MMA Review: #608: UFC Fight Night 113

-This was the first UFC show in Scotland since July 2015’s Bisping/Leites card and while this one wasn’t as strong as that – particularly in the main event – there were still more than a couple of fights to look forward to, especially the main event of Gunnar Nelson vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio.

UFC Fight Night 113

Glasgow, Scotland

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Heavyweight Fight: Justin Willis vs James Mulheron

This was a weird opener for sure given the low profile of both guys, both making their UFC debuts too. I guess the matchmakers always love a Heavyweight slopfest though even if there were clearly better fights on the undercard.

Round One and both of these guys seem to be in horrible shape. You can never quite tell with HWs to be fair (see Daniel Cormier at HW or Roy Nelson) but I’m now expecting a classic slop fest. Nice low kick opens for Mulheron and he lands a combo, but Willis comes back with a body kick. Striking exchange continues with Willis landing a decent left hand, but in general it’s slow-paced. One of these guys really needs to do something big to take this round. With two minutes to go it’s Willis who makes the move, hitting a really comfortable takedown into half-guard. Mulheron immediately looks to use the fence to get back up, and he manages it pretty quickly to be fair. They break out of the clinch and a quick trade off sees both guys land. Right hook glances for Mulheron but he takes one soon after from Willis. Hard combination lands for Willis. Round ends with a couple of Willis left hands. 10-9 Willis, he seemed to get more comfortable as the round went on.

Round Two and Mulheron comes out with a ludicrous spin kick that glances off Willis’s side. Willis comes right back with a nice superman punch that lands pretty cleanly. Both men land some more strikes and Willis lands pretty hard with a combo. Willis definitely seems to have the cleaner striking. Crowd seem thoroughly bored by the slow pace, however. More exchanges follow and this is a real yawner right now. Spinning backfist glances for Mulheron to get the crowd going briefly, but the pace slows immediately after. Another spin misses for the Brit and Willis hits an easy takedown into half-guard. He smothers Mulheron from the top and drops a couple of elbows, trying really hard this time to keep him grounded. Americana attempt from Willis doesn’t quite work, and so he begins to prep for an arm triangle choke instead. Mulheron manages to avoid it, but he can’t get out from underneath Willis and the round ends with Willis landing short punches from the top. 10-9 Willis.

Round Three and both guys look surprisingly energetic given their size. Well, it’s hardly been a heavy pace I guess. Low kick opens things for Willis but Mulheron comes forward swinging. Willis dodges that and the exchange continues as a Dan Hardy rant on commentary about how it’s so difficult to see a friend or teammate losing becomes more entertaining than what’s going on in the cage. Decent overhand right lands for Mulheron. He pushes forward more, but he also walks into quite a few counters. Clinch from Willis and he shoves the Brit into the fence, and they muscle for position with Mulheron landing some decent uppercuts. Willis turns the position around again though and hits a single leg to half-guard. Less than a minute to go and Mulheron looks a bit stuck, but he manage to get up despite giving his back. Mulheron manages to turn into him in the clinch and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Willis, 30-27 overall.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Justin Willis. Boring fight, though – Francis Ngannou’s UFC debut this was not – as Willis showed some flashes of skill, but just didn’t push any sort of pace and Mulheron didn’t quite have enough to really hurt the AKA representative.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Khalil Rountree vs Paul Craig

This one actually had me interested as I liked Rountree coming off TUF even if he’s a bit limited at the minute due to his sloppier ground skills. Craig meanwhile had made a splash in his UFC debut by tapping Henrique da Silva, but had then lost in disappointing fashion to fellow prospect Tyson Pedro. With solid ground skills and home field advantage though I was leaning towards Craig in this one.

First round begins and Craig circles on the outside with some low kicks as Rountree looks to counter. Crowd are wildly into Craig. Rountree is really hanging his hands here. Glancing left lands for Rountree as Craig attempts to close the distance. Weird moment as Rountree’s feints appear to be masked with hip thrusts, but he does glance on a counter right hand. Big combo lands for Rountree and forces Craig to cover up a bit. Hard left hand follows for the TUF finalist. More feints from Rountree and he catches Craig off guard with a clean left. Uppercut stuns Craig and he dives for a takedown, but Rountree easily avoids and hits him with a body kick as they stand. Another straight left lands for Rountree. Seconds remaining and Rountree comes in with a high kick and then catches Craig with a left uppercut that causes him to CRUMPLE. Big hammer fists come over the top and Craig’s out cold literally right before the buzzer.

Post-fight Rountree embraces his inner scumbag by standing over Craig and taunting him a bit, don’t know if they had some pre-fight beef or what but that’s never a good look really. Rountree looked excellent here, using his feints well and being patient until the knockout came, but Craig also played into his hands a lot by not really looking to close the distance. Still, fun finish and it means more Rountree in the UFC which is only a good thing!

Middleweight Fight: Jack Marshman vs Ryan Janes

The first Welsh fighter in UFC history, Marshman had debuted in 2016 with a strong win over Magnus Cedenblad, but had lost to Thiago Santos in his next fight, not that there’s any shame in that really. He was looking to rebound here against Janes, who was also at 1-1 in the Octagon after seeing his first two initial bookings cancelled for various reasons.

Fight begins and it looks like Janes is quite a bit bigger to the point where Marshman could probably make 170lbs. The Welshman pushes forward early on, swinging some heavy shots that don’t land cleanly. Marshman is really backing the Canadian up here. Couple of punches land cleanly for Marshman and he walks through a body kick to land a solid uppercut. Nasty right hand snaps Janes’s head back, but he takes it well. Lead left hand does the same. Janes evidently has a great chin not to be stunned or wobbled. More huge punches land for Marshman but Janes fires right back and tags him in response. Janes keeps his chin high though and eats some more heavy shots from the Welshman. Janes decides to fight fire with fire and we get a WILD TRADE, but it’s Marshman who lands the heavier shots and I’ve legitimately got no idea how the hell Janes is still standing. Clinch from Janes ends the round. 10-9 Marshman as Janes’s chin kept him in the fight.

Into the 2nd and Marshman again pushes forward, avoiding some early kicks from the Canadian. Nasty left hand lands for the Welshman. Front kick to the body connects for Janes but Marshman keeps on forcing him into retreat with winging punches. Lot of lunging left hands being used here by Marshman. Janes begins to come forward some more, but it only leads him into being tagged by a hard Marshman combination. He decides to switch it up with a takedown attempt, driving Marshman into the fence, but he can’t get the Welshman down and the action slows up. Nasty elbow connects inside for Marshman as they exchange from the clinch. Seconds to go and they break off, and Marshman pushes forward swinging again but can’t quite land the clean blow. Round ends on the feet; 10-9 Marshman again for me in a bit of a slower round, but it was tough to call.

3rd round and it’s Marshman pushing forward again in the early going. Nice combination lands for Janes this time though as he manages to come forward a bit. Body kick lands for Janes and he follows with a takedown attempt, but Marshman stuffs it pretty easily. Couple of shots answer back for Marshman and this is becoming quite hard to score really. Marshman seems to be coming up a little short on a lot of his punches. Exchange continues with both men continuing to find it difficult to land. Big left hook from Marshman but Janes comes back with a flurry that leads into the clinch. They break quickly and Marshman loses his mouthpiece, forcing the ref to call time to replace it. Less than a minute to go now and Janes pushes forward with some jabs, and he gets the better of the exchange this time as Marshman wildly fires back. Janes continues to push forward as the round ends. 10-9 Janes and really, it depends on how you’d score the 2nd as Marshman clearly took the 1st and Janes the 3rd. Call it 29-28 Marshman for me.

Official scores are all 29-28 for Jack Marshman, same as me. Hey, maybe I should be a judge given Dan Hardy had it the other way? Ha. Anyway, this was a decent enough fight I guess, got a bit dull at times but for the most part they worked really hard and it was perfectly acceptable. I still think Marshman needs to drop to 170lbs though as he’s going to be horribly outsized against some of the bigger 185lbers out there.

Lightweight Fight: Paul Felder vs Stevie Ray

After pulling off the two most impressive wins of his career over Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon, Scotland’s own Ray was looking for another big win here over Felder, who had got back on the winning path in February by beating Alex Ricci. With Felder being a bit inconsistent I was taking Ray by a hair in this one.

Round One and boy do this crowd hate Felder. Not sure whether it’s because they love Ray so much or he’s wronged them somehow but it’s serious heat. Ray circles on the outside as Felder takes the center, and they trade some low kicks and punches. Clinch from Ray and he looks to muscle Felder around a bit, and they exchange shots inside before Ray drops for the takedown. Felder defends it well and they continue to jockey for position on the fence. Crowd are insanely loud in favour of Ray. Felder blocks the takedown again and then drops for one of his own, before switching it up with a sharp elbow to the head. They continue to exchange from the clinch – with Felder visibly looking annoyed at potentially being cut – before Felder suddenly lands a BIG LEFT KNEE that drops Ray! Felder follows with some BOMBS into the guard and it looks like Ray might be out, but the ref lets it go and he gets to half-guard. Felder doesn’t let up though, dropping some BRUTAL ELBOWS and this time Ray’s unconscious.

Absolutely brutal finish from Paul Felder. Fight was even until Ray got dropped but once he did, Felder didn’t let up at all. This was probably his best showing since his UFC debut back in 2015 in fact. As for Ray? In a potentially cautionary tale for other fighters, he’d turned down a new contract prior to this, looking to test his value on the market instead – and after the loss he’s now without a contract with any promotion. Obviously that sucks but it goes to show, unless you’re a big-name fighter maybe it’s smarter to just stick with the UFC. Finish deflated the crowd but it was awesome nonetheless.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Cynthia Calvillo vs Joanne Calderwood

This one made a lot of sense as the co-main event – obviously Calderwood is probably the most popular Scottish fighter on the roster, but the UFC had clearly been trying to push Calvillo as the next big thing in the division since her debut, and so a big win over a name like Calderwood was clearly what they were hoping for. I was hoping JoJo would upset that idea, but with her defensive issues didn’t have much faith in that.

Round One and Calderwood pushes forward as Calvillo circles on the outside. Leg kick lands for Calderwood early on. Couple of body shots land for Calvillo as both women peck at each other from distance. Nice inside leg kick lands for Calderwood. Not all that much going on here as they continue to snipe from long range, and the crowd decide to fire off the Icelandic Viking chant a fight too early. Less than a minute to go and Calvillo tackles Calderwood down and manages to take the back in the scramble, and JoJo is in trouble. A spin allows her to get into the guard, but Calvillo locks up an armbar from there….and Calderwood manages to hold on until the buzzer sounds. Calvillo basically won that round in the last 30 seconds.

Round Two and Calvillo now looks massively confident. They circle again and some kicks land for Calderwood from distance, and I’m surprised Calvillo’s not going for the takedown right away. Decent one-two connects for Calvillo. Calderwood begins to get through with her strikes now, landing some kicks to the midsection and legs with good effect. Left hook lands for Calvillo and pegs JoJo back though. Front kick answers for Calderwood. Her nose looks busted too. Some more kicks glance for Calderwood and she shrugs off a takedown attempt well. Less than two minutes to go in this round and Calvillo tags JoJo with a left hand. Spinning backfist staggers Calvillo for a second, but she recovers quickly. More range striking keeps Calvillo at a distance, but the round ends with a Calvillo combination tagging Calderwood. 10-9 Calderwood to even things up, I’d say.

Round Three and Calderwood comes out and backs Calvillo up with kicks again, although none of them land really cleanly. Crowd are still massively into this fight. Calderwood again seems to be narrowly getting the better of the striking here, although Calvillo lands some decent shots of her own too. Less than half the round to go now and a nice flurry from Calvillo is answered by a sharp elbow from Calderwood. Head kick glances for JoJo. One minute to go and Calvillo starts to push forward a little more. Calderwood keeps on firing kicks to force her back, though. Beautiful trip takedown from Calvillo puts her down with 30 seconds to go, and right away she takes the back in the scramble. Her scrambling is brilliant. She looks to sink the choke, but again can’t quite lock it down before the round ends. Probably 29-28 Calvillo in the end purely due to the two flurries of ground action.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Cynthia Calvillo. Not sure how you’d give her all three rounds, but whatever, she definitely took two with her ground work I’d say. Fight could’ve gone much better for her if she’d gone for more takedowns I think as she didn’t seem to have too many issues getting Calderwood down, but given her relative inexperience it was still an impressive win. Fight had it’s fun points but was mainly just alright as outside of the armbar in the first, neither came close to a finish really.

Welterweight Fight: Gunnar Nelson vs Santiago Ponzinibbio

Not the biggest “name” main event here, but in terms of a match-up it sounded pretty awesome – the calm attitude, pinpoint striking and slick ground game of Nelson against the wild, aggressive style of the Ponz with both men looking to establish themselves as legit title contenders. I was picking Nelson as I thought he could get Ponzinibbio down and tap him from there, but with a guy of Ponzinibbio’s striking skill it wasn’t a clear-cut pick.

Round One begins and the crowd are totally behind Nelson. Icelandic Viking chant begins even before they start fighting. Both men press forward to begin and throw some feints, before a quick combo from Gunnar backs Ponzinibbio up. Hard left hook connects for Nelson. Good leg kick follows but he gets tagged by a right hand coming forward, and he looks a bit stunned. He stumbles into the fence and the Ponz capitalises with a BIG COMBO, ending in a left hand that FOLDS NELSON AND HE’S OUT COLD!~!

Post-fight Nelson has absolutely no clue where he is or what’s going on; that was a seriously bad knockout right there. The Ponz remains awesome and it’s really nice to see him living up to the potential he showed on TUF Brazil 2 back in 2013 – I still remember Big Nog saying “the Argentine is a killer” on that show. Dude has to be considered a title contender now I think. As for Nelson I’m pretty confident he’ll bounce back, but he really needs to start protecting that chin more as you can’t take many bad knockouts like that if you want a long career. Hell of a way to end the night!

-Show ends abruptly there with the Ponz celebrating.

Final Thoughts….

Pretty fun show for the most part; Willis/Mulheron basically stunk and Marshman/Janes and Calvillo/Calderwood weren’t great or anything, but the three great finishes in between those fights pretty much made up for it. No great fight means I can’t say this was a blowaway show, but it’s probably worth checking the main event out anyway. Thumbs slightly up.

Best Fight: Nelson vs. Ponzinibbio
Worst Fight: Willis vs. Mulheron

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman: