MMA Review: #611: UFC Fight Night 114

-This was the UFC’s first trip to Mexico since November 2016’s Dos Anjos/Ferguson show and while this card wasn’t as good, it did have a super-intriguing main event – with local flavour! – as Brandon Moreno and Sergio Pettis were due to clash.

UFC Fight Night 114

Mexico City, Mexico

-Your hosts are Todd Grisham and Brian Stann.

Bantamweight Fight: Alejandro Perez vs Andre Soukhamthath

Bit of a middling opener here but it was to be expected I guess. Original TUF Latin America winner Perez was unbeaten in his last three fights and was looking to pick up another win at home, while Soukhamthath was looking to bounce back from his debut loss in March to Albert Morales.

Round One begins and Perez opens with an inside low kick. Crowd are absolutely buzzing for this one. Right hands connect for both men before Perez glances on a head kick. Nice exchange sees both men land some punches. Beautiful low kick lands for Perez. Soukhamthath is really swinging here and a left hand drops Perez, but he recovers quickly and pops back up. Trio of leg kicks come back for Perez. Takedown attempt from Perez is avoided well by Soukhamthath. Overhand right glances for Perez. Couple more leg kicks land for him but Soukhamthath walks him down and connects on a left. Another left drops Perez, but again he pops back up. Stiff jab follows for Soukhamthath. Takedown attempt from Perez and he gets to a rear waistlock, then exits with a head kick when he can’t get him down. Crowd really boo some taunting from Soukhamthath. Another two low kicks end the round for Perez. Probably 10-9 Soukhamthath for the pair of knockdowns, as Perez got the better of the rest but just didn’t do that much damage.

Round Two and Perez pushes forward and flashes a jab a little, but Soukhamthath manages to land on a couple of counters too. Big exchange sees Perez land a hard right hook. Another one follows that, too. Flying knee misses for Soukhamthath in response. Combo connects for Soukhamthath and he shrugs off a takedown attempt pretty easily. Low kick is countered by a Soukhamthath jab, and down goes Perez again, but he pops up and seems okay. Another hard left gets through for Soukhamthath as Perez comes forward. Perez keeps on throwing the low kicks and eating shots on the counter. Soukhamthath looks really confident now as he keeps on landing. Perez is badly marked up all over his face. He does land on some nice low kicks, though. Overhand right from Perez suddenly lands and drops Soukhamthath, and he pounces into the guard as Soukhamthath looks to tie him up. Crowd are just crazy into Perez. Action slows down there as Perez chops at the body with some punches, but he walks him into the fence and that allows Soukhamthath to get to his feet. From there he tries a takedown of his own, but Perez catches him cleanly with a back elbow! Nice. Left hand answers for Soukhamthath and they continue to trade kicks until the buzzer. 10-9 Perez to even it up, he took over in the later part of the round.

Round Three and Perez pops Soukhamthath with a clean jab as the American pushes forward. Takedown attempt from Perez and he almost gets a single leg, but Soukhamthath manages to defend it really well. Nice left hand lands for Soukhamthath. Perez fires back but doesn’t land cleanly. Single leg is blocked again by Soukhamthath. Soukhamthath is really swinging at times, as is Perez really. Can’t fault these guys for effort! Spinning backfist glances for Perez. Nice low kick follows. Perez is being slightly more active in this round which might make the difference. Big right hand gets through for Soukhamthath, though. Right hand sets up a clinch for Perez and he forces Soukhamthath into the fence and gets him down! Crowd really pop for that as he lands a knee to the chest as Soukhamthath tries to sit up. Perez sits into half-guard and holds on, but Soukhamthath works to his feet. One minute to go and they separate, and Soukhamthath comes forward swinging but can’t land. Good leg kick lands for Perez. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Soukhamthath and he keeps on walking the Mexican down. Brief trade sees both men glancing on blows. Flying kick glances for Soukhamthath, but he slips and ends the round on his back with Perez kicking the legs. Call it 29-28 for Perez by a hair.

Official scores are 29-28 Soukhamthath, 29-28 Perez, and 29-28 for Alejandro Perez to edge the split decision. Super-close fight but I think Perez’s more busy style late on won it over the more telling shots from Soukhamthath. Fight won’t be affecting any rankings but both guys worked hard and it was fun throughout.

Middleweight Fight: Rashad Evans vs Sam Alvey

Pretty crazy to see Rashad so low on a throwaway card like this but I guess it was understandable when you consider he’d lost his last three and hadn’t won a fight since 2013 (!). Alvey meanwhile had previously lost to Thales Leites, but I figured he would probably win this one by knockout given the deterioration of Rashad.

Fight begins and Rashad circles on the outside, looking pretty tentative, as Alvey squares him up without really throwing much either. Takedown attempt from Evans and he drives Alvey into the fence, but Sam blocks it and they end up clinched. Decent knee to the body lands inside for Alvey. Rashad keeps on going for the takedown, but Alvey continues to defend impressively and remains on his feet. Good left elbow lands connects for Alvey. Knee follows as Rashad seems content to just keep him pinned into the fence. He manages to drag Alvey to the ground, but Alvey works back to one knee immediately. Knee connects for Alvey again from the clinch and he turns Rashad around and separates. Overhand right glances for Rashad to break the staring contest. Left hand glances for Alvey in reply. Round ends with another clinch. That was a horrible round. 10-9 Rashad as he at least pushed the action I guess.

2nd round and Rashad opens with a solid leg kick. Alvey is so inactive. Rashad continues to circle in front of him and he doesn’t really swing even. Body kick connects for Rashad. Right hand finally gets through for Alvey. Punches miss for both men and the crowd are getting pissed off with this now. Left hand lands for Alvey. Rashad looks like he’s just backpedalling now, but Alvey still doesn’t push the action. Right hand sets up a takedown attempt for Rashad and this time he tackles Alvey down, but a scramble allows him to pop back up. Rashad stays on him in the clinch, but Alvey lands with a hard knee to the head. More takedown attempts follow for Rashad as Alvey continues to defend. This is a massive yawner. Couple more knees land for Alvey and he breaks off. Very little action follows a both men remain hesitant to end the round. Probably 10-9 Alvey as he did a little more but it was another bad round.

3rd round and Alvey walks Rashad down again but still doesn’t throw much at all in the opening minute. Crowd are just booing completely now. Good left hook lands for Rashad but he circles out rather than following it up. Rashad is just totally gunshy and Alvey’s almost a pure counterstriker hence such a lack of action. Clinch from Rashad and he tries to get Alvey down, but still can’t manage it and he takes some shots before Alvey breaks free. Left hand glances for Alvey. Right hand from Evans sets up a takedown attempt, but Alvey blocks it again. Decent one-two connects for Alvey. Big right lands for Rashad to little effect. Single leg attempt follows as he still looks gunshy, and he still can’t get Alvey down. Alvey lands with some knees from there, and they break off and end the round by swinging the odd punch. 10-9 Alvey for a 29-28 but man, what a terrible fight.

Judges officially score it 29-28 Evans, 29-28 Alvey, and 29-28 for Sam Alvey to pick up the win. This was one of the worst televised fights of 2017, easy – Rashad just looked completely gunshy and that meant he gave Alvey no chances to counter, and of course Alvey really doesn’t do a lot if he can’t counter anyway. Unless he gets a knockout he’s just dull to watch. Rashad really ought to hang it up based on this – he’s physically deteriorated but just doesn’t seem to have his head in the game either. And there’s no shame too – he’s one of the best LHWs in UFC history, but realistically he peaked in like 2010 and that’s almost a decade ago now.

Lightweight Fight: Humberto Bandenay vs Martin Bravo

TUF Latin America winner Bravo was originally scheduled to fight Chris Gruetzemacher here, but when the TUFer pulled out, largely unknown Peruvian Bandenay stepped in to take the fight. Given I’d never heard of Bandenay and couldn’t see the UFC bringing in someone dangerous to fight a hometown fighter, I figured Bravo would probably win.

Round One begins and Bravo glances on a high kick from the off. He pushes forward but almost eats a head kick in response. Body kick lands for Bravo but he walks into a HUGE KNEE THAT KILLS HIM DEAD!~! Bravo is STIFF and that’s it. Crowd go basically silent before lightly booing poor Bandenay for his sick knockout.

Replay shows Bandenay seemed to fire a high kick, but due to Bravo’s positioning he caught the knee right on the jaw and it knocked him dead instantly. Possibly a bit of a lucky shot but who cares? This was one of the most brutal UFC knockouts of 2017 and a hell of a debut for Bandenay.

Welterweight Fight: Niko Price vs Alan Jouban

On paper this looked like a potentially great fight, as Jouban – despite some bad losses in the UFC – is one of the most reliable action fighters on the roster, while Price had taken out both Brandon Thatch and Alex Morono in impressive fashion and seemed to have dangerous skills in all areas. With Price being so aggressive the likelihood of him getting caught by something nasty from Jouban seemed high, but something told me Niko was the real deal and so I took him to win.

Fight begins and Price comes out aggressively, backing Jouban up with some early strikes. Body kick lands for Jouban as he stays calm and circles out. Low kick lands for Price and he tags Jouban with a right hand and forces him back. Big right hand fires back for Jouban. They circle out and throw some more strikes, and a Jouban low kick is countered by a BIG RIGHT from Price that drops him, and Price lands a head kick as he goes down for good measure! Jouban’s in trouble and Price pounces with some heavy shots on the ground for the finish.

Wow, pretty vicious finish for Niko Price. We didn’t learn anything new about him at all given he just came out as aggressively as ever and basically bum-rushed Jouban, but he’s clearly got some serious power to take out a tough guy like that. Tremendous knockout for a fighter who’s quickly becoming must-watch stuff in the UFC.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Alexa Grasso vs Randa Markos

After dropping her biggest fight to date against Felice Herrig back in February, this was local product Grasso’s rebound fight, facing Markos who was coming off the biggest win of her career thus far over former champion – and hated TUF rival – Carla Esparza. Despite Grasso missing weight by a couple of pounds I was picking her, as Markos has a ton of talent but had always seemed a bit inconsistent to me.

Round One begins and they circle and exchange some feeler strikes, with Markos tagging Grasso with a decent combo in the early going. Crowd are massively into Grasso as you’d expect. They continue to trade punches with both women landing, and HOLY SHIT this is a brawl with little defense from either. Couple of leg kicks also land for good measure for Grasso. Good body kick too from the Mexican. Exchange continues and this is a pretty hard round to score. Big combination lands for Grasso – best of the fight thus far – and Markos has to clinch up. Action slows down slightly from there before Markos tries a head-and-arm throw, but it doesn’t work as Grasso lands on top and takes her back with both hooks. Crowd are going apeshit as Grasso lands some punches, but Markos rolls into half-guard and then works to her feet. They remain clinched up and muscle for position, and the round ends with Markos breaking off. Close round; 10-9 Grasso I’d say.

Round Two and Grasso glances on an early head kick. Markos rushes her with some punches and Grasso fires right back, before a takedown attempt from Markos ends with Grasso reversing into top position. Grasso moves into half-guard, but Markos immediately reverses up and looks to get her back down with a bodylock. She manages to drag Grasso to the ground and then slides into half-guard, but Grasso pops up herself now. Combo breaks for Grasso and she throws out some jabs, but a body kick gets caught and Markos dumps her to the ground and slices through to half-guard again. Much better positioning for Markos this time too as they’re in the center of the cage. She works the body with some short punches, but Grasso reverses up again. Markos exits with a well-timed knee, though. Markos appears to be breathing heavily as Grasso pushes forward now, but she still manages to catch a kick and take Grasso down again. This time she mounts, but Grasso spins over immediately and looks to escape into guard. Markos does a tremendous job though of shifting out, and ends up rolling into mount again. Beautiful grappling. This time she gets a body triangle from the top (!) and starts to drop some heavy elbows. High mount now for Markos and she drops some more heavy blows, but Grasso works into half-guard to defend. Round ends with Markos on top and it’s 10-9 Markos to even things up.

Round Three and Markos definitely looks the more tired of the two, no surprise as Grisham mentions she didn’t train at altitude at all whereas Grasso did. Markos stays way on the outside to begin, but she does land a solid right hand and avoids Grasso’s counters. Lot of feinting here from Markos. She almost catches another kick and then just throws a flurry, but Grasso avoids most of it. Sweet combo connects for Grasso but she needs to be more aggressive I’d say. They clinch up and Markos looks to move her into the fence, but then gives up to land a knee instead. Beautiful takedown from Markos puts her into Grasso’s guard, and if she stays on top this could be enough to win. She lands some decent punches too, but Grasso kicks her away and stands to a big pop. Two minutes remaining and Grasso throws some combinations to peg Markos back. Takedown attempt from Markos is stuffed but she lands a knee on the exit. Seconds left now and they trade punches before Markos looks for a takedown, but Grasso decides to jump for a guillotine, only to release and stun Markos with a combo. More big punches land for Grasso and Markos is hurt, but she disguises it well. Another big right lands for Grasso and Markos looks like she might be cut. She pushes forward, but Grasso lands the better shots and then defends a takedown to end the round. Shit that was close. Put a gun to my head though and I’d probably go 10-9 Markos for a 29-28.

Judges have it 29-28 Markos, 29-28 Grasso…..and 29-28 for Alexa Grasso to pick up her biggest win to date. Erm, I wouldn’t call this a robbery as Grasso REALLY came on towards the end of that third round, but it was insanely close and could definitely have gone the other way with different judges. Really high-quality fight though as Grasso did well to defend Markos’s ground work and certainly landed the better shots on the feet. Don’t think she’s ready for the top five or anything yet but this should put her into position for another top ten opponent, maybe someone like Joanne Calderwood?

Flyweight Fight: Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno

This was a pretty cool main event – the first non-Demetrious Johnson Flyweight main event ever in fact! – with title implications too, as Pettis had won three in a row including his best career performance against John Moraga, while Moreno had been unstoppable since debuting in the UFC, running through Louis Smolka, Ryan Benoit and Dustin Ortiz – all tough opponents. I figured Pettis had the very slight edge, but given Moreno’s form coming in it wasn’t a sure pick at all.

Round One begins and Pettis presses forward as Moreno keeps his distance, throwing out a couple of jabs and kicks. Kick from Pettis is caught and Moreno tackles him to the ground into half-guard. He immediately works to pass despite Pettis being really close to the fence, but ends up just moving him towards the center in full guard. Pettis ties him up from the bottom and appears to be setting up for an armbar, but Moreno avoids it and throws the legs off to the side before getting into side mount. He takes the back in the scramble and slaps one hook in, then gets the second one too. Body triangle follows and Sergio’s in trouble. Sick control from Moreno and he remains clamped to the back as they roll around. Moreno attempts the rear naked choke, but he can’t seal the deal as Pettis defends well. Crowd chant wildly for Moreno. He remains in full back control for the remainder of the round, but doesn’t really come close to sinking the choke. I’d call that 10-8 for Moreno I think as Pettis literally had no offense.

Round Two and Moreno comes out waving his hands and taunting a bit, clearly confident after the first round. Pettis presses forward though and throws out some kicks that don’t land. Good leg kick does land for Pettis and he catches a kick from Moreno and responds with one to the body. Low kick from Moreno is swept from Pettis and the Mexican goes down, but Pettis waves him back up. Lot of weird movement from Moreno is allowing him to avoid the majority of Pettis’s strikes. High kick does connect for Sergio though and he follows with another, but Moreno catches the foot and gets the takedown off it. This time Pettis immediately locks up a triangle/armbar combo though, and that allows Pettis to take the back in a scramble! They come back to their feet and separate, in what was clearly a good sequence for Pettis. Right hand connects for Sergio. Big head kick lands for Pettis and Moreno seems slightly hurt but takes it well. He’s clearly outgunned by Pettis standing. More weird movement keeps Pettis at bay, however, and he doesn’t land any follow-ups cleanly at all. Seconds to go and Moreno fires off some strikes of his own, albeit not landing cleanly. Wheel kick misses for Pettis and that’s the round. 10-9 Pettis as he did really well coming off a bad round.

Round Three and now Pettis comes out with some odd movement of his own and connects on a right hand and another head kick. Combination follows and Moreno’s being forced to backpedal now. More good strikes land for Pettis and he catches a kick and dumps Moreno down before letting him up. Sharp counter punching allows Pettis to land a couple more good shots and Moreno is looking a bit out of ideas. He comes sprinting forward at one point but can’t do anything as Pettis just sidesteps him. Big left head kick from Pettis but Moreno catches it and tries to get a takedown. Pettis avoids it though and CRACKS him with a right hand. Moreno got stunned there. Another one lands and Moreno really has to get out of range. Pettis is picking him off in this round. Takedown is stuffed by Sergio and it looks like Moreno’s getting desperate. More punches land for Pettis and a leg kick almost drops Moreno. Pettis continues to back him up and nail him and you have to give credit to Moreno’s chin for taking this. Beautiful clean right hand lands for Sergio. More strikes including a hard left head kick follow. Moreno is badly busted up. He tries to fire back, but eats more big shots to end the round. 10-9 Pettis.

Round Four and Moreno isn’t even using his unorthodox movement now. Head kick glances for Pettis in the first exchange. Decent body kick lands for Moreno but Pettis continues to walk him down and snap the jab out. Eye poke from Pettis forces ref Big John McCarthy to call time, but Moreno’s good to go pretty quickly after a doctor check. No point taken and they restart. Moreno comes out aggressively, but he’s still being beaten to the punch and his right eye is cut to hell. Can’t fault his heart though as he keeps on swinging and at least prevents Pettis from really opening up as he did in the third round. Jabs and a flying knee land for Sergio. Exchange continues and a nice right hand lands for Moreno. Pettis continues to outland him, though. Spin kick misses for Pettis but he avoids being taken down off it. Couple of beautiful jabs land for Pettis. Crowd have almost been silenced by Pettis now. Cartwheel kick allows Moreno a takedown on the buzzer. 10-9 Pettis which means 38-37 going into the fifth on my scorecard.

Round Five and Moreno comes out swinging, but eats a clean right hand counter from Pettis. Neither man looks at all tired which is impressive. Takedown attempt from Moreno and he gets Pettis down, and avoids a guillotine to settle into the guard. Pettis actually looks like the more active man from his back now as he keeps throwing his legs up and generally disrupting Moreno’s base. Left hand connects for Moreno but as he postures up he eats a pair of really nasty upkicks. Moreno keeps working from the top with more punches, but he isn’t doing much damage at all really due to Pettis’s guard. Pettis uses the cage to get up to his knees, only for Moreno to dump him back down and then take the back pretty much. He tries to hop on, but Pettis throws him off and now they’re back standing. One minute left and Pettis walks him down and lands with some strikes. Moreno’s right eye is pouring with blood. Takedown attempt from Pettis actually sets up a couple of big punches instead. Spin kick glances for Pettis. Round ends with a Pettis combo. Close round to call, I’d probably go 10-9 Pettis actually but it could easily be 10-9 Moreno. Score for me would be 48-46 for Pettis, but you could also go 47-47 if you gave Moreno the first 10-8 and the fifth 10-9, or 48-47 Pettis if you gave Moreno the first and fifth both 10-9.

Judges have it 49-46, 48-46 and 48-46 for Sergio Pettis. Really good judging actually given the partisan crowd and a tricky fifth round to score. I’m impressed! Fight was excellent too as Pettis had an awful first round, but once he found his range in the second round – and stopped throwing so many telegraphed kicks – Moreno found himself outgunned, as all of his odd movement couldn’t really throw Sergio off his game. Both guys clearly have a bright future but Pettis is a step ahead right now and it showed through in the fight. One more win should net Pettis a title shot, but his next fight is a really tricky one against Henry Cejudo so the jury is out on whether he can get past that obstacle.

-Show ends with Pettis leaving the cage in celebration.

Final Thoughts….

For what was basically a throwaway show this was another solid effort from the UFC – granted, Evans/Alvey stunk the joint out, but outside of that we got two great knockouts from Bandenay and Price, and then three excellent, competitive fights – particularly the final two on the card. I liked Grasso/Markos a little more than Pettis/Moreno but both were great. It’s definitely a show worth seeing, just skip over the Evans/Alvey debacle.

Best Fight: Grasso vs. Markos
Worst Fight: Evans vs. Alvey

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: