Early morning MMA can be pretty amazing.
Two UFC events in a row from the opposite side of the globe for us U.S. viewers, and this one definitely left a lot of fans happy. The prelims started out with some great action, while the main card wasn’t nearly as riveting as the show went on. Even the main event got off to a frustrating start with a lot of measuring and feinting. It was all worth it with a sensational payoff, and the event signals the home stretch of a multi-week run for UFC cards that end next week with UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs Lee.
Holly Holm – In some ways, this fight was a true return to form for Holm. She was measured, technical, kept her distance and sized up her opponent for some time. She didn’t force any offense, and waited for the opportunity to come to her. The gameplan paid off, because as patient as Correia was, she couldn’t really help herself in the end. While there was criticism about the initial pace of the fight, it ended the way a lot of fans expected. Holm snaps a three-fight losing streak, but most importantly does so with an exclamation point. Sure that exclamation point came as the result of a question mark kick, but… ah, you know what I mean. The idea of an immediate title shot at either 135 or 145 seems absurd, but we’ve seen her management have some pretty impressive and low-key leverage in the past. It probably shouldn’t happen at first glance, but when you have a win like this in a division that still has Ronda Rousey at #4 and another division that only really has Cyborg at this point? Don’t laugh. It might happen.
Rafael dos Anjos – Another great matchup with a fighter that had certain advantages capitalizing on them to great effect. After a minute or two, dos Anjos looked confident and pushed the pace for the majority of the fight. He used his body kicks off breaks, cut the distance and landed some great shots. His ground game was on display as well, as this fight had a little bit of everything. A very good bounceback win to start fresh in a new division could very well be what he needed after two straight losses against tough opposition. Let’s see how he does from here.
Colby Covington – Covington took on a bigger opponent that’s a strong grappler that happens to be ranked at #7. It didn’t look easy, but he looked like he was having some fun with it. Four straight wins plus a win over a ranked opponent is a pretty impressive feather in his cap, and he deserves a lot of respect for that. Welterweight has a tough top ten to crack into right now, but he should at least be in the orbit of it if he doesn’t outright break in.
Li Jingliang – I hate the nickname, but I love watching the man fight. That’s three wins in a row for Jingliang, who continues to impress with his brutal striking and intelligent grappling and positioning. He’s not ready for top ten opposition yet, but given some time he’s likely to be knocking on that door with his improvement from one fight to the next.
Naoki Inoue – With all the shenanigans involving Demetrious Johnson and the claim that the UFC was looking to shut down the flyweight division, it would be a crime to do so after this performance. The UFC finally gets some really good flyweights making waves (shout out to Ben Nguyen), so we need this train to keep rolling. Inoue was sharp with his grappling and fought very smart with clever chains from one submission to the next. He’s also only 20 years old. I expect very big things from him in the future.
Walt Harris – I remember not being very impressed with Harris when he initially arrived in the UFC. After being released and coming back, he’s had mixed success but finally racked up back to back wins. Not just consecutive wins, but brutal finishes. It seems Harris finally hit his stride and is using his athleticism and technique in the best of ways. Is he the new threat at heavyweight? Not yet, that would be laughably premature. But this could be the beginning of a very good run that could see him in the top 15 or top 10 soon with another performance or two like this. It’s heavyweight, and you never know.
Lucie Pudilova evens out her UFC record at 1-1, but looked really good in the process. She seemed to have had a nasty streak for this one, and it paid off. Pudilova’s game was more accurate and her reactions to her opponent were also noteworthy. Yuta Sasaki had a fantastic comeback and a nasty submission. I’m glad I was wrong, because you can never count him out of any fight. Russell Doane snapped a four fight losing streak with a sensational KO. Good on him, and let’s see if this turnaround continues. Jon Tuck put the hurt on Takanori Gomi, with an excellent submission finish to bounce back from two consecutive losses. Marcin Tybura won on paper, but that was a very meh fight. Most of his fights are finishes, but he’s going to struggle moving forward if he doesn’t adjust his conditioning. He’s a very good fighter that has potential, and he still has time to make improvements.
Andrei Arlovski – This was a fight that Arlovski surely would win, but his body couldn’t go the whole way on this one. He got dominated in the first with grappling and mounted an admirable offensive comeback, but it wasn’t enough. In the end it was just sad, and even Tybura didn’t seem very happy. Reminder, he’s the guy that won. That’s five losses in a row for Andrei, and at least this was a decision. The other four were all finishes, with three KO/TKOs. Clearly he’s no longer top 10, but with all of the damage he’s accumulated it may be time to consider retirement for his own good.
Tarec Saffiedine – This wasn’t a terrible performance for Tarec, but this does make it his third consecutive loss. His UFC record now stands at 2-4, which sounds worse than it is considering that he’s fought nothing but legitimate opposition in those losses. The problem with him seems to be a style that isn’t favorable for winning decisions, with a tendency to take his foot off the gas. As odd as it sounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was given another fight. Then again, don’t be surprised if he gets released. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for anyone, since Bellator is almost guaranteed to throw a deal his way.
Takanori Gomi – Four losses in a row for Gomi, each one just as sad. All four were finishes, and Gomi hasn’t won a fight since 2014 against Isaac Vallie-Flagg. I don’t know if this has to do with motivation or training. Maybe it’s just age. But at this point, he’s probably getting released. I’m sure there’s a fun matchup or two for him in RIZIN or something, but his time in the UFC may be over unless they keep him for one more Japan card.
Bethe Correia – As odd as it may seem, Correia is still 10-3 in her overall career with a draw against Marion Reneau. That puts her UFC run at 4-3-1, so the damage isn’t as great to her record. The biggest reason she’s here is because it puts a stamp on her ceiling as a fighter. She’s a decent athlete and has the aggression for the job, but she’s not likely to be fighting top 5 opposition again at this point. She was composed and cautious at first, but got impatient and threw caution to the wind. That’s where she got slept. Cold, but that’s the fight game.
Cyril Asker – Speaking of ceilings, Asker seems to have hit his as well. Hard. This was a bad matchup for him and it’s hard to see him avoiding situations like this being repeated against more athletic heavyweights in his division. His UFC record still stands at 1-2, but he may get another shot. Just don’t be surprised if he doesn’t.
Dong Hyun Kim – This was a tough matchup for both Kim and Covington, but Kim got the worst of it. It’s not the worst thing to lose to an up-and-comer like Covington, but it does bring him down a notch or two. With all the moving pieces at welterweight right now, it may be enough to keep him at the edge of the top ten, if not out of it altogether.
Justin Scoggins – Scoggins is another must-watch guy to me. His funky karate style is great, and he showed off some serious substance with his bit of flash. His wrestling is excellent and he used all of his tools to great effect here. Problem is, he may have underestimated Sasaki and ended up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory from one moment to the next. Again, not the worst loss ever. This loss puts him at 4-4 in the UFC, and it’s not the first time his fight IQ fails him. It’s not unreasonable that if he had less hiccups during fights he’d be in the top ten of a small division, but here we are.
Kwan Ho Kwak – Kwak is a fighter who’s UFC run is a total misrepresentation of what he brings as a fighter. He’s really, really good, but now stands at 0-2. The UFC seems to have enough bantamweights for the moment, so whether or not he stays under the UFC banner is really something of a coin toss.
Dishonorable mention to UFC payouts – I’m so tired of this at this point, and we need to keep hammering this point. Walt Harris having to beg for a bonus — which he didn’t get, by the way — is a disgrace. He’s got to bring up the education of his children and keeping his family afloat, along with paying for his house to ask for scraps in the end. I refuse to judge Harris for this, because I don’t know his spending habits or fiscal wisdom. But I do know that the UFC isn’t paying their guys nearly enough for all the “We’re the NFL of MMA!!“ chestbeating they do. We shouldn’t be at this point, and realistically should have been past this years ago. It’s not just the UFC, it’s any major organization: pay your talent better.
Alex Caceres and Rolando Dy – Sure, it’s a TKO on paper and Caceres was likely winning that fight up to that point. They still had another round to go, and neither fighter gains or loses much from the way this fight ended.
Frank Camacho – He brawled his way onto the scene against Li Jingliang as a replacement, and is guaranteed to stick around. While mostly hesitant to strike much in the third, he’s finished most of his fights (that’s 20 wins) and matches up well against some other welterweights in the UFC.
Carls John de Tomas put on a hell of an effort and put up some great resistance against a more capable grappler, but only suffers his first defeat of his career in his UFC debut. He’s bound to give a lot other flyweights a lot of trouble, so he’s not going to be penalized here. Ji Yeon Kim also suffers her first professional loss (also as a replacement), and she’s going to stick around as well. She seemed a bit gunshy and it took her a while to figure out her distance against Pudilova, but we’ll see what improvements she makes in her next fight.