MMA Review: #567: UFC Fight Night 98

-The first UFC show in four weeks (!), this was doubling as the finale for TUF Latin America 3, according to all sources the final international season of TUF as new UFC owners WME-IMG are expected to do away with them next year. Bit of a surprise but to be fair I didn’t watch a single episode of this season so I won’t miss it really. This was a high-end card for a Fight Night though, with a tremendous main event and then a lot of strong names (Beneil Dariush, Ricardo Lamas, Charles Oliveira, Diego Sanchez) up and down the show.

UFC Fight Night 98

11/05/16
Mexico City, Mexico

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Alexa Grasso vs Heather-Jo Clark

Mexican prospect Grasso was a fighter I’d expected to see in the UFC a little earlier than this actually given her marketability and striking skills, but I guess there was no need to rush her at 23 and hey, it’s not like anyone else would steal her from Invicta. Anyway, this was her long-awaited debut and facing her was gatekeeper Clark, who was coming off a loss to now-top contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Couldn’t see the UFC setting up Grasso to lose so she was the easy pick.

Round One begins and Grasso circles on the outside as Clark pushes forward. Few kicks glance for Grasso before Clark wades into a clinch with a right hand. Clark forces Grasso into the fence and looks to take her down, but Grasso spins her around and exits with a right. Flurry glances for Clark but Grasso seems fine. Nice inside leg kick lands for the Mexican. They continue to exchange strikes with both girls landing, albeit nothing significantly. Takedown attempt from Clark but Grasso counters with a head kick that seems to have the TUF veteran hurt. She pops back up but eats a BIG KNEE and then Grasso UNLOADS on her, looking for the finish! Clark manages to fire back but she’s badly hurt here. Grasso continues to bomb on her but Clark manages to clinch to slow down the onslaught. Action slows down a bit as Grasso muscles Clark into the fence and continues to land on her from close quarters. Looks like Clark is busted up. One minute to go and they break off, and Grasso uncorks another head kick that Clark just about blocks. Nice jab sets up a right hand for Grasso and Clark is rocked again and has to cover up under a flurry. Clinch again slows Grasso down but she’s still doing some damage from there. Round ends in the clinch. Clear 10-9 round for Alexa Grasso and the crowd are loving it.

Round Two and Clark seems to tell her corner she’s struggling to see, but somehow they keep it quiet from the doctors at cageside and we continue. Very little of note happens in the opening minute as it looks like Clark wants to stay out of range, probably due to the sight issue. Body kick from Grasso is caught and Clark drives her into the fence, but she can’t get her down and the debutant spins her around and begins to do some more good work from inside the clinch. Looks like Clark might be reaching for a possible standing guillotine, but she can’t get it and Grasso stays right on her. This has been a dull round actually. Right hand breaks for Grasso with just over a minute to go. Decent right from Clark sets up another clinch though and they exchange knees to the body. Really solid knees to the body from Grasso but Clark manages to get her down. Armbar attempt from Grasso is avoided but she escapes to her feet to end the round with a combo. 10-9 Grasso again, not as good a round as the opener though.

Round Three and Grasso glances on a couple of kicks before landing a nice body kick and following with a heavy counter right as Clark lunges in for the clinch. Grasso spins her around again and keeps her against the fence, landing some knees as it looks like Clark’s nose is busted open. They muscle for position along the fence before Clark tries a lateral drop, but it doesn’t work and Grasso stays on her feet and forces Clark back up. Action slows up somewhat again as they exchange strikes from the outside, and then Clark lands with a decent combo to the head and body. Couple more right hands land for Clark but she takes a body kick. This fight has really slowed down. Clark’s corner is screaming at her but I don’t think she’s got much left in the tank. Nice right hand into a low kick from Grasso. Combination follows and Clark has to retreat. Clark comes back with a combo of her own and then Grasso clinches, before landing her own takedown and then finishing the fight with a flurry up to the buzzer. 10-9 Grasso, 30-27 Grasso for me.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Alexa Grasso. Crowd go wild for the announcement and it was a strong debut for her, but I don’t think she’s an instant title contender like some were expecting, more a work in progress. Which is fine as she’s only 23, but I did feel like she let Clark off the hook after an excellent first round, and the second and third rounds dragged a little. Look forward to seeing her fight again though as I think she’ll do better without the Octagon jitters.

Lightweight Fight: Beneil Dariush vs Rashid Magomedov

Interesting fight here with two guys on the borderline of the top ten (well, I think Dariush might be in the top ten actually depending on which rankings you look at…) looking to really break into the upper echelon. Dariush had rebounded from a surprising submission loss to Michael Chiesa (dark horse of the division IMO) to take out the previously unbeaten James Vick, while Magomedov hadn’t fought in a year but was still unbeaten in the UFC with his biggest win over Gilbert Burns. Tough fight to call but despite the layoff I was leaning towards Magomedov for his better striking and strong takedown defense.

First round begins and Dariush opens with a glancing head kick. Front kick from Rashid is countered by a body kick from Dariush. Leg kick attempt sees Rashid slip to the ground but he pops right back up. Clinch from Magomedov and he lands a knee, but Dariush gets hold of the plum to deliver a couple of knees of his own, before muscling the Dagestani into the fence. Trip takedown attempt from Dariush but Rashid does an excellent job of blocking it. Reversal sees Magomedov take Dariush down, and he takes the back for a second before Dariush pops back up with Rashid holding a rear waistlock. Herb Dean suddenly calls time for something I missed, apparently a low blow. Dariush recovers quickly and they restart, with Dariush landing another pair of body kicks. They trade some more kicks and Dariush is really pressuring Magomedov back here. Head kick into an overhand right glance for Dariush. Superman punch follows. Head kick into another left hand land for Dariush and Magomedov doesn’t fire back. Really hard body kick lands for Dariush and forces Rashid to clinch, but from there Dariush secures the plum to land a knee or two. Magomedov comes back with some solid dirty boxing, then muscles him into the fence. Seconds to go in the round and Magomedov hits another pretty sweet takedown, and he ends the round by looking to advance into half-guard. Pretty tight round to score but I’d go with Dariush for the more telling strikes I think.

Second round and Dariush uses a pawing right hand to back Rashid up a little in the opening minute. Nice counter left hand connects for Dariush in a brief exchange. Another two lefts land for Dariush but Magomedov counters with a clean combo. Both men land kicks cleanly, Magomedov to the body and Dariush to the leg. Combo from Dariush and Magomedov just isn’t doing enough on offense I don’t think. Crowd are booing a little now too which I’d say is somewhat harsh. Clinch from Rashid and he lands some nice dirty boxing again but eats some knees in response. Dariush controls him against the fence and then works for an outside trip, but Magomedov again defends it well. One minute to go and now the boos are pretty solid. They break off and Rashid glances on a couple more kicks, but gets caught in the plum again to take another knee. He does land some good shots of his own inside, but Dariush forces him back against the fence, where the round ends. 10-9 Dariush for me again as Magomedov just didn’t do enough offensively.

Third round and again they trade some kicks with both men landing. Left hand lands for Dariush but Rashid makes him pay with a super-nasty body kick. Another one soon follows too but Dariush comes back with another left hand. Clinch from Dariush but Magomedov lands with some dirty boxing and this time he muscles Dariush into the fence. Dariush uses the plum to rotate around and they break off with 3:30 to go, but go right back to the clinch after a brief exchange. Good knees again connect from the plum for Dariush as Magomedov answers back with some uppercuts. Action slows down a bit as they muscle for position with Rashid blocking a takedown, and boy do the crowd hate this. Herb Dean calls a break, and they exchange some strikes from the outside with Rashid connecting on a strong left. Another body kick follows as does a right hand, but Dariush ties him up again. They exchange inside the clinch with more knees from Dariush, and with seconds remaining they break off. Body kick connects again for Magomedov and suddenly Dariush looks way slower than he did earlier, even in this round. Wild left misses for Dariush and he eats a knee before giving a couple back as the round ends with a chorus of boos. Which is unfair! 10-9 Magomedov so call it 29-28 for Dariush.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Beneil Dariush. Guess the judges really went for his forward movement and more aggressive style then, which is fine as Magomedov honestly should’ve pushed the pace more and thrown more if he’d wanted to be sure of taking the rounds. You could probably argue that he won the first and third in fact but in largely even rounds the judges will nearly always favour the aggressor. Weird fight to watch in a way because the crowd hated it and in fact I’d read online that it sucked but that wasn’t the case, it wasn’t the most entertaining fight of the year but I didn’t see it as a bad fight by any means, just a more calculated one. I enjoyed it more than Grasso/Clark in fact. Hopefully Magomedov can get back in there soon and not sit out for so long again, and for Dariush maybe he can secure a fight with someone like Edson Barboza next.

Lightweight Fight: Martin Bravo vs Claudio Puelles

This was the finals of the TUF series, with Peru’s Puelles taking on native Mexican Bravo, and from the sources I’d read Puelles had looked more impressive on the show but didn’t quite have the experience of Bravo. To be honest though I was just hoping for a quick and violent finish to get us onto the meatier fights on the card, no offense.

Round One begins and Bravo opens with an inside leg kick. Nice left hand lands for Puelles as Bravo closes in, but he can’t get a single leg and Bravo lands on a right hand as they break. Bravo’s really pushing forward here. Both men exchange some strikes before Puelles misses with a spinning backfist. Clinch from Bravo but Puelles shrugs him off and the exchange continues. Solid counter right hand connects for Bravo and Puelles might be a bit stunned. He’s backing right up now. More good shots land for Bravo including a hard one-two, and Puelles goes for the single leg in reply but still can’t get the Mexican down. He does force him into the fence with a bodylock though. Bravo breaks off well but another attempt sees Puelles take him down and slap one hook in to take the back. Bravo pops back up to his feet though and they separate again. Stiff jab from Bravo and he avoids a spinning back kick. Strong overhand right connects for Bravo. Couple of kicks answer for Puelles before Bravo tries to draw him into a brawl by taunting him while swinging punches. Puelles sort-of obliges but then backs up again. Big combination ends the round for Bravo as Puelles looks hurt. 10-9 Bravo, decent round actually.

Round Two and before it Puelles’ corner are FURIOUS with him for standing with Bravo. Weird because shit, it’s not like he didn’t for takedowns! Head kick opens the second for Puelles and he’s pushing forward some more, landing a nice combo and then a body kick. Single leg attempt follows but Bravo stuffs it well. Combination lands for Bravo and now Puelles is backing up again. Another big combo lands for Bravo as Puelles continues to back up. Body kick connects for the Mexican. Single leg attempt from Puelles fails again and Bravo hurts him with another combo, then lands a left to the body that causes Puelles to FOLD LIKE A SHIT POKER HAND!~! Few more punches seal the deal.

Fight was fine for what it was and it was a decent finish for Martin Bravo but who the hell knows where his ceiling will be in the UFC proper? I totally get why WME-IMG want to retire the international TUFs because now they seem to have blown through the regional talent in Brazil (and bring the top guys in through the normal route anyway) we’re left with stuff like this where you just don’t know whether these guys are UFC level or not and with shows being cut next year there just isn’t the room or time to find out.

Featherweight Fight: Ricardo Lamas vs Charles Oliveira

This was a late addition to this card as Lamas of course was supposed to main event the doomed Manila card against BJ Penn before BJ got injured and the show was scrapped. He was re-booked here against Oliveira – looking to bounce back from his summer loss to Anthony Pettis – but what sounded like an interesting match of top ten FWs became a bit more controversial when the Brazilian badly botched his weight cut, coming in a massive TEN POUNDS over, essentially making him a whole weight class bigger. Ridiculous and unprofessional stuff for sure. Before that I was actually rooting for Oliveira but in my eyes a weight botch like that is almost tantamount to cheating, and so I was behind Lamas instead.

Round One begins and they exchange some kicks early on with Lamas bouncing around on the outside. Right to the body and a left head kick glance for Lamas but Oliveira ties up with him and forces him into the fence. Shoulder throw follows for Lamas and he’s on top in half-guard. Hard elbow lands from the top for Lamas as he tries to advance his position, but Oliveira spins for a possible leglock. Lamas scrambles free and works back into top position where he looks to get hold of the Brazilian’s neck, but Oliveira hits a reversal and scrambles to his feet, taking the back in the process. Lamas manages to turn into him quickly, but a slam from Oliveira puts him on his back. Oliveira begins to work for a possible D’Arce, but Lamas stands up. Oliveira drags him back down and he might be in trouble as the choke looks sunk, and they roll through before Lamas manages to free his neck. That was pretty great grappling. Full guard for Lamas with two minutes to go now and Oliveira works the body with punches and looks to pass. He stands over Lamas to drop some shots and then grabs the neck again as they roll, before hopping onto the back with both hooks. Lamas is in trouble again as Oliveira works a body triangle and begins to land shots to soften him up for the choke, but he can’t quite sink it in. Clearly illegal downward elbow to the back of the neck (!) lands for Oliveira but for some reason the ref ignores it. Round ends with Oliveira very close to the choke. 10-9 Oliveira for sure, great round too.

Round Two and Lamas connects on a nice spin kick to the head early on before Oliveira fires back with a right hand and a couple of knees from the plum. Combination follows for Oliveira as does a sharp leg kick, and then he hits a takedown, but Lamas rolls through and reverses into top position. Looks like both men are trying to wrap the other’s neck up. Lamas manages to take top position proper from half-guard, then moves into side mount where he controls the Brazilian. Couple of elbows from Lamas and then Oliveira gives his back in an attempt to escape. Lamas counters that by grabbing a guillotine and going to full guard, and despite a lot of struggling Oliveira surprisingly taps! Whoa, did not expect that.

Really good fight and an excellent win for Ricardo Lamas, particularly given the weight issues surrounding Oliveira. Obviously everyone sees Oliveira as a submission master but that’s the second time he’s been caught in a guillotine in two fights, which is weird – it’s like he’s great offensively but much weaker defensively I guess. Big feather in Lamas’s cap though. What’s next for him? I’d probably go with the Penn fight actually if they can put it together as it’s a name opponent for him and really, FW is such a logjam at the minute that he’s a million miles away from a title shot. As for Oliveira, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s cut due to the weight issue which would be massively unfortunate as he’s clearly got talent, he just needs to sort himself out in that regard. Not tweeting photos of himself eating in McDonalds might be a good start!

Lightweight Fight: Diego Sanchez vs Marcin Held

Former Bellator fighter Held had signed with the UFC in the late summer, and personally I was baffled as to why Bellator had let him go as he’s such a great grappling talent and is still very young at just 24. Anyhow, I expected to see him on one of the UFC’s Euro cards but surprisingly he was added to this card against Diego, who was still plugging away despite suffering his first KO loss at the hands of Joe Lauzon at UFC 200. Despite everyone counting Diego out following that loss I was actually picking him to upset the Polish fighter here – Held is much more known for his grappling than his striking and well, nobody had ever really outgrappled Diego in his UFC career. In fact I was super excited at hopefully seeing Diego’s grappling back in action again! My pick was Diego by decision, not that I’m biased or anything.

First round begins and they circle before Diego lands with a body kick. Crowd are loving Diego obviously. Brief exchange sees Held land a couple of decent punches, but Diego seems fine. Head kick glances for Diego. Left hand answers back for Held and he lands a knee to break a brief clinch too. Jumping kick misses for Diego and Held clinches to land another knee, and from there he drops for the takedown. Diego works to block it and then separates. Good counter right hand lands for Diego as the Polish fighter steps into range. Flurry misses for the veteran though. Right hand glances for Held but he takes another body kick. Haymaker right misses for Sanchez and Held connects on a strong right of his own. Diego actually shows some good movement to avoid some more strikes though. Cartwheel kick (!) lands for Held and he follows with a combo that backs Diego up a bit. Exchange continues and then Diego goes for a takedown, but Held defends it and then goes for a guillotine, and it looks TIGHT, but Diego RUNS UP THE CAGE AND PUSHES OFF to alleviate the pressure and then literally throws Held off him! That was awesome. Body kick from Diego follows and they exchange punches with Held landing some decent shots, but another body kick and a right hand end the round for Diego. Probably 10-9 Held as he came close with that choke and the striking was pretty even, but it was a tight one to call.

Second round and Diego pushes forward to begin, before Held rolls for a leglock attempt. Diego seems pretty calm about it and immediately spins and turns with it, getting top position with his leg at a REALLY ODD ANGLE, and from there he drops a trio of hard right hands directly to Held’s face. Diego is a seriously flexible dude to end up in that position. He scrambles free and takes the back for a second but Held rolls for a heel hook, again forcing Sanchez into a ridiculous position. Held can’t finish it off though and Diego winds up breaking free into the guard, where he drops some elbows to the body as you can see Held taking some deep breaths. Some good ground-and-pound gets through for Sanchez as he looks to pass the guard, going into half-guard as the crowd chant his name. Diego remains in control and continues to land shots, but Held rolls and manages to get butterfly guard back. Diego stacks him up from there to land some more punches, and then he takes the back with both hooks as the round ends. 10-9 Diego to even things up and as I suspected, he had no issues with Held’s grappling.

Third round and Held looks exhausted while Diego seems absolutely fine. Spinning backfist misses for Held as Diego lands a low kick. Couple of punches land for Diego and he sprawls to avoid a takedown, but Held makes him pay on the way back up with a knee. Uppercut lands for Held and drops Diego to a knee momentarily, but the Polish fighter follows with a takedown attempt and Diego blocks it and hits a reversal, taking the back again where he lands some hard punches to the side of the head. Held rolls for another leglock attempt but Sanchez avoids it and then avoids an oma plata attempt too, moving into side mount en route. Elbows to the body land for Diego and Held is definitely gassed out. He goes for another heel hook, but Diego kicks his way free and then drops into Held’s guard again, where he opens up with more elbows. This is like a flashback to Diego from 2005-6, probably the peak of his career. Another leglock attempt from Held is avoided and Diego remains on top, this time passing into half-guard where he continues to drop elbows. Heavy elbow lands right to the face to hurt Held. One minute to go and Held tries a reversal, but Diego’s grappling is too good and he remains on top punishing the Polish fighter. Seconds to go and Diego gets full mount, and from there he drops more heavy blows until the buzzer sounds. Got to be 29-28 for Diego Sanchez I’d say, big win for him.

Official scores as expected are 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 all for Diego Sanchez. Pretty crazy that Diego’s now 2-1 in 2016 when everyone figured he was finished, but that’s the greatness of Diego for you. I mean who else can push a pace like that in Mexico City in the third round? Not many fighters, that’s for sure. This was probably Diego’s best showing since, well, probably his fight with Paulo Thiago in 2010 (!) although you could argue his fight with Jim Miller in March was impressive too. The key here was that Held willingly went to the ground with him and on the ground – as I suspected – a submission expert like Held was never really going to catch Diego in anything and he’s such a tricky guy to deal with down there, as Nick Diaz and Karo Parisyan could both attest a few years back (actually a decade back…fuck!). There’s zero chance of Diego contending for a title again of course but if they continue to match him primarily with grapplers then he’ll seemingly still be able to put on entertaining fights for a while yet, which is AWESOME FOR EVERYONE. This was a great fight naturally.

Lightweight Fight: Tony Ferguson vs Rafael Dos Anjos

Hell of a main event right here. In most weight classes a guy like Tony Ferguson, coming off eight straight wins – including over top contenders like Josh Thomson and Edson Barboza – would get a title shot easily but when 155lbs is so in flux right now thanks to Conor McGregor’s excursion there and also thanks to the existence of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his crazy undefeated record, Ferguson was being forced to fight *another* hugely tough opponent in the form of former title holder Dos Anjos, who was desperate to bounce back from his title loss to Eddie Alvarez to put himself back into the title picture. This was a hugely tough fight to pick as both guys are so good in all areas really, but I ended up going with Ferguson feeling that he was the more dynamic offensive fighter and could probably take a shot better than RDA too.

Round One gets underway and both men circle with Ferguson glancing on a pair of hooks but landing a leg kick. RDA fires back with a hard leg kick of his own and then spins Ferguson around with a second one. Body kick glances for Ferguson. Another leg kick lands for RDA and then he tags Ferguson with a left hand. Takedown is stuffed by the TUF winner though. Combination comes up slightly short for Ferguson and RDA connects with a glancing left hand. Nice counter left from RDA snaps Ferguson’s head back off a low kick attempt. Exchange sees both men land with right hands. Step-in elbow connects nicely for Ferguson but RDA clips him with a counter combo again. Combination answers back for Ferguson. Kick to the body from El Cucuy but he eats the left hand counter again. Ferguson has a hell of a chin. Head kick misses for Ferguson and RDA drops him off a low kick, and avoids an attempt at a spin to take top position in butterfly guard. Ferguson uses an active guard to kick RDA away and he stands back up with a minute to go. Left hand connects for Ferguson. Both men exchange jabs and RDA lands with another heavy leg kick. Clean counter left from Ferguson in an exchange and he circles well to avoid being pinned on the fence. Another short elbow lands for Ferguson. Spinning backfist glances for RDA and the exchange continues as the round ends. Close round but I’d go 10-9 RDA for landing the slightly heavier strikes.

Round Two and a looping left hook glances for Ferguson. Combination backs RDA up and a big right hand snaps the Brazilian’s head back. Another combination lands for Ferguson and he’s got RDA backing up big time. Looks like Dos Anjos is busted up. Both men land big leg kicks before RDA connects on a left to slow El Cucuy up, but he rolls with the follow-ups and seems okay. Apparent eye poke from Ferguson goes unnoticed by referee Herb Dean, but Ferguson doesn’t follow it up as RDA covers up and so Herb does step in to call time. Classy move from Ferguson. They restart and Ferguson lands with a combo and does well to avoid counters from the Brazilian. Takedown attempt from RDA is stuffed and Ferguson fires back with a body kick. Both men land some kicks but Ferguson seems to have the advantage now and he’s outlanding RDA. Foot stomp (!) from Ferguson and he lands a stiff jab to counter a low kick from RDA. Looks like RDA’s got a bloody nose. He lands with a combo but Ferguson makes him pay with a left hand, and backs him up with a follow-up combo. Pair of lefts snap RDA’s head back. Nice counter left from RDA in an exchange but Ferguson fires back with a one-two that hurts the Brazilian pretty badly. He backs up showing a good poker face, but he got his bell rung there for sure. Ferguson continues to land on him while doing a better defensive job too, and the round ends with a really clean combo from El Cucuy. 10-9 Ferguson to even things up.

Round Three and Ferguson lands with a piercing left hand early on. Big combination follows and he’s got RDA on the run. Low kick from Ferguson is caught and RDA gets him down, but El Cucuy rolls right through back to his feet. Inside leg kick from Ferguson but he takes a left hand counter. Solid left hand backs Ferguson up and forces him to spin around, but Ferguson fires back with a right to the body and then a spinning elbow off a missed right hand. Step-in elbow follows and Ferguson is looking completely confident now. Big head kick from RDA but Ferguson fires right back with a combo. Beautiful left-right combo from Ferguson. Another left hand snaps RDA’s head back. RDA continues to land some decent strikes of his own including a hard counter left hand, and he follows by nailing Ferguson with another left. Heavy leg kick from RDA but Ferguson lands one of his own. RDA’s got a lot of blood around his right eye now. Big right hook to the body from Dos Anjos. Body kick lands for the Brazilian too. Ferguson keeps pushing forward though and he opens up with a quick combo to the body and head. Exchange sees both men landing and a right hook snaps Ferguson’s head to the side. Superman punch follows and lands cleanly for RDA and he lands another combo that Ferguson somehow shrugs off to end the round. Close round as Ferguson landed with more volume, but RDA seemed to connect with the heavier shots. I’ll go 10-9 RDA.

Round Four and Ferguson comes out dancing, basically, and snapping in with his long jab. He looks incredibly relaxed. Combination lands for Ferguson but he gets his head snapped back again by a left hand. Big knee lands for Ferguson as he catches RDA leaning in, and it wobbles the Brazilian’s legs although he seems to recover quickly. Right hand to the body follows for the TUF winner. RDA comes back with a chopping leg kick, but Ferguson responds with an attempt at a rolling leglock. RDA avoids it but man, what balls to even try it. Another good leg kick lands for RDA but Ferguson connects on a clean straight left. Ferguson’s movement is so difficult to read as he’s continually changing stances. Beautiful combination lands for Ferguson but RDA fires back with a hard left. Another Ferguson combo puts RDA on the run and Tony’s really opening up on him now. Two minutes in the round remaining and Ferguson easily stuffs a takedown attempt and continues to pressure the Brazilian. Dos Anjos’s face is a mess. Big combo again lands for Ferguson, this time ending in a body kick. Beautiful counter right from Ferguson and it sets up a nasty right to the body, but he eats another heavy counter left that his chin somehow absorbs again. To be fair both of these guys have pretty iron chins. Seconds to go now and a huge one-two snaps RDA’s head back again. Round ends with Ferguson going for a takedown, but then opening up with a combo after RDA defends. Clear-cut 10-9 Ferguson for me and he’s pulling ahead now.

Round Five and really, RDA needs a pretty big round here. Ferguson comes out aggressively again though, backing the Brazilian up with an early combination that follows a leg kick. Right hand connects for Dos Anjos but Ferguson backs him up with another combo. Big left narrowly misses for RDA and Ferguson backs him up with some kicks and then a decent combination. Good leg kick from RDA but he’s really finding it tricky to fight off the back foot, especially with Ferguson winging punches at him constantly. Big left haymaker glances for RDA but Ferguson naturally takes it easily. Beautiful shots from Ferguson as he connects with a right hand, left to the body and a stiff jab. Another stiff jab connects for Ferguson but a superman punch misses. Body kick from RDA but Ferguson fires right back with a combo. Dos Anjos’s right eye looks absolutely fucked now, pouring with blood. Pretty wild exchange sees both men land with heavy shots. Brutal right hook connects for Ferguson. Low kick into a high kick from Ferguson. One minute to go and RDA desperately needs something, but instead he eats a vicious combination from El Cucuy. Exchange continues and neither man seems to be slowing down, but it’s still Ferguson landing the better shots and backing the former champion up. Seconds to go and Ferguson almost squat-walks towards RDA, but then gives it up and takes a low kick on the buzzer. 10-9 Ferguson, 48-47 Ferguson overall for me.

Judges have it 48-47 all round for Tony Ferguson, spot on decision from the judges for once. Biggest win of Ferguson’s career by a mile basically and one of his best performances too. The key to the fight seemed to be which guy could keep the other one on the retreat, as neither man is a proper counter-fighter – although RDA cracked Tony with some huge counters here and somehow couldn’t hurt him – and once it became clear that Ferguson wasn’t going to be taken down and was the more varied striker, able to switch stances at will and hit RDA from odd angles, it was his fight. Fight wasn’t quite up there at FOTYC standard mainly because there were no close finishes and it was a bit one-dimensional, but it was still a tremendous main event. Post-fight El Cucuy doesn’t really make the most of the opportunity though by simply shouting VIVA MEXICO!~! and then dropping the mic rather than calling out the winner of Alvarez vs. McGregor. Should it matter given he’s won nine in a row? Realistically no, but in the climate we’re in now it’s all about what fight will draw the most money rather than who truly deserves it, and now Conor’s won the title it seems like Ferguson’s behind Khabib Nurmagomedov (who cut a tremendous promo on Saturday) and potentially Nate Diaz too, which is massively wrong but what can you do? He may end up fighting for the title yet anyway, you never know in the UFC.

-Show ends with Ferguson still celebrating the win as once again I guess FS1 was running long and we quickly cut away.

Final Thoughts….

Really good show overall here. I found Grasso/Clark to be a bit slow and Dariush/Magomedov would definitely be an acquired taste too, but apart from that everything else was tremendous, from a fun knockout in the TUF finals through to great showings from Ricardo Lamas and Diego Sanchez, and then a hell of a main event. Thumbs up easily for this one.

Best Fight: Ferguson vs. Dos Anjos
Worst Fight: Grasso vs. Clark

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com