MMA Review: #502: UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi

-After a red-hot opening to the year with fights such as Jones vs. Cormier, Diaz vs. Silva and Rousey vs. Zingano, this was always going to be the red-headed stepchild of UFC PPVs in early 2015, even when it was initially set to have a double main event featuring Dillashaw vs. Barao II as well as Johnson vs. Horiguchi. With that Dillashaw fight cancelled due to injury the card suddenly looked a hell of a lot weaker, until a late boost from a surprising source – Rampage Jackson of all people! – strengthened it up a little. More on that later!

UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi

Montreal, Quebec

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Randa Markos vs Aisling Daly

These two women had been part of the TUF 20 cast, with Canada’s unknown Markos actually making the semi-finals after upsetting Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig, while Ireland’s Daly – a training partner of Conor McGregor – made it to the quarters before losing to Jessica Penne. With Markos having had that extra success on TUF she was my pick to come through here.

Round One and they trade punches from the off with Markos getting the better of the exchanges due to seemingly faster hands. Daly is really holding her chin highly too which is disturbing. Markos is just tagging her again and again with the right hand. Good chin from Daly though as she keeps on coming forward despite taking these shots. Clinch from Daly and she forces Randa into the fence, dropping for a takedown, but Markos stuffs it. Really good takedown defense here from the Canadian and she manages to reverse on the way down and goes right into full mount! Whoa. Randa is awesome. Full back control for Markos and Daly is in trouble. Markos slaps on a body triangle, but she can’t really go for the rear naked choke due to Daly’s excellent defense from that position. One minute to go and Markos moves into half-guard but right into an arm triangle attempt. She slides out into side mount in an attempt to finish the choke, but Daly rolls to her side and manages to avoid an armbar attempt to explode to her feet. Round ends with a takedown from Daly to guard. Striking dominance + ground dominance = 10-8 round for Randa Markos.

Round Two and Daly lands with a kick to the body, but eats a right hand again from the Canadian. Both women are winging punches here but again it’s Markos who tags her with the crisper punches. Clinch from Aisling and she forces Randa back into the fence. Nice single leg from Daly but Markos immediately looks to reverse back up to her feet. SICK reversal from Markos and she lands on top in side mount, holding a headlock which allows her to deliver some nasty punches ala Ronda Rousey on Alexis Davis. Daly looks to slip out to take the back, but Markos recognises the attempt and allows her to her feet in the clinch. We’re past halfway in the fight now and nearly all of the offense so far has belonged to Randa Markos. Daly keeps trying to take her down, but Randa uses a headlock to reverse to take top position. Daly muscles out of that though and rolls through into top position herself. Big shot opens a cut on Markos over the left eye, and Daly winds up taking north/south to a disturbing crowd pop, ha. Looks like Markos might be going for an inverted triangle, but Daly avoids and then looks to set up a kimura. Nice elbows from Aisling and the round ends with her on top in control with more punches, before going for what looks outright like a sleeperhold on the buzzer. 10-10 round as Markos’s early dominance was offset by the strong finish from Daly.

Round Three and Daly seems to have the cardio advantage and she really pushes forward, but still walks into the sharp right hook from Markos. Daly’s chin is allowing her to walk right through these shots though and she gets to the clinch again. Markos looks pretty tired. She works to prevent the takedown, then ends up getting a bodylock to look for one of her own. Aisling defends that and they continue to jockey for position along the fence. Throw from Markos lands her into the side mount with the headlock again. This time she pins the arm to deliver some unanswered punches right to the face. Daly kicks her hips up to try to reverse and ends up pulling free and popping to her feet. Right away she drops for a takedown of her own, but Markos reverses the takedown and lands on top in full mount. Low mount for Randa before Daly gives her back. Markos switches to an armbar attempt and Daly looks like she’s in trouble. Punches to the body soften Aisling up but Markos can’t quite separate the arms. Daly tries to scramble over the top to avoid, but the armbar is still deep as hell. Good defense from Daly allows her to survive, and she even spikes Markos onto her head, but the fight ends with the armbar still semi-locked. 10-9 Markos which makes it 30-27 for her, although not your usual three-round shutout that gives that score.

Official scores are 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Randa Markos. This was an AWESOME opener as Markos showed some fantastic offense, but Daly was tough enough to hang in there and never really seemed out of the fight, even pulling off a strong comeback in the second before fading again in the third. Markos might be the dark horse of the division actually when you consider her TUF performance and I think she’s a danger to any of the girls out there at 115lbs. Look forward to seeing her again.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Valerie Letourneau vs Jessica Rakoczy

Bit of a surprising match here as I never had either woman down as being small for 135lbs and yet they were both dropping all the way down to 115lbs for this one. Letourneau had looked good in her UFC debut – a gutsy win over Elizabeth Phillips – while TUF 18’s Rakoczy hadn’t fought since her loss in the finals to Julianna Pena. I was taking Letourneau here as a look at her pre-UFC record suggested to me she might be a bit underrated – split decision losses to fighters as good as Alexis Davis and Claudia Gadelha are almost as impressive as wins over lower level opponents to me.

Round One and holy shit Rakoczy looks skinny at 115lbs. Physically Letourneau looks much healthier. Good counter left hook opens things for Letourneau and she lands with another counter as Rakoczy pushes forward. Takedown attempt from Jessica and she forces Letourneau into the fence, but the Canadian quickly breaks. Big elbow misses for Letourneau but she shrugs off another takedown. Leg kick lands for Letourneau. She’s catching Rakoczy with some decent counters here. Clinch from Rakoczy and she lands punches to the body before getting a takedown, but Letourneau immediately hits full guard and goes into a triangle attempt. Jessica tries to Rampage slam her way out, but it only makes the choke deeper and it looks like this might be it. This looks like a horrible position for Rakoczy and she drops onto all fours to try to escape, but Letourneau isn’t letting go at all. Somehow though the TUF finalist slips her head free to a big pop! Wow. Letourneau goes for a takedown of her own now and gets it, putting Rakoczy on her back in guard. Rakoczy tries to tie the right arm up and that causes a scramble, but Letourneau retains top position and steps to full mount, only to lose the position on an armbar attempt! Rakoczy ends up in half-guard now and she traps Valerie’s right arm to drop some punches. Leglock attempt from Letourneau is avoided by Rakoczy, and she manages to get back on top in half-guard. This has been a tremendous round. Less than a minute to go and Rakoczy works some shots to the body, and then works into a headlock position from side mount. Letourneau goes for an inverted triangle from there but can’t get it, only to reverse and end the round on top. Super-close round but I’d go 10-9 Letourneau for the near finish.

Round Two and they trade strikes to begin, and it looks like Rakoczy’s got some nasty swelling over the right eye. Nice body kick and then a head kick connect for Letourneau. Clinch from Rakoczy and she forces Valerie into the fence. Short strikes land inside for Letourneau as she defends the takedown. Letourneau’s landing some really nice knees to the left leg here. Dirty boxing connects for Letourneau too and that forces Rakoczy to back out of the clinch. Exchange sees both girls landing again. Letourneau connects a few times on a sharp jab and adds an elbow strike in for good measure too. Body kicks glance for both. Letourneau’s definitely getting the better of these exchanges it looks like. Rakoczy’s eye looks like hell. Nice body kick from Valerie. Takedown attempt from Rakoczy is shrugged off and she eats a left hand on her way out. Couple of jabs get through for Rakoczy before the round ends. 10-9 Letourneau.

Round Three and they exchange punches in the opening seconds with Letourneau again landing the cleaner shots. Head kick stuns Rakoczy and forces her to lunge into the clinch to slow Valerie down. They exchange knees and Letourneau breaks off. Striking exchange continues and it looks like Rakoczy’s swollen right eye is causing her to miss the shots coming in from Letourneau. Takedown attempt is blocked by Letourneau. Beautiful body kick lands for her. Rakoczy clinches again and forces her back into the cage, but Letourneau breaks with a sharp elbow. Left head kick glances for Letourneau. Another body kick follows but allows Rakoczy to clinch. Letourneau turns the tables though and works her over from there before Rakoczy spins it around and forces her into the fence. They break again and Letourneau pushes forward, again landing with the better strikes. Jab connects for Rakoczy and she’s still swinging. Left body kick from Letourneau but Rakoczy answers with a knee to the body. Exchange continues and neither woman seems to be slowing down at least. Takedown from Letourneau with seconds to go and she lands right in full mount. Buzzer sounds there and I’d call this 30-27 for Valerie Letourneau.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Valerie Letourneau. Pretty good fight actually – the first round was really excellent although the second and third weren’t quite on the same level – and it looked like Letourneau was just slightly one step ahead of Rakoczy in all areas really. Impressive Strawweight debut for the Canadian who’s since gone onto even bigger and better things.

Welterweight Fight: Nordine Taleb vs Chris Clements

Huge Frenchman Taleb had been a bit of a letdown during his TUF: Nations run, losing in the quarter-finals to now-banned Aussie Tyler Manawaroa, but since starting his UFC career proper he’d done well for himself, going 2-0 with wins over Vik Grujic and Li Jingliang. Kickboxer Clements meanwhile had rescued his UFC career with his own win over Grujic in November. Pretty much a striker vs. grappler match then and I was siding with the grappler and taking Taleb via decision.

Fight begins and man, if this were a bodybuilding contest Taleb might be the world champion. Dude is HUGE for 170lbs. Couple of low kicks open proceedings for Clements. Taleb walks him down though and lands a low kick of his own. Few more kicks from Clements but one lands low and the ref has to call time to let Taleb recover. They restart with a warning for Clements, and Taleb lands a trio of jabs and avoids a flurry from Clements. Nice left hook into a head kick from Nordine. He’s really backing Clements up here. Spinning back kick to the body from Clements but Taleb clinches and lands some hard knees to the body. Easy takedown from the Frenchman and he looks for a possible anaconda choke as Clements scrambles onto his knees. Clements stands and lands a couple of knees to the body, but Taleb forces him into the fence. They break off with 1:30 remaining and Taleb sticks him with a long jab. Nice takedown from Taleb right into side mount. He pins Clements’ left arm to deliver some elbows, and shows a good base to keep Clements grounded when he scrambles. Full guard now for Clements. Nice elbow over the top from Taleb. More elbows get through and that’s the round. 10-9 Taleb.

Into the 2nd and Clements lands on a couple of punches early as Taleb tries to close the distance. Few leg kicks also land as does a superman punch, but Taleb shoots in with a double leg and drives Clements to the ground in half-guard. Elbows crack Clements over the top and Taleb takes the back as Clements tries to crawl away in an odd move. Both hooks are in and the Frenchman lands a couple of shots before taking mount, but Clements rolls and gets back into half-guard. Elbows from Taleb but Clements uses the fence to stand, only for Taleb to drag him right back down again into a weak half-guard. Taleb takes the back again and lands a couple of shots from behind before Clements stands, and he goes for a kimura and decides to drop to his back. He loses the grip though and it allows Taleb to settle into top position in guard. Nice short elbows from Taleb and he postures up to deliver a big shot for good measure. Clements really looks lost from his back. He tries to use the fence to get back up, but Nordine stays on him as the round ends. 10-9 Taleb.

Third and final round and Clements to his credit still looks fresh. Spinning attack misses though and Taleb quickly takes him down again and gets the back right away. No hooks but the Frenchman is in firm control. Punches connect from behind for Taleb and he outright drags Clements around basically as much as he likes. Clements explodes to his feet, but Taleb stays right on him and slams him to the ground with a trip. Big crowd pop for that one as he lands in side mount. Clements decides to roll and give his back again, and now the crowd boo a bit as Nordine controls him with a front facelock. Clements works back to his feet though and separates. Couple of leg kicks from Clements and Nordine is touching his nose for some reason. Big body kick lands for Taleb. Uppercut from Clements to shake off the clinch and he adds an overhand right too, backing Taleb up a bit. Head kick glances for Taleb. Time might be running out for Clements here. They trade punches and Taleb lands with a decent right counter. Big kick from Clements is caught and Taleb takes him down to guard, and with a minute to go that’s probably all she wrote. Elbows from Taleb and Clements is BUSTED OPEN, bleeding all over the place now. Clements desperately tries to scramble free but he can’t shake the Frenchman off him. Round ends with some knees to the body from Taleb. Clear-cut 30-27 for Nordine Taleb, no other score possible I’d say.

Indeed, all three judges have it 30-27 for Nordine Taleb. Pretty one-sided fight in the end as Clements just couldn’t stop the takedown and even when the fight was standing it didn’t really look like he had a massive advantage anyway. I don’t think Taleb ever bothers the very upper echelon or anything at 170lbs, but his sheer size and power – as well as some decently well-rounded skills – makes him a tough gatekeeper for prospects and so it’s good to have him around in the UFC. Bit of a dull fight overall however.

Lightweight Fight: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs David Michaud

TUF Nations runner-up Aubin-Mercier had looked fantastic in his first post-TUF match, tapping Jake Lindsey with a slick inverted triangle/kimura combo, and it was clear that higher-ups saw him as a possible star for the Canadian market as he was given his own individual deal with Reebok soon after. This looked like a very favourable match for him too as Michaud was coming off a win but hadn’t looked like a world-beater in the process, and I saw him as cannon fodder for a very good prospect in OAM.

Round One and ha, it would appear that Michaud is sporting a David Beckham-style hairband. Combo tags Michaud in the early going. Right hand backs Olivier up and he slips on a kick too. Takedown attempt from Olivier and he puts Michaud down for a second before Michaud pops up. He gives his back in the process though and Olivier stays right on him and looks to force him down, landing some knees to the legs too. Good punches under the armpit from Aubin-Mercier and he stays heavy on Michaud and refuses to let him loose. Olivier forces Michaud down and keeps landing shots in the process, but Michaud shows some good balance and won’t go all the way off his feet. He’s getting zero offense in here though. Finally Aubin-Mercier tries to spin and he manages it, dragging Michaud down and taking the back with both hooks. Great back control from Olivier and he slaps on a body triangle for extra control. He goes for the choke a few times but can’t quite sink it in. Seconds to go and it looks like Michaud might survive the round, but he can’t get Aubin-Mercier off his back at all. Round indeed ends with Olivier in control. 10-8 Aubin-Mercier.

Round Two and Michaud comes out swinging, backing Olivier up slightly, but he doesn’t land anything cleanly and the best shot is a body kick from Aubin-Mercier. Takedown attempt from Olivier is stuffed nicely. Counter right hand lands for Olivier. Head kick glances for the TUF veteran. Combo glances for Michaud. He really pushes forward, but gets tagged by a big combo from Aubin-Mercier. Looks like there’s some blood coming from the mouth of Aubin-Mercier. One-two misses for him and Michaud lands a counter right that drops him! He pops up immediately, but eats a glancing head kick as he quickly gets on the retreat. Michaud keeps pushing forward, but he walks into a big head kick from Aubin-Mercier and a follow-up right hand that lands cleanly too. Big kick lands for Aubin-Mercier and it looks like a groin kick and has Michaud doubling over. Referee Yves Lavigne decides it was clean though and allows Olivier to pounce, looking for the finish! Michaud has to cover up and he gets to his feet, but gives his back in the process and Olivier stays on him like glue and lands a hard knee to the body. Michaud shrugs off the takedown and breaks free, but he takes a deep breath in the process. One minute to go and he seems recovered though. Wheel kick misses for Michaud. Wild punches glance for him but Olivier comes back with a lead uppercut. Kick to the body from Aubin-Mercier. Another body kick follows and the round ends with an exchange on the feet. Closer round but still 10-9 for Aubin-Mercier.

Round Three and Michaud comes out aggressively, probably knowing he needs a finish. He throws a wild combo but Olivier clinches and spins him around a few times before dragging him down by the fence. Michaud pops back up but Olivier stays stuck to him with some knees to the thighs. Trip follows and Aubin-Mercier gets the back with both hooks. Michaud is in trouble. He tries to spin into Olivier, but can’t quite manage it and from there Aubin-Mercier works for the choke and LOCKS IT UP, forcing the tapout.

Really exciting fight and a nice win for Aubin-Mercier, who remains a very interesting prospect. His grappling skills are pretty sick and he’s clearly a great athlete, and if his striking can catch up to his other skills – he obviously has speed and power but needs some refining on his defense and technique – I think he can be a future contender at 155lbs. Just goes to show that it’s not worth writing TUF off yet as a mine for prospects, as I hadn’t heard of Aubin-Mercier prior to his stint on the show and now he’s one of the better prospects in the division in the UFC.

Lightweight Fight: Chad Laprise vs Bryan Barbarena

TUF Nations winner Laprise had beaten Cuban Yosdenis Cedeno in his first post-TUF challenge and I honestly expected him to be matched with someone higher up the ladder here, but instead he was faced with relative UFC rookie Barbarena, who had registered a come-from-behind win over Joe Ellenberger in December. I was taking Laprise here via his usual brand of pinpoint striking and solid takedown defense.

Round One and Barbarena opens with a really hard leg kick. Laprise pegs him back a little with pressure and delivers his own leg kick, but Barbarena again hits him with a nice one. Head kick from Laprise and an inside leg kick follows. Couple more leg kicks from the TUF winner. Big head kick from Laprise is just about blocked and Barbarena fires back with punches. Nice counter combo from Laprise. Wild swings from Barbarena but he eats a sharp counter right. Beautiful counter combo from Laprise stuns Barbarena and knocks him off balance, but he keeps swinging back. Dude is very tough. Combination lands for Barbarena. They trade with kicks and Laprise again tags him with a quick three-punch combo. Spinning back kick to the body from Laprise and Barbarena looks a bit hurt and he really backs up. Big head kick lands for Laprise and Barbarena’s in trouble. Left hand follows and Barbarena’s covering up on the fence as Laprise potshots at him, landing well to the body. Laprise is just picking him off. Barbarena keeps firing back but he’s eating three or four shots for every one he lands. Sharp leg kick connects for the Canadian. Striking trade follows and Barbarena catches Chad with a left hand. Laprise seems to be the faster man though and he continues to land the best shots including a front kick to the body. Seconds to go and Barbarena pushes forward, but walks right into more counters to end the round. 10-9 Laprise; fantastic start for the TUF winner.

Round Two and Laprise opens with a left hook and a partially blocked head kick. Right hook from Laprise and he continues to back his opponent up. Barbarena is marked up bad. Counter right hand from Laprise and he throws Barbarena into the fence to land a couple more shots. Head kick into a jab from Laprise. Really nice movement from Laprise allows him to continue to pop Barbarena with strikes. Barbarena is being outclassed so far. Beautiful counters from Laprise as he dodges shots from Barbarena and lands ones of his own. Clinch from Barbarena but Laprise shrugs him off quickly. Couple of solid leg kicks land for Barbarena. Exchange continues and suddenly it looks like Laprise might be slowing down, and now he clinches. Elbow exits off from Laprise after he blocks a trip. Another leg kick connects for Barbarena. Barbarena’s now backing Laprise up a little but he still walks into a hard counter right. Spin kick misses for Laprise. Wild trade sees Barbarena land a pretty solid combination. Another leg kick lands for him too. Body kick from Barbarena and he’s really backing Laprise up now and forcing him to miss his shots. Clinch from Laprise and he forces Barbarena into the fence, but Barbarena breaks and taunts him a bit. Round ends there. Closer round as Barbarena finished strongly, but I’d still go for Laprise 10-9. No idea what caused him to gas so suddenly though.

Round Three and Laprise seems to have his movement back somewhat and he lands with a clipping head kick in the opening thirty seconds. Barbarena keeps pushing forward though and that forces Laprise to clinch, but he eats an uppercut and has to break. Looks like Barbarena’s cut over his left eye. Stiff jab from Laprise and he clocks him with a hard counter left. Head kick glances for Laprise. Clinch from Barbarena and he literally throws Laprise to the ground and lands in guard. Scramble from Laprise allows him to stand, but they stay clinched and muscle for position. They break and Laprise definitely seems gassed. Leg kick lands for Barbarena and he shrugs off a clinch despite taking a knee to the body. Hard counter right connects for Laprise but he eats a combo too. Clinch from Laprise but Barbarena muscles him off. Back to the clinch but Barbarena breaks with a couple of shots. Good counter left from Laprise and he clinches again, but Barbarena lands a couple of knees inside and breaks. Laprise has a cut on the top of his head. One minute to go and Barbarena’s still backing Laprise up. Good knees from the clinch from Barbarena too. More pressure from Barbarena and he shrugs off a glancing wheel kick. Exchange continues with both men landing but it’s Barbarena going forward and Laprise going backwards. Spinning backfist glances for Laprise and they continue to trade until the round ends. Fun fight. 10-9 Barbarena but I’d call it 29-28 overall; I could see the second going to Barbarena too however.

Judges have it a unanimous decision for Chad Laprise, 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Not sure how Laprise takes that third round but whatever. Fight was really good as Laprise came out like a rocket, picking Barbarena off with pinpoint counters while using slick footwork to avoid taking damage, but the turning point was about halfway through the second round when he really seemed to gas, and that allowed Barbarena to turn the fight into a dirty brawl which favoured him much more. Warning signs probably should’ve been there for Laprise after this as to me he looks like he could be in better shape at 155lbs, but who am I to criticise?

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Alexis Davis vs Sarah Kaufman

I probably would’ve put this on the main card as it was a match between two top ten fighters (and how the hell does John Makdessi vs. Shane Campbell make PPV anyway?) and the FS1 card had a good headliner in Cote vs. Riggs, but Zuffa’s card placement continues to be baffling at times. This was Davis’s comeback fight following the infamous massacre at the hands of Ronda Rousey at UFC 175, while for Kaufman it was her first fight in over a year after her first UFC win over Leslie Smith. It was also the THIRD fight between the two, with the previous two both being won by Kaufman via split decision in what was considered one of the best women’s fights in the history of StrikeForce (March 2012 and another reason why this should’ve been on the main card!) and TKO (April 2007). I was taking Davis this time though as I feel Kaufman’s a bit past her best now.

First round begins and they circle and throw out some feeler strikes before Davis tags Kaufman with a jab. Combo misses for Kaufman and they trade with both women landing punches. Couple of combinations land for Kaufman in the exchanges and they’re really swinging here. Wild trade sees Kaufman land with another good right hand. Stiff jab follows. Davis does not look gunshy at all considering she was knocked silly in her previous fight. Into the clinch and they trade with hooks and uppercuts before Kaufman forces Davis into the fence. Davis reverses position and looks for a trip, and they continue to muscle for position before Kaufman exits with a knee to the body and a right hand. Good leg kick from Davis. She’s badly marked up around her left eye though. Exchange continues as Kaufman continues to plug her with the right hand. Couple of nice low kicks land for Davis. Combination answers for Kaufman and she’s definitely got the quicker hands. Body kick from Davis is caught and Kaufman tags her with a pair of counters before clinching. Plum clinch from Davis and she drops for a double leg, but Kaufman stuffs it. Another try is also well-defended by Kaufman who adds in a knee to the body. One minute to go in the round and Kaufman exits with a hard, short elbow. Uppercut into a right hand from Kaufman. Combo answers for Davis and they continue to exchange. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Kaufman in an excellent opener.

Second round and they exchange right away with both women landing punches but Kaufman getting the better shots in again. Good right hand from Davis and she follows with a body kick but also eats a pair of sharp counter rights. This is a hell of a fight. Good combo from Kaufman ends with the right again but she takes a pair of kicks to the body. Counter combo lands for Kaufman. Trade continues with Davis again landing the body kick. Big combo lands for Kaufman and Davis looks hurt a bit. Front kick glances for Davis. She’s looking busted up now. Body kick from Davis is caught and Kaufman looks to clinch, but Davis surprises her with a SWEET HIP THROW and lands right into full mount! High mount from Davis and she looks to be setting up a mounted triangle before rolling onto her back to lock it up! Kaufman is in trouble here. She tries to stack up to get free, but Davis locks it up despite taking some shots to the face. SICK transition to the armbar from Davis and she straightens it out, and KAUFMAN TAPS! Post-fight it looks like the ref missed some of the tapping too which caused Kaufman’s arm to get some worse torque, but to be fair he was in a tricky position to see it so you can’t blame him.

Tremendous finish from Alexis Davis. Kaufman basically snatched defeat from the jaws of victory here as she was clearly winning the stand-up exchanges and made the one mistake of getting careless in the clinch, and it was over from there. Really slick matwork from Alexis Davis though it must be said as she literally went from the throw into the mount into the triangle into the armbar flawlessly. Almost Rousey-esque in fact! Pretty great fight too which definitely could’ve benefitted the main card.

Welterweight Fight: Patrick Cote vs Joe Riggs

When this one was announced it was like climbing into a time machine and going back to 2005, when both Cote and Riggs were considered two of the best young guns at 185lbs in the UFC. It also made me feel really, REALLY old given that was TEN YEARS AGO and I remember it like it was yesterday, but I digress! The pick for me here was Cote as I felt he’s got more left in the tank than Riggs, who has had such a horrible myriad of injuries over the last few years that I’m surprised he’s still fighting.

First round and Cote pushes forward from the off with a couple of low kicks that glance off Riggs’s forearms. Crowd are chanting loudly for Cote. Clinch and takedown attempt from Riggs and he gets it, taking Cote’s back with both hooks very quickly too. Cote stands with Riggs on his back, but Riggs loses a hook and it looks like he’s going to lose the position. Cote manages to force him back down onto the bottom in half-guard, where he lands a quick series of punches. Riggs gets back to his feet but he’s taking some bombs from Cote here. They stay clinched and Cote drops for a takedown of his own, forcing Diesel down against the fence. He pulls Riggs away from the clinch and looks to keep him grounded, landing some shots inside the guard while trying to step into full mount. Riggs defends that and looks to turn to get to his feet, but he takes a knee to the body. Riggs works up into the clinch but again Cote drops for another double leg and gets it. Full guard from Riggs but he eats some more shots from the Canadian. Deep breaths from Riggs already. He muscles his way back up to his feet but Cote hits another trip down into guard where he works the body and head with punches. Nice pass into half-guard from Cote and it looks like he’s setting up an arm triangle. Riggs defends that and so Cote looks for a far-side kimura from in the half-guard ala Matt Hughes on Riggs. Riggs manages to free his arm though and he goes for an arm triangle from the bottom, but Cote easily avoids that and passes into side mount. Seconds to go and Riggs scrambles, getting to his feet before a wild scramble sees him spiked onto his head, almost take Cote’s back, and then slip off to end the round. 10-9 Cote.

Second round and they circle with Cote throwing out some kicks again. Riggs keeps his distance probably for fear of the takedown I guess, but it means he can’t get into range for strikes. Combo from Cote but a right hand counter from Riggs slows him down and they clinch up. Riggs goes for the takedown this time but Cote stuffs it and they muscle along the fence. Nice knee to the body from Riggs, and an elbow separates. Cote stalks across again and lands with a quick combo, this time avoiding the big counter from Diesel. Both men land punches to the body with Riggs’s landing a little low. Ref calls time but Cote says he’s fine and they carry on. Front kick glances for Cote. Good low kick from Riggs but he misses on a superman punch and it allows Cote to clinch. Action slows down a bit as Riggs forces him into the fence, and Cote screws up on a throw and almost winds up on the bottom before popping back up into the clinch. Nice elbow lands inside for Diesel. Riggs is landing some solid shots in this clinch actually. They break off and Cote pushes forward, and then dodges a big left. Combo glances for Riggs but Cote clinches and tries a shoulder throw. He botches it and gives his back, and Riggs tries to capitalise as the buzzer sounds. Close round; I’d go 10-9 Riggs but you could go either way really.

Third round and again Cote beings as the aggressor. They clinch and Riggs lands with a knee to the body and then drops and gets a takedown to guard. Reversal from Cote but Riggs drops for a guillotine and rolls him over right into mount. Scramble from Cote and he’s out of the choke, but gives his back in the process and Riggs gets both hooks in and goes for the choke. He can’t get it but he does go into a body triangle. Cote turns in the correct way though to get rid of that, and from there he looks to peel the hooks out while defending the choke. Nice move from Cote allows him to turn into the guard and from there he goes to work with some BIG SHOTS, clearly knowing he needs to score some points. Hard hammer fists and punches connect for Cote as the crowd chant his name. Action slows down a bit after a while but Cote is still being active enough to avoid a stand-up from the referee. Just over a minute to go and it looks like Cote’s happy to stay in the guard and continue to work Riggs over. He passes into half-guard and then side mount too, but Riggs scoots to the fence and tries to stand. Cote stays heavy on him though and looks for another takedown. Riggs defends well and almost takes the back, landing with a knee to the body, but Cote hits a switch and tries to get on top. Riggs manages to take the back again but loses his hooks, and Cote scrambles around only for Riggs to end the round on top. 10-9 Cote for a 29-28 win I think.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Patrick Cote. Pretty good fight actually although you have to say it would’ve been better when both men were in their primes. Still, they left everything in the cage and didn’t slow their pace so you can’t really complain. Difference was basically Cote’s physical strength in the grappling exchanges, as even when he got himself into nasty positions he was able to escape and basically won the fight with his ground-and-pound, almost ironic considering that was always Riggs’s big strength!

Bantamweight Fight: Thomas Almeida vs Yves Jabouin

Almeida – rated by hardcore fans as one of the best prospects in the 135lbs division – was signed by the UFC in late 2014 and immediately made his mark by beating Tim Gorman in a Fight of the Night winning display. He was given a step up the ladder here in the form of veteran Canadian Yves Jabouin, but as Jabouin had looked a bit past his prime in recent fights, this felt like a showcase for the young Brazilian.

Fight begins and Jabouin comes out waving his hands like he’s some sort of kung fu guy from the movies, although to be fair he’s keeping them up. Low kick opens things for Almeida as Jabouin throws out a couple of glancing jabs. Both guys look really tentative in this opening minute. Nice inside leg kick from Almeida. Couple of low kicks answer for Jabouin and he shrugs off a clinch. Nice takedown from Jabouin and he lands inside the guard. Nice elbow from the bottom from Almeida but Jabouin almost lifts him back up to his feet before landing a hard left high kick and a left hand. Overhand right glances for Almeida and he lands another leg kick. Body kick from Jabouin is answered by a right hand. Low kick and a left hook land for Almeida. Couple of jabs and the body kick get through for Jabouin again but he misses a spin kick. Left hook to the body and a left straight answer for the Brazilian. Right hand over the top follows but Jabouin fires back with the body kick again. One-two lands cleanly for Almeida and suddenly he’s got Jabouin backing up a bit, and he follows in with a flurry as Jabouin tries to return fire. Spin kick by Jabouin glances off Almeida’s side. Combo follows but Almeida fires back and Jabouin might be hurt. Pair of left hooks to the body land for Almeida and he avoids a head kick. Body kick again from Jabouin and they’re trading now. Left hook stuns Jabouin and he retreats, and Almeida’s killer instinct kicks in and he UNLOADS with a body kick and a VICIOUS FLURRY that has Jabouin covering up! More pinpoint shots land for Almeida and he goes to the body and head, and eventually Jabouin just wilts against the fence and Yves Lavigne stops it with the Canadian still standing.

That was an awesome showing from Thomas Almeida, damn. He did show some holes in his game – namely his defense as he got hit quite a lot before that finish – and I think someone at the very top like Dillashaw or Barao would probably eat him alive right now – but I’d also argue he’s already better than a lot of the fighters ranked above him (Caraway, Mizugaki and McDonald to name three) and so he’s definitely in the title picture – I’d just prefer the UFC to treat him with kid gloves right now and build him slowly as he’s a super-exciting guy who’s still very young. This was a great win for him though, a vicious stoppage against a real veteran, and he looked great to watch too.

Lightweight Fight: John Makdessi vs Shane Campbell

Canada’s own Makdessi – a guy who I find one of the most frustrating to watch in all of MMA due to his inconsistency in terms of how exciting his fights are – was initially pegged to fight monstrous Blackzilian Abel Trujillo here in what sounded like a good fight actually, but Trujillo withdrew with an injury and was replaced on late notice by experienced pro kickboxer Campbell to create a striker vs. striker fight with a bit of a style clash (Makdessi is more of a TMA guy). With Makdessi having tons of previous UFC experience and Campbell having no big name wins on his ledger I was leaning towards ‘The Bull’, but in all honesty I wasn’t that interested and felt this probably belonged on the prelim card.

Round One begins and Makdessi answers a low kick with a right to the body. Another pair of leg kicks land for Campbell but Makdessi fires back with a right hand. Sharp body kick lands for Campbell. Left hand counter glances for Makdessi. Clinch from Makdessi and he takes the back and then goes for a takedown as Campbell spins around to face him. Good job by Campbell to break and they trade punches for a moment before Campbell tries to grab a plum clinch. Makdessi shrugs him off after taking one knee though. Right hook and a pair of kicks land for Campbell. Couple more kicks from the newcomer and Makdessi has a bloody nose already. Knee to the body from Campbell. Hard right hand from Makdessi but he eats a couple more leg kicks. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Makdessi and he nails Campbell with a right hand. Campbell comes back with a body kick but eats a clean left hook. Good body shot from Makdessi sets up another left and then a straight right sends Campbell CRASHING DOWN! Makdessi pounces and pounds away and it looks like Campbell’s out, but somehow the ref lets it go despite Campbell doing nothing but turtling and taking punches. Somehow he gets to his feet, but Makdessi continues to nail him. Beautiful combos from Makdessi and Campbell is on totally rubbery legs. He tries to fire back but it looks like he’s using the fence to stand. Takedown attempt from Campbell but Makdessi BLATANTLY grabs the fence to avoid it. Man this ref sucks. Seconds to go and they break off with Makdessi landing a body kick and another clean right. Campbell fires back, but Makdessi catches a kick and throws him down before waving him back up. Big combo stuns Campbell again and a HUGE RIGHT HAND drops him like a sack of potatoes. This time the ref’s seen enough and calls it.

Fun little fight actually – probably the most entertaining of Makdessi’s UFC run – but the refereeing job was appalling, from letting the fight go on way too long when Campbell was clearly done, to missing the clear fence grab from Makdessi when a Campbell takedown might’ve changed things around. Guy should probably never referee another UFC fight anytime soon. Nice to see another finish though after so many of the prelims went the distance.

Middleweight Fight: Michael Bisping vs CB Dollaway

Despite losing in a one-sided fight to Lyoto Machida in his first real step up to the elite level, Dollaway was matched with another proven top ten fighter in Bisping for his next fight, with the Brit also looking to bounce back from a largely one-sided loss to top contender Luke Rockhold. Despite Dollaway making serious improvements over the last couple of years I was taking Bisping as traditionally he’d always been able to deal with guys like Dollaway handily.

Round One and Bisping presses forward and paws with his left hand before CB lands a low kick. A second one catches the Brit in the groin and the ref has to call time. Dollaway protests but I don’t get why as it was blatant. They restart and Dollaway lands with another low kick. Left hand and a glancing head kick from Bisping. Inside leg kick follows. Head kick misses for Dollaway. Left hand sets up a right for Bisping. Bisping’s doing a good job so far of avoiding Dollaway’s strikes and landing his own. Nice inside leg kick from the Brit and he avoids a takedown attempt. Left hand connects for Bisping and a good combo follows. Right hand lands for him too and he dodges CB’s punches. Nice low kick lands for Dollaway. Beautiful combination lands for Bisping and again he slips Dollaway’s counters. Dollaway is really swinging but he’s telegraphing a little which is allowing Bisping to dodge. Right hand just misses for Dollaway. Head kick is blocked by CB. Bisping’s striking looks really sharp thus far and he connects with a chopping leg kick. Spin kick misses for the Brit. Good leg kick from CB. Good combination from Bisping backs Dollaway up, but he gets too confident and CB lands a BIG LEFT COUNTER that drops him! Bisping goes to full guard and covers up as Dollaway looks to finish him off, but the Brit kicks him away and looks like he’ll survive. Dollaway gets through with some decent shots but Bisping spins to his feet and then counters with a right, but Dollaway tags him with a flurry! Bisping survives that though and swings back, and with the buzzer about to sound he hurts CB with a flurry ending with a head kick! Wow. Erm, 10-10 round as despite the knockdown Bisping was largely picking Dollaway apart prior to it. Great round.

Round Two and Dollaway is visibly marked up facially. Couple of jabs start things off for Bisping and he lands a combo while slipping Dollaway’s punches again. Looks like Bisping’s recovered totally now. Big right hand from Bisping and he circles out of range as CB swings. Another good combo lands for the Brit. Dollaway is really swinging heavy shots now. Right hand glances for CB. Wild swings from Dollaway but Bisping again gets the better of an exchange with a right hand. Kicks back Dollaway up a little. Flying knee misses for Bisping and CB taunts him a bit. Right hand into a takedown attempt from Dollaway but Bisping shows tremendous defense to stay on his feet. Nice stiff jab from Dollaway. Big combo answers for Bisping as he again counters well. Leg kick from Dollaway and he just about dodges a counter combo. Body kick lands for Bisping and he follows with a combo. Overhand right has Dollaway hurt and he backs up towards the fence. Bisping looks to swarm him, but CB shoots only for Bisping to stuff it and hit him with a left high kick. Hard combo from Bisping but a counter left slows him down a little. Bisping is really stringing combos together well in this fight. Minute to go and Bisping hits another combo, but eats the counter left hook twice and that forces him onto his back foot a little. Crowd chant for Bisping which is unusual outside of the UK. Wheel kick misses by a mile for him and Dollaway manages to get a single leg takedown to guard as the round ends. 10-9 Bisping.

Round Three and Dollaway opens by landing a hard left hook. High kick into a right hook answers for Bisping. Nice combo follows for the Brit. Big right hand catches Dollaway coming in but he still manages to drive through and put Bisping down with a double leg. Bisping goes to full guard and looks calm, and he kicks CB away and pops up to his feet before slipping free. Looks like he’s cut around the mouth though. Nice inside leg kick from Bisping. Big left hook from Dollaway wobbles Bisping’s legs for a second but he recovers quickly. Body kick lands for Bisping. Pair of lefts follow and back Dollaway up. Nice right hand lands for Bisping set up beautifully by a low kick. Counter combo clips Dollaway cleanly. This is actually the best Bisping’s striking has looked in a while. Another combo ends in a left head kick for him. Trio of low kicks follow. Dollaway looks a bit tired. Takedown is stuffed by Bisping but CB comes in swinging with a right hand that lands. Another crowd chant for Bisping begins. Couple more combos land for Bisping. Pair of leg kicks land for him. Dollaway looks far slower now. Takedown attempt from CB but Bisping works to defend it. Blatant fence grab is missed by the ref (a different ref to the previous fight, Jesus) and Bisping stuffs it. Left hook catches CB while he’s on his knees and that puts him onto his back, and he looks exhausted now with seconds to go. Strong punches land for Bisping from the top, and he takes the back for a second and drags CB down. Dollaway pops back up and eats a big right hook, and that’s the fight. 10-9 Bisping and I have this 30-28 for the Brit.

Judges call it 29-28 all round for Michael Bisping, all giving Dollaway the first for the knockdown I guess. This went pretty much how I expected it to go, as Bisping’s superior technique and cardio allowed him to pick Dollaway apart for the majority of the fight, hurting him a few times but not really coming close to finishing, and as per usual despite showing tremendous striking at points the Brit’s defense was still slightly porous and it allowed Dollaway to drop him and meant he was never truly out of the fight despite being behind on the scorecards. As with most Bisping fights too (unless you’re a hater) it was pretty good from an entertainment standpoint. I’d comfortably say without hesitation at this point that he’s the best fighter to never get a title shot in UFC history. Not that he’s ever warranted one as such but you get what I mean.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rampage Jackson vs Fabio Maldonado

After his 2013 move to Bellator, I honestly didn’t expect to see Rampage inside the UFC octagon again. After all, he’d talked that much shit on Zuffa on his way out that it felt like he’d blown up his bridges rather than burned them, and to be honest he seemed way past his best too, having left the company with three straight losses. He had recorded three wins in a row in Bellator but two were over weak opposition while a decision over King Mo was highly debated. So when the rumor leaked in late 2014 that Quinton was on his way back to the UFC due to some issues surrounding his Bellator contract, I didn’t believe them. Turns out I was massively wrong, sort of. To be honest I don’t really know how to explain the situation as I don’t know enough about it, but the general gist was that Rampage felt Bellator hadn’t lived up to what his contract stated and thus he was a free agent – and free to return to the UFC with a surprisingly favourable return bout against brawler Fabio Maldonado – while Scott Coker (for once not playing Mr. Nice Guy) felt the Bellator contract was iron clad. So we got some legal games where Rampage was at first removed from the fight and replaced by former hockey goon Steve Bosse, and then finally was cleared via a court to step back into the UFC. Well, sort of – basically he was allowed this fight and then it was back to the legal games. Contractual issues aside I thought Rampage would probably use his strong punching power and clinch game to win this one, but the chance of an upset – especially when it was changed to a 215lbs catchweight due to Rampage not hitting 205lbs – was definitely there for a dude as durable as Maldonado.

First round and Rampage quickly looks to cut off the cage and stalks forward, backing Maldonado up but not really landing anything in the first thirty seconds. Brief trade and neither man lands clean. Good jab connects for Rampage. Nice leg kick follows and then he flurries on the Brazilian before clinching. Knees land inside for Quinton as he moves Maldonado along the fence. Good uppercut breaks for the former champ. Jab to the body from Maldonado. Combo lands for Rampage ending in a left hook and he clinches to deliver a hard knee too. Another jab to the body answers for Fabio. Right uppercut from Quinton sets up a combo. His hands look sharp here at least. Nice body punch from Maldonado. Combo from Rampage. Pace has already slowed a little. Right hand from Fabio but Rampage opens up on him with a big flurry that has him covering up, and he mixes in a pair of hard knees too. Clinch follows and they exchange some short body punches. Good job from Fabio to turn the clinch around and force Rampage into the fence. Nice uppercut breaks for Quinton. Jabs land for both men. Leg kick connects for Rampage but Maldonado fires back with a combo and then taunts him. Looping left hook, Liddell-style lands for Maldonado and Rampage misses with a head kick before landing a heavy knee to the head as the round ends. 10-9 Rampage.

Second round and they trade punches from the off before Rampage lands with a couple of knees from the clinch. Left separates for Quinton and hurts Fabio, but the Brazilian bulls back into the clinch and works the body. Knee answers for Rampage. His Muay Thai looks better than I’ve seen it in a long time. Rampage works free and pops him with a double jab. Couple of body punches fire back for Maldonado and he clinches again to land some further short punches. Rampage again comes back with knees inside. Uppercut breaks for the former champ. Nice combo from Rampage but Maldonado slaps his own head to taunt him. Good shots from the clinch for both men and Maldonado again taunts Rampage. Body kick and a left hook from Quinton. Left hook from Maldonado sets up another clinch. Short punches connect for Fabio but he’s not doing enough to really win the round from the clinch I don’t think. Good knee inside from Quinton but Maldonado digs him with a couple more body blows. They break and exchange punches and now Maldonado is at least landing more. So is Rampage though with a combo and a leg kick. Nice left to the body from Maldonado. HARD combo from Rampage but Maldonado eats it and tells him to bring it. Couple of low kicks from Rampage. Solid uppercut and another combo follow and force Maldonado to back up although he still tells Rampage to bring it. Back into the clinch and Maldonado hits an inside trip to guard. Man, in the day Rampage would never have been taken down like that. Round ends there. 10-9 Rampage but a closer round.

Third round and Maldonado lands a stiff jab and backs Rampage up a bit. Right hand and a body shot land for the Brazilian. Left-right fires back for Rampage. Good head movement allows him to avoid a flurry of shots from Maldonado. Good leg kick from Rampage. More head movement from Quinton and he pops Maldonado with a right hand. Maldonado taunts him before the ref calls time to give the Brazilian his mouthpiece back. They exchange jabs and the pace has really gone from the fight at this point with both men tired. Quick combo lands for Rampage with a couple of minutes to go and again Maldonado loses his mouthpiece and has to stick it back in. Hard body punches from Rampage. Maldonado just doesn’t seem to be able to stay busy enough to really hurt or outpoint Quinton. Back to the clinch and they exchange short body punches, and some boos are now audible. One minute to go and they break off, and Rampage lands with a leg kick, a quick elbow and a left hook. Maldonado taunts him but he’s still eating the bigger shots. Seconds to go and now Rampage starts to taunt Maldonado, and the fight ends just after. Call it 30-27 Rampage.

Judges have it 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Rampage Jackson, his first UFC win since his 2011 victory over Matt Hamill! Fight wasn’t the best however – Rampage looked alright I guess in terms of his striking and his movement, but it wasn’t exciting really as neither came close to a finish and there was way too much clinching for my liking and a super-slow pace towards the end. Could he make any proper noise in the division at this point? I guess so, it’s a thin division and fights with the likes of Rashad, Shogun, OSP et al would probably do fine as Fight Night headliners even if the very top guys (Jones, Cormier, Gus, Rumble) would wreck him. Personally though I think the whole legal issue probably forces him into retirement. It’s unfortunate but maybe it’s telling for these guys who think the grass is greener on the other side when it’s not.

UFC World Flyweight Title: Demetrious Johnson vs Kyoji Horiguchi

Main event hardly sounded inspiring but such is life for Mighty Mouse as he’s now so far ahead of the pack at 125lbs that it’s hard to come up with a competitive fight for him, and as he’s so active too he burns through contenders quickly meaning we end up with fights like this, where Horiguchi, despite an impressive run at Flyweight (3-0), was largely rushed into a title shot that realistically he probably wasn’t ready for. I was giving him a puncher’s chance at best – and that isn’t a knock on Horiguchi, just telling of how great DJ is – and expected a one-sided fight in favour of the champ.

Round One and both men come out moving at about four times the speed of Rampage and Maldonado from the previous fight. Body kick opens for Horiguchi. Right hook glances for DJ. Horiguchi is ridiculously hench for 125lbs. Body kick again lands for the challenger. Looks like Johnson’s trying to cut the cage off, and he does well to dodge a dangerous combo from the challenger before landing a body kick of his own. Takedown is avoided by Horiguchi. Body kick lands for the challenger but DJ catches the leg and forces him back into the fence. Horiguchi works to block the takedown and then he manages to shake Johnson off him.DJ continues to walk him down and from there he lands a slick combo ending in a knee and a takedown. That was awesome. Horiguchi ends up seated against the fence, taking some punches from the champ. DJ works hard to keep him grounded but the Japanese fighter does well to reverse to his feet with a minute to go. Nice leg kick lands for the challenger. Combo into a glancing knee from Horiguchi and he avoids the takedown. Body kick from Horiguchi. Round ends on the feet. Close-ish round but 10-9 Johnson.

Round Two and DJ really pushes forward, landing a quick combo that backs Horiguchi up. Leg kick follows and he dodges the big body kick. Big flurry from Horiguchi connects though ending in a hard knee, but it allows Johnson to grab him and drive him into the fence. Trip takedown from Horiguchi though and he puts Johnson on his back, a bit of a rarity in the UFC. DJ works right back up though, only for Horiguchi to land with a hard left on the break. Couple of glancing kicks for Johnson and he cuts the cage off and takes Horiguchi down himself. Horiguchi gets his back to the fence in an attempt to stand back up, but Johnson drags his legs away from the fence to prevent that. He’s not doing much damage however. Nice knee to the body from Johnson as Horiguchi explodes to his feet and he snaps him down with a front headlock. Horiguchi stands again but Johnson’s on him with a high kick and another takedown. Some deep breaths are taken by Horiguchi now. He works back to his feet again though and looks to break free. Johnson doesn’t let up though and takes him right back down, this time almost taking full mount. Crowd are booing but they’re insane as Mighty Mouse is awesome. Horiguchi escapes to his feet again, and he glances on a left hook but eats one from the champ. Rushing left hand from Johnson allows him to take down the challenger again, and Horiguchi’s looking tired now. Quick punches land for DJ as Horiguchi pops back up, and he lands a right on the break for good measure. Quick flurry from Horiguchi but DJ comes back with a body kick and a right hand, then takes him down again to end the round. 10-9 Johnson but Horiguchi is keeping it competitive at least.

Round Three and Johnson rushes out with a pair of low kicks. Big body kick lands for the champion as Horiguchi looks quite noticeably slower. Duck-under into a takedown attempt from DJ but Horiguchi defends it. Solid low kick from Horiguchi. Takedown attempt from Mighty Mouse and he drives the challenger backwards, but Horiguchi blocks using a front headlock. Head kick misses for the challenger and Johnson gets hold of him in a rear waistlock and drags him to the ground. Front headlock from Johnson but Horiguchi again escapes onto his knees and looks to stand. Mighty Mouse is all over him though and keeps him pressed into the fence despite taking a knee to the midsection. They break off and a wild left lands for Horiguchi but DJ evidently has a sick chin too as it has zero effect. Low kick from the champ is countered by a Horiguchi right hand. Single leg is avoided by the challenger. Big left misses though and Johnson ducks under and tackles him into guard in a slick move. He moves into side mount pretty swiftly and it seems like Horiguchi is becoming a bit discouraged. Crowd boo again for no good reason really as Johnson drops some elbows to the body. The challenger can’t seem to get DJ off him and the champ moves into a mounted crucifix to look to get him out of there. Punches land for Johnson but Horiguchi manages to hang in there until the buzzer. 10-9 Johnson.

Round Four and they trade low kicks to begin before Horiguchi clips Johnson with a counter right. Duck-under almost leads to a Johnson takedown and does lead to a glancing right from the champ. He manages to close the distance again and uses a rear waistlock to force the Japanese fighter down for a second before he pops back up. DJ keeps him in the clinch but Horiguchi breaks with a knee to the body. Single leg attempt from Johnson as I marvel at the sheer pressure he puts on. Horiguchi stuffs it but Johnson goes right into a double leg and gets him down to his knees. Horiguchi pops up again but moments later he’s back down. It’s all contributing to wearing the challenger out. They break off after Horiguchi pops up again, and DJ lands with a body kick while getting out of the way of some heavy punches. Jumping body kick from Johnson and he shoots on a single leg and drives the challenger into the fence again. Good job from Horiguchi to stuff it but he eats a hard right hook and a low kick before Johnson shoots again. Horiguchi manages to defend and break free, but despite outright running away Johnson stays right on him. He’s leaving the challenger no room to breathe. Glancing left from Horiguchi and now he clinches and looks to get Johnson down, but the champ blocks it and breaks off. Seconds left in the round. Body kick lands for Johnson and he avoids a takedown. Round ends with another DJ body kick. 10-9 Johnson and this is a shutout thus far.

Round Five and Horiguchi comes out swinging…but Johnson’s timed him perfectly and he hits an easy single leg to guard. Pass into side mount follows. Inverted triangle attempt from Horiguchi because why not, but DJ easily frees himself from that. Horiguchi tries to hip escape back to guard and then spins onto his knees, giving up a front headlock in the process. Johnson lands with a knee to the shoulder and then tries to sneak into a back control position, getting a hook in, but Horiguchi manages to explode to his feet. Left hand from Johnson sets up another takedown right away. He’s straight into side mount too. Good job from Horiguchi to get to half-guard but Mighty Mouse is just styling on him here and it looks like he’s going for a kimura on the left arm. Horiguchi smartly rolls, but gives up his back. Johnson can’t hold position though and the challenger escapes to his feet. Takedown follows instantly however and he’s right back down. Two minutes to go and Johnson stays on top and bloodies up Horiguchi’s nose with some punches. Horiguchi gets his back to the fence and looks to stand again, but DJ pulls him back down and settles into side mount again. This time he takes the back off a scramble, albeit with no hooks. Nasty knee to the body connects for DJ as Horiguchi manages to scramble up using the fence. Horiguchi turns into him, but eats a knee on the exit and he’s literally got fifty seconds to finish this now. Left hand from Johnson sets up another takedown and he takes the back right away. Horiguchi scrambles but winds up in a mounted crucifix, and DJ pounds him a bit before spinning right into an armbar for the TAPOUT ON THE BUZZER! 4:59 in the fifth round so the latest submission in UFC history.

Well, Horiguchi kept it competitive but despite landing some pretty hard shots at times, he was thoroughly outworked by a guy who’s got to be in contention as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now. This was another virtuoso performance from him as he completely shut out a dangerous challenger and made him look like a rank amateur. Did it excite the fans? Apparently not but it wasn’t a boring fight in my opinion – the problem I think is that while he’s winning impressively and even finishing a ton of his fights now, Mighty Mouse’s personality doesn’t sell fights the way a Conor McGregor or even someone like GSP or Jon Jones does. I mean look at the GSP comparison – they have a similar fight style and shit, GSP finished LESS fights and yet he was massively over with fans and sold PPVs by the bucketload. It’s literally because he had an engaging persona and engaging opponents like Koscheck, Diaz and Hardy while Mighty Mouse doesn’t at the minute. We’ll have to see what Henry Cejudo can pull out I guess. Fight was perfectly acceptable MMA from an entertainment standpoint.

-Show ends with a highlight reel as Goldie and Rogan try to talk up John Dodson as DJ’s next challenger.

Final Thoughts….

Difficult show to rate. On one hand, outside of the slower Taleb/Clements and Rampage/Maldonado fights there wasn’t what you’d call an outright bad fight on show here. And in fact some of the fights we did get – Davis/Kaufman, Markos/Daly, Aubin-Mercier/Michaud, Bisping/Dollaway – were outright fantastic. However, the sheer length of the show with so many decisions and late finishes, as well as a distinct lack of marquee feel due to the main event not really being inspiring and the co-main being a bit dull means it’s not even close to the best PPVs of 2015. Thumbs in the middle, leaning up I’d call it.

Best Fight: Bisping vs. Dollaway
Worst Fight: Taleb vs. Clements

Overall Rating: **3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: