MMA Review: #563: UFC Fight Night 95

-Call me crazy but I was pumped for this show, not just because I’m a huge fan of the Brazilian UFC shows in general but more because – on paper at least – this card seemed to be full of squashes, from the main event (usual Cyborg fare!) right down to what sounded like some odd mismatches earlier on. And in a promotion that doesn’t usually put on one-sided fights, it’s almost refreshing to have a show that practically guarantees highlight reel finishes.

UFC Fight Night 95

09/24/16
Brasilia, Distrito Federal

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Dominick Cruz. And unsurprisingly given his insights on the Fox pre-shows, Cruz is a pretty great commentator, showing a ton of smarts ala Frank Mir in his WEC commentating run.

Featherweight Fight: Godofredo Pepey vs Mike De La Torre

After a disappointing loss to Darren Elkins, TUF Brazil’s Pepey was looking to get back on the winning track here against De La Torre, who’d last been seen winning a tight decision against Yui Chul Nam. With De La Torre seeming ready to match Pepey’s aggression, but not his athleticism or ground skills, I was taking the Brazilian to get an early tapout win.

Fight begins and the crowd are wildly into Pepey as you’d expect. He’s absolutely staring a fucking HOLE through De La Torre from his corner too. Sure enough a WHEEL KICK lands flush for Pepey and CUE THE MADNESS as he just opens up with haymakers on De La Torre before grabbing a bodylock and looking to take the back. Instead he winds up pulling guard, but they pop back up and De La Torre presses him into the cage. Pepey breaks and it’s HAYMAKER CITY again as both guys swing bombs recklessly with Pepey stunning De La Torre a few times before leaping in with a flying knee. That doesn’t land flush but a bunch of BAR FIGHT HAYMAKERS do and De La Torre is in trouble! Clinch from De La Torre doesn’t help as Pepey eats him up with strikes in the clinch too before glancing on a spinning backfist. Back to the clinch and this time De La Torre ends up doubled over taking shots before giving his back. Pepey drags him down with a rear waistlock, slaps in both hooks and LOCKS UP THE CHOKE and that’s all she wrote.

Well, Pepey fought like he’d been watching Rocky IV while snorting a few lines of Charlie backstage before his entrance, just completely reckless and in all honestly sloppy on the feet, but De La Torre wasn’t ever going to be the guy to take advantage of that and on the ground – where Pepey is genuinely a tremendous talent – it was a no-contest. Phenomenally exciting opener and while Pepey probably needs to tighten up his game if he wants to rise up the division, if he did that then he wouldn’t be Godofredo Pepey and the UFC wouldn’t be as fun, you know?

Middleweight Fight: Thiago Santos vs Eric Spicely

For me – no offense to Spicely – this one looked like the biggest mismatch on the card, as while Spicely had come into the UFC after a lot of success on the regional scene, he’d lost his UFC debut in devastating fashion by submission to Sam Alvey, a guy not exactly known for his submission prowess. He was also a not-so-athletic guy facing off against an absolute beast of a man in Marreta, a guy who had shrugged off the takedowns of a hulking MW like Elias Theodorou and who had been on a violent roll prior to losing to Gegard Mousasi. Santos via first round KO seemed like the only pick to make really, almost as much of a lock as Cyborg winning.

Round One begins and the first noticeable thing is that Marreta (which means ‘sledgehammer’ in Portuguese) has a giant hammer tattooed on his chest ala Brock Lesnar’s sword. Not quite as dildo-like though thankfully. Few swings miss for Santos early on and Spicely looks for the takedown, diving on a single leg before trying to pull guard. Santos seems happy to oblige by staying down there in the half-guard; in fact Spicely has his right leg locked down to keep him there. Oma plata attempt from Spicely follows and it actually looks pretty deep! Marreta stands up while trapped in the hold, and he might be in trouble here. Spicely controls him well, but eventually Marreta slips his arm free to a big crowd pop. Body kick lands for Santos and he stalks forward, but Spicely gets deep on a bodylock and gets the takedown! Santos gets half-guard, but Spicely works to pass and then looks to set up a kimura on the left arm. Santos scrambles to avoid that, but Spicely spins around and hops right onto his back, locking up a body triangle for good measure! Santos stands with him on his back, but Spicely forces him down….and SINKS THE CHOKE AND HOLY SHIT MARRETA TAPS.

Crowd go….ABSOLUTELY SILENT in total horror before clapping politely, I guess. And this right here is why I don’t bet on MMA as much any more. Santos looked like as much of a lock as you’d get in the UFC, he’d stuffed takedowns from Theodorou and Marquardt and beat both of those guys up standing and yet somehow Spicely took him down with ease and choked him out in less than a round. You have to give massive, massive credit to Spicely of course but even so, I think that might be the biggest upset in the UFC this year when you consider how easily he’d been beaten by Alvey and on TUF. Just a tremendous win for Eric Spicely and I now feel bad for counting him out, not that I was the only one!

Lightweight Fight: Francisco Trinaldo vs Paul Felder

This fight looked like probably the most competitive one on the main card, as with his wins against Daron Cruickshank and Josh Burkman, Felder was beginning to build his momentum back after a couple of disappointments, while Massaranduba had about as much momentum as anyone in the division as he was on a massive six-fight winning streak with his last win being in a FOTYC against Yancy Medeiros. I felt this was tough to call as Felder’s striking had the potential to cause Trinaldo some problems, but in the end I went with Massaranduba because he’s one of my favourites, and also because nobody had really beaten him standing before and I felt he could use his underrated ground game if he found himself in trouble anyway.

Round One begins and they circle with nothing really landing in the first minute pretty much. Good leg kick finally connects for Felder. Body kick lands to a big crowd pop for Massaranduba, and they trade some more kicks with Trinaldo beginning to force Felder backwards. Wild swings miss for both men in a brief trade. Body kick lands cleanly twice for Massaranduba and he avoids the spinning backfist in reply. Step-in knee glances for Felder but Trinaldo cracks him twice with a left hook and then backs him into the cage with a big combo. Felder has to clinch, but Trinaldo works with some knees to the body before dropping for a takedown. Felder defends it well and they jockey for position and exchange some uppercuts from close quarters. Nice knee from the clinch lands for Felder. Elbow exits for Trinaldo and he lands with the left hand, but Felder clinches again. They continue to muscle along the fence before breaking with 45 seconds to go. Spinning back kick misses for Felder. Nice inside leg kick from Felder but Trinaldo fires back with a one-two and a body kick. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Trinaldo, good energetic opening round.

Round Two and both guys clash on kicks twice before a brief trade sees both men glance on shots. Hard low kick connects for Felder. Beautiful left hook connects for Massaranduba but he misses it on a second attempt and Felder clips him with a counter. Big combo from Trinaldo backs Felder up into the fence. Felder manages to circle off and begins to push forward again, landing with a heavy high kick that Trinaldo just about blocks with his arm. Clinch and a big knee to the body set up a takedown for Massaranduba, and he lands in Felder’s guard. Felder manages to hook the ankles to keep Trinaldo flat for a few moments, but Massaranduba manages to posture up and land a BRUTAL ELBOW that splits Felder’s right eye WIDE OPEN. You can see the blood just pouring from it right away, wow. Massaranduba continues to work from the top with short strikes, and then he passes into half-guard. Trinaldo goes for full mount, landing more elbows as he does so, but he can’t get it and instead attempts to take the back. He can’t quite manage it though and Felder’s able to stand, where he takes a knee to the hamstring. Trinaldo gets a rear waistlock, but he can’t trip Felder down and Felder turns into the clinch. Seconds to go and a spinning elbow breaks for Felder. His eye is a MESS. Round ends on the feet again, and it’s a clear one for Massaranduba, 10-9.

Round Three but before we begin we see a close-up of Felder’s cut and holy shit it’s bad, looks like his eyebrow is non-existent in fact as it’s basically been ripped apart. Felder pushes forward early on, but Trinaldo lands with a left high kick. Head kick misses in reply for Felder. Right hand connects for Felder but Massaranduba rushes in and connects on a hard straight left. Wheel kick misses for Felder and Massaranduba glances on another high kick. Looks like Felder’s eye has been opened up again too by that left hand most likely. Another left from Massaranduba, but he takes a knee to the body. Big left hand from Trinaldo and Felder clinches, but Trinaldo spins him around and hits him with a knee to the body. Referee Mario Yamasaki spots how badly Felder’s eye is bleeding and calls time, and the doctor comes in and has to wave the fight off due to the severity of the cut. No surprise there as it’s about the worst I’ve ever seen in the UFC. Horrific stuff, looks like he’s been hit in the face by a machete.

Anticlimactic finish I guess but I think Trinaldo was heading for the decision win anyway as he put in another quality performance – he was beating a very skilled striker in Felder on the feet, and when he took it to the ground he was in total control too and obviously did the major damage of the fight with that nasty elbow. For me it has to be time for another step up now in the form of top ten/fifteen opposition next surely. Michael Johnson could work but I suspect the idea will be to match him with Will Brooks (assuming Will wins on Saturday), so maybe Gilbert Melendez? I know the UFC doesn’t like to match winners with losers, but Gil would be a big step up for Massaranduba regardless. It is nice to be proven right for once though – I said Massaranduba would become a contender when he first debuted back in 2012 off TUF Brazil, I just didn’t think it’d happen in 2016! Fight was also a lot of fun albeit nowhere near as good as the Medeiros fight, but then it was never going to be.

Heavyweight Fight: Roy Nelson vs Antonio Silva

Didn’t like this booking one iota, it must be said, mainly because I just don’t think it’s safe for Bigfoot to be fighting right now. Outside of that one win over Soa Palelei, and really he didn’t look great there, he’s actually been knocked out in every single one of his fights dating back to his return from the testosterone suspension in 2014. That’s four knockouts in five fights, and suddenly he’s being put in with Roy Nelson, who’s known for knocking guys out with a big right hand? That felt wrong to me. The pick was obviously Nelson via KO in the first round, even if Roy is also massively past his best right now.

First round begins and Bigfoot lands with a body kick to begin. Couple of left hands glance for Nelson but he eats a leg kick. Bigfoot is lumbering around a lot here and he lands with a counter right hand. Another counter right forces Nelson back and shit, a leg kick almost drops him! This is about as good as Bigfoot’s looked in YEARS. Left to the body from Nelson is answered by another Bigfoot right hand counter. Wild overhand right misses for Nelson. He keeps pushing forward though and lands with a right hand, but Silva backs him up with a high kick. Big right hand connects for Nelson and Bigfoot actually takes it well. Right connects for Bigfoot. Pair of hard right hooks land for Nelson but again Bigfoot takes them. Low kick follows for Big Country. Combo answers for Bigfoot and he puts Nelson on the retreat. Single leg attempt from Nelson but Bigfoot stuffs it, and Roy ends up driving him into the fence and holding a clinch to look for the takedown. Crowd are chanting loudly for Bigfoot now. Knees to the legs connect for Nelson and then he cracks Bigfoot with a right hook to the body from the clinch. Seconds to go and it looks like the round’s going to end without a finish, surprisingly. Sure enough Bigfoot breaks with a right hand and that’s it. 10-9 Bigfoot and who saw that one coming?

Second round and Bigfoot lands again with a hard leg kick that buckles Nelson. Right hand fires back for Big Country. Big body kick and a right hand follow-up answer for Bigfoot. These guys are swinging one haymaker at a time practically now. Really slow pace. Front kick glances off Nelson’s chest. Nelson continually backs him into the fence, but he can’t land the big right and Silva counters well with a right of his own. Body kick glances for Bigfoot and Nelson lands with a right hand, but again Bigfoot takes it well. Groin kick lands for Bigfoot though and Big John McCarthy has to call time. They restart and Bigfoot rushes in with a flurry, using it to set up a takedown attempt, but he can’t really get Nelson down and eventually Big Country breaks off. Left hook into a right uppercut from Nelson but neither land cleanly. Lunging right also glances for Nelson before he takes another leg kick. Takedown attempt is easily shrugged off by Nelson who lands a glancing uppercut on the way out. Big uppercut connects and snaps Bigfoot’s head back, and then Nelson tags him with a right hand to counter a low kick, but Silva somehow takes it well. Brief trade sees both men glance on big shots. One minute to go and Nelson counters a low kick with a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND, and Bigfoot goes DOWN AND OUT, but Big John basically botches the stoppage, only stepping in after Nelson’s landed another three or four punches on the ground.

Aaaand post-fight we get a bit crazy as Nelson lands a shoddy mule kick to McCarthy, I guess due to the stoppage. Sure enough post-fight he confirms he was annoyed by the stoppage as Bigfoot’s his friend and he didn’t want to throw the extra punches, but he also makes reference to the ‘Mark Hunt walk-off’ which doesn’t make much sense. He also pretty much asks for a title shot and a “full camp” to fight Stipe which is ludicrous. A really rambling, odd interview to be honest. I don’t buy the reasoning for the kick at McCarthy either – Bigfoot was done so why not do the walk-off KO if he could tell it was over? McCarthy would’ve stopped it at that point surely. Dude ought to face some sort of disciplinary action for that, especially as UFC cut Jason High for shoving the ref a few years back and Phil Baroni got a long suspension even further back too. Fight wasn’t great before the knockout and while the knockout was a good one it’s just not fun to watch Bigfoot get put to sleep any more. He actually didn’t look too bad here until Nelson really chinned him, but to be fair Nelson was moving at a glacial speed too so that might explain why. I’d say both guys should retire but in an odd division Nelson is still relevant I guess.

Featherweight Fight: Renan Barao vs Phillipe Nover

Odd matchmaking here. While Barao clearly needed a bit of an easier fight after his 145lbs debut loss to Jeremy Stephens – not that Stephens is a bad loss at all – I expected him to be matched with someone like say, Cole Miller or Clay Guida, someone just outside the top ten or fifteen, rather than Nover, who no offense, is basically a journeyman at this point and who’d lost his previous fight. I mean I loved Nover during his TUF run but that was almost a decade ago! The clear pick here was Barao, probably by decision or submission perhaps.

Round One begins and Nover opens with a stiff jab. Barao comes back with one of his own and then lands with a sharp inside leg kick. Nasty outside leg kick lands for Barao too as both men continue to bounce around and throw some feints. Head kick is blocked by Barao. Nice combination from Barao; one-two-three set up by a low kick. Another combo connects for him but Nover counters with a left hook and knocks him off balance. Leg kick answers for the Brazilian. Big left hook from Barao but Nover takes it well and fires back with a jab. Quick flurry largely misses for Barao but a leg kick does not, landing flush with a thudding noise. Sweeping left hook from Barao counters a Nover jab. Another leg kick connects for him too. Nover lunges in, but walks into a heavy left hand that freezes him up for a second. He shows a good chin though and seems fine. Spin kick misses for Barao. Seconds to go and Barao backs Nover up with some more shots. Round ends there; 10-9 Barao for me but it wasn’t an earth-shattering round.

Round Two and Barao comes out and fires with a combo that misses. Nover comes back with a left hook, but it doesn’t land cleanly and Barao connects on a leg kick. Good right hand connects for Barao and he quickly follows with a left. Solid leg kick from the Brazilian and he lands on a spinning kick right to the face. Nover looks okay though. Front kick misses for Barao but he tags Nover big time with a clean combo. Another one has Nover really backing up, flying knee into a left hand. Nover is getting chewed up in this round. He keeps firing back, but he just isn’t landing while Barao is catching him cleanly now. Hard leg kick does land for the TUF 8 veteran though. Cruz’s commentary is super-interesting here as you can tell he studied Barao at some point for a possible fight. Nice flurry from Barao but Nover manages to catch him with a pair of heavy hooks in a brief clinch. Body kick from Nover but Barao counters with a combo that lands heavily. Not long left in the round and Nover’s really swinging now, but he’s just a step or two behind the Brazilian and Barao hits a good takedown with seconds on the clock. Round ends there and clearly goes to Renan Barao.

Round Three and Nover looks to back Barao up, but the Brazilian stops that charge with a haymaker right hand that doesn’t land cleanly but forces Phillipe onto the retreat. Nice counter right hand lands for Barao as Nover throws a low kick. Nover keeps swinging hard, but Barao gets inside him and hits a trip from the bodylock, planting him down by the fence before lacing the legs up to stop him wall-walking up. Nover manages to work almost to his feet anyway, and then manages to escape, forcing Barao to separate. Clean right hand connects for Barao as Nover pushes forward. They exchange jabs and a decent flying knee lands for Nover, but Barao clinches him again and forces him back into the fence. Nover manages to free himself again and we’ve got two minutes to go. Exchange continues with both men landing but neither really hurting the other. Barao is looking a bit tired actually and Nover’s landing now more than he has done in the previous two rounds. Takedown attempt from Barao though and he gets Nover down again. Phillipe tries to work back up and just about manages it, but Barao brings him back down and takes the back as the round ends. 10-9 Barao, 30-27 Barao.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Renan Barao. Well, a win is a win and you can’t take that away from Barao but in all honesty this was a pretty pedestrian showing as he did just about enough to outstrike and outgrapple Nover, but he never came close to a finish and I’d say he didn’t truly hurt Nover or have him in trouble at any point either. It probably did him a lot of good though in that Nover didn’t hurt him either, and should do a lot to rebuild his confidence. Maybe a top fifteen guy like Dennis Bermudez or Darren Elkins next? Fight was perfectly acceptable MMA but wasn’t memorable in any way.

Catchweight Fight: Cris Cyborg Justino vs Lina Lansberg

After her successful UFC debut in May it was a big question mark as to what would happen with Cyborg next – whether she’d return to Invicta to defend her 145lbs title or manage to drop to 135lbs to finally settle into the UFC, but instead we got neither – rather, another strange 140lbs Catchweight fight, this time against the unknown Lina Lansberg. Confusing booking to me as while I get why the UFC would want to showcase Cyborg, I don’t understand why they can’t just let her do 145lbs fights as she clearly has no intention of ever making 135lbs, especially if they’re putting her in with unknowns regardless. Despite Lansberg looking like a pretty talented fighter in her own right, this looked like the usual Cyborg squash to me.

Fight begins and Cyborg pushes forward and connects on a combo that sets up the clinch. They exchange knees as the crowd chant for Cyborg, and indeed the Brazilian lands with the better knee strikes. Action slows down a little as they continue to work in the clinch, before a brief break allows Cyborg to open up with a combo. Back to the clinch and they jockey for position, both women throwing knees inside, and finally referee Mario Yamasaki separates them with two minutes to go. Sharp right hand connects for Cyborg but Lansberg clinches again and finds herself basically thrown into the fence again. This time Cyborg drops for a double leg and gets it, dumping Lansberg to the ground and immediately taking full mount. Lansberg is in trouble as Cyborg begins to bomb away from the top, and the Swede turns to her side to try to avoid taking so much punishment. Lansberg manages to shrimp into half-guard, and then works back to her feet only to be shoved into the fence again. Big combo from Cyborg as she separates and Lansberg is busted up and rocked. Big knee to the body from Cyborg. Round ends in the clinch. Pretty dominant round for Cyborg, 10-9.

Into the 2nd, surprisingly enough, and Cyborg presses the action again before landing a HUGE COMBO against the fence. Trio of kicks to the body and another big flurry land and Lansberg is in a whole heap of trouble. She manages to grab onto a clinch but this is only a matter of time now if we’re fair. Looks like Cyborg is SMILING too which is wild. Beautiful trip takedown from Cyborg and she’s in side mount. And from there she lands some BOMBS before standing over Lansberg to land more punishment. Looks like Lansberg’s got nothing left to me. She’s bleeding all over the place. Big elbows land for Cyborg and she continues to land heavy shots, and finally Mario Yamasaki steps in. Pretty much a late stoppage in my book as Lansberg was doing nothing but cover up. Crowd go APESHIT for the win, though.

Pretty dominant win for Cyborg, to be frank it was just as much of a squash as her win over Leslie Smith in the sense that Lansberg had no offense to speak of, she just managed to last a little longer due to being able to hang out in the clinch and take a good shot. Cyborg is a great fighter, there’s no denying that, and I think at this point there’s no denying she’s a star too – the crowd were massively into her as the headliner and the show drew big ratings for FS1 too. For me then the best thing to do would be to stop this Catchweight crap and just bring in the 145lbs division over from Invicta, making Cyborg the inaugural champion as she holds the belt there anyway. That way there’s more legitimacy around her, she doesn’t have to keep cutting to 140lbs and some of the larger women at 135lbs like Holly Holm and Cat Zingano may want to move up to challenge her anyway. Surely that makes the most sense? Plus there’s always the possibility of Cyborg vs. Rousey which could still draw millions, easy.

-Show ends abruptly with Cyborg and her team still in the cage. Damn FS1 pacing!

Final Thoughts….

It’s an easy thumbs up for this one as we got no bad fights (Nelson/Bigfoot was slightly slow but had a strong finish, Barao/Nover was acceptable), a really fun match in Trinaldo/Felder, a wild shootout in Pepey/De La Torre and one of the year’s biggest upsets in Santos/Spicely. Main event was a one-sided squash but everyone knew that going in so I’ve got no issue with it, and while it’s not the best Fight Night of the year, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Best Fight: Trinaldo vs. Felder
Worst Fight: Barao vs. Nover

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com