a flurry. Nice counter uppercut from Holly as Raquel tries to wade in. Right hook follows and she seems to be landing harder shots now Pennington’s attacking more. Couple of high kicks miss for Holm and Pennington comes back with a leg kick. Left hand from Holm but Pennington comes back with a right that snaps Holly’s head back. Holm fires right back with a pair of lefts. Combo from Holm but Pennington lands with a counter right. Rushing combo from Holm. She’s backing up a lot more in this round though. Body kick from Holm but Pennington tags her with a right that knocks her down! Holm quickly gets back up as Raquel tries to follow in, and she clinches with some knees to slow the TUF veteran down. Knee separates for Holm and she stuffs a takedown attempt. Right hook lands nicely for Pennington on the break. Combo from Holm ending in a body kick but Pennington is really swinging back now in desperation mode. Nice counter right lands for Pennington. Another one connects as Holm tries a combo. Crowd are way behind Pennington suddenly. High kick is blocked by Raquel. Combo from Holm but Pennington fires back. Round ends with Pennington swinging wildly. Closest round of the three but I’d still have it 10-9 Holm for a 30-27 win.

Judges have it as a split decision; 29-28 Holm, 29-28 Pennington and 30-27 for Holly Holm to pick up her first UFC win. Not sure how that was a split as while you could maybe award Pennington for aggression, even that was only in the third round as she probably knew she was down on the scorecards. This was a sort-of impressive debut for Holm as she definitely did enough to beat Pennington and showed excellent movement, timing and striking skill, but she also reminded me a lot of early Lyoto Machida in that she picked her opponent apart without showing much in the way of power in her shots. It took Machida quite a while to adjust in order to be able to pack his well-timed shots with power and so I expect the same thing for Holm, which is why it’s a bit frustrating that they’re having her fight for the title in her third UFC fight. Don’t see it going well for her but to be fair bigger upsets have happened before. This debut wasn’t the most exciting fight of all time but from a technical standpoint it was perfectly acceptable.

UFC Women’s World Bantamweight Title: Ronda Rousey vs Cat Zingano

When all the big UFC title fights coming at the start of 2015 were announced, this was the one that had me the most excited – even over stuff like Jones vs. Cormier and Velasquez vs. Werdum. Rousey had of course proven to be a force of nature since arriving in the UFC – in MMA in general in fact – and she’d beaten her last two opponents – top-five ranked Sara McMann and Alexis Davis – in less than 1:30 combined. And that’s not even touching on the fact that her star had been ascending faster than anyone in the sport not named Conor McGregor, to the point where she was arguably the UFC’s most popular champion coming into this defense. But to me Zingano was her toughest challenge to date as she’d shown excellent striking and grappling in both of her UFC victories (Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes) and more to the point, she’d also shown herself to be incredibly tough both mentally and physically – coming back from a severe knee injury and the suicide of her husband to destroy Nunes in her return fight. It was obvious that Ronda had a ton of advantages here – namely that she’s a quick starter and a ruthless finisher, while Cat had shown herself to be a bit of a slow starter in her previous fights – but I still felt that somehow, Cat could drag the champion into the sort of gutter-war she’d never faced before. I was picking Ronda but really rooting for Cat.

Fight begins and Cat comes CHARGING OUT WITH A FLYING KNEE AND DUMPS RONDA ONTO HER HEAD! They hit the floor and Rousey instantly reverses, takes the back and LOCKS UP THE ARMBAR FOR THE TAPOUT! God damnit.

Replays actually show the WHOLE FIGHT like four or five times as it was over in FOURTEEN SECONDS. Ridiculous stuff. Basically Cat made the error of coming out too aggressively – probably due to over-thinking the idea that she’s a slow starter – and ended up running right into Ronda’s wheelhouse and there’s literally nobody more ruthless at finishing from that position than Ronda Rousey. Say what you will about Cat fighting a stupid fight but I mean, who else in that division could’ve hit an armbar like that from that position? The answer is clearly nobody, and that’s why Rousey is the best women’s fighter out there by far right now.

Post-fight Cat is just a broken woman, seemingly unable to quite comprehend what’s happened in a really uncomfortable and quite frankly totally unfair interview. Bad move from Joe Rogan as he should’ve cut the promo short once it was clear she wasn’t in a clear frame of mind. I just hope she can come back from this – it’s not quite like say, Rory MacDonald trying to come back from the Robbie Lawler loss or Koscheck returning from that eye injury, but psychologically it’s probably just as bad. As for Ronda, this to me was the fight that really pushed her into the realm of super-stardom that only a handful of fighters (Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar, GSP) have ever reached in MMA – it was a weak card overall and while Cat was a popular fighter with the arena crowds, she wasn’t a massive star herself and yet the PPV drew about 600,000 buys, which is insane really. And somehow she’s only become a BIGGER STAR since this fight, but then a 14-second win in a PPV main event will do that to you. Unbelievable.

-Show ends with a highlight as Goldie and Rogan embrace Ronda’s absolute dominance.

Final Thoughts….

Card wasn’t heavy on name value but in terms of sheer action it delivered in spades, with only three fights on the card going the distance, and everything else (barring the anticlimactic Yamamoto/Salazar fight) ending in highlight reel fashion – in particular for Carneiro, Jouban, Ferguson, Ellenberger, Means and of course Rousey. Main event is probably viewable literally anywhere and everywhere right now due to the speed and shocking nature of it but the whole card is definitely worth a look if you missed it first time around as it’s one of the best shows of 2015. Two thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Jouban vs. Walsh
Worst Fight: Lewis vs. Potts

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: