MMA Review: #562: UFC Fight Night 94

-This was the UFC’s first excursion into Texas since October 2015’s UFC 192, and this time rather than one of the bigger cities they were headed to somewhere I’d never even heard of in Hidalgo. Card was pretty decent on paper, a nice mix of reliable action fighters and up-and-comers, and the main event of Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Johnson in particular sounded ace.

UFC Fight Night 94

09/17/16
Hidalgo, Texas

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann.

Featherweight Fight: Maximo Blanco vs Chas Skelly

Both of these men had seen long win streaks snapped in their previous fights – Blanco by the unheralded Luke Sanders and Skelly by Darren Elkins, basically a more experienced version of himself – and were looking to get back on the horse here, but more to the point this sounded like a surefire crazy fight as while Skelly’s got the reputation of a grinder, something weird and wonderful always seems to happen when Maxi’s involved.

First round begins and BOTH MEN COME SPRINTING OUT WITH FLYING KICKS!~! Blanco goes down off Skelly’s kick to the chest, then dives in for a takedown, but Skelly scrambles and catches the neck, then locks up an anaconda choke and BLANCO IS OUT! Holy shit.

Whole fight literally went nineteen seconds, which is the fastest submission in UFC Featherweight history and one of the fastest in UFC history period. Absolutely crazy stuff as for once someone came at Blanco with just as insane a gameplan as Maxi would’ve had and put him away instantly. Not much more to say really! Great win for Skelly and his post-fight interview is pretty cool too as he says he wanted to start with a dropkick, but wasn’t athletic enough to do it so he threw the “Hulk Hogan big boot” instead. Dude has a lot of charisma and this was awesome.

Lightweight Fight: Islam Makhachev vs Chris Wade

I was pretty excited for this one as despite a loss to Adriano Martins (one of the most underrated fighters on the whole roster) last time out, Makhachev is pretty legit and was getting a lot of hype before that loss and a subsequent controversial suspension for meldonium that was eventually overturned. Wade meanwhile had been on a four-fight win streak before running into Islam’s fellow Dagestani Rustam Khabilov, and as he’d been outgrappled in that one I figured the same thing would probably happen here.

Round One and Wade pushes forward as both men miss kicks early on. Low kick connects for Wade and another one swiftly follows before Islam backs him up with a right and a glancing head kick. Takedown attempt from Makhachev and he forces Wade onto his back. Wade keeps hold of a front headlock, possibly looking for a guillotine, but Makhachev seems fine and he laces up the legs to control Wade and pops his head free. Into half-guard now and then full mount and Wade might be in trouble. He scrambles though and avoids an armbar to come out in top position in Islam’s guard. Triangle attempt now from Makhachev and it looks like he might have it sunk. It doesn’t look quite tight enough though and Wade manages to hold on enough to survive despite Makhachev really tightening up the hold. Islam tries to pull down on the head and it looks for a second like Wade might tap, but with 1:30 remaining he manages to get himself free. Back to full guard for Makhachev and Wade looks to pass, avoiding a sweep, but he isn’t doing much from the top really. Wade does pass into half-guard but he still can’t do much damage and the crowd begin to boo as the round ends. 10-9 Makhachev for me due to the close triangle attempt.

Round Two and Wade stalks forward, landing with a body kick, but he eats a solid left hand from the Dagestani. Another left lands for Makhachev and he shoots for a single leg, but as Wade goes down this time he grabs onto a guillotine and really goes for it. Islam smartly tries to go for mount to avoid it, but Wade scrambles and he winds up on top still cranking on the neck. Makhachev gives Dan Miragliotta the thumbs up to tell him he’s fine, and then manages to hit a reversal and take top position in half-guard. Wade tries to roll free, but Makhachev rolls with him and manages to take the back with one hook, only for Wade to slip free and get on top again. He makes the error of going for the neck again though and Islam rolls him back over and this time he’s got side mount. This is a great grappling match. Looks like Makhachev might be going for a mounted crucifix, and he drops a couple of elbows for good measure. Wade manages to turn to avoid the position and gives his back, and this time Islam controls him without the hooks initially. One hook in for Makhachev and he tries desperately to slap the other one in, while trying to prevent Wade from rolling free. Reversal from Wade allows him to attempt a single leg, but some SLICK GRAPPLING from Islam puts him in back control again! That was awesome. One hook in again for Makhachev but Wade rolls again and they go into a crazy position with Wade considering a heel hook. He can’t get it though and the round ends there. 10-9 Makhachev and if you like grappling then this is the fight for you.

Round Three and Wade pushes forward but eats a left hand counter from Islam. Body kick replies for Wade but Makhachev clinches and muscles him into the fence. Double leg follows for the Dagestani but Wade reaches inside for a possible switch. Makhachev avoids that and looks to take the back again, but Wade uses a kimura attempt to reverse and then gets full mount! Islam reverses right away though and pops up to his feet, only for Wade to grab onto a guillotine and drop to his back. It doesn’t look fully locked up though and Islam gets his head free and takes top position in half-guard. Full mount now for Makhachev, but Wade immediately escapes back to half-guard. Short punches to the body land for Makhachev as he continues to work for full mount. Sure enough he gets it and lands some shots before Wade gives his back, and this time the Dagestani slaps a body triangle on to control him. Wade is looking tired too. Makhachev can’t get the choke locked in and the crowd are inexplicably booing, which is ridiculous given how good this fight has been. Wade keeps trying to escape but he looks a bit stuck now. More punches land for Islam in an attempt to soften Wade up, but he still can’t get the choke. Fight ends with Makhachev in back control and I’d score it 30-27 his way.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Islam Makhachev; not sure how Wade would’ve gotten a round although I suspect the judges gave him the first for the top control despite the close triangle attempt. At any rate this was a tremendous grappling match with some incredible reversals, submission attempts and scrambles, and if you like grappling then you would’ve loved it. Stand-and-wang type fans probably would’ve hated it, but fuck them anyway, I thought it was brilliant. Can’t wait to see Makhachev fight again as with a bit more refinement in his striking – judging more on the Martins fight than this one – he could be a future contender.

Welterweight Fight: Roan Carneiro vs Kenny Robertson

This was the lone fight I had no interest in on the main card, as no offense, but Robertson – that sick hamstring stretcher he hit on Brock Jardine aside – bores me to tears while Carneiro had hardly set the world alight since returning to the UFC in 2015 either. My pick was Carneiro due to his superior ground game but really it was a coin flip.

Fight begins and Robertson pushes forward and throws a right hand haymaker that Carneiro avoids before clinching. He muscles Robertson into the fence, lacing one leg before tripping him down. They go into a bit of an awkward position on the ground and then Robertson does a good job of taking top position, but Carneiro reverses and pops back up to his feet. Wild haymaker misses for Carneiro and he eats a right hand counter, but then fires back with a combo before shooting. Robertson blocks it, and they wind up clinched against the fence again. Knee breaks for Carneiro and both men miss some sloppy punches before Robertson lands with a leg kick and then glances on a head kick. Overhand right connects for Robertson. Robertson continues to walk Carneiro down, but he’s not landing much really and he takes a stiff jab. Big body kick connects for Carneiro and slows Robertson up somewhat. Weird spinning backfist attempt misses for Carneiro. Another body kick lands for the Brazilian as does a left hand counter, as Robertson continues to stalk forward without really landing much. Takedown attempt is avoided by Robertson. Combination lands for him as he continues to back Carneiro up. He begins to pepper him with some more shots, but Carneiro circles away from the fence to get out of danger. Another combo glances for Robertson and that’s the round. 10-9 Robertson I guess, not the best round.

Into the 2nd and Robertson backs Carneiro up again, but he walks into a right hand and he’s still not throwing all that much. Really clean right hand lands for Carneiro and causes Robertson to grin. Beautifully timed takedown follows for the Brazilian as Robertson pushes forward, and he lands in full guard. Guard pass attempt from Carneiro is blocked and Robertson sweeps him, landing on top in half-guard. That was pretty cool. Looks like Carneiro’s going for a sweep himself now, but Robertson blocks it and lands some elbows to the side of the head. Nice attempt at a leglock from Carneiro, but Robertson avoids and remains on top, ending up in the full guard this time. Solid elbow connects for Robertson from the top. Just over a minute to go and Carneiro hits a slick sweep using a possible kimura, right into full mount. Excellent ground work from the Brazilian. Carneiro lands some short punches to soften him up as Robertson clings on, but the time expires before he can do any more. Close round to score but I’d go with Carneiro, he landed the best shots standing, got the initial takedown and ended the round in a dominant position. 19-19 going into the third.

Third and final round and Robertson pressures Carneiro back a little, but takes a couple of glancing punches as he does so. Takedown follows for Carneiro but Robertson reverses to his feet right away. Strong right hand lands for Carneiro and Robertson just can’t seem to land anything significant here. Crowd aren’t liking this one at all. Nice uppercut into a left hook rocks Robertson but Carneiro decides to follow with a takedown attempt rather than more strikes, and Robertson stuffs it and they wind up in the clinch. Three minutes to go and they break off, and Robertson continues to walk forward into glancing jabs. Body kicks partially land for both men. Combination connects for Robertson but he doesn’t really follow it up heavily. This is a real yawner. Solid leg kick lands for Robertson. Stiff jab answers for Carneiro. Crowd are absolutely furious now, and rightfully so. We’ve got a minute to go and it could well be either man’s fight. Uppercut glances again for Carneiro. Robertson can’t seem to get anything going. Clinch from Carneiro but they break off quickly. Round ends there. Well, that was a bad round. 10-9 Carneiro and call it 29-28 for him.

Judges call it 29-28 Robertson, 30-27 Carneiro and 29-28 for Roan Carneiro to take the split decision. Really though outside of the odd bright spot this was a super-dull fight as neither man showed all that much aggression or urgency and neither really got anything going. Could do without seeing either man on the main card again for a while methinks, that is if Robertson isn’t cut after this one. Moving on!

Lightweight Fight: Evan Dunham vs Rick Glenn

Initially this was supposed to be a guaranteed action fight between Dunham and heavy slugger Abel Trujillo, but when Trujillo pulled out with an injury, former WSOF Featherweight champion Glenn stepped in and took the fight on short notice. Despite a strong record – he beat Georgi Karakhanyan for instance – I couldn’t see him having success against a guy as good as Dunham, especially fighting a weight class up.

Round One and Glenn opens with a hopping kick that doesn’t really land. Big combo from Dunham and he lands a clean left hand. These guys are swinging right away. Both men are going for it and Dunham lands with a hard knee to the body. Takedown from Dunham and he puts Glenn onto his back in full guard. Action slows down a bit as Glenn looks to tie Dunham up, but he takes a couple of long punches from the top anyway. Guillotine variant attempt from Dunham, but Glenn manages to free his head pretty easily. He keeps squirming from his back which forces Dunham to stand back up over him, and he eats a pretty nasty upkick before dropping back into the guard with some solid punches. Dunham stands over him again to drop some more punches before taking the back off a scramble, getting the right leg hooked in and then putting the left in too. Looks like he’s working for the choke, and it looks sunk for a second, but Glenn manages to rip the hands off. Another attempt looks TIGHT and you can see Glenn wincing, but somehow he survives! Crowd are way into this one. Round ends with Dunham still on top in control although he loses the dominant position. Clear 10-9 round for Dunham, in fact you could argue 10-8 even I’d say.

Round Two and Glenn comes out aggressively, tagging Dunham with a couple of punches before avoiding a takedown. A second opportunity is more successful for Dunham though and he plants Glenn on his back in guard again. Glenn lands a couple of elbows from his back and stays active, but Dunham avoids a few upkicks and passes to the side before looking for a D’Arce. Glenn spins free, but he remains on his back and he eats a left hand en route to Dunham taking side mount. Dunham is fucking awesome when you think he’s been around doing this since 2009. Reversal from Glenn puts him back up, but Dunham ducks under a left haymaker and drives him into the fence. Nasty knee inside lands for Dunham and he trips Glenn for a second before going back to more knees when the newcomer remains vertical. Good knee answers back for Glenn but Evan is all over him. They break off and Dunham tags him with a one-two before glancing on a head kick. They exchange before Dunham catches a kick and gets another takedown, and from there he works Glenn over with some punches from the top. Good job from Glenn to escape to his feet though. He pushes forward and we’ve got a pretty open exchange now with both guys landing. Both guys look a bit tired, too. Takedown attempt is defended well by Glenn but he’s eating more strikes in the meantime. Ref calls time randomly for….something, didn’t catch what. By Glenn’s reaction it must’ve been a groin shot, though. He recovers quickly and they restart, and a crisp combination lands for Dunham. Another one connects and that’s the round. 10-9 Dunham.

Round Three and both men continue to fire before Dunham drives in with a double leg and smashes him into the fence. Glenn defends well though and remains on his feet. Sharp elbow inside from Dunham and they break. Dunham is just walking through Glenn’s punches at this point. Takedown attempt from Glenn but it’s from WAY on the outside and it’s an easy stuff for Dunham. Beautiful clean punches land for Dunham and if he had more power then it would probably be over. Glenn is still getting beaten up, though. He tries to fire back, but that’s never a good idea against a dude like Dunham and sure enough Evan OBLIGES and continues to crack him. Takedown attempt is defended by Glenn though and you cannot fault the heart of this guy. Dunham looks gassed now, probably due to throwing literally EVERYTHING at Glenn. Crowd are booing for some reason which is insane. More shots from Dunham lead to a big right head kick that wobbles Glenn, but somehow he stays in it and tells Dunham to carry on. And so he does and he continues to smash Glenn up with punches. Glenn is like a fucking zombie now. And now we’ve got BOTH MEN LANDING as this is awesome. Right hand almost puts Glenn down but the fence basically keeps him up. Rolling kick (!) misses for Glenn and Dunham tries to slap on an armbar as the buzzer sounds. That was a hell of a round. Got to be Dunham’s fight but fair play to Glenn.

Official scores are 30-27 across the board for Evan Dunham, no surprise there but man, what a fight. Dunham is just one of those guys who seems incapable of putting on a bad fight, and he really went for it here in an attempt to put Glenn away, but Glenn turned out to be as tough as nails and just wouldn’t go down. That’s four in a row for Dunham now and I’m buying him as a legit contender again, as he was in 2010. Can’t wait to see him again and I also can’t wait to see what Glenn can do at 145lbs most likely because shit, looks like you’d have to kill the guy to keep him down!

Middleweight Fight: Uriah Hall vs Derek Brunson

This was a pretty fascinating match as while Hall was coming off his loss to Robert Whittaker, he was still riding a lot of momentum from his win over Gegard Mousasi and finally seemed to be living up to some of his hype. Brunson meanwhile had reeled off four straight knockouts after a bit of a dull beginning to his UFC career and seemed to be developing into an underrated possible contender too. Tough fight to call as it seemed to be Hall’s flashier style against Brunson’s more straight ahead approach, but I was leaning towards Brunson due to his consistency.

Round One begins and Hall rushes forward, but Brunson immediately looks for the takedown and drives him into the fence. Hall stays on his feet and they muscle for position before Brunson tries to sweep Hall’s foot out from under him. Hall defends that and he remains on his feet, taking a couple of knees to the body from Brunson. They break off and Brunson pushes forward, but eats a front kick to the chest from Hall. Brunson is fine though and he closes Hall down and LEVELS HIM WITH A LEFT HOOK!~! Hall’s head bounces as he hits the mat and a few shots on the ground seal the deal.

Post-fight Hall tries to protest the stoppage but he sure looked out to me. That was a vicious shot from Brunson and probably goes down as the biggest win of his career thus far. He’s just got HUGE POWER to go with his strong wrestling background and I think it’s time that anyone who keeps underestimating him – me included – stops now. Next up for him is Robert Whittaker and the winner of that one should be looking for a title eliminator in 2017. As for Hall, he didn’t really get chance to come out of the gate to be honest, but his back is probably to the wall with his next fight again now after two losses. Such a pity but I think it’s a case now of looking at him like an Erick Silva – a finished product rather than a prospect and so what you see is going to be what you get. Hell of a knockout for Brunson at any rate.

Lightweight Fight: Dustin Poirier vs Michael Johnson

Odd to see the UFC make a fight between a guy on a three-fight winning streak and a guy on a two-fight losing streak, but to be fair it didn’t really matter as in this case, Poirier was looking to break into the top ten and Johnson’s been established there for some time, and really he didn’t “lose” as such to Beneil Dariush anyway. Like the previous fight this was a tough one to call, as Poirier seemed to have an advantage with power and had shown more well-rounded skills, but Johnson’s speed and movement are hard for anyone to deal with on the feet. The momentum coming in seemed to be with Poirier so I went with him.

Fight begins and these guys appear to HATE EACH OTHER judging on the staredown. Johnson comes out quickly with a lot of movement and feints, landing on a glancing leg kick as Poirier takes the center of the cage. Right hook from Poirier but Johnson counters with a lightning-quick combo. Another wild exchange follows and Johnson seems to have the quicker hands for sure. Good low kick from Poirier though. Solid left hand connects for Poirier and stops Johnson in his tracks for a second. Cpmbo follows but Johnson fires back with a VICIOUS ONE TWO AND POIRIER GOES DOWN! Johnson pounces and finishes him off INSTANTLY….and then taunts the barely conscious Poirier post-fight.

That was a shitty move but holy shit the knockout was not. Johnson looked tight and crisp on the feet from the beginning here and he just caught Poirier with his superior speed and put him away quickly and cleanly. Massive win for Michael Johnson and I’d say this puts him firmly back into the mix, as they say. Post-fight he calls for a title shot or a “money fight” – a term I’m quickly getting sick of actually – but I don’t think he’ll get either just yet. Maybe put him against Michael Chiesa next? That sounds like a great fight to me. Despite losing by violent KO I don’t think Poirier will lose too much momentum either – he’s still a very young fighter and with a couple more wins he’ll soon bounce back. Fight didn’t last long at all but it was still a hell of a way to end the night!

-Show ends with Johnson and the Blackzilian crew celebrating. I bet Glenn Robinson was loving it!

Final Thoughts….

Aside from Carneiro/Robertson which largely stunk, this was a great action card from the UFC with two brutal knockouts from Brunson and Johnson, that insane submission from Chas Skelly and a tremendous grappling match between Makhachev and Wade. Icing on the cake was Dunham/Glenn, a fight that started out looking one-sided but turned into a real gutter war. Skip over Carneiro/Robertson and you’ve got one of the better Fight Nights of 2016 for my money.

Best Fight: Dunham vs. Glenn
Worst Fight: Carneiro vs. Robertson

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com