MMA Review: #620: UFC Fight Night 120

-For a Fight Night card this one had a TON of big name fighters, although admittedly most of them (Guida, Lauzon, Marquardt, Sanchez, Brown, Arlovski) were way past their prime. Still, I was never going to complain about a card like this even as a throwaway one!

UFC Fight Night 120

Norfolk, Virginia

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Paul Felder, making his official UFC debut as an announcer after cutting his teeth on the Dana White’s Contender Series shows. And he’s a NATURAL, meaning if he ever decides to call time on his fighting career he’s probably got a job for life.

Lightweight Fight: Clay Guida vs Joe Lauzon

Bizarre that these two had never faced off before given both guys have been around since 2006 (!) but yeah, they never had. Both guys looked pretty shot to me in their last few fights, although Guida had at least picked up a win. I was siding with Lauzon here though feeling his finishing skills would serve him better than Guida’s more grinding style.

Round One and Guida naturally looks PUMPED. At least his cardio’s never diminished. Guida pushes forward as Lauzon takes the center of the cage, and a leg kick opens proceedings for the Carpenter. Lauzon looks a bit static and Guida lands with a wild overhand right that shakes him a bit, and then he follows with a BIG FLURRY and Lauzon goes down! Guida follows with a bunch of hammer fists from the guard, and it’s got to be over. Instead referee Mike King somehow lets it go and Guida bounces poor Lauzon’s head off the ground with elbows until the stoppage is finally called. Crowd go APESHIT.

Well, few things to take from that. Firstly, it was a great finish for Guida – his first since 01/01/2011 – and it was also his first KO in his UFC career (he did TKO Samy Schiavo in 2008 but that was with ground-and-pound). And no offense to Guida, but I’m pretty sure he hasn’t suddenly gained knockout power, so that to me suggests Lauzon’s chin is totally gone at this point. Which leads me to my second point – that was a criminal ref job as Mike King could easily have stopped it way before he did, saving Lauzon from a bunch of unneeded shots. Particularly when you consider the deterioration in Lauzon’s chin, it was a bad call. Fun opener though if only because Clay Guida via knockout was like the last thing I expected to see!

Bantamweight Fight: Raphael Assuncao vs Matthew Lopez

This was a BIG step up in class for Lopez, as he’d beaten Johnny Eduardo in June but had certainly never faced a top five opponent like Assuncao. Granted I thought Assuncao lost his two last fights (to Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes) and came away lucky on the judge’s scorecards, but even so – I just didn’t see Lopez having enough to take him out in this one.

First round begins and Lopez looks in pretty bad shape for 135lbs, in fact the announcers mention that he missed weight and only hit 138lbs which makes sense. They trade some early strikes and Assuncao lands a couple of decent counter rights, but Lopez catches him with a good overhand left. Flurry from Assuncao backs Lopez up a little but he doesn’t land any clean shots. Big exchange sees both men land blows. Nice sweeping right hook into a left hand connects for Assuncao. Lopez comes back with a solid leg kick. Lopez continues to swing hard, but he takes a short left from Assuncao that puts him on the retreat. Assuncao is a sneakily good striker. Exchange continues with both men landing decent shots albeit nothing really damaging, and then Lopez gets a really powerful takedown into full guard. Assuncao reverses to his feet almost immediately though and breaks off with a knee. Round ends on the feet. Probably Assuncao’s round as he just about edged the striking for me.

Second round and Assuncao connects with an overhand right to the back of the ear – the Serra Special – in a brief exchange, but Lopez seems okay. Hard leg kick follows for the Brazilian. Another good right hand and a left hook have Lopez hurt for a second. Inside leg kick follows for Assuncao. And another one. A third attempt is caught and Lopez looks for the takedown, then switches to a rear waistlock and forces Assuncao into the fence. Assuncao attempts a standing kimura though and that’s enough for him to escape free. Another good inside leg kick connects for Assuncao. Crowd sound like they’re becoming a bit restless which is ridiculous given that this is a decent fight. Lopez comes back with his own inside leg kick, but eats a right on the counter. More work on the leg from Assuncao and he shucks off a takedown attempt. Really nasty inside leg kick almost buckles Lopez’s leg. Right hands land for both men but Lopez’s legs really wobble for a second. Assuncao decides to follow with the leg kick though that has him almost off his feet. Lopez fires back with some punches, but eats a right to the body in the process. Round ends with an Assuncao flurry. 10-9 Assuncao again.

Third round and Assuncao opens with a really vicious inside leg kick. Lopez’s right leg is a MESS, totally welted up. Couple of punches land for Assuncao and now he goes for the head kick, but Lopez blocks it. Exchange sees Lopez get backed up, and another leg kick lands and doubles him over. Lopez shows a lot of heart by firing back, and then he dives for a takedown but can’t get it. Another leg kick lands for Assuncao and he follows with a missed flying knee, and then a CLEAN RIGHT HAND ON THE BUTTON AND LOPEZ GOES DOWN AND OUT!~! Dude is so unconscious that Assuncao manages to pull a follow-up punch and everything, really classy move.

That was a phenomenal performance from Raphael Assuncao – his first knockout since 2012 – as he picked apart a really tough prospect and didn’t really take much damage at all before he got Lopez out of there, and didn’t even use his BJJ game really. I don’t think it’s enough to net him another fight with Dillashaw – even on a three-fight win streak – but I could see the UFC matching him with Cody Garbrandt or Dominick Cruz next for sure, and beat either of them and it’d be hard to deny him a title shot. Despite all the boos the fight was a lot of fun, too. Sick leg kicks from Assuncao.

Middleweight Fight: Cezar Ferreira vs Nate Marquardt

I thought this one was a great glass cannon match even if I think Marquardt should probably have retired by now. I mean shit, the guy has been around since 1999 which is just ridiculous really. By that virtue alone I was taking Cezar Mutante here, but I mean, with a guy with a chin as weak as Mutante and Nate still carrying KO power, it wasn’t a certain pick by any means.

Fight begins and Nate takes the center of the cage as Mutante circles around him on the outside. Mutante is so hench it’s an absolute mystery how he ever made 170lbs. Couple of shots glance for Marquardt and he gets Ferreira backing up a bit, but doesn’t look like he’s got him hurt. Nice low kick into a big left hand from Mutante. They trade low kicks before Mutante glances on a combo. Big trade sees Mutante connect the best on a left hand. Big shot from Mutante is countered by a takedown attempt, but Marquardt can’t get the Brazilian down. Nice inside leg kick from Ferreira. Another follows but Nate counters with a solid left hand. Body kick from Mutante. It’s just hit me that Felder sounds exactly like old-school commentator Jeff Osborne, by the way. Less than a minute to go and again the crowd sound restless. This is a truly shitty crowd. Low kick causes Mutante to drop for a second but he’s right back up. Decent right hand gets through for Marquardt. Round ends on the feet. Probably Mutante’s round but it was really close.

Into the 2nd and Mutante opens with a low kick. Crowd seem to be treating this like it’s the worst fight ever and they’re doing their best Ric Flair WHOOO’s, but these guys are working quite hard. Clinch from Marquardt and he drives Mutante into the fence, but he can’t get the Brazilian down. Counter right hand lands well for Nate. Mutante goes for a takedown now and looks for the single leg, but Marquardt defends it pretty well and tries the Faber flying knee. Mutante gets him down, but a scramble puts Nate back on his feet. Both guys look to be busted open. Head kick is blocked by Marquardt. Nice one-two answers for Nate. Left hand fires back for Mutante. Spinning backfist glances for the Brazilian. Low kick almost takes Marquardt off his feet. Seconds to go and they keep exchanging pretty evenly. Right hands land for both men and Ferreira lands with a body kick. Round ends with another decent exchange, and then Nate knocks Mutante down and they BRAWL TO THE BUZZER. That was awesome. 10-9 Marquardt for me.

Third and final round and both guys look pretty beaten up to be fair. Big right hook opens proceedings for Mutante and then he tackles Marquardt down with a clean double leg. Full guard for Nate and it looks like Mutante’s pretty content to just work from there and keep him on his back. Solid punches get through for Mutante, mainly to the body, and he’s doing just about enough to avoid a stand-up. Good job from Nate to work his way up to one knee, though, but Ferreira tries to drag him back down. Marquardt defends using a whizzer and they roll through and scramble, and Nate almost ends up on top before they come back to their feet with Mutante looking for the takedown. This time he hits a HUGE SLAM, and avoids a guillotine by leaping into side mount. Nice move from Mutante there and if he can keep Nate down it’s probably his fight. Crowd begin to boo as very little happens with the Brazilian on top as I guess both men are tired. Mutante moves into north/south and chops away at the body, and then with seconds to go he attempts a choke variant. He can’t get it though and it allows Marquardt to get on top for the final few seconds and land some elbows to cut Mutante up pretty badly. Buzzer goes before he can capitalise, though. 10-9 Mutante for a 29-28 win I’d say.

Judges have it 29-28 Marquardt, 29-28 Mutante, and 29-28 for Mutante to pick up the split decision. Crowd don’t seem enthused but I’d say it was the right decision. Fight was close and was pretty entertaining for the most part – perfectly acceptable MMA, basically – and there was no need for the crowd to boo so often. I still think Mutante’s too defensively limited to make a run at 185lbs and I still think Nate ought to retire, but whatever.

Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Junior Albini

Despite looking in criminal shape, even for a Heavyweight, Albini had made good on his UFC debut by KOing the iron-chinned Tim Johnson, and so he was immediately pushed up the card to face the veteran Arlovski, who was coming off five straight losses. Despite Arlovski’s competition being all top-level fighters and Albini being massively unproven, I was taking the Brazilian as I figured Arlovski was totally shot.

Round One and JESUS, Albini’s got these oversized shorts on rolled up like a DIAPER. I know his nickname is ‘Baby’ but come on. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen since Dennis Hallman’s speedo from a few years back. Dude is in criminal shape too. Decent punches get through for Arlovski early on as Albini pushes forward, and they exchange with Andrei getting the better of it. Albini is really firing but it looks like Arlovski’s the faster fighter by a mile. Andrei lands with some more decent punches before they clinch and Albini muscles him into the fence. Action slows down from there before Andrei breaks off. Exchange sees Arlovski land a solid right hand to the temple. Low kick follows for the former champ. Albini is just too plodding and Arlovski’s styling on him. Knee from close range does land for Albini though. Combo from Arlovski but he eats a right hand on the counter. Backfist glances for Arlovski but Albini clinches and puts him against the fence again. Big shots land inside for Albini and then he breaks off and forces Andrei on the retreat. Couple more shots land for the Brazilian from close range. Andrei cracks him with an overhand right again though and manages to circle out to end the round. 10-9 Arlovski for the better strikes.

Round Two and Arlovski misses on an overhand right. Combination glances for Andrei as Albini’s pace has apparently slowed dramatically. Arlovski continues to open up with some strikes including a couple of kicks, before Albini clinches and shoves him into the fence. Action slows down painfully from there. Ref finally has enough and breaks them, and Arlovski glances on another combo. Another clinch from Albini slows him down though and we’re back against the cage. They break off and exchange a few more strikes, with Arlovski again largely getting the better of it. No idea what Albini’s gameplan is at this stage. Spin kick to the body connects for Andrei. He’s definitely using the speed advantage. Spinning backfist glances too for Arlovski and then he lands with a hard uppercut. Albini shows a decent chin though and seems fine. Round ends there and for me it’s another 10-9 for Arlovski.

Round Three and Albini pushes forward, but walks into some more shots from Arlovski. I can’t tell whether this is the best Andrei’s looked in years or whether Albini just isn’t very good. Probably a mix of both. Nice sneaky uppercut connects for Arlovski. He follows with a really hard right hand as Albini narrowly misses with one of his own. More of the same follows for Arlovski as Albini just can’t deal with the speed. Eye poke does connect for the Brazilian though and the ref has to call time. Crowd fucking hate that one. Arlovski says he’s fine though and they restart quickly. Arlovski quickly gets back to work with more shots and now Albini is all busted up. Albini does get through with some strikes of his own but he’s still being outclassed. Beautiful spinning backfist leads to a combo from Arlovski. Albini comes back with a left, so Andrei clinches….and knees him in the groin. Ref has to call time again to let Albini recover. Again they restart quickly and now there’s less than a minute to go. Clinch from Albini and that isn’t going to win him this fight at all. Crowd are furious with that and the fight ends there. I’d go 30-27 for Arlovski incredibly enough.

Official scores are 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Andrei Arlovski. This was genuinely the best Arlovski performance in years, probably since his win over Bigfoot in 2014 in fact as he didn’t take any damage here as he did against Browne and Mir. It was obviously partly down to the fact that Albini didn’t look very good at all – plodding, one-dimensional and with shoddy cardio – and so I don’t think he’ll be making it to the top of the division, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that Andrei didn’t just headhunt and actually threw combinations for once. If he can keep doing that then I figure he could have some more fights in him yet if he wants to continue – which is actually fine with me if he can fight like this all the time. Fight wasn’t very entertaining unfortunately due to the slow pace, but it could’ve been far worse.

Welterweight Fight: Matt Brown vs Diego Sanchez

This one sounded like a guaranteed barnburner as when do either of these guys have boring fights? Strangely enough despite Diego looking pretty shot at this point (which makes me incredibly sad as he’s probably my second favourite fighter of all time if not my absolute favourite) it was *Brown* who was promising to retire after it, win or lose. I was taking Diego but it was obviously only because I refuse to pick against him.

First round begins and Diego comes out snarling as he always does. He pushes forward right away and lands a right before diving on a takedown, but Brown gets his back to the fence and works to defend it. Diego really works hard to try to get him down, but Brown remains vertical despite taking some knees to the leg. Brown manages to break off, and he dodges a big right hand. Left hand lands for Diego and he tries to back Brown up, then dives on another single leg. Again Brown defends it really well and he breaks off once more. Wild combo misses for Diego and Brown glances on some long punches. Another single leg is stuffed easily by Brown. Good leg kick follows, as does a jab. Head kick is caught by Brown and he uses it to send Diego retreating back and looks to follow with an elbow, but Diego just about blocks it. HEAVY body kick suddenly lands for Diego and Brown is doubled over, but he doesn’t follow it up and it looks like Brown’s recovered. Leg kick connects for Brown and he narrowly blocks a head kick. Nice knee from Brown as Diego lunges in, but an overhand right has him off balance. Diego looks to follow with the body kick, but Brown catches the leg, forces Diego into the fence, and in a SUPER FUCK UP the camera cuts away to a shot of the empty press conference room….and returns to find Diego unconscious. Shit.

Replay shows that Brown forced Diego into the fence and then basically decapitated him with a SICK ELBOW, knocking him absolutely senseless. This was one of the most vicious knockouts I’ve ever seen. Would it have taken a prime Diego out? Quite possibly, yeah, but realistically this version of Diego – very deteriorated from his prime – shouldn’t be taking shots like that. It’s not my place to tell him to hang it up, but it’s probably time, let’s be honest. I love the guy and I don’t want to see him punch drunk in the future. Post-fight Brown officially retires, but then kind of leaves the door open, but really he should go now too off the back of probably his all-time best career finish. This was an awesome knockout but it was painful for me to watch too.

Lightweight Fight: Anthony Pettis vs Dustin Poirier

After his controversial fight with Eddie Alvarez ended in a No Contest – Poirier was ahead but was knocked out by a pair of illegal knees – I expected an immediate rematch, but instead Alvarez was moved into a TUF coaching gig against Justin Gaethje while Poirier ended up matched with Pettis – who’d won his first fight back at 155lbs over Jim Miller in July. Awesome fight on paper of course, but I thought the styles favoured Poirier as he loves to pressure his opponent and that’d been a weak point of Pettis’s in the past.

Round One begins and Poirier has grown his hair out and now looks like CM Punk. Lot of movement from Pettis early as Poirier looks to back him up. Low kicks land for Pettis as Poirier tries to wade in with some power hooks. Flying knee glances for Pettis and backs Poirier up slightly. Left hand sets up a takedown attempt for Poirier and he gets Pettis down, seating him against the fence. Pettis looks calm from there as Poirier works to get him off the cage, and it looks like the former champ might be trying to lock up a guillotine. Kimura attempt from Pettis now and it looks pretty deep actually. Poirier stays on top and punches the body, and then Pettis lets go and gets to full guard instead. Nice elbows get through for Poirier before Pettis kicks him away and then hits a SLICK sweep to get on top. Footlock attempt from Poirier allows him to slip free and get to his feet, and then he goes for a takedown again but Pettis stuffs it and drives him into the fence. Big knee and a nice elbow inside land for Poirier before both men land rights to break. Good knee to the body lands for Pettis in an exchange as they’re really opening up now. Big exchange sees both men land again. Takedown attempt is stuffed brilliantly by Pettis, and he forces Poirier into the fence again. Poirier breaks off and so Pettis glances on a head kick, but eats a right hook to the temple on the break and he looks stunned. He recovers quickly though and fires off with a hard kick that Poirier takes on the arms. Clean right hand connects for Poirier and he has Pettis stunned with a combo. Spinning backfist answers back for Pettis but he’s taking some punishment here. Poirier keeps pouring it on, and the round ends with Pettis covering up on the fence. Awesome round. 10-9 Poirier.

Round Two and Pettis’s left eye looks like hell. He comes out swinging and manages to back Poirier up early on, but Dustin comes back with a takedown attempt and he manages to slam Pettis down into guard. Pettis looks for a rubber guard this time, but because he’s stuck against the fence he can’t get it. He switches for a triangle instead, but Poirier defends really well. Big hammer fists land to the face for Poirier to stop Pettis trying another submission, and it looks like Showtime is badly cut. He gives up his back and Poirier slaps on a body triangle as there’s a TON OF BLOOD pouring from Pettis’s face. It looks like he might be in trouble, but he hits a beautiful reversal and spins into Poirier’s guard! Nice. Big elbows get through for Pettis now and it looks like Poirier might be opened up too. Now Poirier gives his back, but Pettis slips off when he tries to hop on and winds up on his back again. Crowd are LOVING this. Armbar attempt fails for Pettis and Poirier makes him pay with some more hammer fists. Pettis gives his back again, but once again Pettis hits a scramble and gets the back with a rear waistlock. Beautiful trip dumps Poirier face-first, and this time Pettis gets both hooks in, but he’s too high and Poirier slams him over and gets on top again. This is incredible. Crowd boo wildly as ref Keith Peterson calls time for a doctor to check Pettis’s cuts, but they decide he’s okay to go and the crowd go wild for that. They restart on the ground in Pettis’s guard, and of course Poirier postures up to try some more elbows. Pettis throws up a pretty decent triangle, but Dustin just slides out due to the blood. A second attempt looks really tight and Pettis almost sweeps into top position with it, but Poirier slips free again and ends the round hammering on him from top position with Pettis on all fours. Hell of a round. 10-9 Poirier again.

Round Three and wow, Poirier’s white shorts are horrifically stained with blood. High kick opens the round for Pettis but doesn’t land cleanly. Combo sets up a takedown attempt from Poirier and he gets Showtime down again. Pettis looks to lace up the right arm for a kimura, but Poirier avoids that only for Pettis to pop up. Takedown from the rear waistlock from Poirier and he slaps on the body triangle again, and begins to work for the choke. Pettis manages to defend it, and then tries to wriggle free, only to end up underneath full mount instead. Suddenly though he starts to wince and taps out, and the ref has to stop it there.

That was a hell of a fight, but it also had a weird and anticlimactic ending – replay appears to show that Pettis tried to turn free, but Poirier had the body triangle locked down too tightly and Pettis likely popped his ribs in the effort. I guess it goes down as a submission via body triangle? Bad break for Pettis at any rate but then I had Poirier quite far ahead at that stage anyway so I don’t think he was ever onto a winner really – he just got outworked on the ground by the better fighter I’d say.

Post-fight Poirier demands the Alvarez/Gaethje winner which makes sense given the McGregor-caused logjam in the division, so hopefully they give him that fight as obviously Alvarez ended up winning and there’s clearly unfinished business between the two. I’d be as happy with say, Kevin Lee though to be fair. So many good fights in that division! As for this fight? I don’t think it was as good as the brilliance that was Johnson/Gaethje but I’d say it could be the second-best UFC fight of the year thus far. Which is pretty high praise!

-Show ends pretty abruptly with Poirier celebrating with his team.

Final Thoughts….

All of the veterans on this card delivered in spades in the end – the main event was absolutely fantastic, Brown, Guida and Assuncao all hit amazing knockouts, and while Marquardt/Ferreira and Arlovski/Albini weren’t quite as memorable, neither was a horrible fight either. Easy thumbs up for one of the better Fight Night cards of 2017.

Best Fight: Poirier vs. Pettis
Worst Fight: Arlovski vs. Albini

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: