MMA Review: #513: UFC Fight Night 71

-Not much fanfare for this one coming in as I guess it fell too close (four days) to the biggest show of the year in UFC 189, but I was still pumped as the card had two big tests for two fighters I’ve been following for some time – Todd Duffee and Tony Ferguson – as they faced veterans Frank Mir and Josh Thomson respectively. The card was also supposed to have a pretty awesome sounding Lightweight fight between Gilbert Melendez and Bobby Green, but it was scrapped when Melendez tested positive for PEDs. Boo!

UFC Fight Night 71

San Diego, California

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Welterweight Fight: Alan Jouban vs Matt Dwyer

This was a matchup of strikers who had picked up nice knockout wins earlier in the year – Jouban over Richard Walsh, Dwyer over William Macario. My pick was Jouban in a pretty easy call, as I still sort-of think Dwyer’s win over Patolino was flukey while Jouban’s “loss” to Warlley Alves still impresses me a lot as Warlley is a beast.

Round One begins and they circle and throw out some feints, before Jouban connects on a body kick which leads to a brief trade. Head kick misses for Dwyer. Front kick lands though. Jouban pushes forward but walks into a right hand that drops him! Scramble on the ground leads Dwyer to go for a guillotine, but Jouban escapes and settles into the guard, likely looking to take a moment to recover. Dwyer kicks him away and they’re back up. Combo from Dwyer backs Jouban up a bit. Left hand from Jouban leads to the clinch but Dwyer muscles him into the fence. Jouban quickly switches position before they separate and trade punches again. Head kick is blocked by Jouban. Body kick lands for Jouban as he pushes forward a bit. Head kick from Jouban leads to a wild trade and suddenly Dwyer’s rocked! Right hand drops him for a second but he pops right back up, but in a scramble Jouban lands a BIG KNEE TO THE HEAD….with Dwyer kneeling. Herb Dean quickly pops in to call time and it looked like the knee was definitely illegal. Herb decides to take a point and they restart. Combo connects for Jouban off the restart and Dwyer might still be hurt. Couple of kicks land for Dwyer but Jouban swarms him with hooks as the round ends. Very difficult round to score, but I think Jouban just about edged it, so it’s 9-9 with the point deduction.

Round Two and Dwyer comes out throwing kicks, but Jouban obliges him with a low kick. Spin kick misses for Dwyer. Big punches land for both men in an exchange. These guys are really reckless with their punches in the pocket. Jouban seems like the aggressor now though and he’s walking Dwyer down. He walks into a hard knee, but responds with a really nasty body kick. Head kick follows and hurts Dwyer but he comes back with a body kick of his own. Counter right hook cracks Dwyer coming forward. Takedown attempt from Dwyer is stuffed by Jouban. Another body kick lands for Jouban and he pushes forward some more. Clinch from Jouban and he looks to get Dwyer down, then breaks with an elbow. Dwyer comes forward but walks into a BIG LEFT HEAD KICK and he goes down! Jouban pounces with some bombs, avoiding an armbar and he’s all over Dwyer with strikes. Dwyer comes back up, but he’s busted open and he tries to fire back, but Jouban is all over him and he lands with a hard left hand. Dwyer looks out of gas and Jouban OPENS UP on him with a heavy combo, going to the body as well! Kick from Dwyer is caught and Jouban nails him with a left to the body. Seconds to go and Dwyer’s really struggling, and Jouban ends the round with a BRUTAL CARTWHEEL KICK that stuns him again! Good lord. 10-9 Jouban in an amazing round.

Between rounds Dwyer’s corner act really bizarrely, asking him “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?”. Um, he just got the shit beaten out of him?

Round Three and Jouban pushes forward right away, landing with a lunging right to the body. Looks like Dwyer might still be foggy after that second round. Dwyer tries to use some kicks to keep his distance, but Jouban catches him with a left hand and a leg kick. WILD TRADE sees Jouban land a pair of hard lefts. Dwyer has a great chin. Jouban continues to press forward and lands another leg kick. Body kick connects hard too. Counter right hand glances for Dwyer. Jouban’s output seems to be slowing down now too and that allows Dwyer to connect on a combination. Looks like he’s somehow back in this fight. Body kick leads to a combo for Dwyer. Jouban comes back with a heavy combination himself though and follows with a takedown to guard. One minute to go and Jouban is on top in half-guard. Dwyer starts to fish for a kimura, but it doesn’t look like he’s got anything, particularly from that position. Jouban remains on top and he throws in a nasty knee to the body from there. That hurts Dwyer and Jouban opens up with a flurry and throws a cartwheel kick as they stand, but it doesn’t quite land and Dwyer ends the fight on top. Great fight. 10-9 Jouban so I’d give him the fight 29-27.

Judges officially have it 29-27 all round for Alan Jouban. Fantastic fight from start to finish really as both men gave everything they had and gave us a pretty wild striking war. Dwyer seemed to have the advantage early on but once Jouban got to grips with the range, he really took over and wow, that cartwheel kick was something else. Great way to start the night.

Lightweight Fight: Kevin Lee vs James Moontasri

Lee was coming off his win over Michel Prazeres in February, and the word going around was that he’d improved massively since joining Xtreme Couture (a team you don’t actually hear that much about these days actually). His opponent Moontasri had picked up his first UFC win on the same show over late replacement Cody Pfister, but I couldn’t see him getting past Lee who’s beginning to look like a legit prospect at 155lbs.

First round begins and Lee presses forward but takes a leg kick. Big punches miss for both men before Lee lands a body kick. Overhand right glances off the side of Moontasri’s head. Right hand lands for Moontasri but Lee counters with a body shot. Jumping kick misses for Moontasri and then Lee misses one of his own. Low kick lands nicely for Moontasri. Right hand connects for Lee coming forward. Weird moment follows as BOTH MEN get poked in the eye accidentally. Big John McCarthy has to call time to let both recover and they trade wildly before Lee catches a flying knee attempt and gets a double leg. German suplex follows as Moontasri stands, and he’s got the back with both hooks in. Body triangle follows and Lee works for the choke as Moontasri stands and tries to shake him off. Lee flattens him down again and continues to look for the choke, and eventually he sinks it tightly to force the tapout.

Impressive showing for Kevin Lee. Fight looked even standing but once it hit the ground Lee got him out of there pretty quickly. Dude is a hell of an athlete and a hell of a prospect too as he continues to develop pretty rapidly. His next fight is against Leo Santos, a TUF Brazil winner and longtime veteran, and it sounds like the perfect test for him to me.

Bantamweight Fight: Manny Gamburyan vs Scott Jorgensen

Still don’t get why they haven’t tried to match Manny up with his hated rival Bryan Caraway yet, although maybe they have and Caraway turned it down. Anyhow, Manny had picked up his first win since 2013 at UFC 178 over Cody Gibson, while Jorgensen really had his back to the wall after losing four of his last five. My pick was Manny just because I think unfortunately, Jorgensen is probably done at this point.

Round One and they circle before Jorgensen stuffs an early takedown attempt. Good right hook from Manny and now Jorgensen shoots, but Manny grabs a guillotine and jumps to guard and in the scramble he manages to gain top position. He forces Jorgensen to his knees with the guillotine sunk in, but Jorgensen reverses and now he’s got a guillotine of his own. Manny avoids that and pops back up before hitting a single leg into the guard. Few shots to the body land for Manny and he looks to take the back as Jorgensen scrambles to his feet. He can’t quite manage that but he’s still on Jorgensen in the clinch and he quickly tackles him back down. Jorgensen pops up again, but they remain in the clinch before Jorgensen lands a low knee. Herb Dean has to call time to let Manny recover before they restart in the clinch. Manny goes right back to the takedown and this time he hits a slam and takes Jorgensen’s back as he goes down. Manny gets a crucifix from the back, but Jorgensen does a good job of spinning and now he’s in top position. Manny uses the fence to stand but Jorgensen opens up on him with a big combo, only for Manny to answer back with a BIG RIGHT HOOK that sends Jorgensen crashing down! He’s in trouble and Manny pounces and lands a ton of hammer fists, then more punches as Jorgensen turtles up. Somehow Jorgensen survives and works to his feet, but Manny hits a BIG GERMAN SUPLEX to put him back down. Jorgensen though pops up again, and they clinch for a second before Manny breaks. One minute to go and Manny hits a counter left hook before missing a wild right haymaker. Counter right connects for Manny in a brief exchange, and he just misses the haymaker again as the round ends. Excellent first round; 10-9 Gamburyan.

Round Two and both men bounce around before Jorgensen lands a decent combination. Blatant low blow from Manny causes Jorgensen to collapse and Herb has to call time again. He recovers quickly and Manny pushes forward, but walks into a good right hand counter .Both men land some punches in an exchange before Manny shoots on a takedown again and gets it for a second, but Jorgensen pops back up and cracks him with a body kick. Single leg attempt from Jorgensen, but Manny grabs a guillotine and they scramble with Jorgensen ending up on top. Looks like he might be setting up a guillotine now, but Manny escapes and they end up in the clinch. Good knee to the body and a right hand separate for Gamburyan. Right hook lands for Manny coming forward. Weird back elbow also glances for him. Two minutes to go and Manny shoots on a double leg, but Jorgensen defends it nicely. Manny keeps trying though and forces him down eventually, but a good scramble from Jorgensen allows him back up and he gets a takedown of his own. He gets Manny’s back for a second before Gamburyan scrambles free and gets on top where he lands a pair of hard elbows. Back up to the clinch and it’s Manny in control, landing a hard knee to the body to close out the round. Closer round but still 10-9 Manny.

Round Three and Manny opens with a thudding leg kick. Big left hook follows and connects cleanly. Both men land with body kicks before Manny almost spins him around with another leg kick. Exchange continues and Manny catches him coming in with a combo. Overhand left also lands but Jorgensen fires back with a right hand. Good leg kick from Jorgensen. Bit of taunting from Manny only leads Jorgensen to catch him with a left uppercut. Takedown attempt is defended by Jorgensen but he eats a left hand. Both guys are landing some decent punches here. Takedown attempt from Manny but Jorgensen hits a nice sprawl to avoid. Big left lands for Manny and he also lands with a hard leg kick. Another exchange ends with Manny clocking him with a pair of hooks. Takedown attempt from Manny but Jorgensen defends and lands some elbows to the head. Good punches inside the clinch from Manny but he still can’t get Jorgensen down, and they trade shots to end the round. Probably 30-27 Gamburyan but I could see it as 29-28 too.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Manny Gamburyan. Pretty good fight actually as both men threw everything they had at one another and worked hard to keep a really strong pace throughout, with no real slow points in there. Jorgensen didn’t look as bad as he’d done previously here and he hung in there with Manny throughout and just got slightly outworked in the end, which there’s no shame in really. As for Manny this was a good win for him and I wish they’d just book the Caraway fight now. Everyone wants to see it!

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Holly Holm vs Marion Reneau

This was future champion Holm’s second fight in the UFC, after a somewhat underwhelming debut win over Raquel Pennington. Here she was faced with a fellow unbeaten fighter in Reneau, who was on a bit of a surprising run in the UFC after beating Alexis Dufresne and Jessica Andrade, both times as an underdog. A few people were actually picking her to beat Holm but I expected Holly to come through, feeling that Joe Silva was probably matching her up well to build her for the inevitable Rousey fight.

Round One begins and Holm presses forward as Reneau circles on the outside. No action at all in the opening minute as both women come up short on their early strikes. Low kick from Reneau is answered by a body kick from Holm and a low kick of her own. Side kick to the body glances for Holm. Another one follows shortly after a glancing combo. Reneau seems to be struggling to find her range. Hook kick just misses for Holm. Another side kick glances for her too. This is a really tentative round so far. We’ve got 1:30 remaining and both women are still glancing with most of their strikes. Good leg kick does land for Holm. Rush from Reneau but Holm easily avoids it. Head kick misses for Holly. Body kick finally lands for Reneau as Holm steps forward a little too much. Side kick replies for Holm but doesn’t land cleanly. Superkick glances off Reneau’s neck and may have hurt her, as she seems to slow immediately allowing Holm to land with a chopping leg kick. She fires back to prevent Holm from swarming on her though and the round ends with a couple more kicks from both women. Dull round; 10-9 Holm, mainly for aggression.

Round Two and they continue trading kicks with Holm just about landing the better ones. Left hand connects for Holm coming forward. Good leg kick follows and Reneau clinches, but Holm shrugs her off and lands with a body kick. This has been a real snoozer thus far. Quick flurry from Holm ends with a decent body kick. Another one follows and she seems to be getting a bit more comfortable with the range now. Body kick lands for Reneau, probably her best shot of the fight so far. She’s still taking more kicks from Holm though. One minute to go and Holm opens up with a really nice combo that forces Reneau right back into the fence. Great left body kick lands for Holly. Kick from Reneau is caught and she jumps to the koala position, but Holm slams her down and then stands free to kick the legs. Round ends with Reneau getting up. 10-9 Holm. Crowd are booing which says a lot.

Round Three and Holm comes up short on her early combinations. This is almost like a point fighting match now with both women throwing everything from distance. Good uppercut lands for Holm to end a combo. Low kick follows. Majority of strikes are still just glancing though. Surprising that Reneau’s not gone for any takedowns yet as she’s clearly getting the worst of the stand-up. Glancing right hand puts Reneau down for a second but it looked like she was off balance more than anything. Head kick glances for Holm as Reneau stands. Pair of big leg kicks land for Holly. Hook kick glances for her. She’s pretty much picking Reneau apart here, just not doing that much damage. Good left hand from Holm leads Reneau to clinch and jump to guard, and when Holly drops down with her she goes for a triangle. Holm avoids it easily though and stands free to kick the legs. Reneau is forced back up with less than a minute to go, and Holm lands a flurry and then shrugs off the clinch. Really nice combination from Holm has Reneau hurt, and she ends the fight with a flurry – probably the most successful of the whole fight. Got to be a clear 30-27 for Holly Holm.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-26 and 29-28 for Holly Holm. Not sure how you’d give Reneau a round there unless it was out of pity, ha. Fight wasn’t all that at all though as both women seemed content to strike from such a distance that they didn’t do much damage, and while Holm clearly outlanded Reneau from start to finish she only really seemed to hurt her in the closing seconds of the third round. Watching this you never would’ve believed Holm would be the one to dethrone Ronda Rousey, which is why it was such an upset I guess! Worst fight of the night thus far.

Lightweight Fight: Tony Ferguson vs Josh Thomson

After five wins in a row including big ones over Abel Trujillo and Gleison Tibau, it was clear that TUF 13 winner Ferguson needed a step up and he was given one here against Thomson, who had been on the shelf with various injuries after his tight decision loss in 2013 to Bobby Green. Before that though he’d only been one fight away from a title shot and so he was definitely the biggest test of Ferguson’s career. Even so I thought El Cucuy would be able to pass the test – I’ve always been a believer in Ferguson’s skills being able to take him to the elite level and Thomson felt like he was slowing down slightly after a long career at the top level.

First round and Ferguson opens with a partially blocked body kick. Lot of movement from Ferguson early on and he seems to be forcing Thomson onto his back foot. Good low kick from Tony. Front kick glances for Thomson. Ferguson continues to stalk forward, but Thomson catches a low kick and throws him down. Ferguson pops back up only for Thomson to take him down again, but this time Ferguson hits a forward roll and pops up to his feet to a big crowd pop. Sweeping right hook sets up a pair of front kicks from Ferguson, really using that long reach. Both men follow with front kicks to the body. Good leg kick from Ferguson. Stiff jab snaps Thomson’s head back. Another low kick follows. Couple more kicks to the body and leg follow that and Thomson is clearly struggling with the range. He does land a right hand in a quick exchange but takes another front kick to the body. Couple of low kicks from Ferguson but he eats a counter combo from the veteran. Head kick is blocked by Thomson. More kicks from Ferguson keep Thomson on the retreat. Flying knee glances for Tony but Thomson gets him down off it and goes into the guard. Ferguson immediately looks to lock up an inverted triangle, but Thomson postures out well and settles into the guard. Elbows and slaps land for Ferguson from the bottom and he throws up his legs for an armbar, but Thomson avoids that and takes the opportunity to pass to half-guard. Ferguson regains guard, but takes a pair of solid right hands. Elbow follows and that’s the round. 10-9 Ferguson as he was the aggressor throughout and landed the better strikes.

Second round and Ferguson opens right away with a big front kick to the chest. He continues to pressure Thomson, walking him down although he does eat a combo. Brief trade follows and in a wild moment Ferguson forward rolls his way out of danger again. He comes back right away with another nasty front kick to the body that seems to hurt Thomson. Thomson tries to answer back but Ferguson steps in with a CRUSHING RIGHT ELBOW and Thomson goes DOWN! Ferguson pounces, taking the back to attempt to finish as Josh goes into survival mode, and he eats a TON of punches and elbows as he tries to survive, rolling onto all fours. Ferguson locks up a crucifix and lands some nasty elbows, and he’s on the verge of stopping this. Referee is hovering too. Thomson manages to survive somehow but he’s taking some really heavy shots here. Herb Dean decides to step in because Ferguson apparently grabbed the fence, didn’t see it myself though. He doesn’t protest however and after a warning they restart standing. Thomson is still wobbly and he gets tagged by more punches as he desperately tries to fire back. Ferguson clinches and lands another hard elbow and a front kick to the body as they break. Thomson is basically swinging on instinct, and Ferguson dodges and hits him with a stiff jab and a low kick that almost drops the Punk. Kick is caught by Thomson but he can’t get Ferguson down, and for a second it looks like the TUF winner might be setting up a D’Arce before he chooses to break and land with a left instead. Brutal left elbow from Ferguson wobbles Thomson badly, and he’s so hurt that he throws a spinning backfist that misses by miles and causes him to stumble like a drunkard. Ferguson attempts to take the back, but screws it up and winds up on his back in guard. He goes right into a triangle though and lands some vicious elbows that open Thomson up badly. Triangle doesn’t quite look sunk in, but he’s using it to destroy Josh with elbows anyway. He tightens the choke up and NOW it looks sunk. Thomson does a tremendous job to slip free, but he can’t get out of the guard. Ton of blood on Ferguson’s chest from Thomson’s head. Kimura attempt from Ferguson and Thomson is in trouble again, and he uses it to sweep into top position and REALLY cranks it, but Thomson refuses to tap. He somehow escapes again, but Ferguson gets his back with an over/under and continues to land shots. Thomson has tremendous heart to still be in this fight. He manages to get back to his feet, but he eats another elbow, only to swing back as the round ends. That was the round of Tony Ferguson’s life, wow. 10-8 easy. Thomson’s corner ought to consider stopping it for his own good but of course they don’t.

Third round and Ferguson pushes forward and opens with a jumping kick, then lands a pair of right hooks as Thomson catches the leg to attempt a takedown. Ferguson shrugs it off and clocks him with an elbow, but Thomson fires back with a good combination as they break. Stiff jab snaps Thomson’s head back and Ferguson follows by tagging him with more strikes. Couple more elbows land for Ferguson and he calmly dances out of range as Thomson tries to attack, probably knowing he needs a finish to win. Thomson is horribly bloody. Another elbow from Ferguson sets up a hard knee to the gut, and he easily sprawls to avoid a takedown too. Ferguson looks so confident here. Pair of hard leg kicks land for El Cucuy and he follows with a body kick that almost doubles Thomson over. Thomson is as tough as nails to be taking all of this abuse. More front kicks to the body follow and the strange movement of Ferguson seems to be forcing Thomson out of range too. BRUTAL knee to the body lands for Ferguson and Thomson goes down on all fours, but he somehow avoids a D’Arce and gets back to his feet. Spinning backfist lands for Thomson out of nowhere but doesn’t have much effect. Seconds to go and a superman punch glances for Ferguson, and Thomson comes back with a takedown attempt. Ferguson stuffs it and scrambles, but he gives his back and Thomson tries a suplex but can’t quite complete it as the round ends. 10-9 Ferguson for a lopsided 30-26 on my scorecard.

Unsurprisingly it’s a unanimous decision for Tony Ferguson, 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. This was the breakout performance I’d been hoping to see from Ferguson, as he basically beat the hell out of Thomson in all areas for all three rounds. Nobody in Thomson’s career had ever been able to smash him up like this, even the likes of Gilbert Melendez, Benson Henderson and Tatsuya Kawajiri, and while it’s clear Josh is slightly past his prime these days to see him cut to shreds standing was still incredible. I think we’ll see Ferguson get a title shot in 2016 actually, because I think he beats Edson Barboza in December pretty comfortably, and could he win? It honestly wouldn’t surprise me at this point. And shit can you imagine how good a Ferguson/Cerrone title fight could be? Holy shit. This fight was massively entertaining if one-sided.

Heavyweight Fight: Frank Mir vs Todd Duffee

This was one of 2015’s most anticipated fights to me, as I’ve been a big fan of Duffee’s since before his UFC debut even (I first heard of him after he beat down Assuerio Silva FYI) and I’ve also become a big fan of Mir’s since about 2010 basically. As it was the main event it was obviously scheduled for five rounds, but I don’t think anyone was expecting it to go that long given both men are VIOLENT FINISHING MACHINES who also have pretty questionable defensive skills. Most people figured Duffee had an advantage standing; Mir on the ground, and my pick was Duffee as I couldn’t see Mir getting him down and Mir’s chin seems a bit shot at this point.

Fight begins and Mir does not look in the best shape here. Both guys come out swinging right away, with Mir landing a hard left hand counter in the opening exchange. Duffee shrugs off a clinch attempt but Mir tags him with a left and a knee. He comes back with a right hand but Mir drops him to one knee with a counter left! Knee and a BIG COMBO follow for Mir and Duffee is hurt bad! He swings right back with some BOMBS though and Mir gets tagged by a left that slows him up! This is a SHOOTOUT. Big left from Mir but Duffee seems to wave him on and lands a heavy right of his own, but Mir comes back with another right and a left. Big knee from Mir but he’s off balance and he stumbles backwards, and Duffee wades into the clinch for a second before they break. Mir looks tired already. He pushes forward, but walks into a STIFF JAB from Duffee and a right hand follow-up that buckle his legs! Duffee closes in swinging but gets way too wild and Mir WAYLAYS HIM WITH A LEFT AND DUFFEE GOES DOWN AND OUT!~!

Holy shit. That was a knockout of the year contender for sure and an absolutely wild fight to build up to it as well. Totally sloppy but man was it exciting as both guys got hurt and were probably both wobbly right before the knockout. Duffee seemed content to bull forward throughout and constantly left himself open to being tagged by Mir’s left hand, but just before the knockout he did seem to have Mir on the verge of being stopped himself. Replay shows he left himself waaaay too open though, swinging this ludicrous haymaker from a wide angle and it allowed Mir to absolutely CRUSH him with that left hand. Best knockout of Mir’s career by a mile. I still think Duffee has the potential to be a top-level Heavyweight, but boy does he need to tighten up his defense if he’s going to get there. And the crazy resurgence of Frank Mir continues, as he looked SO CLOSE to retirement in 2014 but has pulled out two great knockouts this year. If he doesn’t end up in the UFC Hall of Fame there’s something wrong with the world. This was a hell of a way to end the night, for sure.

-Show ends as Mir continues to celebrate in the Octagon.

Final Thoughts….

Following up the one-two punch of UFC 189 and the TUF 21 Finale was always going to be tricky but somehow this show managed to deliver too, as the only slow spot was Holm/Reneau and everything else was pretty great, in particular the insane main event, and the exciting wars between Jouban and Dwyer and then Ferguson and Thomson. Best performance by far was Ferguson but for me it was the main event that really makes this show a must-see. Two thumbs up but skip the Holm fight.

Best Fight: Mir vs. Duffee
Worst Fight: Holm vs. Reneau

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: