MMA Review: #720: UFC Fight Night 171

-After getting UFC 249 cleared to take place in Jacksonville, Florida, the promotion wasted no time in booking another two shows there in the same week, with this one taking place on the Wednesday. It wasn’t the best card on paper but shit, deep into the Covid-19 lockdown I don’t think anyone was complaining about having some live sports taking place!

UFC Fight Night 171

Jacksonville, Florida

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder.

Lightweight Fight: Thiago Moises vs Michael Johnson

Classic striker vs. grappler fare here, with BJJ whiz Moises – who’d gone 1-2 in the UFC thus far – facing veteran striker Johnson, who was pretty much in the last chance saloon after losing two in a row. This looked like a winnable fight for him though if he could keep things standing.

Round One begins and Johnson presses forward as Moises looks to throw some kicks to keep him at bay. Takedown attempt is avoided well by Johnson. Another one is easily avoided too. Head kick glances for Moises. Couple of glancing punches land for Johnson as Moises continues to throw kicks. Nice inside leg kick from Johnson. Body kick follows. Left hand connects hard for Johnson and he’s got Moises on the retreat now. Couple of beautiful lefts to the body land for Johnson and he follows with a quick flurry. Johnson’s hands are looking sharp here. Moises appears to be outgunned. Body kick appears to hurt the Brazilian and Johnson follows with another quick flurry. He’s piecing Moises up. Round ends with some more beautiful striking from Johnson. Clear-cut round for him, 10-9.

Round Two and Moises rushes out and dives on a single leg. Johnson defends, but Moises switches into an ankle lock attempt. Looks like Johnson’s okay, but Moises rolls into it nicely and GETS THE TAPOUT! Wow.

That was a HUGE comeback from Moises as he got absolutely smashed in the first round and then came out and got that leglock out of nowhere. Unbelievable stuff although it definitely felt like Johnson snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, too.

Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Philipe Lins

Brazilian Lins was making his UFC debut here after a solid run in the PFL promotion saw him knock out a bunch of UFC veterans. He was hardly faced with an easy opponent in his first Octagon visit in the form of Arlovski though, as despite the former champ coming off a KO, he’d actually looked really good earlier in 2019 in a win over Ben Rothwell.

First round begins and they circle with Arlovski landing a couple of leg kicks on the outside. Hard leg kick connects for Lins in return. Combination lands for the Brazilian and he’s forcing Andrei back a bit. Clinch sees both men land some pretty frantic punches before they break. Big right hand from Arlovski is countered by a huge right hook from Lins. Good leg kick lands for Andrei. Lins unleashes on another incredibly quick combination, dude has some fast hands. Left hook lands cleanly in a trade. Nice combination from Andrei. He comes forward but walks into a hard right from Lins, but takes it really well. One minute to go and they clinch up, but Arlovski quickly breaks. Spinning backfist connects beautifully for Arlovski! Exchange continues until the round comes to an end on the feet. 10-9 Lins in a tight round to score.

Second round and Lins opens with a nice body kick. Punches glance for both men in an exchange and Arlovski lands with a leg kick. Combo from Lins sees him connect on a clean right hand. He backs Andrei into the fence and clinches briefly, but they quickly separate. Flurry from Lins is stopped by another clinch, and this time Andrei separates with a good right elbow. Left hand also lands for him as Lins appears to have slowed down dramatically. Exchange sees Andrei land with a nice right hook. Head kick and another right follow but Lins takes them well. Hard body kick from Arlovski and Lins responds with a vicious low blow. Herb Dean immediately calls time and Arlovski looks in AGONY. Announcers make the fair point that he’s taking more time than he might do normally with a crowd booing him. Anyhow, they restart and Arlovski throws some kicks and then catches Lins with a left hand. Pair of lefts back the Brazilian up too. Body kick from Andrei is countered by a flurry from Lins and they trade briefly before Arlovski circles out. Round ends with Lins swinging some shots that miss. 10-9 Arlovski.

Third round and Andrei opens with a bunch of kicks to keep Lins at distance. Good counter right hand lands for the Brazilian as Arlovski tries to step in. Body kick fires back for Andrei before Lins lands one of his own. Brief exchange sees the two men trade punches with neither really doing too much damage. Arlovski is just being slightly more active here. Brief clinch is broken by an elbow from Andrei. Wild trade sees Lins land a couple of glancing shots so Andrei quickly circles out. Good leg kick lands for Lins. Nice left hand connects for Andrei in an exchange. These guys have slowed their pace dramatically. Couple more exchanges end the fight. 10-9 Arlovski for a 29-28 win.

Judges go 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Andrei Arlovski. Decent fight if a bit uneventful really, as Lins did well in the first round and showed some very fast hands, but ran completely out of steam down the stretch and Andrei just used his veteran wiles to ease the win out in the end. Can’t believe he’s still kicking like this in 2020 after everyone figured he was done in like 2010!

Bantamweight Fight: Ricky Simon vs Ray Borg

After failing to make the Flyweight limit for his win over Rogerio Bontorin in February, Borg was basically forced back up to Bantamweight for this one to take on Simon, who was coming off back-to-back losses. Despite that I actually thought the style favoured Simon here and went for him to win.

Round One and Simon has CHOPPED THE MULLET. That’s extremely sad to see. Good inside leg kick lands for him as the announcers debate the POWER OF THE MULLET. Quick combination lands for Simon but Borg cracks him with a counter right. Big exchange sees Borg land another heavy counter, but Simon ducks under and dumps him with a takedown. He moves into half-guard pretty quickly and lands some solid punches, but Borg stands back up. They jockey for position with Borg blocking a suplex, and then he goes for a takedown of his own. Simon avoids and gets him down again, but again Borg pops back up, landing a good combination on his way out. Both guys connect on some more decent punches and it looks like Borg may be cut. Exchange continues until Borg clinches, but Simon gets a slam to put him down. Borg again pops up, but this time he gives up a rear waistlock and Simon stays on him. Knees land for Simon and then he gets Borg down again. Round ends with Simon doing work from the top. 10-9 Simon.

Round Two and Borg pushes forward as they exchange some early punches. Big combo from Borg and he shoots, but Simon blocks it, hits him with a knee to the gut and then elevates him for a slam to half-guard. Looks like Simon is just too big and strong for Borg to handle. He does make his way back to his feet, but Simon looks super confident here. Spinning backfist glances for Borg and he lands with a decent left hand too. Nice combo answers for Simon and he’s really landing some clean punches now. Takedown attempt is defended well by Borg though. Exchange continues with both men landing some good punches before Simon gets another takedown and gets the back this time. Borg reverses to his feet but can’t get Simon off him until he has to roll free. Clean right hand connects for Borg and he follows with a beautiful combo, but Simon eats it right up and the round ends just after. 10-9 Simon.

Round Three and they come out exchanging punches with Borg landing a beautiful left straight. Another exchange sees him dig to the body with a left, and he follows it quickly with another one. He actually looks like the better striker here, but just isn’t doing enough actual damage. Clean uppercut from Borg but Simon grabs hold of him again and plants him into side mount. Borg gives his back in an attempt to reverse and then manages to get a front facelock off the scramble that follows, but Simon stands and slams him back down. Good job from Borg to get up again, and he manages to escape the clinch too. Nice head kick from Borg but again Simon eats it right up. Spinning elbow misses and Simon presses forward and almost gets another single leg, but this time Borg avoids. Seconds to go and both guys miss with flying knees. Big right hand lands for Borg in an exchange that follows. They trade more punches off and that’s the fight. 10-9 Borg, but 29-28 Simon overall.

Official scores are 29-28 Borg (!), 29-28 Simon, and 29-28 for Ricky Simon to take the split decision. No idea what the judge who gave it to Borg was smoking! Pretty fun fight, and the difference literally appeared to be Simon’s size and strength as not only did he comfortably outgrapple Borg, but he easily ate up his strikes too. Borg needs to drop back to 125lbs ASAP if he wants to succeed as he’s awesome there – when he makes weight.

Lightweight Fight: Drew Dober vs Alexander Hernandez

This one was basically a must-see fight as Dober ALWAYS brings the excitement, win or lose. He’d gone 5-1 in his last 6, while Hernandez hadn’t been seen since his controversial win over Francisco Trinaldo in June 2019. My pick was Hernandez, but it was a tight one to call.

First round begins and wow, Dober looks to be in the best shape of his career. They trade off with some early strikes with Hernandez really moving around on the outside a lot, and both guys land some nice stuff. Good left hand lands over the top for Dober. Hernandez is incredibly fast but he isn’t landing anything major yet. Big takedown attempt from Hernandez and he manages to get Dober down after a bit of a struggle. Good job from Dober as he stands right back up, but Hernandez breaks with a right hook. Body kick lands for Hernandez as Dober presses forward, but Drew comes right back with a nasty left hand. Straight jab lands beautifully for Hernandez but Dober catches him with a right hook on the counter. Dober’s got him on the retreat now. Takedown attempt is blocked by Dober and he quickly exits the clinch. Hernandez is using a lot of kicks to keep Dober at distance here. Less than a minute to go and Dober lands a really heavy combo that hurts Hernandez for a second. He recovers well, and the round ends with a bit of an exchange. Close round to call, probably 10-9 Dober by a hair.

Second round and Hernandez opens with a body kick, but somehow pokes Dober in the eye in the process. Herb Dean quickly calls time as they replay an eye poke going the other way at the end of the last round! Eye pokes suck. Dober seems okay and they restart, and a big exchange sees both guys land some hard punches. Dober’s putting a lot of pressure on Hernandez here. Couple of big left hands land for Dober and he dodges a takedown pretty well. Exchange continues and Dober seems to just be able to walk through Hernandez’s punches. Big combo has Hernandez on the run for a second but Dober won’t let up. He continues to back Hernandez up and connect on punches, mainly a clubbing left hand. Clean left connects for Hernandez to no effect. Big combo suddenly drops Hernandez, and he pops up but he’s in deep trouble. Dober keeps landing shots and he’s badly rocked. Nicely timed takedown slows Dober down, but he quickly looks to scramble free. Good job from Dober to get to his feet, and Hernandez still looks wobbly. Another big combo from Dober drops him, and he gets back up but he’s BADLY hurt. More shots land for Dober and he avoids a takedown and continues to club him until Herb pulls him off.

Phenomenal fight and a phenomenal performance from Drew Dober, as he just kept so much pressure on Hernandez, kept walking him down to land punches, and had no problems on the ground either. Never thought I’d say it but he’s got to be considered a high level contender now and it’s time for a step up. And shit, even if he fails in that who cares? He’s on a Niko Price type run of excitement right now and should have a spot in the UFC for as long as he wants.

Heavyweight Fight: Ben Rothwell vs Ovince St. Preux

This was a super-weird co-main event, with OSP stepping up to Heavyweight for the first time to take on one of the biggest dudes in the entire division in Rothwell. Given how bad Rothwell had looked in 2019 I was tempted to take OSP, but the size issue had me worried.

First round begins and OSP looks in decent shape at least. He keeps moving on the outside to begin with as Rothwell stalks forward without really throwing much. Quick flurry sees Rothwell land a right hand but OSP seems fine. Body kick from OSP is met with a flurry from Rothwell again as he continues to stalk. This is a big-time low output round though. Overhand left lands for OSP but Rothwell chases him down with a glancing body kick. If there was a crowd they’d probably be dead for this one. Head kick is caught by Rothwell and he jumps on a potential guillotine, but OSP manages to defend it. Action slows down as Rothwell continues to hold onto the neck and land some punches with OSP in a squatted position. He finally stands back up and jogs away from danger, and the round peters out standing. 10-9 Rothwell I guess?

Second round and OSP opens with a pretty decent head kick that Rothwell absorbs well. Decent left hand and a body kick also land for OSP. Rothwell keeps on stalking him but still isn’t landing too much. He finally closes in with a big right hand, but again OSP jogs his way out of danger. Another flurry leads to the clinch for Rothwell. OSP separates and you can literally hear both dudes breathing heavily. Couple of kicks keep Big Ben at range, but he lands with a kick to the body of his own. Overhand right lands for Rothwell and he clubs at OSP with a couple of follow-ups into the clinch. Knee lands for Rothwell from the plum as OSP looks to fire back. They break and OSP runs away again, but he’s finding it hard to keep his distance now. Nice body shot from Rothwell but he eats a left on the way out. Clubbing shots again lead to the clinch for Big Ben. Takedown attempt is blocked by OSP but his nose is bleeding quite badly. OSP breaks off and lands with the head kick again, but he looks exhausted to me. Left hook from Rothwell but OSP drops him with a left! He pops back up and they clinch, where the round ends. Probably 10-9 OSP for the knockdown as Rothwell was winning, but didn’t exactly do too much.

Third round and OSP opens with a pretty nice left hand. He has to run away again moments later but then stings Rothwell again with a couple more punches. Hard leg kick lands for Rothwell though and he wades into the clinch with some knees. OSP manages to escape again, landing the left hook once again as a counter shot. Rothwell keeps on pushing forward and lands a pair of heavy blows, but OSP jogs out of danger. Clean body shot seems to hurt OSP and Rothwell follows with a big flurry, but OSP fires right back and they’re trading pretty openly. Nice knee to the body from Big Ben. Action slows down from the clinch and they’re breathing heavily again. Takedown attempt is avoided by OSP who takes the opportunity to escape, and then he stuns Rothwell with some heavy punches! Rothwell pushes forward and clubs him again though, forcing him backwards. They’re trading pretty wildly now to be fair. Rothwell is just lumbering forward throwing bombs constantly. Back into the clinch again and Rothwell seems content to just pin OSP into the fence. OSP manages to turn him around and escape, but the time’s running out now. Combination connects for OSP but a big right hand replies for Rothwell and they brawl until the buzzer, with OSP dropping Big Ben in the final seconds. Really tough round to score, but call it 29-28 Rothwell overall for more aggression.

Judges have it 29-28 OSP, 29-28 Rothwell, and 29-28 Rothwell giving Big Ben the split decision. Weird fight actually as there was tons of action in there, but it was also offset by a lot of running from OSP and a bunch of dull spots in the clinch too. Pretty forgettable overall to be honest.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Glover Teixeira vs Anthony Smith

This was initially pegged to main event one of the many shows in either March or April that were cancelled due to Covid-19, and so it made sense for the UFC to put it at the top of this card. Both guys were coming off wins, but I was leaning towards Smith as I felt he had more in the tank than the ageing Glover.

Round One and Smith opens with a HARD right hand and then backs Glover up with a front kick. Good leg kick follows for Lionheart and he works his jab too. Glover looks much slower than Smith thus far. Heavy right lands again for Smith. Couple of power hooks miss for Teixeira and Smith tags him with the right hand again. Lionheart is looking excellent thus far. Beautiful combo from Smith and he avoids a takedown attempt. Teixeira manages to back him up to land a clubbing left, but a low blow follows and ref Jason Herzog calls time. Smith recovers and they restart, and he tags Teixeira with a right hand that leaves him with a bloody nose. Smith’s boxing is looking sharp. Couple of hard leg kicks land for Glover. Nice combo answers for Smith. One minute to go and it’s still Smith largely on the offensive as the striking exchange continues. Seconds to go and Teixeira lands a powerful flurry as he forces Smith into the fence. Looks like Smith might be slowing down slightly. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Smith.

Round Two and Smith looks really confident. Teixeira hits him early with a left hook though, and appears to be timing Smith’s punches a little better. Nice body shots from Teixeira. Clean right hand lands for Smith but Teixeira’s head movement is allowing him to absorb the shots pretty well. Couple of body kicks glance for Smith and he lands a nice uppercut before missing a spinning elbow. Flurry lands for Glover and forces Smith back a bit. More punches answer back for Smith and Glover appears to be wincing from his left eye. He’s still largely deflecting a lot of Smith’s shots though. Looks like his eye might be swollen shut from the poke. Big flurry suddenly lands for Glover and he’s got Smith in trouble! He covers up and tries to fire back, but he’s taking a lot of clean shots here. Big exchange sees Glover digging to the body and Smith looks tired. More hard punches connect for Teixeira. Exchange continues and Smith’s taking huge breaths now. Seconds to go and Teixeira gets him against the fence to land more heavy shots, including a spin kick to the body. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Teixeira.

Round Three and Glover’s left eye is in a bad way. He opens with a couple of leg kicks, but Smith catches one and takes him down. Teixeira reverses right back up, and he tags Smith with a BIG COMBO that has him covering up. Smith’s in deep shit here and Glover pours it on and sends him CRASHING DOWN! Ref ought to just stop this as he looked done when he went down, but he doesn’t and so Glover mounts him and starts to land more shots. He keeps going for a choke at the same time though which just about allows Smith to survive. Somehow Smith rolls free of the mount, but Glover just gets right back on him and KEEPS LANDING BOMBS. He takes the back now and keeps on punching, and the lack of crowd means you can hear them landing and it’s SICK. Seconds to go and Glover keeps on whacking him, but somehow Smith survives the round. 10-7 Teixeira and the ref should stop this.

Doctor checks Smith over between rounds but decides he’s good to go. Jesus.

Round Four and Teixeira CRACKS HIM with an uppercut again and Smith looks hurt. He wobbles back towards the fence but manages to keep Glover at distance somehow. Dude is all heart just as his nickname says. He actually comes forward swinging, but Glover hurts him with some more uppercuts again and he collapses into a takedown attempt. Sprawl from Glover blocks that and Smith is pouring with blood. Glover takes the back and keeps on punching him, then just lets him stand back up. Smith’s face is a MESS now. Stiff jab lands for Glover and Smith tries to fire back but he’s so badly hurt. Big flush combo lands for Teixeira and he dumps Smith back down to the ground. More shots connect for Glover and surely this ought to be stopped now. It’s a criminal beatdown. Somehow he survives the round AGAIN but he can barely get up. 10-8 Teixeira.

Between rounds Smith tells his corner his TEETH ARE FALLING OUT but somehow they STILL don’t chuck the towel in. Crazy shit.

Round Five (!) and Glover whacks Smith with some jabs and then drops him with a combo. Well, I say drops, but the dude basically collapsed. Teixeira drops into his guard and continues to smash him with elbows, then passes into mount. Series of big shots follow and finally the ref calls it.

Well, that was weird. Fight started off a ton of fun to watch but really should’ve been stopped in the third round, and when it wasn’t it became horrible viewing as it was clear Smith was getting pretty badly hurt. Puts MMA into perspective in a lot of ways as you could literally hear every punch landing thanks to the lack of crowd, and well, nobody wants to see a human being get beaten up that badly. Smith’s got a ton of heart but quite what his corner and the ref were thinking letting it go on that long I’ll never know. Good win for Glover of course!

-Show abruptly ends right after the fight.

Final Thoughts….

Total mixed bag here. On one hand the Dober/Hernandez fight was awesome, Moises/Johnson was pretty great and the main event was fun until it got a bit hard to watch. On the other hand, the other three fights were basically forgettable. Thumbs in the middle then as a curiosity show thanks to it being at the peak of lockdown for everyone.

Best Fight: Dober vs. Hernandez
Worst Fight: OSP vs. Rothwell

Overall Rating: **3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: