MMA Review: #685: UFC Fight Night 153

-This one was supposed to have almost a Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix of sorts at the top of the card, with three intriguing fights at 205lbs, but of course the injury bug struck and we lost Volkan Oezdemir vs. Ilir Latifi. Still, this looked like solid stuff for a Euro card with a great main event.

UFC Fight Night 153

Stockholm, Sweden

-Your hosts are John Gooden, Paul Felder and Dan Hardy.

Featherweight Fight: Daniel Teymur vs Sung Bin Jo

Bit of a throwaway opener here with the lesser of the Teymur brothers taking on a newcomer in unbeaten Korean Jo, but I guess it was an understandable main card choice given Teymur’s popularity in his home country. I was taking Teymur despite him looking less than convincing in his three previous UFC outings – all losses.

Fight begins and Teymur pushes forward and lands some low kicks before stunning Jo with a short left hand. Big flurry follows up and has the crowd buzzing, but he doesn’t quite catch Jo cleanly and the Korean survives. Takedown attempt follows but he can’t get Jo down, so he separates and lands a right hook instead. Teymur is swinging for the fences here. Wild scramble sees Teymur eat a knee, but he survives and then tackles Jo to the ground. Crowd are massively into Teymur as he drops some punches and elbows over the top, but Jo almost gets an armbar from the bottom. Good job from Teymur defensively allows him to avoid, and he retains top position. More shots from the top force Jo to give his back, but he somehow reverses and pops up into the clinch, exiting with a knee. Wild trade sees Teymur swing some ridiculous hooks into the clinch, and then he rocks Jo with a combo on the break. Round ends there. 10-9 Teymur for sure.

Into the 2nd and Jo circles on the outside, largely avoiding Teymur’s early strikes. Left hook lands for Teymur to counter a low kick. Jo is doing a good defensive job here but Teymur isn’t swinging as much, could be that he’s tired. This is a low output round thus far. Decent knee lands for Jo. More circling follows and they’re not doing much at all now outside of the odd glancing strike. This round sucks. Round ends up petering out on the feet. Probably a 10-10 round as so little happened.

Third and final round and Teymur comes out looking to walk Jo down, but the Korean keeps on circling out of range. Jo just looks completely timid now. Crowd begin to boo about 1:30 in as nothing’s happening. Takedown is stuffed by Teymur and they exchange a bit from the clinch before Jo stuffs a takedown in return. And from there it’s back to circling with a bunch of missed strikes. Another takedown attempt from Jo is blocked and Teymur slams him down onto his back in a nice move. Jo looks to scramble for a submission and he tries a kneebar, but Teymur avoids it and then drops for a leglock that doesn’t quite work. Back to the feet and Teymur CRACKS Jo with a huge right hand and then looks for another takedown, but the Korean defends. Seconds to go and both men miss with haymakers. Round ends with a few more missed punches. 10-9 Teymur for a 30-28 win.

Judges call it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Daniel Teymur. Weird fight as the first round was fantastic, the second round stunk and the third was somewhere in between. Post-fight Teymur gets super emotional about his first UFC win which makes it all worth it, though. Love to see stuff like that.

Lightweight Fight: Christos Giagos vs Damir Hadzovic

Giagos had returned to the UFC in 2018 with a loss to Charles Oliveira, but he’d followed that with his first UFC win over Mizuto Hirota, while Hadzovic was on a two-fight win streak and had last knocked out Polo Reyes in February. I was taking Hadzovic as Giagos had never impressed me during his first UFC run in 2014.

Round One begins and they trade some kicks with Giagos landing a really nice one to the body. Takedown attempt from Giagos is blocked but Hadzovic can’t capitalise. Giagos looks pretty comfortable on his feet here although his punches aren’t really landing cleanly. Another body kick lands for Giagos and then he transitions right into a double leg and dumps Hadzovic to the ground in side mount. Choke attempt from Giagos is blocked and Hadzovic reverses to his feet, only for Giagos to take him right back down, landing in guard this time. Action slows down from there as Giagos works with some short strikes, but Hadzovic escapes again with seconds to go. They trade some shots standing and that’s the round. 10-9 Giagos.

Round Two begins with Giagos stunning Hadzovic with a heavy uppercut. Big combination follows but Hadzovic somehow eats it up and fires back, stunning Giagos with a counter of his own. Giagos cracks him with another combo though and he’s looking excellent. Slick takedown follows and Hadzovic is in guard again. Giagos spins to attempt to take the back, but Hadzovic reverses to his feet. Combo lands for Giagos though and now Hadzovic is bleeding from the nose. Takedown from Giagos works again and this time he advances to mount and then takes the back with one hook. Hadzovic is looking tired. Both hooks in now but Hadzovic manages to force his way to his feet. Giagos breaks off and lands a couple more combinations, but somehow Hadzovic’s chin takes them all. Both guys look a little tired now. Giagos continues to be the one landing the better strikes, though. Round ends with a surprising takedown from Hadzovic. 10-9 Giagos.

Round Three and they exchange some early strikes before Giagos gets a takedown to guard. Hadzovic again escapes to his feet, but he needs to do more here and he just isn’t being aggressive enough. Deep single leg from Giagos puts him down yet again, and this time he takes the back as they stand. Giagos tries to get him down again, but this time Hadzovic blocks it. Another takedown is stuffed and Giagos winds up on his back in guard, where Hadzovic lands some elbows. Action slows down but Hadzovic looks pretty comfortable on top. Round ends there, and I’d go 10-9 Hadzovic, but 29-28 for Giagos overall.

Judges have it 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28 for Christos Giagos. Not sure he warranted a 10-8 there – probably the second round I’d guess – but it was definitely a clear-cut win for Giagos who basically outfought Hadzovic in all areas. Fun fight too and I look forward to seeing Giagos in there again, dude has obviously improved since his initial UFC run.

Featherweight Fight: Makwan Amirkhani vs Chris Fishgold

This was Scouser Fishgold’s third UFC fight after choking out Daniel Teymur in February, but he was handed a really tough opponent in Amirkhani, who was on a two-fight win streak and was 5-1 in the UFC overall. I figured Amirkhani would have too much for Fishgold and took him to win by decision.

Round One begins and Amirkhani is super over with this crowd. Scandinavians stick together I guess! Flying knee glances for Amirkhani from the off but Fishgold fires right back and they exchange some strikes. Eye poke from Amirkhani forces ref Marc Goddard to call time, but the doctor gives Fishgold the okay and they restart. Big exchange sees Fishgold land some nasty leg kicks to the Finnish fighter. Midway through the round and neither man is quite getting into range. Nicely timed takedown from Amirkhani as Fishgold steps in, and he lands inside the guard. Hammer fists from Amirkhani but Fishgold goes for a reverse triangle, and it looks tight for a second. Amirkhani avoids and ends up stuck in a potential guillotine, but he gets out of that too and remains on top. Round ends with Amirkhani landing some short strikes before going for a D’Arce. 10-9 Amirkhani.

Round Two and Fishgold opens with a nice leg kick again. They exchange some more strikes and largely come up short, before Fishgold lands a hard right to the body. He’s really winding up on his punches. Fishgold continues to push the pace with his strikes, but a sickening low blow lands for Amirkhani and stops him in his tracks. Ref calls time again but Fishgold recovers surprisingly quickly. They restart and Fishgold continues to press forward, but he’s not landing cleanly really. Takedown attempt from Amirkhani but Fishgold stuffs it and drops for a guillotine. Amirkhani manages to avoid and gets on top though, avoiding a D’Arce in the process. Half-guard for Fishgold but as he looks to reverse Amirkhani slaps on a TIGHT ANACONDA CHOKE and turns the clock until Fishgold has to tap out.

Beautiful submission from Makwan Amirkhani; he was on the defensive for most of that fight but when it came down to it he was able to latch onto that anaconda choke and would not let go. Just fantastic grappling from him to finish what was a pretty low-output fight really.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jimi Manuwa vs Aleksandar Rakic

This was a pretty big fight at 205lbs as despite being on a three-fight losing streak, Manuwa was still seen as a viable contender in the division, while Austria’s Rakic was a strong prospect, 3-0 in the UFC with a big KO of Devin Clark in his last fight. Despite Rakic being a bit unproven I was taking him to win due to worries over Manuwa’s chin.

Fight begins and they circle before Manuwa lands a low kick. Big left misses for Manuwa and Rakic comes up short on a couple of strikes of his own before landing a HUGE LEFT HEAD KICK THAT KILLS MANUWA DEAD!

Holy fucking shit. That was one of the best KO’s of 2019, period. Looked like Mirko Cro Cop in his prime and sounded like a gun going off. Manuwa was literally unconscious as soon as that kick landed and no follow-up was needed. Massive win for Rakic and I can’t wait to see him fight again. Dude could definitely be a title contender in 2020. If he beats Volkan Oezdemir next month you could maybe even argue he is the top contender.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Gustafsson vs Anthony Smith

This was a pretty big fight at Light-Heavyweight for sure – the last two guys to face off with Jon Jones clashing in Gustafsson’s hometown. Despite Smith arguably doing better against Jones than Gustafsson – he lasted the distance – I was taking the Swede to win, feeling he was better in all areas and would have a psychological advantage at home.

Round One begins and both guys look INTENSE, especially Smith. Crowd are deafening. Lot of circling from Gustafsson opens things before Smith glances on an overhand right. Smith continues to look to corral the Swede as he circles around, but he’s not quite getting into range yet. Brief exchange sees neither man land cleanly. Big overhand left glances for Smith. Gustafsson needs to throw more here; all he’s doing is circling. This is a surprisingly low output round for both men actually. Gustafsson is bleeding from the left shin due to checking a low kick. Couple of jabs get through for Gustafsson and he dodges a big counter. Low kicks connect for both men before Gustafsson stuns Smith with a left hand right before the round ends. 10-9 Smith literally for being the guy to push the pace.

Round Two and Gustafsson flicks out some front kicks and avoids a big right hand. Another big shot misses for Smith as Gustafsson somehow slips out of range. Good leg kick lands for Smith. Gustafsson is still dodging his big punches though. Decent right hand does land for Smith but Gustafsson’s coming forward a lot more in this round with his low kicks. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by the Swede. Uppercut leads into a brief flurry for Smith but Gustafsson gets on his bike quickly and jogs out of range. Nice left hook follows for Lionheart but Gustafsson takes it well. Right connects too but again Gus’s chin holds up. Good left to the body from Smith. Uppercut into a head kick answers for Gustafsson. Round ends shortly after. Super-close round to score but I’d say Smith landed the slightly better shots, so 10-9 for him.

Round Three and Gustafsson opens by pawing at Smith with his jab. Big exchange sees both men land heavy shots and Smith seems happy with that, but Gustafsson backs out and then lands a low kick. Both men exchange low kicks before Gustafsson lands a clean right hand. Smith fires right back with some power punches with Gustafsson against the fence. Both men’s chins look good here. Front kick to the body lands for Smith and he follows with another body kick. Low kicks answer back for Gustafsson and then he lands a beautifully timed right hand off a left to the body. Smith appears to be breathing heavily. Big left jab connects for Gus. One-two lands cleanly as well. He’s definitely found his range more in this round. Big body kick hurts Smith and Gustafsson tackles him to the ground, right into side mount. Big crowd pop for that one. He can’t get much done from the top though and the round ends with Smith scrambling back to guard. 10-9 Gustafsson.

Round Four and Gustafsson definitely appears to be the fresher man. He doesn’t even seem to be breathing heavily at all. Counter right hand glances for Smith as Gus tries the body kick again. Body kick lands for Smith to answer a jab. Smith’s really looking to corral him against the fence here but Gustafsson keeps peppering him with punches. Takedown attempt from Gustafsson is blocked and Smith turns the tables and gets him down, and then takes the back with both hooks. That was an impressive move. Big punch lands for Smith from behind and Gustafsson stands but can’t shake him off. Good job from Smith to flatten him out, and now the Swede is in trouble. Big elbows land for Smith and this could be stopped. Gustafsson manages to keep moving, but Smith sneaks his arm under the chin and LOCKS IN THE CHOKE, and Gus has to tap out there! WOW.

Post-fight the whole arena goes SILENT like we’re in Brazil rather than Sweden. Massive shocker there as it felt like Gustafsson was just beginning to take over the fight after a slow start, but once Smith got him on the ground it looked like he had absolutely no answer to the questions Smith was asking of him. Biggest win of Smith’s career by far in my opinion and I’d say I’ve got to stop underestimating the guy! Good main event overall, too.

Big surprise then follows as Gustafsson LEAVES HIS GLOVES IN THE OCTAGON and apparently retires, but just six months down the line there’s already word of a potential comeback for him. Hardly surprising given he doesn’t look shot or anything – I guess it was just a bad reaction to what was a disappointing loss for him. I still think he’s got something to offer to the 205lbs division so hopefully he’s back soon.

-Show ends there with a bit of a sombre mood following Gustafsson’s announcement.

Final Thoughts….

Pretty good show in the end for a bit of a throwaway one, with a strong main event and one of the best KO’s of the year from Aleksandar Rakic to back it up. Amirkhani vs. Fishgold was a lot of fun too even if the first two fights were somewhat skippable, so it’s a thumbs up from me.

Best Fight: Gustafsson vs. Smith
Worst Fight: Teymur vs. Jo

Overall Rating: **3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: