MMA Review: #612: UFC Fight Night 115

-This was probably the UFC card with the least fanfare in years, as it was the week following the massive Mayweather/McGregor fight and was basically a throwaway European card, although the Struve/Volkov main event sounded pretty good. The rest was a bit meh though meaning the apathy was probably understandable.

UFC Fight Night 115

Rotterdam, Netherlands

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Welterweight Fight: Leon Edwards vs Bryan Barbarena

This was a pretty cool fight on paper, as Edwards was on a surprisingly good run with big wins over the likes of Vicente Luque and Albert Tumenov, while Barbarena had of course beaten prospects Sage Northcutt and Warlley Alves. I was taking Edwards because Barbarena had tended to win based on toughness and cardio and I just didn’t think he’d be able to use those against someone as nasty as Edwards.

Round One begins and they circle with Edwards pressing forward. Good leg kick lands for Edwards but Barbarena quickly returns the favour. Crowd are thoroughly dead for this fight unfortunately. Head kick glances for Edwards but he eats another solid leg kick. Beautiful low kick from Edwards spins Barbarena totally around. Nice right hand follows. Brief exchange sees Edwards beat Barbarena to the punch, and then a body kick from Barbarena is caught and Edwards tackles him to the ground. The Brit moves into side control pretty quickly and then takes the back as Barbarena tries to scramble. One hook in for Edwards and he works to control Barbarena with a half-nelson. This is excellent control from Edwards. He tries to sink the choke while working for the second hook at the same time, but Barbarena defends it pretty well. Second hook is in with a minute to go and Barbarena’s in trouble. He fights the hands well though to prevent the choke, and Edwards can’t finish him off. 10-9 Edwards, though, pretty clearly.

Round Two and Barbarena pushes forward with a head kick attempt, but Edwards just looks chilled as fuck here. They clinch up and exchange knees, before Edwards looks for a trip takedown. Barbarena defends that well and they jockey for position, and now it’s Barbarena who’s a bit more active. They separate and Edwards lands a clean right hook in a brief exchange. Another one follows but Barbarena comes back with a heavy leg kick. Kick is caught by Edwards though and he throws Barbarena down and scrambles to take the back again with one hook. Barbarena gets to one knee and then up to his feet, but Edwards leans heavily on him as he looks to lock up a possible kimura. Edwards switches to a double leg attempt, but it’s well defended by Barbarena and they wind up clinched. Good elbows from Barbarena allow him to defend another takedown attempt, and then he separates with a knee. Big exchange sees both men land punches. Edwards seems to connect a little harder, but suddenly he gets TAGGED with a left uppercut and he’s in trouble! Edwards goes down and Barbarena tries to finish him with hammer fists, but Edwards manages to do enough to survive. He gives his back though and then has to roll to guard to try to slow the onslaught down. Round ends in Edwards’ guard. 10-9 Barbarena to even it up.

Round Three and this is basically winner take all. Good leg kick opens for Edwards but Barbarena comes wading forward with punches again. Edwards counters well with a left though and follows with another sharp leg kick. Big head kick glances for Edwards after a brief exchange. Big strikes are all being landed by Edwards early on. He lands a couple more and then goes for the takedown, and after some work he brings Barbarena down into half-guard. It looks like he’s setting up for a possible arm triangle, but he can’t get it due to the fence being in the way and so he chips away with punches to the body and head. Barbarena turns his back in an attempt to get out, and Edwards slaps in both hooks. Body triangle follows and this is looking like Edwards’s round for sure. Choke looks sunk in fact, but Barbarena tucks his chin enough to survive. Barbarena manages to get rid of the body triangle, but he can’t shake the hooks off. He does manage to stand, though, but Edwards keeps hold of the rear waistlock and then switches to a double leg. Barbarena uses some slashing elbows to defend, and then drops to his back with a possible kimura. Edwards seems fine though and then gets back to the rear waistlock. Round ends with Barbarena rolling for something that doesn’t pay off. 10-9 Edwards, 29-28 Edwards.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Leon Edwards. No other possible score really as Edwards clearly took rounds 1 and 3. Fight was pretty decent if nothing spectacular, but it was really impressive to see Edwards deal with a guy in Barbarena who’d given other raw talents a ton of problems. Time for a top fifteen opponent next for Edwards surely – maybe Donald Cerrone if he wants to stay at 170lbs now?

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Marion Reneau vs Talita Bernardo

Weirdly enough Reneau was supposed to fight Dutch native Germaine de Randamie here after GDR decided to just give up her UFC Featherweight title to drop back to Bantamweight – I guess to avoid fighting Cyborg? – but she ended up injured anyway and so newcomer Bernardo stepped in to take the fight instead. Due to the late notice for Bernardo – as well as a lack of name wins on her record – I was taking Reneau comfortably.

First round begins and Reneau presses forward and throws some early punches, really forcing Bernardo back. Bernardo looks much smaller than Reneau. Takedown attempt from the Brazilian puts Reneau down though and she works from the butterfly guard. Good job from Reneau to tie Bernardo up from the bottom, and she lands a couple of upkicks once Bernardo stands up over her. Couple of shots get through for Bernardo but Reneau uses some upkicks to set up a sweep. Leglock attempt from Bernardo follows, but Reneau manages to avoid the kneebar only to wind up on her back again. Triangle attempt from Reneau this time and it looks decent actually. She switches off to an armbar, but Bernardo escapes and they end up in a weird tangled position on the ground before Bernardo gets on top. This time she forces her way into north/south, so Reneau goes for an inverted triangle instead. She can’t get it and Bernardo settles on top and appears to be working for a kimura. Reneau turns and gives her back, and Bernardo slaps both hooks in before getting on top as Reneau scrambles. Action slows down slightly from there before Bernardo lands a couple of short elbows. Round ends there. 10-9 Bernardo in a really good round.

Second round and Reneau comes out pushing forward throwing her jab. Bernardo tries to fire back but she looks much slower, probably due to the late notice of the fight. Good right hand lands for Reneau. Combination sets up a big overhand right and Bernardo looks hurt. Takedown attempt from the Brazilian fails and she ends up on her back before Reneau stands up over her. She’s gassed pretty bad it looks like. Reneau keeps pushing forward and lands with the right hand again, as Bernardo fires back but doesn’t have much success. A really telegraphed takedown attempt from Bernardo ends with her on her back again, but Reneau’s having none of that and makes her get back up. Another attempt manages to put Reneau down though, and that means valuable rest time for the Brazilian. Reneau reverses right up using a guillotine though and separates with a knee to the body. Big combination lands for Reneau as Bernardo has to back up. She clinches with a minute to go and lands a couple more knees, then switches to some hard elbows to the head. Bernardo is in trouble here. Round ends with Reneau continuing to land some heavy shots, forcing Bernardo to dive for an unsuccessful takedown. Clearly Reneau’s round, 10-9.

Third round and Reneau comes charging out and throwing punches again. Bernardo shoots desperately but can’t get Reneau down, and she ends up forced into the fence again. Trip takedown from Bernardo puts her on her back again, and the Brazilian lands some elbows but still looks tired. An elbow does cut Reneau over the left eye, though. Triangle attempt from Reneau and it looks pretty dangerous, but Bernardo manages to step over her to alleviate it. Reneau switches to a possible armbar, but Bernardo continues to defend it well. This must be tiring for her. Reneau manages to sit up and she uses a headlock to get up, before spinning to take the back. Bernardo turtles up and looks like she’s totally spent, and from there Reneau takes side mount. Bernardo tries to scramble but gives her back again, and Reneau gets both hooks this time and looks for a neck crank. She can’t quite finish it, and so instead she flattens Bernardo out and drops some heavy punches to the head. Bernardo just covers up, and from there the ref decides to stop it as she isn’t defending at all really, basically with seconds to go.

Really fun fight as Bernardo worked so, so hard to keep herself in the fight and won the first round before she gassed, and that allowed Reneau to take over. I actually feel like Bernardo probably has the brighter future given she looked excellent in the first round and her cardio issues probably came from the late notice, but yeah, good win for Reneau too especially in picking up that late finish.

Middleweight Fight: Siyar Bahadurzada vs Rob Wilkinson

Seriously weird co-main event right here; unknown Aussie fighter Wilkinson was tabbed as a late replacement to face Bahadurzada, but he was actually replacing another unknown newcomer so lord knows how they ended up this high on the card. Anyhow, despite Bahadurzada being one of the most sporadic competitors on the UFC roster and usually fighting at 170lbs, I had to pick him as the known commodity.

Fight begins and Bahadurzada is a seriously small 185lbs. Looks like he’s sporting a gut and everything. Wilkinson presses forward to begin the round and lands some glancing low kicks, but Siyar catches a high one and just throws him to the ground. Wilkinson pops up but has to run to avoid some heavy leather. Good combination connects for Bahadurzada as Wilkinson tries to stay on the outside and use his low kicks. Another big combo lands for Siyar but Wilkinson comes back with a glancing head kick. Takedown attempt from the Aussie is stuffed initially, but another attempt works and gets Siyar down. He bounces back up immediately though and lands a knee to the body. Wilkinson keeps him forced into the cage and drops for another takedown, but Bahadurzada stuffs it and stuns him with a left hook. Big body kick hurts Wilkinson and he drops for the takedown, only for Siyar to grab hold of a D’Arce and look to finish it from the bottom. Wilkinson manages to escape and gets to his feet, where he forces Siyar into the fence, where the action slows a bit until the Aussie slams Bahadurzada to the ground. This time he takes the back as Siyar attempts to stand, but he can’t keep hold of him. Round ends with Wilkinson trying to get him down again, landing a good knee to the head in the process. Tough round to score actually, I’d probably go 10-9 Bahadurzada for the harder strikes I guess.

Into the 2nd round and Wilkinson lands a low kick but misses with a haymaker hook. Nice head movement from Bahadurzada allows him to avoid some swings from the Aussie, and he glances on a counter too. Couple of decent jabs land for Wilkinson and he uses it to set up a right too, but Bahadurzada shrugs it off. Another clean jab connects for Wilkinson, but Bahadurzada counters with a huge overhand right that somehow the Aussie eats up. Wilkinson shoots, but Bahadurzada stuffs it well. Another jab lands for Wilkinson but Bahadurzada walks him into the fence with a stinging combo. Lunging left hand follows before Siyar stuffs another takedown. Big left-right combo drops Wilkinson HARD and he’s in trouble. Bahadurzada pounces on him to look for the finish, but he gets to his feet, only for Siyar to deck him again with another nasty flurry. Fight is about done as Bahadurzada continues to smash him, but somehow Wilkinson gets up again! A right hand sends him literally FLYING and surely he’s done now, but Bahadurzada still ends up hitting him with a CRIMINAL amount of shots before the stoppage. Bad ref job from Leon Roberts there, he should’ve stepped in much earlier.

Good performance from Bahadurzada to put away a pretty gutsy newcomer, but you have to question why the ref let Wilkinson take quite so much punishment. He was clearly done after the second knockdown and there was just no need really. Hopefully Bahadurzada can get himself back in shape at 170lbs and fight a bit more now, as he’s a genuinely good fighter but just needs to maximise his time in the sport before it’s too late.

Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Volkov vs Stefan Struve

To me at least this was a quality main event, as it was a chance for Volkov to really make his mark as a potential title contender after beating Timothy Johnson and Roy Nelson, both pretty solid wins. Struve had the hometown advantage, the reach advantage, and was coming off two wins, but with his negligible defense and questionable chin I was taking Volkov to win by knockout.

Round One begins and the crowd are all over Volkov with the boos. Couple of low kicks open proceedings for Volkov as Struve peppers him with a glancing combination. Punches land for both men and it’s weird to see Volkov as the smaller man for once. Flying knee glances for Struve and he keeps throwing the snap knee as Volkov comes forward too. Big uppercut from Volkov allows him to clinch, but Struve muscles off. They exchange jabs and the crowd are way into Struve. Head kick from Struve is caught and Volkov takes him down, but he scrambles up almost immediately. They exchange punches and some big shots get through for Struve, but Volkov’s chin holds up well and he fires right back. Front kick is caught by Volkov and he forces Struve into the fence, but they break off quickly again. Nice body kick lands for Volkov. Exchange continues and Volkov seems to be finding his range now, landing as he’s coming forward. Snap knee forces him back though and a big uppercut follows for Struve. Front kick into the clinch from Struve but Volkov breaks with a hard knee to the body. Head kick into a jump knee lands for Struve and Volkov looks like he’s cut. Takedown from Volkov responds and he drops some heavy shots, avoiding a triangle in the process. Lot of shots land for Volkov and Struve could be in trouble. Round ends with Volkov landing from the top. Round was close until the takedown but I’d go 10-9 Volkov for what he did when he had Struve grounded.

Round Two and Volkov’s left eye is a mess. Big punches exchanged by both men in the opening seconds but they both take the shots well. These guys are just trading big shots here constantly. Good pace for a Heavyweight fight too. Inside low kick drops Struve for a second but he pops up and lands a step-in knee. Eye poke follows and ref Marc Goddard has to call time to let Volkov recover. They restart and continue to exchange, and it’s Volkov who seems to be landing the better punches. Big overhand right lands for Struve though and that slows Drago down a bit. Right hand snaps Struve’s head back, but he fires back with a nasty uppercut into a combination. They keep on trading and now Volkov stuns Struve with a series of punches, and they trade off for a second before Volkov circles out. Looks like Volkov’s nose is busted up too. Another eye poke lands for Struve though and that ought to be a point deduction. Volkov tells Marc Goddard he can see and he’s good to go, and somehow Goddard doesn’t take a point and they restart. Exchange continues and they trade low kicks and more punches before Struve shoots. Volkov stuffs it though and breaks with a couple of knees. Big combination lands for Volkov as he comes forward. Struve’s chin is holding up well here. Big right hand lands for Struve but Volkov wades forward with more punches. Big right stuns Struve and Volkov pours it on, but the round ends before he can go for the finish. 10-9 Volkov again.

Round Three and it’s Struve pushing forward in the opening seconds. He takes a couple of big counters again from Volkov though before an eye poke lands for the Russian this time. Marc Goddard has to call both men in for a warning this time before they restart. Exchange continues and Struve peppers him with some snapping punches, but Volkov backs him up and stuns him with a combination. Big right hand from Volkov sets up another combo. Some kicks manage to keep the distance for Struve, but he takes another big shot and it buckles his legs. Huge right hand lands cleanly for Volkov but Struve takes it really well. Both men keep on swinging and a body kick from Volkov forces Struve back. HUGE COMBINATION follows for Volkov and Struve WILTS UNDER THE POWER, and some punches on the ground finish it off.

Hell of a fight in the end and that was a massively impressive win for Alexander Volkov, as he worked through some early trouble with an opponent who had a longer reach – super-rare for Volkov to face – and then found his range and basically hit Struve until he couldn’t take any more. Struve showed a better chin than he’d done in the past but he just took too many heavy shots in the end. I think Volkov’s a legit title contender at this point and so it’s time to move him up the ladder – put him against a Werdum or Lewis next if possible and see how he goes. If nothing else he’s a super-exciting fighter to watch and this was a great main event in my opinion.

-Show ends there after a brief interview with a pretty gutted Stefan Struve who puts Volkov over as the better man, and some plugs for the upcoming shows.

Final Thoughts….

No issues with this show as we got four perfectly acceptable fights on tap; best was the main event for me but Reneau/Bernardo was fun too as were Wilkinson/Bahadurzada and Edwards/Barbarena really. Nothing outside of the main event likely affects any title picture or anything but then the European shows don’t tend to anyway. Thumbs up for this one then even if it wasn’t as good as 2016’s Rotterdam card.

Best Fight: Struve vs. Volkov
Worst Fight: Edwards vs. Barbarena

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: