MMA Review: #590: UFC Fight Night 104

-This year’s Superbowl weekend show, like 2016’s, was a Fight Night card rather than a big PPV as the UFC always used to do, but despite not having the strongest card on paper I think most hardcore MMA fans were pumped to see it. Why? Because the KOREAN ZOMBIE was back, baby! And if you don’t like the Zombie then you’re not a true fight fan.

UFC Fight Night 104

Houston, Texas

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Jessica Andrade vs Angela Hill

Andrade was initially booked to fight Maryna Moroz at UFC 207, but when Moroz backed out, Invicta champion Hill – who had only been cut from the UFC in late 2015 – stepped in to take the fight, which was delayed until this show due to USADA reasons. Word was that Andrade would get a title shot with a win and so Hill was looking to firmly derail those plans.

Round One begins and Hill circles on the outside and fires off with a glancing jab. Looks like she wants to stay firmly on the outside. Both girls glance with low kicks before Hill fires two head kicks that Andrade blocks. Andrade continues to stalk forward, throwing a big combination that puts Hill on the run briefly. Few more shots land from the outside for Hill, but Andrade catches her with some clubbing hooks and backs her into the cage to unload! Hill fires back with a right hand though and the crowd are loving this one. Another big combo from Andrade responds to a knee strike from Hill. Big combo against the cage from Andrade but she takes a body kick. Another combo follows for the Brazilian as she channels her inner Wanderlei, but Hill manages to survive the barrage and circles out. Andrade is a terminator. Another combo follows as Andrade just pours it on, but Hill hangs tough and lands a couple of knees from the plum. Hill is doing a good job defensively not to just wilt under the pressure. Big left hook from Andrade sets up yet another flurry, and this time she throws Hill into the fence and works the body with hooks ala John Lineker. Body kick is blocked by Andrade who then wades in with yet another flurry as Hill desperately tries to fire back. Pair of body kicks from Hill but Andrade comes back with another wild flurry. Hard knee lands for Hill but Andrade clinches to end the round. 10-9 Andrade, super-entertaining round.

Round Two and a low kick opens proceedings for Andrade. Hill looks to jab from the outside and dances around, but a flurry connects for Andrade again and she has Hill hurt up against the fence. Hill fires back with a pair of knees though and Andrade is cut badly under the right eye. Hard left hook lands for Andrade as she doesn’t seem to care at all about the cut. Clinch from Andrade and they exchange knees, and then a WILD EXCHANGE follows as Andrade breaks off and wings hooks at the body and the head again. Andrade’s style is basically like a female Lineker. Couple of front kicks glance to the body for Hill as she circles on the outside, but she can’t seem to stop Andrade from stalking forward. Another combination follows, particularly to the body, but Hill manages to get away from the fence again. Two more flurries follow. Good knee into a right hand from Hill but Andrade wades in with another combo. Hill’s chin is awesome to be taking all of these shots. Combo sets up a takedown attempt for Andrade and she dumps the Invicta champ to the ground and then takes the back in a scramble. Hill rolls to defend and avoids the hooks going in, but as she stands she takes some more punches and knees. Seconds remaining in the round and Andrade hits a wild slam down to guard, but Hill lands some elbows from the bottom and looks to tie up the left arm. Andrade breaks free and that’s the round. 10-9 Andrade again.

Round Three and again Andrade stalks forward. A counter right lands for Hill but Andrade OPENS UP and we get a WILD SLUGFEST with both girls landing! Hill again circles away from the fence, but it doesn’t look like Andrade is slowing down at all. Clinch from Andrade ends with a knee and they break off. Brutal left hook lands for Andrade but Hill takes it well again. Another flurry from Andrade follows but Hill’s landing some counters at least. The Brazilian continues to wade forward swinging, and she stuns Hill with a right to the body and head and then continues to wing punches, and this time Hill looks to be in trouble. She backs up and Andrade keeps on swinging…only to get dropped by a left hand counter! Hill now tries to follow up as Andrade pops back up, but the Brazilian seems fine and she gets back to stalking forward. This is such a great fight. Another CRAZY TRADE follows as somehow Hill’s chin is still holding up. More shots land for Andrade but Hill ties her up. Takedown attempt is easily blocked though and more wild swings land for Andrade. Less than a minute to go and another combination connects for Andrade. Crowd are going apeshit now. Nasty left hook connects for Andrade and she comes in swinging for the finish, but Hill won’t go down. Hill is tough as leather. Flying knee misses for Andrade but she keeps on swinging until the buzzer. 30-27 Andrade but that was an awesome fight.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Jessica Andrade, no other score was possible really. Tremendous fight though as Andrade was insanely aggressive but Hill just wouldn’t go away, as she landed some decent counters and somehow her chin held up to the Brazilian’s relentless pressure. Even in a loss I think Hill gained a lot of momentum here. As for Andrade, it looks like a title shot is next which definitely makes sense even if she’s not as marketable as Michelle Waterson. I don’t think she’ll win as her straightforward, berserker style ala John Lineker might get her into trouble against as technical a striker as Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but it’s definitely a fight I want to see.

Heavyweight Fight: Anthony Hamilton vs Marcel Fortuna

This was some odd matchmaking as outside of a failed attempt to get into the TUF 23 house – as a 205lber – BJJ expert Fortuna hadn’t fought since June 2015 and was massively undersized, coming in at 210lbs while Hamilton was at the upper end of the HW weight limit. I couldn’t see Fortuna dealing with the size of Hamilton and expected the Freight Train to win by KO most likely.

Fight begins and they exchange some early feeler strikes with Hamilton shrugging off a possible takedown. Series of punches from the clinch land for Hamilton and he backs Fortuna up. Looks like Fortuna is cut over the right eye. More shots land for Hamilton before Fortuna clinches to land a knee to the body. The bigger man muscles him into the cage though before they break off. Wild right hand lands for Hamilton before referee Herb Dean calls time to check Fortuna’s cut over. He’s good to go and they restart, and Hamilton stalks forward and lands with a glancing combo. Fortuna tries to fire back but he’s getting backed up. Hamilton continues to walk the newcomer down, but Fortuna lands on the counter with a solid right hand and that leads to a brief trade. Hamilton backs out and then comes in swinging again, but he walks into a SHORT RIGHT TO THE TEMPLE and he goes down HARD! Fortuna doesn’t even have to follow up as Hamilton is OUT, and when he gets up he stumbles RIGHT INTO THE FENCE he’s so badly KO’d. Unbelievable.

Did not expect the KO from the smaller man in a million years, it looked like he was physically overmatched and Hamilton was backing him up, and then boom, he landed the knockout punch. No idea where Fortuna goes from here or who you’d match him with – surely a drop to 205lbs, if not 185lbs is on the cards? – but this was a cool KO for sure.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St. Preux vs Volkan Oezdemir

OSP was initially booked against fellow fringe-top ten fighter Jan Blachowicz here, but when the Pole got hurt in training and pulled out, Blackzilian representative Oezdemir – the UFC’s first Swiss fighter – stepped in on short notice. With the late notice and most online analysts not rating him that highly, this looked like a bad fight for the newcomer against a real veteran in OSP.

First round begins and Oezdemir opens with a really nice inside leg kick and a high kick that OSP just about blocks. Wild swings land for Oezdemir and he backs St. Preux up with a combo. OSP clinches but finds himself forced into the fence, and from there the Swiss fighter lands some knees to the legs. Takedown from OSP is blocked and Oezdemir breaks off with an uppercut. Body kick is blocked by the newcomer. Left hand lands for OSP through the guard of Oezdemir. Pair of head kicks glance for Oezdemir but he lands with a hard right hand. OSP fires back with a left to slow him down, but he takes another leg kick from the Swiss fighter. Brief clinch is broken and Oezdemir swings his way forward before landing another inside leg kick. Left hand connects for OSP. Front kick to the body follows before Oezdemir clinches and forces OSP into the fence. Takedown attempt from the Swiss fighter but OSP blocks it well. They break off and OSP throws some strikes that miss. Decent body kick from Oezdemir but OSP lands on him in a brief exchange. Left hand to the body glances for OSP. Oezdemir backs him up with a high kick though. Nice leg kick lands again for Oezdemir. Clean combination lands for Oezdemir and OSP might be in trouble, and he has to clinch to slow the newcomer down. Round ends there. 10-9 Oezdemir for me as he was the aggressor and landed the better strikes.

Second round and they circle, with OSP landing a body kick and a left hand that forces Oezdemir back. Oezdemir comes back with a combination that backs OSP up, and he follows with a clinch. OSP switches it off and goes for a takedown, but Oezdemir blocks it. St. Preux manages to force him down and then grabs a rear waistlock as he stands, but Oezdemir spins into him and then separates with an elbow. Combo glances for St. Preux off the fence and then he follows with a jab and a bodyshot, but takes two leg kicks. Both guys miss with punches and suddenly the fight seems to have slowed down a ton. Crowd begin to boo as OSP glances on a left hand. Right hand replies for Oezdemir before OSP rocks him with a combination and backs him up. He doesn’t really follow that though and the pace has really become glacial. Oezdemir especially looks exhausted, which makes sense given the notice he took the fight on. Good body kick does land for him though. OSP fires back with a harder one of his own, but a left hook connects well for the Swiss fighter. They continue to exchange strikes pretty slowly, with both guys landing as the crowd boo. Round ends there. 10-9 OSP but that became a pretty crap round.

Third round and Oezdemir comes out swinging, backing OSP up a little before OSP returns fire with some punches of his own. They clinch up and OSP looks for the takedown, but Oezdemir blocks it and they break off. Flurry from OSP as they break but he eats a left hand and a low kick. Head kick is blocked by Oezdemir. He looks exhausted, though. Takedown is still blocked by the Swiss fighter and both guys look so gassed now as they continue to exchange. This is a tough fight to score. Slow exchange continues and the crowd are just furious with this now. 1:30 to go and they keep on trading shots. OSP seems to be landing more in the last minute and he’s going to the body too as he seems to realise Oezdemir’s slowing down a ton. Seconds to go and they continue to trade, and it looks like Oezdemir might be wobbly! Big uppercut lands for OSP and he really pours it on, flurrying to look for the finish, but he can’t take the newcomer out and that’s the round and fight. Last minute was fun at least. I’d go 29-28 OSP.

Judges have it 29-28 Oezdemir, 29-28 St. Preux, and 29-28 for Volkan Oezdemir in an upset. Don’t really agree with that as I’m not sure Oezdemir won those last two rounds, but really, OSP did not look good in the fight regardless. It’s not like a new star was made because Oezdemir outside of the first round didn’t look good either, but at least he can point to the late notice as the reason he gassed. I’m not sure what was wrong with OSP – whether he just overlooked Oezdemir, was injured or sick or whether the Manuwa loss was still hanging over him, but he looked so passive here especially in the first round. Overall I thought this was a bad fight, unfortunately.

Lightweight Fight: James Vick vs Abel Trujillo

This one was patched together from the pieces of two other fights that fell apart – Vick was meant to face Johnny Case, Trujillo Evan Dunham, but when Dunham and Case both got injured the UFC took the easy route and matched Vick and Trujillo against each other. Decent fight on paper between two reliable action fighters, but I was leaning towards the powerful Trujillo as Vick’s never really learned to use that massive reach all the time.

Round One begins and they circle around with both guys looking slightly tentative. First minute goes by with nothing landing and the crowd begin to boo again as both guys miss punches. Long right hand glances for Vick. Big uppercut misses though and he eats a right from Trujillo. Head kick narrowly misses for Vick as they continue to bounce around. Takedown attempt from Trujillo and he slams Vick down, landing inside the full guard. Looks like Vick might have a guillotine and he slaps in butterfly guard and then sits up against the cage. He begins to really work for the choke, but Trujillo seems okay to me. Vick ends up letting go, and Trujillo works to keep him down, but Vick manages to pop up to his feet. One minute to go and they remain stuck on the fence, before Trujillo separates. Big head kick misses for Vick. Combination connects for him ending with a body kick, but Trujillo fires back with a leg kick. Straight right hand stuns Trujillo and forces him to shoot, but he can’t get Vick down before the buzzer. 10-9 Vick.

Round Two and Abel pushes forward again, but he seems unsure of whether to shoot or swing. Left hand connects for Trujillo and catches Vick flush, but he seems okay. Another overhand left lands for Trujillo. Nice leg kick fires back for Vick. Hard right hand from Trujillo but Vick’s chin holds up again as they exchange. Jab from Vick but Trujillo continues to move well. Takedown attempt from Trujillo and he drives Vick into the cage, but he can’t get the Texan down. Looks like Vick’s nose might be bloodied up. Wild left hand connects over the top for Trujillo but again Vick takes it well. Strong right hand answers for Vick and it looks like he’s got Trujillo hurt with a combo. Trujillo shoots, but Vick stuffs it and then trips Trujillo down, and from there he looks to set up a D’Arce choke. He drops to his back and it looks sunk in, but Trujillo spins around and manages to alleviate the pressure enough to survive. Vick keeps trying, but can’t quite get it despite sweeping over into top position. Finally with a minute to go he lets go and settles into side mount. Trujillo manages to work to his feet, but Vick stays stuck to him and the round ends as he lands a knee and misses a spin kick. Clear 10-9 for Vick and Trujillo needs the knockout now.

Round Three and Trujillo presses forward, but he walks into a jumping knee from Vick and he’s in big trouble. Vick comes in swinging but Trujillo fires back with some wild punches before shooting for the takedown. Vick sprawls to defend and then locks up the D’Arce again, and this time he forces Abel down onto his back and really tightens it up, and Trujillo taps there.

Really impressive win for James Vick. I didn’t like how he was leaving his chin open to being tagged, but he took the punches of a powerful striker very well, and while he used his length to own Trujillo on the ground he was also surprisingly effective standing too, landing a variety of shots that had Abel hurt on numerous occasions. This actually put Vick at 6-1 (!) in the division and he could yet be a dark horse to watch. Fight was a ton of fun, thankfully after the previous one!

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Alexa Grasso vs Felice Herrig

It was a bit odd to see this billed as the co-main event given Andrade/Hill was a likely #1 contender’s match, but then Grasso and Herrig are both far more marketable and hey, UFC has to draw ratings and buys I guess. Anyhow, most fans saw this as a bit of a showcase for the hot prospect Grasso, as Herrig seems to be used as a bit of a gatekeeper type these days despite her own star qualities, and figured Grasso would be able to outstrike her for a win. I wasn’t counting Felice out though – I think she’s become a bit underrated for some reason, probably her long layoffs over the last couple of years.

Fight begins and the crowd seem way more into Grasso than Herrig, surprisingly. Felice pushes forward to begin and pressures Grasso back with some glancing strikes, as the Mexican throws some kicks that don’t really land cleanly. Few more combinations back Grasso up, but Felice isn’t really landing much although she’s pushing the action. Jumping kick glances for Grasso and she slips to her back, but she goes right into a heel hook attempt as Felice follows her down. Herrig defends and pops back up, landing a glancing right hand en route. One-two connects for Herrig. Side kick to the chest lands for Grasso as both girls miss with their bigger shots. Decent combination gets through for Felice. Wheel kick misses for Grasso and Felice lands with a right hand to the body. Looks like Herrig’s just about getting the better of these exchanges to me. Less than a minute remaining and both girls land with combinations although neither one seems hurt. Good job from Grasso to avoid a quick flurry from Felice. Round ends with a hard right from Grasso but a good counter combo from Felice that leads into a clinch. Close round but Felice was the aggressor and just about landed the better strikes, so I’d go with her 10-9.

Into the 2nd and both girls come up short on early strikes again before Herrig lands a beautiful overhand right cleanly. Grasso takes it well though but she’s really struggling to get anything going here. This isn’t the best fight to watch to be fair actually. Both girls continue to land with glancing blows more than anything else, but again it’s Herrig who seems to be getting the better of the exchanges, just about. She’s just putting her combinations together smoother than the Mexican. She does connect on a hard leg kick, but Felice makes her pay with a clean right hand. Nice overhand right lands cleanly for Felice. This is about the best stand-up I’ve ever seen from her I think. Grasso begins to come forward more now and she lands with a couple of kicks to the body and legs, but another right hand counter from Herrig pegs her back. Combination follows for Herrig. Nice right hand lands for Grasso but Felice decides to switch it up and hits a takedown off a caught kick. Grasso pops back up, but Felice keeps her clinched to end the round with another takedown. 10-9 Felice again for me. Round heated up a lot in the last minute or so.

Third and final round and Felice looks confident coming out of her corner. She opens with a combo ending in a body kick, but Grasso comes back with a side kick to the body of her own. Grasso pushes forward some more but again takes a crisp right hand counter from Felice. Low takedown attempt and Felice gets Grasso down, but the Mexican sweeps over into top position, only for Felice to reverse that and then take full mount! Beautiful sequence. Grasso immediately explodes though and forces Felice off and they come back to their feet. Strong right hand connects for Grasso. Both girls come up short on combinations and then Herrig lands a left to the body and a right to the head. Good low kick from Grasso. Counter combo glances for Felice to answer a low kick. Grasso is backing Felice up now but she’s still not doing enough to truly turn the tide. Combinations glance for both girls in a brief exchange. One minute to go now and Felice shoots for the takedown, but Grasso stuffs it and forces her into the cage. They jockey for position from the clinch and then break off, and we’re back to a striking exchange. Solid right hand comes over the jab and lands for Grasso. Pair of kicks follow and Grasso’s really pushing it now. Round ends with a brawl and it looks like Felice might be stunned. 10-9 Grasso but too little, too late in my eyes. 29-28 Felice overall.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Felice Herrig. Grasso’s expression of sheer disbelief as the scores are called is pretty hilarious really. Not sure what was wrong with her here but she didn’t really show much aggression until the third round and it really cost her. To be fair though that’s probably selling Felice short – she showed a measured striking game, controlled distance well and was just about aggressive enough to outpoint Grasso for the majority of the fight – this was probably her best ever UFC performance in fact. Post-fight she cuts a pretty charismatic promo too, saying how much she’s improved mentally and then she calls out either PVZ or Michelle Waterson. I don’t think they’ll do either of those fights, but hopefully this win earns her at least a spot in the top ten and another big fight (maybe someone like Rose Namajunas or Karolina Kowalkiewicz?) because she deserves it. Fight wasn’t the best as it had slow spots, but for the most part it was fine.

Featherweight Fight: Chan Sung Jung vs Dennis Bermudez

Let’s be honest, pretty much every hardcore MMA fan – myself included – was excited when they heard this booking because the Korean Zombie always guarantees excitement and you can probably count the amount of dull fights Dennis Bermudez has ever had on one hand too. Both guys basically made their names by being aggressive to the point of recklessness – this was perfect matchmaking. In terms of a pick it was hard to say because of course the Zombie had been out for over three years due to his Korean military service, but I was pulling for him because he would offer fresh fights for the top of the division.

Round One begins and Bermudez dances on the outside before going for a takedown, but Zombie defends well. Right hand backs Bermudez up a bit but Dennis comes back with a jab. Clinch from Zombie and he goes for the takedown, but Dennis breaks with a knee. Big right hand lands for Bermudez but the Zombie shows his legendary chin and eats it up before clinching. Combo breaks for Dennis and he shoots, going for a single leg, but the Zombie defends only to eat a head kick and a right hand. Wild combo glances for Dennis. Combination answers for the Zombie as these guys are swinging. Huge overhand right misses for Dennis but it sets up a takedown attempt. Zombie defends it well again though, shrugging him off. He taunts Dennis, trying to draw him into a brawl, but Bermudez comes back with a knee after another takedown is stuffed. Right hands land for both men and then the Zombie comes forward and DECKS HIM WITH AN UPPERCUT! Dennis goes down and OUT and that’s all she wrote! Wow.

Post-fight Bermudez tries to claim an early stoppage, and to be fair the ref did come in quickly. I think he was done, though. Pretty crazy fight as you’d expect with an even crazier finish – the Zombie looked excellent outside of taking that one big right hand, as his striking looked crisp, he stuffed some good takedown attempts and then turned Bermudez’s lights out with a perfectly placed shot. Ring rust? What ring rust? This was yet another superb performance from the Zombie who is a STAR for sure. And shit, can they please make Zombie vs. Cub Swanson next so the Zombie can try to reclaim some Korean pride? That could be a FOTYC. Hell of a way to end the show.

-Show ends with a celebration from the Zombie, well deserved too.

Final Thoughts….

For the most part this was a great show; the main event delivered, Andrade/Hill was fantastic, we got a fun KO from Marcel Fortuna and Vick/Trujillo was good too. Herrig/Grasso was a little slow and OSP/Oezdemir was downright bad, but four good fights out of six is decent by anyone’s standards. Thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Andrade vs. Hill
Worst Fight: OSP vs. Oezdemir

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: