MMA Review: #652: UFC on Fox: Alvarez vs. Poirier II

-This was the UFC’s first trip to Calgary since the ill-fated UFC 149 back in 2012 and this one at least looked far better than that show, with Poirier/Alvarez, Aldo/Stephens and Jedrzejczyk/Torres looking especially cool.

UFC on Fox: Alvarez vs. Poirier II

Calgary, Alberta

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier.

Lightweight Fight: Alexander Hernandez vs Olivier Aubin-Mercier

Hernandez had made a massive splash in his UFC debut, knocking out top ten ranked Beneil Dariush in just 42 seconds after taking the fight on late notice, while Aubin-Mercier was on a four-fight streak and had destroyed Evan Dunham in his last fight. Tough one to pick but I figured OAM’s experience would pull him through.

First round begins and Hernandez pushes forward from the off, forcing Aubin-Mercier backwards. Flurry glances for Hernandez. Right hand lands for AOM and they clinch briefly before breaking off. Head kick glances for Aubin-Mercier and they clinch up again, with the Canadian landing a knee. Combo from Hernandez sets up a takedown attempt but Aubin-Mercier blocks it. They exchange knees from the clinch and break off, and OAM lands a really clean right hand from close range. Good knee follows from a brief clinch. Couple more shots land for Aubin-Mercier but Hernandez keeps coming forward. They clinch up again and Hernandez pins Aubin-Mercier into the fence, but he still can’t get him down. Nice right hand from Hernandez coming forward again and this time he secures the takedown. Round ends with OAM getting back to his feet. Close round, I’d call it 10-9 Aubin-Mercier for the cleaner strikes even if Hernandez was the aggressor.

Second round and Hernandez wings some punches en route to getting a nice takedown. Aubin-Mercier looks to get to his feet, but this time Hernandez keeps hold of him. The Canadian escapes back up again and separates before landing on top after a botched takedown attempt. Hernandez keeps trying for a single leg and pretty much gives his back, and then Aubin-Mercier rolls for a kimura and it looks decent. He switches off to the straight armlock but can’t get it, but he’s still on top in side mount now. Escape attempt from Hernandez fails and he remains on his back in guard, and Aubin-Mercier passes into half-guard. Armbar attempt from Hernandez is avoided and OAM remains on top, but it’s only for a second and then Hernandez winds up on top after another scramble. Looked like OAM pulled guard there. Ref calls a weird stand-up despite both men working, and Hernandez dives on a takedown from the restart. OAM blocks it initially, and they jockey for position before Hernandez breaks and tags him with some punches. Load of knees to the body land for Hernandez and he drags OAM around a bit and then gets the takedown. Round ends with Hernandez landing some punches. 10-9 Hernandez to even it up.

Third round and Hernandez tags Aubin-Mercier with some punches to set up the clinch again. Ref calls a break for a low blow and they restart a few moments later. Hernandez again lands a combo and goes right back to work. Clinch again from Hernandez and he takes Aubin-Mercier right back down. This guy’s cardio is insane. Hernandez passes into half-guard before Aubin-Mercier gets full guard back, but it looks like the Canadian might be out of steam. Ref calls a stand-up again despite Hernandez working, and this time OAM shoots. Hernandez blocks it and throws him down in a sweet reversal, and he’s back on top in the guard again. Sweep puts Aubin-Mercier back on his feet, and now he digs for a double leg, but Hernandez defends. Aubin-Mercier finally gets him down as he reaches for a switch, but Hernandez begins to scramble again. Reversal puts him in back control somehow, and he’s got both hooks in with seconds to go. That might be enough to win him this fight. Round ends there. 10-9 Hernandez, 29-28 overall for me.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Alexander Hernandez, giving him his second big win of 2018. Pretty amazing that he largely did it with his grappling here too considering Aubin-Mercier had always looked about as legit as it gets on the ground. Fight was strangely empty in terms of highlight moments but Hernandez’s wild pace kept it interesting and he basically won by gassing Aubin-Mercier out. Definitely a fighter to watch going forward and I could see him definitely breaking the top ten in 2019.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Tecia Torres

This was Jedrzejczyk’s first non-title fight since 2014 (!) after her two losses to Rose Namajunas, and it looked like a tricky attempt to get back into the saddle given Torres’s only recent losses had come to Thug Rose and top contender Jessica Andrade. I figured Jedrzejczyk would have enough to win, but didn’t expect it to be easy.

Round One and this crowd are SERIOUSLY into Joanna, wow. Both women circle to begin and fire out some early strikes, with Joanna looking to work her jab right away. Clinch from Torres and she looks to muscle Joanna down, but the former champ defends it and they trade some knees and foot stomps inside. Jedrzejczyk switches position and forces Torres into the fence, and they continue to jockey for position with Joanna landing a couple of knees. 1:30 to go and they continue to work inside the clinch, and this has been a dull round in all honesty. Round ends with them still clinched. 10-9 Jedrzejczyk for the better strikes in the clinch.

Round Two and Torres comes out throwing kicks, but Joanna lands a couple of quick punches and a pair of sharp low kicks. You can tell these two are great athletes as they don’t look at all tired despite so much clinching. Exchange continues with Joanna holding the slight advantage, including in a very nice exchange that sees both women land. Jedrzejczyk’s footwork is fantastic as she keeps landing and avoiding Torres’s more straightforward strikes. Takedown attempt from Torres and she drives Joanna into the fence, but can’t get her down and once again the action slows down a lot. Right hook breaks for Joanna. From there she comes forward firing strikes and Torres is being backed up now. Seconds to go and Torres presses the action again, and suddenly a wild combination seems to have Joanna hurt! Torres can’t follow it up before the round ends, though. 10-9 Joanna again.

Round Three and Joanna lands early with a left hook. Both girls are swinging pretty wildly to begin this round actually. Joanna uses her kicks to keep Torres at distance though and she catches her with a counter combo too. Torres is struggling to get into range and Joanna is landing the jab now too. Big right hand connects for Jedrzejczyk. Torres keeps coming forward but Joanna is clearly landing the better strikes in this round. Two minutes to go and Torres goes for the takedown and drives Joanna into the fence again, but she still can’t get her off her feet. They break off with a minute to go and it’s more of the same with Joanna kicking at Torres to keep her back. Low single gets Joanna down for a second but she pops back up and winds up against the fence again in order to stand. Seconds to go now and they exchange in the clinch with Joanna landing a bunch of knees. 10-9 Joanna, 30-27 overall.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Hard-fought win for the former champ but she never truly seemed in danger as Torres struggled to get into range to actually hit her and couldn’t get her down at all from the clinch. It was a slow starting fight, but it did get better in the later rounds and became really watchable. Joanna will next fight for the Flyweight title against Valentina Shevchenko and that should be a hell of a fight. Not sure where Torres goes next but maybe a fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz would work?

Featherweight Fight: Jose Aldo vs Jeremy Stephens

Similarly to Jedrzejczyk, this was Aldo’s first non-title fight in a long time – his first since 2009’s win over Cub Swanson, incredibly – and it was a chance for him to prove he still had some semblance of his mojo following his losses to Max Holloway. Stephens had been on a bit of a roll meanwhile – three straight wins – but I felt his straight-ahead style made for a good match with Aldo and took the former champ to pull out the win.

Fight begins and Stephens comes forward throwing out loads of feints, before Aldo glances on a head kick. Low kick lands for Stephens and Aldo fires right back with one of his own. Knee connects to the body for Stephens. Big exchange sees both men land with right hands. Wild exchange follows an Aldo uppercut and both men are absolutely swinging wildly. Big flurry from Stephens has Aldo hurt and he has to really back up and try to avoid more. These guys are just brawling now, amazing stuff. Looks like Stephens is bleeding from the right eye. They continue to swing and Aldo tags him with a right hand a couple of times. Action slows down slightly before they start to swing again, and Aldo lands a SAVAGE LEFT HOOK TO THE BODY! Stephens doubles over in pain, and goes down, and Aldo quickly pounces and puts him away in ruthless fashion!

That was awesome. Great fight, great action and a tremendous finish from Jose Aldo. Stephens promised he’d take the fight to Aldo and he did, but it turned out he was wildly outgunned as I guess the demise of Aldo was a myth built on the fact that people are maybe underestimating the greatness of Max Holloway. I mean, Aldo looked as good as he’s ever done in the UFC here. Can’t see it netting him another title shot so I think he should move to 155lbs now as he’s hinted at before and make a run there if he’s clearly got a lot left in the tank as he appeared to in this fight.

Lightweight Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs Dustin Poirier

This was a rematch of one of the best brawls of 2017 – a fight that saw both men badly hurt before proceedings ended in controversy, as Alvarez stopped Poirier using illegal knees but somehow avoided a disqualification. Since then, the two had been sniping at one another in the media and clearly disliked one another. I was taking Poirier to win after the way he’d taken out Anthony Pettis and Justin Gaethje since, but it was a tough one to call given the close nature of the first fight.

Round One begins and they trade with some early strikes with Alvarez appearing to be the aggressor. Ton of movement from Poirier and these dudes are swinging hard from the off. Big leg kick from Poirier almost takes Alvarez off his feet. Combo to the head and body fires back for Alvarez. Combination from Poirier backs Alvarez up again. Looks like Poirier’s the slightly quicker fighter. Takedown attempt is blocked by Poirier. Combo lands for Alvarez as Poirier keeps on picking at him from the outside. Beautiful combination lands for Dustin with seconds to go. Alvarez fires back and both men are landing here as the round ends. Close one to call, probably 10-9 Poirier for me.

Round Two and Alvarez comes out swinging, but Poirier fires right back. Big shot lands for Alvarez but Poirier takes it. Couple of body shots follow. Slip sees Poirier go down for a second but he pops right back up. Takedown attempt follows for Eddie and Poirier decides to jump into a guillotine attempt, but Eddie takes him to the ground and he looks fine. Good job from Alvarez to survive this and he works free and remains on top. They stand back up and Alvarez keeps him against the fence, then gets another takedown as they break off. Poirier gives his back in an attempted scramble and Alvarez looks for a neck crank, but Poirier stays calm and works free. Full mount for Alvarez now and he lands some short punches, but then an illegal downward elbow causes ref Marc Goddard to call time. Alvarez gets a warning – no idea what he was thinking there! – and they restart standing, with Alvarez going to the body again. Big combo lands for Poirier though and Alvarez is hurt! Poirier keeps on coming and Alvarez tries to fire back but he’s outgunned here. BIG KNEES land for Poirier and he keeps on nailing him with combinations and Alvarez has to be done. MORE PUNISHMENT lands for Poirier and Alvarez finally wilts, and that’s it! WOW.

Amazing finish from Dustin Poirier. I mean, he was being dominated on the ground in that round and yet as soon as the restart happened he just tore into Alvarez in absolutely ruthless fashion to put him away. Amazing stuff and you’ve got to think that the downward elbow cost Eddie as they would never have been stood up otherwise! Not as good a fight as the last one between the two – nor the FOTYC between Poirier and Gaethje – but it was still pretty great.

Amazingly Alvarez is now done in the UFC as he’s moved to ONE FC, and you can hardly blame him as the competition should be easier and he’ll be making big money there. Dude has been in crazy wars since DREAM in 2008 and needs a rest. As for Poirier, usually he’d get a title shot after this kind of showing but who the fuck knows what’s going to happen with the Lightweight title right now – and Tony Ferguson is ahead in the queue anyway – so I think they should do Poirier/Aldo somehow. That sounds like fireworks to me.

-Show ends as we cut back to the Fox studios following Poirier’s celebration.

Final Thoughts….

Pretty good show here as we got a couple of slower fights to begin with – not that they were bad – but the Aldo/Stephens and Poirier/Alvarez fights delivered in spades and gave us two of 2018’s better finishes. Far better than the last show in Calgary of course, and definitely worth checking out overall. Two thumbs up.

Best Fight: Aldo vs. Stephens
Worst Fight: Jedrzejczyk vs. Torres

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: