MMA Review: #626: UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Dos Anjos

-Pretty good action card for the final Fox show of 2017 even if it was missing the marquee names that usually draw the big numbers for the UFC. But hey, I’m more bothered about quality fights than big names and so-called “money fights” and with Robbie Lawler involved, I was pumped to see this one for sure.

UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Dos Anjos

Winnipeg, Manitoba

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Glover Teixeira vs Misha Cirkunov

Big fight in the Light-Heavyweight division right here even if both men were coming off losses. Hey, in a thin division just one big win can put you into title contention. Despite Teixeira being far more proven at the elite level I was taking Cirkunov to win in impressive fashion here, as I felt Glover was on his way down while Cirkunov was on his way up and had looked awesome in his UFC outings pre-Volkan Oezdemir.

Fight begins and Cirkunov stalks forward, landing a couple of low kicks and glancing a high kick. Nasty body kick lands for Cirkunov. Left hand follows as Teixeira seems strangely passive. Combination follows before Glover glances on a right to the body. More decent strikes land for Misha and he’s getting the better of these exchanges right now. Big combo has Glover hurt, and Misha shrugs off a clinch too, then backs the Brazilian up with more punches. Teixeira changes it up with a takedown though and then takes the back off a scramble. Big mistake from Cirkunov as Teixeira slaps both hooks in and looks for the rear naked choke! Cirkunov’s in big trouble. He avoids the choke, but can’t shake Glover off him and the Brazilian flattens him out and lands some bombs to the head, and Misha doesn’t defend so the ref stops it there.

Big time disappointment for Cirkunov – he was all over Teixeira on the feet there but as soon as the fight hit the ground he just looked lost. Really surprising when you consider he’s a BJJ black belt, even if Glover is an Abu Dhabi vet and an underrated grappler in his own right. Not sure if it was one of those cases where he had his bell rung when he hit the ground or something like that. Good win for Teixeira but I still see him as a super-high level gatekeeper rather than a legit title contender at this stage. As for Cirkunov, hopefully he can bounce back and live up to that great potential. Short and action packed opener anyway.

Welterweight Fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs Mike Perry

I was actually surprised that the UFC were going through with this fight given the amount of hype on a potential Perry vs. Darren Till fight following their confrontation in October, but there’s plenty of time for that in the future I guess. Ponzinibbio for his part was coming off a huge win over Gunnar Nelson and was actually far more proven at the top than Perry despite all the hype on ‘Platinum’, and I figured if he could avoid getting into a total brawl, he could win this one too with his more varied striking style.

Round One begins and the crowd are pretty into this as they seem to buy into both guys as semi-stars. Who said the UFC doesn’t push their fighters properly? Lot of movement from the Ponz early as he circles around on the outside, as the crowd chant loudly for Perry. Body kick opens proceedings for Perry and then both men come up short with a few strikes. Couple of good leg kicks get through for Ponzinibbio. He’s really staying on his bike to avoid that power from Perry too. Right hand glances for Perry and knocks the Ponz off balance, but he pops up and seems absolutely fine. Few more haymakers miss for Perry and now Ponzinibbio seems a little more confident, closing in to land a few jabs. Big overhand right stuns the Argentine though and he has to move quickly to avoid any follow-ups from Perry. Couple more big swings glance for Perry, but a glancing spinning backfist allows the Ponz to get a takedown. They pop back up, and now Ponzinibbio pushes forward to land his jab. Both men glance with some more punches and that’s the round. Smart round for Ponzinibbio but I’d actually go 10-9 Perry for that big right hand.

Round Two and again Perry pushes forward as Ponzinibbio circles on the outside. Nice low kick from the Ponz and they exchange some jabs before Perry almost goes down off a Ponzinibbio leg kick. High kick is caught by Perry and he gets a rear waistlock, but the Ponz spins free. Sweeping left hook lands for Perry and Ponzinibbio has to back out. Couple more punches set up a takedown for Perry, but Ponzinibbio pops back up instantly. Ponzinibbio works with some more jabs and low kicks, and it looks like Perry might be slowing down slightly. He’s still swinging heavy shots though. More jabs from the Ponz and now both men are cut up. Pair of hard left hooks from Ponzinibbio have Perry rocked and now the Argentine opens up with a big combo, backing Perry up to the fence! Perry tries to fire back but he gets the worst of the exchange for sure. Ponzinibbio smartly backs out and gets behind his jab again, before rocking Perry with another left hook. Big combination follows for the Ponz as he smells blood, but Perry takes it really well and survives. Spinning backfist sets up another combo from the Ponz. He’s all over Perry here. More big shots have Perry hurt but his chin keeps him in the fight. Couple of punches answer back for Perry and now Ponz might be hurt. He’s also really bleeding badly. He backs out though and lands a combination of his own to end the round. That was great. 10-9 Ponzinibbio.

Round Three and Ponzinibbio again comes out behind his jab as Perry wings some haymakers at him. Good body kick gets through for Perry. He backs Ponzinibbio up again and lands a spinning backfist to counter a low kick, but takes a one-two in response. More jabs and low kicks connect for Ponzinibbio, but an overhand right puts him on the run. Perry looks to follow it up, but he walks into a BIG spinning backfist and gets dropped! Ponzinibbio takes the back and lands some shots before Perry manges to stand, but Ponzinibbio takes him back down against the fence. Perry has an amazing chin, wow. Ponzinibbio keeps working to keep him down and finally plants him square on his back, but again Perry reverses to his feet. This time Perry takes his back, but Ponzinibbio spins free. Both men continue to exchange and a big combination from the Ponz sets up a takedown to guard. Looks like both guys are tired. 1:30 remaining and Ponzinibbio works to pass into half-guard, and from there he controls Perry while punching to the body. Looks like he’s going for a seated guillotine choke, but Perry avoids and pops to his feet. He’s exhausted though and the Ponz jabs at him and opens up with some more big punches and a head kick. Perry fires back with a left hook, but the Ponz taunts him to end the round. 10-9 Ponzinibbio, 29-28 overall.

Judges all have it 29-28 for Santiago Ponzinibbio. Definitely the right call as the Ponz just outworked Perry in the second and third rounds particularly to the point where Perry’s chin was the biggest thing in keeping him in the fight. Ponzinibbio just came in with a superior gameplan – he used his jab and low kick to set up Perry for his power punches and just wore him out with his movement, basically. Post-fight he calls out the Lawler/Dos Anjos winner but I actually suspect he’ll be put up against someone like Wonderboy or Maia next. As for Perry, he really tried but to me he’s like the 2017 version of Phil Baroni – awesome power puncher with the ability to beat anyone with one shot and an absolutely tremendous persona, but a bit too limited to really get to the very top level. Fight totally lived up to the hype though even if we didn’t get the knockout from either man.

Featherweight Fight: Ricardo Lamas vs Josh Emmett

This one was put together on late notice as Lamas was originally supposed to be rematching Jose Aldo, but when Aldo stepped in to replace Frankie Edgar against Max Holloway, Team Alpha Male’s Emmett – coming off a win over Felipe Arantes – stepped in to take the fight in a big step up. Couldn’t go against Lamas here given Emmett hadn’t faced anyone close to his level really.

First round begins and Lamas shows a lot of movement and lands a nice low kick early on. Emmett fires back with one of his own and throws a big combo that has Lamas covering up. Exchange continues with neither man landing much of note from the outside. Big swings from Emmett again back Lamas up somewhat. He comes back with a chopping inside leg kick. Emmett looks like a huge guy for 145lbs. He backs Lamas up with a combination but Lamas comes back with a high kick. Big combination again glances for Emmett and now he taunts Lamas. More of the same follows with both men striking from the outside. Less than a minute to go and Lamas really pressures Emmett back, but a HUGE COUNTER LEFT HOOK connects for Emmett in an exchange and KNOCKS LAMAS STONE DEAD!~!

That was one of the best knockouts of the year, wow. Lamas was out before he even hit the mat. Replay shows the punch literally came from Emmett’s waist, hence why there was so much power in it! Guess we have a new contender at 145lbs, then! And with Mendes still on the shelf and Aldo and Swanson likely on their way down it’s definitely needed. Can’t wait to see who this guy gets matched with next because shit, not many people do that kind of thing to Ricardo Lamas.

Welterweight Fight: Robbie Lawler vs Rafael Dos Anjos

Most people were talking this up as a #1 contender’s fight despite the big push being given to Colby Covington, as Lawler had returned from a year off to beat Donald Cerrone in the summer, while Dos Anjos had ran through Tarec Saffiedine and Neil Magny since moving up to 170lbs. As for a pick, I was pulling for Robbie obviously but I actually felt RDA was a bad match for him as he’s never been the best at defending leg kicks or off his back either.

Round One and the crowd are MASSIVELY into Lawler. He looks super-calm coming out of his corner too. Good leg kick from Dos Anjos to begin and he lands a body kick too as Lawler steps in. Big combinations land for both men in a pretty clean exchange. Nice left hand follows for RDA. He lands another good leg kick too that buckles Robbie’s right leg in for a second. Huge crowd chant for Robbie as he keeps pushing forward, but takes another leg kick that has him hurt. Another soon follows and Lawler needs to do something to stop those. He comes back with a strong combo that sets up the clinch, but RDA grabs a plum to deliver some knees to the head and body, throwing a sharp elbow for good measure too. Lawler breaks off but he takes another low kick as he comes forward. Body kick follows. RDA is looking tremendous. Leg kick from him is countered by a Lawler flurry, but when he clinches RDA looks for the plum again. He drops for a takedown, but Lawler blocks it. They exchange short knees from the clinch, with both men getting some good shots in before they break. Combination from Lawler ends the round. 10-9 RDA mainly for those nasty knees and leg kicks.

Round Two and Lawler pushes forward winging the left hand, and he draws RDA into a pretty nasty trade with both men landing some BOMBS. RDA slows him down again with a leg kick, but Lawler continues to stalk forward. Couple more swings back RDA towards the cage, but he comes back with shots of his own to force Robbie back a bit. They exchange some jabs and then RDA nails him with a left hand, and Lawler’s rocked! Dos Anjos follows in with a HUGE COMBINATION and then backs him against the cage and GOES OFF with a wild flurry to the head and body, but somehow Lawler manages to survive! He’s being hit over and over and over, though. RDA finally slows down and clinches with a knee and Lawler’s SMILING which is insane. Takedown attempt fails for RDA and I’ve got no idea how Lawler survived that barrage. RDA looks much slower after it, understandably. Lawler pushes forward with a low kick of his own, but RDA counters with a hard left. Brutal leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Jabs answer back for Lawler but he takes another hard low kick. He walks through it though to punch his way into the clinch. Big combo from Lawler after they break, but RDA lands the low kick again. Lawler makes him pay with another combo before they clinch, and trade knees to the body and legs. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 RDA for that huge flurry.

Round Three and Lawler backs him up into the fence right away, and they trade off with jabs. Nasty low kick from RDA sets up a sweeping left hand and Robbie clinches. Big combo to the body from Lawler responds to a plum clinch from RDA, who then switches things up with a double leg. Lawler immediately scoots towards the fence, but RDA works hard to hold onto his legs in order to keep him down. He almost gets a mount, but Lawler traps the leg and sits up to avoid it. RDA grapevines Lawler’s left leg to keep him grounded, but he slips it free and works to his feet. Short elbow connects for RDA from the clinch as Lawler continues to chip at the body. This is a really torrid fight. Nice punches connect inside for Lawler as they continue to exchange from the clinch, and this must be TIRING for these guys. Big right hand breaks the clinch for Lawler but he takes a hard right elbow and it drops him HARD. RDA follows him down into the guard, but Lawler does enough to tie him up to recover. The Brazilian does pass into half-guard, though. He bounces Lawler’s head with some elbows from there, and the round ends with RDA on top. Clearly RDA’s round again and Lawler needs to do something big.

Round Four and the announcers talk about Lawler mentioning a possible knee injury in his corner. Could well be due to the leg kicks. Couple of body kicks open the round for RDA but Lawler keeps pressing forward. He lands a combo before clinching again, where he works with some more short punches. RDA breaks off though and works with some shots of his own, backing Lawler up into the fence a couple of times. Robbie manages to break free, and they exchange from distance with two minutes to go before a left hand sets up the clinch again for RDA. Pair of elbows break for RDA and he continues to put the pressure on Lawler. Big leg kick connects again and sets up another combo for RDA, but Lawler fires back. Lawler’s clearly struggling with the right leg, though. More shots from close range land for RDA and he even glances on a head kick. More big shots land for Dos Anjos and he’s looking for the finish. Lawler manages to hang in there and swing, but he’s all over the place and RDA ends the round with a flying knee and a harsh elbow. 10-9 RDA and Lawler can barely even stand up.

Round Five and Lawler unsurprisingly stalks forward to begin, but he almost gets dropped by a jab and then RDA backs him up with more punches. Looks like his right leg is just totally shot to pieces. Big left hand wobble him and he’s almost using the fence to keep himself vertical now. Dos Anjos clinches and gets a takedown, but not much happens and so Herb Dean stands them back up. Another big left forces Lawler back into the fence and RDA clinches again, where he continues to work Robbie over with knees and short punches while taking a few back. RDA breaks off to deliver another clean combo, but Lawler still hangs in there. He’s as tough as leather. More abuse from the clinch follows for RDA, though, and he’s clearly going to win this fight. 1:30 to go and they break off, but a right to the body allows RDA to back Lawler up again. Robbie forces him off and comes forward for one last go, but he eats another leg kick. Big chant for Robbie but RDA lands a flying knee to set up another clinch. Round ends with RDA working from the clinch before breaking with a spinning elbow. 10-9 RDA, 50-45 RDA overall.

Official scores are all the same, 50-45 for Rafael Dos Anjos. Pretty clear-cut fight in the end although not as one-sided as I remembered – Lawler was totally in the fight even after that big flurry until his leg started to really go out in like the fourth round, and from there it was all RDA. Can’t take anything away from RDA though as it was obviously his kicks that chewed up Lawler’s leg (and apparently led to an ACL injury) anyway. And yeah, it was a really fantastic performance even though Robbie’s slowed down slightly these days. Post-fight he calls for a title shot and if I were booking I’d try to put that together (Woodley/RDA) in early 2018, although I can’t see it going RDA’s way as I’m not sure he can hit hard enough to really put Woodley away and I don’t think he’ll stand up to a bomb or the takedown from the champ. We shall see, rather him than Diaz at any rate! Pretty great main event even if it got one-sided in the later going.

-Show ends with a trailer for UFC 219.

Final Thoughts….

Really good show in the end with no bad fights. Nothing was like FOTYC level or anything but Lawler/RDA and Ponz/Perry were both pretty great and we got one of the better KO’s of the year from Josh Emmett, too. Teixeira/Cirkunov was almost forgettable in a way but as it was a decent finish it was fine as well. Thumbs up for this one then.

Best Fight: Ponzinibbio vs. Perry
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: