MMA Review: #603: UFC Fight Night 110

-This was another international card considered largely as a weak one by fans, but personally I was expecting some fun fights as it seemed full of top action fighters (Nguyen, Elliott, Cutelaba, Hunt, etc) and the UFC has delivered massively this year so far with their Fight Night shows.

UFC Fight Night 110

Auckland, New Zealand

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Brian Stann.

Featherweight Fight: Alex Volkanovski vs Mizuto Hirota

Aussie wrestle-boxer Volkanovski was dropping to 145lbs from 155lbs here although he wasn’t exactly out of shape at Lightweight. He was faced with his second Japanese opponent in a row in Hirota too, as he’d beaten Yusuke Kazuya in his UFC debut in 2016. Hirota was coming off a solid win over Cole Miller, but I was taking Volkanovski here as I’d been really impressed with his debut victory.

Round One begins and they circle with Volkanovski staying on the outside. Hirota is looking pretty hench here. He glances on a couple of strikes, as does Volkanovski, before the Aussie clinches following a right hand. He drives the Japanese fighter into the fence and looks for the takedown, but Hirota stuffs it, only to eat a BIG RIGHT HOOK that sends him down! Volkanovski pounces and looks to finish, but Hirota shows some good recovery and manages to hang on despite taking a bunch of elbows and hammer fists from half-guard. Hirota manages to scramble into butterfly guard, so Volkanovski stands over him, only for the Japanese fighter to go for a leglock. Volkanovski avoids it and they stand back up, but the Aussie hits another takedown. Hirota reverses back up but Volkanovski stays on him and plants him once more. Nice knee lands for Volkanovski as Hirota reverses up again, and then he separates with a spinning elbow. Combination glances for Hirota but Volkanovski fires back with a right hand. Exchange continues with both men glancing on shots and Hirota landing a nice low kick. Combination from Volkanovski sets up another takedown though and he lands in half-guard. Big left elbow almost lands for Volkanovski but misses by a hair, and Hirota reverses back up. Clinch again from Volkanovski but Hirota shrugs him off. Overhand right glances for the Aussie but he ends the round with a clean right. Clearly 10-9 Volkanovski.

Round Two and Volkanovski pushes forward, but he takes a clean combination from Hirota and has to clinch. Trip attempt from Hirota is avoided and Volkanovski comes back with a combination of his own that sets up another clinch. Another spinning elbow stuns Hirota and drops him for a second, but he pops back up somehow. Dude has an amazing chin. Takedown follows for Volkanovski though and he plants Hirota and lands some shots as he works back up too. They break off and an overhand right connects hard for Volkanovski but again Hirota takes it well. Counter uppercut glances for Hirota and then he manages to get a takedown of his own, but Volkanovski instantly rolls back to his feet and pins him into the fence. They break again and Volkanovski continues to pressure Hirota back with strikes. Head kick lands for the Aussie but Hirota doesn’t respond at all, aside from firing back with punches. Looks like Volkanovski is the faster guy though and he’s still landing the better strikes. One minute to go though and Hirota keeps trying, but he takes a couple more solid shots from Volkanovski. Both men trade off for a while with both landing, and then Volkanovski lands a big combo that puts Hirota down again. He manages to hold on from the guard though and survives the round despite taking some huge shots from the Aussie. 10-9 Volkanovski again and Hirota needs a stoppage.

Round Three and Hirota pushes forward swinging, clearly knowing he needs a finish to win. He does land and force the Aussie to back up, but he takes a combo in reply and ends up forced back into the fence again. Takedown attempt is defended well by Hirota this time but he eats another spinning elbow on the break. Combination answers for Hirota and he seems to wobble Volkanovski with a short left, but doesn’t follow it up. Beautiful outside trip from Hirota puts Volkanovski down for a second as he catches him rushing in with strikes, but the Aussie springs right back up and gets back to work. Clinch from Hirota now and he forces Volkanovski back, but he can’t trip him down and they break off. Combo from Hirota is met with a big overhand right and a takedown from Volkanovski, but Hirota pops back up using the fence. Hirota breaks off and we’ve got just over 90 seconds left in the round now. Nice overhand right and a knee from Volkanovski but Hirota comes back with a shot to the body and a combo. Another combination lands for Hirota and sets up the clinch, but he can’t get Volkanovski down. He does land some more good strikes though as it looks like the Aussie may be tired now. Round ends with Hirota really swinging before Volkanovski drops for a takedown. Probably 10-9 Hirota but clearly Volkanovski’s fight, 29-28 on my card.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Alex Volkanovski. Really good win for the Aussie as he outworked Hirota throughout the first and second (and parts of the third too), hitting him with some huge shots, working in his takedowns well and showing creativity too with those spinning elbows. Hirota proved to be a really tough out as he took some nasty punches and managed to survive, and so this was the perfect test for Volkanovski at this point in his career. Post-fight he calls out “the bad boys” and at 145lbs that probably means someone like Jason Knight, which would make for an AWESOME fight now I come to think of it. Really fun opener overall.

Flyweight Fight: Tim Elliott vs Ben Nguyen

Originally Nguyen was set to take a really massive step up in competition to face Joseph Benavidez here, but when Joe got injured former title challenger Elliott stepped in, and so Nguyen was still faced with a step up, albeit not so much of a huge one. I was rooting for Nguyen as he’s such an exciting guy to watch, but expected Elliott to outgrapple him.

For the record I HATE Elliott’s stupid dancing entrance. It just looks ridiculous, sorry.

Fight begins and Nguyen comes out aggressively and tags Elliott with a head kick in the opening exchange. Elliott takes it well, but Nguyen tags him again with a knee and a right hand and as Elliott attempts a throw, he manages to roll through and take the back! Elliott stands but Nguyen gets him back down and slaps both hooks in, and Elliott makes the error of reaching to free the hooks, and ends up giving up his neck in the process and Nguyen SINKS THE CHOKE AND GETS THE TAP!~!

Awesome performance from Ben Nguyen right there. It looked like Elliott was just surprised by the sheer aggression, and once Nguyen took his back he clearly underestimated his ground game too as it’s a massive mistake to ever reach for the foot like that – ask Matt Hughes as he fell victim to the same thing in his first fight with BJ Penn. Nguyen should get another top ten fighter next time out and it wouldn’t surprise me if they try again for the Benavidez fight in fact. Whole fight went like 49 seconds which is amazing.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ion Cutelaba vs Henrique da Silva

Despite both men coming off losses here – Cutelaba to Jared Cannonier, da Silva to Jordan Johnson – I was expecting a solid fight as both are two of the better prospects at 205lbs and had a pretty wild staredown at the weigh-ins. I was taking Cutelaba as he seems to be the type of fighter who can take out anyone on his day, but with his questionable gas tank you couldn’t really count ‘Frankenstein’ out.

Pre-fight Cutelaba gets right into Frankenstein’s face during the introductions and does the old throat-slash gesture, this dude is SCARY.

Round One and Cutelaba comes right out swinging and DROPS FRANKENSTEIN WITH A WILD LEFT HOOK! Da Silva is in trouble and Cutelaba pounces on him and KNOCKS HIM SILLY WITH BIG SHOTS! Jesus.

That fight went 22 seconds, didn’t expect anyone to get it done quicker on this show than Ben Nguyen but there you go. Scary, scary performance from Ion Cutelaba as he just waylaid poor Frankenstein and never let him get into first gear even. It reminded me, in fact, of Wanderlei Silva’s massacre of Keith Jardine back in 2008, especially with the finish with him grabbing da Silva around the throat with his left hand while smashing him with his right. They need to treat this guy with kid gloves I think for now as he’s already got two losses in the UFC, but shit, I think he’s going to be a star in the future. Give him Francimar Barroso next and let him knock him out of the UFC maybe? This was obviously AWESOME.

Lightweight Fight: Ross Pearson vs Dan Hooker

As a fan of Pearson’s I wasn’t especially looking forward to this fight if I’m honest – five years ago he’d have beaten a guy like Hooker easily I think, but recently he’d looked totally shot, coming off three losses in a row and sporting a seemingly cracked chin. I figured he could potentially still beat Hooker given the Kiwi fighter hadn’t looked like a world-beater in his UFC run, but it was a tight one to call where years ago it probably wouldn’t have been, no offense to Hooker.

Really cool touch for Pearson with his entrance here as he walks out to Wonderwall by Oasis in a tribute to the victims of the Manchester terrorist attack. Dude is awesome.

Fight begins and Hooker looks a lot bigger than Pearson here. Couple of low kicks connect for Hooker early before Pearson lands a nice overhand right. Nice exchange sees both men land punches and they continue to fire off with strikes with both glancing for the most part. Really clean leg kick lands for Hooker. Another one nearly buckles Pearson’s knee in and he does well to dodge a counter-combo from the Brit. Hooker’s striking is looking sharp here. Couple more kicks from Hooker but Pearson comes back with a combo ending in a left hand. More kicks connect for Hooker but Pearson counters on him with a nasty right hand. Left hook follows for Ross. Hooker comes right back with a few more low kicks. He’s doing well to use his reach. Head kick glances for him too but Pearson looks fine. Another head kick lands pretty cleanly but again Ross’s chin holds up. Takedown attempt from Pearson changes things up, but Hooker defends well only to eat some hard shots from close range. One minute to go and Hooker returns the favour with a double leg attempt, but a quick sprawl blocks that. Exchange continues with both men connecting, before Hooker spins Pearson around with a hard leg kick. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Hooker in a really fun round.

Into the 2nd and Pearson starts to push forward, landing a low kick early on before Hooker replies with one of his own. Nice left hook backs Hooker up though and he eats another one too. Ross is getting pretty aggressive here. Big head kick is blocked by the Brit. Nice combination lands for Pearson as he seems to have found his range somewhat. Hooker begins to use his jab more though to force Pearson onto his back foot a little more. Couple of counters get through for Pearson but he eats a couple more jabs too. Nice lunging left hand glances for Pearson. Low kick fires back for Hooker. Flurry from Pearson but Hooker slows him down with a right. Couple more kicks keep the distance for Hooker but a left hand to the body lands for Pearson. Beautiful right hand snaps the Brit’s head back, and he follows with another one too. Pearson continues to lunge with the left but he’s eating more punches and looks busted up. They circle out and then Pearson steps in with a left….but leans right into a HUGE KNEE THAT KNOCKS HIM SENSELESS! Pearson goes down, his mouthpiece goes FLYING and one hammer fist seals the deal. Brutal.

This was a really good striking match; the basic story was that Pearson was trying so hard to get inside Hooker’s longer reach and struggled in the first round, but began to get more comfortable in the second. Unfortunately for him as he did that, it meant Hooker was able to counter his aggressiveness too, and eventually timed the perfect shot to take him out. One of the best knockouts of 2017 thus far and probably the performance of Dan Hooker’s career. How much further he can go I don’t know, but who cares? He’ll always have this sick knockout in his home country to remember!

Middleweight Fight: Derek Brunson vs Dan Kelly

This sounded like a fun co-main event as Brunson was looking to bounce back from his controversial loss to Anderson Silva by beating cult favourite ‘Dadbod’ Kelly, who picked up his biggest career win over Rashad Evans in March. Despite Kelly somehow being 6-1 in the UFC and on a four-fight win streak, I just couldn’t see him dealing with the speed and explosiveness of Brunson and took Brunson to win via second-round TKO.

Round One gets underway and they circle with Brunson pawing out with a left hand as Kelly pushes forward. Low kick lands for Brunson early on. Big left hand misses for Brunson as Kelly looks like he’s waiting for a chance to get inside. Low kick lands again for Brunson and suddenly he steps in with a VICIOUS LEFT HOOK that drops Kelly hard! Couple of shots on the ground seal the deal and that’s it. Wow.

Fight essentially went how I expected it to, just a lot quicker as after the tentative fight with Silva we got the return of the super-aggressive Brunson who fought Hall, Whittaker, et al. Kelly just stood no chance basically as he didn’t have the speed to get inside Brunson and couldn’t avoid the big shot either. And there goes that Cinderella run I guess. Big win for Brunson to get back onto the ladder of contention then – maybe he could fight Luke Rockhold for Luke’s return fight in fact? It’d definitely work for me. Post-fight however he calls out ANTONIO SILVA JUNIOR which is obviously hilarious because he doesn’t mean Bigfoot, he actually means Antonio CARLOS Junior AKA Shoeface. Not sure why he’d ask for him because he actually lost to Kelly and is way down the ladder, but whatever. This was yet another sick finish on this card.

Heavyweight Fight: Mark Hunt vs Derrick Lewis

This was a hell of a main event on paper, literally two of the biggest HWs in the UFC going toe-to-toe in what almost guaranteed a brutal knockout. Lewis seemed to be on the upper trajectory as he’d won six in a row while Hunt had lost his last two and was embroiled in that lawsuit with the UFC, but due to Hunt’s striking skill – and Lewis having more than a few holes in his game – it was a tough one to pick. Due to Hunt’s seemingly deteriorating chin though I went with the Black Beast.

Round One begins and Lewis fires a kick up the middle that doesn’t land. It’s quite a tentative beginning with both men throwing feints before Lewis misses with a jumping kick. Big leg kick lands for Lewis but Hunt doesn’t care and lands with a glancing combo. Head kick fires back for Lewis but doesn’t connect cleanly. Another follows but Hunt doesn’t seem to care. Hunt backs him up some more and glances on another flurry. A third head kick misses for Lewis but an uppercut connects. Body kick from Lewis but Hunt comes back with an overhand right and blocks a takedown attempt. Uppercut from Hunt has Lewis covering up for a moment. Big right hand fires back for Lewis. Hunt keeps backing the Black Beast up, but a sudden Lewis rush causes a momentary clinch. They break quickly though and Hunt glances on a pair of lefts. Big leg kick lands for Hunt. Seconds to go and a flying knee of all things misses for Lewis. Round ends in a Hunt low kick. 10-9 Hunt in a pretty tentative round in the end.

Round Two and both men come out throwing kicks before a big overhand right glances for Lewis. Big kick and a switch knee (!) glance for Lewis too. Hunt backs him up though with a combo that doesn’t land cleanly. Nasty leg kick from Hunt. Another one has Lewis clearly hurting. Eye poke from Lewis temporarily calls a halt to proceedings, but Marc Goddard decides Hunt’s fine and they continue. Hunt pushes forward with a right but Lewis fires right back with one of his own. Couple of big kicks miss for Lewis as Hunt continues to stalk him, but a jumping knee forces Hunt back for a second. Hunt comes back though with a right hook that has Lewis hurt, and now the Black Beast is backpedalling. Big left hurts Lewis again as he backs up. Hunt continues to flurry as Lewis manages to survive, before firing back with a big right hand that forces Hunt back up now too. Seconds to go and both guys are swinging HAYMAKERS here. HUGE left hand stuns Lewis on the buzzer. Crazy ending there; 10-9 Hunt as he had Lewis hurt for sure.

Round Three and again Lewis throws a head kick as Hunt pushes forward. Credit to Lewis as he doesn’t look at all gassed yet despite throwing so many high-energy strikes. Pair of pawing left hands connect for Hunt. Suddenly a trio of uppercuts land for Lewis though and have Hunt backing up. Hunt manages to turn the tide though and gets back to stalking Lewis despite having to dodge some huge swings. And suddenly Lewis does look a bit tired. He’s backing up with his hands low now which is worrying. Big flurry from Lewis largely misses. Nice left hook and a sneaky uppercut connect for Hunt. He’s definitely outlanding Lewis now. Big left hook connects for Hunt. Huge uppercut lands for Lewis though but Hunt eats it right up. Takedown attempt from Lewis is blocked and Hunt backs him up into the fence, but can’t land the killer blow. One minute remaining and a right to the body has Lewis blatantly hurt. More shots back Lewis up and holy shit he’s gassed now for sure. Hunt still can’t land that one big shot though and Lewis survives the round. 10-9 Hunt.

Round Four and Hunt again pushes the action, forcing a tired Lewis to backpedal. Good low kick lands for Hunt. He goes to the body a couple of times too and now Lewis’s punches are coming slower and look easier to avoid. Jab connects for Hunt and he avoids a switch kick. Leg kick lands for Lewis. Big combo of a double jab into an overhand right have Lewis stumbling though and he’s in trouble. He manages to shake it off though and circles out. Huge breaths from Lewis now as he misses some punches. Combo does land for Lewis but Hunt’s okay. Hunt continues to stalk as Lewis sucks wind, and another right hand connects for the Kiwi. Another combo connects for him. Lewis is in trouble. He tries to fire back, but it looks like he’s totally out of steam. Big left-right combo wobbles him again. He comes back with an attempted flying knee, but Hunt dodges it and then UNLOADS with a big combo including two slashing elbows to the body (!). Lewis starts to double over and covers up, and Marc Goddard steps in there.

Bit of an anticlimactic ending but overall it was a great showing for Hunt, who didn’t take much damage despite Lewis throwing some huge shots, and in general he picked the Black Beast apart with his low kicks and some big shots of his own, leading Lewis to gas and eventually become an open target. Post-fight Hunt celebrates with his family and then says he’s not retiring, taking a shot at steroids in the process (of course) and then Lewis surprises EVERYONE by apparently retiring himself (!) citing back issues and not wanting to get beaten up any more. How long that’ll stick for I don’t know but if he does walk away I’ll miss him as he’s a fun fighter. Fight was generally enjoyable even if I can’t call it great or anything due to it being slow at points.

-And the show ends shortly after with Hunt celebrating.

Final Thoughts….

Call me crazy but I thought this was maybe the best show of the year thus far. Four insanely violent finishes from Nguyen, Cutelaba, Hooker and Brunson, a fun fight in Volkanovski/Hirota and then a main event that lived up to its billing, mostly, in Hunt/Lewis. No bad fights helps too. Easy thumbs up for Fight Night 110 then as the free shows of 2017 continue to deliver the goods.

Best Fight: Hooker vs. Pearson
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: