MMA Review: #662: UFC Fight Night 140

-This was the UFC’s first trip to Argentina following their first trip to Chile earlier in the year, as I guess they intend to expand across South America and not just Brazil. Despite a lack of name value, this one looked exciting on paper with the likes of Cynthia Calvillo, Khalil Rountree, Marlon Vera and Santiago Ponzinibbio almost always delivering in their fights.

UFC Fight Night 140

Buenos Aires, Argentina

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Jimmy Smith.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Cynthia Calvillo vs Polania Botelho

Interesting fight between two solid prospects in this division, as Calvillo had won 3 in a row before falling to former champ Carla Esparza in 2017, while Botelho was 2-0 and had absolutely crushed Syuri Kondo in her previous fight. Despite Calvillo missing weight in scary fashion – the word was that she was on her period – I figured she’d find a way to win as she’d been so impressive last year.

First round begins and they circle and throw out some feints with both girls missing on early strikes. Kick from Botelho is caught and Calvillo looks to get her down, eventually tripping her into guard. Quick reversal puts Botelho up to her feet, and they separate. Head kick is blocked by Calvillo. Left hand connects for Calvillo but both women continue to come up short for the most part. Crowd are pretty quiet for this considering it’s a new city for the UFC. Low kick lands for Calvillo. Kick is caught by Calvillo and she dumps Botelho and this time works right into side mount. She grinds on the Brazilian and adds some knees to the body for good measure, then lands some elbows en route to attempting mount. Botelho gets half-guard, but she’s taking some shots now. 30 seconds to go and Botelho tries to reverse, but gives her back and takes some nasty shots, and from there Calvillo slaps on a no-hooks rear naked choke for the tapout.

Did not expect that to be so quick and easy for Calvillo but there you go. Didn’t look like she had any effects from the horrible weight cut, had no problems with Botelho on the feet and then just owned her on the ground. 2019 could definitely be a big year for her if she can improve a bit more, that’s for sure. Good opener.

Bantamweight Fight: Marlon Vera vs Guido Cannetti

This was a fight between two friends from TUF: Latin America, and it was a bit weird given Vera was trying to stop Cannetti in his hometown, a few months after Cannetti had beaten fellow TUFer Diego Rivas in his home country of Chile. I was taking Vera here as he’s far more proven against top opposition, but expected a wild fight.

Round One begins and the crowd are rabid for Cannetti. Both men circle and then Cannetti rushes Vera with some knees from the clinch. Both men exchange them from the plum, and then Cannetti jumps to guard. Armbar attempt from the Argentine fighter but Vera pulls free and stands, breaking off with a right hand. Big flurry from Cannetti has Vera rocked, and he quickly takes him down into side mount to follow it up. Americana attempt follows, but Vera uses the fence to reverse, only to give his back. No hooks for Cannetti but he does control Vera until the Ecuadorian reverses to his feet. Knees land inside for Vera before they break off, and some wild strikes from Cannetti have Vera backpedalling again. Cannetti is super aggressive. Vera clinches to slow him down, and they exchange from inside. Crowd sound furious literally every time Vera manages to slow the pace. Takedown from Cannetti puts him on top in guard, though. Nice elbow from Cannetti as he keeps Vera grounded, but then he decides to stand over him instead. Vera remains on his back and kicks at him a bit, but nothing lands properly and the round ends with him on his back. Clearly 10-9 Cannetti, interestingly.

Between rounds Vera’s corner clearly tell him that he needs to push forward and put some pressure on Cannetti.

Round Two and Cannetti opens with a glancing head kick, but sure enough Vera backs him up this time with a left to the body. Flying knee lands for Vera and he follows with a pair of big knees that have Cannetti down. Cannetti tries to get up, but lands in a guillotine and he’s in big trouble. Vera drops to his guard, but Cannetti breaks free, only to take an upkick. They stand and Vera waylays him with a BIG COMBO and it looks like Cannetti is in trouble. More big shots land and Vera takes him down and takes the back, and right away slaps on the choke and poor Cannetti has to tap out.

Crowd go pretty silent which is harsh as it was a tremendous fight, and essentially Vera just showed he was on a slightly higher level than Cannetti by completely destroying him in the second round after basically taking the first round off. Personally I’d keep Cannetti around in the UFC as he’s such a fun fighter, but he’s clearly limited and this one was an example of that as he had good offense, but no answer for Vera’s attacks when they came. As for Vera, he remains one of the most exciting guys to watch in the promotion. Judging on this random pattern also, I fully expect him to end up fighting say, Alejandro Perez in Ecuador at some point in 2019! This was pretty great in the end.

Middleweight Fight: Cezar Ferreira vs Ian Heinisch

This initially would’ve seen Cezar Mutante facing British prospect Tom Breese, but when Breese pulled out, Dana White’s Contender Series vet and former drug dealer Heinisch took the fight on relatively late notice. Given Mutante’s apparently successful evolution into a ground-based fighter – following the blueprint of his mentor Vitor Belfort during his PRIDE stint – I was taking him to win via submission.

Round One and they circle with Heinisch largely pushing forward. Early strikes miss for both men and then Ferreira hits a double leg into Heinisch’s guard following a caught kick. Heinisch immediately looks to scramble and does well to get up, but Mutante stays on him and looks for a single leg. Heinisch defends well with some punches though and separates. Nice counter left lands for Ferreira as Heinisch closes in. Left hand into a low kick follows for the Brazilian. Crowd aren’t really into this one after the Cannetti fight previously. Ferreira catches another kick and goes for the takedown, but this time Heinisch gets his back to the fence to defend and then tries to lock up a possible guillotine. He jumps to guard to look for the finish but Mutante seems okay to me. Sure enough he works his head free and then stays on top inside the guard. Heinisch tries to reverse out and then looks for an armbar, but Mutante looks really calm on top and works free on the buzzer. 10-9 Ferreira as I felt he landed the better shots on the feet, close though.

Round Two and Mutante narrowly misses a big head kick, then shoots and gets Heinisch down again. Heinisch reverses right back up, but Mutante keeps hold of him and slams him back down. Heinisch looks to fish for a kimura on the left arm, but that allows Ferreira to move into half-guard. Crowd are dead. Reversal puts Heinisch onto his feet, and he lands with a nice inside low kick. Left hand glances for Mutante. Body kick lands for him but a couple of punches keep him on the retreat. Big takedown from Ferreira and he lands inside the guard again. Heinisch reverses again but winds up caught in a front headlock this time. He spins free though and lands a body kick. Looks like Mutante might be tired. Takedown attempt from Heinisch is defended by Ferreira. Seconds in the round and they both glance on shots, and the round ends with Heinisch dropping the Brazilian with a big right hook! 10-9 Heinisch largely for the knockdown as it was even until then.

Round Three and Heinisch looks confident now. Right hook again lands for him as he pushes forward. Ferreira fires back and both men glance on shots before Mutante shoots. Heinisch goes down again, but reverses right back up instantly. This time he hits a switch and presses Mutante into the fence, then breaks off. Left hand connects for Mutante. Takedown is blocked by Heinisch and this time the newcomer uses a whizzer to counter. Big right hand lands for Heinisch and Mutante’s stunned. Head kick backs him up and Heinisch dumps him to the ground with a single leg. He moves right into half-guard and begins to land with some solid shots, then separates with a knee as Mutante escapes up. Mutante has to clinch as a right hand wobbles him again, but this time he can’t take Heinisch down. Seconds to go and it’s Heinisch pushing the action with another right hand. Mutante looks exhausted. He defends the takedown but looks out of it and Heinisch stuns him with another combo. Wild trade ends the fight. 10-9 Heinisch and I’d call it 29-28 for him.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Ian Heinisch. Definitely the right call there as despite it being somewhat close, all of the really effective offense came from Heinisch. Bit of a dull fight to be honest as Heinisch took his time to get settled while Ferreira looked content to stifle him and then gassed, but it was still impressive to see a newcomer deal with Ferreira like that. I’d say Heinisch could be a guy to watch going forward for sure.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Khalil Rountree vs Johnny Walker

This looked like a potential firefight as Rountree had knocked out noted kickboxer Gokhan Saki in his previous fight, while Walker – a longtime prospect on the Brazilian scene – was coming off an exciting win over Henrique da Silva on the Contender Series. I was taking Rountree though due to his wild power, as I figured Walker would trade with him and get hurt.

First round begins and Walker looks MASSIVE for 205lbs. They circle around and throw some feints, and Rountree lands a low kick that Walker responds to with a taunt. More feints follow with little landing, and then Walker lands a head kick and a left hand. Rountree takes them well and clinches, but Walker secures a plum and lands a knee and a solid elbow. Rountree can’t break the clinch, and Walker lands another VICIOUS ELBOW and Rountree goes DOWN AND OUT! Holy shit.

That was perhaps the best use of the plum clinch in the UFC since Anderson Silva used it to destroy Rich Franklin, and maybe the best elbow knockout since, well, Yair Rodriguez the week before, ha! Awesome stuff from Johnny Walker and he’s clearly a guy to watch at 205lbs. Maybe 205lbs isn’t as thin after all when you consider prospects like this guy, Ion Cutelaba, Misha Cirkunov, Dominick Reyes etc. And post-fight Walker shows he’s a FOUNTAIN OF CHARISMA too, meaning he’s probably going to get a big push from the UFC in 2019. One of the best knockouts of 2018, what’s not to love?

Featherweight Fight: Ricardo Lamas vs Darren Elkins

Co-main event here was the kind of fight where you were unsure exactly how these two had never fought before given their super-long tenure in the UFC; both men were coming off losses too, Elkins to Alexander Volkanovski and Lamas to Mirsad Bektic. Despite Elkins actually being on a long streak prior to that Volkanovski fight, I figured Lamas was just slightly better in all areas and went for him.

First round begins and right away Elkins lands a low blow that Lamas shrugs off. Clinch sees Lamas land a slam, but Elkins pops back to his feet and pushes him into the fence. Elkins appears to be bleeding already, lord knows what from. They break and Lamas lands a chopping low kick. Lamas looks by far the more fluid striker from the outside. Elkins keeps wading in with combos though and then goes for the takedown. Lamas blocks and they jockey for position, and the striking exchange then continues from the outside. Both guys get through with some decent stuff before Elkins catches a kick and goes for a takedown. Scramble sees Elkins get the back with one hook, and he almost goes into a twister position before Lamas powers to his feet. Takedown from Elkins puts him back down and he takes back control to end the round. Close and fun round, probably 10-9 Elkins by a hair I would say.

Second round and they trade strikes again with Elkins really pushing forward with his wild counter-punching. Lamas keeps on working the low kicks though and they appear to be taking their toll. Nice level change leads to a takedown for Lamas and he lands in half-guard and then passes to side mount. Elkins hits a good scramble though to get to his feet. Head kick from Lamas connects but Elkins catches it on the way out to land a couple of replies. Elkins keeps on wading forward with combinations. Lamas continues to work with low kicks and jabs, but a head kick sees him tackled to the ground. Scramble from Lamas doesn’t work and Elkins remains on top, but Lamas uses a guillotine to sweep. This time he takes the back and lands some clubbing punches to the side of the head. Leglock attempt from Elkins doesn’t work and he takes some nasty shots in the process. Crowd are loving this now as they stand back up. Flying knee into a combo from Lamas and Elkins looks busted up. Low kick spins him around. Another one has him wobbled and Lamas wades in with some more heavy shots. Elkins is all over the place. He can barely walk and he’s bleeding BADLY now. Somehow he keeps on swinging and then goes for the takedown, but he can’t get it and Lamas hits him with a head kick in the waning seconds. 10-9 Lamas and Elkins did well to survive really.

Third round and Elkins comes out firing again, but Lamas counters smartly and lands the cleaner shots. Takedown is blocked by Elkins and he eats another hard low kick, but he just keeps on coming like a zombie. Gotta love this guy! He even tags Lamas with some pretty hard punches to be fair. Big left hook counter rocks him though and he has to clinch. Lamas breaks off, and then he hits a takedown with two minutes to go. Side mount for Lamas and he drops a big elbow and Elkins is in trouble now. He tries to kick Lamas away, but Lamas keeps on dropping shots from above and some big shots and hammer fists have him turning away and the ref calls it there.

TKO didn’t look like much in terms of Elkins going out cold or anything but it was a smart stoppage as it didn’t look like he could get out of the position or anything and Lamas was just crushing him with those elbows and hammer fists in the end. Really fun fight and a big win for Lamas; it was pretty even until the damage was done with those low kicks, but even then Elkins simply wouldn’t go away and proved himself insanely tough again.

Welterweight Fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs Neil Magny

When the UFC announced this show it was a no-brainer that the Ponz would be in the main event given he’s the best fighter ever produced by Argentina – the only question was his opponent. Magny made a lot of sense too – a highly ranked fighter but not one who seemed that dangerous to Ponzinibbio, and so I was taking ‘Gente Boa’ to use his nasty striking to take out Magny and cement himself as a legit contender at 170lbs.

Round One and Magny looks a lot taller than the Ponz, that’s for sure. Crowd are red hot. Ponzinibbio right away looks to back Magny into the fence to negate the reach advantage and he’s putting a ton of pressure on early without actually throwing a ton. One-two and a leg kick land for the Ponz. Big flurry follows and Magny’s hurt already. Looks like he took a knuckle in the eye as he’s blinking badly. Ponzinibbio continues to walk him down and land punches albeit without getting too wild. Magny doesn’t appear to have an answer for the footwork thus far. Another leg kick lands hard for the Ponz and he’s going to the body now too. One minute to go and Ponzinibbio continues to force Magny backwards, landing the quicker punches and another nasty low kick. Big right hand lands for the Ponz. Seconds to go and Ponzinibbio continues to pressure Magny back, landing with a nasty right to end the round. 10-9 Ponzinibbio pretty comfortably.

Round Two and Magny tries to work his jab early on, pushing forward a little more, but Ponzinibbio quickly forces him back again with his own jab and low kicks. Leg kick drops Magny for a second and he stays down before the Ponz forces him back up. Big combination lands for Ponzinibbio. Brutal leg kick drops Magny again and this time he reaches for the takedown, but Ponzinibbio avoids it and forces him back up. Beautiful jabs connect for the Ponz. More of the same follows and Ponzinibbio keeps on backing Magny up. Herb Dean calls time to check a cut on Ponzinibbio’s left eye, but he’s fine to continue thankfully. Stiff jab stuns Magny off the restart and Ponzinibbio backs him right up but can’t land the killer blow. Low kick does drop Magny for a third time though and he’s in agony. He gets back up, but can’t get off the fence and Ponzinibbio continues to jab at him. Magny manages to circle out and then shoots, but Ponzinibbio stuffs it easily and escapes. Big right hand lands to follow the jab and Magny’s in trouble again. He’s firing back but he looks totally outgunned. Round ends on the feet; 10-9 Ponzinibbio again, on the verge of a 10-8 in fact.

Round Three and Magny again comes out firing, but Ponzinibbio quickly forces him back again with the jab. His use of footwork and distance is phenomenal. Leg kick spins Magny around. No idea how he’s still standing considering the punishment the leg has taken. More jabs follow and the leg kick leaves Magny hopping. Can’t fault his heart though as he keeps on firing back. He just can’t get his back off the fence though and he’s constantly eating shots. Big combo lands for the Ponz. Leg kick almost takes Magny off his feet again. That was a really nasty one. Crowd continue to chant “Argentina!” as the Ponz continues to push forward and jab at Magny. Couple of jabs from Magny fire back but he’s lost a lot of his pop due to the injured leg. Round ends there. 10-9 Ponzinibbio.

Round Four and again Magny tries to push forward, but within seconds he’s being backed up again despite firing punches. Big leg kick drops Magny yet again and he takes his time getting up this time. Takedown is avoided and Ponzinibbio refuses to follow him down. Stiff jab lands for the Argentine. More of the same follow and another low kick drops Magny. This could be stopped. Big combination follows for the Ponz. Another low kick sends Magny down again and Herb Dean ought to call this but he lets him get back up. Ponzinibbio continues to walk him down, clearly smelling blood, and a big combination follows the jab. Wild spinning attack misses for the Ponz. Low kick hurts Magny again and this time Ponzinibbio follows with a HUGE RIGHT HAND that sends Magny down and OUT face-first.

Ending was almost merciful in the end as Magny’s left leg was totally fucked and it felt like just a matter of time before he was finished off. This was essentially an extended squash, as Magny just couldn’t deal with the footwork, jabs and low kicks of Ponzinibbio and the reach never came into play as Ponzinibbio just kept backing him into the fence with his movement. Phenomenal performance really even if Magny isn’t top five or anything. I actually suspect the Ponz might be the best striker in the division when you consider how grappler-heavy it is – so given the logjam at the top with Woodley, Covington and Usman, why not do Ponzinibbio vs. Stephen Thompson next? That’d be an incredible striking match for sure. Fight got a little difficult to watch as it was so one-sided, but the ending was super nasty and made it all worth it really.

-Show ends with the Ponz celebrating while wrapped in the Argentine flag, can’t go wrong in terms of a first show in a new market really!

Final Thoughts….

Despite a weak card on paper this was a pretty quality show overall, as only Heinisch/Mutante ended up being slow and the rest was chock-full of fun finishes, from the brutal knockouts from Ponzinibbio and Walker to the slick submissions from Vera and Calvillo. Best fight was probably Vera/Cannetti but Lamas/Elkins was excellent as well. It’s basically a thumbs up pretty comfortably, just skip Heinisch/Mutante.

Best Fight: Vera vs. Cannetti
Worst Fight: Heinisch vs. Mutante

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: