MMA Review: #659: UFC Fight Night 138

-The UFC’s first visit to the Canadian province of New Brunswick – that’s 8/10 done! – this looked like a bit of a lesser card with a bit of a throwaway main event, but with the likes of Gian Villante, Misha Cirkunov and Michael Johnson – usually exciting fighters – on the undercard, I was hoping for a decent action show.

UFC Fight Night 138

Moncton, New Brunswick

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald, Jimmy Smith and Dan Hardy.

Welterweight Fight: Court McGee vs Alex Garcia

This was a tough fight to pick given McGee’s style – all grinding and cardio – sounded like a bad match for Garcia, but then Garcia’s style – explosive athleticism, serious power – sounded like a bad match for McGee too. I was picking Garcia to quickly deal with the TUF winner, but figured if the fight left the first round, McGee would probably win.

Round One begins and the crowd are way into Garcia due to him being an adopted Canadian. Pretty hot crowd in general to be fair. Body kick opens proceedings for McGee and he’s backing Garcia up right away. Couple of power hooks glance for Garcia but McGee looks fine. Striking exchange sees both men land and then Garcia catches a kick and gets a takedown. He takes the back as Court stands, but he can’t get him down and McGee almost hits a reversal. Knees to the legs land for Garcia and McGee hits a throw, but ends up somehow giving his back. One hook for Garcia but he fails in a choke attempt and McGee manages to shake him off and breaks with a combo. Big combination lands for Garcia. Another big right hand connects in an exchange but McGee’s chin is holding up well. Both men continue to pick at one another from the outside and then McGee hits a takedown with seconds to go, and he ends the round in the guard. 10-9 Garcia.

Round Two and Garcia again comes out winging heavy punches, and they exchange to begin with both landing glancing blows. Weird moment follows as Garcia almost falls into a jab from McGee and goes down. McGee follows with some punches and elbows from the half-guard and it definitely looked like he got rocked there. Garcia manages to get back to full guard as the action slows down, and literally nothing happens from there as it looks like Garcia’s stalling for a stand-up. McGee does drop a couple of elbows, but that’s about it. Ref finally calls a stand-up and Garcia looks worryingly gassed. He tries a double leg and manages to get it, but McGee pops back up only to eat a right hand. McGee clinches and looks for a takedown of his own, and manages to get it, planting the Dominican on his back again. Round ends there. 10-9 McGee.

Round Three and Garcia is clearly slower in the striking exchanges. He goes for a single leg, but McGee stuffs it and then turns it around, going for a takedown of his own. He pins Garcia into the fence, but then he eats an uppercut and Garcia somehow winds up on top for a second in a weird moment. McGee goes for the takedown again, but he can’t quite get him down. Garcia tries one of his own instead, and he manages to drag McGee down despite taking a couple of elbows. Garcia works to take the back and manages it, going for the choke without any hooks, but McGee defends. One hook in for Garcia now and he manages to remain in back control as McGee looks to flip over. Both hooks in now. McGee manages to turn over though and winds up in the full guard instead. Action slows again as McGee grinds with his elbow, then stands over him to deliver some punches. One minute to go and McGee continues to work from the top. Crowd are booing now but McGee doesn’t care. Round ends with McGee prepping a possible guillotine from the top. Close round but I’d say McGee edged it, which should give him a 29-28 win.

Official scores are 29-28, 29-28 and 30-28 for Court McGee. Hey, that 30-28 means that one round was scored a 10-10 which is progressive! Fight wasn’t much really as Garcia’s fights all tend to be a bit slow unless he destroys his opponent early, and McGee isn’t much fun in general, but it wasn’t the worst of 2018 or anything. That’s about it really.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Gian Villante vs Ed Herman

This one sounded like it had the potential to be a classic sloppy brawl, and hey, I’m all for those kinds of fights as they’re almost always fun. Villante – the UFC’s king of the sloppy brawl – had last been seen in a tight loss to Sam Alvey in June, while Herman hadn’t fought in well over a year since a loss to CB Dollaway. Due to Herman’s crazy mileage – dude has been in the UFC for 12 years which is scary – and layoff I was taking Villante to win.

First round begins and they circle and right away they’re swinging heavy shots with Villante connecting on a couple of big right hands instantly. Looks like Herman is already bleeding. Neither man appears to give a shit about defense here as they’re just swinging power hooks at each other. Couple of good jabs get through for Villante. Big left hook answers back for Herman. Big left-right combo wobbles Herman and he’s in trouble. Villante wades in with more big swings but he gets pegged back a bit by some counter swings from Herman. This is exactly what I was expecting. Nice combo lands for Herman to the body and head. Left hook rocks Villante now and Herman follows with a stiff jab. Round ends with some more trading. 10-9 Villante I guess?

Second round but there’s a delay prior to it to check Herman’s cut, which is under his left eye. He elects to continue though and unsurprisingly it’s right back to trading with both men throwing bombs. Looks like Villante’s cut around the right eye now. Knee connects for Herman in an exchange and it looks like he’s the more accurate striker now. Neither man is really defending that much though. Villante looks a bit tired. Couple of leg kicks mix things up for Herman as they continue to trade. They’re both moving pretty slowly now. Big overhand right connects for Villante. Exchange continues and Herman wobbles Villante’s legs with a short right hook. Seconds to go and both men look exhausted. Big combination lands for Villante and the round ends there. 10-9 Herman.

Third round and both men look badly busted up. Villante opens with a chopping leg kick and from there he follows with a stiff left jab as both men continue to fire big punches. More of the same follows and it’s hard to score really as neither man’s really defending any shots, just absorbing them and firing right back. This pace has become absolutely glacial too. 1:30 to go and Villante defends a takedown attempt. Big left hook lands for Villante in yet another exchange. His face is a total mess though. Takedown attempt from Villante now goes horribly wrong and they wind up in the clinch. Seconds to go and they break, and the action peters out on the feet. 10-9 Villante for a 29-28 I guess, but you could go either way.

Official scores are 29-28 Villante, 29-28 Herman, and 29-28 for Gian Villante to steal the split decision. Herman looks FURIOUS with the call but really it could’ve gone either way so I don’t think he can complain. This wasn’t as fun as I was hoping largely because of the slow pace, but man, you have to respect both guys for going out and trading like that while barely defending. It was unique at least.

Bantamweight Fight: Andre Soukhamthath vs Jonathan Martinez

I had no idea how this made the main card given Soukhamthath had hardly set the world alight in his UFC run thus far while Martinez was making his Octagon debut, but to be fair there wasn’t exactly a great number of good fights on the prelims for this card either. I was taking Soukhamthath due to his UFC experience.

Round One begins and Martinez lands a really heavy low kick from the off. Big head kick follows but Soukhamthath blocks it. Soukhamthath continues to walk Martinez down despite taking some nasty kicks, and he hasn’t really struck back heavily yet. Big right hand does land though and DOWN GOES MARTINEZ! He’s in deep trouble. He tries to scramble but gets caught in a front headlock, and it looks like Soukhamthath might be prepping for an anaconda choke. He doesn’t go for it and so Martinez pops up into the clinch, and the ref calls a break due to an apparent low blow from Soukhamthath. They restart and Soukhamthath hurts Martinez with a combo to the body. Clinch follows and they exchange some knees, then break off. Pretty wild exchange sees Soukhamthath land the better shots including some knees from the clinch. These guys are SWINGING. Big combo drops Martinez to end the round. 10-9 Soukhamthath for sure, great round too.

Round Two and Martinez again comes out throwing kicks, but Soukhamthath backs him up with punches again and clinches him against the fence. They break and Soukhamthath has him in trouble again with another flurry of shots to the head and in particular the body. Fair play to Martinez for hanging in there but he’s in deep trouble again. A supposed low blow saves him, but it didn’t look low to me. They restart and Soukhamthath goes right back at it, catching him with more shots from the clinch, but Martinez surprises him with a takedown to half-guard. Solid short elbows land for Martinez from there and he continues to land shots as Soukhamthath tries to get to his feet. Really good shots land for Martinez to the shoulder and side of the head. Soukhamthath gets back up though and they remain clinched. More knees follow for Soukhamthath before they break. Nice body kick from Martinez. Step-in elbow follows and Soukhamthath looks tired. He comes back with another flurry though and they trade to the buzzer. 10-10 round for me.

Round Three and Soukhamthath opens with a hard body kick. Martinez tries to take him down and forces him into the fence, but he can’t get him to the ground and Soukhamthath begins to really open up with some HUGE SHOTS from the clinch including some nasty elbows. Martinez keeps firing back though with his own knees, and clearly the dude has balls of steel as he’s taken a lot of punishment. Big takedown from Soukhamthath but Martinez pops right back up. Action slows down a bit as they jockey for position inside the clinch, and then Soukhamthath hits a takedown to side mount this time. Reversal from Martinez puts him on top, and he avoids a triangle before they come back to their feet. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Soukhamthath and I’d call it 30-28 for him.

Judges have it 30-26, 29-28 and 29-28 for Andre Soukhamthath. Well, fight was a ton of fun where I was expecting nothing, so massive kudos to both men and I actually look forward to seeing both again. Not sure what happens to Martinez however as he looked very small at 135lbs and I’d normally say he should cut to 125lbs, but it looks like the UFC’s killing that division so who knows. Fantastic stuff overall though.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Misha Cirkunov vs Patrick Cummins

This was Cirkunov’s first fight since his disappointing loss in December 2017 to Glover Teixeira, but I still had hopes that he could break into title contention at 205lbs, and I was definitely favouring him over Cummins, who is a solid fighter but will always be held back by his super-dodgy striking defence and chin.

Round One begins and Cirkunov tags Cummins with a left hand and a head kick right away. Single leg is defended well by Misha who then grabs onto a standing guillotine. Cummins pins him into the fence, but can’t take him down and Cirkunov lands some good punches to the body. Cummins continues to grind him into the fence, but he still can’t trip Cirkunov down and they trade some knees inside. Trip takedown from Cirkunov lands him directly in mount and Cummins is in trouble. Arm triangle choke quickly follows and Cirkunov slips out to the side to force Cummins to tap out.

Totally one-sided victory for Misha as he looked back to his best, out-powering Cummins in the wrestling sequences surprisingly enough before dominating him on the ground for the tapout. Hopefully this gets him back on track now because he’s a great addition to 205lbs if he’s on proper form.

Featherweight Fight: Michael Johnson vs Artem Lobov

Initially this would’ve been like a continuation of the McGregor/Khabib feud, as Conor’s buddy Artem was supposed to take on Khabib training partner Zubaira Tukhugov, but when Tukhugov was identified as one of the guys who attacked McGregor in the wild brawl at UFC 229, the UFC quickly pulled him from the card, leaving Michael Johnson to step in. Johnson missed weight for the fight but on such short notice few people actually blamed him, and I figured he’d probably pick Lobov apart for a decision.

First round begins and Lobov’s bald head and beard make him look like a smaller Costas Philippou. Johnson opens with some swift jabs to the body and a lot of movement as Lobov looks like he’s trying to counterpunch. Lobov switches it up and starts to walk Johnson down as they exchange strikes, with Johnson looking like the slightly quicker man. Nice left hand connects for Johnson as he continues to move around on the outside. Exchange continues and Lobov’s face is beginning to redden up. Beautiful left hand connects again for Johnson. He looks too quick for Lobov. Nice uppercut lands for Lobov off a faked takedown attempt though. Body kick closes the round for him. Close round but probably 10-9 Johnson.

Second round and Johnson again opens with the left hand and a low kick. Lobov appears to be coming up short on a lot of his punches. He does land with a solid right though as he steps in. Lobov continues to really walk Johnson down, but he’s still finding it hard to catch him cleanly. Beautiful counter left from Johnson snaps Lobov’s head back. Body punches land for both men. Another left wobbles Lobov but he recovers pretty quickly. Johnson’s really beginning to pick him off now, going to the body really well for good measure. Couple of lead hooks fire back for Artem. Few more right hands connect for him and it looks like Johnson might be slowing down a bit. Exchange continues and Lobov looks happy to take a shot to give one back. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Johnson but Lobov was coming on strong at the end.

Third round and it’s Johnson opening with the better strikes, landing well with the left hand again. Johnson’s coming forward more in this round and it’s allowing him to land the left hand despite taking some solid kicks from Artem. Left hand lands flush for Johnson but Lobov fires back with an uppercut. Big combination connects for Johnson. He’s looking excellent in this round. More of the same follows and Lobov doesn’t seem to have much of an answer. One minute to go and a right hand drops Lobov to a knee, but he pops up instantly and comes back with a hook to the body. Seconds left and Johnson drives Lobov to the ground with a double leg and that’ll just about do it. And from there he keeps Lobov down until the final buzzer. Call it 30-27 for Johnson, 29-28 at worst.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Michael Johnson. Pretty pedestrian fight really as Johnson just picked Lobov off with quicker striking for the majority of the fight, but fair play to the guy as he took the fight so late on and did a massive weight cut. Nice to see him back on the winning path too as I thought he was looking shot at the beginning of the year.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Volkan Oezdemir vs Anthony Smith

This was a weird main event in a lot of ways in that nobody could’ve called it at the beginning of 2018 when Smith got crushed by Thiago Santos at 205lbs, but the move to 205lbs clearly suited him as he’d defeated a pair of former champions in Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua since. Despite Oezdemir not fighting since his losing effort in his title fight with Daniel Cormier in January, I was taking him to win as I didn’t trust Smith as the two guys he’d beaten were way past their prime.

Fight begins and Volkan opens with a hard low kick. Takedown attempt right away from Smith forces Oezdemir into the fence, but he can’t get the Swiss fighter down and they end up clinched on the fence, exchanging knees. Smith breaks off but gets tagged by a quick combo against the fence. He covers up well to avoid being badly hurt, and Oezdemir backs off. Nice left hand lands for Oezdemir. Left lands in reply for Smith. Striking exchange continues with both landing decent shots, and then ref Yves Lavigne has to call time due to an eye poke to Oezdemir. They restart and Oezdemir lands a head kick and a flurry to back Smith up, but he recovers pretty quickly. Nice elbow lands for Smith as he comes forward a bit and Oezdemir looks like he’s cut. He continues to press the action with another combination though that leads to the clinch. Round ends there. 10-9 Oezdemir as he clearly landed the harder shots.

Into the 2nd and Oezdemir lands a pair of hard low kicks to begin. His leg is getting chewed up. Flurry lands for Smith though and backs Oezdemir up. Big shot lands for Smith and now Oezdemir is really bleeding. Exchange continues and Smith backs Volkan up, only to give up a takedown. Smith scrambles from his back but Oezdemir does well to hold him down in half-guard. He tries to get to full mount, but Smith manages to avoid that and then switches for a leglock. Oezdemir spins out and lands a backfist, then takes Smith’s back, landing some nasty punches while bleeding all over him. No hooks in for Oezdemir here but he is keeping Smith grounded. Action slows down slightly as Smith grips onto Oezdemir’s wrists to prevent any offense, but eventually the Swiss fighter gets one hook in. He continues to control Smith well and lands some short strikes in the process, and the round ends there. 10-9 Oezdemir again.

Third round and they trade some early strikes with neither man really landing anything too major. Low kick from Oezdemir is countered by a glancing right hand from Smith. Big overhand right lands for Smith and he follows with some more punches. Looks like Oezdemir might be tired, but he comes back with a right of his own. Big right from Smith leads to a knee and Oezdemir is definitely hurting now. Big low kick and a knee lands for Smith but Volkan comes back with a heavy elbow. Both men land some punches and this is becoming a dirty brawl. Both guys look tired now. Exchange continues and then Smith hits a takedown and gets the back instantly. Both hooks in for Smith though and Oezdemir might be in trouble. Choke attempt from Smith and Oezdemir doesn’t really defend well, but somehow he hangs on. Seconds later though Smith tightens it up, and finally Oezdemir TAPS OUT.

Massive win for Anthony Smith and it was quite a comeback too given Oezdemir clearly won the first two rounds. It looked like he just got tired in the third though and Smith started to come on strong, and from there Oezdemir basically wilted. Smith really lived up to the Lionheart nickname here, that’s for sure. Fun fight for the most part too. Not sure whether I buy Smith as a title threat even with this win but he’s certainly earned a shot at a #1 contender’s fight in the very least. Post-fight he outright calls for the title shot but yeah, I don’t know. Smith vs. Blachowicz maybe?

-Show ends there as they’re clearly out of time.

Final Thoughts….

Not the best show overall I wouldn’t say purely due to the amount of fights going the distance. Soukhamthath/Martinez was a hell of a fight and I liked the main event too, but McGee/Garcia, Villante/Herman and Johnson/Lobov were all just totally forgettable. No really bad fights on the card mean it’s not the worst show of 2018, but this was certainly one of the least memorable ones by far.

Best Fight: Soukhamthath vs. Martinez
Worst Fight: Garcia vs. McGee

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: