MMA Review: #706: UFC Fight Night 163

-Outside of the pretty cool sounding main event, this whole card could’ve been an M-1 Global or Fight Nights Global card rather than a UFC one, complete with literally EVERY FIGHT featuring a Russian fighter. Still, Zabit vs. Kattar sounded like a quality main event.

UFC Fight Night 163

Moscow, Russia

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

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Klidson Abreu vs Shamil Gamzatov

Russian-based Brazilian Abreu was coming off his first UFC win over Sam Alvey, while this was Dagestan’s Gamzatov’s UFC debut after putting together a strong record of 13-0 on the regional scene, including the PFL promotion which is one of the tougher ones in the world.

Round One begins and Gamzatov looks like a real physical specimen compared to the smaller Abreu, who could probably make 185lbs. Abreu stalks forward early on and lands with a body kick, which Gamzatov answers right away with one of his own. Exchange continues at a pretty slow pace and it’s a pretty even one too. 30 seconds to go and really neither man’s landed anything that telling just yet. Round ends on the feet. 10-10? I’ve literally got no idea how you’d score that.

Round Two and they pick up pretty much exactly where they left off, exchanging strikes with neither man really getting the better of the other. Decent combination lands for Abreu with two minutes gone. Beautiful left hand into a low kick follows for the Brazilian. Gamzatov is landing low kicks but little else really. Nice trip takedown from Abreu with 45 seconds to go but he doesn’t do a lot with it and Gamzatov kicks him away and stands as the round ends. 10-9 Abreu.

Round Three and they really need to pick up the pace here. Crowd are whistling now as the same slow-paced exchange opens the round. Decent right to the body lands for Gamzatov. Abreu comes right back with a strong combo ending in a leg kick. No idea why Gamzatov hasn’t gone for a takedown yet if only to change things up a bit. Midway through the round and Gamzatov finally lands a powerful right hand. Good combo follows and he’s suddenly stalking forward some more. Spin kick misses for the Russian and Abreu gets a rear waistlock, but he can’t get him down and they wind up clinched. Action slows down before Gamzatov goes for a takedown, but Abreu blocks and they separate. Takedown attempt from Abreu is defended and the fight ends there. 10-9 Gamzatov so call it a draw.

Judges have a split decision, 29-28 Abreu, 29-28 Gamzatov and 29-28 for Shamil Gamzatov to pick up a debut win. And let us never speak of this one again as it was painfully dull from start to finish.

Welterweight Fight: Anthony Rocco Martin vs Ramazan Emeev

Martin was coming off a tight loss to Demian Maia coming into this one, while Emeev was making a step up in competition after going 3-0 against lower-level opponents in his first three UFC outings. This was a tricky fight for him though as Martin is really good these days. Pre-fight we get a bit of weirdness as Martin is REALLY fired up, rare for him, and he’s outright shouting threats at Emeev across the Octagon.

Round One and Emeev opens with a pretty clean left hook. Leg kick answers for Martin as they continue to exchange, and Emeev lands with a decent combination. Hard right hand fires back for Rocco. He lands with another right hand counter and then tries to taunt Emeev, but the guy is so stoic that he just doesn’t seem to care. Low kick causes Emeev to slip and he goes for a takedown, but Martin locks up a kimura in the scramble and this looks dangerous. Martin really wrenches it back, but somehow Emeev still looks chilled out. Incredible strength from the Russian allows him to free himself, and they come back to their feet with Emeev landing some hard knees to the head from the clinch. Ref Marc Goddard ends up calling a time out, and the replay shows Emeev landed a low blow. They restart and Emeev lands with a stiff jab. He stings Martin with it again and then shoots, but Martin stuffs it. Couple of sharp calf kicks land for Martin. They trade off with some more jabs and Rocco’s nose is bloody. Round ends in the clinch. Call it 10-9 Martin for the close kimura attempt.

Round Two and Emeev opens with a good combo that causes Martin to shout some abuse at him. Really nasty low kick from Martin nearly takes Emeev off his feet. Nicely timed shot from Emeev puts Martin on the ground, but he goes for a guillotine right away and then switches it for a ninja choke. Emeev manages to slip free though, and looks to keep Martin grounded as he scoots back towards the fence. Good job from Rocco to stand and he escapes the clinch too. Weird moment follows as Emeev tries to call time, claiming Martin’s greased up, but Goddard is having none of that and Martin lands with a low kick again. Another takedown is stuffed by Martin. His low kicks are looking savage too as he lands another one. Exchange continues and Emeev cracks Rocco with a counter right. Emeev’s lower left leg is swollen badly and he takes another kick to the area. His hands are looking decent but the low kicks are allowing Rocco to land punches now too. Takedown from Emeev is botched and Martin floats over for a kimura again, but he can’t get it and the round ends there. 10-9 Martin.

Round Three and Martin keeps going back to the low kicks as they exchange jabs. Takedown attempt is blocked by Martin. Both men work with jabs before Emeev lands a clean left hand, but Rocco takes it well. Takedown attempt is blocked by Rocco. Punching exchange remains even but the low kicks are definitely taking their toll on Emeev. 1:30 to go now and another brutal low kick connects for Rocco, who’s still talking trash too. Emeev has bloodied his nose with the jab though. Nice takedown defense again from Martin. Exchange continues and Martin’s still taunting as the round ends. 10-9 Martin, 30-27 overall but it was relatively close.

Official scores are 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Anthony Rocco Martin. Crowd HATE that one but it was clearly the right call, Martin did the most damage with those low kicks and came closest to a finish with the kimura. Decent fight overall but it wasn’t amazing or anything, just far better than the opener.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ed Herman vs Khadis Ibragimov

This originally would’ve seen Herman taking on Gadzhimurad Antigulov, but when the Russian had to pull out, Ibragimov stepped in for his second late notice assignment in the UFC. Hard to believe Herman is still fighting given he came into the UFC in 2006!

First round begins and Herman opens with a low kick. Solid right hand connects for Ibragimov and he OPENS UP with a wild flurry before looking for a takedown. Herman stuffs it pretty easily and lands a nice knee from the clinch, and he follows with some pretty hard elbows too. Ibragimov keeps trying for the takedown, but Herman’s wrestling is too good even with the Russian literally shouting with effort. Herman’s knees from the clinch are looking great. Ibragimov is bleeding all over the place. Looks like his nose is busted. This is really smart from Ed as he’s letting Ibragimov do all the work. They break with 1:30 to go and Herman lands with a good combo. Big combo glances for Ibragimov but he eats a leg kick in return. Couple more leg kicks land for the veteran. Ibragimov is swinging haymakers, but not connecting. Elbow busts Ibragimov’s nose up more and the round ends there. 10-9 Herman, really good round for him.

Second round and Herman connects on a solid left hand. Ibragimov swings a big right to the body, but Herman takes it well. He’s also deflecting a lot of these haymakers too, real veteran smarts. Clinch from Herman but Ibragimov breaks free. Wild flurry from Ibragimov but again Herman does well not to take too many clean shots. Combo lands for Herman now but Ibragimov comes back with one of his own. Couple of jabs land for Khadis. Clinch from Herman and he goes to work with some elbows, knees and a nasty uppercut again. Ibragimov looks like he might be gassing out. He’s getting mauled in the clinch here too. Takedown attempt from Ibragimov but Herman blocks with a front headlock and he uses it to land some knees. Combo breaks off for Ibragimov and he’s definitely exhausted. Big shots land for Herman before he clinches again. Solid knees to the body connect for Short Fuse and he adds some more elbows too. Wild haymakers miss for Ibragimov and he eats a stiff jab. Round ends with Ibragimov getting wobbled by punches. 10-9 Herman and Ibragimov slumps in his corner and can’t even get on his stool.

Third round and Herman backs Ibragimov up with a combination early on. Ibragimov lands with a solid right hand, but he’s so tired and Herman’s tagging him with cleaner punches. Herman looks a little tired himself, but nowhere near as gassed as the Russian. Single leg attempt from Ibragimov is blocked and Herman leans himself against the fence. The Russian manages to take him down for a second, but Herman scrambles back up instantly into the clinch. He grabs a front headlock to land some more knees and then looks outright for a guillotine, but Ibragimov survives, only to eat more knees. Takedown from Ibragimov gets a big pop from the crowd and he lands in the guard, but he’s likely too exhausted to do a lot. Sure enough Herman reverses to his feet and holy shit the Russian is pouring with blood. Round ends in the clinch. Got to be 30-27 for Herman really.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Ed Herman. This was a massively impressive showing for him considering he’s pushing 40, as he just comfortably avoided the wild offense of the younger fighter and sucked him into a clinch war. From there he just allowed Ibragimov to gas himself out and then bullied him for three rounds, basically. Nice to see an older guy doing well!

Welterweight Fight: Danny Roberts vs Zelim Imadaev

The UK’s Roberts was coming in with his back to the wall in this fight, as he’d lost his last two pretty badly to put him 5-4 overall in the UFC. Imadaev was coming off a loss of his own to Max Griffin, meaning there was a chance that this would be a loser-leaves-town deal.

Round One begins and they trade some glancing kicks with Roberts staying on the outside. Single leg attempt from Roberts drives Imadaev into the fence, but the Russian defends well. They end up in the clinch and jockey for position, landing some short strikes inside for good measure. Few good knees land for Roberts from the plum. They break off and Roberts looks like he’s in a good groove now, bouncing around on the outside and throwing some more kicks. Imadaev is throwing some bombs but he’s not landing. Low kick from Roberts lands but he slips and almost eats a flying knee. He has to get on the retreat from there, and Imadaev comes in with a flurry, but the Brit tackles him down. Imadaev pops right back up and they exchange in the clinch with Roberts breaking with an elbow. Good front kick lands for Imadaev. Exchange continues with Roberts being the more active fighter. Beautiful leg kick lands for the Brit. Takedown from Roberts but Imadaev reverses into top position on the buzzer. 10-9 Roberts in a close round.

Round Two and Roberts opens with a good one-two. Imadaev comes back with a combo and both guys are swinging heavily here. Big takedown attempt from Roberts but Imadaev hits a slick reversal and gets on top in half-guard. Heavy punches land for the Russian from the top but Roberts wriggles to his feet. Left hand breaks for Imadaev but he takes another low kick. Nice combination connects for Roberts. Body kick answers for Imadaev and he has Roberts in trouble with a flurry until the Brit goes for the takedown again. Imadaev defends it well this time but Roberts manages to drag him down with a suplex. Imadaev pops right back up again though and they continue to exchange in the clinch. Roberts is working really hard with the knees to the body. Strong takedown from Imadaev plants Roberts, but the Brit pops right back up. These guys are working incredibly hard in the clinch. Roberts is landing the slightly better shots from close range. 30 seconds to go and they’re still exchanging in the clinch. They break off and Imadaev pushes forward, but he walks into a HUGE LEFT HOOK that faceplants him and it’s all over! WOW.

That was an amazing knockout from Danny Roberts and after three straight decisions it was awesome to finally see a finish, too. Replay shows it was a perfect left hook with the full body turning into it, and Imadaev was out on impact. Just beautiful stuff and it probably saved Roberts’ UFC career, too.

Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Volkov vs Greg Hardy

Initially Volkov was planned to be in the main event of this show against Junior Dos Santos, but when the former champ pulled out with an infection, Hardy – probably the most hated fighter in the UFC right now – stepped in on late notice for his fifth fight of 2019. This was a HUGE step up for the former NFL man too, as while he’d been snacking on low-level opponents, Volkov was a genuine title contender. The hope then was that Volkov would give many fans what they wanted and knock Hardy out.

Round One and Volkov opens with a low kick. Jab glances for Hardy as Volkov looks to land more low kicks, clearly trying to keep the shorter man at a distance. Strong left hand glances for the Russian. Crowd are way into Volkov. He counters Hardy’s jab well in the early going, landing his own jabs, left hooks and low kicks. Takedown attempt from Hardy is defended well and Volkov ends up with his back on the fence before breaking off. Head kick lands for Volkov but the former NFL man takes it well. Beautiful one-two connects for the Russian and he dodges some replies from Hardy. Hardy’s boxing looks improved but he’s still struggling to find the target due to Volkov’s height and reach. Volkov seems content just to pick at him with his jab and low kicks right now. 45 seconds to go and Hardy gets tagged with a right hook, but takes it well and responds with a pair of decent left hooks of his own. More strikes from distance end the round for Volkov. 10-9 Volkov but it wasn’t a blowout.

Round Two and Hardy throws some big strikes in the opening seconds that don’t land. Announcers mention that he’s apparently injured his right hand. Volkov is looking more confident now, snapping with the jab and landing some combos before stuffing a takedown. Series of inside leg kicks connect for the Russian. Clean left hook follows for him. Hardy looks to be aiming his jab at the body now which is smart. Wild overhand right from the former NFL man glances but doesn’t hurt Volkov. Pair of high kicks land for the Russian and he adds a front kick to the body too. He’s landing a bunch of kicks to the body now. Spinning backfist misses for Hardy. More low kicks and body kicks land for Volkov and Hardy’s eating all of them. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Volkov.

Round Three and Volkov opens with a head kick that causes Hardy to attack him with a flurry that misses. Jab lands for Volkov and Hardy appears to claim an eye poke, but ref Leon Roberts tells him it was a knuckle. More jabs from Volkov and Hardy tries to jab back, but isn’t being as effective. This is a really disciplined performance from Volkov even if it’s not that entertaining. Brutal leg kicks clearly have Hardy hurt with about half of the round remaining. Beautiful combination lands for the Russian. Hardy’s chin is evidently great as he’s taking this punishment with little effect. 1:30 to go and a head kick wobbles Hardy for a second but he recovers very quickly. More strikes land for Volkov and he’s just happy to pick Hardy off now. Triple jab snaps the former NFL star’s head back and the fight ends just after. 10-9 Volkov for a 30-27 shutout.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Alexander Volkov in a clear-cut decision. Fight wasn’t all that entertaining but I feel like it was an understandable gameplan from Volkov, who was outclassing a similar fighter in Derrick Lewis in a similar way before he got too complacent and ended up being KO’d. In this one meanwhile he fought with a safety-first gameplan, but never really slowed down and just picked Hardy apart with ease.

As for Hardy, he didn’t fight too badly to be fair and looked improved, but he was always going to struggle with the range of the Russian and after the first round it never felt like he had a shot at winning. Usually this would’ve been a perfectly acceptable Heavyweight fight but I dunno, I think everyone was hoping Hardy would be knocked out and when that didn’t happen it somehow felt disappointing even though Volkov looked great.

Featherweight Fight: Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Calvin Kattar

Originally this would’ve been the co-main event and only got shifted into the headline slot when Junior Dos Santos pulled out of the show, so the UFC decided to leave it as a three-round fight rather than five rounds. This was Zabit’s 6th UFC fight after going 5-0 in impressive fashion, while Kattar was coming off a strong win of his own over former title challenger Ricardo Lamas. It sounded like a tough fight for the Boston native but he’d come through against the odds before (vs. Shane Burgos) so you couldn’t count him out. Hell of a fight on paper at any rate!

First round begins and the crowd chant hugely for Zabit. He opens with a couple of jabs and a hard leg kick. Lunging right hand narrowly misses for Kattar. Couple more low kicks and a combo land for Zabit and he’s constantly switching stances and moving around. Wild spinning backfist glances for the Dagestani but a combination lands flush. Zabit is looking excellent thus far. Big flurry narrowly misses for Kattar. Beautiful combination answers back for Magomedsharipov and he follows with a front kick to the jaw. Zabit is nearly impossible to get a read on due to the variety of attacks he uses. Low kick drops Kattar for a second but he pops up right away and lands a left as Zabit steps in to follow up. Low kick into a hook kick (!) glances for the Dagestani and he follows with a really hard combo. Standing elbow into a body shot lands for Zabit. Kattar’s landing counters but not at the same clip as Zabit. Flying knee glances for Kattar. Wild trade follows and Zabit nails Kattar with a spinning backfist before landing a flurry to end the round. 10-9 Zabit, great round.

Second round and Zabit opens with a big combination, throwing a ton of punches and low kicks at Kattar. The Bostonian swings back but he’s not being as effective. Spin kick into a hook kick both glance for Zabit. They trade some low kicks before Zabit misses a spinning backfist. More volume follows for the Dagestani as Kattar tries to stick to basics by landing a few jabs. Takedown attempt from Zabit is really well-defended. Two minutes to go and A DISGUSTING foot sweep puts Kattar down and Zabit gets his back, but Kattar does really well to slip free. That was ridiculous, wow. Punches land for both men in an exchange but Kattar thumps him with a really good right hand. Left hook answers back for Zabit. Kattar appears to be cut on the bridge of his nose. Nice combo lands pretty cleanly for Kattar. Left hook into a cartwheel kick connects for Zabit and Kattar fires back to end the round. 10-9 Zabit again.

Third round and they trade stiff jabs before Zabit lands a nasty low blow. Kattar looks really pissed off and just says he’s good to go, and they restart quickly. Zabit gets right back to the volume and lands a nice left hook to the body, but you can tell Kattar wants to push the pace in this round and he’s throwing a lot more combinations now. Couple of good leg kicks land for him too. Kattar really forces the Dagestani on the retreat, but an exchange sees Zabit get the better of it with a hard left hook. Spinning elbow into another left hand from Zabit. Takedown attempt is stuffed well by Kattar. Combo glances for the Bostonian. He’s really pouring on the pressure now. Big combination ends in a hard left uppercut and Zabit might be hurt. He has to backpedal and avoids more punishment, but he’s definitely struggling a bit. More really good punches land for Kattar in an open exchange. Zabit fires back but it looks like Kattar’s got more in the tank now. One minute to go and Kattar keeps going to the uppercut which is working, too. Flying knee misses for him though and Zabit dumps him to the ground in guard. Good elbows from the bottom for Kattar but he might’ve thrown away his final chance of winning there. He keeps on landing from the bottom, but Zabit holds him down firmly until the round ends. 10-9 Kattar, but 29-28 Zabit overall. Tremendous stuff.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Zabit Magomedsharipov. That was a great fight and I’d call it one of my favourite of 2019 in fact. Almost made up for the forgettable show that led up to it. Basically this was just two of the best 145lbers on the planet going for it with everything they had; Zabit took the first two rounds with his insane offense, but he couldn’t really hurt Kattar enough to stop him coming forward, and in the third round the Bostonian put a TON of pressure on and almost turned things around. How this would’ve gone over five rounds is anyone’s guess really.

I feel like Magomedsharipov has more chance of eventually winning the title as it’s so tricky for anyone to get a handle on the variety of offense he’s capable of throwing, but Kattar’s pressure game, clean boxing and punching power makes him a title contender too. Basically both guys are awesome.

-Show ends right after Zabit calls for a title shot, as we cue a short highlight reel from the night.

Final Thoughts….

Outside of a really great main event this show was totally forgettable. Only the opener between Abreu and Gamzatov was outright boring, but Martin/Emeev, Herman/Ibragimov and Volkov/Hardy weren’t exactly great and the fact that only Danny Roberts pulled out a finish on the entire show tells you a lot. Check out that main event on Fight Pass as it’s class, but give the rest a miss.

Best Fight: Magomedsharipov vs. Kattar
Worst Fight: Abreu vs. Gamzatov

Overall Rating: *3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: