MMA Review: #677: UFC Fight Night 148

-This was a totally random show really in terms of the main event as I’d never thought about Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis before, but once the UFC booked it, it seemed to make sense and I was excited. Elsewhere we had the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Jussier Formiga and Maycee Barber so things sounded cool overall.

UFC Fight Night 148

03/23/19
Nashville, Tennessee

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Daniel Cormier.

Women’s Flyweight Fight: Maycee Barber vs JJ Aldrich

This was young prospect Barber’s second UFC outing after beating Hannah Cifers last November, while Aldrich was on a solid 3-fight win streak in the Octagon. I was taking Barber due to how good she’d looked in that debut.

Fight begins and Aldrich comes out aggressively and catches a kick to clinch. Barber quickly breaks and both girls glance on punches before Aldrich lands a counter left that drops her! Aldrich stands over her and looks like she’s willing to let her back up, and sure enough Barber does stand. She looks fine to be fair. Counter right lands pretty cleanly for Aldrich. Barber is kicking with her chin too high. Aldrich continues to get the better of the exchanges, tagging Barber again with clean punches on the counter. Barber keeps coming up short on her punches. Clinch from Barber and she lands a couple of shots before Aldrich breaks off. Beautiful combination connects for Aldrich. Counter right follows as Barber throws another kick with her chin up. Right hand puts Barber down although it looked more like she was off balance. Aldrich lets her up with seconds to go and Barber comes back with an elbow before the round ends. 10-9 Aldrich, clearly outstriking her opponent.

Second round and Aldrich comes out swinging again, looking to counter Barber’s kicks as she did in the first round. Nice straight left tags Barber hard. Decent head kick from Barber and she clinches, but Aldrich separates with some hard punches. Beautiful counter right connects for Aldrich off another kick, but this time Barber fires back and lands a hard left of her own. Couple more shots land for Barber but she eats another counter. She’s pushing forward more now though at least. Clinch from Barber and she lands a couple of solid elbows before Aldrich forces a break. Big left hand suddenly wobbles Aldrich and now she’s in trouble. Barber SWARMS her with more punches, looking for the finish, but Aldrich clinches to slow her down. Barber turns it around though and begins to just SMASH her from the clinch, and Aldrich turns away for the stoppage.

Bit of an odd fight as Aldrich was clearly winning with her counter skills until Barber began to come forward, and once the big left landed she didn’t waste any time in putting her away. Clearly she needs a lot of work defensively but on offense Barber is a monster and at 20 years old (!) the sky is clearly the limit for her. Pretty awesome finish actually.

Featherweight Fight: Luis Pena vs Steven Peterson

After losing in his UFC debut to Mike Trizano in a bit of an upset, ‘Violent Bob Ross’ Pena was dropping to 145lbs for the first time here to take on the super-tough Peterson. Despite Pena missing weight I was taking him to win as Peterson had largely struggled in his previous UFC outings.

Round One begins and holy shit Pena is skinny at this weight. Dude looks downright ill. Peterson comes out with a superman punch that misses and follows with a takedown attempt, but Pena works to block it by using the fence. He decides to roll for a kimura and it looks pretty deep, but as he gets on top Peterson switches and tries an armbar. Pena slams his way out, and then drops a big left hand over the top of Peterson’s guard. Leglock attempt from Peterson but Pena avoids and settles into side mount, only for Peterson to regain half-guard. Full guard now for Peterson but Pena works to pass and then stuns him with a right hand as he pops up to his feet. Peterson might be in trouble here. Pena clinches though in a weird move but he does land a hard elbow from there. They break off and exchange strikes, with Pena landing with a flying knee. He’s getting the better of things here for sure. Clinch from Peterson now but he can’t get Pena down and he’s also bleeding. Big combo ends the round for Pena. 10-9 Pena for sure.

Round Two and Peterson’s corner sound furious with him, ha. STOP WASTING YOUR FRICKING TIME STEVEN! He comes out swinging and lands a couple of shots but Pena gets out of range and clips him with a couple of strikes of his own. Takedown from Peterson and he plants Pena into half-guard. Pena pops right back up but Peterson hops onto his back with both hooks. Pena shrugs him off and lands a nasty combo in the clinch, but Peterson’s chin is holding up. Big right hook lands for Pena. Clinch follows to slow things down before Peterson gets another takedown, but Pena gets up right away again. Another takedown follows and he looks for a choke, but Pena rolls through only to give his back again. Pena manages to turn into him though and then cracks him with a hard right hand. Big shots land for Pena but Peterson wings some right back. Flying knee connects for Pena again. He continues to land from range before Peterson looks for the takedown again. Pena locks up the kimura to block it, then exits the clinch with a big combo to end the round. 10-9 Pena as he did all the damage despite being outgrappled at points.

Round Three and Pena tags Peterson with punches as he marches forward. Brief clinch is broken and Pena keeps on landing clean strikes from the outside. Peterson is insanely tough. Elbow wobbles Peterson but he manages to wade into the clinch. Takedown attempt from Peterson is blocked by a switch and Pena takes the back, and then he exits the clinch with some knees to the body. Nice leg kick lands for Peterson to set up another clinch, but as he goes for the takedown Pena locks up a kimura and goes to full guard. Peterson slips free though and winds up on top. Crazy reversal from Pena puts him on top in guard but Peterson goes for an armbar. Pena pulls free and remains on top, looking to pass the guard as Peterson looks for a possible leglock. Big punches land from above for Pena. Reversal puts Peterson up, but he eats a BIG HEAD KICK as he stands. This guy’s chin is crazy. Somehow he lunges for a takedown and ends up in the clinch, but Pena lands some elbows and then takes the back. Fight ends with Pena breaking off to land a combo. 10-9 Pena and 30-27 overall.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Luis Pena. This was a pretty great fight, with a ton of fun scrambles, exchanges and back-and-forth action, but Pena landed all the better shots on the feet and never really got himself into trouble on the ground. Not sure how far such a loose and reckless style can take him but he’ll be fun to watch going forward for sure based on this.

Flyweight Fight: Jussier Formiga vs Deiveson Figueiredo

Despite all the weird rumours about the UFC cutting the Flyweight division (spoiler, six months later it’s still around) this was a pretty major fight at 125lbs, as Figueiredo had gone 4-0 in the Octagon and looked like potentially the next big challenger for Henry Cejudo, while Formiga was actually on a 3-fight streak of his own and looked massively improved despite being a real veteran. Despite Formiga’s hugely improved striking I was taking the more explosive Figueiredo here.

First round begins and they circle with no real action in the first minute. Nice left hand lands for Formiga as Figueiredo steps forward. Body kick from Figueiredo sets up a clinch but Formiga quickly breaks. Couple of jabs land for Formiga who’s looking excellent on the feet. Spin kick misses for Figueiredo and Formiga lands with a spinning backfist. Takedown from Formiga plants Figueiredo on his back in guard. Nice timing there. Into half-guard for Formiga and then he moves into side mount. Figueiredo explodes back to his feet, bur Formiga remains stuck on him like glue. Trip puts Figueiredo back down and this time Formiga takes full mount to land some big shots before the round ends. 10-9 Formiga, tremendous round for him.

Second round and Formiga looks really confident. Big swing misses for Figueiredo early on. He keeps missing with haymakers and eating slightly cleaner counters from Formiga. Solid right hand does land for Figueiredo to counter a double jab. Takedown attempt from Formiga and he manages to tackle Figueiredo down into guard. This time Figueiredo does some decent work from the bottom with elbows, but he doesn’t seem capable of getting out from here and he’s eating elbows too. Formiga tries to pass the guard but he’s cut pretty badly from one of those elbows. He does work into half-guard though and remains in firm control. Round ends with Formiga on top. 10-9 Formiga again despite the cut.

Third round and Figueiredo throws a superman punch that misses but he manages to stop the takedown attempt that follows. Big left hand lands for Figueiredo but Formiga clinches and pushes him into the fence. They break off and Figueiredo lands a solid uppercut. He’s really stalking forward now but a huge punch misses and sees him stumble into the fence. Nice right hand from Formiga sets up the clinch but he can’t get Figueiredo down this time. Another attempt works though and he dumps Figueiredo down and easily avoids a guillotine attempt, moving into half-guard. Full mount follows and Figueiredo might be in trouble now. He manages to explode to his feet, but Formiga’s still on him from the clinch. One minute to go and he breaks off, and now he’s really chasing for the KO. Formiga stays out of range though and lands an elbow before shooting for a takedown that Figueiredo blocks on the buzzer. Closer round but still 10-9 Formiga for a 30-27.

Official scores are 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Jussier Formiga. Bit of a surprising turnout here as I thought Figueiredo would be far too explosive for Formiga but that wasn’t the case at all, Formiga showed nice technical striking and mixed it in with his takedowns and usual brilliant ground game to completely outclass the younger fighter. Figueiredo will be back I’m sure but this was a real wake-up call for him. Fun fight throughout, too.

Lightweight Fight: John Makdessi vs Jesus Pinedo

Both of these men were coming off wins – Makdessi off two in a row in fact – but I wasn’t really sure how it made the main card given Makdessi had put on a ton of dull fights prior to this. Pinedo was supposedly crazy aggressive though so I guess it was probably that. I took Makdessi at a guess.

Round One begins and Pinedo circles on the outside as Makdessi takes the center and throws some kicks out. Both men come up short on a bunch of kicks and wow, this crowd is literally DEAD. Two minutes gone and barely anything has happened. Crowd start booing heavily midway through the round and it’s understandable really. Spin kick misses for Makdessi. Flurry glances for Makdessi as Pinedo slips. Man this is a bad round. More nothingness and that’s the round. 10-9 Makdessi I guess? Horrible stuff.

Round Two and again both men come up short on strikes before Makdessi catches a kick and shoves Pinedo down for a second, before letting him get up. Pinedo’s leg is at least marked up from some of Makdessi’s low kicks. This is still a glacial pace, though. Crowd again start booing about two minutes into the round as Makdessi keeps on working the right leg with his kicks. High kicks are largely being blocked by Pinedo, but he’s doing nothing in return. It’s hilarious to hear poor Fitzgerald and Cormier try to sell this fight somehow. Crowd continue to openly boo. They continue to exchange kicks and the odd glancing punch with Pinedo getting slightly more aggressive as the round ends. Crowd actually pop as Pinedo lands a head kick, but he doesn’t follow up and that’s the round. 10-9 Makdessi for the low kicks.

Round Three and Makdessi continues with the low kicks. Whatever aggression Pinedo had at the end of that second round seems to have vanished now. And surprise surprise the crowd are booing! Bit of an attack from Pinedo speeds things up for a moment but it’s quickly back to the same. Herb Dean outright warns Pinedo that he’s got to engage. Couple of punches do connect but he’s still being so tentative. Two minutes of this stinker to go now. Kick is caught by Makdessi and he throws Pinedo down for a moment. Pinedo throws some taunts out but obviously they do nothing. Round ends with a brief and pretty cool trade and why they didn’t do that before I don’t know. 30-27 Makdessi I guess? Who knows.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for John Makdessi. And let us never speak about this again because it was a horrible fight, no offense to either man. Moving on!

Heavyweight Fight: Curtis Blaydes vs Justin Willis

This one was a bit of a grudge match, mainly on the part of Willis, who had talked a ton of trash on Blaydes for reasons I don’t really know given Curtis is a pretty chilled guy in general. Despite Willis having a good record – 4-0 in the UFC with his last win over Mark Hunt – I was taking Blaydes here as I thought he was better in all areas.

Fight begins and Blaydes opens with a low kick. Lot of movement from Blaydes early on and his striking looks pretty good. Takedown attempt follows and Willis gets his back to the fence, blocking it well. A trip puts him down on a second attempt though and Blaydes is in side mount. Full mount follows and Willis gives his back and eats a couple of punches. Willis gets onto his knees, but Blaydes is still on him with knees to the legs. They stand and Blaydes dumps him with a BIG SUPLEX, which is ridiculous given Willis cuts to make 265lbs! Couple more punches follow but Willis again muscles to his feet. Another suplex follows and Blaydes keeps him on his knees to land some punches from behind. One hook allows Blaydes to keep him down this time as Willis tries to lace up the left arm, but he can’t secure it properly. More knees land for Blaydes. Willis stands with less than a minute remaining, but Blaydes suplexes him yet again. Punches to the head end the round for Blaydes. 10-8 round for me as Willis did nothing.

Into the 2nd and Blaydes opens with a HUGE RIGHT HAND that drops Willis for a second. He pops back up and Blaydes goes for a takedown, only for Willis to grab the fence. Ref attempts to step in but it doesn’t matter as Blaydes SLAMS HIM DOWN ANYWAY. Jesus. Blaydes settles into top position from half-guard as Willis tries to hang on, only to give up full mount. Big elbow lands to the side of the head, but Willis scrambles up to his knees. Blaydes remains on him with a rear waistlock though and he trips his leg out to take him back down. Mount for Blaydes again but Willis crawls up to his knees again. He’s constantly taking short punches though too, as well as nasty knees to the legs. 1:30 to go and another German suplex puts Willis down. More punches land for Blaydes and Willis is just doing nothing. This is Khabib-like almost. Bit of trash-talk from Blaydes as he keeps on landing, but his corner tell him to forget that to focus on punching, which he does. Round ends there. Another 10-8 in the books for Blaydes.

Third and final round and Blaydes just looks totally chilled. Winging combination glances for Willis but doesn’t really get through. That was probably his first bit of offense all fight. Low kicks land for Blaydes as he stays on the outside, and Willis’s punches are coming up way short. Takedown attempt is blocked by Willis but he can’t capitalise. Another attempt forces Willis into the fence though and he’s probably getting taken down again anytime soon. Willis defends quite well to be fair and manages to separate, but seconds later Blaydes just dump tackles him into side mount. Big punches land for Blaydes as Willis tries to roll to his belly. Willis does get to his feet, but he can’t shake Blaydes off and that’s the fight. 10-9 Blaydes, 30-25 overall. Total domination.

Post-fight both men won’t shake hands and basically have to be kept apart by security, with Willis somehow still talking trash. Judges have it 30-27, 30-26 and 30-25 for Curtis Blaydes. Total whitewash from start to finish as Willis just couldn’t handle Blaydes’ wrestling game despite being a huge guy. It was downright crazy to see Blaydes ragdoll such a large man like that and in fact, it was probably the closest thing you’ll see to a Khabib-type performance at Heavyweight. Hopefully he can get a title shot in the near future as I actually think he could beat Stipe Miocic, even if Francis Ngannou is a bit of a horrible fight for him. We shall see. This was an awesome performance from him, however.

Welterweight Fight: Stephen Thompson vs Anthony Pettis

This was a seriously weird fight to make given Pettis hadn’t fought at 170lbs before – he’d even been down at 145lbs in fact – but given both men were out of their respective title pictures I had no problem with it as it made sense from a stylistic and a fun point of view. Like a money fight without the money and without the shitty issues they tend to bring, basically! I was picking Thompson due to him being more durable and being the bigger man.

Round One begins and Thompson looks much taller and longer than Pettis. Quick kick glances for Wonderboy as Pettis presses forward. Bunch of low side kicks glance for Thompson to keep Pettis at range. Couple of body kicks glance for Pettis. Low kick also lands as Wonderboy continues to dance around on the outside throwing kicks. Hook kick glances for Pettis. Body kick connects for Wonderboy. Quick rush forces Pettis back but he’s fine. Wild wheel kick misses for Pettis. Thompson is just keeping him at range with all of these kicks and the odd combination. One minute to go and a big right hand narrowly misses for Showtime. Looks like he might be bleeding from the nose. Beautiful left hand from Wonderboy and he follows with a spin kick to the head. Couple more kicks and combos land for Thompson and that’s the round. 10-9 Wonderboy.

Between rounds holy shit Duke Roufus sounds ROUGH in Pettis’s corner. Like he’s got a really bad throat infection or something. Dude can barely talk!

Round Two and Pettis stalks forward as Wonderboy continues to wing out kicks. Jabs also land for Thompson as he stays elusive and avoids Pettis’s counter shots. Couple of low kicks do land for Pettis though. He just can’t seem to get inside due to Thompson’s jabs and kicks. His nose looks a real mess now too. Leg kicks land for both men in a brief exchange. Thompson’s timing is just impeccable when it comes to striking from range. Couple of beautiful combinations land for him. Pettis keeps on going back to the low kicks as they’re the only thing really working for him. One minute to go and this is still all Wonderboy. Right hand just misses for Pettis. More jabs and a left hand land for Thompson. Seconds to go and Pettis suddenly UNCORKS A SUPERMAN PUNCH AND KILLS WONDERBOY DEAD! Jesus Christ.

Replay shows Thompson was out cold as soon as the punch landed and the follow-up shots were just academic. Wow. Best knockout of Pettis’s career and I’d go as far to say that aesthetically speaking, this was probably one of the top 5 knockouts in UFC history too. The only other superman punch KO I can remember was Travis Browne on Stefan Struve and I’d say this one was better. Just unbelievable stuff, particularly as Thompson was clearly winning the fight prior to that shot. Post-fight there’s a TON of respect from Wonderboy to Pettis too, what a great guy.

Post-fight Pettis calls out Rafael Dos Anjos or the winner of Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethje; he’d actually get something even bigger than either but that’s another show! Hell of a way to end the night, at any rate. Insane stuff.

Final Thoughts….

Outside of the Makdessi/Pinedo stinker this was a hell of a show, with an all-time great KO in the main event and then another four excellent fights with Barber/Aldrich in particular being great fun to watch. It’s an easy thumbs up, just skip over that Makdessi fight.

Best Fight: Thompson vs. Pettis
Worst Fight: Makdessi vs. Pinedo

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com