MMA Review: #604: UFC Fight Night 111

-For a Fight Pass show this looked like an incredibly strong card, with the debut at WW of former Lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos, another fight for Andrei Arlovski against one of the better prospects in the HW division, and then a strong main event between former champ Holly Holm and former title challenger Bethe Correia. Sure, the main had a chance of being a stinker but my fingers were crossed for a fun show.

UFC Fight Night 111

Kallang, Singapore

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Welterweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Tarec Saffiedine

After his 2016 losses to Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson it was a question mark as to how RDA would push forward and we got the answer with this move to 170lbs, an interesting one as apparently the cut to 155lbs had become tricky for him anyway due to his muscle gain over the last few years. Saffiedine seemed like a good opponent for him to enter the weight against too – a capable fighter but susceptible to the sort of pressure game RDA brings. I was taking the Brazilian to make a successful move to his new division due to that, basically.

Round One begins and they circle with Saffiedine missing on an early head kick. RDA pushes forward, but walks into another head kick only to fire off on a quick combination. RDA looks huge at 170lbs. Body kick is caught by Saffiedine and he puts the Brazilian on his back and moves into half-guard. It looks like he might be looking for an arm triangle, but RDA gets a kimura from his back instead and really torques on the arm. Saffiedine avoids it though and frees the arm, only for RDA to hit a reversal and escape to his feet. Saffiedine tries to grab hold of his neck as they stand, and then uses it to land an elbow as they go into the fence. Knees to the body land for Saffiedine as they exchange some shots inside the clinch, and from there a right breaks for the Belgian. Dos Anjos immediately pushes forward, landing a nasty body kick, but Saffiedine ducks under a left and gets a clinch. They exchange again from close quarters before RDA trips him down, moving into side mount for good measure. RDA goes for a kimura from the top, but Saffiedine manages to spin free to his feet. Body kick lands for RDA but a leg kick answers for Saffiedine. RDA keeps pushing forward though, peppering him with some strikes before landing a jumping knee. Clinch from Saffiedine but RDA switches it around and forces him into the fence, then breaks off and lands with a combo. Round ends with a nice exchange from both men, but RDA looks to get the better of it. Close round but I’d go 10-9 RDA.

Round Two and RDA opens with a pretty sharp combo that backs Saffiedine up. He fires back though with some nice shots of his own including a knee. Body kick lands for Dos Anjos and he keeps on pushing the pace, but the striking is pretty even here. Wild right hand misses for RDA and Saffiedine manages to clinch and force him into the cage again, but RDA drops for a takedown and almost slams the Belgian, but Saffiedine escapes using excellent balance. Couple of swings miss for Saffiedine and RDA pushes forward into the clinch again. Saffiedine goes for a takedown now, but he can’t get it and they exchange again from inside. RDA ends up getting a front headlock and snapping him to the ground, where he lands a pretty blatant illegal knee. Referee Greg Kleynjans TOTALLY ignores it for some reason so he lands another one before Saffiedine stands. That was shady as fuck. They continue to muscle inside the clinch and exchange knees, and then Dos Anjos drops for a takedown that Saffiedine works to defend. The Belgian does so and exits the clinch with a jumping elbow (!), but they trade right back into the clinch. One minute to go and they separate out, with both men landing with combinations. This is a very close round. Another nice combination lands for RDA before Saffiedine forces him into the fence again. He still can’t get the Brazilian down though and the round ends inside the clinch. Very, very close round but I thought RDA just about edged it.

Round Three and a body kick opens proceedings for Dos Anjos. Right hand to the body sets up a clinch, but Saffiedine breaks off. Another body kick lands for RDA. Saffiedine circles out and lands a pair of right hands though followed by a glancing head kick. Right hook lands for Saffiedine but RDA comes back with a low kick. RDA is really pushing the pace still, but Saffiedine seems to be doing better in this round. Lunging right hook glances for RDA. Exchange continues with another body kick from Dos Anjos, and he lands a sharp knee to the body as Saffiedine clinches too. They break off and continue to exchange with Dos Anjos working the body before clinching again. Beautiful lunging right hand to the body connects for Dos Anjos but Saffiedine fires back with a combination. More forward pressure follows for RDA even as the exchange remains pretty even. One minute remaining and both men look marked up. They exchange knees into the clinch and then Saffiedine looks for the takedown again, but can’t get RDA off his feet. Elbow from RDA sets up a guillotine attempt but Saffiedine avoids it and comes back with a combo. RDA fires back with one of his own and they exchange pretty openly to the buzzer. Close round again but I’d again go 10-9 RDA and 30-27 RDA overall.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Rafael Dos Anjos to pick up the unanimous decision. Right call in my opinion even if it was a very tight fight to score in the end as Saffiedine had his positive moments too, but for the most part it was the heavy-pressure style of RDA that won out. I’m intrigued to see if he’ll succeed against an opponent who doesn’t have the tendency to allow pressure fighters to force him back like Saffiedine does, but it should be fun to see him try. Fight was excellent to watch overall and I hope they keep Saffiedine around – despite losing his last three he’s still a solid fighter at WW I think.

Welterweight Fight: Dong Hyun Kim vs Colby Covington

After winning his last three fights in impressive fashion, Covington was clearly due a step up in competition and Kim was definitely that – a proven top ten fighter whose only loss since 2012 had come against the current champion. It was a tough fight to pick as nobody had really outgrappled Kim in his UFC career and Covington – not the best striker – would have to do that to win, but I just felt the young lion could outlast the older one here and went with ‘Chaos’ by a late TKO.

First round begins and Covington misses a head kick, and Kim clinches but Colby quickly spins him around and drops for the takedown. He gets Kim down with a single leg and pins him into the fence, and from there he works to take the back as Kim stands back up. Covington hangs on him with all of his weight and looks to force the Korean back down, avoiding a hip throw in the process. Kim does an excellent job of preventing the takedown initially, but Covington is relentless here. A weird kick attempt almost allows Kim to take Covington down with a single leg, but he avoids it and forces the Korean down to one knee for a second. Kim pops back up and still won’t go down, but a change in direction allows Colby to force him to his back. These guys have barely landed like one strike thus far. Kim again works back up, but only for a second as Covington dumps him back down. Two minutes to go and Kim lands a couple of glancing elbows, then stands up only to eat some short punches from the clinch. Good elbow inside for Colby and he lands a knee to the body too. He keeps trying to get Kim down, but can’t manage it and the crowd are booing now due to all of the clinch-heavy work. Spinning elbow breaks for Colby and then Kim pushes forward, but can’t land anything significant as Covington uses some kicks to keep his distance. Spinning attack misses for Kim and Colby glances with a left hand. Kim keeps on pushing forward, and he lands with a solid knee, but Covington quickly shoots on a single leg and grounds him with seconds to go. Kim works back to his feet, but he can’t shake Covington off and that’s the round. A bit dull, but a strong round for Colby Covington, 10-9.

Second round and Kim pushes forward as they exchange some early strikes, with Covington throwing a bunch of low kicks. Takedown attempt is blocked by Kim who hits a nice sprawl, but then pushes his knees forward in an odd move which makes the takedown more likely. Sure enough Covington switches out into a bodylock and forces Kim into the fence again. From there he takes him down cleanly, lacing Kim’s left leg to keep him down this time as well. Kim almost manages a reversal, but Colby’s wrestling seems too strong and he retains top position. Crowd begin to boo a little as Kim works back up to his feet, where he eats some knees to the legs. Kim does well to turn into Covington and break off, but Colby stuns him with a BIG COMBO and then follows with a jump knee and a head kick that narrowly misses! Clinch from Covington sets up another takedown and he works to keep him down as Kim gets his back to the fence. Kim gets up but still can’t shake Colby off him, so instead he tries a throw. Covington manages to avoid going to his back though and drops for a double leg instead, and from there he hits a sweet reversal as Kim sprawls out and takes the back standing again. Covington’s grappling is phenomenal. Round ends with him holding a rear waistlock before breaking with an elbow. 10-9 Covington.

Third round and Covington opens with a spinning backfist that glances off the top of Kim’s head. Kim pushes forward but walks into another left from Colby who seems to be growing in confidence. Another nice overhand left connects for the prospect. They continue to exchange and Kim comes back with a stiff jab that snaps Colby’s head back. He pushes in some more with more punches, but Covington does well to peg him back by glancing on strikes of his own. Beautiful left-right combo lands for Covington as he’s beginning to take over the striking here too. Into the clinch again and Colby hits a driving takedown to plant Kim into the fence. Kim works back up, but again Colby hangs onto him and keeps him firmly pressed into the fence. He almost gets the back with a trip, but again Kim manages to stand back up. Another takedown puts Kim on his back again, and the crowd begin to boo once more as Colby just holds him down. Kim again explodes to his feet, but he’s just being outgrappled here. They muscle for position and Kim finally hits a takedown of his own, but Covington reverses pretty quickly and goes for a double leg of his own. Kim works to block it and controls Colby from the front headlock, but he can’t keep it there and Covington drives him into the fence again. The dude is just relentless. Fight ends with yet another Covington takedown. I have this a 30-27 shutout for him.

Judges officially have it 30-25, 30-26 and 30-27 for Colby Covington. Not sure about giving him any 10-8’s there as he didn’t really come close to finishing Kim, but it was still a tremendous performance from the prospect even if it wasn’t that exciting. Nobody had ever really outgrappled Kim like that and yet Covington did it and basically beat the Korean in the same way that Kim’s beaten a lot of his opponents. Massively impressive win for Covington. Post-fight he calls out, well, the whole division as he claims he’s the uncrowned champ, but I don’t think I’d go that far just yet. Top ten though? For sure.

Heavyweight Fight: Marcin Tybura vs Andrei Arlovski

After Arlovski was KO’d by Francis Ngannou in January to mark his fourth loss in a row, part of me expected to see his next fight in Bellator, but instead – I guess wanting to use his big name to build newcomers – he was matched here with rising prospect Tybura, who had won his last two fights via stoppage and probably should’ve won his first UFC fight against Tim Johnson too. With Arlovski basically being shot at this point I was firmly behind the Polish fighter to win.

Round One begins and they circle with Tybura pushing forward. Spin kick to the body lands really well for Arlovski but Tybura fires back with a glancing high kick. Kick from Arlovski is caught and Tybura takes him down, landing inside the full guard. From there he looks to posture up and drops some hard hammer fists, and from there he passes the guard beautifully and takes the back with both hooks. Arlovski scrambles but winds up underneath full mount, and from there Tybura postures up and lands some HUGE SHOTS that have Andrei in deep trouble. Arlovski manages to avoid some of the heavier punches, but he’s still taking a lot of damage here. Really brutal elbow connects for Tybura and Arlovski gives his back again but still can’t escape the tight top control. More big shots get through and it looks like Andrei’s about done. Tybura really opens up with hammer fists as Arlovski almost turns away, but manages to just about hang in there. Thirty seconds to go and Tybura ends up in back control again, landing more punches, but finally his leg slips free and Arlovski manages to escape and stand! Big crowd pop for that one as he opens up with punches, and suddenly Tybura has to go on the defensive and he looks tired! Big right hands get through for Andrei but Tybura clinches to end the round. Despite that late spurt for Arlovski I’d go 10-8 Tybura there due to the near finish I think.

Round Two and Arlovski looks beaten up, but Tybura also looks very tired. Nice combination opens the round for Arlovski and he’s swinging heavily here before clinching and forcing Tybura back into the fence. Not sure why he’d look to do that but then he looks tired too. Action really slows down as Arlovski seems content to hold Tybura, before he breaks off with a quick combo to pop the crowd. Tybura walks into another hard right hand and then Arlovski surprisingly gets a takedown, but a scramble allows Tybura right back up into the clinch. Action again slows down a lot from the clinch with Arlovski doing the better work with some knees, but the round’s really petering out now. Referee Jon Sharp calls a break and both men miss kicks before Tybura pushes forward through some more punches. Good knee into a right hand from Tybura and the ref ignores Arlovski’s pleas of a headbutt. Andrei responds with another clinch, and the round ends there in slow fashion. 10-9 Arlovski in a dull round.

Round Three and Andrei opens up with a sharp leg kick. Another one is caught by Tybura but he can’t capitalise. Spinning backfist misses for Arlovski and they end up clinched, but this time Tybura forces Andrei backwards and drops for a single leg. Arlovski works to defend it, doing a good job, but Tybura keeps on trying, switching to a double for good measure. He goes back to the single leg again and manages to get Arlovski down, but the former champ gets his back to the cage and immediately looks to get back up. Sure enough he does stand, but Tybura gets around the legs and dumps him back down fully this time, landing in full guard. Both guys are just exhausted. Tybura works with some punches from the guard, but they’re not all that effective now to be honest. Into half-guard for Tybura and he almost gets mount, but Arlovski avoids it, almost reversing too, but the Pole manages to stay on top. Two minutes to go and this is looking more and more like Tybura’s fight. He manages to take the back again as Arlovski tries to turn, putting both hooks in, and now he looks for the choke as Arlovski seems out of gas entirely. Tybura ends up rolling into full mount instead, and from there he drops a harsh elbow to the forehead. One minute remaining and Arlovski gives his back again, but Tybura still can’t do enough to finish him off. Finally Arlovski tries to spin, but he still can’t get off the bottom. Tybura remains on top in half-guard, and the fight ends there. 10-9 Tybura and I’d call it 29-27 for him overall.

Official scores are 29-28, 28-27 and 29-27 for Marcin Tybura. Don’t get that 28-27 score but whatever; big name win for Tybura and this should put him in the top ten which is good, but man, if he wants to start competing with the real top fighters (and top prospects) in the division he’s got to work on that gas tank a lot as he was totalled after the first round here and really it was only the fact that Arlovski’s shopworn and got beaten up badly in the first that allowed him to win. He looked tremendous in the first round admittedly but you can’t be a one-round fighter these days, you know? As for Arlovski I still suspect we’ll see him kept around for at least one more as he didn’t look totally awful and shit, a fight with someone like Curtis Blaydes might make sense. I actually kind-of liked this fight outside of the slow second round as I guess I’m a sucker for both HW fights and legend-vs-prospect type deals too.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Holly Holm vs Bethe Correia

After three losses in a row – including her last one at 145lbs against Germaine de Randamie – Holm had her back to the wall somewhat here, needing a win desperately as her last one was the legendary win over Ronda Rousey in November 2015. This one looked like a winnable fight for her as Correia’s brawling style seemed to play into her hands, but to be honest I was expecting another dull fight from Holm as I didn’t think Correia would walk directly into her strikes as Rousey had done and didn’t really have the punching power to hurt Holly.

Fight begins and both girls keep their distance, circling and throwing out feints, but neither is landing anything in the early going. Two minutes gone and literally nothing at all is happening here as both girls can’t get into range outside of Holm landing a couple of side kicks to the body. Big right hand misses for Correia as this continues to be one of the worst rounds in recent memory. Crowd are booing pretty openly now too. This is everything I feared it would be. Big left body kick finally lands for Holm but Correia takes it well. Holm doesn’t really follow it though and Correia just keeps on feinting too. A brief exchange sees both girls land and Correia begins to taunt the former champ a bit, but not much comes of it and the round ends on the feet with some more glancing blows. 10-9 Holm for that kick I guess? Awful round though.

Into the 2nd and again, it’s more circling and feinting for the most part. Announcers are doing a great job of making this sound interesting but it’s really not. Crowd continue to shit all over them too. We’re now almost halfway through the round with barely a thing landing, although Correia narrowly misses with a superman punch. Exchange from too much distance continues with both glancing on some more strikes, and finally ref Marc Goddard’s had enough and warn both girls for inactivity. Fair play to the guy! They restart and don’t seem to have taken the warning into account though as we just get more of the same. Spinning backfist misses for Correia but pops the crowd anyway purely for looking flashy. Seconds to go and Correia manages a clinch and a rear waistlock, but she can’t get Holm down and the round ends there. 10-10, one of the worst rounds of the year thus far.

Third round and Correia opens with a glancing low kick. Body kick lands for Holm and then she circles back out before glancing on a left hand. They continue to circle and feint and Bethe then decides to tell Holm to bring it….so Holm does by KILLING HER DEAD WITH A LEFT HEAD KICK!~! Punch on the ground is academic as Correia’s DONE.

Well, that was a tremendous finish to what was an awful fight. I guess such a cool knockout kind of makes up for the rubbish that was the first two rounds, but honestly I’m not sure – despite the kick Holm’s style still bores me to tears, sorry. And I know everyone was ragging on Correia for taunting but really, the kick didn’t catch her in the midst of it – she’d got her hands back up and just got caught by some beautiful timing from Holm. One of the best knockouts of the year but people ought to just watch the highlight, not the full fight. And if this somehow nets Holm a title shot at the winner of Nunes/Shevchenko then something’s seriously wrong.

-Show ends with a nice highlight reel, and we’re done.

Final Thoughts….

This was….okay, I guess. RDA/Saffiedine was an excellent fight and Tybura/Arlovski was fun for a round too before they slowed down, and really there wasn’t a lot wrong with Covington/Kim although it was very grapple-heavy with not many scrambles or submission attempts. Main event stunk until the head kick, but lord was it a good head kick. I’d say it’s thumbs in the middle overall and probably an event best watched as a highlight reel than a full show.

Best Fight: Dos Anjos vs. Saffiedine
Worst Fight: Holm vs. Correia

Overall Rating: **3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: