MMA Review: #595: UFC Fight Night 106

-This was a *great* card on paper for a Fight Night, it must be said – sure, we had a fight between two borderline top ten 155lbers on the prelims (Trinaldo vs. Lee) but realistically there wasn’t a fight on the main card you’d have wanted to move anyway! To me it looked like a great mix of top-level fights with a handful of big names thrown in too. Best Brazil card in a while in fact.

UFC Fight Night 106

Fortaleza, Ceara

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Brian Stann. And right away Anik gives us a wild fact – Kelvin Gastelum was just FIVE when his opponent Vitor Belfort made his UFC debut. That’s scary as fuck.

Welterweight Fight: Tim Means vs Alex Oliveira

When their UFC 207 fight ended up as a No Contest thanks to an illegal knee from Means, it was pretty much a no-brainer that we’d end up getting a rematch given the bad blood that erupted between the two post-fight. I was actually surprised to see it booked this early but I was pleased too as judging on the mutual dislike we were in for fireworks. My pick was Means as I felt he’d been getting the better of Cowboy in the first fight, but it was close to call.

Round One begins and Oliveira opens with a trio of body kicks, getting really aggressive much to the love of the crowd. Clinch from Means but Oliveira forces him into the fence and works for a trip. Means defends that, but Oliveira manages to drag him down anyway, landing in the full guard. Armbar attempt from Means but Oliveira blocks it and remains on top. Means decides to try to kick him away instead, but Cowboy does a really good job of keeping top position and he lands a pair of right hands before Means springs to his feet. Oliveira keeps him forced right into the fence and goes for another takedown, but Means blocks it and lands with a knee to the body. They muscle for position and Oliveira gets a rear waistlock before hitting a BIG suplex. Means manages to scramble back up before the Brazilian can slap his hooks in, however. Two minutes to go and Cowboy works some knees to the legs before suplexing him back down, but again Means stands. A third suplex follows but again Means pops up. Oliveira tries to drag him down, but finds himself on the bottom this time and Means takes side mount. Crowd boo right away because they hate Means so much. Action slows down a bit now as Means doesn’t do all that much from the top, with Oliveira trying to push his legs off the cage to escape. Couple of elbows get through for Means to end the round. Oliveira’s round for sure though, 10-9.

Round Two and Cowboy comes out with an odd dance and tries to get a hug, which annoys ref Big John McCarthy for some reason. Wheel kick misses for Oliveira and Means ducks under for a takedown, but Oliveira blocks it and looks to lock up a guillotine. Good knee from Oliveira and he drives Means into the fence, then drops for a takedown of his own. Means works to defend with some elbows to the side of the head, then he counters into his own attempt at a takedown. Oliveira defends that and they jockey along the fence again, before Oliveira dumps Means down with a double leg. Surprising to see Oliveira dominate Means in the wrestling game like this. Oliveira works from the top and then passes to take the back, landing some nice punches along the way. Means stands into a rear waistlock, but Oliveira hits a slick trip to force him down and slaps one hook in. Second hook follows and Means is in trouble. Oliveira works for the choke and then transitions into a body triangle before SINKING THE CHOKE, and Means taps out there!

Pretty dominant performance from Alex Oliveira in the end then. Real surprise to me as Means was looking like a beast in some of his earlier fights but just came off totally flat here, getting thoroughly outgrappled by Oliveira before the finish. Don’t know whether something was up with Means or whether Oliveira’s improved grappling game just caught him off guard or what, but it was a really impressive showing from the Brazilian Cowboy. Probably puts him on the verge of the top ten in fact given where Means was last year. Fun opener for sure with great crowd heat.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Bethe Correia vs Marion Reneau

This was Correia’s first fight back in Brazil after the nasty KO she suffered at the hands of Ronda Rousey back in 2015, while Reneau had last fought in November, beating Milana Dudieva with some nasty elbows. Despite the home field advantage (and a video of her wearing a tight dress going viral!) for Correia I was going with Reneau here, as I felt like she was the better athlete overall and Correia was a little overrated.

First round begins and Reneau opens with a body kick that Correia catches, countering with a pair of right hands. Low kicks from Reneau but they don’t really land cleanly and it looks like Correia’s trying to set up a counter right. Crowd are way behind Bethe. Nice jab lands for Reneau. They continue to exchange with largely glancing blows, before Reneau lands with a really nasty body kick. Another one follows but Bethe clinches and forces Reneau into the fence. Reneau manages to shake her off though and they go back to striking. Couple of jabs miss for Correia but a counter right hand does land en route to a clinch. Reneau connects with a knee to the body and then a couple more as they jockey for position. Action slows down a bit as Correia works with some short strikes from the clinch, but Reneau breaks off. Just over a minute to go now and Reneau lands with a jab that Correia answers with a leg kick. Nice combination lands for Correia. Reneau fires back with another body kick. Brief exchange sees both women land punches before a big right connects for Reneau and seems to have Correia slightly hurt as she backpedals. Takedown from Correia changes things up though and she ends the round on top. Really tough round to score but I’d go with Reneau for landing the slightly better strikes I think.

Second round and they exchange right away with both girls landing again. Clinch from Correia and she forces Reneau into the fence again. Reneau manages to break free and they get right back to exchanging punches. Some good punches begin to get through for Correia this time and it looks like Reneau might be slightly tired. Hard left hook lands for Correia and a sweet overhand right follows. Beautiful combination follows that up and Reneau has to back right up. Another combination wobbles Reneau. Correia is looking excellent in this round. Counter right from Correia leads into the clinch where she connects on two uppercuts and a left hook that breaks off. Another couple of combos follow for the Brazilian. Spinning backfist misses though and Reneau comes back with a right hand of her own. Brief clinch is broken with a hard right from Reneau and she follows with a sharp shovel punch. Low kick is caught by Correia though who plants her with a takedown. Smart move from Bethe. Action slows somewhat on the ground before Reneau tries for a triangle, but Correia pulls free and remains on top. Few elbows and hammer fists connect for Correia but Reneau fires back with shots from the bottom. Round ends there. 10-9 Correia for me to even things up.

Third round and Reneau opens with a hard body kick, but takes a heavy left hook from Correia on the counter. Big head kick from nowhere rocks Correia, but Reneau actually goes down. She pops up and opens up with a combination though and Correia is badly hurt. She’s wobbling all over the place. Takedown attempt from Correia is stuffed by Reneau who lands some shots to the side of the head, but Correia clings onto the leg only to eat more punches. Reneau spins to take the back and so Correia drops onto her side, taking half-guard instead. Reneau moves into full mount and now Correia’s in trouble, eating a lot of strikes from the top. More shots get through for Reneau and she’s looking for the finish. Correia gives her back but manages to survive, and somehow she reverses into a takedown of her own! Reneau reverses that though and winds up on top again, landing more shots from half-guard as the crowd chant desperately for Bethe. Reversal again from Correia and she tries for the takedown again, but finds herself stuffed onto her back once more. This time Reneau traps the left arm to drop some unanswered shots, then takes the back with both hooks. Correia is in survival mode again, but she does manage to hold on despite taking more punishment. Body triangle now for Reneau but she just can’t finish Bethe off. Round ends with Reneau still in back control and Bethe unable to escape. 10-8 round for Reneau so I’d score it 29-27 for her.

Judges officially have it 29-27 Reneau, 28-28 and 28-28 for a MAJORITY DRAW. Huh. Don’t really agree with that but to be fair I guess you could’ve given Correia the first two rounds so there you go. Under PRIDE-style rules Reneau wins easily but obviously that isn’t the scoring criteria these days so yeah. They could and probably should re-book this fight though as it was really, really good, with some excellent exchanges in the first two rounds before Reneau took over and Correia showed a ton of heart to survive really.

Flyweight Fight: Jussier Formiga vs Ray Borg

Great fight right here – maybe the best matchmaking on the card in fact with the winner likely in line for a title shot against the winner of Demetrious Johnson/Wilson Reis in April. Borg was coming off a super-impressive win over Louis Smolka, although he had missed weight for that fight, while Formiga had looked excellent against Dustin Ortiz in his last win and had won four of his last five including a win over Reis. This was another tough fight to call but I felt like Formiga’s experience and grappling advantage would probably pull him through.

Fight begins and Formiga opens with a right hand as Jon Anik mentions Borg’s former coach sueing him over his move to Jackson/Winkeljohn. That’s gotta suck. Couple of strikes from the outside from Formiga set up a clinch but they break quickly. Clean right hand sets up another clinch for Formiga, but a knee breaks for Borg. Big left hand lands for Borg but Formiga takes it well and grabs the clinch again. More knees land for both and they break again. Left to the body lands for Formiga. His striking has improved so much. He follows with some nice head movement to avoid a combo, but then lands with a low blow and Mario Yamasaki has to call time. They restart and Borg wades into the clinch, where the action slows down a little as both men land short strikes inside. They break off and go back to striking, with Borg stepping in with a sharp uppercut but taking a couple of counters from the Brazilian. More good movement from Formiga allows him to avoid a combo. Right hands land for both men as they continue to exchange. Seconds to go and a nice combo lands for Formiga, but he has a takedown stuffed and Borg glances with a head kick. Spinning backfist answers back for Formiga and they trade to the buzzer. Super-close round but I’d go 10-9 Formiga by a hair I think.

Into the 2nd and Borg wings a left hand into a takedown attempt, driving Formiga into the fence. The Brazilian works to defend the takedown, but Borg keeps going for it only for Formiga to switch and shove him into the fence instead. Knee breaks for Borg and he follows with a glancing left hand. Combination also glances for Borg. Chopping inside leg kick connects for Formiga. Flying knee misses for Borg but Formiga can’t capitalise. Right hand from Borg sets up a takedown attempt, but somehow despite being lifted fully off the ground, Formiga manages to stay vertical. Unbelievable takedown defense right there. Borg keeps on trying for it, but he still can’t get the Brazilian down. Crowd begin to boo a little as the action slows down, and finally Yamasaki calls a break. Knee from Borg is answered by a Formiga right hand on the restart, but Borg sprawls to defend a takedown attempt. Brief clinch is broken by a Borg knee, but he eats a couple of combos off the break. Overhand right glances for Borg and he follows by connecting on a really flush left hook. Exchange continues and the spinning backfist misses for Formiga this time. Heavy leg kick does land, but Borg fires back with a spinning backfist of his own. Takedown attempt is avoided by Formiga twice and the round ends there. Another really tight one but Borg was the more offensive fighter so I’d go with him to even things up.

Third and final round and Borg opens with a takedown attempt and gets Formiga down for a split-second, but right away the Brazilian pops up and manages to take the back in a scramble! Borg rolls and finds himself mounted, but then he hits a scramble of his own and takes Formiga’s back for a second before they come back to their feet! Single leg attempt now from Borg and this time he manages to get Formiga down, but an almost instant reversal allows Formiga to get on top and then he transitions to the back, slapping on a body triangle in the process. Well, everyone knows Formiga’s back-taking is amazing and that was an example right there. Formiga controls Borg as the American defends the choke, and in an impressive move he manages to spin over into the guard of Formiga. Series of short elbows land for Borg from the top now, and a big one opens a cut on Formiga’s head above the right eye. One minute to go and Borg might be taking over this round. Really vicious elbows begin to get through for Borg, and then Formiga surprisingly gives his back and Borg gets both hooks in! Formiga shakes off one hook, but he’s still in a bad position here. Another elbow lands for Borg and he takes mount, but Formiga quickly gets half-guard. Top-side guillotine attempt ends the round for Borg. That was a tremendous rally from Borg and I think he’s got this 29-28.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Ray Borg. Dude really pulled it out in the third round, and it was more impressive given it was Jussier Formiga on his back, a fighter mainly renowned for his phenomenal back-taking and control from that position. This should probably put Borg in line for the next title shot after the upcoming Mighty Mouse/Wilson Reis fight, but I personally think it’ll be too much, too soon for him ala Kyoji Horiguchi as Mighty Mouse is just a level above everyone right now. If Johnson ever slows down though then he could definitely prove to be a future champion. This wasn’t the wildest fight ever but it was high-level stuff and for the most part it was entertaining.

Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs Beneil Dariush

In terms of importance to rankings, this was perhaps the biggest fight on the card, with both men sitting within the top ten at 155lbs, Barboza in the top five in fact, and while the winner probably wasn’t going to pick up a title shot the stakes were pretty high, especially after the Khabib Nurmagomedov situation had thrown the division into some flux. My pick was Barboza, as I felt that he could keep Dariush on the outside and use his long punches and leg kicks to great effect, but with his chin issues and Dariush’s superior ground game and improving striking it was another close one.

Round One begins and it looks like Dariush wants to pressure Barboza, as he lands some shots right away before Barboza fires back and they trade pretty wildly. Clinch is avoided by Barboza but he takes a kick to the body. Couple of low kicks fire back for Barboza but Dariush keeps walking him down. Left hand into a combo lands for Dariush and he narrowly misses with a head kick. Overhand left glances for Dariush. Sharp head kick from Barboza pops the crowd big time. Dariush keeps coming forward though and he secures a plum clinch, but the Brazilian quickly breaks free. Good leg kick from Dariush. Left uppercut follows as does a hard left straight as Barboza tries to fire back. Barboza is struggling here as Dariush is being so aggressive. Combination lands for Dariush but Barboza manages to get away from the fence. Hard leg kick from Dariush. Brutal body kick follows. Dariush is looking excellent here, capitalising every time Barboza tries to set something up. Body kick lands for Barboza but Dariush shakes it off and tries a takedown. Barboza stuffs it, but eats a knee on the way out and Dariush follows that with a left hand. This is a pretty torrid pace. Another leg kick lands for Dariush. Left hand puts Barboza on the retreat. Body kick fires back for the Brazilian. Another one follows but Dariush comes back with a spinning backfist to end the round. Definitely Dariush’s round as he pressured Barboza throughout.

Round Two and Barboza this time lands a quick combo as Dariush pushes forward. Dariush walks through it to land a combo of his own though and both men land with some heavy shots. Body kick is somehow shrugged off by Dariush who keeps pushing the pace, glancing with a head kick and a low kick. Another body kick lands for Barboza but doesn’t slow Dariush up. Spinning backfist glances for Dariush. Head kick is blocked by Dariush but Barboza is timing his counters much better in this round. Takedown attempt is stuffed nicely by the Brazilian. Left hand lands for Dariush as he comes forward again. Another one follows, landing cleanly to the body. Nice low kick from Dariush but he takes a counter and then finally one of Barboza’s famed leg kicks. Another one lands too as Dariush pushes forward, and a couple more counters land as Barboza continues to get his timing down better. Good left hand from Dariush and he keeps on pushing, walking through another leg kick too. Right hand follows but he takes a groin punch and referee Osiris Maia has to call time. Dariush recovers and they restart, with Dariush landing a left high kick and a well-timed knee. More forward pressure follows, but Barboza suddenly KILLS HIM DEAD WITH A JUMPING COUNTER KNEE!~! Holy shit.

Replay shows Dariush walked right into the knee and was stiff before he hit the ground; the best Barboza knockout since his legendary one of Terry Etim in 2012. It was just perfectly timed as Dariush kept on pushing forward and ended up leaning right into it after he threw a right hand. Massive win for Barboza, particularly when you consider Dariush clearly had Michael Johnson’s Barboza-beating gameplan in mind – walk him down, pressure him with strikes and never allow him to set up his big shots – but the difference this time was that Barboza adjusted his timing and began to land big counters in the second round that lead to the KO. I’m not sure where you put him next – Tony Ferguson is a no as they only fought recently, he’s not a big enough name for Nate Diaz – so here’s an idea, why not have Ferguson fight Diaz and then match Barboza with Khabib when he’s ready to return? That sounds awesome to me. Speaking of awesome, this was an early contender for Knockout of the Year and a hell of a fight too.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Shogun Rua vs Gian Villante

When this was announced it honestly sounded like a bad idea for Shogun – he’s years past his prime now and this was a fight with one of the hardest-hitting men in the division – but when I actually stepped back to think about it I wasn’t so sure – Villante for all his talents is a total glass cannon who doesn’t always fight to his strengths, and so that alone gave Shogun a chance. If nothing else I was expecting a wild brawl.

First round begins and man, Shogun does not look in good shape any more at all. They throw out some feeler strikes and Shogun tags Villante right away though. Low kick is caught and Villante gets thrown down, but he pops right back up. Villante comes in swinging, but a counter left drops him for a second before he pops back up. Nice leg kick lands for Villante. They continue to exchange and now Shogun gets rocked badly off a big left hook. Villante comes in swinging but can’t put Shogun away and so he clinches, but the former PRIDE champ breaks off quickly and then nails him with a right hand. Another right hand follows as Villante throws out a bit of a lazy jab. Both guys are breathing heavily already. Right hand lands again for Shogun. His counters are looking really accurate here. Another right hand counter connects for the Brazilian. Big right hand glances for Villante in response. Wild trade sees both guys land before Shogun drops him with a heavy right hand to pop the crowd hugely. Villante wobbles back up and takes some more shots, but it looks like he’s recovered. Another right follows and Villante is in trouble. Shogun doesn’t go wild trying to finish him though and he seems okay. Combo from Villante glances but he’s still hanging his hands a bit. Pretty open exchange continues until the round ends. 10-9 Shogun.

Second round and Shogun opens with a leg kick. Big left hand lands for Shogun in an exchange but he takes a left from Villante too. Jab lands for Rua. Both men continue to swing and defense isn’t exactly the first thing on either’s mind. Big head kick misses for Villante. Big left hand lands for Villante and he has Shogun on the retreat a bit but can’t really land the killer shot. These guys are just exchanging openly now. Shogun lands with the overhand right again and then lands a clean counter off a leg kick. Big combo from Shogun as Villante’s corner are literally screaming at him to move his head. Another overhand right connects for Shogun. Big combo from Villante rocks him but somehow Shogun recovers. Takedown follows from Villante but he can’t keep Shogun down. Big overhand right wobbles Villante again and he goes down off a bit of a slip, but pops up quickly and the trade resumes. Another big overhand right lands for Shogun. Less than a minute to go now and Villante wings an overhand right of his own that doesn’t land. Big right hook connects for Shogun right before the round ends. Another 10-9 for Shogun I’d say despite Villante not getting hurt quite as often.

Third round and Shogun visibly looks awful despite winning the previous rounds. Big shots glance for both men from the off and Villante catches the Brazilian with a solid counter combo off one of Shogun’s right hands. Both men land with jabs before Villante walks right into a BRUTAL counter right that buckles his legs and freezes him up! Big flurry follows for Shogun and Villante is on ROLLER SKATES!~! More shots land for Shogun and finally Villante just buckles under the pressure and goes down for the TKO finish.

Pretty wild brawl as was expected – basically while he’s deteriorated badly, Shogun can still pack a wallop and the problem for Villante was that the Brazilian had his timing down very quickly, using the New Yorker’s lack of head movement to catch him time after time with the overhand right as a counter to Villante’s jab. And he stayed patient too right until that final flurry which was nice. Insanely Shogun is somehow on the best win streak of his UFC career now – three fights – and finds himself back in the top five! The possibility of him fighting Jones, Cormier or Rumble is scary though and I wouldn’t like him against the Teixeira/Gustafsson winner either, so I say put him in with the Cirkunov/Oezdemir winner or Jimi Manuwa (if he beats Corey Anderson) or even a prospect like Ion Cutelaba – it just makes more sense than matching him with the three killers at the top. As for Villante you still can’t outright count him out against anyone, but he’s still a big time glass cannon and that’ll probably keep him from getting to the top of the division. Still makes for very fun fights though as this was!

Middleweight Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Kelvin Gastelum

After his big win over Tim Kennedy at UFC 206, it looked like Gastelum had the potential to make some noise at 185lbs after his 170lbs career was derailed by weight cutting problems, and so this fight made total sense as Vitor was clearly on the way down following two straight losses in 2016, and matching him with an up-and-comer like Gastelum is the perfect use for him. Despite the home field advantage for Vitor I just couldn’t see him beating Kelvin as for me he’s basically got nothing left these days in the post-TRT world.

Round One gets started and the crowd are insanely hot for Vitor as Gastelum pushes forward. Front kick glances to the body for Vitor but Gastelum seems undeterred. Wheel kick misses for Belfort. Right jab lands for Gastelum but Vitor fires back with a very fast flurry that doesn’t land cleanly. Big left hand misses for Kelvin and Vitor makes him pay with a straight left of his own. Body kick follows for Vitor as does another left hand. Jumping knee glances for Vitor. Gastelum comes back though with a one-two and a big left that rocks Vitor’s world. Quick jab from Gastelum looks to set the left up again and he’s really stalking now. Nice slip allows Kelvin to dodge a left, but a spin kick glances and he quickly clinches before breaking off. Kelvin fires right back with a big combo, and a NASTY one-two sends Vitor crashing down! He’s in deep trouble. Gastelum pounces to look to finish, dropping some bombs over the top before dropping into half-guard, but Vitor manages to survive. Looked like he was out to me there for a second. He manages to work to his feet to a big pop, but he’s clearly still hurt and Kelvin closes in, only for Vitor to land with a trademark flurry! Gastelum takes that well and goes back to his jab, and then another big combo ending in a left drops the veteran and this time he finishes him off, forcing the stoppage. Crowd go COMPLETELY SILENT as Vitor is out on the ground.

Great fight while it lasted. Vitor showed that he still has most of his speed, but he just couldn’t land on Gastelum – who looked just as quick – cleanly and when Kelvin did land on him, his durability looked totally shot and a few clean punches had him out of there. He’s clearly done at this point – he says he wants one more fight before retirement – so I say give him Rashad Evans in a battle of veterans. As for Gastelum it’s onwards and upwards and he’s been booked with Anderson Silva next to continue his apparent role as legend killer. I like it personally – he’s got a ton of potential but the division is logjammed right now so why not match him with legends who are a bit past their prime? He’s young enough and charismatic enough to warrant a build anyway. And man, what a fighter he’s turned into as well, especially standing where his technique looks super-impressive these days. How he’ll do against the behemoths of the division like Yoel Romero is anyone’s guess but shit, people said the same about Robert Whittaker and he’s done just fine. This was an awesome main event at any rate.

-Show unsurprisingly ends abruptly following Vitor’s post-fight interview, as per usual with the Fight Night cards.

Final Thoughts….

So yeah, while the UFC’s recent PPV shows have been floundering like crazy, the Fight Night series continues to deliver every single time, as this was yet another great show with six excellent fights, some sick finishes and nothing dull on offer at all. The matchmaking seems to have somehow gotten better for these shows and worse for the PPVs, go figure, but I’m not complaining when they’re giving us shows like this and cool fights like Barboza/Dariush, Correia/Reneau and Shogun/Villante. Two thumbs up.

Best Fight: Barboza vs. Dariush
Worst Fight: Formiga vs. Borg

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: