MMA Review: #499: UFC Fight Night 63

-This show wasn’t getting much fanfare at all despite being a pretty solid card – I mean you can’t sneeze at two top five FWs facing in the main event and a bunch of other top fighters (Poirier, Pena, Guida, Chiesa, Iaquinta and Masvidal) up and down the card, but to be fair I guess when UFC does as many shows as they do now some are going to get lost in the shuffle. I tend to get hyped for even the worst UFC cards myself and so giving me something like Mendes vs. Lamas was always going to excite me.

UFC Fight Night 63

04/04/15
Fairfax, Virginia

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann.

Lightweight Fight: Dustin Poirier vs Diego Ferreira

Interesting opener as Ferreira had looked like a fighter to watch during the early part of 2014, but then he’d lost a lot of his lustre in a loss to Beneil Dariush, while Poirier was coming back up to 155lbs for the first time since 2011 after his loss to Conor McGregor. Despite Poirier having fought most of his fights at 145lbs I was siding with him here as the more proven fighter.

Fight begins and Ferreira forces Poirier back with some aggressive, early strikes. Poirier doesn’t look undersized for 155lbs at all, it must be said. They go into a WILD TRADE and Poirier seems to have the quicker hands and lands the better shots, forcing Ferreira to clinch. He goes for the takedown but Dustin stuffs it, only for the Brazilian to hit a SICK arm drag takedown that Dustin manages to roll out of. That was awesome. Poirier forces him back into the fence but Ferreira reverses position and tries to force him down again. They continue to jockey for position with Poirier landing some solid punches inside before Ferreira breaks with a right hand. He continues to push forward swinging, but he’s getting wild and Poirier catches him with a couple more counters. Combo from Poirier wobbles Ferreira’s legs for a second but he comes swinging right back and they trade off again. This is a great fight! Nice right hand from Ferreira forces Poirier back a bit. Action slows for a second and the ref steps in for some reason before restarting. No clue what that was about. Good leg kick from Ferreira and he backs Dustin into the fence with punches and looks again for the takedown. Poirier defends and breaks off though and Ferreira continues to swing for the fences. Body kick from Poirier and he lands with a sharp leg kick too. Clinch from Ferreira is broken quickly and he continues to swing, but walks right into a CRUSHING LEFT HAND COUNTER from Poirier! He goes down and Dustin pounces, but Ferreira snaps back into consciousness and quickly hits a reversal to his feet, looking for the takedown. He takes the back and looks for a suplex, but in doing so lands RIGHT on his head and Poirier turns over onto him, taking top position. Triangle is shrugged off and Poirier stands, forcing the Brazilian to his feet. Couple of straight punches from Poirier tag Ferreira and he goes DOWN off a right hand, and this time Dustin pounces and drops some BOMBS over the top that turn out the lights in Georgia.

That was a hell of an opener. Pure action from start to finish as Ferreira brought some absolutely reckless aggression into there, but he made the error of getting too wild with a faster and harder hitter, and once Poirier landed that big left hand counter the fight was basically over and it was just a matter of time before Ferreira was unconscious. Big win for Poirier to return to 155lbs with and I look forward to seeing how much damage he can do there.

Featherweight Fight: Clay Guida vs Robbie Peralta

Guida had sort-of fallen off the map following his July 2014 loss to Dennis Bermudez, and this was his first fight since that one, facing a guy much lower on the totem pole in Peralta, who had last been seen being largely squashed by Thiago Tavares. I couldn’t see him troubling Guida much either – no pun intended there – as his ground game had looked porous in that Tavares loss and Guida if nothing else is very good at taking his opponents to the ground.

First round and Guida comes out with his usual frenetic movement and lands a couple of leg kicks. Peralta throws out some punches but man, Guida is all over the place here and he’s a tricky target to hit. Good right hand into a leg kick from Peralta though. Quick double leg attempt from Guida and he drives Peralta into the fence, but Robbie blocks it initially. Guida keeps driving forward though and eventually hits a BIG SLAM that gets the crowd going. He lands in side mount with Peralta trying to sit up to escape. Guida keeps him down though and lands some short punches to the body. Peralta uses the fence to stand, but Guida stays on him and hits ANOTHER slam, dropping Peralta from a height face-first and landing in side mount. That was cool. Half-guard for Peralta as the crowd chant Guida’s name. Everyone loves Guida, ha. Peralta gets onto his knees and it looks like Guida’s going to take his back, softening him up with punches and getting one hook in. Peralta works really hard though and gets to his feet, but Guida forces him back down. Hard knee to the lower back from Guida and he remains in firm control. Peralta works back to his feet again, but Guida gets one hook in standing now and clings onto him until the round ends. That was your stereotypical Clay Guida round if there ever was one. 10-9 Guida.

Second round and the crowd are just INSANELY into Guida. They exchange punches from the off before Guida ducks under and hits a double leg to guard. Crowd actually pop for the end of the wild trade and for the takedown which is mental. Front headlock from Guida and he uses it to control Peralta as he looks to use the fence to stand. Peralta again works to his feet but Guida’s STILL on him with some knees to the thighs. Fans are still chanting for Guida despite the stalemate, just showing how a fighter’s persona is more important than their actual style. Ref finally calls a clean break with about half of the round gone. And the crowd BOO. Uppercut lands for Peralta but Guida dives in with another takedown attempt. Looks like Guida’s cut, didn’t catch exactly what caused it but Brian Stann is saying it was a right hand in the initial exchange. Peralta blocks the takedown but still can’t shake Guida off him. One minute to go and the ref breaks them again, and Guida stalks forward as Peralta lands a couple of glancing shots. Duck-under from Guida and he nails Peralta with a sharp counter right hook. Leg kicks land for Peralta. Round ends with Peralta blocking the takedown. 10-9 Guida.

Third round and Peralta fires off with his jab and lands a straight left hand too. Right glances for Guida. Head kick lands for Guida too and Peralta somehow takes it well and doesn’t even wobble. They continue to circle and exchange before Guida hits a well-timed double leg and gets him down. Peralta works back up but Guida elevates him and hits a BEAUTIFUL BODYSLAM down into half-guard. Peralta looks to roll for a kimura but from half-guard he has little chance of that working. Guida frees the arm and it looks like he’s working for an arm triangle, but he can’t get out of the half-guard to finish it properly. He keeps working though and moves into full mount, but Peralta catches him in the half-guard when he tries to slide out to the side. Really good defense from Peralta actually and seconds later he escapes. He’s still firmly on his back in half-guard, however. Nice pass from Guida into side mount and he drops some elbows, but Peralta rolls and scrambles, managing to get to his feet with his back on the cage. He drops some sharp elbows to the side of Guida’s head, but he can’t shake Guida off him. Dude is like human glue. A fourth bodyslam follows and he lands in half-guard again with seconds to go. He passes to side mount and then tries to take the back, and that’s the fight. Got to be 30-27 Guida.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Clay Guida, no surprises there. This was basically your stereotypical Clay Guida fight – torrid pace, tons of takedowns and some slams thrown in for good measure, but honestly not all that much damage done to the opponent although they were powerless to stop him. It was fine to watch I guess but not the best Guida fight ever, although the crowd’s love for Guida made it more fun. Post-fight Guida calls out Rafael Dos Anjos for a title fight (!) which is insane to me, sorry.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Julianna Pena vs Milana Dudieva

Outside of the main event the return of TUF winner Pena from her gross knee injury suffered about a year prior to this was the thing that had me most excited on this card. For me she’s one of the fighters that could maybe give Ronda Rousey a decent fight in the future and I was just hoping she hadn’t lost that much with the injury. Opponent Dudieva had won in her UFC debut but it had been a very questionable decision over Elizabeth Phillips, and I couldn’t really see her as anything more than a sacrificial lamb for Julianna.

Fight gets underway and Pena pushes forward swinging. Dudieva looks for a takedown but Pena shows some sick balance to avoid it and then forces the Russian into the fence. Knees to the legs land for the TUF winner but Dudieva hits a judo throw into butterfly guard. Pena looks like she might be going for a triangle, and from there she spins into a leglock attempt that allows her to reverse to her feet. Nice. Front headlock from Dudieva but Pena uses it to hit a single leg and takes full mount literally as soon as they hit the ground. She works her head free and then postures up to drop some hard punches and elbows. Dudieva is in trouble. She tries to cling on but Pena nails her with punches and hammer fists, looking for the finish. Dudieva tries to use the fence to work free but Pena’s mount is too good and she continues to drop hammer fists. DOUBLE hammer fist lands for her even, popping the crowd. More shots land for Julianna and this one ought to be stopped. Finally Dudieva gives her back and Julianna continues to land, then rolls her back into the mount and smashes her with elbows for the stoppage.

Outside of the judo throw that was a one-sided beatdown in favour of Julianna Pena. Seeing her get thrown like that would make me worry for her in a fight with Ronda Rousey I guess but to be fair Ronda could do that to anyone in the world. Apart from that though her ground game looked solid, she showed aggression and was able to put Dudieva away pretty sharpish once she got dominant position. I think she’s a title contender for sure and I think she’ll take out Jessica Eye this weekend, too. Really impressive showing for the TUF winner.

Lightweight Fight: Michael Chiesa vs Mitch Clarke

This was TUF 15 winner Chiesa’s first fight after an exciting – and yet disappointing – fight with Joe Lauzon in September that saw him stopped via a nasty cut, while for Clarke it was his first since an upset win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 173. While Chiesa was coming off a loss and Clarke off a win I was taking Chiesa here – I think he’s a largely underrated fighter while Clarke’s win over Iaquinta felt a little flukey to me.

Round One begins and Chiesa really pushes forward from the off, backing Clarke up before the Canadian clinches and forces him into the fence. They jockey for position inside the clinch and Clarke looks for a takedown, but Chiesa blocks and they break off. Chiesa bulls right back into the clinch but again Clark drops for the single leg. Spinning elbow misses for Chiesa on the break and then he tags Clarke with some punches before hitting a throw into guard. Reversal from Clarke allows him back up into the clinch right away though. Another nice trip from the clinch plants Clarke on his back, but again he scrambles up to his feet. Elbows break for Chiesa. Nice combo from Chiesa has Clarke wobbly, and he chases after him before going for another takedown. Clarke blocks and they clinch again, spinning around with Chiesa landing with a hard knee to the body. Clarke tries one of his own, but Chiesa catches it and trips him down before taking the back with a body triangle. Slick grappling from the TUF champ. He goes for the choke, but Clarke works well to defend and it looks like he’s going to survive the round. He can’t seem to shake Chiesa off his back though. Armbar attempt from Chiesa but again Clarke avoids it, allowing Chiesa to go back to back control instead. Choke attempt fails again and that’s the round. 10-9 Chiesa.

Round Two and they circle around with Clarke landing some low kicks. Flying knee misses for Chiesa and leads into a clinch, where Clarke drops for a double leg. Chiesa works to defend it and does a good job of it. He’s a HUGE 155lber actually when you look at him. Dan Miragliotta calls a clean break and Chiesa immediately lands with a couple of kicks before tagging Clarke with a combo. Clinch follows and he hits the Canadian with a hard knee to the body. Nice footsweep from Chiesa and in a phenomenal move he takes the back with a body triangle in one movement. That was some incredible skill. Elbows land from back control for Chiesa and Clarke appears to be in some trouble. Great control from Chiesa although Clarke avoids the choke, and from there he manages to stand with Chiesa still clinging to his back. Looks like he’s got the choke sunk for a second but Clarke manages to get free. One minute to go and Clarke still can’t shake the TUF winner off. Choke attempt again looks deep and they go crashing to the ground, which frees Clarke from the choke but doesn’t get Chiesa off his back. Elbows again connect for Chiesa. Round ends with Chiesa in back control. 10-8 round for Chiesa as Clarke essentially had no offense.

Round Three and Clarke pushes forward, knowing he needs a finish to win, but he only glances on the majority of his punches. Combo does connect for him but to little effect. Nice counter left lands for Chiesa. Clarke comes back with a couple of combos but he needs to hurt Chiesa and he can’t seem to do that. Counter combo lands for Chiesa. Good combo lands for Clarke but Chiesa fires back and they trade a little. Looks like Clarke might have a bloody nose. Right hand lands for Chiesa to counter a low kick and he follows with a combo that forces Clarke into retreat mode. He might be hurt. He keeps on swinging though, forcing Chiesa to engage him in a firefight. Beautiful jumping switch knee lands flush for Chiesa and Clarke does well to take it. Right to the body from Clarke. Got to admire Clarke’s heart to try to finish this but Chiesa still seems to be outlanding him for the most part. Big one-two snaps Clarke’s head right back. Hard left hand follows as does another hopping knee. Seconds to go and Clarke still pushes the action. Body kick lands for Chiesa. Wheel kick catches Clarke on the back of the neck, and Chiesa stuffs a takedown on the buzzer. 10-9 Chiesa and I’d call it 30-26 for him.

Judges have it 29-26, 29-26 and 29-28 for Michael Chiesa. Odd scores there – judges must’ve given Chiesa two 10-8’s and then had Clarke taking the third round. Eh, I can sort-of see that I guess. Right guy clearly won though as Clarke was basically outclassed in all areas; Chiesa remains one of the most underrated fighters in the division and I’d say it’s mainly because a couple of the guys he’s beaten – Al Iaquinta, Massaranduba – are a bit underrated themselves. I definitely want to see a step up for him and it looks like he’s getting that in Jim Miller in December. Good stuff and this was a pretty decent fight, too.

Lightweight Fight: Al Iaquinta vs Jorge Masvidal

You had to feel for Masvidal in this situation as he’d originally been pegged to fight Bobby Green here, and when Green was injured he was replaced by Benson Henderson, who of course ended up stepping in to fight Brandon Thatch about four weeks earlier, and so Jorge ended up with his THIRD opponent in Iaquinta, who had last fought in January with an impressive win over Joe Lauzon. Tricky fight to call too due to Iaquinta’s relatively late notice and all, and both men having somewhat flaky reputations where they look like world-beaters in one fight and then not so much in the next. I guess I was leaning slightly towards Masvidal.

First round and they circle with Masvidal landing a couple of early low kicks and avoiding some combos from the New Yorker. Iaquinta comes back with a leg kick of his own. Jab from Masvidal. Takedown attempt from Iaquinta but it’s a bit telegraphed and Masvidal easily blocks it. Combo glances for Iaquinta but Masvidal no-sells it and then taunts Al a little. Side kick to the leg lands for Iaquinta. Jumping knee answers for Masvidal and he follows with a hard body kick. Iaquinta keeps a good poker face though and doesn’t react. Kick is caught by Iaquinta and he lands with a right hand on the counter. Couple of flicking jabs land for Masvidal although Iaquinta’s really pushing forward. Big right hand misses for Iaquinta and Masvidal connects on a leg kick. So far it’s been more volume for Iaquinta but more connection from Masvidal. Spinning back kick lands to Iaquinta’s body. Wheel kick also glances and Masvidal follows with a crisp combo that forces Iaquinta to shoot. Masvidal forces him down onto his back, but Iaquinta rolls for a heel hook! Masvidal rolls and shakes his head with a grin though and then pulls free, and as he stands he lands another flying knee and then drops Iaquinta with a combo! He shoots desperately but Masvidal avoids, forces him onto his back and drops some bombs until the round ends. 10-9 Masvidal although you suspect Iaquinta was saved by the buzzer.

Second round and Iaquinta has blood running down his face from a cut on his right eye, looks like something out of a JCVD movie. Front kick glances for him early in the round. Axe kick misses for Masvidal. Some jabs land for both before Masvidal glances on a hopping front kick. Body kick lands for him but Iaquinta comes back with a double jab. Counter left hand connects for Masvidal. Iaquinta’s right eye is a MESS. Looks like the cut is under the eye though so won’t affect his vision. Exchanges have been much more even so far in this round. Good leg kick from Iaquinta. Right hand lands cleanly for him too, best punch in the fight for him. Low kick from Masvidal is caught and Iaquinta lands with a right, but Gamebred outright laughs at him and then lands with a jab. Hard body kick from Masvidal. He’s using some great head movement to avoid the majority of Iaquinta’s punches, too. Right hand from Masvidal knocks Iaquinta down, but he looked off balance and he pops back up. Takedown is easily stuffed by Masvidal. Seconds to go and the exchange continues with Iaquinta landing a nice leg kick. Takedown attempt from Iaquinta but Masvidal stuffs it again. Round ends there. Closer round but I’d still call it 10-9 for Masvidal as he landed the cleaner blows throughout.

Third round and Iaquinta opens with a sharp leg kick. Stiff jab into a flying knee from Masvidal and he stuffs a takedown before landing with a body kick. Iaquinta is definitely the aggressor now and he lands with another leg kick. Jabs from Masvidal but Iaquinta fires back with a right hand. More jabs from Masvidal. He’s hanging his hands and all sorts now, just using his length to avoid Iaquinta’s punches. Left kick to the body from Masvidal. Iaquinta comes back with a low kick of his own. Right to the body from Iaquinta. Couple of beautiful left jabs land for Masvidal but Iaquinta answers with a leg kick. He’s doing some excellent work here with these leg kicks. Right hand lands nicely for Iaquinta too. Crowd don’t sound too enthused with this for some reason which is surprising. Left head kick glances for Masvidal and he’s switching stances a lot now to protect that leg. Lot of blood coming from Iaquinta’s eye again. Big right hand connects for Iaquinta but Masvidal smiles, and from there Al tries the Ryo Chonan DIVING HEEL HOOK (!) but can’t get it as Masvidal yanks his leg free. Left hand glances for Iaquinta. Right follows and he’s outlanding Masvidal now with sheer aggression. Iaquinta keeps on swinging and NOW the crowd are into it. Both men land jabs with less than a minute to go. Nasty body kick from Masvidal slows Iaquinta down for a second but he comes back swinging again. Combo from Iaquinta. Couple more combos end in leg kicks but Masvidal fires back with a knee. Round ends there. Great fight. 10-9 Iaquinta, but 29-28 Masvidal overall for me.

Official scores are 29-28 Iaquinta, 30-27 Masvidal and 29-28….for a split decision for Al Iaquinta. WOW. Crowd boo LOUDLY for that one as it definitely seemed like Masvidal took the first two rounds at least, and you could make an argument for him taking the third too although I’d have rewarded Iaquinta pushing the action and landing the bigger shots at the end of the fight. You could perhaps say Masvidal threw it away by not pushing the pace enough in the third but I mean, he clearly won the first two rounds with his crisper countering so why would he push the pace? This was a really poor decision by the judges. Post-fight though it’s Iaquinta who’s furious – with the booing from the crowd – and he goes off with a CLASSIC sweary promo slamming the crowd and turning the air blue. Dude probably got fined big time for that which is shitty as you can see his point – it’s hardly his fault the judges made the wrong call. Fight was great but the decision definitely leaves a filthy taste.

Featherweight Fight: Chad Mendes vs Ricardo Lamas

Main event here was definitely a big one between two of the top 145lbers in the world, and although both men had lost to Jose Aldo in 2014 obviously there’s no shame in that and so both were looking to get their names back into the hat of possible title contenders (after Conor McGregor of course) with a big win here. My pick was Mendes as I’ve always felt – despite a pair of very impressive wins in Dennis Bermudez and Erik Koch – that Lamas is a little overrated and I thought he lost to Hacran Dias last June. So my pick was Mendes, probably by TKO.

Round One begins and they clash on leg kicks. Couple of low kicks from Mendes as Lamas stays way on the outside. Uppercut lands for Lamas as Mendes ducks for a possible takedown. Really good shot there. Front kick into a leg kick also land for Lamas. Wheel kick misses. Another good leg kick from Lamas. Mendes begins to close him down a little more though despite taking a couple of kicks. Short right hand lands cleanly for Mendes and LAMAS IS HURT! He drops for a second and then tries to take Chad down, but Mendes sprawls and stuns him with more punches as he stands. Lamas is in deep trouble. Knee and a BIG LEFT HOOK drop Lamas HARD and this is about over. Big punches land for Mendes but AGAIN Lamas stands! This time Mendes grabs a front headlock and lands an uppercut, and as they separate Lamas stumbles back and falls down again. Dan Miragliotta needs to step in like, now. Mendes again avoids an ankle pick and then spins onto the back, and from there he hits some ROCK HARD UPPERCUTS and more punches before Lamas drops to all fours. More big shots connect and it’s all over. Good lord that was a beatdown.

Massively impressive showing from Chad Mendes; while I’d argue Lamas probably isn’t as good as his ranking suggests, prior to this the only guy to beat him at 145lbs was Jose Aldo and even he didn’t do to him what Mendes did. Story of the fight was basically power – Lamas was doing fine with his gameplan of keeping Mendes at distance, but when Mendes *did* get into range and landed cleanly it was game over. Brutal punching power from a guy who used to be known for his lay-and-pray! I know he’s since lost to Conor McGregor but there’s no shame in that and Mendes remains one of the most dangerous men out there at 145lbs. This was a tremendous performance and a hell of a way for the main event to end. Highlight reel stuff.

-Show ends as Mendes celebrates and the announcers sing his praises.

Final Thoughts….

Another good effort for a Fight Night show – we got three nasty finishes from Mendes, Pena and Poirier, an excellent co-main in Masvidal vs. Iaquinta and then two solid – if nothing spectacular – fights to round out the card in Guida/Peralta and Clarke/Chiesa. Outside of the main event – and Iaquinta’s phenomenal rant – nothing was truly that memorable I guess but this one’s still worth a look, especially if you’re a big fan of Mendes or Julianna Pena. Thumbs up.

Best Fight: Masvidal vs. Iaquinta
Worst Fight: Guida vs. Peralta

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com