MMA Review: #601: UFC Fight Night 109

-This was undoubtedly a weak card even for 2017 standards, as for once there weren’t even any prelims more worthy of the main card than the fights selected. Admittedly it lost its third-best fight late on when Emil Meek had to drop out with an injury, but even so. I guess the two top fights – Gustafsson vs. Teixeira (finally!) and the return of prospect Misha Cirkunov made it somewhat worth it.

UFC Fight Night 109

Stockholm, Sweden

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Middleweight Fight: Jack Hermansson vs Alex Nicholson

Both of these men were coming off losses – Hermansson to Cezar Ferreira, Nicholson to Sam Alvey – and really needed wins to get back on track, especially Nicholson after he was caught up in the controversy regarding him making racist comments while cornering Mike Perry last summer. With that in mind I was pulling for Hermansson.

Crowd are wildly into Hermansson and boo Nicholson out of the arena, clearly they didn’t get the message about this being a weaker card and that’s awesome really.

Fight gets underway and Hermansson circles on the outside as Nicholson pushes forward with a low kick. Both guys through some punches before Hermansson tackles Nicholson to the ground, and right away he moves into side mount to avoid a possible guillotine. Hermansson grinds with his elbow down into Nicholson’s face, and then he starts to land some really heavy punches from the same position, popping the crowd. Full mount follows for Hermansson and he opens up with punches before Nicholson gives his back. Both hooks in for the Swede and he bombs away with punches to the head, and with Nicholson not really defending the ref calls it there. Crowd go absolutely bananas.

Post-fight Nicholson tries to protest the stoppage, but even if he wasn’t hurt you have to defend yourself more than just covering your head up and trying to absorb punches, especially from a dominant position like back mount. Great showing from Hermansson in his home country and this couldn’t have gone better for him really. I don’t expect Nicholson to be back in the Octagon after this and after the Lim controversy I can’t say I’ll miss him really.

Welterweight Fight: Nordine Taleb vs Oliver Enkamp

Originally this would’ve seen Taleb facing off with Emil Meek in what sounded like a great fight, but when the Viking got injured, the unbeaten but inexperienced Swede Enkamp stepped in on late notice. With the lack of UFC experience for Enkamp and Taleb being a real veteran at this point it was hard not to pick the Frenchman really, but an upset was always possible.

Round One begins and Taleb opens with a hard leg kick. Couple of shots glance for Enkamp in an early exchange but he misses a spinning attack. Taleb really backs him up and connects with a decent counter left as Enkamp pushes in. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Taleb who lands with a right hand coming forward. Wheel kick misses for Enkamp before a brief exchange leads to a hard leg kick from the Frenchman. Takedown attempt from Enkamp almost puts Taleb down, but he does a good job of avoiding it and gets his back to the fence to continue to prevent it. Enkamp keeps working though and dumps him down into side mount, but Taleb pops right back up. Glancing shot sees Taleb slip to the ground, but he gets back up and seems okay. Spin kick misses for Enkamp and allows Taleb to land with a right hand. Decent left hand follows for the TUF veteran. Clinch leads to a really nasty exchange of knees, but Taleb throws the Swede to the ground and follows him into full guard. Rubber guard from Enkamp, and he pops the crowd with a possible triangle attempt, but Taleb muscles free and lands some punches. Enkamp gets his back to the fence and looks to get up, but Taleb keeps him down until the round ends. Close round but 10-9 Taleb despite some bright moments for the newcomer.

Round Two and Enkamp fires off with some nice combinations early on, but Taleb backs him up and stuns him with a heavy left hook, forcing him to go for a desperate takedown that the Frenchman stuffs. Couple of jabs follow for Taleb but he has to avoid a wild axe kick from the newcomer. Combination glances for Enkamp and he misses with a spin kick. Enkamp is throwing a lot of flash here but not landing all that much. Clinch is broken by a Taleb left hand, and he follows with a quick combo that backs the Swede up. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Taleb again and he counters a missed spin kick with a right hook. Clean left hook lands for Taleb but Enkamp ducks under and goes for a takedown. Sprawl from Taleb allows him to defend it, but he messes up in trying to throw Enkamp down and has to go into a wild scramble that allows him to end up on top through pure strength basically. Couple of elbows land for Taleb from side mount and he remains in control as Enkamp attempts to roll and escape. One minute to go and Enkamp gives his back, but Taleb can’t get any hooks in. He holds onto a rear waistlock though and then lands a nasty elbow as Enkamp rolls back to guard. Round ends with Taleb on top again. Another round in the books for Taleb and I thought he took that one more clearly too.

Round Three and Taleb pushes forward through some glancing strikes from Enkamp and again he lands with a solid left hook. Looks like the Frenchman might be slightly tired though. Takedown is stuffed well by Taleb but suddenly Enkamp seems to be landing with more volume. Slip from Taleb allows Enkamp to leap in, but he slips too and can’t capitalise at all. Good jab to the body lands for Taleb and now both men look a little tired. Enkamp is still swinging but Taleb goes for the takedown and gets it, putting the newcomer on his back against the fence. Guillotine attempt from Enkamp isn’t close really and Taleb manages to keep him down as well when he attempts to stand. Enkamp keeps trying to get up, but finds himself pinned down in side mount eating solid elbows. Good job from Enkamp to recover full guard and from there he goes into rubber guard for a second before Taleb powers free. Seconds remaining on the clock now and it looks like this will be it. Taleb lands a couple of short shots from the top while powering out of any submission attempts, and sure enough that’s the fight. I’d call it 30-27 for Nordine Taleb.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Taleb, unsurprisingly. This was a decent – if unspectacular – fight and the story was basically that Taleb’s physical strength and better fundamentals were always able to keep him one step ahead of the flashier, but less experienced Enkamp although the Swede had a couple of strong moments too and I could see him doing well in the future. Can’t see Taleb climbing into title contention any time soon but he’s a solid gatekeeper and the UFC always needs those types.

Welterweight Fight: Omari Akhmedov vs Abdul Razak Alhassan

Dagestan’s Akhmedov had pulled out his best UFC performance to date with his November win over Kyle Noke and he was looking to follow that up here, faced with the unbeaten Alhassan, who had debuted with a knockout of Charlie Ward also in November. Despite Alhassan’s flashy record – 7 wins, all by knockout in under two minutes – I was picking Akhmedov as it’s always tricky picking a guy who has so little experience, even if he’s destroyed everyone he’s faced.

First round begins and Alhassan presses forward and throws a low kick, but Akhmedov counters with a right hand and tackles him down with a double leg. Alhassan immediately scoots back to the fence in an attempt to get back up, and he manages it, but Akhmedov stays on him, forcing him into the fence and we’re actually into the second minute! Jab lands for Akhmedov as he does well to keep Alhassan at bay, and then a well-timed takedown puts the Ghanaian on the ground again. Alhassan tries to keep hold of him inside full guard, but it looks a bit loose. He does really well to explode to his feet, though. Wild right hand glances for the Dagestani. Exchange continues with both men glancing on shots, and Alhassan really swings a right only for Akhmedov to avoid and land a right of his own. Nice low kick lands for Alhassan. He keeps stalking forward, and they trade some more low kicks and then miss with some more punches. Nice right hook connects for Alhassan but Akhmedov fires right back and they trade wildly for a second to get the crowd into it. HUGE swings glance for Alhassan as Akhmedov does well to hold up under the fire. Round ends there. Probably 10-9 Akhmedov by a hair I guess.

Second round and Alhassan presses forward again with a heavy body kick, but Akhmedov takes it well and fires back again. Hard low kick lands for Akhmedov but he takes a thudding right hand that has him hurt a bit and he has to backpedal. Wild swings connect for both men now and they’re really going for it. Beautiful combination from Alhassan has Akhmedov stunned again, but he manages to duck under and hit a takedown into the half-guard. Alhassan again manages to spring back up to his feet, but it’s enough for Akhmedov to seem recovered. Heavy overhand right lands for Akhmedov but Alhassan takes it well, only to be taken down seconds later. He gets his back to the cage and manages to work back up, but Akhmedov lands some shots in the clinch before breaking off. Hard right hand stuns Akhmedov again and he backs up, but he’s still in the fight and he swings right back as Alhassan tries to close him down. Combinations land for both men and it looks like Alhassan’s getting the better of it. Another double leg from Akhmedov plants him down though with just over a minute to go. He lands in half-guard and begins to drop some elbows and punches, and then moves into a mounted crucifix. Alhassan manages to hang on though and doesn’t take too much damage. Round ends with Akhmedov on top. Close round again due to some big strikes from Alhassan but I think Akhmedov just about outworked him.

Third round and Akhmedov opens with a sharp low kick as Alhassan stalks forward again. Few punches glance for Akhmedov early as Alhassan seems to be looking for the one killer blow now. Heavy exchange sees both men land again but it’s Akhmedov who seems to connect on more shots. Another takedown from Akhmedov is successful, but this time Alhassan elevates him off and pops back up. Huge combination from Alhassan has Akhmedov stunned and this time the Ghanaian manages to sprawl to avoid a takedown too. Another huge right hand connects for Alhassan. Akhmedov has a tremendous chin to be taking all of this. He gets stunned again but somehow he’s still on his feet. Single leg plants Alhassan on the ground yet again though to slow down the onslaught and this time Akhmedov manages to get to full mount. Alhassan looks exhausted. Akhmedov manages to drop some elbows, keeping Alhassan mounted, but he doesn’t get crazy looking for the finish and Alhassan manages to roll him off and explode to his feet again. Akhmedov shoots again right away, taking some elbows to the shoulders in the process, and this time Alhassan manages to stuff it. Round ends with Alhassan continuing to stuff the takedown. 10-9 Akhmedov for a hard-fought 30-27 for me.

Official scores are 30-27 Akhmedov, 29-28 Alhassan (!) and 30-27 for Omari Akhmedov to pick up the split decision. Don’t see how you could score any round for Alhassan, let alone two, unless you totally ignore takedowns, but at least the right guy won. Fun fight overall and I actually think Alhassan will be better for the loss, as it should inspire him to really work on the massive hole that is his wrestling game given he had little answer for Akhmedov’s double legs here. For Akhmedov he showed an iron chin and a strong will to win more than anything and he looks like he’d be a tricky test for anyone but the elite of the division really. Fight made me want to see both again which is all you can ask for!

Welterweight Fight: Peter Sobotta vs Ben Saunders

I was looking forward to this one mainly because I’ve been a big fan of Saunders for years now and always enjoy watching him, even if it’s a slower fight like his last one with Court McGee. I was picking him to win too as I’ve never been impressed with Sobotta to be honest, even in this current UFC run where he was 3-1 coming into this fight.

First round begins and Sobotta opens with a sharp leg kick and then drops Saunders with a left hand! Ben pops back up instantly but he got hurt there. He manages to back out, but eats a body kick before he seems to recover. Big front kick misses for Saunders and they trade some low kicks with the crowd really getting into it. Good combination connects for Saunders; right-left into a head kick, but Sobotta comes back with a combo of his own. Hard right hand lands for Sobotta as Saunders pushes forward. Quick combo from Sobotta and he lands a nice left hand as they trade kicks too. Exchange continues and these guys are really swinging. Looks like Saunders might be busted up. Combination from Saunders has Sobotta off balance, but the German shoves him away. Saunders continues to press forward throwing kicks, but he walks into another HUGE LEFT HAND and goes crashing down! Saunders is in deep trouble but he manages to tie Sobotta up from the guard to slow down the onslaught. Round ends with Saunders in rubber guard. Clearly 10-9 Sobotta for the knockdowns – Saunders was almost finished with that last one in fact.

Second round and Sobotta looks confident as Saunders pushes forward early on. Hard leg kick land for Sobotta as he avoids some jabs from the taller Saunders. Nice jab lands for Saunders and snaps Sobotta’s head back, but the German takes it well. More jabs follow for Saunders before he throws a low kick that Sobotta catches and counters with a left hook that ROCKS SAUNDERS BADLY! He looks to be on rubber legs as Sobotta swarms on him with strikes, but somehow he stays up. Sobotta backs out calmly though and hurts him with another clean left hook. Saunders stays up again and throws some jabs back, but he’s all over the place and Sobotta keeps hurting him with punches and jabs. Left hook doubles Saunders over again and this time he’s about done, and sure enough Sobotta TURNS OUT THE LIGHTS with a knee to finally end things.

Well, I said I’d never been impressed with Sobotta before but that wasn’t the case here – he looked awesome, timing his strikes perfectly to get inside Saunders’ long reach, and more impressively he stayed calm and didn’t go wild trying to finish Saunders when he was hurt, instead picking his shots for the clean knockout. Best performance of the German’s UFC career by far and that was a hell of a knockout too.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Misha Cirkunov vs Volkan Oezdemir

After some weird contract issues saw Cirkunov on the outs with the UFC earlier in the year, it looked like one of the best prospects at 205lbs would probably be heading elsewhere. Thankfully though cooler heads prevailed and he signed a new deal, and this was the first fight on it – facing off with Swiss fighter Oezdemir, who had gained an almost inexplicable top five ranking based on a controversial decision win over Ovince St. Preux in February. Based on that – and how good Misha had looked in his previous four UFC wins – I saw this as a one-sided fight in favour of the Latvian-Canadian.

Fight begins and Cirkunov lands with a body kick, but Oezdemir counters with a left hook. These guys are exchanging right away. Big combo from Misha has Oezdemir on the run, and he closes in swinging, but Oezdemir lands a short right hand right behind the ear and CIRKUNOV GOES DOWN AND OUT! Holy shit.

Replay shows the punch didn’t even look like a clean shot, literally just a short, swiping right that clipped Cirkunov behind the ear and just killed him dead. Unbelievable really. One of the biggest upsets of 2017 thus far for me, particularly in how it happened, and while I still don’t buy Oezdemir as a top five fighter – I think Cirkunov probably wins this fight 9 times out of 10 – he’s earned the opportunity for another big fight for sure. Bad luck for Misha but that’s the breaks in MMA sometimes when all it takes is one shot to end things. Crazy stuff.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Gustafsson vs Glover Teixeira

Originally set for June 2015 in Berlin, this was a pretty long-awaited fight in the end as both men have been in or around the top five at 205lbs for years now without ever facing off, and with the title picture tied up for the time being it made total sense. Despite Gustafsson not looking at his best in his last fight – a plodding September win over Jan Blachowicz – I was leaning towards him here as I felt like Teixeira was more vulnerable and probably a little past his prime now, and he hadn’t really set the world on fire in his last win over Jared Cannonier either.

Teixeira actually walks out to SWEET CHILD O MINE here which would probably get him ridiculous cheers in any other city but because it’s Gus’s hometown he gets booed out of the building. Every UFC card should have someone walking out to Guns N’ Roses damnit.

Round One begins and holy shit are the crowd into Gustafsson. Lot of movement from Gus early as he circles on the outside, landing a low kick. Teixeira manages to get inside and they exchange pretty wildly before Glover gets a rear waistlock and looks to get him down. Slam puts Gus down for a second but somehow he pops back up instantly. Back to circling for Gustafsson as he steps in with a long right hand. Crowd keep singing Seven Nation Army like they’re at a football game. Nice jab lands for Gustafsson and he follows with a clean right hand. Big uppercut follows and he adds in another stiff jab. Big right hand glances for Teixeira and Gustafsson gets out of range before landing another combo. Another swing sees Gustafsson run away and the crowd would usually boo but you know. Another nice uppercut lands for Gustafsson but apparently it was followed by an eye poke as Teixeira quickly backs up and ref Marc Goddard calls time. Replay shows it was a blatant poke, reaching out Jon Jones style. Ought to be a point deduction but as per usual it’s not. Glover tells Goddard he’s fine but he’s clearly still blinking heavily and wiping the eye. Low kick lands for Gustafsson. Nice right hand follows and an uppercut connects too as Glover walks forward. Nice work from Gus there. Wild swings miss for Teixeira and Gustafsson jogs away before firing off with a right hand. Another combo stuns Teixeira but he takes it well. More running annoys the crowd a little but Gustafsson comes right back with a heavy uppercut that wobbles the Brazilian. Low kick is caught by Teixeira and he goes for the takedown, but Gus stuffs it and then narrowly misses a spin kick. Elbow lands for Gustafsson over the top and he easily stuffs a takedown. Spinning backfist misses for Gus. Teixeira continues to push forward but Gustafsson jogs out of range and lands a right again. Round ends just after. Clearly Gustafsson’s round but the eye poke didn’t look good for him.

Round Two and the announcers mention that Teixeira’s told his corner he can’t see. That’s not good. He manages to push forward and land a couple of jabs, but again Gustafsson gets out of range and then hurts him with an elbow strike. Teixeira has to back up and he eats a big right hand that he somehow takes too. Teixeira’s chin is rock solid unless it’s Rumble Johnson hitting him I guess. Another jog by Gustafsson allows him to get out of range. Beautiful uppercut snaps Glover’s head back. Another wild charge is dodged by Gus who then pops Teixeira with a sick combination. Glover manages to close him down and land a combo of his own, but again Gustafsson jogs out of range. Spinning elbow and a HUGE COMBO lands for Gustafsson and Teixeira goes down, but somehow the Brazilian works back to his feet! Crazy chin. Gustafsson keeps him against the cage and he’s bleeding badly, but somehow he breaks off and stalks forward again. Good combination to the body for Teixeira. His face is a mess though. Hard knee lands for Gustafsson to hurt Teixeira again but he fires back with a glancing head kick. Uppercut from Gus is answered by a right to the body from Teixeira. Quick run gets Gustafsson out of range again though. Big right hand lands for Teixeira but he can’t follow it up and he eats a combo in return. Combo is blocked by Gustafsson. Gus is looking pretty marked up too. Big right hand connects for the Swede. Teixeira really swings for him so he sprints away this time. Combo from close range lands for the Brazilian and that’s the round. 10-9 Gustafsson again, but this is turning into a hell of a fight.

Round Three and a leg kick opens for Gustafsson. Big uppercut lands again for the Swede and he dodges a combo from Teixeira. Combination does land for Glover but Gus takes it well. He comes right back with a BEAUTIFUL COMBO that drops Teixeira hard and it looks like he’s about done! That was awesome, about six or seven shots landing. Teixeira somehow holds on from the guard though and manages to survive despite taking some rough elbows. Glover rolls for an armbar but Gustafsson avoids, only for the Brazilian to escape through the back door and then pin Gus into the fence, looking for the takedown. Takedown instead comes from Gustafsson and he lands in half-guard. He looks to mount, but ends up taking the back as Teixeira tries to escape. Glover manages to stand though instead. Knee lands for Gustafsson but allows Teixeira to turn into him and break off. He comes forward, but walks into a double jab. Front kick glances off Teixeira’s chest. Big uppercut glances for the Swede and another one lands flush, but again Teixeira somehow takes them. Jumping kick into a left hand lands for Gustafsson but Teixeira keeps on firing back. Another uppercut snaps Teixeira’s head back in an exchange but he wades right through it and fires back. Body kick connects well for the Brazilian. Another uppercut leads into a combination for Gus. Front kick to the knee follows. Seconds to go now and they exchange until the buzzer. 10-8 Gustafsson for me due to that knockdown.

Round Four and Gustafsson opens with a low kick into a hard body kick. Teixeira keeps on pushing forward, but he can’t catch Gus now and the Swede lands with a right to the body. Teixeira comes back though with a body kick of his own. Big right hand connects for Gustafsson. This fight is so awesome. A rush from Teixeira forces Gus to run away again, but he quickly comes back with an uppercut into a nasty elbow that forces Glover to clinch momentarily. They break quickly and Gustafsson goes for the takedown, forcing the Brazilian into the fence, but Teixeira stuffs it and they end up clinched. Gustafsson exits with a heavy combo but again Teixeira eats it right up. Couple of body kicks are blocked by Glover. Good body shot lands for Glover as does a jab, but Gustafsson quickly gets out of range. Quick jabs land for Gus as the announcers subtly compare him to the legend that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Huge uppercut stuns Glover again but he remains on his feet. Less than a minute to go now in what has been a slightly slower round. Left hand connects for Gustafsson. Big combination follows for the Swede. Glover looks exhausted. Another uppercut rocks him but he remains in the fight as the round ends. 10-9 Gustafsson and you’ve got to wonder what’s keeping Teixeira upright.

Round Five (!) and Glover comes out swinging as he knows he needs the knockout. Body kick glances for him but he’s still finding it hard to catch Gustafsson. Flicking jab lands for Gustafsson but a big combo answers for Teixeira. Gustafsson comes back with a HUGE UPPERCUT though and Teixeira’s head snaps back! He’s hurt badly and Gustafsson follows with a big combo into a BRUTAL OVERHAND RIGHT and Glover goes DOWN AND OUT!~!

Well, how Teixeira took that amount of punishment I don’t know but it made for a truly brilliant fight, as he kept pushing on through a ton of adversity – including the eye poke, which may well have made more difference than we knew – but Gustafsson was always too quick for him, had too much reach for him, and once he found his range it was clear who was going to be the winner. Best performance from Gustafsson since probably the Jon Jones fight or at least the Jimi Manuwa win in 2014 and this puts him firmly back into the title picture. The running was worrying at times but he looked like a different fighter from the one who edged out Jan Blachowicz in September and it was only a positive change. Awesome main event to cap off the night.

And to put a truly memorable spin on things Gustafsson PROPOSES TO HIS GIRLFRIEND post-fight in the cage and of course she says yes. That was absolutely brilliant.

-Show ends there with Gustafsson and his future wife celebrating in front of a deafening crowd. Awesome.

Final Thoughts….

With an ending like that how could you not go thumbs up for this show? The main event rocked, the co-main had a really shocking ending, we had highlight finishes for Sobotta and Hermansson and the other two fights were pretty good too, particularly Akhmedov/Alhassan which was super-hard hitting throughout. This was yet another home run for the Fight Night series in 2017. Check it out on Fight Pass if you missed it!

Best Fight: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira
Worst Fight: Taleb vs. Enkamp

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: