MMA Review: #508: UFC Fight Night 70

-People thought UFC 177 was cursed but honestly you could argue this one was even worse. The show was initially pegged to act as the TUF Brazil 4 Finale, and was originally set to take place in Sao Paulo. Some unknown issues ended up moving it to Florida and the main event was upgraded from Erick Silva vs. Rick Story to Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero. All good, right? Well, until the US Visa system crashed and caused a total of SIX FIGHTS – including the afore-mentioned TUF Brazil finals and Silva vs. Story – to be scrapped. This forced Zuffa to scramble and we got a prelim card that included four fights thrown together on horrendously short notice. Main card was also depleted, but on the plus side we still had Machida vs. Romero – which to me sounded like one of the most intriguing fights of 2015.

UFC Fight Night 70

Hollywood, Florida

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Featherweight Fight: Hacran Dias vs Levan Makashvili

Tough wrestler Chas Skelly was initially scheduled to fight Nova Uniao’s Dias here, but when he had to pull out, Makashvili stepped in just over a month after his UFC debut win over Mark Eddiva. Dias meanwhile hadn’t fought since beating Darren Elkins in December 2014, but he’d looked pretty good in that fight and I thought if he could replicate that same smothering gameplan here he’d probably have enough to beat the Georgian wrestler.

Round One and Dias pushes forward and opens with an overhand right. Good leg kick lands for the Brazilian too. They continue to exchange strikes with Dias landing a couple more low kicks and Makashvili answering with a right hook. Good right to the body from Dias. He looks pretty smooth standing actually. He continues to get the better of the stand-up, but to be fair this is a slow pace for a 145lbs fight. Crowd begin to boo before Makashvili shoots on a single leg, but Dias stuffs it and they wind up clinched. They jockey for position before Makashvili breaks and lands a right hand. Jab answers for Dias. Don’t know what fight Anik’s watching because he thinks Makashvili’s been the aggressor. Takedown attempt from Dias and he forces Makashvili into the fence and then trips him down with a nice change of direction. Full guard for Makashvili and Dias can’t do much before the round ends. 10-9 Dias.

Round Two and Dias connects on a right hand before they trade punches and finally wake the crowd up. Leg kick from Dias is caught and Makashvili hits a double leg, but right away Dias rolls into a kimura attempt and looks like he might be able to transition to an armbar, too. The Georgian tries to escape and almost gives up the armbar, and in a bit of sick grappling Dias transitions into back control (!), but Makashvili shakes him off and then gets back into top position. He lands right into a triangle though and Makashvili’s in trouble again as this looks TIGHT. He can’t quite sink it though and the Georgian lifts him up to slam his way free before dropping back into the guard. Armbar attempt is avoided nicely by Makashvili who lands some solid punches, but Dias scrambles to his feet. Clinch from Makashvili but Dias trips him down. Explosion from Makashvili allows him to pop up before Dias can advance position though and they clinch again. Dias stuffs a takedown attempt and almost gets one of his own, but Makashvili uses a whizzer to throw him off. One minute to go and they separate, before Dias shoots on a double leg and completes it. He lands in half-guard but Makashvili quickly gets full guard back. Round ends there. 10-9 Dias despite giving up a couple of takedowns.

Round Three and Makashvili opens with a low blow. Big John McCarthy calls time right away to let Dias recover. They restart and the Georgian clinches, forcing Dias into the fence. He can’t get Dias down though and they break off. Combo glances for Dias. Left hands land for both men before Dias drives him into the fence. Makashvili turns him around and looks for a single leg, landing a heavy right hand in the process, but he can’t get the Brazilian down again. Couple of good knees land for the Georgian. Crowd are openly booing now and rightfully so. This is a dull fight. Big John calls a clean break with about half the round remaining, but they clinch up again right away to the horror of the crowd. They muscle for position and Makashvili manages to take Dias’s back for a second, but the Brazilian breaks free and turns into him to attempt a double leg. Makashvili blocks it and we’re still not getting much action. Dias continues to look to get him down but can’t manage it, and even KenFlo’s admitting the fight sucks at this point. Switch from Makashvili allows him to dump Dias for a second but the Brazilian pops back up. Makashvili manages to complete the takedown to half-guard with seconds to go, and from there he grinds with his elbow until the round ends. 10-9 Makashvili but 29-28 Dias overall.

Judges have it 29-28 Makashvili, 29-28 Dias and 29-28 for Hacran Dias by split decision. Pretty dull fight though as neither man really established dominance, and while Dias got the better of the grappling for the most part he didn’t do much damage at all really. He’s a frustrating case in that he’s probably a top ten – if not top five – talent at 145lbs but he doesn’t fight enough to really establish himself and his style doesn’t excite fans either. Total yawner of an opener.

Middleweight Fight: Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos vs Steve Bosse

Former hockey enforcer (the guy who fights, apparently) Bosse had signed with the UFC back in April to step in to replace Rampage Jackson against Fabio Maldonado, but when Rampage got the all clear to fight the word was that the Canadian had retired before even debuting. That turned out not to be true and instead he dropped to 185lbs to face Brazil’s Marreta here, in a fight that sounded like a technical striker against a brawler. With Bosse being older and having retired once I suspected Marreta would be able to pick him apart, probably with some of his trademark nasty body kicks.

Round One and they circle, with Marreta glancing on a left hand before landing a leg kick. Another leg kick lands before Marreta throws a BRUTAL LEFT HIGH KICK AND KILLS BOSSE DEAD!~! Dude is STIFF.

Wow. That was one of the best head kick knockouts in UFC history and arguably the best of 2015 thus far too. Unbelievable stuff. Replay shows Marreta’s shin connecting right with the side of the head and neck of Bosse and just switching him off on impact. Methinks Bosse ought to go back into retirement after taking a KO like that. I think Marreta loses his next fight to Elias Theodorou for the record but he’s still doing much better in the UFC than I first expected coming off his TUF Brazil run and more power to him. This was awesome in every possible way.

Middleweight Fight: Antonio Carlos Jr. vs Eddie Gordon

This was a fight featuring a TUF winner vs. a TUF winner – much more common these days! – with TUF Brazil 3’s Cara de Sapato taking on TUF 19’s Gordon. Both were coming off losses although it must be said that Gordon’s was worse than Carlos’s – no shame in losing to a huge 205lber in Patrick Cummins before moving to 185lbs, while Gordon had lost in a really dull fight to the unheralded Chris Dempsey. With Carlos Jr. Being a HUGE 185lber and a sick grappler to boot I was taking him to submit Gordon as I’ve learned over time that the TUF 19 cast just wasn’t that strong.

Round One and good lord is Carlos big for a MW. Evidently a big Brazilian contingent here too as they’re all chanting that Gordon is gonna die. Nice head kick from Carlos and he clinches and forces Gordon into the fence. They muscle for position inside the clinch before Gordon shrugs him off, but the Brazilian shoots back in right away and dumps him onto his back in half-guard. Really nice takedown from Cara de Sapato. Gordon gives up his neck in order to work to his feet, and avoids a guillotine, but he eats some knees inside as they stand. Action slows down a bit as they continue to exchange position inside the clinch, and the crowd begin to boo a little, probably getting flashbacks to Dias/Makashvili. Finally Cara de Sapato hits a foot sweep and lands in Gordon’s guard. Big elbows connect from the guard for Carlos Jr. and he really works Gordon over. Into half-guard for the TUF Brazil winner and he continues to land punches, then drops some knees to the body to really put a pointer on the round. 10-9 Cara de Sapato.

Round Two and Carlos Jr. opens with a nice left high kick. Couple of jabs follow. He looks so much more comfortable in there than Gordon. Front kick glances off the jaw too. More punches from range land for the Brazilian and Gordon just can’t get a rhythm going. Kick to the body from Cara de Sapato forces Gordon to clinch, but he can’t get the Brazilian down. Cara de Sapato shrugs him off and they exchange some more jabs, before Carlos Jr. tags Gordon with a right hand and then shoots. Gordon defends but the Brazilian switches from a single leg to a double and plants him down in half-guard. Looks like he’s going for a D’Arce, but he gives it up to work a can opener in an attempt to get out of the half-guard. Solid punches land for the Brazilian and the round ends with him attempting a leglock. 10-9 Carlos Jr.

Round Three and Gordon comes out swinging, clearly knowing he needs a finish, but right away he eats some jabs from Carlos Jr. Heavy leg kick connects for Cara de Sapato. Into the clinch for Carlos Jr. and it looks like he might be going for a guillotine as Gordon switches position on him and goes for a takedown. Knee breaks for Cara de Sapato and then he goes for a takedown of his own and hits the single down into half-guard. Gordon appears to be setting up a triangle, but Carlos Jr. easily avoids that and passes into side mount, practically back mount in fact. Sure enough he gets his hooks in and begins to work for the rear naked choke. Body triangle follows and the choke looks sunk in. Gordon defends as best he can, lasting just over a minute, but the Brazilian keeps on working for the choke and eventually sinks it with about thirty seconds to go, forcing Gordon to tap.

Pretty decent fight albeit with some really slow spots too. Good debut for Carlos Jr. at 185lbs, although I wonder if he can stay in that weight class at his size now the IV ban has come into play. We’ll see in 2016 I guess as he hasn’t got another fight booked for this year yet. Dude definitely has potential though, showing strength, good takedowns, his usual slick ground game and some improvements standing too. Could be a contender in the future. As for Gordon he’s unfortunately become just the second TUF winner (after Colton Smith) to be cut from the UFC which is to be expected when you go 0-3 in your post-TUF fights I guess. I think he just needs more polish outside the UFC really and at least his name from TUF means he’ll probably pick up decent bookings if not be able to sign for Bellator maybe.

Welterweight Fight: Lorenz Larkin vs Santiago Ponzinibbio

This one sounded like fireworks on paper as both men are explosive strikers who tend to come into their fights with all guns blazing. Larkin’s UFC debut had been a bit of a disappointment to this point although he’d looked fantastic in his debut at 170lbs, starching the tough John Howard inside a round, while Ponzinibbio had bounced back from a debut loss to Ryan LaFlare to take two straight wins using his striking and insane chin. Despite Larkin probably being the more proven fighter I thought the Ponz might be able to win this, capitalising on Larkin running out of steam as he’d tended to in the past.

Fight begins and both men circle with the Ponz pushing forward and blocking a couple of left kicks from Larkin. Pair of left hands and a body kick back the Argentine up but to the surprise of nobody he comes right back with some wild punches that force Larkin back on the retreat. Nice leg kick from the Ponz. Front kick connects to the jaw for Larkin. Beautiful counter left hand follows as the Ponz pushes forward again. Body kick into a right hand from Ponzinibbio but Larkin spins him around with a heavy leg kick in reply. Right hook glances for the StrikeForce vet. Looks like the Ponz has a bloody nose. Clinch from Ponzinibbio and he looks for a takedown, but Larkin gets underhooks to block it and lands a knee to the face. Ponzinibbio exits with an elbow, but Larkin lands with a spin kick to the body. Good combo answers for Ponzinibbio. Superman punch from Larkin but he gets backed up by a combo and Ponzinibbio goes for a takedown again. Good job from Larkin to defend again and he hops all over the place before escaping. Brutal leg kick from Larkin and he follows with another front kick. Right hand tags the Ponz cleanly. Body kick comes back for Ponzinibbio but Larkin catches him with a heavy counter uppercut on the buzzer. 10-9 Larkin as he made the most of his apparent speed advantage.

Into the 2nd and Larkin opens with a spin kick to the body right away. Ponzinibbio tries to back him up, but Larkin’s movement is really smooth and it’s allowing him to catch the Argentine coming forward. Nice uppercut and then a lunging left hand connects for Larkin. Ponzinibbio fires right back but he seems outgunned. Couple more kicks from Larkin and he follows with a faked low kick into a one-two. Beautiful right hand follows that up. Larkin looks phenomenal here. Front kick to the body from Larkin but the Ponz manages to come back with a heavy low kick and then he rushes in with a combo that doesn’t quite land cleanly. Wild shots glance for Ponzinibbio but Larkin absolutely CRACKS him with a left that causes Larkin himself to slip off balance. Somehow the Ponz eats that right up and answers with a right hook. Dude has an incredible jaw. Both guys are swinging heavy shots now and Ponzinibbio seems to be having more success. Low kick slows him down for a second but he comes back with a couple of wild right hooks. Shootout continues and Larkin connects on a pair of BIG LEFT HOOKS that finally wobble the Argentine! Right-left combo follows and DOWN GOES THE PONZ! He looks out as Larkin continues to bomb on him on the ground from side mount, but somehow he FIGHTS HIS WAY UP! More shots land for Larkin though as he doesn’t seem to be slowing up and the Ponz is all over the place, wow. Left hands continue to connect and with Ponzinibbio inexplicably still standing, Herb Dean steps in for a good stoppage.

Firstly that was a great fight. Larkin looked comfortable in the first round, outstriking Ponzinibbio using his superior speed and movement, but somehow Ponzinibbio managed to draw him into more of a brawl in the second and for a moment it looked like he might be taking over until he got too reckless, allowing Larkin to land those huge shots that set up the stoppage. Secondly after seeing that I’d say Larkin is the real deal at 170lbs – Ponzinibbio isn’t a guy I’d call top ten or anything but he’s incredibly tough and has a tendency to force his opponents into his type of fight – a dirty brawl – but for the most part Larkin avoided that and picked him off nicely. I think it’s time for another push up the card for him for sure and I’m glad they didn’t cut him after that shaky run at 185lbs now. As for the Ponz, back to the drawing board but to be fair with his style of fighting he probably has a job for life with the UFC and rightfully so!

Middleweight Fight: Yoel Romero vs Lyoto Machida

As I mentioned in the intro to me this was one of the most intriguing fights of 2015, and it was also a bit of a shocker when announced considering the UFC had been trying to match Romero with Jacare Souza and that fight had been cancelled twice due to injury. Romero had of course been out of action since that legendary fight with Tim Kennedy that involved the infamous STOOLGATE controversy, while Machida had last been seen pretty much being slaughtered by Luke Rockhold – not that there’s any shame in that as Rockhold is AWESOME – in April. My pick? Romero, mainly because the speed advantage Machida had held at 205lbs didn’t seem to be as telling at 185lbs and for a giant dude Romero is scarily quick, and also because Machida’s problems against Rockhold (and Chris Weidman for that matter) seemed to come because he wasn’t strong enough physically, and ten weeks after that Rockhold fight didn’t sound like enough time to really improve in that area (without the ‘roids) especially against a physical beast like Romero.

Round One and both men circle and throw feints before Romero blocks a left high kick and lands a low kick. Both men try kicks that the other man blocks. Lot of movement early from Machida as you’d expect. Crowd seem firmly behind Lyoto. Body kick glances for Romero. Lot of kicks from Romero early actually, but Machida connects on the harder leg kick in an exchange of them. Body kick glances for Machida. Nice outside low kick from Lyoto. Romero continues to stalk forward but he isn’t really throwing much volume thus far. Left hand counter just about misses for Machida. Good leg kick from the Cuban but he eats a left hand in reply. Right hand lands for Machida from close range but Romero fires back with a thudding left hand that knocks him off balance. He seems fine though but that clearly landed hard. Right high kick also glances for Romero. Knee to the body lands well for Machida. Right hand follows. Jumping kick misses for Romero. Seconds to go and a spin kick just misses for Lyoto. Spearing left hand glances for Machida and Romero glances on a right hand counter before the round ends. Interesting opening round; 10-9 Machida by a hair as he just about landed more shots.

Round Two and Romero pushes forward, and it does seem like he’s beginning to do a good job of cutting the cage off and forcing Machida backwards. Big left hands land for both men in a brief exchange. Kicks from Romero are met by a left hand counter from Machida. Pair of nice leg kicks land for Lyoto. Crowd are now chanting for Romero. More kicks for both men before a jumping knee connects to the body for Romero. Left hand counter glances for Machida on the way out though. Lefts land for both men in another exchange. No takedown attempts thus far from Romero. Body kick glances for Lyoto. Halfway through the round and Romero continues to stalk forward. Right hook into a WILD attempt at a flying knee from Romero but it doesn’t quite land cleanly. Guy is insanely explosive though! Left hook glances for Machida but he’s having a difficult time catching Romero due to the Cuban’s speed. Romero backs him up and lands with a straight left. Big combination connects for Romero and Machida might be hurt although he doesn’t show it, instead throwing loads of feints before hitting a body kick. Counter left lands for Romero though and Machida’s hurt again. Body kick connects for the Cuban who definitely seems to have found his range now. He keeps pressing forward but he takes a BEAUTIFUL combo from Machida who lands with a leg kick into a body kick. CAGE-SPRINGING SUPERMAN PUNCH of all things sets up a takedown attempt from Romero, but Machida avoids it on the buzzer. 10-9 Romero to even the score.

Round Three and Romero cracks Lyoto with a right hand off the bat and follows with a hopping kick to the body. Nice leg kick from the Cuban too. Big left misses for Machida but he does avoid a rush from Romero. Leg kick from Lyoto but he’s still struggling to land significant shots due to the speed of the Cuban. Clinch from Romero and he hits a brilliant knee-tap to plant Machida on his back. Half-guard for Lyoto but Romero OPENS UP WITH ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL ELBOWS and Machida’s head BOUNCES OFF THE MAT AND HE’S OUT!

Man that was violent. Fight ended literally the moment they hit the ground pretty much as Machida didn’t even really have a chance to defend himself before Romero smashed his head to pieces with those elbows. This was a really tremendous performance from Romero as despite a decent first round, Lyoto never really looked comfortable or managed to land anything major due mainly to Romero’s speed and his ability to pop in and out of range without eating a nasty counter as the likes of Ryan Bader had done. Finish was just vicious, point blank, as Romero is one of the hardest-hitting guys in the whole division and landed some of the nastiest elbows I’ve ever seen from that position in MMA. Post-fight things get weird as Romero cuts an odd promo in broken English, taking a potshot at GAY MARRIAGE of all things according to some although I personally still can’t tell whether he’s saying “No for gay Jesus” or “No forget Jesus”. Regardless, it doesn’t matter – the guy is an absolute stud in the cage and if he can get past Jacare Souza I think he provides a monstrous test for Chris Weidman (or Luke Rockhold, but probably Weidman) sometime in 2016.

As for Machida, I think it’s probably time for him to retire or for Zuffa to start to move him down the card or use him in nostalgia-based fights like say, a third fight against Shogun or a fight with Vitor or something because I think he’s done as a top-level contender and to throw him against hungry, up-and-coming monsters seems unfair when you consider he’s probably taken more cumulative damage against Weidman, Rockhold and Romero than he’s done in his whole career previously. Hell of a finish to the night at any rate.

-Announcers discuss the rise of Romero and then we cut away there back to the studios.

Final Thoughts….

Outside of the dull Dias/Makashvili fight I thought this was a pretty solid effort, especially considering it was a quickly thrown-together card. We got two of 2015’s nastiest finishes from Romero and Marreta, a really good brawl in the form of Ponzinibbio/Larkin and while Cara de Sapato/Gordon had some slow points it wasn’t bad or anything. I’d say this one is worth a thumbs up for those two knockouts alone and definitely worth taking a look at if you’ve not seen them yet.

Best Fight: Ponzinibbio vs. Larkin
Worst Fight: Dias vs. Makashvili

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman: