MMA Review: #670: UFC Fight Night 144

-This was the second ESPN+ Fight Night card and for a Brazil show it was pretty strong; rather than do all Brazil vs. foreigners up and down the card we actually had two Brazil vs. Brazil fights at the top, with a Bantamweight title eliminator in Marlon Moraes vs. Raphael Assuncao and a hell of a co-main in Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano.

UFC Fight Night 144

Fortaleza, Ceara

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Michael Bisping, making his debut as a colour commentator.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Livinha Souza vs Sarah Frota

This was Frota’s UFC debut and she managed to miss the 115lbs Strawweight limit by 7lbs, which is shameful however you look at it. Souza – the former Invicta champ – had made her debut in late 2018 with a quick submission over Alex Chambers, and I figured she’d pull the win out here pretty comfortably.

Round One begins and sure enough Frota looks huge in comparison to Souza. Bunch of low kicks land for Souza and then she clinches and hits a nice hip throw into side mount. Frota uses a reversal to get back to her feet, but Souza decides to go for a guillotine that fails and she ends up on her back in guard. Action slows down as Frota doesn’t do a lot from the top, and after a while Souza suddenly locks up an armbar but Frota manages to pull free and stand. Pair of right hands land for Souza in an exchange but Frota sprawls to avoid a takedown. Souza forces her into the fence and gets it to the ground when Frota strangely decides to jump to guard. Big punches from the top end the round for Souza, and I’ll give it to her 10-9.

Round Two and Souza stings Frota with a couple of hard right hands in the early going. Big left from Frota has Souza wobbled, but she recovers quickly. Combo lands for Frota but Souza tackles her to the ground with a double leg. Rubber guard from Frota keeps Souza under control and the action slows down again, and the crowd sound bored. It is a terrible fight thus far to be fair. Ref calls a restart but Souza quickly double legs her to the ground again and easily avoids an armbar attempt. Leglock is also avoided by Souza but it allows Frota to stand. Pretty wild trade follows with both women landing before Souza gets another takedown. Frota bounces right back up this time though and they clinch up. Crowd are openly booing now as Frota exits with a left. Big combo lands for Frota as she comes forward. Takedown attempt from Souza and Frota completely botches her defence and gives the back. Both hooks in for Souza and Frota’s in trouble but she does just enough to survive. Round ends with some big shots from Souza and another super close choke attempt. Buzzer saved Frota there so 10-9 Souza again.

Round Three and Souza tries to open with a takedown, but Frota stuffs it and then lands with a hard combo. Souza keeps pushing forward and then surprisingly pulls guard off a botched takedown attempt. Hammer fists land for Frota from the top but the action’s pretty slow again here. Ref stands them back up and Frota tries to strike from distance, but she’s struggling to really get into range and it’s Souza landing some decent counters. Takedown is blocked by Frota though who just throws Souza to the ground and kicks at her legs. Crowd are hating the fight now. Ref calls Souza to her feet and they exchange right hands, and Frota manages to wobble the veteran with a couple of hard punches. Only seconds remaining though and nothing else really happens before the buzzer. 10-9 Frota but 29-28 Souza for me.

Judges go 29-28 Frota (?!), 29-28 Souza and 29-28 for Livinha Souza, thankfully. Not a clue how you’d score that fight for Frota as she clearly lost the first two rounds and then didn’t really do a lot in the third either. Fight had a few high points but was generally slow and forgettable. Still, I think Souza’s future in the UFC is bright and she’ll be fine once she’s fighting some smaller fighters.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Johnny Walker vs Justin Ledet

This was Walker’s second UFC outing following a red-hot debut that saw him knock out Khalil Rountree with some elbows, while Ledet hadn’t fought since a disappointing loss to Aleksandar Rakic in his 205lbs debut in 2018. With Walker showing a lot of personality in his debut win I was hoping he’d follow it up with something equally cool here and become a potential star.

Round One begins and Ledet pushes forward, but Walker throws a glancing hook kick and then DROPS HIM WITH A SPINNING BACKFIST AND FOLLOWS WITH A SOCCER KICK AND SOME PUNCHES AND IT’S OVER!

Holy shit, whole fight took just 15 seconds and post-fight Walker celebrates with some wild flips and dancing including THE WORM. Replay shows the soccer kick didn’t land, thank God, or that could’ve been a DQ. Total star-making performance from Walker at any rate and he’s since pulled the same trick off again against a better opponent in Misha Cirkunov…but ended up dislocating his shoulder celebrating. When he’s back he should be in for a huge promotional push because he’s AWESOME.

Lightweight Fight: Charles Oliveira vs David Teymur

Interesting fight on paper here, as Oliveira was back on a hot streak, winning 3 in a row with 3 submissions, naturally, while Sweden’s Teymur was still unbeaten in the UFC at 5-0 and had beaten the tough Nik Lentz in his previous fight. I was actually going for Teymur here feeling he could crack Oliveira’s somewhat questionable chin.

First round begins and they trade low kicks before Oliveira takes an eye poke and the ref has to call time. Looks like a bad one too and he has to take quite a bit of time to get back into the fight. Doctor eventually decides he’s okay to go but the ref surprisingly decides to take a point from Teymur. That’s fair actually as the refs need to crack down on that shit.

They restart and INSTANTLY Teymur eye pokes him again. Jesus. Ref can’t decide so he calls time but then lets them start again, and Oliveira lands a flying switch kick that has Teymur stunned a bit. Oliveira looks furious and he pushes forward swinging, but walks right into a BIG LEFT COUNTER and he goes down hard. Teymur goes right into the guard, but he has to stand back up to avoid an armbar and Oliveira joins him. Both guys are swinging wildly now and Teymur’s cut around the right eye. Weird moment follows as Oliveira tries to call time but the ref’s having none of it. Takedown from Oliveira and he gets the back in a scramble and goes for a leglock, but Teymur hammer fists his way free and they’re standing. Big knee lands for Oliveira as they exchange strikes but the Swede seems okay. Oliveira’s actually getting the better of the striking here. Flying knee connects for him and Teymur looks rattled. More offense from Oliveira and Teymur keeps on backing up. Round ends with more exchanges and a solid combo from Teymur. Oliveira’s round so with the point deduction it’s a 10-8.

Second round and Oliveira walks right through some early strikes to close the distance. Combo lands for Oliveira and he’s got Teymur hurt. Big shots have Teymur looking out on his feet, but the ref doesn’t step in so Oliveira locks up the neck and drops RIGHT INTO AN ANACONDA CHOKE for the tapout! Nice!

Ref should probably have stopped the fight prior to that choke as Teymur had turned his back entirely, but whatever. Totally wild fight with such a filthy first round but that finish was awesome from Oliveira. Dude is still only 29 too, easy to forget considering he’s been around since 2010 (!) so we might actually be seeing him in his prime right now. He really is a great fighter to watch.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Lyman Good

Maia was desperate to get back on the winning path here after losing his last 3, although to be fair losses to Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman are hardly shameful. Good meanwhile had won his last fight by violent KO and so this was his chance to break into the elite. With that said, despite Maia’s advanced age I couldn’t see Good stopping the takedown and went with Maia via submission.

Round One begins and Maia slowly backs Good towards the fence and then shoots on a single leg. Good blocks it initially but Maia keeps driving and gets him down, doing well to keep him there as he attempts to pop up too. Crowd are buzzing for Maia. Good pops up but gives his back in the process and Maia jumps right in with both hooks. Good’s in deep shit here. Maia slaps on a body triangle from the lemur position and looks for the choke, but Good does well to survive. He can’t shake Maia off his back though, and with just over half the round gone another choke attempt works and Good has to tap out.

Pretty much business as usual for Maia then; basically if you can’t stop his takedown, you’re probably going to lose, and Good couldn’t stop it and just got tooled. Even in his 40’s I think Maia can keep doing this for some years to come, and who’s going to complain about a Rickson Gracie-ish win like this?

Featherweight Fight: Jose Aldo vs Renato Moicano

After Aldo’s first non-title win in almost a decade over Jeremy Stephens in 2018 – a rousing win at that too – this was his second three-rounder in a row, as he was faced with the streaking Moicano, who had won 5 of his last 6 including wins over Stephens and Cub Swanson. Despite Moicano’s clear skills I was going with Aldo here as I felt like the idea he was finished was premature – only Max Holloway had really dealt with him and Holloway is one of a kind.

Round One begins and Moicano looks considerably bigger than Aldo, surprisingly enough. Both men look pretty tentative and it’s a slow beginning with both men missing with their early strikes. Right hand from Moicano clips Aldo and forces him back. Aldo’s barely thrown a strike in the first minute or so. Right hand does land for Aldo on the counter and he follows with a heavy low kick. Crowd are insanely into Aldo as you’d expect. Another leg kick lands for him. Moicano comes back with a couple of his own though and then almost gets a takedown off a slip. Crowd begin to boo somewhat as the action remains quite slow here. Left hand connects to the body for Aldo. One minute to go and Moicano’s beginning to put some nice sequences together now even if Aldo doesn’t look hurt. Round ends on the feet. Bit of a weird round really; 10-9 Moicano for slightly more activity.

Round Two and Moicano again pushes forward with some early combinations. Sudden left hook lands for Aldo though and a follow-up left hook to the body has Moicano covering up, and Aldo just SWARMS HIM WITH INSANE HAYMAKERS! Crowd go CRAZY as Aldo keeps on coming, just swinging EVERYTHING at Moicano while chasing him across the cage, and finally Moicano begins to wilt and the ref stops it with him still on his feet.

Good lord that was crazy. Best Jose Aldo finish since his knee KO of Chad Mendes back in 2012. I mean, a better and calmer counter-striker might’ve caught him with something as he got so wild, but Moicano just couldn’t stand up to the sheer ferocity of the guy and you can hardly knock him for folding. Aldo has since lost his next fight and did look a lot worse there so there’s the chance that this was the last great showing from him – and if that’s the case it was a hell of a way to go out. This was awesome.

Bantamweight Fight: Marlon Moraes vs Raphael Assuncao

This was a big fight at Bantamweight, with the winner likely to find themselves in line for a title shot later in 2019. For those who’d forgotten, Moraes had made his UFC debut in 2017 with a loss to Assuncao – a debatable split decision – and had since beaten John Dodson, Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera, violently finishing the latter two. Assuncao meanwhile was on a long winning streak – 11-1 in his last 12 fights with 4 wins in a row – and while his style hadn’t been all that exciting he was certainly very functional. I was taking Moraes here just due to his more aggressive style – and the fact that I felt he beat Assuncao in the first fight.

Fight begins and Moraes circles on the outside before landing a hard low kick. Assuncao pushes forward with some combinations but doesn’t land cleanly. Crowd randomly start booing at something but I’m not too sure what. Nice low kicks land for both men. Couple of jabs glance for Moraes and he’s constantly on the move here. Big right hand suddenly lands for Moraes and another one puts Assuncao down! He gets guard and looks to hold on to recover, but Moraes passes to half-guard and drops an elbow. More shots land for Moraes and Assuncao is hurt here. He tries to scramble, but Moraes locks up a guillotine and rolls into it….and Assuncao TAPS OUT!

Awesome performance from Marlon Moraes. He dropped Assuncao early and then didn’t let up, and it looked like Assuncao was probably still foggy from the strikes hence giving his neck up somewhat unexpectedly for the guillotine. Basically a flawless victory for Moraes. He would indeed get his title shot after this, but maybe not in the circumstances everyone expected…but that’s another show. This was a great way to cap off an excellent night of action. I expected a long fight too, so it’s always cool to see a quick finish like that.

-Show ends just after the main event.

Final Thoughts….

This was an AWESOME SHOW. Sure, the opener basically sucked but from there everything was brilliant, with the wild finishes from Walker, Aldo and Moraes to a vintage Demian Maia showing and a frankly ridiculous fight between Oliveira and Teymur that I’d call the Fight of the Night. Huge thumbs up for this one and if you missed it you need to check it out ASAP.

Best Fight: Oliveira vs. Teymur
Worst Fight: Souza vs. Frota

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: