MMA Review: #618: UFC Fight Night 119

-The latest in the UFC’s series of excursions to Brazil, this one also had a “young vs. old” feel at the top of the card with Demian Maia vs. Colby Covington and the returning Lyoto Machida vs. Derek Brunson. Pretty good stuff top to bottom actually.

UFC Fight Night 119

Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

-Your hosts are John Gooden and Daniel Cormier.

Featherweight Fight: John Lineker vs Marlon Vera

This was Lineker’s first fight back after almost a year off following his loss to TJ Dillashaw, while Vera was on an impressive three-fight win streak. The pick here pretty much had to be Lineker despite his reach disadvantage, as he’s got disgustingly heavy hands and knows how to use them to full effect.

Round One begins and they circle with pretty much zero contact in the first minute. Couple of low kicks land for Vera as Lineker just seems to be sizing him up. Couple of combos glance for Lineker but he’s largely coming up short. Decent body kick backs Lineker up. Vera throws some more kicks and while they don’t land cleanly they are keeping Lineker at range. Lineker comes back with a couple of leg kicks of his own, and then he follows with a strong left hook and a right to the body. Crowd suddenly light up as Lineker begins to push forward. Big combo to the body and head hurts Vera and forces him to circle out of range. Huge flurry follows as he backs the Ecuadorian into the fence. Looks like Lineker’s suddenly found his range. More punches follow but Vera manages to survive without really getting rocked. Round ends with more forward pressure from Lineker. 10-9 Lineker, I thought he took the round in the last 90 seconds basically.

Round Two and Vera backs Lineker up and lands a heavy body kick. Lineker catches the leg, but can’t capitalise and Vera pulls back. Combination replies for Lineker but Vera fires back with a head kick. More kicks from Vera but he eats another really vicious combination from the Brazilian. Lineker is fucking awesome to watch when he’s on the attack. Wild crescent kick glances for Vera and he follows with the plum clinch and a trio of knees, but Lineker shoves him into the fence to break it. They break off and Vera uncorks on a strong combo of a right hand and a body kick. Big pair of right hands back Vera up though and he pretty much has to retreat completely. Spin kick from Lineker sets up another combination. Really good leg kick lands for the Ecuadorian. Lineker fires back with one of his own though. Basically whenever Lineker gets Vera backing up he’s winning this fight. Trio of jabs from Vera force Lineker back a little, but a winging right hand quickly forces Vera to back up instead. Another winging flurry follows for Lineker. Low kick to counter a body kick sees Vera slip to his back, and Lineker surprisingly drops into his guard. Series of heavy elbows land for Lineker from the top and that’s the round. 10-9 Lineker again.

Round Three and Vera looks pretty fired up. He comes out with a really heavy low kick and a head kick, but Lineker comes winging in with a flurry that forces him into the fence. They break off quickly and Vera keeps on attacking with his kicks. Jumping knee glances for Vera. Couple more winging hooks from Lineker but Vera throws a head kick and then grabs the plum. Lineker smartly shoves him right into the fence before he eats any knees, but the Ecuadorian breaks off. Another glancing head kick from Vera and he follows with a superman punch that glances too. Step-in knee ala Donald Cerrone follows up for Vera. Hard combination answers back for Hands of Stone. Both men exchange punches before Vera dodges a spin kick to deliver a combo. Vera’s looking excellent in this round but realistically he needs a stoppage. Exchange continues with Lineker stunning him off a left hook, but he takes it well and comes back with a knee. Lineker backs Vera up only to get caught in a plum clinch, but again he forces him into the fence to break away. Vera continues to push forward, but Lineker fires back with more winging hooks. Seconds to go and it’s still Vera on the offensive, but he can’t catch Lineker with anything truly nasty and the fight ends there. 10-9 Vera, 29-28 Lineker overall.

Judges indeed all go for John Lineker, 30-27 and two 29-28’s. Enjoyable fight for the most part; Lineker definitely fought a more conservative style which made sense given it was his first fight back, but he still clearly did enough to win. Vera fought pretty well too but just couldn’t land enough to really hurt Lineker and in the same breath he couldn’t avoid enough of the Brazilian’s flurries to pick him apart and win on points. Lineker’s still a very limited fighter which will probably keep him away from a proper title shot, but he’s definitely one of the best to watch in this weight class right now.

Middleweight Fight: Thiago Santos vs Jack Hermansson

Both of these men were coming off a pair of knockout wins; Marreta over Jack Marshman and Gerald Meerschaert, and Hermansson over Alex Nicholson and Brad Scott. It was quite a tricky one to call too given Hermansson had been using his impressive ground-and-pound and Marreta’s never been that good on the ground, but given Santos’s huge power, I was taking the Brazilian.

First round begins and man, Marreta is an absolute SPECIMEN at 185lbs. Lord knows how he ever made 170lbs for his TUF run! Lot of movement and feints from Hermansson early on as he bounces around on the outside, and neither man really lands much in the first minute or so. Couple of big swings miss for Santos. Body kick lands and almost doubles Hermansson over, but he recovers well. Clinch from Hermansson and he forces Marreta back into the fence. He goes for a single leg, but the Brazilian defends it well and they remain standing. Break from Marreta and he opens up with a big flurry that forces Hermansson back. He looks wobbled, but he manages to clinch to slow Santos down. Santos breaks off and rocks him with some more big punches, but Hermansson’s chin holds up well. The Swede begins to press forward himself with a couple of punches, but he seems a little concerned about stepping into Marreta’s range. Stiff jab lands for Hermansson as Marreta throws out a jab that’s more like a power punch. One minute to go and some more power punches get through for Santos, but Hermansson again absorbs them. Good leg kick from Hermansson and he backs Santos up. Big left hook forces Hermansson back though and with literally seconds on the clock, Marreta uncorks a jumping kick that stuns the Swede, and he follows with a BIG FLURRY TO DROP HIM! Hermansson tries to cover up but Santos just DESTROYS HIM ON THE GROUND and the ref calls it off on the buzzer.

Brutal finish from Thiago Marreta; he basically seemed to realise Hermansson was in trouble and just decided to waylay him, and once he went down it was all over. The speed of that final flurry in particular was absolutely terrifying as Hermansson wilted under the sheer power and aggression. Not sure if his ground game is any better these days but if it is – or if he can keep the fight standing – then this guy is probably a title contender. Hell of a knockout.

Lightweight Fight: Francisco Trinaldo vs Jim Miller

Massaranduba was looking to bounce back from his disappointing loss to Kevin Lee here, and in hindsight given Lee went on to a title shot, it’s pretty crazy to think how close Massaranduba was to the same opportunity. Miller meanwhile was coming off his loss to Anthony Pettis, but given he’d looked pretty good there it was hardly a loss to be ashamed of. Tough one to call but despite being older somehow (!) I thought Trinaldo had more left in the tank.

Round One and both men come out swinging, with Trinaldo landing a big left hand that has Miller a bit stunned. Miller naturally recovers quickly and fires back, and then he hits a takedown off a caught kick. Scramble from Trinaldo puts him on top in Miller’s guard though and he looks to pass into half-guard. Miller prevents that well, but he eats a left from the top. Trinaldo decides to let him back up, and Miller backs him up with a glancing combo. Nice left hand lands for Miller and then he hits a double leg into Trinaldo’s guard. Closed guard from Trinaldo keeps Miller from doing any real damage, and the crowd begin to boo loudly as they clearly want a stand-up from the ref. Seconds to go and the ref does stand them up, and Trinaldo glances on a flying knee only for Miller to force him into the fence. They exchange knees and that’s the round. 10-9 Miller for the top control.

Round Two and Miller opens with a left hand but eats a big left on the counter too. Both men swing some heavy leather and Massaranduba appears to connect on the heavier punches. Kick comes up the middle for Trinaldo and he follows with some knees from close range. Big counter left again lands for Massaranduba. Good combination connects for Miller in an exchange but a takedown is shrugged off by the Brazilian and he continues to fire punches. HUGE left hand snaps Miller’s head back but he takes it really well. Trinaldo’s really unloading with some power punches now though. Another takedown is shrugged off by Trinaldo and he exits with a knee. Crowd are loving this now as they continue to trade shots with the better ones being landed by Trinaldo. Miller looks like he’s beginning to slow down too. This is a hell of a fight. Big takedown attempt from Miller and he gets Trinaldo down and then goes for a guillotine, but Trinaldo jumps into half-guard and quickly frees his head. Trinaldo looks to trap Miller’s right arm to deliver some big shots, but Miller does a good job of defending and doesn’t take too much major damage. Round ends with Massaranduba on top. 10-9 Trinaldo to even it up.

Round Three and Miller just looks exhausted. Trinaldo comes out firing the left hand again and he backs Miller up, then lands with a jumping knee. Miller catches the leg and looks for the takedown, but Trinaldo stuffs it and forces him down onto all fours for a moment before letting him up. Big body shots land for Massaranduba and he’s got Miller on the ropes. Heavy overhand left follows and Trinaldo doesn’t let up, connecting on a big combo. Miller manages to clinch, but gets shrugged off and Trinaldo continues to open up on him. Another clinch from Miller slows things down a little, but after a moment they break again. Low kick is caught by Trinaldo and he gets the takedown to guard off it. From there he feeds Miller a steady diet of elbows, and it doesn’t look like Miller’s able at all to get up from the bottom. Massaranduba passes into half-guard and drops some more elbows, and the fight ends there. 10-9 Trinaldo, 29-28 Trinaldo overall.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Francisco Trinaldo. Big win for Massaranduba, particularly when you consider he won it largely on power and cardio and he’s almost 40 years old now! Whether he’ll ever be considered a proper title contender at this stage I don’t know but shit, 2018 might be the time for him to push for that as he won’t be getting any younger and this was his 8th win in 9 fights. He’s clearly the biggest success story from TUF Brazil, too, as this was his 16th UFC fight – more than anyone else from that show. Fun fight, too, as both men really went for it and left it all in the cage.

Bantamweight Fight: Pedro Munhoz vs Rob Font

Quite a big fight at 135lbs right here – both men had been on hot streaks and were closing in on the top ten, as Munhoz had beaten three in a row since his tight loss to top contender Jimmie Rivera, while Font was 4-1 in the UFC and had looked fantastic in his last couple of fights. I was taking Munhoz though as he’s a guy I’ve followed for years now, even before his UFC signing.

Fight begins and it looks like Font’s got quite the size advantage. Well, height advantage at least as Munhoz is a pretty thick dude. Font comes out swinging and backs Munhoz up, but he takes a low kick too. Both men come out pretty aggressively and exchange strikes, with Munhoz landing some nice low kicks and Font coming back with punches. Clean combination lands for Font. He’s beginning to do a good job of keeping Munhoz at distance too. Munhoz’s face is marked up already, and he’s sporting a bloody nose. Low kick is caught by Font and he dumps Munhoz, but the Brazilian rolls for an ankle lock and so Font pops right back up. Exchange continues and Font lands some more good punches, but Munhoz fires back with a pair of combos to the body and head. Font keeps on firing his jab and one-two though and he catches Munhoz coming in with a knee as well. Great fight thus far. Takedown attempt from Munhoz is blocked. Big left hand suddenly has Font badly hurt though and he’s all over the place! He shoots on a takedown, but leaves his neck WIDE OPEN and you can’t do that with Munhoz as he sinks a guillotine and rolls over into a mounted guillotine for the tapout!

Beautiful finish and it was insanely quick too once Font got hurt – Munhoz stunned him and had him tapping within seconds, basically. Dude probably has the best guillotine in the game, too – this was his fourth in the UFC and his sixth overall. He clearly needs a step up to the top ten next time – why not give him Bryan Caraway when he finally returns? That’d work for me for sure.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Colby Covington

This was a massive fight at 170lbs, as Maia was coming off his failed title shot against Tyron Woodley to fight Covington – the ultra-cocky, shit-talking prospect who was looking to follow up his biggest career win to date over Dong Hyun Kim. I was pulling for Covington to win to produce a new contender in the division, but I also figured Maia had seen and beaten a lot of fighters like him previously (Rick Story and Jon Fitch to name two) and figured he’d come away tapping out.

Round One and Maia actually comes out firing and tags Covington with a couple of big left hands. Crowd are wildly into Maia. Lot of movement from Colby and he’s swinging too bit it looks like Maia’s got the better hands. Covington grins and tries to shrug it off, but Maia’s putting a lot of pressure on him and landing punches. Single leg attempt from Maia but Colby defends it really well and escapes. Now Covington comes in with punches that land, but Maia fires right back. Good leg kicks land for Colby but he’s eating a lot of punches on the counter too. Looks like Colby’s right eye is busted open pretty badly. He keeps on firing some really strong leg kicks though. Covington pushes through the punches of Maia to land some of his own, and both men are swinging pretty wildly here. Clinch from Covington after a bit of a flurry, but they break swiftly. Maia’s taking some deep breaths now. He tags Colby with some more punches, but the prospect fires back and keeps on pushing the pace. Takedown attempt from Maia but Colby stuffs it well and sprawls to avoid. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Maia for the better striking although Covington was the one pushing the pace there at the end.

Round Two and Maia shoots from the off, but try as he might he can’t get Colby down and Covington separates with some punches. Colby’s wresting really is brilliant. Maia’s moving a lot slower now too and he shoots again, but can’t get it and Covington forces him into the fence and nails him with some punches. Another takedown attempt follows for Maia but again Colby sprawls brilliantly and manages to escape. Maia shoots instantly again, but this time he drops to his back when Covington defends. He looks REALLY TIRED. Even his punches look like they’ve totally lost their snap. Colby picks at him with some punches from the outside and then uncorks with a pair of really nice one-twos. Couple of uppercuts follow and Maia is really struggling. Another takedown attempt fails for the Brazilian, and again he’s slow to get up. Maia goes for another single leg, but he still can’t get Colby down. Again he drops to his back, but Covington’s having none of it. One minute to go and Covington continues to pick at Maia with strikes from the outside, and with seconds to go he lands some nice punches from close range. Round ends there. Clearly 10-9 Covington and Maia’s in trouble.

Round Three and Covington is clearly fresher and he backs Maia up with punches. He isn’t even a great striker, it’s just that Maia’s gas tank is empty and Colby has cardio for days. He’s really over-reaching with his punches though. Nice punches connect for Covington as he grabs the back of Maia’s head to deliver shots. Left hand hurts Maia and Colby follows with some more punches as the Brazilian drops to his knees to reach for a takedown. Another takedown fails for Maia and he looks OLD in there suddenly. Clean shots land from the clinch for Covington and he continues to punish Maia as he wobbles all over the place. Maia does manage to land with a knee, but Colby eats it right up and continues to pour the pressure on with punches. Combination sends Maia firmly on the retreat. He’s really struggling now. He dives on a single leg but still can’t plant Colby on his back, and he ends up dropping to his back, only for Colby to refuse to join him. Another takedown attempt is blocked and this time Colby forces him down and keeps him there. There’s blood EVERYWHERE now apparently coming from a cut on Maia’s face. Covington continues to land shots from the front facelock position, and the round and fight ends with him dropping bombs. 10-8 round for Covington and 29-27 overall. Crowd are DISGUSTED as Covington taunts them in celebration.

Judges call it 29-27, 30-27 and 30-26 for Colby Covington, who proceeds to cut an UNBELIEVABLE HEEL PROMO, calling Brazil a dump and the Brazilian people “filthy animals”, subsequently turning himself into the most hated man in the country. Insane stuff from Covington who really pushed the envelope about as far as it gets. I believe he had to pretty much be smuggled out of the country in fact. This was a great performance from him, as he broke Maia with his cardio more than anything – Maia was outstriking him in the first round but just ran out of steam trying his takedowns and Covington took over from there. If he DOES get a title shot, for the record I think Tyron Woodley destroys him based on the striking he showed here (and I’d pick some other WW’s over him, like Kamaru Usman, Stephen Thompson and Darren Till to name three), but he’s clearly earned his spot as a top-level Welterweight right now. Fight was massively entertaining too, particularly with that brutal promo afterwards.

Middleweight Fight: Lyoto Machida vs Derek Brunson

This was a big fight for Machida – his first in well over two years following his loss in 2015 to Yoel Romero and then a suspension for a positive test for a banned substance – not steroids, mind you, some kind of weird supplement – and he was hardly faced with an easy opponent either, as Brunson had been knocking most of his opponents out and should’ve taken a decision over Anderson Silva in February. Heart told me to pick Machida but my head was saying Brunson as Machida was likely shot.

And it’s an AWESOME ENTRANCE for Lyoto as he walks out to the GAME OF THRONES THEME, causing Daniel Cormier to totally freak out at cageside as it’s the RETURN OF THE DRAGON like he’s outright representing House Targaryen or something. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Fight begins and Machida takes the center of the cage as both men look pretty patient to begin. Crowd are just insanely into Machida. Low kick glances for Brunson but Machida stays way out of range of any punches. Few strikes miss for Machida and then he glances on his trademark straight left as Brunson lunges forward. Brunson almost walks into the left hand counter again, but he keeps on pushing forward. Machida looks to circle out, but as he swings a left, he can’t get out of range quickly enough and Brunson stuns him with a sweeping left hook. Short left puts Machida down and then some follow-ups stiffen him up and he’s OUT COLD. Cue ABSOLUTE SILENCE as the crowd can’t believe it.

Post-fight Brunson DOESN’T channel his inner Colby Covington as he pays tribute to both Machida and Brazil, super-classy guy right there. And then he calls out Luke Rockhold, which would be a HELL OF A FIGHT and they ought to book it right now.

Basically what this came down to was that while Lyoto’s still a dangerous counter-striker, his speed and reflexes are gone now and he can’t get out of range anywhere near as quickly as he once could, and his chin’s never been that great, so yeah, Brunson took full advantage and destroyed him. He probably ought to hang it up in fact as it’s a hole in his game he’s probably never going to be able to close up. Hell of a knockout to end the night, though.

-Show ends with Brunson celebrating his victory.

Final Thoughts….

I thought this was a great show actually – we got a bunch of fun fights with a trio of pretty quality finishes, and a star-making performance, albeit in a controversial way, from Colby Covington in the co-main event. No bad fights either! Two thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Covington vs. Maia
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: