MMA Review: #593: UFC Fight Night 105

-This was a rare Sunday show from the UFC and the first trip to Nova Scotia since October 2014. Initially it was pegged to feature a main event of Junior Dos Santos vs. Stefan Struve, but that went by-the-by and so WME replaced it with Travis Browne vs. Derrick Lewis – nicked from UFC 208’s undercard – and threw us Johny Hendricks vs. Hector Lombard as another bone. All in all – despite the usual issues with card placement (Esparza vs. Markos and Ponzinibbio vs. Taleb on the prelims?) – this looked like a solid card.

UFC Fight Night 105

Halifax, Nova Scotia

-Your hosts are Todd Grisham, finally, and Brian Stann. And Todd’s okay actually – on a similar level to early Jon Anik and he doesn’t come out with any nonsense which is always helpful.

Lightweight Fight: Paul Felder vs Alessandro Ricci

I was confused as to how this made the main card given Ricci had only come into the UFC as a late replacement at an earlier Canadian card and had lost, but I guess despite his recent losses the UFC brass still love Felder. I was picking the Irish Dragon to win here comfortably just because I didn’t see Ricci as a UFC-level fighter really.

First round begins and Felder tags Ricci right away with a counter left hook. They exchange low kicks before Felder lands with another clean combination. Good body kick lands for Ricci. Left hand follows and also gets through cleanly. Ricci looks marked up around the right eye though. Counter uppercut connects for Felder as Ricci steps forward. Crowd are very into this fight. Beautiful counter right hand lands for Felder. Nice body kick from Ricci again. Neither man’s even considered a takedown thus far. They trade off with some jabs and Felder follows with a sharp right hand. Spinning elbow lands for Felder but Ricci eats it well and fires back with a low kick. Big right hand has Ricci backpedalling a bit and Felder’s really pushing the pace now. Stiff jab from Ricci sets up a combo but Felder’s fine. Body kick glances for Felder. Body kick responds for Ricci. Thirty seconds to go and Felder continues to push forward, and he counters a jab with something that causes Ricci to go straight backwards clutching his nose. Felder follows up immediately with a knee and a quick flurry of punches that put Ricci down for the TKO. Crowd are absolutely HORRIFIED.

Replay shows it was in fact a beautiful step-in counter elbow that DESTROYED Ricci’s nose and lead to the stoppage; awesome timing from Paul Felder. This was Felder’s first TKO finish since his spinning backfist over Danny Castillo in 2015 and I’d say his best performance since then too. I think I underestimated him a little – he was probably thrown in with top ten-level fighters like Trinaldo and Barboza too soon, basically – and a bit more build against lower-level fighters like Ricci could help him reach his potential yet. Fun opener for sure.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Sara McMann vs Gina Mazany

Initially McMann would’ve faced former title challenger Liz Carmouche here in what would’ve been a fun-sounding fight, but Carmouche ended up hurt and so former failed TUFer Mazany stepped in on relatively late notice. Maybe it’s not fair to call Mazany a TUF failure actually – she didn’t make the house but lost to the eventual winner of the season in Julianna Pena who is obviously a top fighter these days. Anyhow, after seeing McMann pull out the best performance of her career to tap Alexis Davis in December I couldn’t pick against her.

Round One begins and McMann tags Mazany with a right hand to close the distance and forces her to the ground right away, directly into side mount too. Mazany tries to scoot towards the fence, but she’s in trouble already. The newcomer turns her back, but takes some clubbing punches to the head before giving her back. McMann slaps one hook in for control and lands some more shots, but Mazany stands back up. McMann drags her right back down and goes into a mounted arm triangle instantly, and she tightens it up to force Mazany to tap.

Now *that* is how you deal with a late-notice newcomer who’s wildly overmatched. Total squash for McMann who looked fantastic. Post-fight she asks for a title shot against the Nunes/Shevchenko winner but I can’t see that personally – she’s looked good, but wins over a late-notice newcomer, Alexis Davis coming off a while on the shelf and Jessica Eye don’t work enough right now, not when she only lost to Nunes in mid 2015. I reckon match her with Cat Zingano (if she’s available) or Raquel Pennington instead and see what happens from there.

Middleweight Fight: Elias Theodorou vs Cezar Ferreira

This was naturally the fight I was looking forward to the most as I’m a massive fan of Elias and still maintain he can become a real big star for the UFC at some point in the future. Assuming they don’t try to lowball him on a contract or anything! Anyhow, this looked like a pretty stiff test for him against the newly resurgent Mutante, who was coming off three impressive wins, but I couldn’t pick against Elias no matter how many experts (Zane Simon, Connor Ruebusch, et al) were doing so and went with the best hair in MMA by out-cardioing the TUF Brazil winner.

Side note but with SO MANY SEASONS of TUF having been and gone now the fact that this is a TUF winner vs. TUF winner match is a total afterthought. Funny when you think UFC used TUF winner vs. TUF winner for the first time to MAIN EVENT a PPV back in 2007.

Round One gets underway and Theodorou pushes forward from the off, but gets clocked by a big left hand counter that slows him down. Big kick is caught by Elias and he throws Mutante back but can’t capitalise. Body kick lands for the Canadian. Crowd are massively into Theodorou. Couple of kicks come up short though and Mutante connects with a pair of counters. Leg-sweep from Mutante puts Elias down for a second but he pops back up. Right hand glances for Elias. He continues to push the pace, landing with a body kick, but he seems to be coming up slightly short on a lot of his strikes. Mutante isn’t firing much back in return though. Really nice low kick does land for Mutante but Theodorou fires back with one of his own. Body kick lands for Mutante but Elias catches it and drives him into the fence. Mutante works to block the takedown, and the action lows down a little before Ferreira breaks off. Right hand from Theodorou forces Mutante back. Another clinch is broken by Mutante and both men glance with kicks. More kicks from Theodorou but he’s still coming up short. Nice left hand counter connects for Mutante in the waning seconds. Close round but despite Elias throwing more I think Mutante probably landed the better, more telling shots. 10-9 Ferreira.

Round Two and Theodorou comes out fast and glances on an early combo. Both men throw kicks that miss before Mutante looks for the takedown. Elias switches him around and forces him into the fence, but the Brazilian breaks off. Flying knee from Theodorou is caught and Mutante takes him down, then transitions quickly into back control with one hook. Elias stands with Mutante on his back and walks him into the fence, then manages to spin around into him as they go down. They pop back up inside the clinch and Elias keeps the Brazilian against the cage before Mutante manages a smooth takedown again. Elias gives his back in order to stand, but again Elias turns into him to clinch. They jockey for position and a hard one-two breaks for Theodorou. Big left misses for Mutante and he slips, and that allows Theodorou to drive him into the cage for a BIG SLAM. Mutante goes for a guillotine, but Elias frees his head and works with some punches from inside the guard. Good job from Mutante to kick him away, but Elias comes right back in and hits another takedown. Another guillotine attempt is avoided by the Canadian to a big crowd pop and again he works with strikes from the top. Again Mutante kicks him away and they stand, and now it looks like Ferreira is tired, taking some deep breaths and shaking his arms out. One minute to go and a winging left hand misses for Ferreira. Good low kick connects for him but he takes a couple of counters from Elias. Good leg kick lands for Theodorou. Left hand follows and that’s the round. Another close one but I’d go 10-9 Theodorou there as he outworked Mutante in the later minutes.

Round Three and both men circle and miss with some early strikes. Head kick glances for Theodorou. Good inside leg kick follows. Another high kick sets up a right hand for Elias. Mutante just isn’t doing enough to offset the volume of Theodorou right now. Right to the body lands for the Canadian but he misses on a follow-up head kick. Takedown attempt from Mutante is easily stuffed. He’s definitely tired here. Spinning backfist from Elias glances off the chest of the Brazilian, as does an attempted body kick. Clinch from Mutante but Elias muscles him back into the cage right away and works with some body punches. Right hand breaks for Theodorou. Crowd are getting a bit restless now. Clean combination from Elias but a kick is caught by Mutante and he gets the takedown and back control again. This time he’s got both hooks in and he drags Elias down and begins to work for the choke, but Theodorou defends it well and manages to turn over before lifting Ferreira for a slam. Somehow Mutante avoids it, and then he goes for another takedown, but Elias catches him in a front headlock and lands a knee. Seconds to go and they’re on their feet, and a low kick ends the round for Elias. Call it 10-9 Theodorou – Mutante just didn’t do enough despite the choke attempt – and 29-28 for him overall.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 all for Elias Theodorou. Not sure about that 30-27 card although to be fair, Elias was the busier guy in the first round even if he didn’t land as well. Weird fight as it felt like Mutante had the advantage everywhere, but just couldn’t pull the trigger properly and he allowed Theodorou to outwork him to take a pretty clear win in the end. Really impressive stuff from the Spartan I thought – the fight wasn’t the best but Mutante was a tricky style match for him and he managed to come through well, basically just because he had better conditioning and put more pressure on the Brazilian. This should put him in the top fifteen I think (Sam Alvey’s there and Elias easily beat him last year) so maybe a fight with Uriah Hall or Thales Leites would work next? I remain a big fan regardless.

Featherweight Fight: Sam Sicilia vs Gavin Tucker

This felt like an odd choice for the main card but I guess it was because newcomer Tucker is a native Newfoundland guy and so it guaranteed crowd heat. Sicilia meanwhile was looking for his first win since July 2015 and really, I know he’s exciting but I’m not sure how he’s kept his job given all the weird cuts going on right now. I couldn’t really pick a winner here because I’d never seen Tucker before.

First round begins and Tucker comes out looking confident and he lands a low kick. Another one follows and Tucker is just dancing around here. Left hand glances for Tucker and then he gets out of range. Beautiful left high kick from Tucker and he follows with another low kick. Tucker looks miles quicker than Sicilia. Tucker busts out some Cody Garbrandt-type footwork to stay out of range, and he lands a left hand as Sicilia looks like he’s struggling. Wild overhand right misses for Sicilia. Right hook connects for Tucker. More kicks follow as Sicilia can’t get a handle on this dude at all. Clean left hand lands for Tucker. Crowd are still way into Tucker as he continues to pick at Sicilia with kicks from the outside. Sicilia just can’t seem to do a thing. Quick combo lands for the newcomer. Knee is caught by Sicilia but he can’t capitalise and that’s the round. Crowd love it. 10-9 Tucker.

Second round and ha, between rounds Tucker’s corner outright say Sicilia is “fucking shit” which might be a bit harsh! Left head kick opens the round for Tucker and he follows with a low calf kick. Bit of taunting from Tucker now and he avoids a quick flurry. Good left hand connects for Tucker as he comes forward. It still looks like he’s operating at a different speed entirely. More kicks connect for the newcomer. Sicilia keeps swinging but to no success. Pair of sweeping lefts land to the body for Tucker. Uppercut follows as does a low kick. Stats show Sicilia’s only landed three clean strikes which is INSANE. Right hand snaps Sicilia’s head back. Brian Stann continues to make Garbrandt comparisons for Tucker as he keeps on dancing on the outside and sniping at Sicilia while making him miss. Round ends just as it started, with Tucker picking Sicilia apart. 10-9 Tucker and Sicilia needs a miracle.

Third round and Sicilia comes out swinging, duh, but he can’t catch the elusive Tucker who dances on the outside Cody-style again. Right hook does glance for Sicilia but Tucker takes it well and shakes his head while grinning. Big head kick is blocked by Tucker and he lands with a hard uppercut as he steps in. Right hand from Sicilia finally lands to slow him down and he follows with a clinch, but Tucker exits and seems recovered. Few more wild swings from Sicilia allow him to clinch again, and he breaks with a flurry as it seems like Tucker’s slowing down. Tucker decides to change things up though with a slick low takedown, planting Sicilia on his back in guard and passing right into half-guard. Sicilia avoids a possible leglock and that allows him to stand, but he can’t catch Tucker again. Crisp left hand connects for Tucker. Two minutes to go and really all Tucker needs to do is keep picking from the outside to win. Sure enough he stays on the move and Sicilia still can’t catch him. Nice knee to the body breaks the clinch for Tucker. Seconds to go and he keeps sniping at Sicilia, and that’s it. Got to be a 30-27 shutout for Tucker really. Crowd go wild.

Official scores are indeed 30-27 all round for Gavin Tucker, causing the crowd to erupt. Well, that was an awesome crowd reaction. Great debut for Tucker too although it must be said, I question whether he’d be as successful against a more mobile, quicker opponent as he was able to pick Sicilia off from the outside but never truly hurt him, and I’d worry about his poor man’s Cody Garbrandt impressions against someone higher up the ladder. He’s earned the opportunity now though for sure! As for Sicilia surely he has to be done now given the roster cuts, how UFC could justify keeping him while letting go the likes of Krylov, Horiguchi and Cirkunov I don’t know. Fight wasn’t as good on a rewatch but the crowd reaction for Tucker made it better than it really was if that makes sense.

Middleweight Fight: Hector Lombard vs Johny Hendricks

This sounded like a weird fight on paper but in another way it made a ton of sense too – Hendricks was moving to 185lbs for the first time after three straight losses (and two missed attempts at making weight) at 170lbs, and meeting him was another former 170lber and very short and stocky 185lber in Lombard. Interesting too that they’d give Hendricks a convicted PED user when the likelihood is that Hendricks’ own downfall is down to past PED use. Anyway, in my mind both men were shot coming into the fight but I felt Hendricks had looked a little more shot than Lombard despite Hector being KO’d twice in his last two (he’d at least had some success before going down) and so I picked the Cuban to win.

Round One begins and they circle for the first minute with very little action outside of a couple of Hendricks low kicks. Knee lands for Hendricks as Lombard gets in close. Big left hand glances for Lombard. Another left hand lands for the Cuban, this time on the counter. Low kick is caught by Lombard and another left leads into the clinch. Nice combination breaks for him but Hendricks seems fine and he fires back with a left of his own. Low kick is caught by Lombard who grabs onto a rear waistlock, and he lands a clubbing shot before they break off. This is a mad slow pace. Takedown attempt from Hendricks but Lombard wildly sprawls to avoid it. Left hand lands for Lombard, but Hendricks comes back with a combo. Low kick is caught by Lombard and he throws Hendricks down, but the former WW champ pops back up and lands an elbow as Hector grabs a rear waistlock. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Hendricks and the action begins to peter out somewhat from the clinch. They break off and both men miss with punches, and that’s the round. 10-9 Lombard, bit dull to be fair.

Round Two and Hendricks swings a shot that misses and allows Lombard to grab a clinch, but Hendricks quickly muscles free. Low kick from Hendricks is answered by a body kick from Lombard. Nice combination connects for Lombard but a left hand answers for Hendricks and forces the Cuban to clinch. Hendricks follows with some short punches from the clinch and they exchange knees, before one lands low for Lombard and forces the ref to call time. Hendricks takes some time to recover and they restart, and Lombard comes stalking forward with a pair of big rights that hurt Hendricks a bit. Wild exchange sees Hendricks fire right back from close range. Knee is caught by Lombard but he eats a bunch of punches when he tries to take Hendricks down. Exchange continues with Hendricks landing a decent knee from the clinch. Lombard looks for the takedown but Hendricks blocks it, only to take a heavy left. Left hand answers for Hendricks and he follows with a combo. Big knee lands for Hendricks as Lombard comes in for the takedown, and Hendricks blocks it too. They wind up clinched and things slow down a bit until the ref calls a break for Lombard grabbing the fence. They restart and continue the exchange with Hendricks timing a knee well to catch Lombard coming in. Less than a minute to go and they throw more strikes with neither man really landing cleanly until Hendricks lands a knee right before the buzzer. 10-9 Hendricks for me as he landed the cleaner shots.

Round Three and Lombard comes out swinging, missing a left hand but landing with a right. Hendricks looks like the fresher man to me though and he’s moving around more. He flicks a jab out but doesn’t really land cleanly. Big shots miss for both men as Lombard dodges a possible clinch attempt. Low kick lands well for Hendricks. Crowd are totally dead in comparison to the last two fights now. Big step-in knee connects for Hendricks and he avoids the takedown from it. Left hand follows for Bigg Rigg. Another knee glances for him but he takes an uppercut in return. Decent left hand lands for Lombard as he backs Hendricks up a bit. Lot of running now from Hendricks to avoid punches. Good uppercut lands for the former WW champ. Knee misses for Hendricks but he stuffs a takedown attempt off it. Nice left hand from Hendricks catches Lombard moving in. Beautiful combo follows, a pair of right hands into a left, but Lombard catches a knee and hits a foot sweep takedown. Hendricks immediately reverses to his feet though. Less than a minute to go now and Lombard’s stalking forward, but he can’t catch Johny who remains on his bike. Couple of short kicks to the body land for Lombard and he is backing Hendricks up, but he can’t land cleanly. Solid low kick lands for Hendricks. Final few seconds and Hendricks avoids Lombard completely, running away to the buzzer. 10-9 Hendricks for a 29-28 for me.

And it’s a unanimous decision for Johny Hendricks; 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Good win for Hendricks but for me it wasn’t really an inspiring performance – sure, he took some big hits from Lombard, he landed some nice clean strikes, especially those knees, and he stopped the takedown, but the pace was glacial throughout and the combinations that he threw in the first Robbie Lawler fight and the GSP fight for example seem to be long gone now. I just don’t see him having massive success at 185lbs at all personally – I know he’s been saying how much better he felt, but he was great at 170lbs pre-Wonderboy (and pre-USADA more to the point….) too and that feels like a long time ago now. As for Lombard, he might well go down as the biggest bust in UFC history for me given the hype he came aboard with. If he’s brought back after this performance I’d be surprised.

Heavyweight Fight: Derrick Lewis vs Travis Browne

So yeah, this was another step up for the Black Beast after he stopped Shamil Abdurakhimov in December – hardly his best performance, but a knockout nonetheless and somehow Lewis’s fifth win in a row (!) too, which isn’t easy at HW. Browne was coming off his losses to Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez and the question was whether he could recapture the form that saw him beat Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett in 2013, or whether his time with Edmond Tarverdyan had ruined him for good. I was leaning towards the latter personally and picked Lewis to win despite the Black Beast’s limitations.

Fight begins and Lewis comes out winging a right hand that Browne avoids. Lot of circling early from Browne and he lands with a heavy leg kick. Big head kick misses for Lewis and Browne forces him back with a long left hand. Nice leg kick from Lewis. Front kick to the body from Browne and Lewis doubles over in pain. Another one has him literally clutching at his stomach and he’s in trouble. Browne follows it with another one but he’s keeping his distance smartly. Beautiful chopping leg kick from Browne and another body kick doubles Lewis over. Browne’s kicks look excellent. Wheel kick misses for Lewis. Jumping kick also misses and Browne continues to back him up, landing another kick to the body. Big right hand from Lewis suddenly lands from nowhere and drops Browne, but he pops up and looks okay. Clinch from Browne is broken by a Lewis uppercut but a BIG knee to the body has Lewis turning away in pain! Browne chases him and Lewis drops for a takedown, but Travis stuffs it and forces him into the fence. They end up clinched and then Browne breaks off and goes to the body kick again. Leg kick lands again for Browne. This is the best Browne’s looked for years. Another chopping leg kick lands for Travis. Two more front kicks to the body follow. More kicks from Browne and he dodges a huge right from Lewis. Browne’s kicks are looking phenomenal. Wheel kick misses for Lewis again. Round ends with a nasty right hand from Lewis. Clear-cut 10-9 for Travis Browne though, that body work was brilliant.

Into the 2nd and again Browne goes right back to the front kick to the body and follows with a nasty leg kick. Lewis swings wildly at him but misses. Superman punch misses for Browne but another body kick lands. Head kick misses for Browne and suddenly Lewis catches him against the fence and OPENS UP with a BRUTAL FLURRY! Browne is in trouble, covering up as Lewis bombs at him, and he tries to run away as Lewis keeps on going, hitting him with some HUGE SHOTS including a pair of uppercuts that absolutely snap his head back. Good lord. Clinch from Browne but Lewis breaks and opens up again. He tries to fire back, but he’s stumbling. Clinch from Browne again leads to a takedown attempt but he botches it and Lewis winds up on top! Browne gets to half-guard but he eats some elbows and man, he’s in big trouble. Reversal from Browne somehow almost puts him up, but Lewis forces him back down into half-guard. More elbows from Lewis and he opens up with some really nasty punches. Another reversal from Browne allows him to his feet, but he’s still hurt. He throws the body kick again but a HAYMAKER RIGHT drops him and from there Lewis pounces and DRIBBLES HIS HEAD OFF THE MAT until he’s clearly unconscious, at which point Mario Yamasaki FINALLY stops the fight. That was a fucking terrible stoppage; Browne took at least four pointless punches.

Wild ending to a wild fight and a massive comeback from Lewis after a horrible first round for him. Post-fight Lewis cuts a HILARIOUS promo too, claiming the body shots didn’t hurt him, he was just concerned because he needed a shit (?!), calls Browne out for woman-beating and then wants to know where Ronda Rousey’s “fine ass” is at, and then he says he got tired because he had TOO MUCH SEX during his training camp. Dude finally finishes by riffing on all the snow in Canada. One of the funniest promos I’ve ever heard in MMA I’d say and the best part is that none of it came off as forced, it’s all just Lewis being a bizarrely funny guy.

Everything about him is funny in fact – by anyone’s standards, he just isn’t a good fighter – he’s got a bad gas tank, he gets hit a lot, his takedown defense is pretty awful and he’s got nothing off his back, and yet he just has the most awesome face-melting power that means all of his bad points become moot once he lands on his opponent. And shit, he’s on a six-fight win streak, at HEAVYWEIGHT, and you cannot knock that. I still maintain he’s too limited to get to the very top but shit, I said that about Ben Rothwell last year and he was like one fight away from a title shot! So fuck it, I’m loving this run from the Black Beast and who knows where he’ll end up. As for Browne, until the knockout – which could happen to anyone Lewis faces really – this was the best he’s looked in years, no surprise when you consider he trained a lot with Black House rather than Edmond. Maybe he’s got something left after all. For a Heavyweight main event I thought this was fantastic.

-Show ends abruptly with Lewis still celebrating.

Final Thoughts….

I loved this show – we got a great brawl in the main event, a pair of highlight reel finishes to start the night off, Tucker/Sicilia was fun enough and although Theodorou/Ferreira and Lombard/Hendricks were slower they were both perfectly acceptable fights, much better than all but Miller/Poirier on UFC 208 in fact. Two thumbs up for this one and the Lewis/Browne fight is utterly unmissable.

Best Fight: Browne vs. Lewis
Worst Fight: Lombard vs. Hendricks

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: