MMA Review: #559: UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit

-A Fox card in August was a first for the UFC; I’m not an expert on how the Fox deal works but the cards are usually dynamite so I wasn’t complaining! Here we had an awesome-sounding main event of Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit (moved from UFC 202) as well as the 145lbs debut of Anthony Pettis. Good stuff on paper for sure.

UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit

Vancouver, British Columbia

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Brian Stann.

Lightweight Fight: Jim Miller vs Joe Lauzon

This was a rematch of their 2012 FOTYC, although of course both men had slipped some way down the ladder at 155lbs since then, a lot of fans figuring both men were shot before they regained a bit of form with wins at UFC 200 – Miller over Takanori Gomi and Lauzon over Diego Sanchez. I was expecting another wild fight between the two but I was going for Lauzon feeling he was a little less past his prime than Miller overall.

Round One begins and Lauzon presses forward, backing Miller up into a brief exchange. Strong left hand lands for Miller and causes Lauzon to grab onto a single leg and then dive for a leglock attempt as Miller stuffs it. Miller escapes and grabs a front headlock before driving Lauzon into the fence momentarily before they break. Hard leg kick lands for Miller. Good combo answers for Lauzon and he forces Miller into the fence again where they trade from close quarters. Right hand connects for Miller. And holy shit Mike Goldberg’s math is horribly off as he first claims their first fight – on 12/29/12 – was seven years ago, and then corrects himself to say that he was wrong, Lauzon’s debut against Jens Pulver (09/23/06) was actually seven years ago. What fucking planet is he on? More pressure from Lauzon and he lands a really good step-in knee to the body, but he’s also eating counters on his way in. Vicious elbow from Lauzon sets up another clinch, but Miller breaks off with a nasty knee. Spinning backfist misses for Miller and he slips to his back, allowing Lauzon to settle into top position in half-guard where he drops a couple of elbows. That was a pretty big error from Miller. Effective ground-and-pound from Lauzon but Miller works back to full guard. Reversal from Miller allow him to his feet with about a minute to go, and he lands on a combo as Lauzon pushes forward. Exchange sees both men landing, better shots from Miller though. Leg kick almost trips Miller off his feet, but he remains standing and fires back with another combo. Left hand into a double leg from Miller but Lauzon manages to defend it. Sweeping left hook connects for Miller. Round ends with a beautiful flurry from Miller. Close round to call as Lauzon was the aggressor and did well from top position but Miller landed the better strikes standing for me. 10-10, then.

Round Two and Miller opens with another combo, backing Lauzon up before landing some sharp counters as Lauzon pushes forward himself. Head kick misses narrowly for Miller but he comes back with a shot to the body and a counter knee. Another combination lands for Miller. Exchange continues with both men landing, Lauzon backing Miller up but also eating counters. Hard body kick lands for Miller. Lauzon comes wading in with more shots and they’re just openly brawling now. Action slows a little before Lauzon seems to rock Miller with a right hand, but Miller fires right back with a combination. Looks like Miller might be busted up in his mouth. Hard left hand counter connects for Miller but somehow Lauzon walks through it. Body kick from Miller misses and he slips to his back, and Lauzon gets on top and almost takes full mount before a hip escape puts Miller back in half-guard. Sharp elbow lands for Lauzon from the top as he works desperately to keep Miller grounded. Looks like he might be going for a kimura on the left arm too, but Miller avoids it well. Miller looks to go to rubber guard to stop the strikes from Lauzon, but he can’t keep it in for long and Lauzon goes back to dropping short elbows. Round ends with Lauzon continuing to work from the top. Got to go 10-9 Lauzon there as the round was totally even until that last minute of top control.

Round Three and the crowd are totally into this. Big left hand opens proceedings for Miller, but Lauzon seems okay taking it. Brutal uppercut snaps Lauzon’s head back though and he might be in trouble. Miller comes in with a big flurry but of course Lauzon tries to fire back. Miller’s all over him with knees and more punches, but Lauzon lands with a right hook to slow him up slightly. This is a great fight. Lauzon manages to back Miller up again somewhat and now Miller looks more tired, bleeding somewhere on his face too. Nice takedown from Lauzon and he moves into half-guard, but Miller does well to prevent taking much damage. Miller manages to work his way back to his feet, and suddenly he slips free and takes Lauzon’s back standing. Lauzon manages to escape that and we’re back to a striking exchange. As far as physical damage goes Miller looks much worse. Lauzon gets to the clinch again and looks for the takedown, tripping Miller down to his knees, but he pops back up right away. Seconds to go and Miller tries to roll for a leglock, but winds up on his back again with Lauzon on top in half-guard. Short elbows from Lauzon connect and he passes to mount to end the round with an armbar attempt. 10-9 Lauzon for me for a tight 30-28 win.

Judges have it 29-28 Miller, 29-28 Lauzon and 29-28 for a split decision for….Jim Miller, surprisingly enough. Not sure about that decision at all – I guess Miller landed the better strikes on the feet but Lauzon got a number of takedowns and did a lot of work from the top in the second and third, so yeah, I wouldn’t agree with Miller winning. Close fight though and more importantly it was TREMENDOUS and if it were down to me I’d have just booked the trilogy fight as it’s an easy sell with both the first and second fights being awesome and this one having a controversial decision. Miller’s fighting Thiago Alves next though, so that idea’s out of the window for now at least.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Paige VanZant vs Bec Rawlings

This was PVZ’s big comeback fight following her first UFC loss to Rose Namajunas and then her successful run on Dancing With The Stars, after which a lot of people figured she wouldn’t be back fighting any time soon. Hey, I guess she’s more legit than the haters would have you believe. TUF 20’s Rawlings meanwhile was coming off a controversial March win over Seo Hee Ham. I figured Bec was a beatable opponent for PVZ and so I took Paige to win via TKO or decision.

First round begins and PVZ moves around a lot on the outside to begin as Rawlings looks confident with her hands pretty low in the center. Both girls miss some early strikes before Paige lands with a heavy leg kick and then misses with a jumping switch kick. Combination lands for Rawlings and backs Paige up a bit. Left to the body and a right to the head land for Bec. Quick flurry from Rawlings but Paige clinches and forces her into the fence with some knees. They break off pretty sharpish and Rawlings continues to stalk forward. Nice combo from Bec and she shrugs off a clinch attempt. We’re halfway through the round and we get a weird moment where Bec stops and actually leans with her hands on her knees before continuing, avoiding a couple of kick attempts from PVZ. Paige is throwing more kicks than I’ve ever seen her use before in fact. Combo glances for Rawlings. Front kick to the body from Paige but Rawlings fires back with a quick flurry. Nice combo lands for Paige and forces Rawlings back a little. One minute to go and a flying switch knee glances for Paige and leads to a brief clinch, but Rawlings lands with some punches and shrugs her off again. Strong leg kick from Paige and she follows by tagging Bec with a right hand from close range. Brief exchange ends the round. 10-9 Rawlings for me as she landed the more effective strikes.

Second round and PVZ misses with a flying knee. Rawlings shrugs off a clinch, but Paige comes right back with a FLYING SWITCH KICK THAT DROPS RAWLINGS!~! She goes down HARD and some hammer fists seal the deal. WOW.

Well, I said Paige was throwing more kicks than I’d ever seen from her before and they definitely paid off in the end! Replay showed the kick landed flush to the side of the jaw and Bec was pretty much done as soon as she went down. Second-best switch kick KO of the year behind Yair Rodriguez on Andre Fili, awesome highlight reel moment for Paige. Judging on the first round she’s still got a lot of work to do on her overall skills to be a legit contender but hey, knocking off established vets like Felice Herrig and Bec Rawlings at this stage of her career is nothing to be sneezed at I’d say. Tremendous knockout at any rate.

Featherweight Fight: Anthony Pettis vs Charles Oliveira

After three straight losses at 155lbs including losing his title to Rafael Dos Anjos, it looked like Pettis was on a real slide in his career, hugely disappointing when you consider how good he’d looked against Gilbert Melendez in December 2014. This was his attempt to right the ship – dropping down to 145lbs as he’d teased in 2013 prior to winning the Lightweight title – and he was hardly faced with a softball either in the form of Oliveira, who’d most recently tapped out another former 155lber in Myles Jury and outside of the odd outlier, had looked fantastic in all of his fights since like 2013. Personally I worried about where Pettis’s head was at following all of his losses and took the mild upset in the form of Oliveira catching him in a submission.

Fight begins and Pettis fires off with a body kick that Oliveira catches, and the Brazilian drives him into the fence to look for the takedown. Pettis defends it well, hopping around on one leg and managing to stay on his feet. Really impressive from Pettis actually. Showtime manages to break free but Oliveira lands with a body kick and then goes for the takedown again. This time he transitions to take the back and he drags Pettis down and slaps both hooks in. Scramble from Pettis but Oliveira remains in control and he’s hunting for the choke. Pettis manages to spin into the guard though, popping the crowd, and from there he avoids a triangle and stands back up. Body kicks from both men but naturally Pettis’s lands harder. Takedown attempt is avoided by Pettis again and this time Oliveira drops to his back and tries to entice him down. Pettis is having none of that and forces him back up, where he lands a pair of VICIOUS BODY KICKS that put the Brazilian down! Pettis tries to drop some shots over the top to finish him off and he lands cleanly, dribbling Oliveira’s head off the mat, but Oliveira survives and almost gets an armbar. Pettis avoids and drops some more bombs down, passing into side mount for good measure. Oliveira manages to hit a reversal and from there he tackles Pettis down and then takes the back from the scramble. Pettis shrugs him off to the side though and gets on top, landing some more heavy shots before walking right into an upkick. He takes it well though and drops some more punches, and it looks like he’s going for the finish. Oliveira manages to survive though and the round ends with Pettis on top. That was an awesome round. 10-9 Pettis.

Into the 2nd and Oliveira stalks forward throwing a lot of kicks of his own, landing one to the body in fact. Nice left hand to the body from Pettis and a second one forces Oliveira to lunge for the takedown, but Pettis scrambles and manages to get back up right as they hit the mat. Leg kick from Oliveira but Pettis glances on a head kick in answer. Beautiful right hand snaps Oliveira’s head back and he goes down off another failed takedown and has to be forced back up. Good front kick to the body from Oliveira, but he’s walking into some sharp counters here. Nice right hand over the top lands for Pettis but Oliveira manages to walk him down into a clinch. They break off and exchange pretty openly with Pettis landing the better shots, before Oliveira clinches again. Right hook breaks for Pettis and he continues to land with counters, stunning Oliveira with another right hook. Takedown attempt from Oliveira and he takes the back again and tries to drag him back down before jumping onto the back. Pettis goes down this time and Oliveira’s got both hooks in. He lands some punches to soften Pettis up for the possible choke, slapping a body triangle in for good measure, but Pettis manages to defend the submission. He manages to turn into the guard too, and from there he lands a nasty elbow. Oliveira’s left eye looks like a mess. Pettis stands but Oliveira gets hold of him again, only to get shrugged off this time. He keeps coming forward though. Another exchange sees both men land some clean blows as these guys are rivalling the earlier Miller/Lauzon match for awesomeness stakes now. SICK spinning kick to the body lands for Pettis and another trade sees both men landing some heavy punches. Beautiful takedown ends the round for Oliveira and I’d lean towards him there, 10-9 to even it up.

Third and final round and both guys look understandably tired coming out of their corners. Couple of jabs open things for Pettis but Oliveira dives in for the takedown again and manages to put Pettis on his back in full guard this time. Good shot from Oliveira from the top and he avoids an armbar attempt and passes into side mount. Another armbar attempt from Pettis but Oliveira avoids and drops a couple of hammer fists to make him pay. Reversal attempt from Pettis but he gives his back and Oliveira slaps both hooks in. Pettis escapes that though and winds up on top in north/south, but Oliveira escapes *that* and then goes for a takedown….but finds himself caught in a TIGHT GUILLOTINE and Pettis cranks it and GETS THE TAP!

Insane finish as Pettis by submission was one of the few ways I would never have seen this fight going given Oliveira’s submission prowess, but hey, anyone can get caught. This was an AWESOME FIGHT as both men came in aggressively and both men had a lot of success and really the third round was looking to be pivotal before Pettis finished things. Despite showing some defensive issues – Oliveira was hitting him quite a lot and obviously took him down numerous times too – this was a great showing from Pettis as he appeared to have his mojo back, looking more confident than he had against Edson Barboza in April and he opened up with the best strikes I’ve seen from him since the Melendez fight. And shit, with Oliveira being ranked on the cusp of the top five anyway, if Conor McGregor isn’t dropping back to 145lbs soon I’d have no problem with Pettis leapfrogging the queue to fight Jose Aldo, or if Max Holloway gets that fight then Frankie Edgar. There’s so many fresh matches for him at 145lbs and I’m excited to see them.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Carlos Condit

Despite Tyron Woodley’s calls for a “money fight” with GSP or Nick Diaz, I think basically everyone could see that the way forward at 170lbs was a title challenge for Stephen Thompson, which meant that this fight was a very important one in the grand scheme of things as the winner could easily make a case for having the next shot after Wonderboy. Maia was coming off a series of impressive wins – Ryan LaFlare, Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson and Matt Brown, all using that insane ground game – and while Condit was coming off a loss, that loss was of course in the FOTYC with Robbie Lawler and with different judges he might’ve won the title that night. This was a tough fight to call as Condit’s takedown defense has always been his weak point while Maia’s ground game is obviously his strongest area, but with superior cardio and a solid ground game himself – in my eyes enough to not get tapped early – I thought Condit could weather a storm and take over later on to finish Maia off.

Round One begins and Maia stalks forward and avoids a combo. Glancing right hand from Condit but Maia shoots and looks for a single leg, and after a bit of work he plants Carlos on his back in half-guard. Couple of short punches to the body land for Maia as he works to pass the guard and sure enough he slices through into full mount! Condit gives his back and stands, but Maia claps the hooks in and flattens him back out and from there he works for the choke…..and SINKS IT IN! Looks like Condit’s gone limp for a second before he has to tap out. Jesus.

Never in a million years did I expect Maia to make that look so easy, seriously. It’s not like Condit’s crap on the ground either – obviously he’s been in with great grapplers before like GSP, Dong Hyun Kim, etc and never came close to being tapped or anything and really he was never dominated on the ground either. Maia didn’t even get hit once cleanly here! That’s ridiculous. Part of me wonders whether Condit’s heart was really in the game coming in after that loss to Lawler, but I think that’s probably unfair and takes away from Maia’s tremendous victory too much. In fact you could easily argue I think that this was Maia’s biggest career win point blank, especially in the manner he did it. Whether he can get a title shot in 2017 or has to wait or fight again I don’t know, but he deserves one for sure in my eyes. As for Condit, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him retire now and if that’s the case then I’ll miss him a ton as he was always one of my favourite fighters to watch. Not much of a main event in terms of excitement but it was definitely memorable.

-Show ends with Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Dominick Cruz breaking down the fights, and of course a plug for UFC 203 and CM PUNK. Ha.

Final Thoughts….

Pretty great show here – far better than July’s Fox offering – as we got two awesome fights in Pettis/Oliveira and Miller/Lauzon to go with a highlight finish for PVZ and while the main event was one-sided and was over very quickly, it was also a decisive finish and definitely one of the year’s most shocking. Easy thumbs up for this show, check it out on Fight Pass if you missed it.

Best Fight: Pettis vs. Oliveira
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: