MMA Review: #534: UFC Fight Night 82

-Initially pegged as UFC 196, this show should’ve been headlined by Fabricio Werdum defending the HW title against Cain Velasquez, but when both Cain and then Werdum had to withdraw due to injury (Werdum vs. Miocic was the backup that fell through) it looked like the show might join 151 and 176 as “ghost” cards. This time though Zuffa had a much better plan and they simply moved the show to Fox Sports 1 as a Fight Night, and moved semi-main Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson into the main event slot. I figure if it ever happens again we’ll probably see the same thing but the show will end up on Fight Pass. Anyway, what would’ve been a weaker PPV card on paper ended up being a pretty strong free TV one, which is cool.

UFC Fight Night 82

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann.

Welterweight Fight: Mike Pyle vs Sean Spencer

Strange way to open the show really given Pyle was coming off two straight losses and looked like he was reaching the end of the road in his long career, while Spencer hadn’t fought since a controversial loss to Cathal Pendred back in January 2015. I’d have put Ray Borg vs. Justin Scoggins over it myself. My pick was Spencer just because I thought Pyle was probably shot.

Round One and Spencer comes out throwing right away as they circle around. Pyle’s mullet is pretty crazy considering it’s 2016. Lot of left hands early for Spencer. Good body kick lands for Pyle. These guys are going for it right away. Big left straight from Spencer seems to hurt Pyle but the veteran manages to clinch briefly to slow him down. They break and now Pyle lands with a combo to back Spencer up and follows with a leg kick. Another hard leg kick follows for Quicksand. Spencer replies with a glancing combo. Exchange continues with Spencer continuing to fire with the left. Nice right hand counter connects for Pyle. Big right hand from Spencer drops him though and he’s in trouble. He manages to tie Spencer up in the guard, slowing him down and preventing any wild flurries, and from there he goes for an armbar, but Spencer pulls free and they’re back up. Pyle looks recovered too, even though he’s bleeding. Spencer continues to walk him down and throw the left, catching Pyle on the end of another nice one. He’s doing especially well considering Pyle looks like the longer guy in there. Another hard left connects for Spencer. He follows by doubling up on it and Pyle doesn’t seem to have much answer, might still be foggy from the knockdown. Round ends with a pretty wild trade. 10-9 Spencer for sure.

Round Two and Pyle opens with some low kicks, but he’s still very upright and Spencer has more success with the left hand. Good left hook lands for Pyle. Combo answers back for Spencer. Right hand connects over the top for Pyle and slows Spencer down for a second. More left jabs from Spencer and the crowd are DEAD, typical Vegas stuff. They’re doing way too many Vegas shows for my liking recently, for the record. Left hand stumbles Spencer in an exchange and his legs look wobbly as Pyle closes in with a NICE overhand right and another follow-up combo. Finally the crowd are into it now as they trade off and Pyle CRACKS HIM WITH A SPINNING BACKFIST! Spencer takes it though and swings right back as this fight just got AWESOME. Combination lands for Spencer as Pyle seems to slow his rhythm down a bit. Beautiful left hook connects for Spencer. Counter right hand lands for Pyle to fire back from a Spencer right. Lovely step-in knee ala Donald Cerrone follows. Exchange continues as they throw caution to the wind. Spinning back kick misses for Pyle. Less than a minute to go and a clean counter left lands for Spencer. He backs Pyle up with another combo before Pyle shoots on a double leg, and with seconds to go he dumps Spencer to the ground. Spencer looks to pop back up, and just about manages it as the round ends. 10-9 Pyle to even things up.

Round Three of a fight that’s completely surpassed my expectations thus far. Spencer comes out very quickly with the left jab again, looking to back Pyle up some more. He tags him with a combo too but Pyle seems okay despite taking some clean shots. Beautiful combo lands for Spencer. He’s definitely outstriking Pyle in this round. Combo lands for Spencer and Pyle tries to fake being stunned, but Spencer doesn’t take the bait. Plum clinch from Pyle and he lands a nice knee and then trips Spencer down. Guillotine attempt follows and he really looks to clamp down on it, flipping Spencer all the way over to take top position, but Spencer scoots back to the fence right away and looks to work back up. Solid knee to the body from Pyle and he looks to lock the guillotine up again, then lets go and begins to land on Spencer as he looks to stand. Two minutes to go and Spencer manages to stand, but Pyle lands with a knee and we get a wild trade that follows. Spencer looks tired. More jabs from Spencer but he runs into a sharp knee from Pyle. SICK spinning back elbow follows and Spencer is badly hurt! He stumbles all over the place and Pyle follows up with a BRUTAL COMBO OF KNEES AND ELBOWS until Spencer finally wilts. Unbelievable finish.

Tremendous fight from start to finish really, not much more you can say. I don’t think either man is really close to the title picture or anything but you can’t fault them for putting on that sort of fight, wow. And it was a pretty big comeback for Pyle too as he looked badly outgunned in the first round. I guess whoever chooses the UFC card order knows more than me as thank God this did end up on the main card!

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Misha Cirkunov vs Alex Nicholson

Latvian-Canadian Cirkunov had made his UFC debut in August and he’d crushed Daniel Jolly in a round, showing himself to be a rare prospect at 205lbs right now. I’m sure Nicholson wasn’t planned to be his opponent initially – he’s a natural 185lber and unknown too – but I guess Zuffa wanted to showcase Cirkunov as this sounded very much like a squash on paper.

Fight begins and Cirkunov stalks forward and avoids some kicks from the newcomer. Left hook glances for the Latvian as does a body kick. Couple of short punches land for Cirkunov as he pushes forward. Spinning backfist misses for Nicholson. Good leg kick from Cirkunov. Superman punch glances for Nicholson. Nice left hand from Cirkunov leads to the clinch and he forces the debutant into the fence before breaking with an uppercut. Right hand into a body kick seems to have Nicholson hurt, and he desperately throws a back elbow that Cirkunov avoids and from there he grabs onto a standing arm triangle for a second before muscling Nicholson to the ground. Nicholson pops up, but he eats a nasty knee on the way out. Hard left hand from Cirkunov and he tackles Nicholson to the ground. Nicholson scrambles to his knees, but he takes some more punches inside. Herb Dean calls a time out as they stand, threatening Nicholson about a low blow that I didn’t spot. Cirkunov seems fine and they restart, trading low kicks before Nicholson misses with a pair of wild haymakers. Stiff left hand from Cirkunov and he clinches before breaking with another left. Deep breaths from Nicholson. Good combo from Cirkunov and he ducks another spin attack. Seconds to go and they clinch up again, but Nicholson escapes. Beautiful takedown from the Latvian and he lands in half-guard. Into side mount for Cirkunov and Nicholson’s in trouble, but it looks like he’ll survive. Brutal elbow does land for Cirkunov and it forces Nicholson to give his back, but the buzzer goes shortly after. 10-9 Cirkunov.

Into the 2nd and they exchange some strikes before Cirkunov lands with a decent body kick. Hard left lands for Cirkunov but he can’t get the takedown off it. A duck-under allows him to get Nicholson down though and he gives his back soon after. Cirkunov immediately slaps both hooks in and begins to work for the choke. Nicholson is struggling for sure. Punches set up the choke but he can’t quite lock it in, so he goes to a neck crank instead and in a SICKENING MOMENT you can actually hear NICHOLSON’S JAW BREAK and he quickly taps out. Jesus.

That was perhaps one of the most sickening finishes in UFC history. It’s never nice to see a bone break – see Mir vs. Sylvia or Nogueira – but to HEAR it break is pretty disgusting too. Cirkunov dominated this fight easily as everyone expected and with 205lbs being so thin it’s time to move this guy up the ladder quickly as I think he’s probably ready.

Flyweight Fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Zach Makovsky

Let’s be honest – I know he’s making decent money for what he’s doing but Benavidez isn’t exactly in the best spot right now – he’s seeing fighters way underneath him gain title shots just because there’s nobody else to fight Mighty Mouse, and yet despite him continually winning he still seems miles away from a title shot due to the way he lost in his last attempt, and so he’s left sort of floating in the ether. Here he was faced with another tough guy in a long list of them – former Bellator champ Makovsky – but despite Makovsky’s very high talent level it was a massive stretch to think he’d be able to beat Benavidez.

Round One begins and they circle around with Benavidez glancing on a big left hand early on. Few more strikes glance for Benavidez but Makovsky’s keeping his distance as he’s obviously wary of the power. Good takedown from Makovsky but Benavidez scrambles to his feet instantly. One-two lands for Benavidez and he follows with a combo as he’s beginning to back Makovsky up. Clinch from Makovsky but Benavidez shrugs him off instantly. A takedown attempt is also blocked and Benavidez lands a knee on the way out. Left hand answers for Makovsky. Left into a right hand lands for Benavidez and he continues to back Makovsky up. Another clinch from Makovsky is shrugged off. Beautiful combo lands for Benavidez to the head and body and he follows with a sharp body kick and a clubbing left hand. Lead elbow lands for Makovsky but Benavidez stuns him with a combo in reply. Takedown from Makovsky but Benavidez pops back up again and lands some elbows to the body. Makovsky gets him down though and gets a hook in, looking to take the back, but the round ends before he can do it. 10-9 Benavidez.

Round Two and Makovsky pops Benavidez with a left hand in the first exchange and goes for the takedown, but Joe muscles him off. Nice front kick to the body from Benavidez. Another takedown from Makovsky is easily stuffed with a knee for good measure. Another front kick to the body from Benavidez. Combination follows and Makovsky’s clearly struggling. He comes back with a combo of his own but he’s eating far more strikes than he’s landing. Great takedown from Makovsky though and he manages to drag Benavidez down from a whizzer. Benavidez almost hits a reversal, but Makovsky blocks and stays on top only for the former title challenger to explode right back to his feet. Body kick from Makovsky is answered by a Benavidez right hand. Left from Makovsky sets up a single leg and he gets Benavidez down again, then grabs a front headlock but he can’t hold it and Benavidez is back up. Just over 90 seconds to go in the round and Benavidez forces Makovsky back with another combination. Head kick misses for Benavidez. Brief clinch is broken by Makovsky and Benavidez backs him up again. Another takedown from Makovsky is successful and this time he spins to take the back as Benavidez pops back up. Benavidez shakes off the hooks though and turns into the clinch, and that’s the round. 10-9 Benavidez as Makovsky did nothing with the takedowns he got.

Round Three and Benavidez pushes the action again, backing Makovsky up and shrugging off an early clinch. Makovsky manages to muscle him back into the fence on a second attempt, but again he gets shrugged off easily. Left hand from Benavidez this time sets up a clinch, but Makovsky breaks. Front headlock from Benavidez and he drags Makovsky down, but the former Bellator champ slips free. Trio of right hands connect for Benavidez. Hard right hand follows another combo and Makovsky’s not really doing much at all at this point. Decent counter right lands for him but Benavidez catches him at the same time with a knee. Brief clinch is broken again by Benavidez and he lands with a heavy right hand and a head kick that force Makovsky firmly on the retreat. Another clinch is broken by Benavidez after a few right hands, and then a rushing right hand staggers Makovsky for a second but he recovers right away. Takedown is easily avoided by Joe. Big left hand from Benavidez lands cleanly. One minute to go and it’s more of the same with Benavidez largely potshotting him. Fight ends with another hard combo from Benavidez that drops Makovsky. I’ve got it a 30-27 shutout for Joseph Benavidez.

Judges score it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Joseph Benavidez. Fight was fine and Benavidez remains a step ahead of anyone at 125lbs not named Demetrious Johnson, but it probably won’t net him a title shot as he didn’t manage to finish. Not that you can have expected him to as Makovsky is a great fighter in his own right, but yeah. It’s crazy to think that in a world without Johnson and Dominick Cruz, Benavidez could well be a two-division champion and recognised as one of the all-time greats right now, but that’s life I guess. Fight was perfectly acceptable.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St. Preux vs Rafael Feijao

Case in point for how thin 205lbs is right now – Feijao was still ranked in the top fifteen coming into this (#13) despite not having a win to his name since Igor Pokrajac in 2013 and realistically, not looking that good since he moved to the UFC that year after being busted for steroids. St. Preux had looked better – despite losing to Glover Teixeira in his last fight, before that he’d KO’d Pat Cummins and Shogun Rua – and figuring Feijao wasn’t the same fighter any more I went firmly with OSP.

Fight begins and OSP comes forward as Feijao stays way on the outside, in a slow beginning to the round. Low kick glances for Feijao. Good body kick lands for OSP. Left hand glances as Feijao’s hardly thrown a thing thus far. OSP continues to back him up and lands a couple more glancing blows from the outside, then lands a leg kick but clearly hurts himself in the process as he’s limping right away. Chopping leg kick lands for Feijao and almost takes OSP off his feet. Surprising that Feijao isn’t just swarming on a clearly injured opponent. OSP is clearly struggling. Another heavy leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Another follows but St. Preux manages to check it. He’s clearly in pain. Couple of punches put Feijao on the run and cause some mild boos from the crowd. Nice overhand right lands for Feijao in a brief exchange, but St. Preux hurts him with a left and he swarms, putting Feijao down with a flurry. The Brazilian manages to lock up full guard and cover up, and with seconds to go in the round it looks like he’ll make it out. Round ends in the guard. 10-10 round for me as Feijao just didn’t capitalise on that injury as much as he should’ve done.

Second round and OSP pushes forward and lands a hard left low kick. Feijao just seems so passive. He’s barely throwing a thing and just seems content to stay away from OSP. Crowd are openly booing now as this fight sucks. Good front kick to the body lands for St. Preux at least. Left hand glances for Feijao. Another front kick to the body backs the Brazilian up. This is one of the most tentative performances I can recall in a long time. Left hand lands for OSP and Feijao stumbles to the ground, landing in full guard. Handful of decent shots get through the guard for OSP as Feijao continues to do nothing. OSP begins to land some big shots and shit, you could make a case for stopping this based on Feijao’s lack of, well, anything. Round ends once again in Feijao’s guard. 10-9 St. Preux.

Third round and OSP opens with a big combo that has Feijao backing up. Finally he decides to return fire and swings some wild shots at OSP, but St. Preux avoids any major damage. Takedown is defended initially by Feijao but OSP drives him back into the fence. Feijao blocks a trip and they break, and a couple of wild swings miss for the Brazilian. Big combo from OSP backs him up and he follows by dumping Feijao with a double leg right into half-guard. And from there he works Feijao over with ground-and-pound for the majority of the round. Crowd hate this and rightfully so. Feijao manages to get back to full guard, but he’s still just laying there. One minute to go and the boos are just raining down. Thirty seconds to go and OSP decides to stand over him before dropping a big left hand through the guard. And he finally opens up with some brutal shots as the round ends, coming close to a finish. Should’ve done it earlier. 10-8 for OSP and I’d call this 30-27 for him.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Ovince St. Preux. Well, credit to OSP for fighting through what appeared to be a really shitty injury to his right ankle, but this fight stunk. It wasn’t on OSP to be fair really as Feijao just didn’t seem to want to be there and basically did nothing even when OSP was hurt. I just think he’s got nothing now he’s not on PEDs, as bad as that sounds. I suspect this will be the last we’ll see of him in the UFC and after this I can’t say that I’ll miss him too much.

Heavyweight Fight: Roy Nelson vs Jared Rosholt

After Rosholt’s pretty dull win over Stefan Struve in November it was clear he’d probably get a step up in his next fight – it’s one of those situations where he’d either come through and at least prove himself to be a mid-level contender or he’d get beaten up and put out of contention anyway, either being a win for Zuffa. So in all honesty I was surprised they chose Nelson for the fight given he was on a losing streak and seemed to be on the downswing of his career. I thought the fight had the potential to be atrocious given Rosholt’s previous couple of fights and Nelson’s penchant for gassing, but I couldn’t see Jared being able to use the familiar Overeem/Miocic gameplan to beat Big Country and I thought Roy might be able to land the big right hand to put Rosholt away.

Round One and Rosholt circles on the outside as Nelson looks to close him down, coming out with a super-low stance. Crowd are very impatient, probably due to the previous fight. One minute gone and pretty much nothing’s happened. Wild swings from Nelson and Rosholt outright runs away. Pair of left hands set up the haymaker right for Nelson but it misses. Right hand glances in turn for Rosholt. Good left hand connects for Jared as he backs Nelson up for a second. Two minutes to go and this round sucks. Counter right hand connects for Rosholt and then he opens up with a surprising flurry, but Nelson manages to circle free. Another decent right hand lands for Rosholt. Short left hook connects for Roy but Rosholt answers with a quick combo. Nice double jab from Jared. Random leg kick lands for Rosholt and he avoids a couple of Nelson haymakers. Rosholt looks very wary of the right hand and he quickly moves out of range again as the round ends. Close one to call, probably 10-9 Rosholt actually.

Round Two and Nelson begins by stalking forward again. Takedown attempt from Rosholt but Nelson stuffs it well. Left hook glances for Nelson. Lot of feinting from Nelson as he’s trying to draw a reaction from Rosholt, but he’s also not really throwing that much offense. Nasty leg kick from Nelson forces Rosholt firmly on the retreat. This is a fucking yawner. Slip sees Nelson go down face-first for a second but he pops right back up. Jab lands for Roy. Rosholt’s still very tentative but he does connect on a body kick. Boos are getting loud now with two minutes to go. Good leg kick lands for Rosholt. Right hand lands for Nelson right behind the ear but Rosholt seems okay. Big overhand right from Nelson but Rosholt fires back with a couple of solid shots of his own. Nice combination from Nelson has Rosholt running again but he doesn’t really follow it up. Can’t believe Rosholt’s not looking for more takedowns. Decent combination lands for him though. Round ends on the feet. 10-10 round for me. Dull stuff.

Round Three and Nelson opens with a quality leg kick that stumbles Rosholt for a second. No idea why the hell Rosholt isn’t shooting right now. He’s still trying to really avoid Nelson’s haymakers. Takedown attempt from Nelson is pretty easily blocked. Jab connects for Nelson and Rosholt checks his nose before outright running away from a haymaker attempt. Crowd are pretty disgusted with that move. Decent counter combo does connect for him as Nelson comes wading forward. Couple of jabs follow but it’s not enough to impress the fans. Both guys look exhausted now. Leg kick from Rosholt. Right hand into a backfist connects for Nelson but Rosholt seems okay. Takedown attempt finally from Jared but Nelson defends it well. Good right hand lands for Rosholt. Less than a minute to go and this could be anyone’s fight. Rosholt still seems to inexplicably be beating Roy to the punch in a lot of the exchanges. Round ends with both missing sloppy haymakers. 10-10 round again and call it 30-29 for Jared Rosholt. Could go either way.

Judges score it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Roy Nelson. Guess they didn’t like all the running and timidity from Rosholt even if he arguably landed the better shots. If the ‘good’ of HW MMA would be something like JDS/Miocic or Cain/Werdum and the ‘bad’ would be something low-level-ish like Derrick Lewis vs. Ruan Potts, this was the ugly, as both guys are capable of so much more and yet for some reason they totally shit the bed, as Nelson looked like a one-dimensional haymaker swinger while Rosholt didn’t even attempt takedowns when his biggest strength is his wrestling! No offense to them but this was a horrible fight.

Welterweight Fight: Johny Hendricks vs Stephen Thompson

This was quite the step up for Wonderboy given his biggest win to this point was Jake Ellenberger back in July, but to be fair he’s sort-of crept up the rankings and when you look at his record it’s actually really good – I think that loss to Matt Brown was unfairly held against him for a while just because at that point Brown wasn’t considered a top ten fighter himself – and wins over Patrick Cote and Robert Whittaker are nothing to sneeze at. Still, Hendricks was a much bigger step up for the former kickboxer – while he’d had that missed weight debacle that cancelled his fight with Tyron Woodley, he was also a guy who’d never lost by anything but controversial split decision and he was by far Thompson’s best opponent to date. With his big wrestling advantage I thought this was Hendricks’ fight to lose.

First round begins and Thompson comes out with his usual sideward stance as Hendricks pushes forward. Jumping kick misses for Wonderboy. Quick flurry allows Hendricks to grab a clinch and he muscles Wonderboy down, but Wonderboy right away works his way to his feet. Hendricks keeps him forced into the fence and lands a couple of right hands from the clinch, but Thompson breaks free. Counter right glances for Thompson. Side kick into a SUPERKICK lands for Thompson but Hendricks shrugs it off. Head kick follows and then a beautiful combo lands cleanly. Hendricks did well to take that one. Body kick into another head kick follow and Hendricks looks a bit mesmerised. He rushes forward but Thompson pops him with a counter left and then steps out of range deftly. Another counter right lands for Wonderboy and then he staggers the former champ with a counter left. Hendricks is in trouble. Jumping kick glances for Thompson. Hendricks pushes forward but walks right into another counter and a body kick. Right hand stings Hendricks again. Combo lands for Wonderboy. Hendricks pushes forward again but some sick movement from Wonderboy allows him to land a pair of NASTY COUNTERS and Johny is stunned! Head kick into a flurry from Thompson and he follows with a WILD spin kick that hurts Hendricks! Big left hand puts Hendricks down and a few punches on the ground follow and it’s ALL OVER! Holy shit.

That was a pretty incredible performance from Wonderboy as he just whitewashed Hendricks, a guy who’d always shown a rock-solid chin in the past. It basically came down to the fact that Hendricks just couldn’t deal with the timing of Thompson as he was able to land sharp counter after sharp counter until the end came violently. Part of me thinks Wonderboy might be getting a little overrated after this as people are saying he’d cut through Robbie Lawler like this – he’s clearly a great fighter but to me Hendricks looked diminished physically and nothing like the guy who outmuscled GSP – and I wonder whether the stricter USADA testing has anything to do with it. But yeah, to take nothing away from Wonderboy this was an amazing knockout and it was also a show-saver given the two previous fights! I still think Tyron Woodley deserves the next shot though so hey, Wonderboy vs. Demian Maia for the next shot sounds good to me.

-And the show ends just after as Wonderboy celebrates.

Final Thoughts….

Tricky show to evaluate really. Pyle and Spencer got it off to a great start, Cirkunov continued it with a sick finish and Benavidez/Makovsky was fine, but OSP/Feijao and Nelson/Rosholt were downright terrible and REALLY dragged the show down before Wonderboy rescued things with that incredible performance in the main. I’d go thumbs down I think just because those two fights were SO BAD, but hey, check out the main and Spencer/Pyle on Fight Pass for sure.

Best Fight: Spencer vs. Pyle
Worst Fight: Nelson vs. Rosholt

Overall Rating: **

Until next time,

Scott Newman: