MMA Review: #525: UFC Fight Night 78

-The UFC’s third foray into Mexico, this show was doubling as the finals for TUF: Latin America 2, but for a TUF Finale it was pretty loaded to be honest, with a fight to decide the next #1 contender at Flyweight and the debut of Diego Sanchez at 145lbs backing up a main event between rising Welterweights Kelvin Gastelum and Neil Magny. Tons of people were complaining about the TUF finals being on the main card but not me – last time around the TUF Latin America finals had been tremendous fights and I was hoping for the same here.

UFC Fight Night 78

11/21/15
Monterrey, Mexico

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann.

Lightweight Fight: Efrain Escudero vs Leandro Silva

TUF 8 winner Escudero had actually coached the TUF Latin America 2 series against Kelvin Gastelum, but as they’re in two different weight classes they were not matched against one another and instead Efrain was faced with the Brazilian striker Leandro ‘Buscape’, who had won three of his last five (with that weird no-contest against Drew Dober in there) and hadn’t lost since September 2014. Despite washing out of the UFC a couple of times Escudero seemed to finally be back on track with two wins and I figured he’d be able to outwrestle Silva and take a decision.

First round gets underway and Efrain stalks forward as Silva circles and throws out some feints. They exchange some glancing kicks but by 1:30 in we’ve had very little action. Body kick does connect for Silva. Both men land a leg kick and then the crowd begin to boo as they still look tentative. Left hand lands for Silva. Escudero continues to back him up but he’s just not being active enough. Body kick lands again for Silva. They clinch up and Silva muscles Efrain into the fence, where they trade some knees before breaking. Combo lands for Silva on the break but he doesn’t really follow it up. Takedown attempt from Escudero but the Brazilian shows excellent balance to stay on his feet before catching Efrain with a left hook. Brief cinch is broken by Silva but Efrain lands with a right over the top and shoots again. He still can’t get Silva down though and he Brazilian breaks with a combo. Round ends with a nice combo from Silva. Terrible round, but 10-9 Silva.

Second round and Silva throws out some kicks to begin but finds himself being backed into the fence again by Efrain. Front kick glances for Silva and he follows with a hard counter left. He’s catching Escudero coming in with these punches. Takedown finally lands for Escudero as he times Silva coming in, and the Brazilian lands in full guard. Little happens though and Silva manages to push him off and get back to his feet. Escudero rushes him on the feet though and catches a kick to plant him on his back again. Silva looks to tie Efrain up from the bottom but he does eat a solid elbow from the former TUF winner. Leglock attempt from Silva but Efrain avoids it pretty easily to keep top position. He moves into half-guard and drops a couple of solid punches, before looking to block a possible sweep. Silva moves back to full guard, but Efrain continues to land sporadic shots on him. Less than a minute to go now and Silva tries to scoot back to the fence in order to stand, but Escudero works to keep him grounded. Round ends with Efrain landing a series of punches as Silva stands. 10-9 Escudero to even things up.

Third round and Silva comes out with a glancing left head kick and a couple more strikes to peg Escudero back a little. Efrain closes the distance with a combo and looks to grab hold of him, but Silva forces him off and then lands a combo of his own. Pair of jabs set up a nice left hand for Silva. Takedown attempt is blocked by the Brazilian, who turns Efrain around and lands a knee to the body. Hard combo breaks for Silva and he stuffs another takedown attempt. Another attempt ends in the same way. Left hook to the body from Silva and he lands with another combo before Efrain clinches. They break off and Efrain shoots again, but Silva sprawls and snaps him down with a front headlock before spinning to take the back. Efrain might be in trouble here. Both hooks in for Silva and he’s got full back control. Escudero desperately tries to wriggle free, landing an elbow from the back mount, but Silva’s got him under firm control and time’s running out for him. He continues to squirm, but he can’t get Silva off his back. It looks like Silva might be setting up for a twister of all things as he moves his right leg to lace around Efrain’s leg rather than control the body, but he doesn’t really go for it and remains in back mount until the round ends. 10-9 Silva for a 29-28 mild upset.

Judges score it 29-28 all round for Leandro Silva. Fight was largely dull though and because of the general lack of action I’d say it did more to halt the momentum of Escudero than really give any momentum to Silva. It’s a pity really as I thought Efrain was finally beginning to live up to the promise he showed after his TUF run but after this one his back is against the wall again for his next fight.

TUF Latin America 2: Lightweight Finals: Enrique Barzola vs Horacio Gutierrez

This was the first TUF final, with Peru’s Barzola taking on Mexico’s Gutierrez. Both men had picked up one finish and one decision during their time on TUF, and a winner in these fights is notoriously hard to pick, but I was going with Barzola as he’d got much more experience than Gutierrez (a record of 10-2 compared to 2-1) and he’d also stopped Cezar Arzamendia during TUF and he was the guy I thought might be able to win the whole thing.

Interesting entrance for Barzola as he comes out wearing a Dappy hat (which makes sense as he’s from Peru) but also ranting at the camera and looking super-intense like he’s doing his best Diego Sanchez impression.

Round One and they circle a lot with both men missing early kicks. Right hand glances for Barzola as Gutierrez walks forward. Low kick also lands for the Peruvian but Gutierrez fires back with a really heavy one of his own. Two minutes in and both men still look a bit nervy. Brief clinch is quickly broken. Wild combo misses for Gutierrez and Barzola drops for a single leg and gets it, before transitioning to the back and getting a rear waistlock as the Mexican stands. BIG GERMAN SUPLEX follows and Barzola lands some heavy punches from the waistlock. He doesn’t get his hooks in and that allows Gutierrez to scramble, but he can’t quite get away and Barzola keeps hold of the waistlock. Gutierrez blocks another suplex and turns into him, but Barzola takes him down again into half-guard this time. Gutierrez works back to full guard, but Barzola postures up to deliver some punches. Good shots to the body and head for Barzola but Gutierrez manages to scramble to his feet. Barzola grabs him as he gets up though and gets a rear waistlock before tripping the Mexican back down into half-guard. Short elbows follow before Gutierrez gets full guard. Barzola postures up to drop some more big punches from there and that’s the round. 10-9 Barzola.

Round Two and Barzola circles on the outside and avoids some early strikes. Beautiful level change for the Peruvian and he plants Gutierrez on his back in guard again. From there he goes to work with elbows and punches right away, and then he stands above Gutierrez to drop a big right hand into the guard. Gutierrez attempts a sweep but he can’t get Barzola off him, and the Peruvian continues to grind away with elbows. Looks like Gutierrez is cut badly over his right eye. Barzola is doing his best Tito Ortiz impression here, grinding and chopping away with elbows in the guard and being very effective with it. He postures up to land some really heavy right hands, too. Gutierrez just has no answer for this from his back. He tries to land some upkicks as Barzola stands over him, but it doesn’t help as Barzola drops back down into half-guard. More elbows and punches land for Barzola and with seconds to go he looks to set up a kimura by landing heavy elbows to the body. He can’t get it though and the round ends there. 10-8 Barzola as he punished Gutierrez throughout and took no shots himself.

Round Three and Barzola circles on the outside and lands a counter right hook as Gutierrez throws a combo. Gutierrez is swinging here as he probably knows he needs a finish. Takedown attempt from Barzola is defended well this time and a second attempt is also stuffed although Barzola lands a right on the way out. Gutierrez continues to swing for the fences, but Barzola ducks under and gets a single leg to guard. Barzola’s corner are absolutely screaming at him. He settles into the guard and begins to drop elbows again, re-opening the cut. He continues to work the body and head with shots, and he’s also doing a good job of grinding with the forearm to keep Gutierrez grounded. Barzola’s pace from top position is really impressive as he keeps on landing shots. Really good series of punches land for the Peruvian as he stands over Gutierrez for a second before dropping back down. One minute to go and this is looking firmly like Barzola’s fight as it doesn’t seem like Gutierrez is capable of getting back up and Barzola keeps on flurrying on him so there’s no possibility of a stand-up. Seconds to go and Gutierrez works up to his feet only to be tackled right back down. Armbar attempt is avoided by Barzola and he lands some more elbows. Round ends with Barzola on top and I’d call it 30-26 for him.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 for Enrique Barzola. No surprise there as Gutierrez never really got going as he had no answer for the takedown and once Barzola got on top although he didn’t really attempt to pass the guard, he remained really active throughout and worked the Mexican over with punches and elbows. The fact that the ref never told him to “work” or anything like that to threaten a stand-up says a lot I think. As I mentioned earlier his style reminded me a lot of prime Tito Ortiz, just sitting in the guard and punishing his opponent with elbows. Whether he can keep that working for him as he progresses in the UFC and comes up against guys he can’t outwrestle I don’t know, but he’s going to be a fun prospect to watch just because of that wild Diego-like intensity he brings. This was a fun fight overall I thought mainly due to Barzola’s pace.

TUF Latin America 2: Welterweight Finals: Erick Montano vs Enrique Marin

The other TUF final was another match between a Mexican and a non-Mexican, in this instance the UFC’s first Spanish fighter in ‘Wasabi’ Marin. Like Barzola and Gutierrez in the previous fight he’d decisioned one opponent and finished the other, while Montano – the younger brother of current UFC fighter Augusto ‘Dodger’ – had taken two finishes, although one was a Coleman/Shogun-type flukey arm break. This one to me seemed even trickier to pick than the other final but I ended up going with Marin as I just felt he’d looked more impressive on TUF.

Round One and both men throw out some glancing strikes before Montano clinches and forces Marin into the fence. Knee inside for Montano but Marin quickly breaks off. Right hand connects over the top for Montano. Marin fires back with one of his own. Good combo lands for Montano in a brief exchange. Combo answers for the Spaniard. Exchange continues and Marin manages to close the distance to land a short left hook. Montano tries to keep his distance using kicks, but Marin catches him with a combo. Clinch from Montano and he muscles Marin into the fence again. These guys both look tiny for 170lbs for the record. Reversal from Marin and he drops for a single leg, but he can’t get Montano down. Reversal from Montano and he drives Marin across the cage and takes him down. Seconds later though Marin hits a sweep into top position in Montano’s guard. That was nice. Few punches land for Marin as he makes his way into half-guard, but Montano manages to scramble to his feet. Solid right hand from Marin and they follow with an exchange with both men landing decent shots. Takedown attempt from Montano but Marin blocks it well. Left hand from Montano but Marin comes back with a combo and then backs him up with a right hand before the round ends. Close round, I’d go 10-9 Marin.

Round Two and both men come out swinging to begin. Really hard combo lands for Montano but Marin ties up and gets a takedown to butterfly guard. Montano gets his back to the fence though and it looks like he might be able to use the fence to stand. Marin works to drag him back down, but Montano hits a switch and gets on top himself. Marin now looks to work back to his feet, but Montano controls his legs to prevent that and winds up in side mount. He lands some hammer fists, but grabs the cage blatantly and earns a warning from the ref. Reversal from Marin and now he’s on top in side mount. Hip escape from Montano allows him to slide back towards the cage, but Marin lands some punches as he works to his feet. They break off and Montano looks tired, but he still wades forward swinging, albeit with sloppy punches. Wheel kick misses for the Mexican. He lands with a pair of jabs, but takes a leg kick. Two minutes to go and they trade some leg kicks with Montano adding a body kick for good measure. He misses another wheel kick though and takes some punches. Takedown attempt from Marin but Montano defends it. These guys are seriously tired. One minute to go and they remain clinched on the fence before breaking with thirty seconds to go. Good leg kicks lands for Montano. He follows with a series of side kicks to the leg. Combo ends the round for Marin. Another close one; call it 10-9 for Marin though by a hair.

Round Three and they open with a long BRO HUG. Good body kick opens things for Montano but he gets pegged back by some punches from Wasabi. Good uppercut from Marin but Montano manages to circle out and he throws some more kicks including the side kick to the leg. Knee connects to the body of Marin as Montano steps forward. Decent body shot from Marin but Montano clinches and forces him into the fence. Crowd are beginning to get annoyed now with the lack of action as they muscle for position. Halfway through the round and they break, and Montano seems to have gotten a second wind as he lands some strikes from the outside as Marin tries to push forward. Takedown attempt from Montano is defended. Clinch from Marin and he forces the Mexican into the fence. Action slows down again before they break, and Montano is seriously gassed. So is Marin though and they exchange some slowed-down strikes. Body kick connects for Montano. Less than a minute to go and they continue to exchange. Montano’s just about getting the better of it in this round. Takedown from Montano with seconds remaining and that’s probably won him the round. He lands in half-guard and that’s where the fight ends. Could go either way but I’d have it 29-28 for Enrique Marin.

Announcers mention that we could get a sudden death fourth round if one of the rounds was a 10-10, but instead we’ve got a decision. And it’s a split one, with one judge going 29-28 for Marin but the other two going 29-28 for Erick Montano. Not a robbery though as the first and second rounds could definitely have gone either way. Not the best fight either unfortunately – they tried, but it was a slow-ish pace throughout, neither got close to a finish and both men gassed and looked a bit sloppy at points too. They might improve and surprise me but based on this I don’t see a long UFC career ahead of either man. I’d be happy to be proven wrong though of course.

Flyweight Fight: Henry Cejudo vs Jussier Formiga

Even though nothing like that is certain, even when it’s supposedly written in stone (just ask Miesha Tate…) everyone pretty much figured this one was a de facto #1 contender’s fight at 125lbs, as champion Demetrious Johnson had basically wiped the rest of the division and these two were the only fighters on solid winning streaks. Formiga had put together three wins in a row, while Olympic gold medallist Cejudo was also coming off three UFC wins. The styles seemed to favour Cejudo here as he looked like the better striker and I don’t think anyone was expecting Formiga to take him down and he’s more of a back control expert rather than a guard player. With that said though it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Brazilian to catch Cejudo in a scramble.

Fight begins and Formiga takes the center of the cage as Cejudo circles on the outside. Both men land some glancing blows early on. Good uppercut lands for Cejudo as he steps in for a moment to throw a combo. Formiga’s stand-up looks much improved in terms of how natural he looks on his feet. Right hand connects for Cejudo though. He throws another combo but Formiga catches him with a counter right and follows with a one-two. Knee lands for Cejudo in a brief clinch but they quickly break. Cejudo clinches again and lands another but again they break off. Short left connects for Cejudo in a brief trade, Back to the clinch and they exchange knees before Cejudo breaks with a one-two. Another clinch follows for a moment before Formiga clips the Olympian with a right hand. One minute to go and Cejudo buckles Formiga with a big overhand right, then follows with a hard knee from the clinch. Formiga returns the favour before they break off. Quick exchange sees both men land. Single leg from Cejudo ends the round inside Formiga’s guard. Close round but the knockdown and takedown mean it’s Cejudo’s, 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Formiga comes out swinging and lands a one-two and a nice left hook. Cejudo comes back with a combo of his own. Crowd are now chanting for Cejudo. Beautiful counter right hook lands for Cejudo as the Brazilian lunges forward. Wild swings miss for Formiga. Big left misses for Cejudo and Formiga clinches, but Cejudo lands the better shots inside and then breaks off. Left to the body from Cejudo. Right hook follows and snaps Formiga’s head to the side. Left hook follows but he misses with a right. Clinch from Formiga and they exchange knees again before breaking where Formiga clips him with a hard combination. Heavy leg kick from Formiga spins Cejudo around. Combo answers for Cejudo and ends with a knee right up the middle. Leg kick lands for Cejudo. Exchange continues and Formiga glances with a wild left hook. Uppercut misses for Cejudo and allows Formiga to clinch, but he gets shrugged off. He tries it again with one minute remaining, but again Cejudo breaks, this time with an elbow. Couple more strikes are exchanged in and out of the clinch but this is a surprisingly tentative fight. Double jab from Formiga but the round ends with a knee to the body from Cejudo. Bit of a dull round; 10-9 Formiga I’d say.

Third and final round and Cejudo clinches right away to deliver some really good knees to the midsection. Formiga breaks off as the announcers discuss Cejudo’s cardio being sapped by his weight cut, but in reality he seems fine. Combo misses for Formiga and Cejudo clinches again to land more knees. They break again and Cejudo uncorks a head kick that Formiga just about deflects. Another clinch follows and this time Formiga lands a strong knee to the body. They break and Cejudo pushes forward with a short right before forcing the Brazilian into the fence. BIG SLAM follows but Formiga springs back to his feet right away and escapes. Cejudo clinches again and they exchange knees once more, before Cejudo easily blocks a trip before breaking. Good leg kick lands for Formiga. Cejudo clinches and forces him into the fence again though where he knees the legs. Single leg attempt follows but Formiga defends really well and escapes. One minute to go and Formiga clinches this time, but he can’t force Cejudo into the fence. Both men land more knees before Cejudo blocks a hip throw. Hard left elbow connects inside the clinch for Cejudo. Round ends inside the clinch. I’d go 10-9 Cejudo for a 29-28 win.

And…..it’s another split decision. 29-28 Cejudo, 29-28 Formiga and 30-27 for Henry Cejudo to stay undefeated. Big win for the Olympian – easily the best of his young career in fact – but in all honesty it was a largely dull fight that showed nothing to suggest that Cejudo could come close to beating Mighty Mouse. I mean, he’s clearly a world class athlete and to that end, anything is possible really, but I just don’t see how he improves enough from this – assuming he gets the next title shot in early 2016 – to be good enough to beat Johnson, not when Benavidez and Dodson couldn’t do it. His boxing looked decent and obviously the wrestling game is there, but anyone who wants to beat Mighty Mouse needs to chain everything together, move at the speed of light and make no mistakes and I question whether Cejudo can do that .Should be fun to see him try though as he’ll at least get eyes on the division for a while and I could see it drawing better than your usual Mighty Mouse fare. This fight however was as dull as Travis Lutter, ha.

Featherweight Fight: Ricardo Lamas vs Diego Sanchez

After over a year on the shelf, this was Diego’s big comeback (again) and for this run he was also dropping to 145lbs for the first time – making him one of just two fighters along with his fellow TUF 1 castmate Kenny Florian to fight in four different weight classes inside the UFC (BJ Penn also did it but fought at 205lbs and 185lbs outside the UFC). He wasn’t given a softball for his first appearance in the division either as he was faced with former title challenger and perennial top fiver Ricardo Lamas. Despite most claiming Diego was a shot fighter and picking Lamas, I’ve never gone against THE DREAM and was picking him to win here. YES!~!

Round One and Lamas glances on a couple of high kicks as Diego presses forward. Low kick lands nicely for Lamas. Combo glances for Diego but Lamas stays elusive. Nice left jab from Lamas lands cleanly. Pair of right hands also land for him as he avoids a flurry from Diego. Diego responds with a digging right hand to the body. Flying knee misses for Lamas and Diego makes him pay with a pretty good flurry. Wheel kick answers for Lamas and lands, and he follows with a combo and a body kick. Both men start to swing wildly with Diego naturally egging lamas on, but he smartly circles back out and connects with a jab. Body kick lands for Diego. Another wheel kick misses for Lamas. Jab lands though. Couple more kicks keep Diego at distance before Lamas shoots and gets a takedown. Diego pops right back up but Lamas holds a rear waistlock and lands some knees to the thighs. Diego stops him from getting any hooks in, but he takes a couple of short uppercuts and more knees. Leg sweep puts Diego down and Lamas secures one hook, but a reversal puts Diego back up and now he goes for a takedown of his own. He gets Lamas down, but Lamas reverses back up into the clinch. Elbow in the clinch ends the round for Diego. Pretty close round actually but I’d go 10-9 for Lamas.

Round Two and Lamas opens with a low kick that Diego counters with a left hand. Good combination lands for Diego coming forward but Lamas throws a front kick into a takedown and gets it despite a sprawl attempt. Diego pops right back up again and works to defend the takedown, but it looks like he’s cut somehow. He shows some tremendous takedown defense though as Lamas attempts to get him down. Couple of elbows connect to the side of the head for Diego as he defends, and finally they break off. Low leg kick hurts Diego and takes him off his feet for a second, and as he pops up he’s wobbled. Lamas charges in with a flurry and another hard leg kick, but of course Diego bites down on his mouthpiece and swings right back. Another leg kick hurts him again though and it’s allowing Lamas to land punches too, in this case a hard left hook. Another leg kick sets up a right hand but somehow Diego tells him to bring it on. Takedown attempt follows and he gets Diego down. Diego gives his back and Lamas lands some more knees to the thighs, but a SICK switch from Diego puts him in top position. Lamas manages to grip onto him and move to his feet, and from there he hits a reversal and gets the waistlock back. Beautiful grappling. More knees to the leg from Lamas and he does a good job of controlling Diego, but another switch comes out of nowhere and Diego gets back on top again. He tries to control Lamas but the former title challenger reaches under to get a single leg, and they go into a pretty odd position on the ground with both men trying to get dominant position. Diego manages to hit a transition, but Lamas somehow uses it to take Diego’s back with both hooks! Diego escapes that though and pops up with a knee and a glancing right hand. Leg kick from Lamas hurts Diego again and a combo connects to follow up. Lamas pushes forward with another combo and that’s the round. Again Lamas’s round mainly for those brutal leg kicks.

Round Three and Lamas opens with a jab. Diego’s movement looks much slower due to the leg kicks. Head kick misses for Lamas. Diego comes forward and lands with a combo, but Lamas circles out of range again. Hard knee lands for Diego as he steps in and Lamas leans forward. Leg kick answers for Lamas but it’s to the left leg rather than the injured right one. Wheel kick sees Lamas slip to the ground but he pops back up. Right low kick drops Diego badly and he struggles to get up this time and has to backpedal. Combo from Lamas but Diego tells him to bring it on and eats another leg kick. Wild flurry from Diego but Lamas clinches and forces him into the cage. Big chant for Diego from the crowd. Lamas looks to take him down, but eats a hard elbow to the side of the head. Spinning elbow breaks for Lamas and Diego is badly cut. He comes forward swinging though and Lamas obliges him before going for another spinning backfist and missing. Diego capitalises with a flying knee, but Lamas quickly gets out of range. Lot of blood coming from Diego’s right eye now. Stiff jab lands for Lamas. Big left hook glances for Diego and he tries to follow with a combo, but Lamas avoids most of it. Uppercut connects for Lamas but Diego keeps pushing forward. Lamas continues to keep out of danger, and he narrowly avoids a left hook. Flying knee misses for Lamas. Seconds to go and Diego flurries and looks for the takedown, but Lamas avoids. Another flurry follows but Lamas clinches to end the fight. 10-9 Lamas for a 30-27.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Ricardo Lamas. I actually thought this was an excellent fight – Lamas is a guy I’ve considered a bit overrated before – I thought he lost to Hacran Dias for instance – but he was on point here, playing it smart to avoid being dragged into wild exchanges with Diego and those leg kicks were phenomenal, but I was most impressed by his grappling. Because he hasn’t used it in recent fights I think people forget how good a grappler Diego is, but he showed that here and Lamas did really well to avoid scrambles and bad positions where lesser fighters might’ve been stuck. As for Diego I don’t think he’s shot as it goes – he actually looked good in portions of this fight in the grappling exchanges and he also landed more strikes here than he did against Pearson or Jury for instance, and if they give him a fighter lower down the ladder next time out he might be able to surprise people. Best fight of the show thus far.

Welterweight Fight: Kelvin Gastelum vs Neil Magny

This was Gastelum’s first fight back at 170lbs after his weight cut debacle at UFC 183, and initially he was pegged to fight Matt Brown in what would’ve been a pretty major fight for the division, but when Brown got injured, Magny – one of the most active fighters in the whole UFC – stepped in on late notice to take a quick return following his August win over Erick Silva. Despite Magny’s massive improvements I was taking Gastelum here as Magny’s grappling had looked suspect against Demian Maia and while I know Gastelum is no Maia, he does have an incredibly quick back-take and from there he’s excellent at sinking a choke too. Gastelum also hit 170lbs with no issues here which is good.

First round begins and both men throw out some feeler strikes with Magny clearly looking to keep his distance and use the reach advantage. Leg kick from Gastelum and he follows with a right hand. Jabs set up a right hand from Magny. Good leg kick from Gastelum. Kelvin tries to close him down, but Magny pops him with a couple of glancing jabs that allow him to circle free. Flurry glances for Gastelum and he lands a solid left hand to set up a clinch, but Magny gets a bodylock and hits a slam right to mount! Few punches land for Magny and Gastelum gives his back, but frees himself from the hooks and stands. Switch from Gastelum allows him to go for a quick single leg, but Magny defends it and finds himself forced into the fence. SICK shoulder throw from Gastelum puts Magny on his back, but a sweep from Magny puts him back on top! Gastelum almost finds himself mounted, but he rolls through and pops back up to his feet with Magny grabbing onto a front facelock. Takedown from Magny puts him back on top and again he gets mount and drops a pair of hard elbows. Gastelum gives his back again and this time Magny slaps both hooks in. Magny’s grappling looks massively improved. He begins to work for the choke, but loses one hook and then spins back to mount before taking the back again. Gastelum avoids the choke though and keeps squirming, ending up on his back in half-guard. Magny works to pass and then looks for a straight armlock, and when Gastelum defends he gives up mount again. Scramble from Gastelum allows him to stand though with seconds to go. Kelvin pushes forward but Magny circles out of range to end the round. 10-9 Magny in an excellent opening round.

Second round and Gastelum pushes forward looking to close the distance, swinging punches but Magny manages to circle away. Nice combination connects for Magny and he continues to circle out as Gastelum pressures him. Head kick glances for Gastelum. Few strikes from Magny keep Kelvin at bay but the TUF winner manages to clinch. Kelvin drops for a takedown, but Magny defends it and drills him with a knee to the body. Magny breaks off but a big right hand from Gastelum forces him on the retreat. Leg kick lands for Magny and he catches Kelvin with a counter. Kelvin continues to push forward and he lands with a good body kick, but gets tagged by a clean three-punch combo from Magny. Leg kick answers for Gastelum. He forces Magny into the fence and opens up with a flurry, but Magny covers up well and then explodes out with a combo to back Kelvin up. They clinch up again and jockey for position and Magny gets a bodylock and forces Kelvin down, taking his back in the process as Kelvin attempts to roll. He ends up in mount off a scramble, but Gastelum gives his back to reverse up to his feet. Magny stays on him and works some knees inside, then throws Kelvin down. Gastelum scrambles back up but he can’t get Magny off him. Another takedown from Magny and this time he gets the back with one hook. Looks like he’s going for a twister of all things but Kelvin rolls to avoid and then stands to end the round. 10-9 Magny.

Third round and Kelvin really comes out swinging, backing Magny up, but it doesn’t seem like he can land anything clean. Takedown attempt is blocked by Magny and he comes back with a combo and a failed takedown of his own. Nice right hand over the top from Magny sets up another clinch, and then he drops for a takedown and gets it. Kelvin scrambles as he hits the ground and he goes for a takedown of his own, which allows him to his feet. Magny exits the clinch with a right hook. Couple of jabs from Gastelum and he lands a counter right as Magny looks for a combo. Clinch again from Magny but Kelvin breaks off. Left from Gastelum but Magny forces him into the fence and drops for the takedown. Kelvin defends it well but he eats a knee to the body and a sharp right on the exit. Body kick from Kelvin and he avoids a combo. Two minutes left in the round and Gastelum tries to swarm, but Magny ties him up in the clinch again. Trip takedown from Magny but Gastelum pops back up and manages to separate. Magny looks to keep distance and then drops for a takedown when Gastelum gets close to him, but this time he botches it and Kelvin takes the back with a rear waistlock. Magny breaks it though and turns into him before landing some short punches inside. Takedown from Magny follows and now he gets the rear waistlock. He can’t force Kelvin down all the way though and the TUF winner rolls and gets on top to end the round. 10-9 Magny again and Gastelum’s three rounds in the hole.

Fourth round and fair play to both men, neither one looks at all gassed. Oblique kick opens things for Magny and he stays on his bike, circling on the outside before popping Gastelum’s head back with a beautiful combination. Another nasty jab snaps Kelvin’s head back. He keeps on pushing forward though, looking to close the distance on his lanky foe. Magny continues to circle and pop him from the outside, but a combo from Gastelum ending in a sweeping right hook drops him HARD! Kelvin pounces looking to finish, landing hammer fists before Magny rolls and gives his back. Kelvin’s all over him though and he works into side mount and keeps him under firm control. Mounted crucifix follows and Kelvin peppers him with punches as Magny tries to squirm. He works back into half-guard, but he takes some solid elbows and it doesn’t look like he’s recovered fully. Back to side mount for Kelvin but Magny regains half-guard. He’s taking more shots though. Reversal from Magny but Kelvin takes his back standing. Head kick glances for Kelvin as they break and Magny comes out swinging, but walks into a BIG LEFT HAND COUNTER and he’s down again! Kelvin dives into the guard to attempt to finish, then drops into side mount again. Magny gets back to guard and tries a triangle, but Kelvin easily shrugs that off and takes his back in the scramble. They stand back up with Gastelum holding the rear waistlock, before breaking off. Magny’s still wobbly. He tries to keep Gastelum at distance but Kelvin lands a couple more glancing blows. Takedown attempt from Magny slows Kelvin down, and he manages to get him to the ground only for Kelvin to pop back up. Seconds to go in the round and Kelvin walks him down again, but Magny avoids him to end the round. 10-8 round for Gastelum with the two knockdowns and positional dominance.

Fifth and final round and suddenly this is anyone’s fight. Magny comes out and clinches right away but Gastelum shrugs him off and clocks him with a left hand. He’s swinging and looking for the knockout. Low kick from Kelvin but Magny tags him with a right hand counter. Takedown attempt from Gastelum and he hits a BIG SLAM down into side mount. Magny squirms his way back to full guard, but Kelvin begins to land some solid ground-and-pound from the top. Triangle attempt from Magny but Kelvin shrugs that off and then takes the back as Magny stands back up. Looks like Magny’s trying a Sakuraba-style kimura, and he uses it to turn into Gastelum but he eats a combo on the way out. Takedown attempt from Magny but Kelvin stuffs it. Knee connects for Magny on the exit. Kelvin continues to walk him down though and he lands a combo before stuffing another takedown. Magny is beginning to look tired. Big left hand from Kelvin sets up a nice combo. He’s potshotting Magny against the fence now. Magny jogs out of the way which earns him some boos and Kelvin follows it up with a heavy body kick. Good right from Magny sets up the clinch but Kelvin forces him into the fence. They break off with a minute to go and then swing their way in again, and this time Magny takes the back standing again. He drags Kelvin down, but Gastelum pops right back up. Another dragdown follows and this time Magny gets both hooks in. Slick escape from Gastelum though and he turns into Magny’s guard. He passes into half-guard and drops some elbows, and the round ends there. 10-9 Gastelum and I’d call it a 47-47 draw.

Judges have it a split decision; 48-47 Gastelum, 48-47 Magny and 48-47 Magny for Neil Magny to pick up his fourth win of 2015. Tricky fight to score really – I can’t say that I’d agree with any of those scores because the 48-47 Gastelum gives him one of the first three rounds which is ridiculous, and the scores for Magny either don’t give Kelvin a 10-8 fourth or maybe they gave Magny the fifth. Either way I’d still say a draw would’ve been a fairer result as it was so close. In PRIDE rules Gastelum probably wins for coming closer to a finish but obviously it doesn’t work like that. Both men surprised me massively here – Magny showed better grappling and wrestling than he’d ever done before and I didn’t expect him to be able to take Kelvin down, let alone mount him a few times. Gastelum meanwhile was in trouble in the opening rounds but came back strong, showing better cardio than he’d ever done before, and he also did well to get inside the reach and hurt Magny. Overall this was a great main event and I think both men stay around the top ten at 170lbs for the foreseeable future, which is amazing for Magny in particular as I never expected him to amount to anything in the UFC.

-Show ends with Magny and his team celebrating the win.

Final Thoughts….

Last two fights almost rescued this show from the doldrums, but didn’t quite manage it as we got six fights going the distance with three of them (Escudero/Silva, Montano/Marin and Cejudo/Formiga) being three of the worst televised ones in recent memory, and the overall slow pacing of the show in general made it drag like mad too. Barzola/Gutierrez, Sanchez/Lamas and Magny/Gastelum were all good fights but not enough to save this one from the thumbs down, unfortunately. If you didn’t see it though use Fight Pass to check out those last two fights because they were fun at least. Recommendation to avoid the show as a whole however.

Best Fight: Magny vs. Gastelum
Worst Fight: Montano vs. Marin

Overall Rating: *3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com