MMA Review: #667: UFC on Fox: Iaquinta vs. Lee 2

-This was the UFC’s final ever show on Fox prior to the big move to ESPN this year and shit, I can’t believe it’s been 7 years already! It wasn’t the strongest card either to be honest – the halcyon days of title fights on Fox in like 2012/13 were long gone – but a couple of the fights sounded fun so hey.

UFC on Fox: Iaquinta vs. Lee 2

12/15/18
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder.

Lightweight Fight: Jim Miller vs Charles Oliveira

This was a rematch of their first fight at UFC 124 back in 2010 – which doesn’t seem five minutes ago to me – that saw Miller tap a very young Oliveira with a kneebar. Of course, Oliveira had gone on to huge success since and was coming in with the record for most submission wins in UFC history. Despite this – and Miller’s downward spiral over the last few years – I actually took Miller to win in a slight upset, feeling he could probably grind out a win over the Brazilian using his veteran wiles.

Round One begins and Miller just looks physically much smaller and less powerful than he once did. He presses forward, but Oliveira catches a kick and gets a suplex, taking the back instantly. He slaps the hooks in too and Miller’s in deep shit. Miller works to defend the choke, but Oliveira is all over him here and seconds later he sinks in the rear naked and Miller has to tap out.

Wow, did not expect that to be that easy for Oliveira even if Miller is past his best. It looked like the big difference was that physically, Miller just couldn’t handle Oliveira which is worrying as it’s not like Do Bronx is the biggest and most powerful 155lber out there. Miller just needs to retire unfortunately as he doesn’t have it any more, no offense. Dude was a great fighter but his time has been and gone. Nice submission for Oliveira, though!

Bantamweight Fight: Rob Font vs Sergio Pettis

This was Pettis’s first fight back at 135lbs since 2014 after an October 2018 loss to Jussier Formiga pretty much knocked him out of contention at Flyweight, although to be fair the general downtrend of the division might’ve forced his hand too. Font had last been seen in a loss to Raphael Assuncao, but I thought his size and reach advantage might give him an advantage in this one.

Round One and the crowd hates Font which is unsurprising given Pettis is a Milwaukee guy. Size difference is pretty obvious right away. Lot of jabs to the head and body early on for Font as Pettis tries to land some kicks but struggles to get into range. Pettis does manage to land a couple of jabs of his own but he’s being pieced up by Font’s punches thus far. Takedown from Font with about 1:30 to go and he’s in firm control even if he appears to be slightly bleeding. Decent shots from Font and then he stands over Pettis to drop some more good punches. Pettis manages to get up and glances on a wild spin kick on the way, but the round ends just after. 10-9 Font in a great round for him.

Round Two and Font counters a kick with a big right hand and then goes right on with the pressure game with his punches again. Heavy shots set up a takedown attempt for Font but Pettis stuffs it. Head kick for Pettis lands but he’s still eating way more shots from Font. Pettis’s right eye looks bad. Font is just relentless with his pressure and punches here. Pettis can’t deal with the reach at all. He does land a couple of shots but Font seems to absorb them easily. Takedown attempt from Font is stuffed and Pettis gets on top, but Font locks up a kimura and sweeps into top position, only to lose it right as the round ends. 10-9 Font.

Round Three and Pettis comes out aggressively with some kicks, but it doesn’t stop Font from landing a bunch of jabs again and it looks like Pettis’s right eye is beginning to swell shut. More shots do land for Pettis but Font counters on him and knocks his mouthpiece out. Takedown follows for Font. It just looks like Pettis doesn’t have the power to really bother Font in the striking exchanges. Punches land for Font and then he takes the back with no hooks. Pettis manages to stand back up while taking more punches, but Font drags him back down. This is looking pretty much over now. Seconds to go and Font keeps him grounded, then stands over him to deliver some more punches. Round ends with Font trying a late choke. 10-9 Font, 30-27 overall.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Rob Font. Pretty clear cut stuff in the end as Font was able to push the pace throughout the fight and used his size and reach advantage to keep Pettis on the end of his punches and work him over on the ground too. It just looked to me like Pettis was too small to really compete with a big 135lber like Font, and he probably needs to move back to 125lbs, although he hasn’t fought since this. With Dana White claiming they’re pushing 125lbs again though it might be an idea for him to cut back down. Fight was perfectly acceptable stuff.

Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs Dan Hooker

This was a big fight for Barboza as he was coming off two bad losses to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee and there were questions over whether he was done at the top level after taking so much damage. Opponent Hooker meanwhile was on a four-fight win streak with four finishes too, meaning this was a well-due step up for him. Despite Barboza’s struggles I was still leaning towards him due to his athletic advantage, but it wasn’t an easy call to make.

First round begins and Hooker opens with some Barboza-esque kicks, backing Barboza up, and he looks pretty confident actually. Both guys trade kicks though and it’s pretty clear that Barboza is more powerful. Hooker is landing more shots thus far though. Nice body kick connects for Barboza. Looks like he’s beginning to find his range a little more now. Exchange continues and it looks like Hooker’s leg is hurting from the kicks. Big combination wobbles Hooker and he’s in trouble. He does well to recover though and seems okay, pushing forward with strikes of his own again. Big exchange sees Barboza land some hard shots again, but Hooker is super tough and he fires right back in a great moment. Round ends just after. 10-9 Barboza in a really fun round.

Second round and Hooker comes out swinging, but he takes a heavy leg kick and goes down. Dude is ludicrously tough though as he keeps on wading forward with strikes, but Barboza’s countering and landing the heavier shots anyway. Both men land some hard punches and Barboza’s going backwards, but it doesn’t seem to matter as he keeps on firing back and landing hard. Big elbow from the Brazilian. Slip sends Hooker to the ground but he counters with a takedown and gets right into half-guard. Barboza’s looking tired suddenly. He almost scrambles up, but Hooker keeps him down and this is valuable time for him. Crowd begin to boo the slowdown, but then Barboza kicks him away and pops up. Hooker pushes forward with more strikes, but he eats a HUGE COMBO to the head and body. Jesus that was nasty. Big punches have Hooker hurt but he WALKS FORWARD LIKE A FUCKING ZOMBIE. This is awesome. More huge shots land for Barboza but somehow Hooker’s still coming forward! Weird moment as Hooker basically gets thrown down and falls right into the ref, but Barboza lets him up. Trade continues and I have no clue how Hooker’s still vertical. He’s getting DESTROYED now. Round somehow ends despite Hooker taking more serious punishment to the head and body. That was a criminal beatdown. 10-8 Barboza.

Hooker COLLAPSES INTO HIS CORNER between rounds and surely the doctor needs to stop this. Somehow Hooker still knows he’s in Milwaukee in 2018 though so the quack is quite happy to let it go. Jesus Christ is this PRIDE or something?

Third round begins and sure enough Hooker PUSHES FORWARD but Barboza just whacks him a few more times. Hooker might be the toughest guy in UFC history to take all of this. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Barboza and then he breaks off from the clinch and nails Hooker with a brutal spin kick to the body. Hooker is on wobbly legs and Daniel Cormier is BEGGING the ref to stop it now as he looks like a sitting duck with Barboza nailing him with more kicks, but somehow he SWINGS RIGHT BACK! Another spin kick doubles him over but he STILL WON’T GO DOWN! Barboza keeps on hitting him and the ref ought to step in now, come on. Big knees from Barboza and it looks like even he doesn’t want to keep beating this dude up. Finally MORE HUGE SHOTS land for Barboza and Hooker collapses and the ref has to call it off.

Erm, what can you say about that? It was entertaining until the third round but that last minute or so was horrific to watch, like something from the worst days of PRIDE with the likes of Matsui and Shoji taking beatdowns. Ref should’ve called it way earlier or Hooker’s corner should’ve thrown the towel in or something, but shit, that’s likely a career-altering loss for the guy and he hasn’t fought since, either. This might’ve been the outright worst beating in UFC history, even.

Lightweight Fight: Kevin Lee vs Al Iaquinta

This one wasn’t the biggest main event for a Fox show, especially the last one, but whatever. Lee was coming off his huge win over Edson Barboza and looked like a potential future title holder, while Iaquinta hadn’t fought since his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in April 2018, although he did have a big win over Lee from 2014. Despite that win for Iaquinta I was picking Lee here as I thought he’d improved enough in all areas to outgrapple Iaquinta for a decision.

Round One begins and you can tell these guys really dislike one another just from the body language. Few kicks from Lee begin the round but don’t land cleanly. Takedown attempt is blocked by Lee but Iaquinta hits him with a nice spinning elbow on the break. Clean counter right also lands for Al. Lee begins to back Iaquinta up a bit though using his jab and some kicks. Exchange continues with both men doing pretty good work actually. This is a really tricky round to score. Round ends shortly after. 10-10 for me as I couldn’t split them.

Round Two and they exchange punches from the off with both men landing some decent shots again. Stats from the first round show that it was literally even in terms of strikes landed. Takedown attempt from Lee and he manages to force Al to his back after a real struggle. Good shots land for Lee as Iaquinta tries to scramble, and from there he slaps on a body triangle and takes the back. Big hammer fists from Lee and Iaquinta might be in trouble here. Lee isn’t really coming close with a submission, though. Nice move from Iaquinta allows him to spin and pop to his feet, and he pushes forward with punches, going to the body too. Lee might be tired actually as Iaquinta’s walking him down. Round ends with Iaquinta pushing the action. Iaquinta ended the round better but it’s clearly 10-9 Lee for the grappling dominance I’d say.

Round Three and again it’s Iaquinta pushing the action, backing Lee up with his punches. Big right hook connects for Al. Lee is firing back but he’s definitely being outstruck now. Lee looks somewhat busted up, too. Takedown attempt is avoided by Lee and then he hits a double leg of his own and plants Al on his back. Al tries to scramble but ends up giving his back, but this time he stays on his feet. Nice slam from Lee puts Iaquinta down and he’s got both hooks in again, but he can’t manage to lock up the choke to finish things. Round ends with Lee in firm control though. Pretty much the previous round in reverse; 10-9 Lee for me.

Round Four and Iaquinta presses forward again with his punches, but he’s not landing too many of them cleanly. Strong right hand does land but Lee takes it well. Combo has Lee backpedalling though and his legs look wobbly as hell. Nice uppercut into a right hook from Al. Head kick lands for Iaquinta and Lee shakes his head but he clearly felt it. Iaquinta keeps on landing the short right hand and Lee is beginning to look hurt and tired. He does connect on a body kick but he’s clearly losing this round. Iaquinta keeps piling on the pressure, albeit at a lesser pace, and that’s the round. 10-9 Iaquinta for sure, although it did look like he slowed down a bit towards the end.

Round Five and Iaquinta lands a couple of nice counters as Lee comes forward early on. Single leg from Lee but Al stuffs it well and manages to get back to his feet before hitting a switch to get on top. Scramble from Lee and they end up on their feet with Lee going for the single leg again. Iaquinta does well to avoid it, but this is a bit of a stalemate position. Al finally breaks off and presses forward and they exchange punches, and this could definitely still go either way. Big kick from Lee but Iaquinta fires back with a combo. Exchange continues and a big left hook from Iaquinta has Lee hurt, but he backpedals and recovers well. Couple more hard shots land for Iaquinta and these guys seem willing to trade until the end. Iaquinta’s really lighting him up now, wow. Front kick connects to Lee’s jaw and Iaquinta keeps on walking him down and landing to the buzzer. 10-9 Iaquinta so it comes down to that first round. It’s a draw for me, 48-48.

Official scores are 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 for AL IAQUINTA. Well, that 49-46 score is utter bullshit but I’ve got no real problem with the decision as the first was very hard to split but the stats did show that Iaquinta was the slightly more accurate striker as he threw less but landed the same amount of shots. Fight was a lot of fun although I’m not sure it was worthy of the UFC’s final ever main event on Fox, but whatever.

-Announcers finally wrap up the Fox Era for the UFC and we’re done from Milwaukee.

Final Thoughts….

Pretty entertaining show overall; opener was a squash and Font vs. Pettis was just acceptable, but you can’t complain about the wild action of the top two fights, even if Lee/Iaquinta wasn’t really a big enough fight to sign off the Fox era with and Barboza/Hooker had some criminal refereeing. Not the marquee show you’d expect from a final one in a series, but I guess the UFC were never going to stack it with the ESPN move on the horizon, so that’s fine. Thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Lee vs. Iaquinta
Worst Fight: Font vs. Pettis

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com