MMA Review: #680: UFC Fight Night 149

This was the UFC’s second ever show in Russia following their Moscow debut in September 2018 and with a main event of Alistair Overeem (!~!) vs. Aleksei Oleinik I was massively excited for it.

UFC Fight Night 149

St. Petersburg, Russia

-Your hosts are John Gooden, Dan Hardy and Paul Felder.

Middleweight Fight: Krzysztof Jotko vs Alen Amedovski

This one should’ve seen Jotko – who was looking to right the ship after a 3-fight losing streak – facing newcomer Roman Kopylov, but due to an injury he ended up facing late replacement Amedovski, unbeaten at 8-0, instead. Jotko was the clear pick here despite his recent issues given Amedovski – the UFC’s first Macedonian fighter – had far less experience.

Round One and Amedovski pushes forward as Jotko bounces around on the outside. Not much action at all in the opening minute here. Couple of kicks glance for Jotko to keep his distance. Clinch from Jotko and he hits a slick takedown to half-guard. Quick scramble allows Jotko to take the back with both hooks and Amedovski’s in trouble. He manages to spin over though and drops some heavy elbows into the guard. Amedovski lets Jotko up to his feet and then ends up being stunned by a spinning elbow. He fires back but Jotko follows that with another takedown to side mount this time. Mount attempt follows but Amedovski regains half-guard instead. Jotko continues to grind on him albeit with not much damage being done, and he ends the round with some decent elbows. 10-9 Jotko, easy one to score.

Round Two and Jotko pressures Amedovski back while glancing on some strikes. Easy trip takedown follows for Jotko and he lands in side mount. Action slows down as Jotko’s in total control and it just doesn’t look like Amedovski can get back up. Mounted crucifix from Jotko but Amedovski frees himself before he can eat a ton of strikes. Amedovski just has zilch from his back. Jotko lands a bunch of elbows and unanswered punches from the mounted crucifix and now Amedovski’s busted open badly. Ref could probably stop this but he lets it go and the round ends there. 10-8 Jotko.

Round Three and Amedovski comes out trying to land big punches, but Jotko’s movement remains good enough to avoid them, and he lands a couple of left hands of his own too. Easy single leg follows for Jotko and this time he lands in guard. Strong punches and elbows get through for Jotko and Amedovski is basically stuck. Jotko keeps on landing before working into side mount, and the round ends with him just constantly elbowing Amedovski before leaping up to celebrate a bit prematurely. 10-8 Jotko for a 30-25 win.

Judges have it 30-25, 30-26 and 30-26 for Krzysztof Jotko, who celebrates with some nice breakdancing. Dull opener as Jotko just had his way with Amedovski on the ground with literally no issues, but I guess it was always the likely outcome with such an experienced guy against a newcomer.

Women’s Flyweight Fight: Roxanne Modafferi vs Antonina Shevchenko

This was a big fight at Flyweight with the experienced Modafferi – who challenged for the inaugural UFC title in 2017 – providing Shevchenko, the sister of the champion, with her stiffest test to date. Despite Roxy’s superior experience I was going with Shevchenko here feeling that her superior athleticism would pull her through.

First round begins and Shevchenko lands a couple of early strikes as Modafferi circles on the outside. Modafferi’s boxing is looking pretty good actually as she’s not taking a lot of shots and she’s backing Shevchenko up with punches quite well. Good leg kick from Shevchenko. Roxy keeps forcing her back though despite eating a hard right hand counter. Couple of right hands put Shevchenko way on the retreat, and a big one seems to stun her a bit. Head kick fires back for Shevchenko but Modafferi walks through it to look for a takedown. Shevchenko defends it well, but Roxy keeps working and gets her down for a second. She manages to drag her back down as she tries to stand by using a whizzer, but Shevchenko works back to her feet. Another takedown from Modafferi puts her square on her back this time, and she takes full mount from there! Elbows and punches end the round for Modafferi. 10-9 Modafferi, surprisingly enough.

Second round and Shevchenko glances on a superkick in the opening seconds. More kicks glance for her before she lands a hard left hand, but Roxy keeps on pushing forward. She’s literally charging at her now, swinging punches for good measure. Shevchenko clips her with some more counters but Roxanne is actually talking some trash now! Takedown attempt follows and although she can’t get Shevchenko down initially, she stays on her like glue and finally uses the whizzer to drag her down into half-guard. Roxy is looking tremendous here. Big punches land for her from the top and she manages to avoid some dangerous upkicks when Shevchenko shakes her off for a moment. Big hammer fists land for Shevchenko from the bottom, but Roxy manages to work into half-guard to continue to grind on her. She can’t get full mount but continues to land on her, and that’s the round. 10-9 Modafferi again.

Third round and Shevchenko comes out more aggressively, backing Roxy up with some kicks and combinations, but Roxy fires right back, seemingly happy to trade punches. Crowd really get into it as they trade off before Modafferi gets a single leg and drags Shevchenko down. Nice move sees her take the back with no hooks as Shevchenko tries to escape. One hook in now for Modafferi, but Shevchenko manages to roll and spins over into the guard. Short punches land for Shevchenko but Modafferi hits a BEAUTIFUL SWEEP right into full mount! That was awesome. Elbows land for Roxy as Shevchenko tries to cling on from the bottom. Shevchenko manages to hit her own reversal with about 1:45 to go and they work back to their feet in the clinch, and Roxy takes some pretty nasty knees to the body from there. She forces Shevchenko into the fence though to look for a trip, but can’t get it. Hard knee to the face lands for Shevchenko as she continues to defend the takedown. More knees land for Shevchenko but Roxy trips her down into guard. Round ends with Modafferi on top. 10-9 Shevchenko as I felt she did a little more damage, but it’s clearly Roxy’s fight overall.

Official scores are 29-28 Modafferi, 29-28 Shevchenko (!) and 29-28 for Roxanne Modafferi to take the split decision, thank god. I mean shit, that would’ve been an all-time robbery had Shevchenko gotten the nod as she clearly lost the first two rounds and there was probably an argument for her losing the third too. Roxy looked pretty great here, a career-best performance as all the training she’d been doing paid off and she finally didn’t look like the sub-par athlete in the cage. Nice to see a veteran able to improve like that, and it was a solid fight, too.

Heavyweight Fight: Sergei Pavlovich vs Marcelo Golm

This was a battle of a pair of prospects who hadn’t quite lived up to the hype, as Pavlovich had lost to Alistair Overeem in his UFC debut while Golm had dropped dull fights to Tim Johnson and Arjan Bhullar after his massively impressive debut. I took Pavlovich to win as there’s no shame in a loss to the Reem, naturally!

Round One begins and both men throw out some jabs from pretty close range. Punches connect for both men and it looks like Golm might have the slightly quicker hands. Big one-two lands for Pavlovich though. Big overhand right from Pavlovich sets up a flurry and Golm is hurt, and another big right and an uppercut put him down for the TKO. Man that was quick.

Not much you can take from that outside of the fact that Pavlovich hits HARD. Golm looked like the quicker man but his punches were looping while Pavlovich’s seemed straighter and more technical, and once he had the Brazilian hurt it was OVER. Nice knockout from the Russian.

Lightweight Fight: Islam Makhachev vs Arman Tsarukyan

After apparently being involved in the infamous UFC 229 brawl there were some rumours that the UFC were ready to cut Makhachev, but thankfully Khabib’s buddy managed to stick around – for me he’s one of the best Lightweights in the world right now and it would’ve been sad to see him move to Bellator – and was booked here against fellow Russian Tsarukyan, a newcomer with a strong 13-1 record. I was picking Makhachev as I just didn’t know enough about Tsarukyan, but to be fair I’d pick Islam against most 155lbers right now anyway.

Fight begins and the crowd are MASSIVELY into Makhachev, treating him like a major star, like he’s Khabib’s avatar for the night or something. Both men miss on kicks to begin the fight before a slip from Tsarukyan allows Makhachev to get a clinch. Tsarukyan turns it around and goes for a takedown, but despite getting really deep on a single leg he can’t get Makhachev off his feet. They exchange from the clinch before Makhachev hits a RIDICULOUS foot sweep directly into mount. Punches land for Islam from the mount but Tsarukyan manages to scramble back to his feet. Front headlock from Makhachev and he attempts a throw, but Tsarukyan ends up on top before popping to his feet while holding a possible guillotine. Makhachev pops his head free and they continue in the clinch where Tsarukyan catches a leg and then works and manages to get Islam down, but only for a split second as he pops right back up. Tsarukyan gets the back and drags him down a couple of times, but Makhachev gets up again and they jockey for position inside the clinch again. Seconds to go and Makhachev breaks with some punches, and then defends a takedown attempt as the round ends. 10-9 Makhachev but it was a close round.

Into the 2nd and both men press forward and trade with glancing high kicks. Takedown attempt from Tsarukyan is blocked and Makhachev gets a front headlock, then exits with a right hand. Head kick glances again for Tsarukyan. Quick takedown attempt follows but again Makhachev blocks it and they wind up clinched. Massive crowd chant for Islam as they trade knees. Nice foot sweep puts Tsarukyan down for a second but he pops back up, and does the same following a single leg. Makhachev stays on him and forces him into the fence, then tackles him down only to land in a kimura attempt. Makhachev avoids that and remains on top, moving into side mount for good measure. Reversal from Tsarukyan allows him to stand, and now he goes for a takedown of his own. Makhachev blocks that and they wind up clinched again, where the round comes to an end. Another close round for Makhachev I’d say.

Third and final round now and you can sense a lot of respect between the two now. Nice trade opens the round with Tsarukyan pressing forward with a hard right hand. Combo from Tsarukyan but Makhachev comes back with a head kick that lands pretty flush. Takedown attempt from Tsarukyan but Makhachev blocks it again and leans heavily on him before landing a knee to the ribs from the clinch. Right elbow breaks for Tsarukyan and he shoots again, but Makhachev shows some amazing sprawl abilities to avoid and lands a couple more knees. Takedown from Makhachev now and Tsarukyan looks a bit tired. Makhachev controls his legs to keep him down and looks to take the back, but Tsarukyan does a great job of working to his feet again. One minute to go and Makhachev gets him down again, basically just holding him there as he tries to scramble. Makhachev has the legs laced, Khabib-style too. They trade punches on the ground and that’s the fight. 10-9 Makhachev for a 30-27, but it was closer than that sounds.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Islam Makhachev. Fight was actually super-close though as Makhachev basically edged all three rounds by a hair, as Tsarukyan was far better than everyone gave him credit for and he even had some success grappling with Islam which was a major surprise. The future is definitely bright for both men I’d say although it’s Makhachev I’d expect to see in title contention sooner. Really fun grappling match overall with some of the more technical exchanges you’d see in the UFC.

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Aleksei Oleinik

Initially this would’ve seen Overeem facing Alexander Volkov, but when Volkov got hurt, Oleinik – on a two-fight win streak – stepped in to take the fight instead. I was naturally taking Overeem as I felt like he’d have a huge striking advantage over Oleinik and unlike Mark Hunt, he’d know how to defend himself on the ground against someone as dangerous as the Boa Constrictor.

First round begins and they clinch from the off with Oleinik pulling guard and going for the Ezekiel choke right away. Overeem looks calm as you’d imagine though and quickly frees his head. He looks to pass the guard and then we get a weird moment where Overeem stands and Oleinik takes AGES to get back up and eats a glancing head kick for his troubles. Knee up the middle connects for the Reem. Overhand right glances for Oleinik and he’s really swinging. Clinch and a trip from Overeem puts them down for a second but they pop back up. Oleinik lands with a big right hand that has Overeem stunned, but he covers up well as Oleinik tries to flurry on him. They separate and Overeem lands a nasty knee, but Oleinik takes it and wades in with an overhand right again. More big shots connect for Oleinik but Overeem stays calm and grabs hold of a plum clinch for a second before breaking off. Knee again lands for Overeem as Oleinik steps in. Oleinik is just swinging for the fences though and he’s got the Reem covering up again.

Takedown is stuffed by Overeem and then he has to exit to avoid the Ezekiel from a standing position. More wild swings from Oleinik back the Reem up into the fence, but he grabs a clinch to deliver a HUGE KNEE that hurts the Ukrainian. More nice clinch work follows but Oleinik is taking it well. He swings back into the clinch after a break, but this time Overeem grabs a plum to deliver some heavy knees to the body and head. One minute or so to go and a switch knee lands for Overeem. Oleinik keeps lumbering forward throwing haymakers, but Overeem is covering up to defend well. Plum clinch again from Overeem and he delivers some really nasty knees that drop Oleinik, and from there Overeem PUNISHES HIM until the ref stops the fight.

That was a really impressive showing from Alistair Overeem as he absorbed Oleinik’s wild – and inaccurate – punches, stayed away from the ground and then used those vicious knees to take the veteran out once he had him hurt. The timing on Overeem’s knees in this fight was fantastic, about as good as it gets really. Big win for him as he continues to be one of the UFC’s most reliable big men, and while I don’t think he gets another title shot, I’m never going to complain about seeing him winning fights like this!

Post-fight Overeem admits he didn’t really like fighting Oleinik as the two are friends away from the Octagon, and then he calls out Alexander Volkov – which isn’t happening now as he’ll be fighting Walt Harris instead. Doesn’t matter anyway as long as the REEM TRAIN ROLLS ON.

-Show ends with a quick highlight of the night’s action.

Final Thoughts….

For a throwaway Euro Fight Night this was fine; four of the five fights gave us decent action with Makhachev/Tsarukyan being the best of the bunch while Jotko/Amedovski was the only real stinker. Probably not worth checking out unless you’re a big Overeem fan like I am, but still worth a thumbs up anyway.

Best Fight: Makhachev vs. Tsarukyan
Worst Fight: Jotko vs. Amedovski

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman: