MMA Review: #491: UFC Fight Night 59

-While only a Fight Night show this one was garnering as much hype as most PPV cards coming in, due to the presence of Conor McGregor in the main event. Despite only facing Dennis Siver who’s about as far from a draw as you can get, Conor was guaranteed a title shot with a win which meant all eyes were on the UFC for a night and the show ended up drawing record ratings for Fox Sports 1. Co-main event? An easy headliner on any other Fight Night card between old rivals Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson. Awesome.

UFC Fight Night 59

Boston, Massachusetts

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan, a rarity for a Fight Night show.

Lightweight Fight: Gleison Tibau vs Norman Parke

After going 3-0-1 following his TUF: The Smashes win in 2012, Northern Ireland’s Parke was due a step up in competition and was certainly given one here in the form of veteran Tibau, making his 24th UFC appearance following a September win over Poland’s Piotr Hallmann. With Parke’s whole game being centered around takedowns and ground-and-pound though I couldn’t see him overcoming the experienced Brazilian, who is basically a better version of the Irishman in my opinion.

Round One begins and a head kick is blocked by Tibau. Wheel kick misses for Parke and he goes for a takedown, but Tibau shrugs him off. Both men largely miss with some strikes and there’s evidently a big Brazilian contingent in the crowd judging by the amount of Portuguese “You’re gonna die!” chants. Decent left hand connects for Tibau. Parke is coming up short with his shots. Nice left hook lands for Tibau and forces Parke firmly into a defensive mode. Wheel kick from Parke glances off the body. Left to the body from Tibau. Good head movement from the Brazilian allows him to avoid Parke’s strikes. They clinch up after Tibau stuffs a takedown, and he lands a knee and a left to break. Nice counter left from Tibau. This is an excellent round for him even though it’s not been that eventful. Glancing left high kick from Parke. Another takedown attempt is easily defended by Tibau and he avoids a judo throw too. Seconds to go and the round peters out. 10-9 Tibau.

Round Two and Parke misses with a couple of wild kicks. Tibau chases him down with punches and that leads to a clinch that quickly breaks. Front kick glances off Tibau’s jaw. Hard leg kick from Tibau. Looks like Parke wants to close the distance, but he seems to be struggling with the range. Glancing left hand from Parke. Spinning backfist misses for Tibau. Crowd sound a little restless now as this isn’t exactly an action packed fight. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Tibau and they end up in the clinch. They exchange some knees and Tibau avoids another trip and breaks off. Both men land with jabs before Tibau hits a heavy takedown and plants Parke on his back by the fence. Good job from Parke to work back to his feet quickly though and now he looks to return the favour. Tibau works to block it with two minutes to go, and the action slows down as they muscle along the fence. Tibau manages to get Norman down again, with more authority this time. Parke again pops back up though showing good explosiveness. Action slows down again as they remain on the fence. Seconds to go and they break off, and Tibau lands a hard body kick. Parke attempts a takedown but can’t get him down and that’s the round. 10-9 Tibau.

Round Three and now it’s the Irish fans making the noise, the “ole ole” chants. Parke pushes forward early on but still can’t get Tibau off his feet with his takedown attempt. Head kick glances for Parke. Nice knee from the clinch for Tibau is about the best shot landed in the first two minutes of the round as both guys are continuing to miss with most of their strikes. Decent left hand finally connects for Parke. Takedown attempt again from the Irishman but again Tibau stuffs it. This is a dull fight. Couple of body kicks glance for Parke. Another takedown attempt from Parke but Tibau blocks and considers a guillotine before releasing. Left hand sets up another takedown for the TUF winner but again he can’t get Tibau down. Parke keeps pushing the pace but he just isn’t doing enough to really trouble Gleison. Takedown attempt from Tibau now is stuffed. Wild swings miss for both. Seconds to go and Parke lands with a pair of solid lefts. Takedown from Tibau and he gets the back for a second but Parke escapes to his feet. Round ends with Parke pressing and seeing another takedown blocked. 10-9 Parke but 29-28 Tibau overall.

Scores are 29-28 Tibau, 29-28 Parke and 29-28 for Gleison Tibau to take the split decision. Not sure how you’d score that for Parke at all but at least the right guy won. Fight was pretty awful though if I’m honest. Nothing to see at all, moving on!

Middleweight Fight: Uriah Hall vs Ron Stallings

Originally this would’ve seen Hall face Costas Philippou in a rematch from their pre-UFC days, but when Costas pulled out with an injury, newcomer and StrikeForce veteran Louis Taylor stepped in. Just days later though Taylor himself pulled out with an injury and on six days notice, Stallings stepped up to take the fight. With such short notice the easy pick here, despite his shortcomings, was Hall.

Fight begins and Hall just about misses with a flying knee. Stallings stalks forward and flicks out a right jab, but Hall looks to keep his distance by using his kicks. Nice body kick and a leg kick connect for Stallings. Wild wheel kick misses for Uriah and the crowd go mad. Stallings continues to push forward and lands with a side kick to the body. Nice leg kick from Stallings. Hall looks like he’s waiting to time Stallings coming in. Spin kick misses for Uriah again. Good low kick from Hall but Stallings connects on a left hand that backs him up. He continues to push forward, but Hall strikes suddenly with a straight right that drops him. He looks to recover quickly but Uriah’s on him with some more punches from half-guard. Stallings is in trouble. More shots land for Hall but Stallings manages to survive. Hall stands over him and then waves him up to his feet, but Herb Dean quickly steps in as Stallings’ eye looks bad. Doctor checks him over and it’s a SICK CUT over his left eye. Looks like Hall tried to slice his eyebrow off with a switchblade or something. One close look and the doc throws the fight out.

Post-fight Joe Rogan tries to claim they’ve “seen worse” cuts but while that is true there’s no way that was a bad call – you just can’t have a dude fighting with his fucking eyebrow hanging off, sorry. Stallings was actually looking decent until he got dropped but that shot was perfectly timed by Uriah and you can’t hold the stoppage against him as hey, it wasn’t like a fluke cut like Belfort over Couture for instance. Anti-climactic ending but what can you do?

Lightweight Fight: Donald Cerrone vs Benson Henderson

Another fight to be changed by injury, this was meant to see Henderson – looking to bounce back from his shocking August loss to Rafael Dos Anjos – take on Eddie Alvarez, but when Eddie got hurt, Cowboy once again proved himself to be one of the craziest guys in MMA – and one of the best company men out there – by stepping in just TWO WEEKS after his last fight to take on a guy who beat him twice in the WEC. With a possible title shot on the line for Cowboy I was really pulling for him to win here as he’s pretty much the best fighter to watch in the whole sport right now.

Crowd go absolutely CRAZY when the Kid Rock song hits for Cowboy’s entrance. Quite rightfully so too. Who doesn’t like Donald Cerrone?

Round One and they circle and throw out some early strikes as the crowd chant for Cowboy. Couple of jabs land for Cerrone. Henderson throws out a jab to the leg which is odd. Wild swing misses for Henderson and Cerrone clips him with a left. Nice right hand from Cerrone. Oblique kick answers for Bendo. Overhand right connects clean for Henderson. Nice leg kick from Cowboy. Pretty slow pace early on, surprisingly enough. Leg kick again from Cowboy. He’s throwing out the front kick to the body too. Right hand glances for Henderson. Body kick lands nicely for him too. Right hand snaps Cerrone’s head back. Left hook answers for Donald. Pair of low kicks to the thigh for Henderson. He throws a couple more but Cerrone counters on him and lands hard, forcing the former champ backwards. Right to the body follows. Heavy leg kick from Cowboy. Combo from Henderson but he eats a harder left hand counter from Cerrone. Body kick lands for him too. Round ends on the feet. VERY tight round but I think Cerrone just about edged it, 10-9.

Round Two and Henderson comes out throwing more side kicks to the thigh, but Cerrone fires back with a switch kick to the body. They clinch for the first time and Henderson lands with a pair of knees before they break. Lead elbow misses for Bendo and he eats a counter from Cowboy. Right hand lands for the former champ but Donald comes back with a powerful kick that glances to the body. Right hand again lands for Henderson. More side kicks to the thigh too. Beautiful stepping right hand from Cowboy. This is about as tentative as I can remember either man looking to be honest. Body kick and a chopping leg kick land for Bendo. Takedown attempt from Cerrone is stuffed. Leg kick for Cowboy. Big one-two from Donald ending in a left hook wobbles Henderson’s legs and a glancing head kick follows. Probably the cleanest shot of the fight thus far actually. Nice takedown from Cowboy catches Henderson unawares and he steps into half-guard. Henderson quickly reverses to his feet without taking any damage though and from there he nails Donald with a leg kick. Body kick also lands for Bendo. Flying knee follows but it misses and Cerrone glances with a head kick. Round ends shortly after. Another super-close round but again I’d score it for Donald Cerrone 10-9. Both rounds could’ve gone either way though.

Round Three and Henderson again picks at Cerrone’s left leg with the side kick. Clinch is shrugged off by Henderson. Cerrone lands with a left hand in a combo though to back him up. Good leg kick from Cerrone. Nice low kick from Henderson and he just about blocks a left head kick in reply. Combo from Cerrone backs Henderson up again. More kicks to the thigh from Henderson. Jab to the thigh too. Big head kick lands for Henderson and Cerrone is clearly hurt, but he masks it really well and Henderson doesn’t flurry on him or anything. Brief clinch is broken. Front kick to the side of the head from Henderson and he avoids a takedown when Cowboy catches the leg. Nasty knee to the body from Henderson. Head kick into a leg kick from Cerrone but Bendo fires back with a left straight. Head kick misses for Bendo and Cerrone tackles him down and then lands a quick combo as Bendo pops up. Another body kick lands for Bendo. Takedown attempt from Cerrone but this time Henderson blocks well. This is still anyone’s fight really. Counter right from Henderson as Cerrone pushes forward. Goldie and Rogan seem to be underselling Cerrone’s first two rounds to me. Nice left hook from Henderson. Flying knee follows but Cerrone clinches off it. Can’t get a takedown though and they break. Seconds to go and a nice jab lands for Henderson. Both men land with heavy body kicks. Head kick glances for Cerrone and he follows with a flying knee and a left hand. Round ends there. 10-9 Henderson; 29-28 Cerrone but who knows really with a fight that close?

Judges have it 29-28 all round for…..Donald Cowboy Cerrone. Wow, part of me thought Henderson would squeak it but I think the right guy won. To be fair you could’ve come up with all sorts of scores though and not been wrong as it was such a close fight. I don’t want to call it disappointing because it was a very good fight but I’d say it’s clearly the lesser of the trilogy between the two. Glad Cerrone won though because it sets up much more fun things for the division rather than rematches we’ve already seen for the most part. Yeah I know Cerrone’s already fought Dos Anjos (and had fought Pettis who was still champ at this point) but that doesn’t matter because he’s COWBOY, dude. Post-fight Henderson says he’d do the same as Cowboy and would fight anyone, anywhere, any time, which would be foreshadowing….but that’s another show!

Featherweight Fight: Conor McGregor vs Dennis Siver

When Conor – after talking an INSANE amount of trash and becoming one of the top stars in the sport – starched Dustin Poirier in September I fully expected him to be given a title shot there and then, but instead it was announced that he’d be headlining this card here, and would get a title shot with a win. Initially I figured risking his shot would be a bad idea but to be fair, no disrespect to Dennis Siver, but I couldn’t see him losing to the German who had been picked apart by a striker with superior speed just three fights ago (Cub Swanson). I figured McGregor would come good on his prediction of a first round KO to set up the big showdown with Aldo, probably somehow making himself into an EVEN BIGGER STAR in the process.

Crowd give Conor one of the biggest pops I’ve ever heard at an MMA event. Siver doesn’t seem fazed but he does have the look of a guy who’s most likely there to lose, like one of those “tough journeymen” types in boxing they bring in to fight Olympic medallists in their first pro fight. Probably unfair on Dennis because he’s clearly a world-class MMA fighter, but you know what I mean.

First round begins and Conor struts out and fires off with a couple of kicks as the crowd begin the “ole ole” chants. Wheel kick glances off the top of Siver’s head, and a side kick connects to the body. McGregor looks incredibly relaxed. Body kick lands for him. Jumping head kick misses for Conor and he almost takes a left hook for his troubles. They continue to exchange kicks with Siver using a lot of side kicks to the thighs. Clean left hand tags Siver and forces him to back up. Jumping knee follows for Conor but he eats a counter left. Conor just looks totally unconcerned with Siver’s striking, and now he begins to taunt him. Spin kick glances for him. Siver seems to be struggling with the distance. Left head kick and a follow-up left hand land hard for Conor. He’s tagging Siver with the straight left now. Body kick lands for Siver. Conor answers with one of his own and pops the German with the left again. More kicks from Siver. Jumping knee sets up the straight left for Conor and this time it hurts Siver and knocks out his mouthpiece. Flying head kick follows. Siver’s in trouble. Left hand backs Siver up before Herb Dean calls time to replace the mouthpiece. They quickly continue and Conor tags him with a head kick and a couple of punches before stuffing a takedown. Big left head kick from Conor. Siver is in full retreat mode now and Conor opens up on him with a combo. Body shot doubles Siver over but he manages to dive on a takedown. Conor pops up right away though. Siver’s left eye is busted up badly. Conor continues to walk him down and land shots and Siver’s going to be lucky to make it out of the first round. Big flurry ends the round for the Irishman. 10-8 McGregor, easy.

Second round and Conor deflects a head kick and tags him again with a left. Superkick glances for McGregor. Couple of low kicks land for Siver but Conor tags him again with a combo. Big left hand hurts the German badly again. Spin kick to the body follows. Jumping kick and a head kick glance for McGregor. Big left wobbles Siver again. He’s just stalking Siver now. Weak takedown attempt from Siver is easily avoided and Conor drops him with a straight left hand. Siver tries to sit up to recover but Conor is on him and he takes full mount. Big elbows connect and this is pretty much all over. Sure enough Herb Dean steps in and calls it. Total massacre right there.

Post-fight Conor comes LEAPING OVER THE CAGE and starts SCREAMING at Jose Aldo who’s at cageside….and Aldo simply smiles back. That’s money RIGHT THERE. And then Conor cuts a sick promo saying fuck Aldo, I’m not “all talk” and then tells Jose to shine the belt up because he’s going to take it. Best promo to set up a UFC fight since, erm, BJ Penn said Sean Sherk was dead maybe? Then we get a short segment with Aldo who calls Conor a joker and a court jester, and says he’s not impressed at all.

Biggest UFC fight ever? At this point it’s up there. People were annoyed with Zuffa for setting up Conor against Dennis Siver here but the fight clearly served its purpose – not only did Conor absolutely crush Siver and make him look like an amateur – which he certainly isn’t – but the show drew a monster rating for Fox Sports 1 too – even bigger than the Chael/Shogun show on the channel’s opening night. Conor is a ROCK STAR and even if he loses to Aldo, really it doesn’t matter as worst case scenario, the fight draws like a million buys, eyes end up on an absolute ton of red-hot rising stars in the UFC (Rory MacDonald, Gunnar Nelson, Thomas Almeida, Brandon Thatch, Matt Brown, Alex Garcia, the LIST GOES ON) and Conor becomes Chael to Aldo’s Anderson Silva and probably turns Aldo into the draw he’s never been too. It’s almost fated that the show is on 07/11 as that’s the same date UFC 100 was, and this feels like the biggest event since that one.

-Show ends abruptly and the countdown to UFC 189 is ON.

Final Thoughts….

Can’t really call this a great show or anything as Tibau/Parke stunk, Hall/Stallings finished in a bad way, Henderson/Cerrone though good was clearly the least impressive of their trilogy and the main event was a total squash. As an appetiser for UFC 189 though it was fantastic and after seeing Conor/Siver followed by all the Aldo stuff, if you’re willing to miss UFC 189 you’re certifiably insane. Thumbs in the middle, leaning down for this one but who the fuck cares?

Best Fight: Cerrone vs. Henderson
Worst Fight: Tibau vs. Parke

Overall Rating: *

Until next time,

Scott Newman: