MMA Review: #704: UFC Fight Night 162

-Classic one-fight show here, but then what do you expect when the UFC goes into Asia for a Fight Night? At least the main event of Ben Askren vs. Demian Maia sounded pretty cool.

UFC Fight Night 162

Kallang, Singapore

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

Welterweight Fight: Muslim Salikhov vs Laureano Staropoli

Argentina’s Staropoli was coming off a win over veteran Thiago Alves, while Dagestani Salikhov – he of the flashy kicks – was coming off two straight KO wins, making him a man to watch in my book.

Round One begins and they circle tentatively before Staropoli glances on a spinning backfist. Low kick lands for Salikhov. Wild spin kick just about misses for the King of Kung Fu. This crowd are unbelievably quiet. Good body kick lands for Salikhov. Quick exchange sees both men land punches. Head kick glances for the Dagestani. Combo follows and then he glances with a spin kick to the body. Overhand right connects for Staropoli. 1:30 to go and Salikhov lands with a counter right. Couple of big swings miss for Staropoli and Salikhov then misses with a spin kick. These guys are just out of range right now. Round ends with another spin kick from Salikhov not landing cleanly. 10-10 for me as it was an even round.

Round Two and Staropoli opens with a blocked head kick. Wild spin kick lands for Salikhov but Staropoli’s hand just about blocks it. Big head kick is partially blocked by Salikhov but a leg kick lands cleanly for Staropoli. Body kick is caught by Salikhov and he throws the Argentine down, but he pops right back up. Nice body kick from Salikhov. Combo answers for Staropoli. Low kick is countered by a right from Salikhov and Staropoli goes down for a second before springing back up. Nice combo connects for the Dagestani and he follows with a body kick and a spinning back kick that both land. Big combo has Staropoli hurt and he’s all over the place. Salikhov looks to finish him off with a combo and the ref could stop this, but the Argentine just about survives. Salikhov decides to back up a bit to conserve energy, but then he lands with a sharp right hand. Round ends with a couple of missed shots from Staropoli. 10-9 Salikhov for sure. Could even argue 10-8 maybe.

Round Three and they trade from the off with Staropoli swinging for the fences. Clinch from Salikhov and he goes for a takedown, but the Argentine blocks. They circle around and Staropoli shoots, but the Dagestani sprawls to avoid. Beautifully timed right hand lands for Salikhov, but a big spin kick just misses. Solid overhand right lands for Staropoli. Salikhov’s chin is really good. Big swing misses for the Argentine and Salikhov gets a rear waistlock and drags him down. Staropoli pops up though and they separate. Left hook lands to the body for Staropoli. Spin kick to the body answers for Salikhov. Exchange continues and this is a pretty even fight to be fair. Low kick drops Staropoli for a second and Salikhov adds the spin kick again. Big left hand lands for Staropoli. One minute to go and they keep on trading, with Staropoli glancing on a big head kick. Round ends with another trade. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Salikhov, so 30-28 for him overall.

Official scores are 30-26, 30-26 and 29-28 for Muslim Salikhov. Really fun striking match even if a lot of the flashier stuff both men threw didn’t land. A finish would’ve made this one even better but for the most part it must’ve lived up to what the UFC were hoping.

Heavyweight Fight: Ciryl Gane vs Don’Tale Mayes

Giant Frenchman Gane – who’d garnered some comparisons to Francis Ngannou – had shocked everyone by submitting his opponent in his UFC debut rather than KOing him. This was his second Octagon outing, facing another big guy in the form of debutant Mayes.

First round and holy shit Gane is a specimen. Both men throw out some feeler strikes with Mayes trying a bunch of kicks that don’t land cleanly. Big left hook connects for Gane but Mayes shrugs a clinch off. Head kick glances for Gane and he dodges a big flurry. Pair of right hands to the body land for Gane. Both men glance on some more strikes, and Gane connects with a solid overhand right. Body kick into a flurry from Gane and Mayes might be in trouble. He manages to survive, but he was definitely hurt there. NASTY body kick lands for the Frenchman. Front kick to the jaw follows but Mayes takes it and fires back. Another body kick lands for Gane. Mayes is unbelievably tough to take these shots. Combo wobbles Mayes again but he’s still standing. He’s being destroyed on the feet though. Another incredible combo rocks Mayes and he has to cover up to avoid being stopped. His right eye looks bad. Flying knee hurts him and he goes down off a follow-up flurry, but the buzzer saves him. 10-8 round for Gane, and I’ve got no idea how Mayes survived.

Second round and the crowd are now hugely into Gane. He looks unbelievably calm here and works a couple of shots to the body while backing Mayes up. Blatant low blow lands for Gane and Herb Dean has to call time to let Mayes recover. They restart and Mayes actually lands a hard body kick, but Gane keeps on picking at him and puts him down with a front kick to the body for a second. Big body kick from Gane and he avoids a spinning backfist. His striking is remarkably clean for a big dude. He’s easily avoiding Mayes’ attacks too. Brutal left hook lands for the Frenchman. He reminds me of prime Brandon Vera actually, but if Vera had been more aggressive and was on a ton of steroids. Not that Gane’s on steroids of course. Beautifully timed takedown from Gane now and he lands in the guard. He passes into north/south before Mayes rolls over, but Gane grabs a front headlock and spins to take the back. Mayes manages to stand, but Gane hits him with a knee and gets another takedown as the round ends. 10-9 Gane.

Third round and Mayes opens with a low kick, but gets pegged back quickly by a high kick. Gane’s head movement to avoid any punches is fantastic. Body kick lands for the Frenchman. Front kick to the body has Mayes hurt again and he has to back up. Nice left from Gane and he shrugs off a clinch. He’s just potshotting Mayes now and largely avoiding any offense on the way back. Big uppercut lands for him on the counter. Another body kick connects and how Mayes is taking these I don’t know. Big combo forces Mayes back again. Pair of knees to the body almost have him down, but again he survives. Gane is just using him for target practice now. Brutal body kick doubles Mayes over and a left hand and another knee have him wobbled. He basically goes completely defensive, taking big shots to the body against the fence, and then Gane drags him to the ground. Mayes keeps a high guard and it looks like he’ll survive with less than 30 seconds to go….but instead the Frenchman surprises him with a heel hook and gets the tapout!

Well, that was an incredible showing by Ciryl Gane. How Mayes took so much punishment I’ll never know, but shit, he ate some of the nastiest strikes I’ve ever seen in the UFC here, particularly in the first round. And then for Gane to tap him with a HEEL HOOK of all things is unbelievable. I actually think based on this that he’s a better prospect than Ngannou was when he first debuted in the UFC. He’ll be a title contender within a year or two for sure, especially in this division.

Lightweight Fight: Beneil Dariush vs Frank Camacho

Dariush was coming off two wins prior to this one and I expected the UFC to match him higher, but instead he was handed Camacho – a wild and exciting brawler – instead. Despite Camacho coming off a win of his own I couldn’t see him handling Dariush’s ground game in this one.

Round One begins and they circle before Dariush lands a lunging knee to the body and a low kick. His striking looks good early on here. Clean combo lands for Dariush and he follows with another body kick. Single leg from Dariush and he gets Camacho down. Camacho pops up, but gives his back in the process and Dariush suplexes him down and slaps both hooks in. Rear naked choke follows and Camacho has to tap out soon after.

Quick and easy win for Beneil Dariush as Camacho just offered nothing to him. Dariush basically pieced him up standing, took him down and tapped him out, no more to be said really. This was a mismatch more than anything.

Lightweight Fight: Stevie Ray vs Michael Johnson

This was an odd-sounding co-main event as both men were coming off pretty bad losses, but I guess the UFC were running thin on strong fights given the amount of cards around this period. I was picking Johnson to win due to his superior speed, but it was a close one to call.

Fight begins and they trade some early strikes before Johnson avoids a takedown attempt. Quick left hand lands for Ray and then he opens up with some more solid punches. He’s landing the better shots thus far in this round. Beautiful counter combo lands for the Scotsman. Quick flurry glances for Johnson. Looks like he’s beginning to find his range now and he lands a couple more combos. Round ends with more exchanges standing. Very tight round to score, probably 10-9 Johnson, but it was definitely close.

2nd round and Johnson starts quickly with a combination. Nice counter left lands for Johnson. He’s really beginning to outland Ray with his speed. Solid counter left does land for the Scotsman though. Pair of really hard leg kicks land for Ray but Johnson tags him with a left in response. Big exchanges continue with both men landing some good shots. This is another tricky round to score. Beautiful counter left snaps Ray’s head back in an exchange but the Scotsman wades through them and keeps firing back. His nose is bleeding badly now though. Johnson’s landing some excellent combos now. Exchange continues until the round ends. 10-9 Johnson as he clearly did more damage. Ray’s face is a mess.

3rd round and again Johnson comes out firing with combinations, tagging Ray with the left hand. He just looks too quick for the Scotsman. Brutal counter left snaps Ray’s head right back. Takedown attempt is easily dodged by Johnson. Pair of strong leg kicks land for Ray, but he eats a nasty combo in response. Beautifully timed takedown from Ray puts Johnson down, and suddenly the Scotsman lands some thudding punches from the top as Johnson gives his back. Ray hooks Johnson’s right leg up to control him and begins to land some bombs, then slaps on a body triangle and hunts for the choke! Johnson avoids the submission, but he’s still in trouble. One minute to go and Ray flattens him out and starts to HAMMER on him, and in all honesty this fight could be stopped as Johnson’s taking a TON of punishment. Holy shit. More hammer fists connect for Ray and Johnson can’t get him off. Brutal elbows land for Ray but Johnson manages to survive until the final buzzer. 10-8 round for Ray and I’d go with a draw here.

Official scores are 29-28, 29-28 and 28-28 for a majority decision for Stevie Ray. Johnson looks FURIOUS at the result but I dunno, at the worst Ray deserved a draw there for that final round and under the old PRIDE scoring Ray definitely wins for sure. Johnson probably edged the first, definitely took the second, but got smashed in the third so I have no problem with the decision. Fight was tremendous though, full of action, even if you’ve got to feel bad for Johnson who managed to snatch another defeat from the jaws of victory. Always seems to happen to that guy.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Ben Askren

Well, after Askren had been knocked out badly by Jorge Masvidal, his title hopes had gone up in smoke, and so I was fascinated to see how the UFC would match him next. Thankfully they threw him in with Maia, not only giving us a grappling dream match but also handing Funky Ben a chance to get right back into contention.

Round One gets underway and Maia lands a couple of left hands in the early going. Askren’s striking still looks really ropey. He reaches for a takedown and gets tagged by a couple more punches, and a spinning backfist misses for him. They clinch up and trade knees, and Maia separates to land the left again. They exchange uppercuts in another clinch and then break again, and Askren keeps reaching forward and getting tagged. Decent uppercut lands for Askren though and he grabs a front headlock, but Maia quickly breaks. Weird fight thus far. Askren reaches his way into another clinch but Maia’s still having none of it. Nice combination lands for Maia. If he had KO power Askren would be done already. Askren keeps landing short uppercuts from the clinch, but it’s his reaching to get there that’s worrying. Big body kick lands for Maia. Askren again reaches for the clinch, and evidently he’s done some damage with those uppercuts as Maia’s nose looks red. Single leg attempt from Askren and he eventually gets Maia down, but the Brazilian looks for a sweep. Askren avoids that and also dodges an armlock, but Maia rolls for a leglock. Askren avoids that and drops some punches, and then they go into a weird position with Askren punching the body from above as Maia almost crawls under him. 10-9 Maia for the better striking.

Round Two and Askren peppers Maia with some punches, Jake Shields style, but can’t reach the clinch. He lands a body kick shortly after though. His right eye looks pretty rough. They clinch up but Maia quickly breaks, but it looks like the Brazilian’s started to slow down now. Big uppercut from Askren connects and Maia’s cut on the cheek. He’s really pressuring Maia in this round. Askren continues to pepper Maia with light punches rather than just reaching for the clinch, but Maia tags him in return with a left hook. Good uppercut connects for Askren. Beautiful multi-punch combo forces Maia on the run and if Askren had KO power then *he’d* have been put out there. This is actually a really great fight. Another combination connects nicely for Funky Ben. Both men continue to land punches before Askren hits a nice takedown to guard. Triangle attempt from Maia is close and then he switches to an oma plata, and Askren has to roll and ends up in guard. Beautiful from Maia. Maia moves into full mount and then takes the back, but Askren hits a SICK REVERSAL and winds up on top, scrambling free from a kimura in the process. Round ends with them knotted up like a pretzel. 10-9 Askren to even things up.

Round Three and Maia connects on a strong left as Askren pushes forward. Askren manages to get to the clinch though and looks for the takedown. Maia breaks off and lands the left again, but Askren gets a bodylock and trips him down in a brilliant piece of grappling. He lands in side mount and drops some solid punches to the head, but Maia hits a slick reversal to the feet. Good body kick from Askren. He gets through with a couple of decent right hands too. They continue to exchange punches, and Maia adds in a solid knee to the body for good measure. Takedown attempt is defended well by Maia who then lands a hard left. Askren fires back though and then goes for a single leg, dragging the Brazilian down. A sweep puts Maia on top though and he instantly moves into full mount! Askren tries to roll free but gives his back, and Maia slaps a body triangle on and SINKS THE CHOKE AND ASKREN GOES OUT!

Crowd go apeshit for the finish and man, what a fight that was. First round was all Maia as he continually tagged Askren with punches whenever Funky Ben reached for the clinch, but then Askren really turned the tables in the second by throwing a ton of volume rather than just lunging forward, and by the third it was a dogfight. The grappling exchanges were just as great as everyone had hoped they would be, but in the end Maia’s BJJ came through for him.

Obviously the big news following the show came when Askren announced his retirement, and naturally a lot of people immediately jumped to say he was one of the biggest flops in UFC history. I actually disagree – over his three fights he provided a TON of entertainment as they were all awesome, and while he went 1-2, his losses came via a once-in-a-lifetime shot from Masvidal and being slightly outgrappled by Demian fucking Maia and for me there’s no shame in either. Had he kept going he could well have become a title contender and so I don’t think it’s fair to label him a flop at all.

-Show quickly ends after Maia’s post-fight interview, which sees him call out DIEGO SANCHEZ which would be an awesome fight as Diego probably wouldn’t get hurt standing in that one!

Final Thoughts….

I had basically no memory of this show before rewatching, but I found it really enjoyable; Maia vs. Askren lived up to all the hype, Ciryl Gane was awesome to watch, and Ray/Johnson and Salikhov/Staropoli were both perfectly acceptable fights. It’s probably only worth tracking down the main event and the Gane fight on Fight Pass, but yeah, this was decent enough for a throwaway show.

Best Fight: Maia vs. Askren
Worst Fight: Salikhov vs. Staropoli

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman: