MMA Review: #641: UFC Fight Night 129

-Most fans seemed to be sleeping on this card – the UFC’s first from Chile – but I actually thought it was pretty solid for a Fight Night, with a chance for Kamaru Usman to really break into contention in the main event and then some legit prospects (Tatiana Suarez, Alexa Grasso, Dominick Reyes, Andrea Lee) up and down the card.

UFC Fight Night 129

Santiago, Chile

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Jimmy Smith.

Welterweight Fight: Vicente Luque vs Chad Laprise

Laprise was bringing a three-fight win streak – his best in the UFC – into this one but hadn’t really beaten anyone of note to be honest, while Luque was coming off a win over Niko Price and before that his only loss since 2015 had come at the hands of Leon Edwards – who’s a handful for anyone these days. I was taking Luque due to a size advantage and better finishing instincts.

Round One begins and both men circle as the crowd are MOLTEN despite this being a fight between a Canadian and a Brazilian. Gotta love new markets. Couple of low kicks land for Luque as they continue to bounce around and throw feints. Couple of punches glance for both men before Laprise connects on a leg kick. Knee from Laprise sets up a clinch and he goes for the takedown, but Luque reverses and they pop right back up and jockey for position. Action slows down as Laprise forces Luque into the fence, but eventually they break off. Lot of movement from Laprise now as Luque stalks forward some more. Both men glance on some strikes before a BIG COUNTER LEFT from Luque drops Laprise HARD and some hammer fists seal the deal. Nasty stuff.

Really fun opener and Luque looked great, having no issues striking with an experienced kickboxer in Laprise before knocking him silly with the first really clean shot he landed. I reckon they ought to push Luque up the ladder now actually as he’s 6-2 in the UFC now and has finished all of his wins as well. Dude is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Women’s Flyweight Fight: Andrea Lee vs Veronica Macedo

This was a pretty hyped debut fight, as while I’d never seen Lee fight personally the word on her was that she was likely to become an instant contender at 125lbs. This looked like a setup fight for her too given Macedo hadn’t fought since September 2016 and was massively inexperienced.

Round One begins and Lee looks a lot bigger than Macedo which is surprising given Macedo was up at Bantamweight for her previous fight. Couple of low kicks land for Lee before Macedo glances on a flurry. Clinch from Lee leads to some nasty knees, and then they break off. Spin kick glances for Macedo. Good leg kick lands for Lee and they clinch with Macedo looking to muscle KGB down. She can’t manage it and Lee lands some more knees, really working the body. Lee takes the back standing and lands some solid punches to the head, and then dumps her with a suplex. Macedo manages to roll, but Lee stands over her and kicks the legs. Axe kick attempt doesn’t quite work but Lee’s in total control here. Ref stands Macedo up and she comes out swinging, landing a good head kick and a flurry that have Lee backing up. Clinch from Lee and she might’ve been rocked there. Head-and-arm throw puts Macedo down, and this time Lee swings herself over and takes the back with both hooks. Beautiful stuff! Choke attempt follows but Macedo defends, and so Lee switches to some elbows instead. Lee looks to flatten her out, but she can’t quite manage it and the round ends with her attempting an armbar. 10-9 Lee, super fun round.

Round Two and Lee presses forward as Macedo stays on the outside. Big right hand from Macedo misses and Lee clinches and forces her into the fence with some big knees to the body, then hits a head-and-arm throw again. Macedo reverses to her feet, but Lee forces her right back down and gets into guard. Couple of elbows get through for Lee and then she avoids a possible armbar attempt and stands over Macedo kicking the legs again. Two minutes to go and ref Camila Albuquerque finally stands Macedo up as the crowd begin to whistle. Combo from Macedo but Lee clinches again and tries to throw her back down. Macedo avoids it this time and gets a takedown of her own, butting Lee on her back and almost mounting her. Lee scrambles though and winds up on top again, but Macedo rolls for a kneebar from there and it looks sunk! Crowd pop big time as Lee tries to fight free and manages it, getting on top again. Looks like she’s going for an arm triangle choke now, going into side mount too, but Macedo seems too close to the fence to end up going out and so Lee switches to mount and finishes the round with elbows. 10-9 Lee.

Round Three and Macedo comes out firing punches, but Lee clinches right away. This time she can’t get her down and they separate, but Lee quickly grabs her again and this time she drags her down. Macedo tries to throw her hips up for a possible submission, but eats a couple of hammer fists and ends up in a weird position with her legs tucked out to the side. Lee moves into side mount proper and goes for a crucifix before taking the back off a scramble, but she slips off and winds up standing over Macedo again. Crowd immediately boo as Lee kicks at the legs again. Ref stands Macedo back up and this time Lee uncorks a clean combo to answer a couple of kicks. Wild combo from Macedo leads to a trade, but Lee clinches and forces her back into the cage again. Beautiful takedown follows and she lands on top in side mount. Action slows down a little as Lee works with some elbows, then takes full mount. Macedo gives her back again and Lee gets both hooks in, then goes for an armbar after giving up on a choke, but Macedo shakes her way free and lands on top. Seconds to go and Lee reaches for a reversal, avoiding a guillotine to land on top. From there she stands over Macedo and then drops into the guard to end the fight. 10-9 Lee, 30-27 overall but it was a fun fight.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Andrea Lee. Really good fight overall but it was almost disappointing to see Lee grapple so much given I’d heard a ton about her striking! To be fair it was probably the smart decision given Macedo seemed to be pretty wild with her own strikes and that could’ve been a recipe for disaster. In the end Lee looked excellent and showed she’s clearly a very well-rounded fighter. Looking forward to seeing her again as I think they could definitely shove her into title contention pretty soon.

Bantamweight Fight: Diego Rivas vs Guido Cannetti

This was a battle of TUF: Latin America stars and while some were questioning why it made the main card I really didn’t mind as those guys deliver an exciting fight almost every time. Plus Rivas was the only Chilean native on the card which meant the placement made sense. I was picking him to win too, feeling it was an even fight, but his home advantage would take him past the Argentine Cannetti.

First round begins and the crowd are INSANELY LOUD. Low kick lands for Cannetti early but he slips and has to quickly retreat. Quick flurry from Cannetti sets up a clinch, and he looks for a trip but Rivas avoids it and forces him into the fence. Rivas drops for the takedown now and manages to get Cannetti down, but a reversal puts the Argentine back up. They remain clinched on the fence and the action slows down a bit before Cannetti hits a trip down into half-guard. Rivas works back to full guard and then goes for an armbar, and it looks pretty tight, but Cannetti slams his way out and lands a bunch of punches that have him stunned. Rivas gives his back, and Cannetti manages to get one hook in with his back to the fence. Rivas stands with Cannetti on his back, and the Argentine lands some solid punches from there. Both hooks in for Cannetti now but Rivas looks pretty calm. He shakes one hook off, and then suddenly spins over and looks for a takedown of his own. Round ends as Cannetti breaks free. 10-9 Cannetti.

Second round gets underway and Rivas pushes forward, but he takes a body kick. Crowd are still chanting loudly for Rivas. High kick glances for him and he takes a low blow in the process, forcing ref Leon Roberts to call time. They restart really quickly and Rivas catches a kick and gets a takedown. Scramble from Cannetti only leads to Rivas slamming him, but somehow Cannetti rolls right through and winds up in side mount. Action slows down a bit before Rivas escapes to full guard, but he takes a couple of elbows. Action really slows down from there and the ref finally calls a stand-up. Body kick glances for Cannetti. Another one is caught and Rivas hits a big slam, but Cannetti instantly reverses back up. Guillotine attempt now from Rivas and it looks like it might be close, but Cannetti hangs in there and pops his head free into guard, totally deflating the crowd. Rivas tries to move for an armbar from the bottom, but he can’t get it and Cannetti lands a couple of punches before snaking onto the back. Round ends with Cannetti holding onto a rear waistlock. 10-9 Cannetti again and Rivas needs a finish.

Third round and they open with a BRO HUG. Good body kick opens things for Cannetti and both men miss some wild punches. Rivas backs him up with a combination, and looks to have Cannetti wobbled with a right hand, but the Argentine fires back. They clinch up and Rivas muscles Cannetti into the fence and lands some knees, before a trip attempt leads to a guillotine. He lets go of that to really open up with some big clinch strikes, but when he drops for a takedown Cannetti attempts a guillotine. Cannetti’s cut badly around the right eye. Rivas manages to survive the choke attempt but he can’t hold Cannetti down, and they come back up into the clinch before breaking. Body kick lands for Rivas. Cannetti comes back with a couple of kicks of his own but Rivas lands another good one to the body. Less than a minute to go and the crowd are willing Rivas on. He’s running out of time badly now though. Decent right hand lands for him but Cannetti’s fine. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Rivas but too little, too late and 29-28 Cannetti overall.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Guido Cannetti. Crowd don’t like that one but it was clearly the right decision as the Argentine outworked Rivas for the first two rounds for sure. Fight was perfectly acceptable MMA made far more entertaining by the hot crowd – I doubt either fighter goes onto anything big but this was a ton of fun to watch in the end.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Dominick Reyes vs Jared Cannonier

After starching a pair of opponents in quick fashion in 2017 Reyes looked like the next big prospect at 205lbs, but this was a pretty major step up for him as Cannonier had been in that role about a year ago before losing to Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Despite Cannonier being more proven I was going with Reyes, feeling he could be the real deal.

Fight begins and Cannonier presses forward but eats a quick combination from Reyes early on. Lot of movement from Reyes as Cannonier stalks him, and he lands a low kick to counter a right hand. Reyes keeps on throwing kicks but gets knocked off balance by a right hand. Good left from Reyes. He looks a bit quicker than Cannonier. Single leg attempt from Reyes is blocked and Cannonier lands some good punches on his way out. Nice left hand again from Reyes. Cannonier tries to clinch but Reyes quickly separates. Exchange continues and these guys are really swinging. Cannonier keeps pushing forward, but he walks into a HUGE UPPERCUT and that has his legs buckling. Reyes immediately follows it up with a big flurry including three head kicks, and Cannonier’s all over the place! Reyes keeps pouring it on, landing shot after shot and finally another uppercut drops him face-first and Marc Goddard stops it there. Wow.

That was an awesome showing from Reyes – Cannonier was aggressive throughout but Reyes just looked too quick for him and when he landed that first shot that had him hurt, he didn’t stop until the fight was over. This guy is clearly the top prospect in the division right now and I think the sky is the limit for him – they need to match him with a top ten opponent next time for sure, preferably a guy on the way down like Shogun or Teixeira I reckon. I mean, Cannonier had walked through punches from Ion Cutelaba before and yet he got FOLDED here. Pretty scary stuff really.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Tatiana Suarez vs Alexa Grasso

This to me was probably the best fight of the card, as I saw both women as two of the top prospects in the weight class and it was the kind of fight you could see being for a UFC title in a couple of years. Despite Grasso having more experience at the top level (fights with Felice Herrig and Randa Markos) I thought Suarez would probably win due to her insane grappling skills being too much for the Mexican to handle.

First round begins and Suarez looks to close the distance and then shoots for the takedown. Grasso works to defend it but Suarez stays on her and uses a head-and-arm throw to take her down. Grasso looks for an inverted triangle, but Suarez easily avoids that and grabs a headlock as Grasso stands. Another takedown attempt follows for the TUF winner and this time she uses a double leg to get Grasso down. Elbows from Grasso but Suarez moves into half-guard and almost into side mount. Scramble sees Suarez take the back for a second, but Grasso escapes. Suarez stays on top though and this time she takes the back with both hooks. Grasso is in trouble and Suarez looks for the rear naked choke…..and gets it, forcing the tapout.

Well, that was far quicker and easier for Suarez than I expected it to be. Grasso tried but she just got dominated on the ground as soon as Suarez took her down, and Suarez’s wrestling game is so difficult to stop. Bold prediction? Suarez will be holding the UFC title within two years of this fight. This was a tremendous performance from her.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Kamaru Usman

Initially this main event should’ve seen Usman taking on Santiago Ponzinibbio, but when the Ponz got injured it actually became an even bigger opportunity for Kamaru, as Maia was ranked way above him and he’d been calling him out for years. I saw this as a chance for Usman to prove himself as a top contender at 170lbs and picked him to win by TKO – doing what both Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington couldn’t manage by stopping the Brazilian.

Round One begins and Usman opens with a low kick. Couple more glancing strikes land for Kamaru as Maia circles on the outside. Good left hand connects for Maia. Low kick from Usman is caught and Maia actually gets him down, but Usman uses a whizzer to get right back up. Maia stays on him though and forces him into the fence, and from there he somehow snakes onto the back. Usman keeps hold of the whizzer which prevents the full position though despite Maia putting one hook in, and they wind up in an odd spot with Maia looking like he’s got Usman in an old-school pro-wrestling abdominal stretch. Never seen that before. They end up a bit stalemated from there as Maia can’t really do a lot due to Usman holding onto the arm. Ref Leon Roberts decides to call a break despite Maia’s advantageous position, and they restart standing where they exchange some punches and Usman lands a nice low kick. Clean left hand again lands for Maia to counter a low kick but Usman is fine. Round ends on the feet. Probably 10-9 Maia due to the position he got in the grappling phase.

Round Two and Usman looks much looser in terms of the striking as he comes out throwing shots that mainly glance, while Maia looks like he could be slowing down already. Takedown attempt from Maia is stuffed this time with a heavy sprawl, and Usman controls him with a front headlock this time before allowing him back up. More punches get through for Usman – it’s low output stuff but it’s enough to be winning the round. Another takedown attempt is stuffed well by the TUF winner. We’ve got very little going on here now as Usman seems content to land the odd potshot. Another single leg attempt follows for Maia but he just can’t get Usman down. This is becoming like a redux of Maia’s fight with Woodley. Left hand connects for Usman and he stuffs another takedown, this time forcing Maia into the fence. Maia decides to jump to guard from there, but he can’t get anything going from there and the round ends with Usman on top. 10-9 Usman to even things up.

Round Three and Usman opens with a long jab. He begins to really back Maia up with some punches before easily avoiding a takedown. Left hand glances over the top for Maia. Big right hand connects for Usman as he stalks forward. This is such a low output fight; I thought Usman would be far more aggressive than this. He’s outpunching Maia but it’s hardly impressive or anything. Takedown attempt is stuffed and Maia eats a right hand and has to circle out. Crowd are pretty bored now too. More of the same follows as Usman continues to land more punches and chase Maia around the cage. Takedown attempt from Maia is avoided and Usman backs out rather than go into the guard too. Maia stays on his back and so Usman lands some odd hammer fists to the feet before Leon Roberts calls the Brazilian back up. One minute to go and Usman’s dropping his hands now and everything. Single leg is easily shrugged off by Kamaru. Another one results in the same and this time Usman keeps hold of him in a cradle. Round ends with Maia dropping to his back. 10-9 Usman.

Round Four and Usman opens with a right hand that drops Maia! Crowd finally get into it as Usman drops some hammer fists, but Maia looks for a takedown and clings on as Usman continues to land punches. Looks like Maia is cut over the left eye from the shot. Usman decides to back up and let Maia get back to his feet, and seconds later he stuffs another takedown and lands some short punches from the front headlock position. Usman again lets him up, only to have to stuff yet another takedown. Maia is gassed. Usman meanwhile looks fresh but just isn’t opening up all that much with his strikes. Few more punches do get through for Usman but nothing that’s got Maia in trouble really. Single leg attempt from Maia fails again and Usman allows him to drop to his back and then backs up. More pressure follows for Usman but he can’t land anything significant and the round ends. 10-9 Usman.

Round Five and Usman easily avoids Maia’s attempts to grab him, while landing some punches in the process. This is really dull though, unfortunately. Another takedown attempt ends with Maia on his back and Usman demanding he gets up. Crowd are as quiet as they’ve been all night now. Big overhand right lands for Usman and Maia literally runs away. Another takedown is stuffed and Kamaru lands some punches from the front headlock this time. Usman even looks like he might be going for some sort of choke variant, but the likelihood of him tapping Maia is basically nil. He does hold him down in north/south for a while though. Finally he stands and forces Maia to join him again, and seconds later Maia decides to pull guard. Usman settles in and drops some hammer fists, so Maia responds with some of his own until Kamaru stands. Crowd are furious now as Maia tries to stay down. One minute to go and Usman pushes forward some more before avoiding another guard pull attempt. Round ends with Usman continuing to pursue Maia with punches. 10-9 Usman, 49-46 overall.

Official scores are 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 all for Kamaru Usman. Pretty obvious call in the end as he never really let Maia do anything to him outside of the odd abdominal stretch in the first round. Pretty dull fight overall though – basically a carbon copy of Maia’s fight with Woodley – as Usman stuffed all the takedowns and outstruck him but never came close to a finish really. Really if Maia wants to carry on, the UFC need to avoid booking him with top wrestlers because we’ll probably see this time after time again.

Post-fight Usman explains that he thinks he’s broken both of his hands which might explain his passivity, which is bad luck but won’t help him get a title shot next I don’t think. I still think he’s probably the top 170lber out there right now overall but I think it’ll be at least another fight or two before he gets the title shot he’s after.

-Show ends quickly after that.

Final Thoughts….

This was basically a great show until the main event, with a bunch of highlight reel finishes and the two fights that went the distance being pretty exciting too. Main event stunk the building out but it is what it is, sometimes that happens. Definitely a thumbs up show until that point though, one of the best of 2018 in fact.

Best Fight: Lee vs. Macedo
Worst Fight: Usman vs. Maia

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: