MMA Review: #497: UFC 185: Pettis vs. Dos Anjos

-Maybe I’m easily pleased when it comes to the UFC, but when the whole card for this show was announced I immediately thought it could be one of the best cards on paper that the company had ever put on; headlined by two title fights and seconded by Johny Hendricks vs. Matt Brown and Alistair Overeem vs. Roy Nelson, as well as prospects like Henry Cejudo, Elias Theodorou, Beneil Dariush and Jared Rosholt on the undercard. Sure, it didn’t sound like it would draw as much as the previous three PPV shows but it was definitely a better fight card overall.

UFC 185: Pettis vs. Dos Anjos

03/14/15
Dallas, Texas

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Germaine De Randamie vs Larissa Pacheco

Dutch kickboxer De Randamie had been on the shelf for some time prior to this fight – since November 2013 in fact – but this looked like a good fight for her in my opinion as Pacheco, no offense, had looked just too inexperienced to really make a mark in the UFC and had had barely any success in her UFC debut loss to Jessica Andrade. With De Randamie possessing one of the more dangerous striking games in the division I was taking her to pick up a TKO win.

Round One begins and they circle around with De Randamie throwing some leg kicks in the early going. Hard right hand hurts Pacheco but she stays calm and manages to stay vertical. Body kick also lands for Germaine. Another right hand connects for the Dutchwoman too. Pacheco looks like she’s struggling to connect on anything really. Brutal uppercut from Germaine snaps the Brazilian’s head back. She’s landing some nasty jabs too. One-two snaps Pacheco’s head back again. She’s got a good chin at least to be taking this. Another one-two connects for Germaine. Some sort of spinning attack misses for Pacheco and she eats another right cross. Takedown attempt from Pacheco and she forces Germaine into the fence, but she can’t get her down and the Dutchwoman ends up freeing herself. More jabs and crossed land for Germaine but to be fair to Pacheco she’s still coming forward and taking these shots well. Big uppercut rocks Pacheco but she tells Germaine to bring it on. Round ends on the feet with Germaine really opening up with a combo. 10-9 De Randamie.

Round Two and Germaine opens with a right hand into a slick leg kick. Pacheco still can’t get anything going and she’s struggling to even get into range. Couple of kicks glance for Larissa but Germaine just looks unbelievably chilled. Big combo from Germaine. Head kick follows but the forearm of Pacheco absorbs some of the impact. Big overhand right wobbles the Brazilian and Germaine wades in with a flurry that has her rocked for sure. Big shots land and send Pacheco wobbling into the fence and a couple of overhand rights have the referee flying in for the rare standing stoppage.

Fight basically went how I expected – Pacheco was massively outgunned standing and Germaine basically just picked her apart right up until the finish. No surprise really when you think De Randamie, although she’s limited by a weaker ground game, is one of the best strikers in the division by far. Pacheco probably needs some more time gaining experience on the smaller fight circuit while I hope De Randamie can fight more often now.

Lightweight Fight: Joseph Duffy vs Jake Lindsey

Coming into his UFC debut (despite a failed TUF run that everyone seems to have forgotten) there was a lot of hype around Duffy, and surprisingly not because of his excellent record of 12-1. Unsurprisingly, the hype came because he was the last fighter to beat current superstar Conor McGregor – he submitted him with a triangle choke in late 2010. The word was, although I hadn’t seen much of him, that he had a ton of skill and would be dangerous to the whole division. Lindsey seemed like a softball for him for his debut too, as he’d lost his previous two UFC fights and hadn’t looked great in doing so. The pick for me was Duffy with a first round finish.

First round begins and Duffy shows a ton of nice movement and tags Lindsey with some early punches although he takes a leg kick in the process. Nice right hand to the temple from Duffy. Big combo lands for Duffy and a leg kick almost takes Lindsey off his feet. One-two follows and rocks Lindsey, forcing him to cover up. Lindsey comes back with a leg kick of his own but he’s getting eaten up on the feet here. Couple of jabs set up a right hand from Duffy. Head kick wobbles Lindsey and he’s in trouble. Combination follows including a big left hand to the body and Lindsey doubles over and goes down for the TKO stoppage.

Well, that was about as impressive a UFC debut as you could make, even if Lindsey seemed overmatched. Duffy definitely looked like the real deal and it looks like the UFC are going to push him hard from the off, with Dustin Poirier being his next opponent in what sounds like a barnburner. This was a total highlight reel finish for the Irishman.

Flyweight Fight: Sergio Pettis vs Ryan Benoit

This was the younger Pettis’s first drop to 125lbs – the weight class I’d expected to see him in when he first signed with the UFC – and after looking progressively better with each UFC appearance I was expecting this one to be another step in the right direction, as opponent Benoit hadn’t fought since a December 2013 loss to Josh Sampo and his style seemed like a good match for Sergio.

Round One and Pettis looks super calm, staying on the outside before landing a glancing head kick and then a nice leg kick. Nice combo tags Benoit. Body kick follows but Benoit stays in the pocket and fires right back. Flicking jab from Sergio. Couple more combinations follow as Benoit swings a bit wildly and doesn’t really land. Pettis has some beautiful techniques with his combinations. Another body kick lands for Pettis but Benoit manages a clinch and a takedown. SICK reversal from Sergio though and he takes top position in half-guard. Action slows down a bit as Pettis controls Benoit nicely, then decides to let him back up. Head kick glances for Sergio. Benoit’s nose is all bloody. Wheel kick misses for Pettis. Front kick lands flush and now Benoit really looks busted up. Takedown from Pettis into the guard with about thirty seconds to go. Big flurry gets through for Pettis from the top and the round ends there. 10-9 Pettis.

Round Two and Benoit comes out swinging, backing Pettis up early, but he eats a crisp right hand counter. Slick footwork allows Pettis to avoid a big flurry. Single leg attempt from Pettis is stuffed, but he lands a left hand and a glancing head kick on the break. Nice combination follows. Few jabs now land for Pettis who looks super-confident. Body kick lands for Benoit though. Benoit keeps on swinging but Pettis is catching him with the better shots. Takedown attempt from Pettis is stuffed again. Exchange of punches and BENOIT DROPS HIM WITH A LEFT HAND! Sergio goes DOWN and Benoit POUNCES AND FINISHES HIM OFF! Crowd go INSANE as Benoit is the hometown kid.

That was a ridiculous finish and a MASSIVE comeback from Benoit as he was getting owned for pretty much the whole fight, in all areas too, and yet he still managed to land the one big bomb that was enough to put Sergio away. Just goes to show that you can’t count anyone out in MMA. Unfortunately though replays show Benoit put a sour feel on things as he kicked Pettis in the butt while he was down post-stoppage. No idea why you’d do that. Massive victory for Benoit, however. One of the best comebacks I can remember in a long time.

Heavyweight Fight: Jared Rosholt vs Josh Copeland

Prospect Rosholt was coming off his first UFC loss here – an unexpected KO at the hands of Oleksiy Oliynyk in a fight he was winning handily – and this one looked like a good fight for him to get back on the horse with, as Copeland had been unsuccessful in his UFC debut against Ruslan Magomedov (another fighter to watch at HW) and looked undersized for the division despite coming in at the 265lbs limit. I suspected Rosholt would be able to use his powerful wrestling game to grind out either a decision or a TKO here.

Round One and they circle, with literally no action in the opening minute which doesn’t impress the crowd at ALL. Takedown attempt from Rosholt and he drives Copeland into the fence, controlling him but not really doing all that much with the position as Copeland desperately tries to shake him off. Referee Dan Miragliotta calls a break and we’re back to the center of the cage. More circling follows with Rosholt landing a hard right hand and avoiding some bombs from Copeland. Good jab from Copeland but Rosholt clocks him with another big right. Another right hand, albeit a shorter one, connects for him too as Copeland leans forward. Nice counter right from Copeland slows Rosholt down and sends him into retreat mode, but Copeland can’t really capitalise as Rosholt clinches again and forces him back into the fence. Couple of shots land to the body for Rosholt. Round ends there as the crowd boo. 10-9 Rosholt, could’ve gone either way though. Bad round overall.

Round Two and Copeland steps in with a jab. Duck-under from Rosholt but he can’t get hold of Copeland. Left hand from Rosholt but he’s really leaning in to close the distance which is dangerous. Crowd begin to boo again with 1:30 gone in the round. Short right connects for Rosholt and that leads to a brief trade with neither man landing the bomb. Good takedown defense from Copeland to avoid being planted. Nice right hand from Rosholt. More boos follow. Body kick (!) from Rosholt. Copeland wades forward but eats a knee from Rosholt. Left glances for Copeland. Couple of jabs set up a deep double leg for Rosholt and this time he dumps Copeland onto his back and lands a heavy right hand. Rosholt settles into half-guard with Copeland pinned against the fence, and he pins Copeland’s left arm for good measure. Rosholt ties up the right hand over Copeland’s head and now he’s in trouble. Punches connect for Rosholt and he drops some heavy elbows too. Side mount now for Rosholt but it looks like Copeland might survive the round. Big shots to the body for Rosholt. Round ends with some more elbows. 10-9 Rosholt.

Round Three and Copeland pushes forward to begin the round, obviously figuring he needs a stoppage. Left hand glances for Rosholt. Another one sets up a takedown attempt and despite Copeland throwing punches, he gets him down into side mount. Punches to the body from Rosholt and Copeland looks out of gas too. Rosholt gets knee-on-belly and continues to drop elbows and punches, then pins Copeland’s right arm to the ground for good measure. Brutal elbows connect for Rosholt and this is pretty much all over. Copeland is visibly wincing now. He turns onto his side but continues to absorb bombs, and a CRUSHING left elbow sets up a big flurry and from there Big Dan steps in to stop it. TKO for Rosholt.

Not the most entertaining fight ever and it was downright bad at times, but once Rosholt began to get takedowns he really took over the fight and worked Copeland over to get his first UFC finish, which is always a good thing. I’m still high on Rosholt as a prospect but admittedly, it does feel like he hasn’t quite developed how I was expecting when he first signed with the UFC. To be fair though that could be down to the fact that he hasn’t really needed to develop much – outside of the Oliynyk loss which felt a little fluke-ish, he’s been able to use his powerful wrestling to grind everyone else out. Hopefully he will improve more now he’s headed to the upper echelon of the division – Stefan Struve is the next fight in November, which should definitely be a tougher test for him.

Lightweight Fight: Beneil Dariush vs Daron Cruickshank

Classic striker vs. grappler match here with the flashy kickboxer Cruickshank against a very skilled grappler in Dariush, although to be fair Dariush’s stand-up – like Fabricio Werdum’s and Rafael Dos Anjos’s, another two fighters training under Rafael Cordeiro – had looked much improved in his last couple of fights. It was for that reason I was picking him to win, as Cruickshank, while always fun to watch, is a much more limited fighter.

First round begins and Dariush presses the action and lands a body kick. Cruickshank comes back with a leg kick but Dariush lands one of his own. Head kick from Cruickshank but Dariush fires back with a left hand and a knee from the clinch that almost has Daron going for the surprising takedown. He decides against that though and backs out. Combo misses for Dariush. HARD body kick lands for Dariush. Quick combo from Cruickshank answers to defend a clinch attempt. Another body kick lands for Dariush and he’s really backing Cruickshank up so far. You wouldn’t know Cruickshank was meant to be a far better striker to be honest. Left hand into a beautiful body kick from Dariush. Leg kick from Cruickshank and he follows with a right and a spinning leg kick (!). Superman punch glances for Dariush. Body kick connects again. Axe kick misses for Cruickshank and Dariush clinches, but Daron pushes him off quickly. Low kick from Cruickshank but he takes yet another body kick. Takedown attempt from Cruickshank is stuffed. He’s being wrecked by these body kicks. Another one lands for the Iranian. Superkick (!) glances for Cruickshank. This is awesome. Flying knee from Cruickshank is caught and Dariush tackles him with a double leg. Daron tries for a switch, but he can’t get it and Dariush drops some vicious elbows from half-guard, while pinning the arm. D’Arce choke attempt and Cruickshank is in deep shit. He can’t quite sink it though and the round ends there. Fantastic round for Beneil Dariush; 10-9.

Second round and Cruickshank throws out some punches, but gets tagged by a left hand and a knee from the Iranian. Flying knee misses for Dariush and Cruickshank gets his back for a second, then releases to hit him with a body kick and a left. Dariush fires right back so Cruickshank shoots for the takedown, but Dariush stuffs it. Right hand from Cruickshank but Dariush catches him with a hard knee to the body. Nice combo from Cruickshank and he shoots in again, but Dariush reverses on the way down and takes top position with Cruickshank on his knees. Cruickshank tries to switch for another takedown, but in a slick move Dariush suddenly takes his back with one hook! Second hook is in for the Iranian and it looks like he might float into an armbar on the left arm. Beautiful reversal from Cruickshank though and he slips free, only for Dariush to somehow jump onto the back again as he stands! He pulls Cruickshank back down into a body triangle and from there the choke is SUNK. Tapout is academic, wow.

That was an incredible showing for Dariush. Dude looked like a MONSTER in there and outstruck a very good kickboxer in Cruickshank before dominating him on the ground as he was expected to do if the fight did hit the mat. Rafael Cordeiro has worked wonders with this guy when you consider the improvement in his striking from say, the Ramsey Nijem fight in April 2014. Fight was wildly exciting too which always helps although it’s almost always the case when Daron Cruickshank is involved too.

Middleweight Fight: Elias Theodorou vs Roger Narvaez

This one had me pretty excited as I’m a big fan of Theodorou’s, as he’s one of the most charismatic fighters the UFC has on its entire roster and he can fight pretty damn well too, as he’d been dominant in all of his UFC showings up to this point including his run on TUF. Opponent Narvaez was coming off a win over Luke Barnatt in a bit of an upset, but I couldn’t see him getting past Elias despite holding a reach advantage and I was taking the Canadian to win by TKO.

Round One and Elias comes out pushing the pace, throwing a couple of kicks before closing the distance and clinching. Narvaez looks so much taller. Knee to the body from Elias but Narvaez breaks off. Head kick from Theodorou sets up another takedown attempt, and he muscles Narvaez all over the fence but can’t get him down. Elias’s Evan Tanner-esque top-knot has already come loose, ha. Break from Narvaez and he looks to keep his distance and strike from range. Couple of punches land for him but Theodorou lands a heavy kick that he blocks with the forearm. Right hand over the top from Elias. Pair of nice counter rights from Narvaez as Elias tries to close the distance. Low kick from Elias but Narvaez lands another counter right on him. Theodorou’s struggling with the range here. Wild swings miss for Elias and he eats another right. Kick from the TUF winner hits Narvaez’s arms again. Good body kick from Theodorou but Narvaez claims a low blow and the ref calls time. They restart quickly and he lands another body kick, but eats a pair of right counters from Narvaez. They trade kicks and Narvaez lands two more right hand counters for good measure. Seconds to go in the round and Narvaez is still keeping Elias on the end of his strikes. Pair of kicks from Elias are blocked. Front kick lands for the Canadian but Narvaez lands a body kick right before the buzzer. Good round for Narvaez; 10-9.

Round Two and Elias lands another kick to the arms, then catches one and counters with a hard right hand. He’s pushing the pace even more now. Another kick is blocked by Narvaez’s arms. And another. Theodorou dodges a long right hand and this time he gets the double leg, putting Narvaez down into guard. Elias stacks him up and avoids a reversal before settling into the guard, where he lands a couple of shots. Good elbow gets through for Theodorou and he passes into side mount, but Narvaez rolls and escapes to his feet. He’s taking deep breaths though and Theodorou lands with another kick that hits the arms. Right hand from Elias and he’s backing Narvaez up. Couple of glancing high kicks from Elias and Narvaez looks like he’s dropping his hands. Big head kick misses for Narvaez. Big kick hits Narvaez’s arms again and he looks like he might be hurt. Head kick lands flush this time for Elias but Narvaez takes it well. Good leg kick follows. Takedown attempt from Theodorou and he gets it, dumping Narvaez to the ground and from there Narvaez turtles up. BIG SHOTS land for Theodorou and he keeps pounding him with punches and hammer fists until the ref decides he’s had enough and stops it.

Post-fight Narvaez tells the ref he thinks his ribs are broken, but it actually turned out his ARM was broken too due to the kicks Theodorou landed that were blocked. This was a very impressive showing from Theodorou as he came through a sticky first round, adjusted to the style of a lanky opponent who could use a reach advantage and kept on pushing until Narvaez couldn’t handle the pressure. They don’t especially have similar styles – Elias is a better striker and probably doesn’t have the submission game – but Theodorou reminds me a lot of early Diego Sanchez in that his pace and sheer will to win bring him to a lot of his victories, and those two things make him a very tough out for anyone in the division. I think he’s a title contender and a pretty big star by this time next year and still undefeated too. This was another exciting fight on this prelim card.

Lightweight Fight: Ross Pearson vs Sam Stout

Both men were looking to bounce back from losses in this clash of strikers, as Pearson had been knocked out by Al Iaquinta in his last outing while Stout had gone down to KJ Noons in a pretty scary fashion back in April 2014. In their primes I’d have called this a tough fight to call but in 2015 I figured Pearson had much more left in the tank than Stout and so I thought the Brit would come away with the victory.

Fight begins and they circle and exchange strikes, with Stout getting the better of the early going with a couple of crisp combos. Pearson lands with a right over the top being his best shot. Good step-in uppercut from Stout. These guys are really pushing the pace. Both men land some nice shots. Sneaky left hook connects cleanly for Pearson. Exchange continues and Pearson seems to have settled into a groove now and he lands with a really sweet combo after ducking a big right hand. Right hand into a body kick land well for Stout. Body punch answers for Pearson. Good body kick from Stout as the striking exchange continues. This is a really fun fight so far. Beautiful left hook from Stout but Pearson tags him with a combination in the same exchange. Stiff jab from the Brit snaps Stout’s head back. Uppercut follows and lands cleanly for the TUF winner. Stout comes right back with a hard right hand. Seconds to go and Stout looks to steal the round with a takedown, but Pearson stuffs it well. Slick three-shot combo lands for the Canadian. Left hook answers for Pearson and that’s the round. 10-10 round for me as it was tricky to split, both guys landed their fair share.

Into the 2nd and Pearson opens with a jab. Good leg kick from the Brit too. Stout comes back with one of his own. Wild swings miss for Stout. Combo does land clean for him ending with a leg kick. Left hook lands flush for Pearson but Stout nods to acknowledge it and comes back with a glancing high kick. Accidental clash of heads sees Big Dan step in for a second before Pearson apologises. They get going again and Pearson lands with a low kick and a left. Wild trade follows and Pearson KILLS STOUT DEAD WITH A LEFT HOOK!~! Right hand on the ground follows but it’s largely not needed as Stout is OUT.

Replay shows the finish was reminiscent of Carlos Condit vs. Dan Hardy, with both men throwing the left hook but Pearson getting there first. Absolutely brutal knockout right there. Really good fight too as both men looked better than they’d done recently, Stout in particular, but in the end his chin just betrayed him. I was calling for him to hang it up after this one as it was his second brutal KO loss in a row, but as fighters tend to do he ended up fighting again and getting knocked out brutally again too. Thankfully he has hung it up since and hopefully he’ll be alright in the long run.

Flyweight Fight: Henry Cejudo vs Chris Cariaso

2008 Olympic gold medallist wrestler Cejudo had signed with the UFC in mid-2014 and it was expected that they’d look to build him for a possible title shot at Demetrious Johnson, but things went slightly awry when he missed weight in his first attempt at 125lbs and had to pull out of the fight. A very impressive debut at 135lbs had followed as he’d dominated Dustin Kimura standing, without even using that world-class wrestling game, and then it was announced he’d be dropping to 125lbs again here for a fight against Cariaso, who’d challenged for the belt in his previous fight. I’ve never been enamoured with Cariaso really and so I thought – assuming he could make the weight, which he did – that this would be an easy win for Cejudo on the road to his inevitable title shot.

Round One and Cariaso opens up with a nice body kick as his first strike. Cejudo presses forward but he takes another kick to the body. He comes back with a right hand that tags Cariaso pretty hard. Clinch from Cejudo and he easily takes Cariaso down and lands a couple of quick elbows. Instant pass into half-guard from the gold medallist and he works to keep Cariaso down as the former title challenger tries to stand. Knee to the body lands for Cejudo with Cariaso on his knees, and then he lets Cariaso up. Kick to the body is blocked this time by Cejudo and he lands a right hand as Cariaso steps forward. Clinch follows and Cejudo muscles him into the fence. They exchange knees on the fence before Cariaso breaks off. Superman punch into a right high kick from Cejudo sets up another clinch, and he drops for a takedown but Cariaso defends well. Both men land knees before Cejudo drops for the takedown and gets it, settling down into half-guard again before grabbing a headlock for good measure. Great control from Cejudo allows him to keep Cariaso grounded and he lands another knee to the body before Cariaso does work his way up. He can’t shake the gold medallist off him though and Cejudo continues to work him over from the clinch. Seconds remaining and they break, and Cariaso lands with another solid body kick. Combination answers for Cejudo and that’s the round. 10-9 Cejudo.

Round Two and Cariaso appears to fake a glove touch and throws a left hand, but Cejudo backs him up with punches and lands a nice low kick. Quick combo follows for the Olympian. Another combo tags Cariaso and knocks him off balance, but he seems okay. Clinch from Cariaso but Cejudo easily throws him to the ground. Cariaso does a good job of scrambling, but he can’t quite get to his feet and Cejudo settles into the guard. He moves to half-guard and lands an elbow, but a scramble from Cariaso allows him to get back up. Again though Cejudo stays on him and works the body with knees. Cariaso looks for a body lock to get a takedown of his own, but Cejudo’s having none of that and he breaks off. They trade punches and Cejudo clocks him with a hard right hand. Cejudo has some really quick hands. Body kick from Cejudo and he follows with a takedown, landing in half-guard, this time away from the fence. Cariaso works back to full guard, but Cejudo postures up to drop some decent strikes. Nice punches get through for Cejudo and then he stands and allows the former title challenger up. Big body kick connects for Cejudo and he avoids a combination in response. Glancing front kick from Cejudo and he misses on a big head kick as the round ends. 10-9 Cejudo.

Round Three and Cejudo gets the better of a brief exchange. Head kick is blocked by Cejudo who then catches a leg and gets an easy takedown to half-guard. Hard elbows land for Cejudo and you can see Cariaso wincing with a few of them. Cejudo lands some elbows to the body too for good measure. Upkick misses for Cariaso and Cejudo passes to side mount, but Cariaso does a good job of quickly shrimping back to half-guard. Full guard now for Cariaso but he can’t seem to get up from under Cejudo when his back isn’t against the fence. The gold medallist allows him up, though and connects on a straight right. Considering he’s two rounds in the hole Cariaso doesn’t seem to be showing much urgency. Good body kick from Cariaso but Cejudo rushes him with punches and clinches again. Takedown from Cejudo and this time he works to pass to full mount. He gets half-guard, dropping knees to the body in the process, and from there he looks for a neck crank variant but he can’t quite finish Cariaso off. Seconds to go and he releases, allowing Cariaso to land a couple of upkicks, and in the dying seconds he attempts and fails on a leglock. 10-9 Cejudo for a clear-cut 30-27.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Henry Cejudo, no dodgy decisions here even though it’s Texas. This was a good if not mind-blowing performance from Cejudo, as he dominated the grappling as you’d expect and then also outstruck Cariaso standing, but he never came close to a finish and at times it felt like he was just trying to get some vital UFC experience in more than anything if that makes sense. Which is understandable when you consider they’re probably going to rush him up the ladder. He’s already ranked in the top five at 125lbs largely based off this and should get a title shot if he beats Jussier Formiga in November. Don’t see how he beats Mighty Mouse assuming he gets that fight but stranger things have happened I guess and you can’t really argue against him as the best pure athlete at 125lbs. This was a fight made more interesting just because it involved Cejudo if I’m honest. And wild to see that it was the first decision on the card too!

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Roy Nelson

Being a massive fan of the Reem I was massively excited for this fight but also terrified of it, as while it’s been shown tons of times at this point that the blueprint to beat Nelson is to stay on the outside and pick him off with cleaner striking while allowing him to gas, it’s also been shown that he’s got the one-shot power to KO anyone in the division. And while Reem in my eyes was definitely capable of picking Roy apart, his chin at this point is dodgy enough that it seemingly only takes one shot to put him away. I was picking the Reem but REALLY keeping my fingers crossed too.

First round gets underway and both men come out carefully before Overeem lands with an oblique kick. Lot of circling from the Reem as Nelson stalks forward looking to throw the big right. Nice flying knee to the body from Overeem. Reem looks super-lean here. Overhand right from Nelson but Reem blocks it and lands with a leg kick that spins Roy around. Another leg kick connects for Overeem. Rushing left hand follows. Nelson is finding it hard to get into range. Right hook from Overeem. Wild swings glance for Nelson but Overeem dodges and lands another leg kick and a knee to the body. HARD stepping knee to the body and another oblique kick from the Reem. Jumping knee connects flush with Nelson’s jaw but he takes it like a man. Oblique kick follows. Nelson’s left leg is getting destroyed. He manages to close Overeem down though and OPENS UP with a flurry against the fence as Overeem covers up in his trademark style, but nothing lands clean and Overeem pops out with a left that sets up another knee to the body. Front kick to the body follows. Vicious leg kick drops Roy for a second and as he pops up he takes another cracking knee to the body. Oblique kick from Overeem and he deflects a couple of wild swings. Left hook to the body follows and another knee to the gut as well. Clinch is shrugged off by the Reem. Overeem’s doing a tremendous job of keeping the distance here. Knee to the body sets up a brutal body kick and Nelson visibly winces and steps backwards. Another leg kick buckles Roy’s left leg. Knee to the body ends the round. 10-9 Overeem and dare I say it, the best round of his UFC career.

Second round and Overeem opens with a front kick to the body and another leg kick that buckles Roy’s left leg again. Right hand glances for Nelson but Overeem clocks him with his own right and follows with a leg kick and a pair of knees to the body. Right hand sets up another leg kick for the Reem. He looks to step in again but this time Roy clocks him with a powerful right hand that freezes him in his tracks! Overeem has to back up, but he actually recovers quickly as he lands a flying knee to the body and follows with a body kick. Left hook connects for Overeem. Side oblique kick follows. Front kick to the face from Overeem! Nelson comes in swinging but Reem outright runs out o the way which garners him some boos. He immediately lands with a combo afterwards however. Nice right from Overeem and he almost gets a takedown, but Nelson spins to his feet. Knee to the body from Overeem and another kick lands there too. Nelson’s got to be hurting. Oblique kick and Overeem ducks right under the big right hand. One minute to go and Nelson traps Overeem against the fence, landing with a right and a couple of uppercuts to the body. Overeem covers up though and separates quickly. BIG FLYING KNEE from Overeem connects with the jaw and a nasty left hook follows behind it. Nelson is stunned but somehow takes it. Dude’s chin is incredible. Round ends with some wild swings from Roy as Overeem covers up. Another one in the books for the Reem; 10-9.

Third round and the Reem opens with that nasty body kick. His movement has been fantastic in this fight. Right hand and a jumping knee land for Overeem and a left head kick grazes Big Country. Jumping….something misses for Nelson as he LEAPS GROIN-FIRST into Overeem’s knee. Wow that looked painful. Ref has to call time and I think Roy’s balls might be in his stomach. Somehow though he shakes it off fast – without his corner having to fan his crotch with a flag or any of that jazz – and they restart. Oblique kick from Overeem sets up a straight right. Spinning elbow misses though. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Nelson. Wild overhand right misses for Roy. Nice body kick from the Reem. Knee glances but Nelson stuns him with a right hand and then looks for a surprising takedown. Overeem stuffs it though and breaks free. Right hands glance for both men. BIG head kick lands for Overeem and Nelson looks wobbled. Couple more kicks follow but Roy’s still standing. He’s ridiculously tough. Takedown attempt is avoided by Overeem. Front kick from the Reem. Leg kick follows. Body kick as well. Nelson’s pushing forward now but he’s still being eaten up standing. Knee glances off the jaw of Big Country. Overhand right glances for Nelson and Reem gets out of the way of any follow-up. Jumping knee lands for Overeem. Seconds remaining though and a BIG LEFT HOOK sends Overeem down! Crowd go INSANE as he tries to kick Nelson away and then stands, but Nelson’s out of gas and he goes for a takedown rather than follow it up. Round ends there. 10-9 Overeem for a clear-cut 30-27.

Official scores are 30-27 all round for Alistair Overeem. This was to me his best UFC performance to date – ignoring the Lesnar win as that one has all sorts of asterisks at this point – as the plodding, stalking style that he had during his Ubereem days was gone, replaced by a much more varied striking style using a lot of movement, distance control and feinting. Nelson had lost before in the UFC and we know he’s a limited fighter but I think Overeem did as much damage to him as anyone’s ever done and outside of like two punches he never got into trouble with Big Country’s power either. If this is the version of the Reem we’ve got going forward I think he’s back into title contention. Sure, his chin is still a question mark as he came out with a similar style against Ben Rothwell and got caught, but I think if he fights like this he can beat JDS in a couple of months. Not to take a thing away from JDS as in his prime he was incredible, but at this point post-Cain (and post-Stipe most likely too….) he might well be as limited a fighter as Roy Nelson. As an Overeem fan this fight was massively entertaining.

Welterweight Fight: Johny Hendricks vs Matt Brown

Initial reports had Brown – coming back from his loss to Robbie Lawler in July – facing the ever-elusive Nate Diaz here, but instead he was matched with Hendricks, coming back quite early from his own war with Robbie Lawler that had seen him lose his title in a razor-close decision. Despite Brown seemingly being able to drag anyone into a filthy brawl – his speciality – I was taking Hendricks here as I just felt he had more ways to win than Brown, namely cleaner striking and a far better wrestling game.

Round One begins and Brown pushes forward right away, putting pressure on Hendricks, but hte former champion lands with a glancing left and then shoots and hits a slam takedown into guard. Scramble allows Brown to his feet pretty quickly and he chases forward, but Hendricks ducks a right and drives him into the fence. Takedown follows pretty easily and Hendricks drops a couple of rights as Brown gets full guard. Brown does a good job of tying Hendricks up from the guard, and he uses his feet to push off the hips as Hendricks tries to posture up to land. Very little damage being done by the former champ thanks to Brown’s guard. Looks like Brown’s going for a potential sweep or triangle, but Johny postures free. Leglock attempt from Brown and he uses it to stand. Good job from Brown. Head kick glances for Brown and he wades into the clinch, but Hendricks backs out. Good elbow from Brown from the clinch and he lands a quick uppercut before Hendricks drops for another takedown. Hendricks lifts him for a slam but Brown BLATANTLY grabs the fence and that allows him to transition to a guillotine on his way down to guard. Shady move right there. Hendricks avoids it though and takes top position again. Into half-guard for Hendricks and he finally lands a couple of shots, but Brown keeps squirming from the bottom to avoid the brunt of damage. Seconds to go and it looks like Brown’s right eye is busted up. Round ends with Hendricks on top. 10-9 Hendricks purely for the ground work.

Round Two and Brown comes out with a nice left hook that knocks Hendricks back. He goes for a head kick but Hendricks catches it and throws him down. Roll from Brown and he scrambles up only to eat a left and a leg kick. Hendricks’ corner are furious because Brown apparently grabbed the shorts. Body kick from Brown. Beautiful uppercut from Hendricks sets up a quick combo and he drops for a takedown, elevating Brown into a Hughes-style slam to side mount. Crowd are massively into Hendricks. Brown immediately scrambles back to half-guard as the crowd chant for Hendricks. Looks like Hendricks might be considering an arm triangle, but he gives up on it to drop some shots. Slick backfist into a hammer fist connects for Hendricks cleanly, causing Brown to grit his teeth. Hendricks is really working him over from this position. Classic tactic from Hendricks as he covers Brown’s mouth to disrupt the breathing. Brown manages to shift back to full guard and from there the ref calls a surprising stand-up. Combination from Hendricks ends with a knee and he’s not even breathing heavily. Couple of kicks land for him too. Brown looks busted up. HARD left hook from Hendricks from the clinch and Brown is hurt. He fires back – of course he does – but Hendricks clobbers him with another combo and gets him down with a double leg again. Hendricks looks incredible in this round. This time he looks to slice through the half-guard and takes the back, but Brown works onto all fours and gets up. Brown comes stalking forward but Hendricks clocks him with another combo that has him rocked. He tries to clinch but Brown bursts free with a flurry, so Johny simply takes him down again into half-guard. Round ends with some Hendricks elbows. 10-9 Hendricks.

Round Three and Brown looks like he’s breathing heavily before he comes out of his corner. He presses forward right away though and Hendricks slips to the ground, but he pops back up. They trade punches and you can see Brown desperately looking to draw him into a brawl, but Hendricks is having none of that and he hits an easy double leg to half-guard. Brown looks like he’s going for an inverted triangle from the bottom, crazy position, but instead he shoves himself off and pops out to his feet. Combo from Hendricks and Brown surprisingly decides to clinch, but Hendricks overpowers him and forces him into the fence. Takedown from Hendricks even though Brown pulls another fence grab. This time he lands in half-guard and Brown’s beginning to look out of gas. Side mount for Hendricks but Brown looks to shove off the cage with his feet. He can’t get the reversal though and Hendricks keeps him pinned and works him over with some short, grinding forearms. Brown goes for the inverted triangle again, but once more Hendricks escapes it. Good job from Brown to escape for a second but Hendricks drags him right back down into side mount. Just over a minute to go and this is pretty clearly Hendricks’ fight. Brown throws in some punches from the bottom while looking to set up a triangle, but Hendricks avoids it and keeps him firmly pinned down. Round ends with Hendricks continuing to work from the top. 10-9 Hendricks for a 30-27 shutout.

Judges score it 30-27 all round for Johny Hendricks. Pretty easy fight to call in the end. First and third rounds Hendricks looked good as he refused to get drawn into Brown’s world of brawling and used his wrestling and superior grappling to outwork him, but in the second he looked absolutely spectacular, chaining his wrestling and his striking together to beat up Brown both on the feet and on the ground. Basically he made a real top-level fighter like Matt Brown look like he didn’t belong in the same cage as him, which is impressive indeed. I still think he loses to Tyron Woodley next week – to use two clichés, styles make fights and speed kills – but this one showed for sure that he’s definitely still in the hunt for the title. I didn’t think he fought a “dull fight” as people have accused him of either – you’d have to be stupid (or Erick Silva) to try to brawl with Matt Brown – and his pace was extremely high from start to finish, making this totally watchable in my opinion.

UFC Women’s World Strawweight Title: Carla Esparza vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk

This was a semi-late addition to the card for this show and part of me was surprised to see Jedrzejczyk as the challenger rather than one of the other TUF 20 girls, but then I guess Esparza had won that tournament and so a different opponent made more sense. Poland’s Joanna had beaten highly rated Brazilian grappler Claudia Gadelha to earn the title shot but the decision had been a largely questionable one and as she hadn’t come from Invicta, she didn’t really have a lot of “name” victories on her ledger. With Esparza possessing an excellent grappling game, I was taking the champion to retain as I always tend to pick grapplers over strikers as a general rule I guess and I felt she was more proven at the top level than Joanna.

First round begins and ha, Goldie is BUTCHERING Jedrzejczyk’s name. Carla opens by feinting a couple of takedown attempts as Joanna keeps a low stance. Takedown attempt from Esparza but Joanna defends well and lands an elbow on her way back up. Nice. Joanna seems to have a size advantage. Flicking jabs from the challenger before Esparza dives on a single leg. Again the Pole defends masterfully, but Carla grounds her and drops a solid elbow. Joanna scrambles though and pops out the back door to her feet. Esparza keeps her clinched against the fence, but Joanna breaks off. Another takedown is avoided well by the challenger. Esparza hangs onto a front headlock though and that allows her to set up another takedown. This time they go down, but Joanna scrambles up onto her knees quickly and gets up to her feet. Carla is relentlessly looking for the takedown but Joanna manages to separate with a vicious elbow that buckles the champion’s legs. She quickly retreats back but that’s all the opening Jedrzejczyk needs to stalk forward and open up with punches. Another takedown is blocked with an elbow to the temple. Double leg is avoided by Joanna again and she clocks Esparza with a right hook. Another shot is unsuccessful for the champion and she eats a big right hand and a straight left behind it. Esparza is in trouble. Another right and a jab land for Jedrzejczyk and she’s in full predator mode now. Two brutal rights drop Carla and force her to dive on a single leg, but again she can’t get it and Joanna separates with an elbow and a knee. All of the takedown attempts have Esparza gassed too and she’s taking deep breaths. Nasty right cross from Jedrzejczyk and she continues to open up and tag Esparza with punches until the round ends. 10-9 Jedrzejczyk and she’s got a big advantage leading into the next round.

Second round and Jedrzejczyk stalks across the cage towards the champ and tags her with a combo right away. Esparza looks very rattled. She shoots for another takedown, but Joanna sprawls back well and nails her with an elbow inside the clinch. Left hook connects for the challenger. Esparza is badly outgunned on her feet. Another combination lands for Jedrzejczyk. To be fair Carla’s chin is solid as she’s taking a ton of abuse. Takedown attempt again from Esparza but Jedrzejczyk defends again and breaks with another vicious elbow that sets up a combo. Really weak takedown attempt is met with another hard elbow and a left hand. Joanna’s landing at will right now. Brutal combo wobbles the champion. Counter right lands over a combo from Esparza too. Takedown attempt is blocked again and another elbow lands for the challenger. Pair of rights stagger Esparza and force her to drop for the takedown again to no dice. Another one ends with the same result. Elbow leads to another combo and Esparza is on the run. She’s getting destroyed here. Jedrzejczyk blocks another takedown and a right hand literally has Carla running. Flurry stuns her and this time she’s trapped against the fence eating horrendous punishment. Finally the ref comes in as Carla wilts under the punishment. Gutsy performance but she got dismantled, wow.

Total eye-opener and one of the best title wins in the UFC in recent memory for Joanna Jedrzejczyk. I did say at the time – and still maintain – that TUF might not have been the fairest way to crown a champion of the 115lbs division as the tournament format really favours wrestlers who can hit multiple weight cuts in short succession, but there’s no doubt that Esparza was a top-level fighter – pre-TUF wins over Felice Herrig and Bec Rawlings tell you that much – and she got owned by Joanna here. She couldn’t take the Pole down at all, couldn’t establish a rhythm and on the feet she was frighteningly outgunned, with Jedrzejczyk opening up with some of the best combinations I’ve seen from any fighter – man or woman – in the UFC. Post-fight she cuts a very charismatic promo in clear English too, getting herself over with the crowd in a big way. Do the UFC have the next Ronda Rousey on their hands? Probably not as Ronda is a special type of star that I don’t think we’ve had in MMA thus far, but I definitely think Joanna could rise to the level of a very popular champion who draws relatively well (think Cain Velasquez for instance) and at best she could end up as a GSP-type to help the promotion really break into Europe beyond even what Bisping and Gustafsson have done. We shall see! Regardless, this was a phenomenal way to begin her title reign.

UFC World Lightweight Title: Anthony Pettis vs Rafael Dos Anjos

After Pettis overcame the challenge of Gilbert Melendez with flying colours, it was expected that he would probably fight Khabib Nurmagomedov next as the unbeaten Dagestani had cut a swathe of violence through the division and was the clear #1 contender. With Khabib still out with a knee injury though, it was announced that Showtime’s next challenger would instead be Brazil’s Dos Anjos, who was coming off a fantastic run in late 2014 that had seen him beat Jason High and Nate Diaz as well as becoming the second man (after Pettis) to finish Benson Henderson. Despite RDA’s massive improvements, largely in his striking and his physical strength, I was still taking Pettis here as he’d looked phenomenal in the Melendez fight and I was really buying into him as a possible dominant champion at 155lbs.

Round One and Dos Anjos pushes forward right away, blocking a pair of right head kicks from the champ before landing a body kick of his own. Another one connects for RDA as does a right hand. RDA backing him up a lot in the early going. Combination lands for him and a BIG LEFT HAND rocks Pettis! He recovers quickly but they clinch and Dos Anjos hits him with a heavy knee. Brutal body shot from Dos Anjos. He’s destroying Pettis in these opening minutes. Body kick and another combo from RDA. Pettis comes back with a head kick that RDA blocks and then misses with a flying knee. Left hand lands hard for RDA. Spin kick misses for Pettis. Straight right lands for Pettis but RDA keeps on pushing forward and lands a clean body kick and a left hand. Pettis is firing back but he’s taking much heavier shots in these exchanges. Good body kick does land for Pettis though. Overhand right follows. Combo from Pettis but RDA takes it and absolutely nails him with a nasty one-two. Body kick from RDA and he somehow avoids a right counter. Another kick follows. Combos from Pettis are blocked by the challenger and Pettis looks a bit bewildered. Left hook connects hard for RDA again. He looks incredible thus far. Takedown from RDA and he plants Pettis against the fence. Pettis sits up into butterfly guard, but RDA keeps him grounded and works the body with some short shots. Round ends as Pettis scrambles to his feet, where he eats some elbows. 10-9 Dos Anjos; lopsided round really.

Round Two and Pettis’s left eye is already a mess. RDA walks him down again right away and forces Pettis back despite the champion trying to take the center of the cage. Jab from Pettis but RDA crushes him with a left hook and then flurries on him to set up a takedown attempt. Good knees inside to the legs from RDA but he can’t get Pettis down and the champ nails him with a body kick. All it seems to do is make Dos Anjos angry though and he lands with a hard combination including a leg kick and a straight left. Pettis comes back with a combo of his own but none of it really lands clean. Elbow from RDA and he shoots and dumps Pettis to the ground. High posture from RDA to control Pettis and he drops some sharp elbows while comfortably avoiding a possible armbar attempt. Looks like Pettis is now bleeding badly as RDA works him over from the top. The challenger looks to work free of the guard but can’t quite manage it, so he stays in there and continues to land shots. Really vicious elbows connect for Dos Anjos. He’s just shutting Pettis down entirely. RDA stands over him and even adds a knee to the tailbone before stacking up to drop some more bombs. Round ends with RDA on top. 10-9 RDA.

Round Three and they trade leg kicks to begin before RDA lands with a body kick. Pettis gets some better punches through but RDA tags him again with a nasty left hand. That straight left is getting through for RDA over and over. Accidental eye poke from Pettis slows him down though and Dan Miragliotta has to call time. They restart and RDA backs him up with a pair of leg kicks, but Pettis comes back with a BIG RIGHT HEAD KICK! Dos Anjos somehow though IGNORES it and lands with the heavy straight left. Good lord. Combo from the champ but Dos Anjos comes back with a right, a body shot and a takedown to guard. Pettis stays active from his back but Dos Anjos easily postures out of the submission attempts he throws up and passes, but Pettis scrambles to his feet. RDA stays on him though and lands some knees to the body and legs to wear him down. They break off and RDA lands a body kick. Combination tags Pettis again. Takedown attempt from RDA and he trips Pettis down again. Pettis looks like he’s exhausted. He tries to work back to his feet but RDA holds him down and then takes him right back down when he stands. Seconds to go in the round and it looks like another one in the books for the challenger. He takes Pettis’s back and lands punches, but can’t finish before the buzzer. 10-9 Dos Anjos and this is becoming a beatdown.

Round Four and Pettis comes out and flashes a front kick, trying to keep the center of the cage, but RDA hits him with a body kick and a left hand. Triple jab from Pettis but RDA lands with a leg kick. Beautiful combo from RDA; left to the body and right over the top. Pair of body kicks answer for Pettis and land hard, but RDA walks through them as well as a right hand and lands with a left before dropping for a takedown. Slam follows and he lands in half-guard. This is wild. Into side mount for RDA and he appears to be setting up a kimura on the left arm. Pettis is in trouble. RDA tries to step over the head to finish it off, but Pettis clasps his hands together desperately to avoid, and this is incredibly close. Somehow Pettis manages to free his arm and the crowd pop loudly. He rolls, but RDA stays on top and takes the back, slapping one hook in. RDA hasn’t slowed down in the slightest either. Both hooks in but Pettis spins into him and drops for a takedown of his own, getting it, but the challenger springs right back up. Pettis has the heart of a lion to be hanging in there. He works the body over from the clinch, but RDA grabs him in a front headlock and forces him down. The champ pops back up but he can’t shake the Brazilian off him. Beautiful trip takedown from Dos Anjos and he lands more shots. Pettis reverses up, but takes a big kick on the buzzer. Another one in the books for RDA and Pettis clearly needs a miracle finish ala Anderson Silva in the first Chael Sonnen fight.

Round Five and the announcers mention that they heard Pettis tell Duke Roufus that he can’t see from his right eye. Flying knee misses for him in the opening seconds. He’s still swinging but RDA remains the aggressor and keeps walking him down. They trade hard body kicks but RDA catches Pettis’s foot as he finishes it and forces him into the fence. He can’t get the champ down and they break, where Dos Anjos lands with a body kick, leg kick and a left hand. Takedown attempt follows and he slams Pettis to the ground into side mount. Elbows land for RDA and he controls Pettis easily from the top. Pettis tries to reverse, but gives his back as he stands and RDA gets right back on him and looks to force him down again. They separate but RDA backs him up with a series of right hands and a body kick. His pace isn’t slowing at all. Big takedown from the Brazilian and he’s got Pettis pinned against the fence. Full guard from Pettis and he seems to be looking for an armbar, but RDA’s too good for that and he avoids. Kimura attempt from Pettis now but Dos Anjos powers his arm free and takes the back with both hooks. Big punches follow and he slaps on a body triangle. Seconds to go and Dos Anjos looks to finish him off, but can’t quite manage it. Still a 10-9 for Dos Anjos though and I have it as a 50-45 shutout and a new champion.

Judges all agree and it’s 50-45’s all round for the NEW UFC Lightweight champion of the world, Rafael Dos Anjos. Insane. Can’t fault Pettis for heart and toughness as he took an absolutely hellacious beating here and never gave up for a second, but he was whitewashed basically from the opening seconds right through to the final buzzer. The wild part for me was that when Gilbert Melendez tried this gameplan – walking Pettis down and putting pressure on him with flurries and takedowns – he was getting shredded up by counters from the faster Pettis, but here RDA was seemingly the quicker fighter as well as the stronger one and so he was beating Pettis to the punch 90% of the time. And when Pettis *did* land, it didn’t seem to have much effect at all and Dos Anjos walked right through it. Add in the fact that he’s an incredibly high level black belt in BJJ who was always going to be nigh-on impossible to catch from the bottom, and we ended up with one of the most one-sided title fights in recent memory. The cynic in me would question exactly how a guy who’s 30 like Dos Anjos managed to make such a massive leap in his strength and conditioning and how he was able to push such a pace – the fight it most reminded me of was the first Sonnen/Silva fight and we know what was going on there – but while he keeps testing clean who am I to make any accusations?

Post-fight Dos Anjos claims God told him he’d win (!) while Pettis says he couldn’t see out of his right eye after the first round, which has to suck. So where does this rank in the biggest upsets in UFC history in terms of title fights? I definitely think it’s up there. Probably not as big as Serra over GSP but maybe second as we’ve seen Dos Anjos come up from a mid-level fighter at best in like 2010 to an absolute BEAST and the best in the world in 2015. Incredible stuff.

-Show ends with Goldie and Joe singing the praises of Dos Anjos and Jedrzejczyk, and then we roll the highlight reel.

Final Thoughts….

Tremendous show top-to-bottom. All of the prelims – except the dull Rosholt/Copeland fight – were entertaining and featured a bunch of exciting and varied finishes, and the main card was great too, from Overeem’s best UFC performance to solid showings from Cejudo and Hendricks and then two absolutely outstanding performances from Dos Anjos and Jedrzejczyk in the title fights. No outright classic keeps it from being one of the best UFC shows of all time, but it’s definitely one of the best of 2015 thus far. Thumbs way up for this one.

Best Fight: Overeem vs. Nelson
Worst Fight: Rosholt vs. Copeland

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com