MMA Review: #708: UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Rozenstruik

-The UFC hadn’t been to Washington DC since October 2011 so this was a long-awaited return, and the card looked pretty decent too, with a hell of a main event in the Heavyweight division.

UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Rozenstruik

Washington, DC

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Paul Felder and Daniel Cormier.

Bantamweight Fight: Ricky Simon vs Rob Font

Simon was returning after his knockout loss at the hands of Urijah Faber, while Font was coming back from a year on the shelf after beating Sergio Pettis on the final UFC on Fox show. No clue why he’d been out so long, injuries I guess?

First round begins and holy shit Simon’s mullet is INSANE. Like Billy Ray Cyrus or something. Font backs him up right away and lands with a clean counter right hook in the first exchange. Big takedown follows for him, surprisingly, but Simon pops right back up. He looks to get Font down in return but fails, and they break off. Big right hand lands for Font and he follows with an uppercut and a knee. Simon’s chin is hanging in there well though. Big takedown attempt from Simon is stuffed and they continue to exchange. Simon lands a couple of good punches but Font’s definitely connecting on the harder shots. He’s using his jab really well too. They continue to exchange and then Font gets stunned by a left and eats a flying knee! Simon follows with a takedown attempt and gets him down, then looks for a mount, but Font works to his feet. Big knee connects for Simon as they stand. Slam follows and Simon’s back on top in a loose guard. He passes to half-guard and looks to set up a guillotine, but Font stands and escapes. Huge combination lands for Font and Simon looks stunned for a second but recovers quickly. Wild moment as Font slips on a spin attempt and Simon gets on top in half-guard. Font does well to get back to his feet, and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Font in a pretty great round.

Second round and Font looks to back Simon up again by using the jab. Takedown is well avoided by Font. Good combination lands for Simon but he eats a big uppercut as he gets another takedown attempt blocked. Exchange continues and Simon gets badly hurt by a combo, but he shoots to slow Font down. Takedown is stuffed but Simon looks recovered. Huge combination lands for Font again but Simon eats it right up. How Faber KO’d him so easily I’ll never know. Big takedown from Simon but Font pops right back up and lands some more heavy punches. Font is setting everything up with his jab here and it’s awesome. Takedown is avoided by Font and he clocks Simon with another vicious combo that somehow Simon just takes. More shots land for Font before Simon gets him down again, and this time he laces the legs to keep him down. Font again works back up though with seconds to go. More punches from Font end the round. 10-9 Font.

Third round and Simon comes out digging a couple of hooks to the body, actually backing Font up somewhat before he eats another stiff jab. Solid right hand lands for Simon. Knee lands from the clinch for him too and then he tags Font with a left. Takedown attempt is avoided by Font and he nails Simon with a couple of heavy punches. Brutal combo connects for Font. Exchange sees both men land as Simon is getting more into range now. Takedown attempt from Simon and this time he gets a slam after a bit of a struggle. He takes side mount but a beautiful scramble sees Font reverse to his feet. More jabs land for Font and he follows with a heavy right hand. More punches connect for him and Simon’s not really got much of an answer now. He’s also sporting a bloody nose. Takedown is easily stuffed and Font lands another vicious combo. Simon keeps on firing back, but he’s outgunned and the fight ends on the feet. 10-9 Font for a 30-27, tremendous action though.

Judges officially go 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Rob Font. Hell of a fight as Font essentially used his jab to beat Simon up standing, but somehow Simon hung tough and just ate up all the shots and kept on coming forward. Great showing from Font but you have to admire Simon’s toughness, and kudos to both guys for such an exciting performance.

Bantamweight Fight: Song Yadong vs Cody Stamann

Top-ten ranked Stamann was coming off a win over Alejandro Perez before this one, while Song – one of the best Chinese fighters on the roster – was still unbeaten in the UFC at 4-0 and coincidentally he’d beaten Perez too, by knockout, in his last fight. Definitely a great sounding fight overall.

Round One and Stamann walks Song down and forces him back towards the fence. Nothing lands though and Song pushes forward and tags him with some quick punches instead. Decent left hand answers back for Stamann. Wheel kick narrowly misses for Song. Decent combo from the Chinese fighter but Stamann tackles him to the ground. He looks to work to his feet, and then attempts a guillotine, and it looks quite tight actually. He goes for it from an odd squatted position, and Stamann gives the thumbs up… Song nails him with a knee to the head. It’s clearly illegal and the ref calls time immediately. Stamann seems okay but the ref still takes a point away from Song which is fair. They restart and Song connects on a couple more combinations, seemingly having the faster hands in these exchanges. One minute to go and they continue to exchange, before Stamann takes him down. Song goes into a bizarre full split position to stand, but Stamann forces him onto his back as the round ends. Probably Song’s round but obviously it’s 9-9 due to the point deduction.

Round Two and Song opens with a big overhand right and then uses a combo to back Stamann into the fence to land another. Takedown attempt from Stamann sees Song hit a beautiful sprawl, and he uses a cradle to control him before standing back up. Big flurry answers back for Stamann but Song comes back with a one-two. Big flurry for Song forces Stamann back and he blocks another takedown. The Chinese fighter breaks off, but ends up being tackled down into half-guard. Weird position follows as it looks like Song might be hunting for a calf slicer, but they scramble wildly and end up standing. Huge combination from Song tags Stamann again, and he follows with a front kick only for Stamann to grab him and dump him with a suplex. Into side mount for Stamann and Song gets to half-guard, but that seems to help Stamann hold him down. Song manages a sweep though and winds up on top in guard. Big elbow lands for Song and the round ends with her on top. 10-9 Song for me, although you could go for Stamann based on the takedowns.

Round Three and they exchange jabs and low kicks before Song backs Stamann up with a couple of combos. Beautiful takedown from Stamann and he tries to hold the Chinese fighter down, but Song scrambles pretty wildly. Stamann manages to keep hold of him, avoiding a heel hook in the process, and they end up in another weird position with Stamann just about on top. Song scrambles free of that after eating a couple of hammer fists, but Stamann holds onto a front facelock and then spins to take the back. Scramble sees Song end up on his back in half-guard again, and this time he must be a bit tired as he stays there while Stamann lands shots to the body. Big shots begin to get through for Stamann and then he gets to full mount, landing more heavy punches. Song gives his back and Stamann locks him up and keeps on landing. Song might be hurt here as he’s taking so many shots. Round ends with Stamann really landing heavy shots. 10-8 Stamann for me, so I’d give the fight to him 28-27 overall.

Official scores are 29-27, 28-28 and 28-28 for a MAJORITY DRAW. No idea who the 29-27 score was for, but I guess the other two judges must’ve figured that Song won the first two rounds and somehow Stamann DIDN’T win a 10-8 third despite thoroughly dominating it. Pretty crap judging in my opinion as Stamann definitely deserved the win, but I guess he would’ve LOST without the point deduction which is insane. Awesome fight though, somehow even better than Font vs. Simon!

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Aspen Ladd vs Yana Kunitskaya

Ladd was looking to bounce back from her first professional loss to Germaine De Randamie here, while Russia’s Kunitskaya had put together two straight wins following her 2018 loss to Cris Cyborg at 145lbs, and was aiming to pick up her biggest scalp to date. On a great note, Ladd actually made weight for this fight and didn’t look on the verge of death in doing so.

Round One begins and Ladd immediately closes the distance and gets a clinch. Kunitskaya spins her around into the fence and works some knees to the body, and they jockey for position before ref Keith Peterson calls a break. Few strikes land from the outside for the Russian and they clinch up again and continue to muscle along the fence. Good knees land to the body for Kunitskaya. Ladd comes back with a nice trip takedown to half-guard, but doesn’t really do a lot with the position until she lands an elbow with a minute to go. Kunitskaya gives the back and Ladd slaps both hooks in and lands some nice punches to the head, shouting as she does so, and it looks like the fight could be stopped, but the Russian manages to spin on top in the dying seconds of the round. 10-9 Ladd.

Round Two begins and Ladd comes out swinging, but she walks into a couple of solid kicks and punches from the taller Kunitskaya. Both women continue to exchange and it definitely looks like Kunitskaya has a slight advantage standing. Ladd lands a couple of counterpunches off low kicks though, and then gets a takedown. Kunitskaya does well to pop back up into the clinch, and they jockey for position for a while before breaking off. Nice double leg from Ladd plants the Russian on her back in guard again, but Kunitskaya immediately looks to tie her up. Couple of short elbows land for Ladd but little else really. Round ends on the ground. 10-9 Ladd, but between rounds her corner go CRAZY at her for basically not being aggressive enough.

Round Three and Ladd comes right out and DECKS HER WITH A LEFT HAND! Huge shots follow over the top and Kunitskaya is in big trouble. Ladd goes into back mount and just BOMBS ON HER and sure enough Keith Peterson stops it after 30 seconds.

Unbelievable finish for Aspen Ladd. Her corner basically told her she needed to be more aggressive and she DELIVERED. Before that finish the fight was a bit slow, but I mean, who’s going to complain about a vicious TKO like that? With one more win Ladd could definitely end up with a shot at Amanda Nunes, and her ground game could actually make it interesting. Well, moreso than some of Nunes’ other contenders, anyway!

Heavyweight Fight: Ben Rothwell vs Stefan Struve

Given the veteran status of these guys it was a surprise that they’d never clashed before really. Rothwell was coming off a loss to Andrei Arlovski and was desperate for a win after failing to pick one up following his return from a PED suspension, while Struve had supposedly retired after his February win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima, but ended up coming back anyway, just as most fighters do really!

Fight begins and Struve opens with a nice low kick as both guys look a bit tentative. It’s so weird to see Rothwell as the smaller man in there! He tries to close Struve down to land a flurry but doesn’t quite land anything. More low kicks land for Struve and Rothwell’s left leg is being chewed up already. One-two connects for the Dutchman as well. Rothwell manages to swing his way into the clinch, but he can’t get a lot done from there and Struve almost uses a whizzer to trip him down at one point. Takedown attempt from Rothwell almost works, but somehow Struve manages to remain standing. Left hand separates for Struve and he hurts Rothwell with a left head kick, but Rothwell responds with a BRUTAL GROIN KICK that drops the Dutchman instantly. He’s in AGONY here. Replay shows that it…maybe wasn’t unintentional too? Not too sure as Rothwell’s not usually a dirty fighter, but it didn’t look like a misplaced leg kick to me.

Doctor outright comes in to check Struve over and it looks like they’re going to have to throw the fight out as he’s still writhing around in pain. It doesn’t look like he can get up, either, and the announcers mention that they’ve heard him say that he can feel his balls in his stomach (!). Holy shit. Somehow he manages to get to his feet, and the crowd go CRAZY as it looks like he’s going to continue. This is ridiculous as they’re booing when he looks to be in pain and cheering like mad when he looks ready to go.

They finally restart and Struve lands another leg kick, but gets tagged by a couple of punches. Rothwell bombs into the clinch with some more punches that land, but Struve ties him up to slow him down. They trade knees and Rothwell breaks with an uppercut, but Struve comes back with two nice low kicks. More kicks follow for the Dutchman but Rothwell comes in again with a clubbing left hook. Clinch follows and the round ends there. 10-9 Struve despite taking that horrible low blow.

Second round gets underway and they exchange jabs before Struve works another leg kick and a front kick to the body. Nice combo from Struve before Rothwell wraps him up in the clinch again. They break off and Struve lands a knee to the groin, but Rothwell decides to continue quickly. Nice uppercut lands for Struve but Rothwell comes over the top with a right hook. Good leg kick again from Struve and he follows with a left jab, but Rothwell clinches again and goes for a takedown. Struve blocks that and they exchange short strikes before breaking. Really hard leg kick lands for Struve and he follows with a head kick. Rothwell keeps swinging big hooks, but he’s struggling with the range. Leg kick from Struve but Rothwell clinches yet again. Couple of uppercuts land for Rothwell but Struve breaks with a knee. Head kick glances for Struve but Rothwell drops him with ANOTHER GROIN KICK. Surely the fight’s got to be over now. That one didn’t look intentional at all but even so, it’s got to be a DQ.

Once again Struve’s in sheer agony, and this time ref Dan Miragliotta behaves a bit strangely, telling Struve that he’s taking a point from Rothwell and that he’s probably won both rounds anyway….but if he stops now it’ll be a No Contest. That’s ridiculous!

Somehow Struve decides he can continue, but he still looks to be in pain to me. And sure enough Rothwell comes in SWINGING and has Struve hurt with punches right away. Big shots land for him from the clinch and with 30 seconds to go they break. Struve tries another leg kick but hurts himself in the process, and they trade punches before a BIG UPPERCUT folds Struve and that’s it. Absolutely bullshit finish for sure.

Fun fight but you’ve got to say that finish stunk. I mean, Struve should not have continued in so much pain but equally, if he’d have been told Rothwell was to be DQ’d then he probably would’ve stopped. How do you decide it’s a No Contest after two pretty blatant fouls like that? Really disgusting stuff all around to be honest and you have to feel bad for poor Struve.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Cynthia Calvillo vs Marina Rodriguez

This one looked like a good fight, as Rodriguez was coming off two big wins over Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres, while Calvillo was also on a two-fight winning streak too. It looked like a tricky fight to pick but I was leaning towards Rodriguez as her record was a little stronger. Coming in we had some controversy too as Calvillo missed weight by FOUR POUNDS.

Round One begins and Rodriguez tags Calvillo with a one-two as they circle around and throw some feints. Both women come up a bit short on strikes before a couple of right hands connect for Rodriguez. Leg kick from Calvillo is countered by a right hand and a knee to the body. Takedown attempt from Calvillo and she does really well to force the Brazilian onto her back in half-guard. Scramble from Rodriguez allows her back to her feet, and she quickly lands a flurry and adds in a nasty elbow from close range. Big shots land for Rodriguez and Calvillo might be in trouble. Rodriguez is doing great with her knees and elbows every time they clinch. Another right lands for the Brazilian but Calvillo forces her into the fence. Rodriguez breaks and lands a big head kick, then follows with some more knees from the clinch. Calvillo is being destroyed in the clinch. Big takedown attempt puts Rodriguez down though and she gets full mount this time. Seconds to go in the round and she gets the back and lands some big punches, and the round ends with her on top. 10-9 Rodriguez despite the strong end for Calvillo.

Round Two and Rodriguez opens with a super-quick combo. Calvillo can’t seem to find her striking range at all here. Big knee lands from the clinch again for Rodriguez. Strikes glance for both women before Rodriguez lands a clipping combo. Calvillo’s finding some success by going to the body with the left hand now. Rodriguez is still getting the better of these exchanges, though. No idea why Calvillo hasn’t gone for the takedown. Nice front kick into a right hand from the Brazilian. More strikes land for her before she gets some really nice offense from the plum clinch. Body shots have Calvillo badly hurt and Rodriguez keeps going back to the body and landing combinations now. Calvillo’s really backpedalling. Flying knee lands for the Brazilian and she blocks a takedown to end the round. Clear-cut 10-9 for Rodriguez and Calvillo needs a finish.

Round Three and Rodriguez snipes at Calvillo from the outside with kicks in the early going. Takedown attempt from Calvillo has the Brazilian down though and she looks for full mount. Looks like she might be hunting for a mounted guillotine. Rodriguez manages to just about retain half-guard, but she takes some elbows to the side of the head in the process. Kimura attempt now from Calvillo and it looks pretty good. She drops some big elbows to the body when Rodriguez pulls her arm free, and then takes the back in a scramble. Body triangle is locked in for Calvillo and she starts to drop some BIG PUNCHES. Rodriguez is in trouble now. She tries to roll, but she’s getting BEATEN UP here. More shots land for Calvillo and there’s still a minute to go now. Full mount for Calvillo and she continues to hammer with punches, and the ref could honestly stop this now as Rodriguez is getting SMASHED. She somehow hip escapes and gets to her feet though, but surely can’t have a lot left. Seconds to go and they break off, and Rodriguez looks to land with strikes as the round ends. 10-8 for Calvillo, so I’d go 28-28 for a draw overall.

Judges have it 29-28, 28-28 and 28-28 for a majority draw. Crowd don’t seem happy with that but I’d say it was the right decision. No word on who the 29-28 was for but I’d guess Rodriguez as Jon Anik mentions that the two judges who had 28-28 gave Calvillo the 10-8 third round. So where the fuck were they for Stamann vs. Song when Song got a beating equally as bad as Rodriguez’s in the third round? Fight was pretty solid at any rate, tale of two fights really as Calvillo got beaten up on the feet for two rounds before destroying Rodriguez in the third on the ground. Both women clearly have areas in which they can improve, and if they can do that, either one could be a title contender.

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Initially this would’ve seen Overeem facing Walt Harris, but sadly Harris was forced to pull out when his stepdaughter was kidnapped and eventually murdered. That left the Reem needing a new opponent, and it made sense for Rozenstruik – who had KO’d Andrei Arlovski inside a round at UFC 244 – to step in. I don’t pick against Overeem so naturally I was taking him to win.

Round One and Overeem looks to be in tremendous shape for this one. Obviously not UBEREEM levels but even so. Good leg kick opens things for Rozenstruik as Overeem seems wary of his power for sure. Good left hand for Overeem after blocking a few combos. Left jab gets through for Rozenstruik though. Looks like Overeem’s just waiting for an opportunity to get a takedown. Sure enough he clinches and hits a beautiful outside trip to side mount. Weird moment sees Overeem put himself into half-guard, I guess for more control. Action slows down a little as Overeem looks content to just wear Bigi Boy down with elbows. Rozenstruik gives his back in an attempt to stand, but Overeem does well to force him back down to side mount. More elbows connect for the Reem from there and that’s the round. 10-9 Overeem, easy.

Round Two and both guys look wary now, Overeem of the punching power but Rozenstruik of the takedown. Clinch from Overeem and he forces Rozenstruik into the fence, where they trade short knees. Trip attempt is blocked well by Rozenstruik. Overeem stays on him though and they continue to exchange from the clinch. Ref Dan Miragliotta calls a break with two minutes to go and Rozenstruik glances on a right hand. They exchange low kicks and Overeem’s doing a good job of blocking any punches coming at him. Big overhand left connects for the Reem. Big flurry answers for Rozenstruik but again the Reem does a good job of covering up. Nice body kick from Overeem and the round ends just after. 10-9 Overeem again.

Round Three and the Reem opens with a left hand. Rozenstruik comes back with a front kick, but Overeem is backing him up. Big takedown attempt from Alistair but Rozenstruik does well to prevent it. The Reem keeps him against the fence though until Rozenstruik shucks him off. Overeem keeps his distance and then tags him with a right hand, but Bigi Boy takes it well. Clean left also lands for Overeem as Rozenstruik continues to struggle to land cleanly. Nasty body kick from Overeem and he absorbs a leg kick in response. Big left hand follows for the Dutchman. Takedown attempt follows but Rozenstruik stuffs it well. He ends up clinched though and from there Overeem hits a nice bodylock takedown to half-guard. Short punches land for Overeem from the top and then he finishes the round with some really heavy shots. 10-9 Overeem.

Round Four and Overeem uses some glancing punches to back Rozenstruik up. Couple of right hands glance for Bigi Boy but he isn’t being active enough at all. Clean left hand comes over the top for the Reem but Rozenstruik takes it well. Takedown attempt is defended by Rozenstruik and he suddenly OPENS UP with a flurry, but Overeem covers up and defends well. He’s got some blood coming from his nose now though. Couple of left hands get through for Overeem. Crowd are pretty dead due to the slower pace I think. Big left lands again for Overeem but Rozenstruik’s chin holds up well. Flying kick suddenly lands for Bigi Boy and he follows with a flurry, but again Overeem covers up well to avoid too much damage. Hard left hook connects for Overeem. Seconds to go now and Rozenstruik is pushing forward more, and he lands a solid flurry on the buzzer. Closer round, but I’d still go 10-9 for Overeem.

Round Five and both guys are breathing pretty heavily now. Few strikes connect early for Bigi Boy and he easily avoids a takedown attempt. Decent overhand left lands for Overeem. Another one follows but somehow Rozenstruik eats it up. They clinch but Rozenstruik breaks off, and the crowd sound restless as both men glance on strikes before Overeem looks for the takedown. He ends up slipping to his back for a second, but pops back up when he can’t force Rozenstruik down. Low kick from the Reem but he’s being far more defensive now. Couple of straight rights from Bigi Boy back the Reem up but don’t land flush. Flying knee glances for Rozenstruik. Less than a minute to go now and this looks like the Reem’s fight. Takedown fails again for Overeem. He’s exhausted. He covers up from another combo and they exchange, and suddenly with seconds to go Rozenstruik lands a HUGE RIGHT HAND that drops Overeem! He bounces up before Rozenstruik can follow….but Miragliotta takes one look at his face and waves it off. Cameras then catch a shot of him as his LIP IS HANGING OFF HIS FACE! Holy fuck.

Fight was a bit slow but good lord, that’s one of the most disgusting facial injuries in UFC history. Could Overeem have survived for those final seconds? Quite possibly, but you can’t really blame Miragliotta for calling the fight when he did due to the fact that the Reem was wobbly and so badly busted open. Huge win for Rozenstruik but not exactly a great performance as he basically couldn’t do a lot with Overeem until he landed that big shot. It was, however, one of the best comebacks in UFC history for sure.

Post-fight Overeem rushes right to the back to get his face checked over, but thankfully he’s been left with no major issues from it since. And Rozenstruik calls out Francis Ngannou for a fight in 2020 and well, that’s another show!

-Show ends with a quick highlight reel of a pretty wild night.

Final Thoughts….

There was a lot of weirdness on this show – the stoppage in the main event, the judging in Song/Stamann and most notably the entirety of Rothwell/Struve, but overall I liked it a lot. None of the fights were boring – the first two were downright great – and we got plenty of fun finishes too. Two thumbs up and it’s worth checking out if you missed it the first time around.

Best Fight: Song vs. Stamann
Worst Fight: Overeem vs. Rozenstruik

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: