MMA Review: #462: UFC Fight Night 42

-The first UFC show in New Mexico then and if I’m honest I’m surprised it took them this long given the amount of Albuquerque-based fighters on the roster out of Greg Jackson’s camp. Surprisingly only four Jackson-based fighters made it onto this card – Rustam Khabilov, Diego Sanchez, John Dodson and Erik Perez – but it looked like a hell of a free-TV card on paper. Let’s get it on!

UFC Fight Night 42

Albuquerque, New Mexico

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Bantamweight Fight: Erik Perez vs Bryan Caraway

After his last step up in competition – an August 2013 fight with Takeya Mizugaki – ended badly, Perez had looked much improved in his last fight with Edwin Figueroa and so was given another step up here in the form of the much-maligned TUF veteran Caraway. Despite not being the most popular guy on the roster, Caraway’s actually a very tough 135lber and so I was interested to see how Perez would handle him.

Round One and Perez shrugs off an early takedown attempt. Good leg kick from Perez. They exchange some more strikes from distance with neither man really landing cleanly, before Caraway goes for another takedown. Good stuff from Perez and he lands a solid right hand and then surprisingly goes for a takedown of his own. Caraway works to defend but Goyito drags him down. Guillotine attempt from Caraway but Perez works his head free. Caraway pops back up to his feet though and they separate. Good leg kick again from Perez. Exchange continues and both men land punches. Flying knee glances for Perez and Caraway clinches momentarily. Perez circles free though. Head kick attempt from Perez is caught and Caraway dumps him down and takes the back immediately with a body triangle. We then get a BLATANT shot of Caraway using FISH HOOKING of all things to try to set up a rear naked choke. What a shitty tactic. Perez manages to defend thankfully and turns into the guard. Perez works some ground-and-pound, but Caraway uses a guillotine attempt to escape to his feet again. Nice knee from Perez connects and snaps Caraway’s head back. Another good knee follows and Perez is beginning to land punches now too. Takedown attempt from Caraway but Perez sprawls to block. Caraway keeps trying and drives him into the fence, getting him down right before the round ends. Perez pops to his feet on the buzzer. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Caraway by a hair for the dominant position he got.

Round Two and they exchange strikes before Perez hits a takedown. Caraway immediately sweeps him though and gets into top position before slicing his way into side mount. Perez tries to hook up the right arm for a possible kimura, but he can’t get it and Caraway passes into mount and then takes the back as Goyito rolls. Looks like he’s fish hooking again unfortunately. Body triangle is slapped on too and Caraway continues to look for the choke. After some more attempts he gets it sunk, and pulls it across with a gable grip to force the tapout. Crowd boo wildly for that one.

Fish-hooking aside, because it really is a shameful, disgusting tactic to use, this was an impressive showing from Caraway as he weathered a storm on the feet, stayed calm and managed to get to a dominant position on the ground to finish things. Disappointing for Perez as I can’t quite get my head around why he was looking to grapple with Caraway when he appeared to have a clear standing advantage but yeah. Entertaining opener.

Lightweight Fight: Piotr Hallmann vs Yves Edwards

After a stirring UFC debut win over Francisco Trinaldo, I expected big things from Hallmann, but the Pole had disappointed in his second outing, a loss to Al Iaquinta. This one looked like a very winnable fight for him though as Edwards had realistically lost three in a row (his last loss to Yancy Medeiros was overturned due to a ludicrous positive test for weed) and at this point is probably on the road to retirement. I figured Hallmann by submission was probably the most likely outcome.

Fight begins and Hallmann pushes forward to begin, throwing a bunch of kicks. Edwards avoids the majority and returns fire with a pair of glancing head kicks and a body kick. Overhand right glances for Hallmann. Front kick to the body lands for Yves and he lands another body kick, but takes a NASTY eye poke and Mario Yamasaki has to call time. Yves recovers quickly and they restart. More kicks from Hallmann and he continues to push the pace. Takedown is stuffed by Edwards and he catches Piotr coming in with a left hand. Right kick lands for Hallmann. Another single leg attempt follows and this time the Pole gets him down. Edwards pops right back up, but Hallmann keeps control of him and tries to get him down. Yves counters with a guillotine attempt and then releases to land an elbow and an uppercut. Nice body punch from Hallmann. He looks badly marked up though. Exchange continues and Yves slips to the ground, landing in full guard. Hallmann lands a couple of elbows and hammer fists, then passes into half-guard. Nice move from Hallmann allows him to take the back for a second, but Yves scrambles. Hallmann stays on him but Edwards reverses and gets up, grabbing his own rear waistlock. Now he looks to trip Hallmann down, but he can’t do it and they end the round in a clinch. 10-9 Hallmann.

2nd round and Hallmann wades forward with strikes early on, pegging Yves back, but he lands with ANOTHER eye poke and again Yamasaki has to call time. Gotta be a point deduction surely? Mario decides to go with a warning as I guess he felt Piotr didn’t mean it. Not really the point, dude. They restart and Edwards tries to put his counter striking game together, but Hallmann comes in with a knee to the body. Edwards stuffs a takedown nicely and lands with an elbow. Body kick from Edwards and now HE lands with an eye poke. Jesus Christ. This is getting ridiculous. They restart and Hallmann catches Yves with a hard knee to the body in an exchange and then gets a rear waistlock. Yves blocks the takedown though and they separate. Good low kick from Hallmann. Single leg follows but Yves sprawls out and blocks it. Into the clinch and Yves lands with a hard knee to the body and some more shots, and then he transitions into a bodylock. Tremendous strength from Hallmann allows him to reverse the takedown and wind up on top in guard. Good short elbows land for Hallmann and he passes into half-guard. Edwards gives his back and he continues to take some big shots, with Hallmann opening up a nasty cut somewhere on him. He reverses to his feet, but Hallmann takes him right back down. Still can’t see exactly where Yves is cut. Might be above the left eye. Hallmann lands some more elbows and forces him onto his back in half-guard, then takes the back to land a heavy knee to the body. Yves escapes to his feet, but he takes some more shots to end the round. Clear-cut 10-9 for Hallmann.

Third and final round and Hallmann presses forward again, tagging Edwards with some early punches. He’s really walking Yves down now. Single leg is blocked but the Pole responds by cracking Yves with a knee .They clinch and exchange knees before Yves breaks. Takedown attempt from Hallmann again but Yves does well to defend. He looks exhausted though and Hallmann doesn’t look like he’s slowing down, pressing forward with knees to set up the clinch again. Single leg grounds Edwards and he looks to take the back. Good shots from Hallmann and he continues to control Yves, forcing him down onto his back again as he tries to reverse. Full mount follows and Yves is in deep trouble. Rear naked choke follows without even getting both hooks in and Edwards taps there.

Hallmann looked awesome there, just imposing his will on Yves from the start of the fight and while the veteran kept up with him early, he eventually got worn down and the Pole took over to smash him up with elbows and eventually choke him out. The difference appeared to be the sheer strength of Hallmann as Edwards just couldn’t deal with him on the ground at all. He’s since lost to Gleison Tibau which suggests to me that his ceiling is probably somewhere around the top twenty rather than any higher, but hey, that’s enough to keep him in the UFC and keep him being paid.

Lightweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Jason High

With his April loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov pushing him out of title contention for the time being, Dos Anjos was faced with another grappler here in the form of High, who was making his 155lbs debut on the back of two impressive wins at 170lbs, his first in the UFC. Despite his solid run I couldn’t see him beating Dos Anjos – the guy is too well-rounded these days and a loss to Nurmagomedov is hardly something to be ashamed of!

Round One and they circle before High throws a combo, but Dos Anjos counters with a hard right hand. Head kick glances for RDA. Nice knee from Dos Anjos but High catches it and goes for a single leg. Dos Anjos defends it, but High drives him into the fence and then elevates him for a slam to guard. RDA immediately pushes off the hips and gets to his feet though. High stays on him and hits another slam, landing in side mount this time and avoiding a reversal via a guillotine at the same time. Slick move puts Dos Anjos back in guard and right into a triangle attempt, but High postures out. Another attempt is avoided and High passes into half-guard, landing a couple of glancing shots. Kimura attempt from Dos Anjos but High powers out well. RDA locks up the left arm again, and uses it in a SICK sweep, getting to his feet. That was beautiful. They trade shots on the feet and High gets the better of it before RDA fires back with a body kick. Left hand tags High and forces him on the retreat. Another body kick follows. Dos Anjos is really pressing with his strikes now. Hard combo from Dos Anjos and he follows by tackling High to the ground with a double leg, landing in half-guard. Kimura attempt from RDA again but High grabs his own shorts to avoid, so Dos Anjos lands a couple of punches to end the round. 10-9 Dos Anjos as he had the more meaningful offense.

Round Two and Dos Anjos looks far fresher than High. Head kick from High is answered by a nastier head kick from Dos Anjos. Eye poke follows and the ref has to call time to let High recover. They restart and High lands a good leg kick but eats a left hand counter. Jumping kick misses for RDA and he tries a right hand, but High lands a double leg and puts him down. RDA right away reverses to his feet though and glances on a flying knee. Body kick follows and lands nicely. Leg kick connects too. Right hand follows. Dos Anjos is practically landing at will now. Uppercut sets up a takedown for RDA and he lands in side mount. Couple of elbows land for Dos Anjos before High rolls. Guillotine attempt from RDA and he looks to lock it up, but High drops to the ground and lands in side mount before spinning to take the back. Dos Anjos stands though and shrugs off the hooks. High stays on him and pins him to the fence, but Dos Anjos reverses position with a couple of knees to the body. They break and High connects on a combo, but RDA fires back with a BIG LEFT that wobbles High and sends him down. Few shots on the ground seal the deal as Kevin Mulhall comes in to call the TKO.

Post-fight High claims an early stoppage and – off-camera, as I didn’t catch it – apparently shoved Mulhall, resulting in his release from the UFC. Hey, protest all you like, dude, but unless it’s like a semi-conscious double leg or something like that you can’t put your hands on the official. Fantastic showing from Dos Anjos at any rate. He didn’t really let High get any meaningful offense outside of his takedowns, chained his own takedowns in well with his striking and looked dynamic on the feet, throwing sharp combos effortlessly. Dude is clearly a top-level fighter at this stage in his career but even I was surprised with his next performance. Which is of course another show, so we’ll leave it at that. Exciting fight with a cool finish.

Flyweight Fight: John Dodson vs John Moraga

This was a rematch of a pre-UFC fight from 2010 that saw Dodson earn a unanimous decision. I’ve never seen that fight but I was taking Dodson to repeat the feat here, as since dropping to 125lbs in 2012 he’s looked pretty fantastic, while Moraga had seemed really rusty in his previous fight – a questionable January decision win over Dustin Ortiz.

Round One and they circle to begin with Dodson opening with a body kick. Possible takedown from Moraga is easily avoided. Crowd are insanely hot for Dodson, unsurprising as it’s his hometown. Left hand glances for Dodson. Another left lands flush and backs Moraga up a little. Nice left to the body from the Magician. Takedown attempt from Moraga is avoided and he lands a knee to the groin. Comical moment follows as Dodson literally sprints off the low blow and then tries to go after Moraga, but Mario Yamasaki’s already called time. So of course Dodson hugs him instead. They restart and Dodson cracks Moraga with a counter left hand. Nice combo from Dodson. He just looks too fast for Moraga to handle. Beautiful knee to the body from Dodson. Moraga tries to come forward but he can’t catch Dodson and he takes another counter left. Decent body shot connects for Moraga. Left lands for Dodson. Quick combo backs Moraga up again. Right hand from Moraga sets up a takedown attempt but Dodson stuffs it with ease. Flurry connects for Dodson and Moraga is again forced to cover up. Brutal knee follows for the Magician. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Dodson.

Round Two and Dodson tags Moraga from the off with the left hand again. Moraga looks like he’s moving at a totally different speed to Dodson. As in SLOWER. Dodson looks like he’s in fast-forward though so it’s not a knock on Moraga! Leg kick lands for Dodson as the crowd chant loudly for him. Good leg kick lands for Moraga. A combination misses by a MILE though as Dodson is right out of the way. Nice overhand right from Moraga counters a leg kick, but as he rushes forward Dodson hits a takedown to butterfly guard. He decides to let Moraga up, and it looks like his right eye is swollen. Couple of kicks miss for Moraga and Dodson’s output has suddenly slowed down with two minutes to go in the round. Left hand glances for him. Florian is all over Dodson now saying he’s waiting way too much. Step-in knee glances to the body for Dodson. Head kick misses for Moraga. Front kick to the body from Dodson. Good combo from Dodson suddenly backs Moraga up and rocks him, and the Magician follows with a BIG LEFT KICK that lands with the knee to the nose and drops the former title challenger! Moraga covers up as Dodson pounces and looks for the finish. He manages to survive, but his nose is wildly busted up here. Seconds to go and it looks like he’ll get out of the round, and he does so despite taking massive punishment.

Doctor throws the fight out between rounds due to the broken nose. Not a popular decision with Moraga and his corner but to be fair his nose was smashed to smithereens so you can’t blame the quack in this one. They ought to make decisions like that more often to be frank, preventing stuff like Josh Koscheck at UFC 124. Post-fight Dodson shows a TON of charisma as per usual in calling out Demetrious Johnson for a rematch. It’s frustrating to me because I think Mighty Mouse probably has Dodson’s number and yet if you had a guy as charismatic as Dodson as the champ the whole Flyweight division would be far more easily marketable. C’est la vie though. Fight had its slow points due to Dodson’s style of lulling the opponent into a false sense of security, but when he turned it on he REALLY turned it on and the finish was awesome.

Lightweight Fight: Diego Sanchez vs Ross Pearson

After his disappointing loss to Myles Jury in March I was a bit surprised when they decided to match Diego with another more technical striking type in Pearson here, but I guess they were probably hoping – no offense to Ross – that Diego would be able to draw him into a dirty brawl in his hometown. Plus Diego had blamed the Jury loss on food poisoning (don’t eat steak tatare and raw quail eggs, kids!) so there’s always that too. Despite my reservations I was of course rooting for Diego here. YES!~!

Crowd are OFF THE HOOK for Diego. Poor Ross gets booed out of the building but doesn’t look like he cares. And on an added note Buffer announces him as THE NIGHTMARE again rather than THE DREAM. I’m not sure whether I’m happy or sad on that one because I loved his ridiculous “the Nightmare is done…and the Dream has begun” promo before the Martin Kampmann fight.

Round One and they circle as the crowd LOUDLY chant for Diego. Wild right hook misses for Diego early on but he lands a glancing uppercut. Looks like Pearson’s trying to establish the jab. Left to the body from the Brit. Lot of circling from Pearson and he lands a couple more shots to the body. Right hand follows and lands too. Lunge from Diego is shrugged off before he can even fully attempt the takedown. Good right stumbles Sanchez. Body kick lands for the Brit. Not much landed at all for Diego thus far. Good combo from Ross and he slips Diego’s return. Kick to the body glances for Diego. Nice counter right lands for Ross. Body kick follows. Pearson is looking the far crisper striker unfortunately for Diego fans. Hard counter right lands for the Brit. Spin kick to the body from Diego but Pearson lands a head kick. Diego catches the leg and forces him back, charging in with a cracking right hand, but Ross swiftly circles out. Big head kick glances for Diego. Seconds to go now and Diego lands with a counter left and then flurries on the Brit, but nothing lands too cleanly. 10-9 Pearson for the cleaner strikes.

Round Two and Diego looks ANGRY. Both men miss with punches early on before Diego goes for a single leg, but Pearson deftly avoids it. Good body kick from Diego. Left hand lands nicely for Ross. Head kick catches Diego in the back of the head and knocks him off balance for a second but he recovers quickly. Lunging right hand connects for Ross. Right hand answers for Diego but he takes another body shot. Beautiful right to the body from Pearson. Another one follows. Body kick lands for the Brit. Diego glances with a body kick of his own but he’s struggling to catch Pearson. Good body kick from Sanchez. Ross fires back with a return body kick and avoids a big right hand from Diego. HARD right hand drops Diego badly but somehow he quickly pops back up and tells Ross to bring it on, whacking his chest before charging in with a body kick. Pearson uses it to take him down, but Diego pops right back up and lands a knee. Dude is just insanely tough. Counter left lands for Diego as he eats a right hand. Flurry from Diego ends the round as he lands a couple of decent rights. 10-9 Pearson though for the knockdown and the better strikes.

Round Three and Diego is really biting down on his mouthpiece and swinging. Combo from Diego but it’s largely blocked and he takes another body kick. Pearson just seems so comfortable from range here. Couple more counters land for the Brit and Diego just can’t catch him. Couple of flurries from Diego have the crowd popping but they’re not really landing. Right hand does land for Diego but he misses with a charging knee to follow up. Hard body shot from Pearson. Spin kick misses for Diego and Ross gets a clinch and considers a takedown before just landing a knee to the body. Two minutes to go and Diego misses another spin kick. Crisp counter right from Pearson as Diego pushes forward. Body kick answers for Sanchez. Looks like he’s cut now. Body kick from Pearson sets up a nasty right hand. Right hook connects for Diego. He’s got blood dripping from his right eye now and he clearly needs a finish. Counter left hook snaps his head back though in an exchange. More counters land for Ross as Diego charges in, and he also blocks a single leg. Combo sends Diego backwards and they TRADE WILDLY to end the fight. I hate to say it but it’s gotta be a 30-27 for Pearson.

Judges officially have it 30-27 Pearson, 30-27 Sanchez (!?) and 29-28….for DIEGO THE NIGHTMARE SANCHEZ. Um, what? Crowd go wild but that’s an insane decision, sorry, and this is coming from like the biggest Diego Sanchez fan you’ll ever find. Fight looked like the Myles Jury fight with just a slight bit more success for Diego, but I mean, there’s just no way he deserved that decision, sorry. Pearson clipped him with the better counters, stayed out of range, and stuffed the takedowns. Diego bought some aggression and I mean of course he tried, but I dunno. Really bad decision I think. Good fight but the decision just leaves a sour taste even if I’m sort-of happy to see Diego pick up a win.

Lightweight Fight: Benson Henderson vs Rustam Khabilov

After Henderson took a razor-close decision win over Josh Thomson in January part of me expected him to sit out and wait for a likely title shot, but with the division being held up due to TUF, Anthony Pettis’s knee injury and the contract issues surrounding Gilbert Melendez, I guess it seemed smarter for him to take another fight and hope for another win to further cement himself as the top contender for the belt. This seemed like a super-dangerous fight though as Khabilov wasn’t ranked in the top five or even top ten despite being a very highly-regarded fighter with hardcore fans. It was a tough fight to pick for me as Khabilov’s grappling had looked so impressive in his previous UFC fights even though Henderson had the massive advantage in experience in big fights. Personally I was pulling for the Dagestani to hopefully freshen up the title picture.

Round One and a right hook glances for Khabilov early. Henderson throws out some jabs and a couple of kicks to keep his distance, then lands a left to set up the clinch. Khabilov looks for a hip throw right away and trips Bendo down, but the former champ pops right back up. Body shot breaks for Khabilov. Head kick glances for Henderson. Good left hand from Henderson closes the distance nicely. Right hook answers for Khabilov. Big right hand from Khabilov but Henderson just about dodges it. Brief exchange sees Khabilov get the better shots in. Spinning back kick misses though. Nice combo from Henderson but he leaves himself too open and Khabilov tackles him with a double leg. Henderson pops back up but Khabilov gets a rear waistlock and forces him back down. Back up again but Khabilov keeps hold of the waistlock and goes for his German suplex, but a nice leg-hook move prevents that and the former champ breaks free. Lunging left misses for Henderson and Khabilov makes him pay with a crushing right elbow that seems to stun him for a second. He recovers quickly though and lands with a front kick to the body. One minute to go and Henderson lunges with a left hand again, but leaves himself open and almost gets taken down. He manages to avoid, but eats a right on his way out. Uppercut glances for Khabilov. Jumping kick from Henderson is caught and Khabilov drops him with a double leg into guard. Couple of shots from Khabilov land cleanly and the round ends there. Very good start for Rustam Khabilov; 10-9.

Round Two and Henderson pushes forward to begin before he takes a glancing spinning backfist into a right hand. Henderson lands a right of his own to return fire and follows with a knee to the body. Beautiful double left hand from Henderson lands flush and he grabs the plum clinch as Khabilov tries to get hold of him. They muscle for position but Khabilov breaks off. Right hand to the body from Henderson. He’s really forcing Khabilov onto his back foot in this round. Couple of right hands glance for the Dagestani. Lunging left hand from Henderson misses and allows Khabilov to take him down again. Henderson scrambles from the guard right away and they exchange some elbows before the former champ explodes to his feet. They clinch up again and this time Henderson grabs a rear waistlock and takes the back, dragging Khabilov down with both hooks in. Body triangle follows and he begins to work for the choke. Khabilov seems pretty calm though and manages to explode free. Henderson pops up right away though and drives him into the cage with a double leg attempt. Khabilov defends it nicely but Henderson keeps him firmly pressed into the fence. Good elbow from Henderson but Khabilov uses a throw attempt to break free. Big right misses for Khabilov. Hard leg kick lands for Henderson but he eats a counter right to finish the round. 10-9 Henderson.

Comical moment between rounds as Greg Jackson speaks to Khabilov in a THICK RUSSIAN ACCENT. I’m not talking actually speaking to him in Russian here – I’m talking a broken-English style stereotypical Russian voice like something off a cartoon. Hey, if it works I guess.

Round Three and Khabilov comes out swinging, but Henderson avoids the early barrage. Leg kick from Henderson is caught and Khabilov takes him down, then grabs a front facelock as the former champ scrambles. Looks like he might be setting up for a guillotine, or possibly looking to spin to the back. They stalemate for a few moments before Khabilov gives up on it and separates with a knee. Body kick from Henderson and he gets out before Rustam can grab the leg. Into the clinch but Henderson shoves Khabilov away. Clinch from Henderson but Khabilov tries a throw. Henderson blocks it but eats a hard left hook on his way out. Leg kick from Henderson and he muscles out of the clinch. Good body kick sets up a combo from Henderson and he dives on a guillotine when Khabilov goes for the takedown, but the Dagestani slips free and winds up on top. Scramble from Bendo and now he looks to get Khabilov down with a double leg. Khabilov blocks though and they come back to their feet. Just over a minute to go in the round and Khabilov shrugs off another clinch before hitting a clean double leg to guard. Sick elevator sweep allows Henderson to scramble and take top position though in half-guard. That was awesome. Khabilov looks to tie him up, and the round ends before Henderson can do any damage. 10-9 Henderson although it was a better round for Khabilov than the second one was. This is a close fight.

Round Four and again Henderson backs the Dagestani up before clinching. Khabilov breaks off and lands with a right hand, then throw some kicks in order to keep distance. Henderson presses forward again and sets up a takedown attempt with a left, but Khabilov blocks and breaks free. Good left to the body from Henderson and he follows with a BIG RIGHT-LEFT COMBO THAT DROPS KHABILOV! Literally in the same movement Henderson FOLLOWS IN AND SINKS THE CHOKE and seconds later Khabilov taps. Incredible finishing sequence right there, tremendous killer instinct considering the guy hadn’t finished a fight since 2010 (!).

Excellent main event overall; just a very high-level fight between two great fighters and in a lot of respects both guys came away looking better than they did going in. Henderson because he fought a largely unheralded guy in a risky fight and not only did he overcome a poor first round to take over and finally finish a fight, but Khabilov because while he didn’t win in the end, he was able to hang with a proven top three/five fighter and didn’t look out of his depth at all even if his output slowed down towards the later rounds. I think he’s top ten for sure and with a bit more improvement he’s a title contender. This was one of the better Fight Night main events of 2014 in my opinion. Post-fight Henderson thanks (who else?) Jesus Christ, and then seems to take a knock at Anthony Pettis for not defending the belt. Get in line, dude – everyone at 155lbs seems to be bringing that up these days!

-Show abruptly ends there with no sum-up segment or anything. I guess it was quite a long show, though.

Final Thoughts….

I really liked this show on a rewatch. Sure, there was nothing as good as say, Brown vs. Silva or Henderson vs. Shogun here, but we didn’t get what you’d call a bad fight at all and five of the six fights were finished in entertaining and explosive fashion, so you can never complain about that. Best fight was probably the main event I’d say although I really liked Hallmann/Edwards for some reason too. The Diego decision made for a lot of controversy but overlook that and that one was an excellent fight too. If you missed this one first time around it’s worth a look for sure. Easy thumbs up.

Best Fight: Henderson vs. Khabilov
Worst Fight: None, actually.

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: