MMA Review: #484: UFC 180: Werdum vs. Hunt

-When the UFC announced their first foray into Mexico, the tickets solid insanely fast for what looked like a loaded card featuring four of the UFC’s top Hispanic fighters – Cain Velasquez, Diego Sanchez, Kelvin Gastelum and Dennis Bermudez, as well as the finals of the first season of TUF: Latin America, which had been drawing massive ratings on Mexican TV. This being 2014 though, things were bound to go wrong and sure enough both Diego and then Velasquez had to pull out with injuries, leaving a shell of a card if I’m honest. Still, the potential for action-packed fights was at least there as while the TUF fighters weren’t the most skilled they tended to be recklessly exciting to watch. And hey – Mark Hunt was getting a UFC title shot! I guess every cloud has a silver lining or something like that.

UFC 180: Werdum vs. Hunt

Mexico City, Mexico

<b.-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Bantamweight Fight: Marco Beltran vs Marlon Vera

Both of these fighters had come from the TUF series – Mexico’s Beltran had made it into the semi-finals before being eliminated by countryman Jose Quinonez, while Ecuador’s Vera had landed the best knockout of the season – a sick upkick on Henry Briones – before a skin infection ruled him out of the tournament. All of these fights were hard to call but I was siding with Vera admittedly though due to one kick.

Round One begins and the crowd are just ludicrously hot. Body kick opens for Beltran. Couple of jabs answer for Vera. Both guys look aggressive here. Right hand pegs Vera back a bit but he comes right back with a glancing head kick. Flying kick to the body from Beltran and he clinches and looks for the takedown. Vera blocks by lacing up the arm for a possible kimura and they end up tied up on the fence. Vera manages to get a bodylock and sneaks behind him, taking the back with one hook. Beltran’s still standing though and he looks to turn into the Ecuadorian. He lands some nice back elbows in the process too. Good job from Beltran to spin out back into the clinch. Takedown from Beltran and he avoids a guillotine by hopping out into half-guard. Solid punches from Beltran before Vera shrimps back to full guard. Triangle attempt from Vera is avoided and Beltran drops a big right hand through the guard. Short ground-and-pound follows for Beltran but Vera keeps shifting his hips to look for the triangle. The attempt is avoided by Beltran and he drops a nice elbow, but another triangle looks more dangerous. Vera loses it though but in the scramble he winds up on top in half-guard. Good elbows from the top for Vera and he stands over the Mexican to deliver a left, but it looks like an errant kick caught Beltran low at the same time. Herb Dean calls time and we see the replay of a SICK axe kick to the groin. Man that’s gotta hurt. They restart standing with seconds to go and Beltran wades aggressively into the clinch with a hard right hand. Round ends there. Good first round. 10-9 Beltran.

Round Two and Beltran opens with a leg kick. Front kick to the chest follows but Vera catches it and hits a bodyslam to half-guard. Guillotine attempt from Beltran has the crowd going insane but Vera works his head free easily. Full mount from Vera and Beltran might be in trouble. The Mexican scrambles, but he gives his back and Vera locks both hooks up. Body triangle from Vera and this is a dangerous position for sure now. The Ecuadorian goes for the choke and it looks sunk, but Beltran manages to turn to avoid. A mistake from Beltran shifting his hips allows Vera to completely sink the choke for a second, but Beltran guts it out and pulls the hands off. Another attempt looks sunk too but still Beltran fights it off. He’s doing a tremendous job of defending this choke. Beltran tries to turn into Vera and in a scramble he manages to force himself over, landing on top in the guard. Just over a minute to go and Beltran lands some punches to the head and body. He stands over Vera and kicks the legs, but steps his way into a heel hook and Vera looks to lock it up. Beltran pulls out though and now he’s got full mount! Big elbows from Beltran but he’s running out of time. Vera rolls to his side to attempt to get half-guard, but he can’t get out of the mount. Round ends there. Close round to call due to the final rush from Beltran but I’d go 10-9 for Vera based on all that back control.

Round Three and Beltran pushes forward swinging and catches Vera with a one-two. Vera answers with a body kick and a side kick. Beltran really swings but Vera manages to avoid the clinch. Front kick to the body from Beltran. Flurry into a jumping knee glances for Vera as does a spinning back kick. Flying kick from Beltran answers and he clinches, but Vera muscles him into the fence. They muscle for position and Vera lands a big knee, but slips to his back in the process and starts throwing up kicks. Beltran avoids and drops down into the guard. He moves into half-guard and then attempts to mount but Vera reverses and works back up to his feet. They break off and Vera starts stalking forward now. Big body kick into a left hook from Vera and he lands a nasty knee from the clinch that forces Beltran to drop for a takedown. Vera sprawls and then takes top position with a big elbow. Big shots begin to land for Vera and Beltran turns his back. He looks like he’s struggling. Beltran desperately grips hold of Vera’s arm to slow him down but he’s still taking a bunch of punches. Roll from Beltran puts him on his back and now Vera goes for a D’Arce! It looks tight and Vera hops into a mount for good measure before going back to north/south, but he can’t seem to get it tight enough to finish. Beltran sneaks his head free but he takes a VICIOUS elbow. Seconds to go and Beltran goes for some elbows off his back before Vera ends the round with a diving right. 10-9 Vera for a 29-28 win I think. Hell of a fight.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Marco Beltran. I guess they went for Beltran’s nasty ground-and-pound in the second round rather than Vera’s back control which is fine I suppose. I’d like to see Vera given another chance in the UFC though as this was such an exciting and close fight. I mean yeah, you could question whether these guys (and any of this TUF cast) are UFC-level competitors but who cares when they’re as reckless and aggressive as this? Tremendous opener.

Bantamweight Fight: Henry Briones vs Guido Cannetti

Another fight between TUF castmates. Mexico’s Briones had been pegged as an initial favourite to take the Bantamweight tournament but was then upset with that afore-mentioned kick at the hands (feet?) of Marlon Vera, while Argentina’s Cannetti had lost a decision to Marco Beltran before being brought back after Vera was sidelined. Unfortunately for him he’d got too wild in his fight with Alejandro Perez and was violently knocked out. I was leaning towards Briones here after seeing that fight, unfortunately for ‘Ninja’ Cannetti.

First round begins and Cannetti stalks forward as Briones seems unbelievably calm. Good counter right from Briones in the first exchange. Body kick from Cannetti and he follows with a front kick to the face and a quick combo. Good right hand from Briones but Cannetti tackles him to the ground and lands in side mount. Crowd hate Cannetti so much its comical. Good reversal from Briones and he pops up and takes Guido down before leaping onto his back with both hooks. Cannetti does a good job though and manages to free himself, turning into Briones’ guard. Good shots from Cannetti but he gets too wild and that allows Briones to pop back up. Good knee to the body connects for Cannetti and he chases Briones back with punches. Front kick to the body from Cannetti and they clinch but Briones separates with an elbow. Nice body kick from Cannetti and they trade punches again into the clinch. This is a wild fight. Briones separates again and wings with an overhand right that just misses. WILD SWINGS from Cannetti but he takes a sharp counter right en route to the clinch. They break and Cannetti hurts him with a flurry to the body and has him backing up. More body shots double Briones over and he’s in BIG TROUBLE here. Big shots land for Cannetti but Briones FIRES RIGHT BACK with wild punches of his own. This is a crazy fight. Head kick misses for Guido but he nails Briones with a vicious left. Briones manages to clinch though and comes back with uppercuts. They break and continue to trade and again Briones gets hurt with body shots. He’s dropping his hands so badly to protect the body now. Takedown is stuffed by Briones and that’s the round. Incredible stuff. 10-9 Cannetti.

Second round and Cannetti opens with a vicious inside leg kick. Briones comes back with a hard left hand. Front kick to the body again from Cannetti. He’s just swinging everything full force here but Briones is doing well firing back too. Combo from Briones but Cannetti lands on him with a HUGE combo. Briones somehow takes that and fires back before shrugging off a clinch. Big right hand from Cannetti but Briones counters with a HUGE UPPERCUT and the Argentine goes down! Briones quickly pounces with punches and Cannetti looks out of it. He somehow throws up a triangle attempt but takes more shots and ends up giving his back, and Briones immediately SINKS THE CHOKE for the tapout! Crowd go INSANE.

Well, that was a fucking tremendous fight right there. Briones was pretty much getting destroyed standing but somehow he was tough enough to hang in there and eventually he managed to land the perfect counter and on the ground, particularly with Cannetti half-out of it anyway, it was no contest. This was one of the best fights of 2014 for me.

Featherweight Fight: Gabriel Benitez vs Humberto Brown

The interestingly-nicknamed ‘Moggly’ Benitez had made the semi-finals of the TUF Featherweight tournament before being eliminated by the dangerous Nicaraguan Leonardo Morales, while Brown – representing Panama (!) – had been eliminated by the favourite to win the whole tournament in Yair ‘Pantera’ Rodriguez. I was leaning towards Benitez here as I saw Brown as probably the weakest fighter in that tournament.

Round One begins and both guys come out swinging, unsurprisingly. Brown looks recklessly aggressive early on. Takedown attempt from Brown and he scoops Benitez up into the air, but Moggly locks up a guillotine while he’s up there and really pulls back before dropping to guard. Brown looks just about done but somehow he GUTS IT OUT and punches the body. Holy shit this looks like a tight choke. Somehow though Brown keeps wrenching his head and manages to get it free. Unbelievable. Another guillotine attempt follows though and this one looks just as tight, but evidently his arms are tired and again Brown gets free into Benitez’s guard. Big crowd chant for Moggly as he rolls for an armbar, but Brown defends well and keeps top position. Brown tries some ground-and-pound but Benitez shows some good defensive skill and then he goes for an armbar again. Brown avoids but finds himself stuck in a triangle instead. He manages to posture up to avoid it, landing some hammer fists for good measure, but Benitez uses the fence to stand. He tries to lock up the guillotine again but Brown gets free. Big knees from Benitez inside the clinch and he opens up on the Panaman with a flurry, but Brown clinches to slow him down. They muscle for position before referee Mario Yamasaki steps in and calls an apparent low blow on Benitez. Replays show it was an accidental knee. Moggly recovers and they restart with less than a minute to go. Left uppercut from Benitez and he follows with a flying knee. Brown catches it and takes him down but AGAIN he lands right in a guillotine. This time Brown hops into half-guard to free himself before Benitez reverses on the buzzer. Another action-packed round. 10-9 Benitez for all the submission attempts.

Round Two and Benitez tags Brown with an early combo and shrugs off a clinch. Nice low kick from Moggly but Brown counters with a heavy right hook. Body kick lands for Benitez as does a long right hand. Brown looks stiff on his feet although he’s also throwing some heavy leather. Nice right hand connects for Benitez. Low blow replies for Brown and again Mario Yamasaki has to call time. This time he decides to take a point away from Brown as I guess it’s his second offense. Fair play – I don’t think that’s done enough to be honest. They restart and Benitez glances with a jumping body kick. Brown manages to bull through a combo and looks for a takedown, driving Benitez back into the fence. Looks like Benitez might be able to take the back, but Brown keeps driving and takes him down. Moggly pops back up but Brown stays right on him and he looks to get him down again. Good defense from Benitez so far though to stay up. Yamasaki decides to separate them and there’s just over a minute to go. Good knee from Benitez leads into the clinch but Brown shrugs it off and lands a good right hand before dropping for another takedown. Couple of elbows to the body from Benitez and he’s still doing a good job of defending. Brown has a suspicious stain on his shorts like he’s shit himself. Sorry, had to point it out! Seconds to go and Benitez breaks free and then goes back into the clinch to end the round with a trade of knees. 10-10 round but it’s 10-9 Benitez due to the point deduction.

Round Three and they open with a BRO HUG before Benitez lands a big combo that has Brown hurt. He goes for the takedown but this time Benitez locks up a VERY TIGHT high-angle guillotine and in fact it looks like he’s switching to a PRAYER CHOKE!~! From there he forces Brown onto his back and the Panaman passes out before he can even tap. Sick finish for Moggly.

That’s three incredibly exciting fights from these TUF guys thus far. This one wasn’t quite as good as the previous two due to Brown being a bit of a novice striker and Benitez not being quite as aggressive, but it was still a ton of fun with a really sick finish for Benitez with one of the nastiest chokes in the game.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Jessica Eye vs Leslie Smith

The lone non-TUF fight on the undercard here this was Smith’s third UFC fight of 2014 following a tough loss to Sarah Kaufman and then an impressive victory over Ronda Rousey disciple Jessamyn Duke. Opponent Eye was coming off a tight loss to Alexis Davis in February and given that she’d beaten Kaufman back in October 2013 I was taking her to get past Smith in a tough fight here.

First round begins and they trade strikes from the off with Eye tagging Smith with a bunch of combos. She looks really smooth on the feet here. Eye mixes in some leg kicks too and she’s tagging Smith literally every time she throws combos. Looks like she’s twice as fast as Smith. Big head kick lands for Smith but Eye catches the leg to counter with punches. Smith’s face looks marked up already. These girls are SWINGING here, just firing at each other from in the pocket. Eye’s definitely getting the better of it though. More punches get through for Eye. This is like watching a women’s version of Melendez/Sanchez in that Smith’s firing back but largely missing while eating punches. Big right hand finally connects for Smith and Eye has to back up a little. Both women land some leg kicks before Eye lands with a heavy uppercut inside the clinch. Nice counter left tags Smith hard in another exchange. One minute to go and a right hand from Eye causes a nasty cut on the left ear of Smith. Lot of blood coming down the side of Smith’s face from that. More combinations tag Smith and she’s BUSTED UP. Smith keeps on wading forward though but she’s just eating combo after combo. Round ends there. 10-9 Eye.

Second round and Smith wades through a combo to get to the clinch where they exchange knees. Eye also works some short, tight punches directly to the injured ear for good measure. Elbow breaks for Smith. Eye has Smith’s blood on her forehead now in a sick visual. Good leg kick from Eye. More combinations continue to land for Eye and she’s showing excellent head movement to avoid Smith’s punches too. Another trade follows before referee Herb Dean steps in to call time. He wants the doctor to check Smith’s ear and the close-up shows it’s HANGING OFF. Holy fucking shit that’s disgusting. Smith is furious and she screams that she wants to continue – in Spanish for good measure in fact – but it’s not enough to convince the doctor and they throw the fight out there. Replay shows a right hand from Eye pretty much tore the ear off Smith’s head which is DISGUSTING. Good stoppage from the doctor for sure.

Excellent fight and a tremendous performance from Jessica Eye – a lot of it looked like wild trading but in reality Smith was the only one getting wild – Eye was picking her shots and just had a lot more speed and movement than Leslie and that allowed her to basically cut Smith’s ear to shreds. The talk now is Eye getting a potential title shot which I don’t really agree with right now – I think she needs one more win before that – but if the other rumor of her fighting Bethe Correia for a shot at Rousey is true then that works for me. At the least she’d offer Ronda something different in terms of style, but then I thought that with Cat Zingano and well, you know.

TUF Latin America: Bantamweight Finals: Alejandro Perez vs Jose Alberto Quinonez

These two had been friends during the reality show as they were both part of Team Mexico, and they’d also looked pretty impressive during the tapings; Perez (‘Eli Diablito’) beating Colombian wrestler Fredy Serrano and then Guido Cannetti, while Quinonez (‘Teco’) had taken out Bolivia’s Bentley Syler and countryman Marco Beltran. I thought Perez had looked better on the show so I was picking him, but interestingly he already had a loss to Quinonez on his record which made it a bit of a risky pick.

Round One and they trade kicks right away with Perez seemingly getting the better of it. Takedown attempt from Perez and he drives Quinonez back, but gets reversed and Teco ends up on top instead. Scramble from Perez lets him up to his feet but Teco grabs a rear waistlock and takes the back. Perez manages to spin free though and we’re back to standing. Good combo from Teco and he catches a kick and gets a takedown off it where he lands some wild ground-and-pound and a nasty knee as Perez pops up to his feet. Nice inside leg kick from Perez. Couple of jabs and another hard leg kick land for Perez. Lot of movement from Teco and he’s switching stances constantly too. Couple of counterpunches land for Quinonez as Perez continues to circle and fire off leg kicks. Nice left-right combo from Perez stuns Quinonez for a second. Perez is getting the better of these exchanges right now. Beautiful counter right hand lands for him. Both men have head kicks blocked. Nice knee from Teco but Perez wobbles him with a right hook at the end of the round. Close and fun round; 10-9 Perez for me.

Round Two and Perez lands with a clean left hand as Quinonez walks forward. Perez is definitely beating him to the punch. The leg kicks seem to have slowed Teco’s movement down too. Rushing left hand into a right hook from Perez. Good counter left from Teco. Nice counter knee to the body follows as Perez wings a right hand over the top. Leg kick sweeps Teco right off his feet and as he pops up Perez forces him into the fence. Quinonez breaks off quickly. Body kick from Perez. Left hook lands for Perez but Quinonez comes back with a stiff right hand. Another leg kick lands cleanly for Perez. Straight left answers for Teco. Takedown attempt from Quinonez but Perez blocks it nicely. He breaks the clinch with a glancing elbow. These guys are pretty much openly trading now. Combo has Perez stunned a bit and he backs up with Quinonez literally chasing him back. Perez attempts a takedown but Teco scrambles free. One minute to go and Quinonez lands with a body kick. One-two lands for Perez. Head kick glances for Teco. Perez’s face looks a bit marked up now. Nice kick to the body from Teco at the end of the round. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Quinonez to even things up.

Round Three and they open with the bro hug. And of course as soon as they break the hug they’re swinging wildly again with Perez tagging Teco with a pair of counterpunches. Big left and a right from Perez and he wades in but Teco fires back and tags him. Perez manages to clinch and from there he gets the back and lands a BIG GERMAN SUPLEX right into a rear naked choke! It looks tight but he doesn’t have full body control and Teco manages to spin free into top position! Armbar attempt from Perez right away but he doesn’t have the arm fully sunk and Teco avoids and drops some hammer fists, allowing him into side mount. Nice knees to the body from Quinonez before Perez manages to scramble to guard. Crowd are absolutely red hot here. Arm triangle attempt from Teco now but he’s still in half-guard. Elbows connect for Teco and he goes for the arm triangle again but still can’t quite get out of the half-guard. He gives it up and lands some left hands instead. BLATANT headbutt follows, Mark Coleman style! No clue what Quinonez was thinking there. Referee Big John McCarthy instantly steps in to call time. Looks like it’s busted up Perez’s nose too which is unfortunate. Doctors have to check the nose over and they suspect it’s broken, but they decide to let the fight continue thankfully. Big John yells to the judges “it was intentional, I don’t give a fuck what he says”, and then takes TWO POINTS from Teco. WOW. That pretty much means he needs a stoppage to win. Good leg kick from the restart for Perez. Another low kick sets up a nice left hand for Perez. Teco fires back with a solid left. Good counter right from Quinonez too. They continue to trade into the clinch and Quinonez manages to hit a trip to half-guard. One minute to go now and Teco lands punches but Perez works back to full guard. Back to half-guard for Quinonez but the finish doesn’t look likely at all. Guillotine attempt though and it looks quite tight, but Perez holds on to the buzzer. Teco’s round but with the point deductions it’s 9-8 Perez giving him a 28-27 win on my scorecard.

Judges have it 29-26, 29-26 and 28-27 all for Alejandro Perez. Well after the point deductions the winner was never really in doubt, but with a foul as blatant as that I don’t think you could argue with Big John’s call. Headbutt or no headbutt though this was a GREAT FIGHT, with both men absolutely going balls-to-the-wall and holding nothing back. Will either guy make a ton of noise at Bantamweight? I honestly don’t know but shit, judging on this it’ll be a lot of fun to see them try. This was reminiscent of early US TUF finals like Herman/Grove and Stevenson/Cummo in fact. Tremendous.

TUF Latin America: Featherweight Finals: Yair Rodriguez vs Leonardo Morales

Morales was the only member of Team Werdum (AKA Team Latin America) to make the finals, hailing from the Central American country of Nicaragua. Obviously the guy was the first UFC fighter from Nicaragua, duh. He’d looked excellent on the reality show, using sharp counterpunching to take out Masio Fullen before decisioning Gabriel Benitez in the semi-finals. ‘Pantera’ Rodriguez meanwhile hadn’t been quite as spectacular but had been equally as effective, beating Humberto Brown and Rodolfo Rubio en route to this final. The favourite was Rodriguez but I was actually taking Morales in a slight upset here.

Round One and Morales pushes forward right away and lunges in with a kick to the body. Quick combo from Rodriguez backs him up a bit though. Crowd are hugely into Rodriguez. Low kick into a right hand sets up a clinch for the Mexican and he forces Morales into the fence and trips him, landing right into full mount. Morales spins all over the place but ends up giving his back and he’s in trouble with only a minute and half gone. Rodriguez looks for the choke as Morales defends, and it’s a bit of a stalemate to be honest as the Nicaraguan has good defense. Rodriguez spins into an armbar attempt, but Morales avoids and so he goes for a triangle instead. Another armbar attempt follows but Morales again does a good defensive job and he stands over Rodriguez with some hard kicks to the legs. Leglock attempt from Rodriguez but Mario Yamasaki suddenly steps in and calls time. No clue why. He warns Rodriguez for something and then calls a stand-up. Good knee from Morales from the clinch after the restart and they trade punches before the Nicaraguan lands a body kick. Side kick glances for Rodriguez. Spinning back elbow misses for the Mexican. Cartwheel kick misses too but gets a big crowd pop. Joe Rogan reveals that the restart was due to Morales grabbing the fence, which is odd given he seemed to be talking to Rodriguez. Morales meanwhile OPENS UP with a flurry of kicks and a heavy right that have Rodriguez stunned! He uses a side kick to the chest though to create some distance and comes back with a spinning backfist. Right hand connects for Morales. Wheel kick misses for Rodriguez. Running leg kick from Morales but he eats a right hand counter. Axe kick misses for Rodriguez and that’s the round. Well, that was awesome. 10-9 Rodriguez.

Round Two and Rodriguez throws a bunch of kicks that miss in the opening minute. Leg kick lands for Morales. Nice right from Rodriguez sets up the clinch and he looks to trip Morales down. The Nicaraguan blocks it and so Rodriguez tries a hip throw, but he still can’t get Morales down and they muscle along the fence. Right hand glances on the break for Rodriguez. Beautiful double leg from Rodriguez and he drives Morales back, eating some elbows, but eventually getting him down. Full guard for Morales but Rodriguez stands over him in an attempt to pass. Big right hand connects from the top for Rodriguez and he drops back into half-guard. Looks like Rodriguez is looking to set up a possible arm triangle here. Morales scrambles from the bottom though and so the Mexican stands instead. Cartwheel kick (!) into the guard from Rodriguez sets up a heel hook attempt somehow, and Morales sits up and throws some elbows to the body to try to counter as his leg is in jeopardy. Surprised he isn’t trying more to pull free. Rodriguez tries to go into an armbar variant from there which is ridiculous, but he has both the arm and leg trapped which means no real submission is possible. Morales manages to work free and stands over him to deliver some kicks and the crowd are not happy with that at ALL. Big upkick connects for Rodriguez though and he goes for the heel hook again as the round ends. This is a great fight. 10-9 Rodriguez and I’d say Morales needs a finish to win now.

Round Three and Morales opens with a body kick. Good inside leg kick from Morales and he follows with a left hand. Flurry from Rodriguez but Morales gets out of the way. Another nice leg kick lands for the Nicaraguan and he backs Rodriguez up with a combo before catching him with the DREADED LOW BLOW. Mario Yamasaki has to call time and Rodriguez busts out some HIP THRUSTS while lying on his back in the cage. Weird stuff! They restart and another leg kick connects for Morales. Nice right hand answers for Rodriguez. Body kick drops Rodriguez for a second and he eats a glancing head kick as he springs up. That evidently gets his anger flowing as he fires right back with a wild combo. Morales answers that with another hard leg kick. Beautiful combo from Rodriguez ending in a vicious body kick but now HE lands a low blow. They restart after a few moments and Morales nails the Mexican with a pair of body kicks and a big combo. Rodriguez decides to shoot after that and drives him into the fence, but he can’t quite get him down. They move across the cage until Morales hits a SICK BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX to get Rodriguez off him. Holy shit that was cool. Rodriguez pops right back up though. Two minutes to go and another low kick lands for Morales. Right hand and a combo answers for Rodriguez but he takes a knee from close quarters. Big combo from Rodriguez and Morales has to back up. They exchange more combos before a flying knee sets up a big right hook for Rodriguez. Morales comes right back with another body kick. His kicks have looked great in this round especially. Big combo ends the round for Morales. 10-9 Morales but 29-28 Rodriguez overall.

Judges all score it 29-28 for Yair Rodriguez. This was ANOTHER great fight though as it was very close and it was pretty much the stronger ground game of Rodriguez that won him the fight. A clean sweep for Team Velasquez/Mexico then but Morales definitely didn’t disgrace himself with this effort and I’m looking forward to seeing how both guys can do in the bigger picture of the UFC’s Featherweight division. Pretty wild to have a card with literally ALL of the prelims delivering great fights too.

Welterweight Fight: Hector Urbina vs Edgar Garcia

This was originally a prelim, but was shifted to the main card when it lost Diego vs. Lauzon. Garcia was coming into his second UFC run following a stint in 2009 that saw him put on a pair of exciting fights but unfortunately for him he lost both of them and was cut. To be fair I think if he’d come around today he would’ve been kept on due to the bigger roster size now but yeah. Urbina had come from TUF 19 where he’d looked pretty unspectacular to say the least. My pick was Garcia based on him looking like a solid fighter in his previous UFC run.

Fight begins and Urbina opens with a nice outside leg kick. Good left hook from Garcia. Urbina seems to be backing him up a bit early on though and he lands another hard leg kick. Leg kick responds for Garcia and he catches a leg and drops Urbina with some punches. Urbina gives his back and Garcia gets on top with some shots before taking the back with both hooks off a scramble. Good punches from Garcia and it looks like Urbina’s in a lot of trouble. Big shots connect and Urbina looks like he might be done, but he manages to roll and then avoids a rear naked choke attempt too. Garcia desperately tries to keep back control but winds up sliding off and Urbina ends up on top in half-guard. Scramble from Garcia allows him to sneak from underneath, but he leaves his neck open and Urbina grabs onto a guillotine. Garcia pops his head free but Urbina quickly grabs the choke again. Somehow Garcia makes the massive error of moving to his knees and letting Urbina grab onto the neck arm-free, and from there he switches to a NASTY power guillotine variant. He can’t quite get it though and Garcia pulls free and escapes up to his feet. Knees from the clinch for Garcia but as he drops for a takedown he leaves his neck wide open AGAIN and Urbina quickly locks up a guillotine correctly this time and spins him around so he’s pressed into the fence. Tapout quickly follows. Nice finish for Hector Urbina to take advantage of a pretty glaring error.

Fun opener with a cool finish – looking at Urbina physically I think he’s probably better suited to 155lbs and even there I can’t see him challenging the elite fighters of the UFC but for a debut in Mexico City this was fine. Somehow though it was the least exciting fight so far despite having a first round finish!

Welterweight Fight: Augusto ‘Dodger’ Montano vs Chris Heatherly

This seemed like an odd choice for a main card fight given Heatherly hadn’t exactly set the world alight in his UFC debut (a loss to Ben Saunders via oma plata), but then I guess Zuffa were looking to showcase Montano – a native Mexican said to be the best guy on the Mexican scene (as opposed to US-based Mexicans like Cain, etc). Due to this the easy pick was Montano as it seemed like a set-up for him.

Fight begins and the first noticeable thing here is that Montano is a HUGE Welterweight. Like, he looks like he’s at least 200lbs. Bigger than Brandon Thatch even who I’d say is probably the biggest guy I’ve seen at that weight. They circle to begin and Heatherly tries to swing some strikes, but right away you can see him having issues getting inside Montano’s range. Wild overhand right from Heatherly sets up a takedown though and he manages to put the Mexican on his back. He moves into half-guard but Dodger quickly gets full guard back in. Armbar attempt from Montano but Heatherly avoids and slips into side mount. Scramble follows though and Montano escapes to his feet. Rushing combo connects for Dodger. Another takedown attempt by Heatherly is stuffed. His striking looks way crude too, just wild swings. Combo connects for Montano. He backs Heatherly up into the fence and looks for a trip, but Heatherly defends. Big knee to the body lands for Montano. Looks like it has Heatherly hurt too as he doubles over and from there Montano OPENS UP with some huge knees and punches. Brutal shots land for Montano but Heatherly survives and forces him off with some counters. Nice left uppercut from Heatherly has Montano stunned for a second but he recovers instantly. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Montano and Heatherly pulls guard. Big elbows get through for Montano and Heatherly scrambles onto all fours. Looks like Montano’s considering an anaconda choke but he lets Heatherly up instead and nails him with a knee to the body. Heatherly drops for a single leg but Montano stuffs it and drops some sharp hammer fists before separating to allow both men to their feet. Rushing knee forces Heatherly into the fence where he starts to cover up, and from there Montano DESTROYS HIM WITH KNEES until the ref calls the stoppage. Good lord that was a beatdown.

Fun fight as Heatherly was actually acquitting himself well until that first flurry of knees, and from there it looked like the fight totally evaporated from the guy and Montano just took him apart until the finish. I’m interested to see how far Montano can go actually – he looks like a skilled guy to go along with that ridiculous size and I think he could definitely make a move into the upper echelon. Welterweight is still probably the most loaded division though with tons of killer prospects (Brandon Thatch, Alex Garcia, Ryan LaFlare, Warlley Alves, Colby Covington to name a handful) as well as a bunch of tough journeymen like Ben Saunders, Neil Magny, etc so it’ll be a tricky road to the top for him for sure. Should at least be exciting to see him try though based on this!

Featherweight Fight: Ricardo Lamas vs Dennis Bermudez

This was a pretty major fight for the division as Bermudez was on the biggest non-Aldo streak at 145lbs, reeling off seven straight wins after his TUF final loss to Diego Brandao, while Lamas was of course coming off an unsuccessful title challenge of his own. The feeling was Bermudez could get a title shot or at least a title eliminator with a win and I figured he’d do just that as I thought his wrestling and striking were both better than Lamas’s, as I’ve often thought Lamas was a bit overrated.

Video package for this one is hilarious as Lamas basically says he talks no trash and just fights well to get his name out there, while Bermudez literally shows more charisma in like one minute of video than Lamas has done in his whole career. Never saw Dennis like that before but evidently he’s learned from Conor McGregor or something.

Round One begins and Lamas misses an early head kick but lands a pair of leg kicks. Wheel kick misses for Lamas too and Bermudez rushes him with a superman punch that sets up the clinch for him. Good knee to the body from Lamas as they muscle for position inside the clinch. Really nice knee from Bermudez before they break off. Left hand glances for Lamas. Head kick misses. Good leg kick from Dennis and he throws Lamas down for a second before the former title challenger pops back up. Another nice leg kick lands for Bermudez and he’s really pushing forward now. Low kick from Lamas sends him down though and Lamas follows by grabbing a front headlock when Dennis tries to pop up. Knees to the shoulders land for Lamas and he stuffs a takedown attempt as Bermudez works back up to his feet. Short elbow connects inside the clinch for Bermudez. Lamas responds with some hard knees to the body. This is a hell of a pace they’re setting. Pair of right hands break for Bermudez. Striking exchange continues before a STIFF LEFT HAND drops Bermudez! He tries to pop back up but Lamas is on him instantly with a TIGHT GUILLOTINE and that’s enough for the tapout! Whoa.

Did not expect that finish in a million years if I’m honest but maybe I was underrating Lamas after all. I’d call this the best showing of his career too as he came out and matched Bermudez’s wild aggression, dropped him and put him away all within one round. Really exciting fight and it makes me wish Lamas had been more aggressive against Jose Aldo as it might’ve meant that fight would’ve been more entertaining. On the flip side, how do you not feel bad for Bermudez? Dude had a seven-fight win streak snapped here and now he’s suddenly way down the totem pole. Such is MMA I guess.

Welterweight Fight: Kelvin Gastelum vs Jake Ellenberger

After a pair of solid wins over Rick Story and Nico Musoke it was clear TUF 17 winner Gastelum was one of the best prospects in the 170lbs division, but I have to admit I was surprised when this match was announced – sure, Ellenberger hadn’t looked really great since early 2013, but he was still a proven top ten guy with dangerous skills all over the place and I questioned whether Gastelum was quite ready for the step up. Still, I did get a sense that UFC wanted Kelvin to win and that made me wonder whether Joe Silva knew something I didn’t, but even so – I saw Ellenberger as the favourite in this one.

Fight begins and Ellenberger throws an early combo and stuffs a takedown attempt pretty easily. Nice stinging combo from Gastelum pegs Ellenberger back a bit. Glancing combo from Ellenberger ending in a left hook, but Kelvin seems okay and he comes back with a right hand that lands cleanly. Right hand connects for Ellenberger in an exchange. Big counter right connects for Ellenberger as Kelvin wades forward but evidently Kelvin’s got a strong chin as he TAKES IT LIKE A MAN. Beautiful stinging jab from Gastelum. Hard combo lands for Ellenberger and backs Kelvin up, but the TUF winner comes back with a double leg and plants him down in guard. Decent punches land over the top for Kelvin and he goes to the body for good measure too. Flurry of elbows from Gastelum but Ellenberger does a good job of deflecting most of them. Gastelum tries to work to pass, but Ellenberger hits a scramble and escapes to his feet. Nice body kick and left hand from Kelvin and he’s got Ellenberger going backwards. They clinch up with Gastelum driving Jake into the fence, where they exchange knees before Ellenberger suddenly takes the back and hits a German suplex, planting Kelvin on all fours. For some reason though he TOTALLY FREEZES and it allows Kelvin to spin free and take *his* back, and right away he slaps both hooks in and SINKS THE CHOKE!~! Ellenberger taps with seconds in the round remaining. Incredible.

Post-fight Ellenberger is PISSED and rightfully so as I have no idea what caused him to allow Gastelum to go from underneath with his back exposed to full back control with both hooks within seconds. Kelvin’s rear naked choke was super-impressive though in that he had it locked up TIGHT within a couple of seconds of slapping his hooks in. Post-fight Gastelum cuts a charismatic promo pretty much all in Spanish and for a while it looked like he’d become the UFC’s next big Hispanic star, but a loss to Tyron Woodley and a spectacular weight cutting error have seemingly put him back further than this win brought him forward. I still think he’ll end up as a legit contender but man he has to sort out that whole weight issue. Regardless, this was ANOTHER crazy exciting fight on this card making it ten good fights out of ten so far.

UFC Interim Heavyweight Title: Fabricio Werdum vs Mark Hunt

When Cain Velasquez pulled out with yet another injury (seriously, the guy just has no luck at all) it looked like this card was pretty much ruined, but to be fair to the UFC they salvaged it in the best way possible with this Interim title match – fans had been clamouring for an unlikely title shot for Hunt for a couple of years and coming off his win over Roy Nelson with no other obvious contender on the horizon, it made sense for them to offer him the title shot here. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to pick the guy – while on the surface this looked like striker vs. grappler, Werdum had also looked incredible on the feet himself against Travis Browne in his previous fight. Throw in the fact that Hunt was taking the fight on short notice and the event was being held at a crazy altitude and I was definitely favouring Werdum. But then with the KO power Hunt possesses, he had a puncher’s chance for sure.

Round One and both men look pretty tentative to begin. Leg kick lands for Werdum from the outside. Hunt responds with an inside leg kick of his own. Body kick glances for Werdum. Head kick is blocked by Hunt too. Left from Hunt and he follows with a right to the temple that drops Werdum. Hunt’s smart though and refuses to go to the ground with the Brazilian, waving him up instead. Looked like Werdum was trying to bait him there ala his fight with Fedor. Combo glances for Hunt as Werdum comes back up. Low single leg misses for Werdum. One-two glances for Hunt. Werdum is standing way out of range here. Wheel kick misses for him. Good leg kick from Werdum. Looks like Hunt’s content to try to pick his punches. Takedown (!) from Hunt and he lands in Werdum’s guard. That was BIZARRE. No clue why he’d do that. Hunt postures up inside the guard but Werdum’s locking him down already and shifting his hips for a possible triangle. Couple of short punches get through for Hunt though and he actually seems alright in this position. One minute to go though and he’s had enough of that and decides to stand up. Couple of low kicks land for Werdum but Hunt catches him HARD with a right hand and an uppercut from close range. Werdum recovers quickly though and throws a couple more kicks, but he takes another combo from Hunt and now he seems hurt and hesitant. Round ends with a brief and wild exchange. 10-9 Hunt surprisingly enough as Werdum looked really tentative on the feet.

Round Two and Hunt looks incredibly relaxed now after that first round. Body kick glances for Werdum and he just about dodges a couple of HUGE counters. Counter right drops Werdum but again Hunt’s having none of the guard and he waves him right back up. Winging right hand misses for Hunt. Big head kick misses for Werdum. Front kick to the thigh connects for the Brazilian but he’s still firing at range. Big shove from Hunt counters a spin kick and sends Werdum down. Hunt again waves him right back up. Big uppercut misses for Hunt and Werdum counters and clinches, but Hunt shrugs him off. Low single leg is stuffed by Hunt as Werdum shoots way from the outside. Hunt lets him back up, but he’s dropping his hands and Werdum suddenly DROPS HIM WITH A FLYING KNEE OUT OF NOWHERE!~! Hammer fists connect on the ground for Werdum and HUNT IS OUT! WOW.

Absolutely incredible finish for Fabricio Werdum. Werdum by knockout was to me about as unlikely as Hunt by submission, and on a rewatch it was even more surprising given how badly out of his depth Werdum seemed standing with Hunt in those early exchanges. He looked tentative and almost scared, shooting all of his takedowns from miles away and throwing kicks that looked like they were more to keep Hunt at a distance. Still, how the hell do you argue with that flying knee? Not many guys can say they’ve knocked out Mark Hunt – the only two I can recall in MMA at least are JDS and Melvin Manhoef and for Werdum to join those two is insane. I still don’t think he’ll have anything for Cain when they eventually fight but that’s more because I think Cain’s the best HW of all time and not because Werdum’s bad or anything. In a Cain-free world I could easily see Werdum holding the title proper at this point. But then in a Cain-free world JDS would probably be the undisputed #1 and wouldn’t have had his prime fucking savagely beaten out of him so who knows? Pretty incredible finish to the main event to cap off the night at any rate.

-Highlight reel ends the night from Mexico City, and what a bunch of highlights. Whew.

Final Thoughts….

What this show was missing in name value it more than made up with in terms of sheer action, as everyone from the TUF fighters up to the main eventers came to THROW DOWN and did so with largely reckless abandon, giving us one of the best cards in recent memory let alone in 2014. It’s actually hard to pick a ‘Best Fight’ – I’m going with Briones vs. Cannetti for that wild comeback but on another day I could easily pick Perez vs. Quinonez or Eye vs. Smith for instance. It’s easy to pick a ‘Worst Fight’ – there were none because this card was so awesome from start to finish. Forget about rankings and titles for a second and just watch this one because you will not be disappointed. Massive thumbs up.

Best Fight: Briones vs. Cannetti
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: