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MMA Review: #691: UFC on ESPN: Dos Anjos vs. Edwards

-Okay, so I figured with the WHOLE WORLD on lockdown right now and no UFC shows for the time being I may as well try to blast through some of these and try to catch up, because shit, who knows how long this Coronavirus is going to last? Plus I’ve actually had some messages about keeping the reviews going, so what the hell.

On a side note I almost zoned out of UFC last year somewhat so I can’t remember much at all about most of these shows and definitely haven’t seen most of them properly, so this should actually be fun.

UFC on ESPN: Dos Anjos vs. Edwards

San Antonio, Texas

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Dominick Cruz.

Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Ben Rothwell

This one was of course a rematch from their original fight in Affliction (!) in 2008 that saw Arlovski knock Rothwell out in a pretty epic brawl. Neither man should probably have been fighting in 2019, but hey.

Fight begins and Rothwell appears to be in horrible shape. Good body kick from Andrei lands early on and he follows with a pretty quick combo. Rothwell is lumbering forward a ton but he looks substantially slower. Beautiful combo has Rothwell backing up. More shots land for Andrei and he’s piecing Rothwell up here. Left hand wobbles Rothwell for a second and he looks a bit bewildered too. Big overhand right lands for Rothwell but Arlovski eats it right up and fires back with a combo. Rothwell’s face is pretty marked up as he keeps on eating punches. To be fair Andrei looks marked up too. Spinning backfist lands for Arlovski. Rothwell’s nose is pouring with blood. Round ends with more combos from Andrei. That was probably the best round from Arlovski since what, 2014? 10-9 Andrei easily.

Second round and it’s more of the same to begin with Arlovski piecing Rothwell up with combos while adding the odd low kick for good measure. Rothwell keeps on swinging back but he’s just far too slow to actually catch Andrei cleanly. Hook kick (!) even glances for Arlovski. Pair of clean right hands hurt Rothwell but he comes back with a right of his own that forces Arlovski to clinch up. Action slows down as Rothwell smothers him into the fence, but Arlovski eventually breaks off and goes right back to landing combinations. Spinning back kick lands to the body for Arlovski. Rothwell is insanely durable though as he just keeps lumbering forward. Round ends with more good work from Andrei. 10-9 Arlovski and Rothwell needs a finish.

Third round and Arlovski continues to chew Rothwell up from the outside with his combinations. No idea how Rothwell can take so many clean shots to be honest and Arlovski hits HARD too. Big left hand stops Rothwell in his tracks for a second but he’s somehow okay. Clinch follows and the crowd pretty unfairly begin to boo. Arlovski’s starting to look tired. Takedown from Rothwell but Andrei pops right back up. Clinch is broken by Andrei and he lands some more shots, but he’s definitely gassed. Huge right hand connects for Arlovski but Rothwell takes it and now he pours it on with combos and suddenly Andrei looks hurt. Wild exchange sees both men land but they’re both on wobbly legs due to exhaustion now. Rothwell’s face is a MESS. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Arlovski, 30-27 Arlovski.

All 3 judges have it 30-27 for Andrei Arlovski, pretty clear-cut in the end. Probably the best Arlovski performance since he knocked out Travis Browne way back in 2015 and to be fair Rothwell fought hard too, he was just too slow to catch Andrei and couldn’t change his gameplan up at all. Fantastic stuff overall where I was expecting nothing.

Lightweight Fight: Alexander Hernandez vs Francisco Trinaldo

Native Texan Hernandez had last been seen losing to Donald Cerrone in what was clearly a step too far up the ladder for him, while Trinaldo had stopped Evan Dunham back in October 2018.

Crowd are way into hometown boy Hernandez for this one while poor Massaranduba gets booed. Round One begins and Trinaldo opens with a nice left hook as both guys circle around and throw loads of feints. Right hand glances for Hernandez but he eats a knee to the body on his way in. Not a lot of action going on here to be fair as Hernandez keeps on circling. More of the same follows with Trinaldo countering from the center as Hernandez looks to rush in. Round ends with a knee from Massaranduba. 10-9 Trinaldo I guess? He seemed to land the better shots despite a ton of movement from Hernandez.

Round Two and Hernandez glances on a couple of early strikes as does Trinaldo. Decent left hand lands for Trinaldo and has Hernandez backing up a bit. More of the same follows before Hernandez goes for a takedown, but some brute strength from Trinaldo blocks it. We’ve got basically nothing going on here. Hernandez looks cut up around his left eye though. Crowd start to boo with 1:30 to go and it’s kind of understandable. Hernandez is almost entirely going backwards. Jumping knee to the body connects for Massaranduba. Left hand counter lands for Trinaldo to answer a right. Body kick ends the round for Hernandez. Close round to call as not a lot happened, maybe 10-10.

Round Three and Hernandez catches Trinaldo with a decent counter as he comes in. Head kick glances but Trinaldo is fine. Big rush from Hernandez sets up a takedown attempt but Trinaldo works to stuff it and they exchange some knees to the gut before breaking. Head kick from Trinaldo sees him slip down, but Hernandez can’t take advantage. More circling and feinting follows with neither man really landing anything of note. Lot of advancing from Massaranduba in the late part of the round but he’s not doing a lot of damage really. Decent knee connects for Trinaldo and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Trinaldo for me and call it 30-28, but who knows on this one.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-29 for ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ. Well shit, that’s a bogus decision if I ever saw one. I mean yeah, it was a close fight but Hernandez spent the majority of it backing up and circling and definitely didn’t outland Massaranduba. Overall it was one to forget anyway, just a bad clash of styles, but yeah, Massaranduba got robbed here.

Lightweight Fight: Dan Hooker vs James Vick

This was Hooker’s return after taking an absolutely criminal beatdown in December 2018 from Edson Barboza, while Vick had lost his last two and had his back to the wall somewhat.

Crowd are way into this one. Fight begins and Hooker pushes forward and tries a couple of low kicks to back Vick up. They trade some low kicks and Hooker definitely looks the more confident of the two. He lands some punches and boy Vick’s defence is not good, just leaning back to try to avoid them. Not smart with a tall dude like Hooker. Left hand lands for Hooker and sends Vick backwards. Vick comes back with a strong right, but Hooker’s landing plenty of low kicks here. Left hand connects again for Hooker. Exchange sees another left hand land cleanly for Hooker and this time Vick goes DOWN AND OUT.

Pretty easy work for Hooker in the end; Vick just kept making the same mistake of trying to lean out of the way of strikes, and against a dude almost as tall as him like Hooker that was never going to work. Especially not with his historically weak chin. Nice win for Hooker to bounce back from that Barboza loss though with a highlight reel KO.

Heavyweight Fight: Greg Hardy vs Juan Adams

Bit of a grudge match here as Adams had been calling out Hardy for a while, hardly surprising as Hardy’s got the big name and reputation without most of the skill right now. He’d beaten Dmitry Smoliakov in his last fight while Adams had lost to wrestler Arjan Bhullar in a bit of a crap fight.

Fight begins and Adams is pretty much just as big as Hardy. Big jab lands for Hardy but a reply from Adams sends him backwards. Brief trade sees both guys throwing BIG shots before Adams shoots in for a takedown. Hardy blocks it well and ends up on top, punching at the side of the head as Adams keeps on going for the single leg, but ref Dan Miragliotta decides to step in and call it as Hardy keeps on landing shots.

Not sure about that stoppage; Adams definitely wasn’t out cold and did appear to be going for the takedown when Miragliotta stepped in, but I guess he also wasn’t defending either. I dunno, it just didn’t come across like a proper win for Hardy at all.

Heavyweight Fight: Walt Harris vs Aleksei Oleinik

Pretty big fight at Heavyweight right here; Oleinik had lost to Alistair Overeem in his last fight but obviously there’s no shame in that, while Harris had looked really good in taking out Sergey Spivak in super quick fashion.

Round One begins and a flying knee lands for Harris, who follows with a BIG LEFT HAND and Oleinik goes down and out! Holy shit. Did not expect that to go so quick and easily for Harris, that’s for sure. Not sure you can call him a prospect at the age of 36 but I mean, he’s definitely worth a run at the elite level now after that, that’s for sure.

Welterweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Leon Edwards

This basically felt like the big test for Edwards in terms of whether he could break into the elite at 170lbs, as he was on a big win streak of 7 in a row, while RDA had bounced back from a bit of a bad streak to choke out Kevin Lee just a month or so before this event.

EPIC entrance from RDA for this one as he comes out to Fight To Survive by Stan Bush from the Bloodsport soundtrack.

Round One begins and Edwards looks like he’s got quite the size advantage. Couple of heavy punches glance for him before he clinches and gets a scarily easy takedown to guard. Into half-guard for Edwards and he’s doing a great job of keeping RDA pinned down here even if the action is slow. Big elbow glances for the Brit. RDA grabs hold of his left leg to attempt a sweep, but Edwards is too good for that and he blocks it well. He manages to work into back control, but RDA stands back up in the process. Head kick breaks for Edwards and RDA is bleeding from his ear. Clinch from RDA but Edwards breaks. Brief exchange sees Edwards land some solid punches. Leg kick answers for RDA but Edwards clinches and then breaks with an elbow as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Edwards.

Round Two and they trade off briefly with Dos Anjos landing a pretty sweet left hand. RDA’s porno tache here is criminal. Decent combo from him though and he goes back to the leg kick again. Single leg attempt answers for Edwards and he drives RDA into the fence. RDA breaks off with an elbow but gets stunned by a quick left elbow as he steps in. Head kick follows for Leon but doesn’t land flush. Takedown attempt from RDA now but Edwards escapes. Another big left elbow lands for Edwards. RDA is badly cut open over his right eye from the elbow. Leg kick actually drops Edwards though and RDA drops on top in half-guard. Few shots to the body land for RDA but Edwards scrambles to his feet. Big combo lands for Edwards. RDA’s face is covered in blood now. He comes back with a big right hand but Edwards is definitely popping him with more punches. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Edwards by a hair.

Round Three and RDA’s eye is looking awful, wow. Ref actually calls in the doctor to assess it before the round starts but he’s apparently okay to go. They trade some jabs to begin the round and Edwards takes a leg kick okay this time too. Takedown attempt from RDA but Edwards defends it well. Knee breaks for the Brit. Nice combo has RDA bleeding from the eye again. Left elbow connects again. Edwards is looking awesome here. Clinch sees Edwards rock RDA with another left elbow. RDA’s chin is great though. Big left hand connects for Leon. Double leg from RDA but again he can’t get Edwards off his feet. Fantastic wrestling skills for a Brit. They remain clinched and it’s Edwards who has RDA pinned into the fence now with a minute to go. Ref calls a break and warns Edwards for apparently holding the fence, and they trade off with Leon landing a big uppercut but eating a hard right on the counter. Takedown attempt from RDA is blocked again and Edwards lands the elbow to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.

Round Four and both guys land some pretty heavy shots in an early exchange. Big body kick lands for RDA. Edwards fires right back with another heavy left hand. Exchange continues with some more good work from both men, including a hard body shot from RDA. Edwards keeps on firing his jab though and landing. Beautiful combination lands for Dos Anjos. This might be his best round thus far. Flying knee from Dos Anjos but it doesn’t land cleanly and Edwards dumps him on his back for his troubles. Edwards takes the back briefly and then settles down into half-guard, but a scramble puts RDA back up. Good stuff. Round ends with a flurry from the clinch from Edwards. 10-9 RDA, Edwards had more volume but RDA landed the better shots in my opinion.

Round Five and RDA probably needs a finish to win this one. Good low kick opens things for Edwards. RDA really presses forward and gets to the clinch, but Edwards overpowers him and pins him into the fence instead. They break off and RDA lands with a heavy low kick but takes a combo in response. RDA keeps on walking Edwards down but he’s not landing as many good shots in this round and the Brit drives him into the fence with another clinch. Nice takedown follows and Edwards gets the back. RDA pops back up though and breaks free with 2 minutes to go. Big body kick from RDA. He’s putting a ton of pressure on Leon here but isn’t being too successful. Takedown is shrugged off by Edwards. Both guys land some solid punches and RDA is looking a bit desperate here. Kick from RDA is caught and Edwards drives him into the fence again. He gets RDA down again and keeps on him when he pops up, landing another sharp elbow on the break. Flying knee glances from RDA but Edwards dumps him to the ground to end the fight. 10-9 Edwards, 49-46 overall.

Judges have it 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 all for Leon Edwards. Really good showing from him as he basically beat RDA in all facets of the game, massively surprising considering he’s a Brit and usually Brits aren’t known for their wrestling and yet he had no issues there either. Wasn’t the most exciting fight in terms of wildness but as a technical deal it was phenomenal as you could tell both guys were at a super-high level and just fought really well.

Post-fight Edwards calls out Jorge Masvidal but obviously that hasn’t been signed yet, and it looks like Tyron Woodley will hopefully be next for him. That should be a hell of a deal – assuming it goes ahead at some point post-Coronavirus. Maybe on FIGHT ISLAND?

-Show ends just after Edwards’ interview.

Final Thoughts….

Dull fight between Hernandez and Massaranduba aside this was an AWESOME SHOW, with a couple of brutal finishes in the middle and two great fights in Arlovski/Rothwell and Edwards/RDA bookending things. Didn’t like the Hardy fight but blah, what’s new there? Thumbs way up and definitely worth checking out on Fight Pass.

Best Fight: Arlovski vs. Rothwell
Worst Fight: Trinaldo vs. Hernandez

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: