MMA Review: #663: UFC Fight Night 141

-After venturing into mainland China with a trip to Shanghai in 2017, this was the UFC’s first show in Beijing. As a Fight Pass card it was obviously lacking in big names, but with an Overeem fight and a cool-sounding main event between Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou, I was semi-excited.

UFC Fight Night 141

Beijing, China

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Welterweight Fight: Li Jingliang vs David Zawada

Polish fighter Zawada had debuted in July on late notice in a really fun fight with Danny Roberts, while Jingliang was coming off his June win over Daichi Abe. They looked evenly matched on paper but I was going with the semi-upset and taking Zawada, as he’d impressed me a ton in that debut.

Round One begins and Zawada pushes forward early with both men missing on some punches. Crowd are hugely into Jingliang. Nice low kick connects for him but Zawada counters with a right that drops him! Jingliang scrambles and tries to get a takedown, but Zawada blocks it and then begins to land knees from the clinch as they stand. Beautiful takedown by Jingliang puts Zawada down though and he lands in guard. Solid elbows get through for Jingliang and he’s into half-guard now. Zawada manages to get to his feet, and he stuns Jingliang with a right hand again and follows up with a strong combo. Takedown attempt is avoided by Zawada who lands a hard knee. Another combo has Jingliang backpedalling, and Zawada adds in some heavy knees for good measure. Jingliang evidently has a strong chin to take all of this. Clinch is broken by a decent combo from Jingliang this time. Seconds to go and they continue to exchange, and the round ends with a clinch from Zawada. 10-9 Zawada largely for the knockdown.

Round Two and Zawada tags Jingliang early on with another hard right hand. Takedown is stuffed by Zawada but he takes a left hook on the way out. Combination lands for Zawada and Jingliang comes back with a low kick. Jingliang’s really swinging heavily now. Exchange continues with both men landing shots and this is a really even round actually. Big left hook lands for Jingliang as Zawada lunges in with a knee. Both men continue to land and it looks like Jingliang is the slightly more active man. One minute to go and Jingliang continues to work his low kicks in with his punches. Big shot stuns Zawada on the buzzer and he ends up being rocked by a combo as the round ends. 10-9 Jingliang to even things up.

Round Three and they pick up where they left off with both men exchanging punches and the odd low kick. Couple of really clean shots connect for Jingliang in the first minute. Head kick lands for him as it looks like Zawada’s struggling from the leg kicks. He keeps firing back though and the trade continues. More big shots follow for Jingliang and he’s got Zawada covering up on the fence. Zawada circles out but it looks like he might be a bit gassed too. Leg kick clearly has him hurt again. Takedown attempt from Zawada looks decent but Jingliang defends it well only to take a right on the way out. 1:30 to go and Jingliang continues to press the action, going to the body with punches now too to capitalise on Zawada clearly being tired. BIG SUPERKICK TO THE BODY suddenly folds Zawada, and Jingliang follows up to put him away with a flurry.

Beautiful finish for Li Jingliang with one of the best knockouts of the year I’d say. Zawada just totally folded when that kick landed and that was that. Fun fight too as Zawada looked great in the first round and took the fight to Jingliang, but the Leech’s chin held up and once Zawada began to slow down, Jingliang really took over with his striking and low kicks in particular. Dude needs another step up the ladder next time I’d say.

Bantamweight Fight: Song Yadong vs Vince Morales

After 2 UFC wins and a move to Team Alpha Male, China’s Yadong was looking like a legit prospect to watch coming into this one. Initially he was pegged to face former top ten contender Frankie Saenz, but when Saenz got injured, Morales – a veteran of Dana White’s Contender Series – stepped in. Given Morales had lost his fight on that show – and Yadong had looked excellent since his debut – I was going with the Chinese prospect.

First round begins and Yadong takes the center of the cage right away. Yadong is crazy hench for a 135lber. Couple of jabs and low kicks land for the Chinese fighter. Nice combination follows as the announcers riff on the fact that he looks about 15 years old. Spinning back kick lands to the body of Morales and sends him backwards. Yadong’s use of range is really good. Flying knee stuns Morales but he recovers quickly. Morales is really firing but he can’t catch Yadong cleanly. More sharp strikes connect for Yadong and continue to back Morales up. Rushing combo stuns Morales right on the end of the round. 10-9 Yadong.

Second round and Yadong opens things with a solid right hand. Combination ends in a body kick from Yadong and he’s constantly got Morales backing up. Pair of combinations do land for Morales to force him back for a second, but Yadong gets right back onto it and continues to press forward. This kid is awesome. Spin kick glances again for him. Both men land with combos with Morales landing probably his best shot of the fight, but he’s taking far more in return from Yadong. Beautiful spinning backfist connects for Yadong. Morales is really swinging now but the speed of Yadong makes him a tricky target to hit. Slick combination connects for Yadong. Decent head kick answers back for Morales. Spinning kick glances for Yadong. He continues to walk Morales down, and lands more combos as the round ends. 10-9 Yadong and Morales needs to finish him to win.

Third round and Morales comes out swinging, but he’s still largely being outlanded due to the speed of Yadong. Beautiful level change from Yadong sees him plant Morales with a double leg, and he immediately looks to pass the guard when Morales reaches for a kimura. Into half-guard for Yadong but Morales manages to scramble into full guard. Another attempt to pass sees Morales scramble to his feet, but the Chinese fighter pins him into the fence. Knees connect inside for Yadong and then he takes Morales down again. Looks like Morales might be looking for a triangle choke, but Yadong easily avoids that and settles into the guard. Two minutes to go and Morales uses a butterfly guard to switch for a leglock, but Yadong looks calm and he avoids to drop some elbows directly to the face. Morales kicks him away and stands, swinging pretty wildly but not landing cleanly now. Big combinations land for both men as they begin to openly trade off, and the round ends with them exchanging more punches on the feet with Morales really going for it. 10-9 Yadong and 30-27 for him though.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Song Yadong, pretty clear win in the end. Fight was a ton of fun and Morales did well to hang in there, but he was well beaten in all areas really. With his potential and young age I can see big things from Yadong in the future, so hopefully he sticks it out with Team Alpha Male and we can see how far he can go. Could be MMA’s first real Chinese star even.

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Sergei Pavlovich

M-1 Global champ Pavlovich was bringing quite the reputation into his UFC debut here, unbeaten at 12-0 with some nasty finishes on his record, but for a first trip to the Octagon this looked pretty horrific for him as despite losing his last two fights, Overeem didn’t look finished by any means just yet. I don’t pick against the Reem so obviously I was going for him to win due to his massive experience advantage.

Fight begins and Pavlovich somehow reminds me of a hench Jordan Pickford. They circle to begin and throw out some jabs, and a big overhand right glances for Pavlovich. Overeem does well to absorb the punishment even though he backs up, and from there he clinches and forces the Russian into the fence. They muscle for position and Pavlovich looks for the takedown, but Overeem blocks it and continues to land knees to the body. Knee also lands to the head for the Reem. Another takedown attempt from Pavlovich is blocked and they break off. Few punches glance for the newcomer but Overeem catches him with a big right hand and then throws him to the ground. From there he stands over him and drops some punches to the body, then settles into the guard and begins to work with elbows. He stands up over him again to pass the legs, and this time he opens up with some HUGE SHOTS and Pavlovich is in trouble. He covers up and Overeem flurries on him with heavy punches and hammer fists and that’s all she wrote as the ref stops it.

Really good performance from Overeem; this was a dangerous fight for him and yet he made it look pretty easy, using that underrated ground game to destroy Pavlovich in a similar fashion to how he did to Stefan Struve in 2014. Hopefully this means a few more fights from him yet because he remains AWESOME. Probably my favourite fighter of all time now along with Diego Sanchez, in fact.

Heavyweight Fight: Francis Ngannou vs Curtis Blaydes

This was a rematch of their initial fight in 2016 when both guys were just prospects, and of course Ngannou won that one by doctor stoppage when Blaydes’ eye ended up swollen shut. Since then their paths had veered off quite a lot – Blaydes was coming into this on a 6-fight win streak including victories over Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem, while Ngannou had lost his title shot to Stipe Miocic and then looked awful in his July loss to Derrick Lewis. With Ngannou’s apparent slide in mind I figured Blaydes would cement his status as the top contender in the division by taking the Frenchman down and taking him out on the ground.

Round One begins and Ngannou opens with a thudding low kick before shrugging off a clinch attempt. They circle off and a BIG RIGHT HAND from Ngannou lands to the temple and sends Blaydes DOWN! Somehow he gets up and tries for a takedown, but he eats a bunch of extra punches and goes down again, and Marc Goddard has to stop it there.

Post-fight Blaydes complains about the stoppage but it looked legit to me, he got badly hurt by that first shot and was eating a ton of nasty follow-ups and seemingly couldn’t get back up. First shot was reminiscent of the Junior Dos Santos punch that KO’d Cain Velasquez in 2011 in fact. Hopefully this means that the ‘real’ Francis Ngannou is back, but really it was too quick to properly tell! We shall see in 2019 I guess. As for Blaydes, I’d say he’s young enough and talented enough to come back from this, but it was a big setback nonetheless. Post-fight Ngannou calls out Dos Santos or Alexander Volkov and both would work really. Incredible way to end the night.

-We end with some promos for the next couple of shows before the announcers wrap up the night’s action.

Final Thoughts….

Solid Fight Pass show here, nothing groundbreaking but the two big fights ended with some serious violence and the other two were entertaining enough as well. Pacing was nice and quick and nothing overstayed its welcome, so it’s an easy thumbs up from me.

Best Fight: Jingliang vs. Zawada
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: