MMA Review: #718: UFC Fight Night 170

-So, this was the point when the shit really started to hit the fan with Covid-19, as by this stage the whole thing had been declared a pandemic and we were literally about a week away from the whole world being shut down. That meant that this show was the first in UFC history to take place behind closed doors, albeit still in its planned location of Brasilia. Insane really to look back on in hindsight, with the knowledge that the worst was yet to come.

UFC Fight Night 170

03/14/20
Brasilia, Distrito Federal

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Michael Bisping. And you can tell right now that there must’ve been a ton of uncertainty about the show as they mention that this is a rare example of LIVE SPORTS ON TV but then right away fumble over their lines about why there are no fans in attendance.

Lightweight Fight: Francisco Trinaldo vs John Makdessi

Brazilian favourite Massaranduba had last been seen edging out Bobby Green in a super-close fight, and it felt like there was a big chance that this one would be close too given Makdessi’s point-fighting tendencies. I figured though that Trinaldo would be able to edge out the win anyway.

One plus point about the lack of fans? You can actually hear the entrance themes that the fighters are using really clearly. Case in point, Makdessi is seemingly using the soundtrack from a Van Damme film or something of the like, which just wouldn’t be audible were there Brazilian fans booing him and telling him he’s about to die.

Round One begins and this literally feels like a TUF fight with commentary, which is quite cool as it goes. Trinaldo is in unbelievable shape for a dude who’s 41. Glancing combo opens things for him as Makdessi throws some low kicks. Heavy body kick from Massaranduba. Flurry follows to back Makdessi up. More forward pressure follows for Trinaldo as Makdessi throws out some more side kicks to the leg. Superkick glances for the Canadian. Big left hand lands for Trinaldo as Makdessi continues to circle out. Right-left combo seems to stun Makdessi but he recovers quickly. More of the same follows as Massaranduba keeps the pressure on and lands some more combinations. Nasty body kick connects for the Brazilian. Body kick from Makdessi but he eats a hard combo before the round ends. 10-9 Trinaldo.

Between rounds Fitzgerald plugs the UFC show in London that was supposed to be the weekend after this one, but well, you know. Hard to believe that they figured it could go ahead at this point!

Round Two and they trade strikes in the opening seconds with a body kick from Makdessi being answered with a hard left from Trinaldo. Good leg kick lands for Makdessi but Trinaldo comes back with a glancing head kick. Quick flurry backs Makdessi up again. More of the same follows as Makdessi is constantly on the retreat, and while Trinaldo isn’t landing too many big shots he’s clearly winning this fight. Head kick connects for Massaranduba but not quite cleanly. Heavy left does land though and you can tell Makdessi’s really wary of his power. Another left hand connects for Trinaldo. Couple of low kicks land for Makdessi but he remains on the retreat. Round ends with a solid uppercut from Massaranduba and a missed cartwheel kick. 10-9 Trinaldo.

Round Three and both men come out with some feints before Trinaldo counters a low kick with a quick combo. Straight left also lands for the Brazilian but Makdessi dodges a flying knee that follows. Nice step-in knee lands for Trinaldo. Makdessi’s cut on the bridge of his nose. He throws some kicks that Trinaldo largely blocks, but he’s not absorbing quite as many in return now. Flurry backs Makdessi up. Neither man is really surging in this round. Two minutes to go and Makdessi’s landing the better strikes now due to his kicks and movement as Trinaldo looks to have slowed down. Flying knee again misses for Trinaldo. Makdessi remains on the retreat in the final minute, but he eats a solid uppercut. Seconds to go and Makdessi comes forward some more, but he can’t land anything really telling and we end on the feet with an elbow strike for Trinaldo. 10-9 Makdessi, 29-28 Trinaldo overall.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Francisco Trinaldo. Not the greatest opener as Makdessi spent so much time on the retreat, but Trinaldo remains one of the most underrated guys on the roster and he did a tremendous job of pressuring the Canadian and outstriking him for the most part.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Johnny Walker vs Nikita Krylov

After finding himself on the cusp of a title shot in 2019 following three violent wins, Brazilian wildman Walker had been stopped by Corey Anderson at UFC 244 and so this was his chance to rebound. Krylov for his part had last been seen in a tight loss to Glover Teixeira, but as he’d never been the distance prior to that fight in the UFC, this one sounded like fireworks.

First round begins and Walker comes right out with a front kick and then leaps at Krylov with a flying knee. Krylov grabs hold of him and they clinch up, then trade from close range before the Ukrainian looks for a takedown. Walker works to defend and lands some elbows to the head, but Krylov stays on him and finally forces him down. Walker gets to his knees from there and they exchange some short punches on the ground with Krylov lacing up the right leg to ensure the Brazilian remains grounded. Scramble sees Krylov simply lace the left leg up instead, but after a while Walker gets to his feet and CRACKS him with a right elbow. They break off and Walker connects with a stiff jab. Big right hand connects for Krylov and Walker looks rocked, but he fires back with a spinning backfist that forces the Ukrainian to clinch. Takedown follows and Walker ends up in full guard. Round ends with Krylov working hard with elbows from the top. 10-9 Krylov as he did well to neutralise Walker’s explosiveness.

Second round and Krylov lands a front kick into a heavy right before dumping Walker to the ground. Walker looks tired to me. He lands a couple of elbows to the side of the head and then tries to stand back up, but Krylov again laces a leg to ensure he stays down. This is sapping Walker of his energy. Looks like Krylov is bleeding as Walker has some blood on his chest. Into half-guard for the Ukrainian though and he starts to land some good punches and elbows. Full guard from Walker now and he looks for a triangle, but Krylov frees himself and moves into side mount. Walker is really struggling here. He does regain half-guard but he can’t seem to shake Krylov off him at all and he’s taking a lot of strikes. Lack of crowd means you can literally hear Walker gasping for breath. He does manage to push off the fence to hit a sweet reversal into Krylov’s guard though. Leglock attempt from Krylov follows and they trade punches from there before Walker spins free and takes the back. Nice kneebar attempt from Krylov allows him to avoid any damage, but Walker avoids and lands some hard shots to the side of the head before continuing to land as the round ends. Nice comeback late from Walker but still 10-9 Krylov.

Third round and Krylov lands a huge front kick to the body that sets up a takedown attempt. Walker avoids it, but gets driven into the fence and then Krylov trips him down. Guillotine attempt from Walker allows him to reverse into top position, and from there he scrambles into full mount. Krylov reverses excellently though and winds up on top again in half-guard. Looks like he’s going for an arm triangle, but he gives it up to drop a couple of elbows instead. Hip escape allows Walker to regain full guard, and both guys look exhausted now. Looks like the Ukrainian might be content to just work from the top with punches. Armbar attempt from Walker is avoided and it allows Krylov to move into half-guard, where he lands some more shots. One minute to go and Walker needs to finish this fight and he doesn’t really look capable. Big elbows land for Krylov from half-guard, and the round ends with him working from the top. Got to be 30-27 for Krylov really.

Judges go 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Nikita Krylov. Well, the fight wasn’t as wild and exciting as everyone hoped it would be going in, but both guys worked really hard and it was largely entertaining. Really good performance from Krylov too to just outwork a super-dangerous opponent.

Lightweight Fight: Renato Moicano vs Damir Hadzovic

After a terrible 2019 that saw him KO’d in both of his fights, Moicano was moving up to 155lbs for the first time here to take on Hadzovic, who was 3-3 in the UFC, making him a seemingly beatable opponent for the Brazilian.

Round One and Moicano looks pretty fired up. Low kick opens things for Hadzovic. Combo connects for Moicano and he gets a takedown to guard. Hadzovic tries to kick him away but a slick move allows Moicano to take the back, and he quickly slaps on a body triangle and then sinks the choke for the tapout!

Post-fight things get weird as Moicano looks FURIOUS at Hadzovic and rants at him when the ref pulls him off. Tons of officials have to keep them apart too which is just bizarre considering the fight couldn’t have gone any easier for the Brazilian. Basically a flawless victory. Finally they seem to squash the beef and fist-bump, and Moicano explains that he flipped out because of the lack of fans which is a bit unfair on poor Hadzovic!

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Gilbert Burns

After defeating Gunnar Nelson in October to extend his winning streak to four in a row, this was a big step up for Burns, who hadn’t really fulfilled his potential before this stage. Maia was on a three-fight streak of his own and he’d beaten Ben Askren in his last fight, so this was a tricky one to call, but I was leaning towards the veteran.

Round One begins and both guys throw out some feeler strikes and feints before Burns hits a low kick. Left hand glances for Maia but Burns fires back with a body kick. Maia backs him up a bit and lands the left hand a couple more times before hitting a takedown, but Burns actually looks to go for a leglock. Maia avoids that but it allows Burns to stand back up into the clinch. Another takedown attempt follows for Maia and he takes the back standing, looking to slap a hook in, but Burns prevents that well. He finally does get the hook in, but can’t get Burns down. He jumps onto the back anyway and gets both hooks in, and Burns might be in trouble. Burns scrambles though and escapes out the back door, popping up to his feet. BIG LEFT HOOK drops Maia out of nowhere and Burns celebrates, but the ref doesn’t step in and so he has to drop a ton of hammer fists onto him instead to seal the deal.

Excellent knockout from Gilbert Burns, even more impressive when you consider Maia’s chin had always held up over the years and he’d only been KO’d once before, back in 2009 by Nate Marquardt. This signalled Burns’ arrival at the elite level, but of course there’d be more to come. That’s another show though!

Lightweight Fight: Charles Oliveira vs Kevin Lee

After putting together a massive win streak – 6 wins in a row with all finishes – it was clear that Oliveira needed a step up for his next fight, and so he was given it here against former title challenger Lee, who’d last been seen nearly killing Gregor Gillespie with a head kick. Despite Oliveira’s hot streak I was taking Lee here, feeling he’d be slightly too strong for Do Bronx.

Round One begins and Oliveira has REALLY filled out now, to the point where he looks bigger than Lee. He presses forward and throws a flying kick into a left hand, then a low kick and another flying kick. Jesus! Another low kick follows for Oliveira and he actually lands cleanly with a jump kick this time. Big right hand glances for Lee. They trade some jabs and Oliveira continues to throw out kicks. Lee’s nose is reddened already. Nice jab lands for Lee but Oliveira shoots and looks for a takedown. Good reversal from Lee puts him on top, but Oliveira instantly rolls for a heel hook. Lee does well to avoid it but Oliveira lands some elbows from the bottom. They continue to scramble and Oliveira goes for a calf slicer (!) but Lee seems okay and he spins into top position again. Oliveira goes back to the leg attack, but Lee clubs him with some punches. Action slows down as Lee ends up tied up on the ground before moving into full guard. Triangle attempt is avoided well by Lee but Oliveira reverses and winds up on top. This is a great grappling match. Lee reverses that and gets back on top again, but Oliveira goes right into the triangle only for Lee to slip free. 30 seconds to go and Lee manages to move into half-guard, where he drops some punches before Oliveira regains full guard. Round ends there. 10-9 Oliveira for all the submission attempts.

Round Two and Oliveira walks him right down again and glances on a spinning backfist. Overhand right lands for Lee but he eats a body kick and then a spin kick. Big trade sees both men land hard punches. Good leg kick lands for Oliveira. Flying knee glances and then he hurts Lee with a right hand. Exchange continues and Oliveira is landing the better punches. Two shots have Lee stunned and Oliveira works the uppercut too. Never imagined Oliveira would smack Lee around on the feet like this. Right hand lands for Lee but Oliveira absorbs it and nails him with a right hook, but Lee tackles him to the ground. Armbar attempt right away from Oliveira looks tight and he switches to an oma plata and then a triangle, but Lee does well to escape. Scramble follows and Oliveira looks to use a whizzer to reverse. They stand back up but Lee trips him right back down and lands in half-guard. Shoulder strikes and a couple of short punches connect for Lee and he seems pretty comfortable from the top. Seconds to go and Oliveira looks for a leglock again, but Lee pulls free and lands some shots to the head. Round ends with Oliveira taking more punches. Close round to call but I’d go 10-9 Lee for the strong finish even if Oliveira outstruck him to begin.

Round Three and Oliveira comes flying out with a jump kick. Lee comes back with a combo but Oliveira is just eating his shots right up. Takedown attempt from Lee but Oliveira latches onto a TIGHT GUILLOTINE and Lee has to tap out there! Jesus! Looks like he might’ve gone out too as he attempts to take Oliveira down after the ref’s stepped in.

Post-fight Lee claims he didn’t tap but the replay firmly shows otherwise. Excellent showing from Charles Oliveira, probably the best win of his career in fact. Big difference for him now is that he was always comfortable on the ground and so didn’t really worry about being taken down, but he’s so dangerous on the feet now that he can beat his opponents up there, forcing them to make sloppy takedowns like Lee did in this fight. He’s quite clearly a title contender now and so I want to see him against an upper-echelon fighter like a Poirier or Ferguson next. Really cool main event too.

-Show ends with Oliveira celebrating with his team.

Final Thoughts….

With this being the first behind-closed-doors show in UFC history, it’s definitely up there with the weirdest of all time. Thankfully though, all of the fights were pretty good, ranging from the sloppy-but-fun Walker/Krylov to the tremendous finishes in the top three. It probably won’t be remembered at the end of this crazy year, but it’s a historical curiosity and so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Best Fight: Oliveira vs. Lee
Worst Fight: Trinaldo vs. Makdessi

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com