MMA Review: #503: UFC Fight Night 65

-This was the UFC’s first trip Down Under in 2015 and their first trip to Adelaide, one of Australia’s biggest cities, period. As – like the previous Aussie card – this was a Fight Pass exclusive, the card was largely low on name value, but the main event of Mark Hunt vs. Stipe Miocic sounded fantastic and so I was looking forward to it.

UFC Fight Night 65

Adelaide, South Australia

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian. Crowd sound AMPED.

Lightweight Fight: Jake Matthews vs James Vick

Young Aussie Matthews – who came from the underrated TUF Nations series – had looked like he had the potential to be a big star for the Australian market with his look (like an Aussie Bieber) and his exciting style, and he’d reeled off two impressive UFC wins coming into this one. Opponent Vick was a fellow TUF veteran – a semi-finalist on Season 15 – and he was a guy I felt was a little underrated as outside of TUF he was unbeaten with three UFC wins to his name. My pick here was Vick in somewhat of an upset, but I could also see Matthews winning too.

Round One and Matthews looks to get inside Vick’s reach right away, swinging a couple of heavy punches that don’t land. Lunging left hook lands clean for Matthews and stuns Vick, and from there Jake looks for the takedown. Vick defends using a whizzer and blocks it, but Matthews keeps driving him into the fence and eventually forces his way into a double leg and a BIG SLAM! Crowd go MENTAL for that one. Vick looks to hit a switch though but Matthews works to keep him down. Vick scoots back to the fence and works back up, and from there they separate. One-two glances for the Aussie but Vick comes back with a sharp leg kick. Good left hand from Matthews. Another left hook lands cleanly and Vick looks a bit rocked again. Vick holds his chin scarily high. Matthews tags him with some more punches and avoids a big front kick. Right hook lands for the Aussie. Couple of jabs from Vick and he catches Matthews coming forward with an uppercut. Right hook lands for Matthews. He’s backing Vick up again. Accidental eye poke from Vick though and the ref has to call time to let Matthews recover. They restart with less than a minute to go and Matthews cracks Vick with another one-two. Amazing how he’s able to get inside Vick’s reach so easily. Vick comes back though with a double flying knee. Takedown attempt from Matthews but Vick gets a plum clinch for another knee and then locks up a high-angle standing guillotine! Matthews is in trouble and Vick forces him to the ground and CRANKS IT FOR THE TAPOUT! Crowd are horrified.

Really good fight actually. Matthews looked like he was in firm control as he was able – largely via his speed and explosiveness – to step inside Vick’s reach and land big punches, but I think Vick stunned him with that double knee and once he sunk that choke it was TIGHT, ala Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida. Wish Vick would fight more often actually as if he can work on using his reach then he could be a contender. Still think Matthews has a bright future too though, especially if he can get some training in with a real top-level team.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Sean O’Connell vs Anthony Perosh

This one didn’t really excite me that much just because both guys – no offense – are like a million miles away from the title picture, but I guess the majority of their fights end in a finish so something explosive was at least likely. Despite Perosh’s advanced age (42 here!) I thought he’d have enough to drag O’Connell to the ground where he could sub him.

Fight begins and they circle with O’Connell glancing on a couple of punches before landing a low kick. O’Connell looks like he’d make 185lbs easily. Right hook from Perosh but he eats a BIG COMBO and O’Connell charges in and flurries on him and Perosh is in trouble! He manages to survive, but O’Connell continues to walk him down and a BIG LEFT HOOK and a follow-up flurry have Perosh out on his feet. Ref steps in to call the rare standing TKO.

Good stoppage from the ref as there was no reason to wait for Perosh to go unconscious as he was done anyway. I expected Perosh to probably hang it up after this but surprisingly he’s taking another UFC fight in November so hopefully it goes better for him as he comes off like a nice guy. As for O’Connell this was a quality finish over a tough opponent, but I think he ought to move himself to 185lbs if he wants to really extend his run in the UFC.

Middleweight Fight: Robert Whittaker vs Brad Tavares

Interesting fight for the semi-main, with Aussie TUF winner Whittaker – coming off an impressive win over Clint Hester in his 185lbs debut – taking on Tavares, who had last beaten Nate Marquardt to bounce back from his loss to Tim Boetsch. Despite Tavares having a likely size advantage I was taking the more explosive finisher in Whittaker here, feeling that the Aussie could take Tavares out with his striking while Brad would have to rely on grinding out a decision if he wanted to win.

Round One and they circle and throw out some leg kicks, before Whittaker glances on a left hand. Quick combo from Whittaker and then he DROPS TAVARES WITH A SHORT LEFT HOOK! Tavares bounces right back up, but Whittaker SWARMS HIM and nails him with another left that sends him back down, and quickly pounces and KNOCKS HIM SILLY!

Wow. Crazy power from Robert Whittaker. He’s a really interesting prospect at 185lbs actually – not only might he be ahead of the curve to an extent with the IV ban about to really effect big weight cutters, so moving up a weight class might be a better move, but more to the point he’s kept all of his speed from 170lbs while also retaining that phenomenal punching power. I definitely want to see him move up the card ASAP as he’s a dangerous guy to anyone in that weight class I’d say. Awesome knockout.

Heavyweight Fight: Stipe Miocic vs Mark Hunt

First off, great matchmaking and a great main event, with both men firmly entrenched in the top ten at HW and both men looking for a big win following disappointing losses to end 2014; Hunt to Fabricio Werdum in their title fight and Miocic to Junior Dos Santos in a controversial decision. Despite Hunt having the home field advantage I actually thought he’d looked a bit past his best in 2014 – being knocked out by Werdum was a massive shock to me – and I thought Miocic’s speed, movement and willingness to mix his wrestling in with his striking would be enough to carry him to a decision or late TKO.

Round One and Hunt opens with a heavy leg kick. Looks like Miocic’s put on a bit of muscle actually. Lunging left hook misses for Hunt. Jab follows but Miocic hits a single leg, only for Hunt to pop right back up to a monstrous crowd pop. Good left hand from Stipe. He shows some good head movement to avoid some big swings from Hunt, too. Big right hand connects for Hunt but Miocic seems fine. Jab from Miocic but he takes a glancing left counter. Nice right hand from Miocic. Another one follows and lands cleanly, forcing Hunt back a bit. Combination from Miocic lands too. He looks like the faster man for sure. Crowd are chanting for Hunt as he fires out some left hands that miss. Single leg from Miocic and he plants Hunt onto his back in half-guard and immediately starts to drop elbows. Crowd begin to boo as Miocic continues to grind away with his forearm, but it’s more through love for Hunt than inactivity on Stipe’s part. Few hammer fists get through for Miocic as well. Big shots begin to get through for Stipe with about thirty seconds remaining, and Hunt seems to have zero answer from his back. Kimura attempt from Miocic and he uses it to move into side mount, but Hunt pulls his arm free and then uses an underhook to reverse to his feet! Crowd go crazy as he swings with a glancing right hand. Round ends with left hands from both men. 10-9 Miocic for the ground work.

Round Two and Hunt is breathing heavily coming out of his corner. Announcers mention that he had to cut weight for this fight which might explain it. Jabs open things for Stipe. Right cross also lands for the Croatian-American. Good leg kick from Hunt. He looks so much slower than Miocic though. Nice right hand into a step-in elbow from Stipe and he deftly dodges a big left hook from Hunt. Beautiful level change sets up a takedown for Miocic and he takes the back with one hook as Hunt scrambles, and begins to land some thudding punches to the side of the head. Really impressive control from Miocic as he continues to land largely clean blows. Hunt manages to work to his feet though, only to take a knee on the exit. He’s looking tired and beaten up. Stiff jab from Hunt but Miocic comes back with a BRUTAL COMBO that backs Hunt up and has him stunned. They exchange jabs before Hunt fires off with a left hook, but Miocic takes it and lands with a heavy knee, uppercuts and another knee. Brutal elbow stuns Hunt and forces him to clinch. Hunt’s chin is insane to be taking some of these shots. Miocic works with some shots inside before breaking off, and he continues to slip punches and land his own. Back to the clinch for Stipe and he forces Hunt into the fence. They break and Stipe goes for a low single leg and when he can’t get it, he hits an elbow and clinches again. Hunt looks exhausted. Seconds to go though and they break off, and Hunt nails Stipe with two BIG left hooks! Miocic takes them though and returns fire with a heavy right on the buzzer. 10-9 Miocic again.

Round Three and Hunt’s right eye is looking in bad shape. Stiff jab connects right on it for Miocic too. Hunt throws out some jabs of his own but Miocic hits a knee-tap takedown much to the horror of the Aussie crowd. He’s in half-guard and he picks up where he left off in the first, dropping forearms to the head of Hunt. Crowd are hating this as more elbows connect for Stipe. This time he postures up to add some really nasty punches with the right hand too. Hunt attempts to scramble out but he can’t disrupt the base of Stipe, who continues to bomb down with punches to the body and head, really smashing Hunt up now. Hammer fists and more punches connect and it’s beginning to look like Evan Tanner’s beatdown on David Terrell even. More shots land for Miocic as you could make a case for stopping this. Hunt gets onto all fours but it doesn’t stop the barrage. Beautiful short elbows from Miocic land as Hunt gets to his knees. Hunt finally stands, but he’s greeted by a vicious knee and an elbow and then Miocic ducks under and hits another takedown. He’s looking for the finish now and he gets full mount and really opens up with hard punches. Ref ought to step in here as Hunt’s being SLAUGHTERED. Unanswered punches land for Miocic and the ref just won’t stop it. Shameful officiating. Miocic isn’t really slowing down either, dropping bomb after bomb before Hunt somehow wills himself to move onto all fours. Crowd go BATSHIT as it looks like he might stand, but Miocic’s having none of that and he forces him onto his back again for MORE ABUSE. Hunt again rolls onto all fours, and somehow he SURVIVES THE ROUND. He’s a MESS going back into his corner though and they ought to stop it but of course don’t, because they’re an MMA corner and the culture in the sport with regards to that SUCKS. 10-7 Miocic in one of the most lopsided rounds I’ve seen in a long time.

Round Four and Hunt’s right eye is almost closed and his left isn’t much better. He comes out swinging, but Miocic isn’t tired and he avoids the blows and counters with a hard right. Scarily easy single leg from Miocic right into half-guard and the crowd boo loudly. And it’s back to the nasty grind as Miocic continues to drop elbows and punches while grinding his forearm into the face of the Super Samoan. And these aren’t weak shots either, they’re big, thudding blows that are doing a LOT of damage. Big left hands get through for Miocic and although he isn’t wildly flurrying in this round the ref ought to stop it just due to the damage Hunt’s taking without really defending much. Miocic’s base is phenomenal from this position. Huge punches bounce Hunt’s head off the ground but somehow he makes it onto all fours again. Can’t question his toughness but then we knew that already. Somehow he gets up, but he looks out of it on his feet and he eats a CRUSHING left hook before Stipe clinches again. Stipe separates with one minute to go and lands an elbow that leads back into the clinch. Hunt’s face is a MESS. Big knee lands for Miocic. This is becoming hard to watch. Crowd continue to boo as Stipe lands a heavy right. Round ends in the clinch. 10-8 Miocic.

Round Five and we really shouldn’t be at this point. Doctor checks Hunt over prior to the round but decides to let it go, which is insane. Jab and a double leg open the round for Miocic and Hunt ends up on all fours. Miocic uses a front headlock to control Hunt and then drags him back down and forces him onto his side. Crowd are still furious as Miocic continues to land punches. Big chant of “stand them up” which is ludicrous really. Left hands from under the arm land for Miocic and Hunt isn’t defending at all. This ref is terrible. More punches land for Stipe and as he bounces Hunt’s head into the fence with left hands the ref FINALLY stops it, about a round and half after he should’ve done.

Fight was in all honesty hard to watch thanks to the bad job done by the referee and to an extent Hunt’s corner, as it should clearly have been stopped in the third and yet somehow it was allowed to go like another eight minutes before mercy was granted to Hunt. There’s just no reason to let anyone, however tough they might be, take that much abuse from a guy who hits as hard as Stipe Miocic, seriously. On the plus side though Miocic looked TREMENDOUS here, showing awesome cardio to not slow down at all despite throwing everything at Hunt, and he also showed smarts, set up his takedowns brilliantly, and never found himself in trouble standing against one of the best strikers in the division. After this and the JDS fight, which I thought Miocic won, I genuinely think there’s a possibility that this guy might be the best HW in the world – it’s just a matter of him having the opportunity to prove it. This should have earned him a title shot but I guess being on Fight Pass meant not enough people saw it to justify that and so he’s facing Ben Rothwell next. Don’t see that being an issue for him at all so touch wood, we’ll see him in a title fight in 2016. Brutal beating at any rate.

-Announcers discuss Miocic’s performance as Stipe celebrates with ELTON JOHN of all things playing over the speakers. No clue why they’d play Elton but there you go. Show ends with a plug for the next show in the Philippines and more praise for Stipe’s awesome performance.

Final Thoughts….

These Australia shows always seem to guarantee some serious violence and this one was no exception, as we got all four main card fights finished brutally, with the most emphatic being Robert Whittaker’s insane knockout but the overall nastiest clearly being the beating that Miocic put on Hunt. Best fight was probably Matthews vs. Vick by the sheer fact that it was longer than Whittaker/Tavares and O’Connell/Perosh and wasn’t as one-sided as the main event, and there wasn’t a bad fight per say. While it’s not an all time great show or anything you’re insane if you skip this one. Two thumbs up for sure.

Best Fight: Matthews vs. Vick
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: