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MMA Review: #714: UFC Fight Night 167

-This was the UFC’s first trip back to New Mexico for years – since 2014 to be exact – and it was main evented by a potential top contender’s fight in the 205lbs division….as well as the return of the legend that is DIEGO SANCHEZ.

UFC Fight Night 167

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Daniel Cormier and weirdly they keep going on about the show being in Albuquerque even though it’s in Rio Rancho!

Lightweight Fight: Lando Vannata vs Yancy Medeiros

Both of these guys were coming off losses, but Medeiros hadn’t fought in well over a year and in fact only had one fight in 2019 too after a year off, meaning Vannata was the favourite. It sounded like a fun striking match on paper though for sure.

Fight begins and both men dance around and wow, Vannata is hanging his hands really low. Like by his waist. Decent right hand lands for Vannata with about a minute gone. He’s flicking at Medeiros from the outside at the minute without really doing much more. Head kick glances for him as do a pair of right hands. Nice counter right from Vannata. Medeiros is really finding it hard to get a handle on him. Beautiful combo has Medeiros covering up for a moment but he recovers quickly. Vannata’s style is so weird. Couple more shots land for him from the outside but mostly he’s just dancing around the Hawaiian. Medeiros stays on the offensive but his shots aren’t landing cleanly. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Vannata.

Into the 2nd and Vannata looks like he’s doing the robot dance at one point. This is a bit frustrating because he’s dodging most of Medeiros’s attacks but isn’t landing a ton back. They clinch up and Vannata trips the Hawaiian down for a second but he pops right back up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fighter switch stances as much as Vannata is doing here. Nice left hand connects for him as he does step in. Medeiros still can’t get a handle on this at all. Brief exchange sees him land but Vannata quickly dances away. More of the same follows with Medeiros having slightly more success as Vannata appears to have slowed down a little. Good combination lands for Vannata though with a minute to go. Nice takedown attempt from Lando and he gets to a rear waistlock, then lets him go to land a quick combo. Combo lands for Medeiros but Vannata hurts him with a body kick right before the round ends. 10-9 Vannata.

Third and final round and Vannata continues to use his odd dancing style. Looks like Medeiros has a bloody nose. He’s just not landing enough here despite Vannata landing at a low percentage himself. Nice low kick into a heavy right hand lands for Vannata. He continues to do just enough to outpoint Medeiros and we even get a weird moment where the Hawaiian tries to grab his wrist to stop him dancing. Nice counter right connects for Vannata. Round continues in the same fashion and there’s honestly not a lot to say really. Seconds to go and Vannata wobbles Yancy with a counter left hook, but the Hawaiian manages to fire back and actually back Lando up. Round ends with a brief trade. 10-9 Vannata, 30-27 overall.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Lando Vannata. Bit of a yawner though as Vannata seemed content to dance around and land the minimal shots from the outside that it took to win. I mean, you can’t fault him for that and he looked good, but it just wasn’t entertaining, you know?

Flyweight Fight: Ray Borg vs Rogerio Bontorin

This was Borg’s return to Flyweight following a brief foray up at 135lbs….but of course he missed weight for this one and came in at 128lbs which is pretty bad going. Bontorin meanwhile was unbeaten in the UFC and had beaten the highly rated Magomed Bibulatov, so I was pulling for him to win here if only because Borg clearly wasn’t a proper Flyweight.

Round One begins and Bontorin actually looks like the bigger guy which is quite surprising. He presses forward early on as both guys look quite tentative. Decent counter right hand connects for Borg. Good combo answers for Bontorin but Borg rushes him and gets to the clinch. Bontorin pushes Borg into the fence and they jockey for position, with the action slowing down dramatically. Takedown attempt from Bontorin fails as Borg pops right back up. The Brazilian manages to take the back instead, but Borg spins around into him. Beautiful change of levels from Borg allows him to eventually dump Bontorin to the ground, getting a big pop from the crowd. He moves into half-guard right away and drops a couple of elbows, but Bontorin moves his hips up into full guard. Nice elbow lands for Borg. Bontorin gets his back to the fence and manages to stand, but Borg stays right on him and works to get him down again. This time Bontorin defends, but Borg clocks him with a right instead and then tackles him to half-guard. Round ends with Borg on top and has to go to him, 10-9.

Round Two and Borg lands a well-timed right hand before dropping for a single leg. Bontorin does a great job of defending, but Borg is relentless and he forces him into the fence and then gets a slam. Bontorin gets to his knees instantly, but gives his back and Borg slaps both hooks in and looks to sink the choke! It looks decent, but Bontorin manages to defend it well. Borg remains in back control though, and keeps looking for either the choke or neck crank. Big hammer fists land from behind for Borg and he’s looking awesome here. Bontorin remains calm though and manages to shake the body triangle off, but Borg dumps him to the ground again. Bontorin’s looking tired. Borg remains on top in guard now, dropping more elbows that leave the Brazilian bloodied up. Illegal upkick lands for Bontorin but the ref ignores it as it allows Borg to take the back again, and he almost gets the choke sunk before the round ends. 10-8 round for Borg, total domination.

Round Three and Bontorin comes out swinging before grabbing a clinch. Borg manages to change levels again though and quickly tackles him to the ground. A scramble allows Borg to hit a German suplex, but Bontorin pops right back up. Borg drags him back down and slaps one hook in, then hits another slam and slaps the body triangle on again. His wrestling is insane at times. Bontorin stands with him on his back, but again he’s being firmly controlled. He manages to shake Borg off his back, but can’t get him off altogether and Borg continues to muscle him around and land some strikes too. Slam dumps Bontorin onto his back once more, this time in half-guard. More punches connect for Borg and he’s going to win this fight easily now. Bontorin works to his knees, but he just can’t shake Borg off at all and the fight ends with Borg continuing to bully him. That was an incredible showing. 10-8 Borg, 30-25 overall for me.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25 for Ray Borg. I’d argue that the 30-27’s were ridiculous but at least they had the right guy winning so there is that at least. This was a superb performance from Borg and if he could actually make 125lbs he’d be a legit title contender, but I guess he can’t and will end up as a bit of a middling Bantamweight which is sad.

Lightweight Fight: Brok Weaver vs Rodrigo Kazula Vargas

Weaver had garnered a bit of a push from the UFC coming into his full debut after a win on Dana White’s Contender Series, and to be honest it felt like it was more based on his Native American heritage than his actual fighting skill. This at least looked like a winnable fight for him though, as Vargas hadn’t shown a great deal in his UFC debut loss.

Round One and both guys look super intense. They exchange some early strikes with Vargas really pushing forward, landing a couple of sharp low kicks. Kick from Weaver is caught and Vargas tries to get him down, then comes in with a flying knee that misses. He follows that with a decent combo, clocking Weaver with a left hand before taking him down to half-guard. Weaver wriggles back to the fence and looks to work back up, and the action slows down as Vargas makes sure he stays down by lacing the legs. Guillotine attempt from Weaver looks pretty decent and Vargas grimaces, but manages to pop his head free. Few punches get through for Vargas as he continues to keep Weaver down. Weaver reverses to his feet, but the Mexican stays on him and gets another takedown. Scramble from Weaver sees him almost up, but Vargas NAILS HIM WITH AN ILLEGAL KNEE and he looks OUT. Ref calls time and quickly waves the fight off as it’s pretty clear Weaver can’t continue.

Replay confirms the knee was totally illegal as the ref informs the cageside officials that it’s a DQ win for Weaver. Well, that sucks. No idea what Vargas was thinking but it was a pretty ludicrous decision for him to make considering he was winning the fight at the time. You have to feel bad for Weaver too as even though it’s a win, he still got KO’d which isn’t good for your health.

Women’s Flyweight Fight: Montana De La Rosa vs Mara Romero Borella

No clue how this one made the main card over John Dodson vs. Nathaniel Wood, but there you go. Both women were coming off losses so were miles away from title contention, but I went for De La Rosa and her grappling to pull out the win.

First round begins and they circle and exchange some punches with their chins way up in the air, worryingly. Kick from De La Rosa is caught and Borella gets a takedown to guard. Scramble sees them stand right away, and they trade punches from the clinch before breaking off. Big takedown attempt from De La Rosa plants Borella down, but she hits a wild scramble and ends up somehow taking the back. That was nice. Couple of back elbows land for De La Rosa, but she can’t shake the Italian off and the action basically grinds to a halt. De La Rosa finally ducks right down and somehow reverses to her own rear waistlock as they stand. She drags Borella back down, but she pops right up so De La Rosa hops onto the back with both hooks instead. She can’t get a choke locked in, but she remains in control until the round ends. 10-9 De La Rosa.

Second round gets underway and Borella lands a clean right hook in the early going. Combination answers for De La Rosa. Flurry from Borella leads to the clinch, but De La Rosa quickly gets a rear waistlock and trips her down, taking back control. She’s only got one hook in but she’s clearly in control again. Borella works to defend against a possible choke by grabbing the wrists, but it doesn’t look like she can get out of this position. One minute to go and the Italian manages to escape from back control, but she remains pinned on the ground in side mount. She ends up giving her back again and De La Rosa gets a hook in, then drops punches to the head. Round ends shortly after. 10-8 round for De La Rosa.

Third round and Borella clearly needs a finish. She pushes forward with some early strikes, but none land cleanly at all really. They exchange jabs without really landing much of note, and it’s De La Rosa who scores with the cleanest shot, a right hook. Big right hand suddenly drops Borella and although she seems okay, she’s stuck on the bottom in guard again. They exchange shots from there and De La Rosa is clearly the busier fighter. Seconds to go and she looks for an arm triangle, but she can’t get it and ends the round with hammer fists instead. 30-26 De La Rosa for me.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Montana De La Rosa. Perfectly acceptable fight and De La Rosa’s grappling looked good, but don’t expect her to be going after Valentina Shevchenko any time soon, that’s for sure.

Welterweight Fight: Diego Sanchez vs Michel Pereira

This fight sounded like PURE INSANITY between two genuinely crazy dudes. Brazilian wildman Pereira had debuted in 2019 with a capoeira-fuelled win over Danny Roberts, but he’d largely flattered to deceive in his second fight, gassing out in a loss to Tristan Connelly despite doing loads of crazy flips. Diego meanwhile hadn’t been seen since his loss to Michael Chiesa, and worryingly, he was still with just one single trainer – a dude called Josh Fabia who was basically unknown in MMA circles. I was taking Diego’s grappling to pull him through, but was definitely worried for him.

Fight begins and Diego is CRAZY OVER with the crowd as you’d imagine. ROLLING KICK opens things for Diego and then he tries to get a takedown, but Pereira clinches and lands a knee before they break. Diego is using this weird stance where he reaches one hand out and barely looks like he’s protecting himself. Front kick to the body from Pereira. Flurry glances for Diego. Decent low kick lands for him too as Pereira walks him down. Nasty front kick to the body lands for the Brazilian and then he glances with a SHOWTIME KICK. Flying knee lands for Pereira and he avoids an ankle pick. Another front kick connects to Diego’s body. Straight right follows as Diego’s stance remains completely odd, keeping his hands open and everything. Spinning backfist misses for him. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Pereira. Spin kick misses for him and Diego lands with a leg kick. Nice combo from the Brazilian ends with a big knee to the body. He follows up with some more shots but Diego forces him back a bit. Rolling front kick misses for Diego. Seconds to go and he comes forward a bit more to end the round. 10-9 Pereira.

Between rounds Fabia gives Diego some pretty odd advice about being like a shadow or something, who knows.

2nd round begins and again Diego comes out with the weird stance before Pereira hits him with a body kick and avoids a takedown. Couple of strikes glance for Diego as Trevor Wittman joins the commentary team and says he’s worried about him too due to the weird cornering. Pereira’s output has slowed down though and he’s only landing like one shot at a time now. Flying knee glances for the Brazilian. Weird moment follows as Diego literally sprints at him and just eats a body shot. Flurry misses for Diego. Big body kick into a right hand from Pereira but Sanchez goes for a single leg and forces him into the fence. Pereira shrugs him off though and comes in with another knee to the body. Decent body kick lands for Diego. Pereira dances around for a bit and then lands with a right hand that wobbles Diego for a second. Wild exchange sees Diego fire back with some solid punches of his own. Cage-springing Superman punch into a knee lands for Pereira. He continues to come forward and lands with a flying knee, but Diego breaks the clinch that follows. Couple of kicks glance for Diego and then Pereira hits him with a German suplex to end the round. 10-9 Pereira.

3rd round and both guys come out weirdly, with Diego in his odd karate stance with open hands and Pereira literally just dancing. Diego charges in with punches but Pereira easily avoids. Front kick lands hard for Pereira. Big spinning backfist misses for Diego and Pereira hits a takedown. Couple of upkicks push Pereira away but he backflips over the guard (!) and they scramble before coming back up. Flying knee glances for Pereira and Diego stumbles down and eats a couple of heavy hammer fists. Diego again kicks him away and this time Pereira lets him stand. Wild shots miss for Diego coming forward. Big flying knee lands for Pereira but Diego takes it well. Pereira continues to advance and he hurts Diego with a body shot, then stuns him with some knees from the plum. Big knees drop Diego, but he follows with an ILLEGAL KNEE and ref Jason Herzog has to call time.

Doctor comes in to check Diego over as Herzog takes a point from Pereira, but apparently Diego can’t see and so they have to call the fight off. So officially it’s a DQ WIN for Diego Sanchez, ha.

Well, what can you say? Super weird fight as I’m honestly not sure what Diego was attempting to do in there while Pereira was just as wild as ever. Can’t say either man looked any good to be honest and for Diego – as one of my favourite fighters of all time – I’m happy to say that he probably ought to retire if he’s sticking with Josh Fabia as I’m just not sure how well he can do with that guy as his lone cornerman.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Corey Anderson vs Jan Blachowicz

This was a pretty big fight, with the winner definitely moving closer to a title shot at Jon Jones – even if it was clear following the Dominick Reyes fight that a rematch would be needed there. Blachowicz had defeated Luke Rockhold and Jacare Souza in 2019, while Anderson had destroyed the hype train of Johnny Walker at UFC 244. Tricky fight to pick but as Anderson had whitewashed Jan before I was leaning towards him.

Round One begins and Blachowicz looks to be in phenomenal shape. Good low kick opens things for him as Anderson pressures with a low kick of his own and a nice jab. Wild punches miss for Anderson. He lands another jab though, as he looks pretty good with his movement early on. Clinch is shrugged off by Jan and Anderson is reaching a bit which is worrying for him. Couple of front kicks miss for Anderson. Left hook lands for Jan as he comes forward for a moment, but Anderson quickly puts him back on the retreat. Nice right to the body from Anderson but he eats a left hook in response. Nasty uppercut connects for Jan. Anderson keeps coming forward though. Low kick from Anderson but Jan counters with a HUGE RIGHT HOOK that turns out the lights! Jesus.

Post-fight Blachowicz calls out Jon Jones who’s standing in the crowd, and well, if Jones is REALLY stepping away due to this pay dispute then the UFC could easily crown an interim champ by putting Jan against Reyes. That’d be a cool fight actually. Replay shows Blachowicz timed the punch perfectly as Anderson basically leaned right into it. Sick stuff.

Show ends with Blachowicz reaffirming his call-out of Jones, and the broadcast finishes pretty abruptly.

Final Thoughts….

Not the best show overall really. Main event had a sick knockout and I really enjoyed Borg vs. Bontorin, but the two illegal knees left a sour taste in those two fights and the other two fights were just middling really. Thumbs leaning down for this one.

Best Fight: Borg vs. Bontorin
Worst Fight: Weaver vs. Vargas

Overall Rating: **

Until next time,

Scott Newman: