Fight Notes: UFC 238
With the UFC schedule so dense, it is rare that we get an event — even a pay-per-view — that isn't top-heavy, with a couple of big fights carrying an entire event in terms of interest. This was not the case with UFC 238, however, which had compelling match-ups placed all over the fight card. Thankfully, the fights also delivered on expectations and produced a great night of fights; tough match-ups all around and some brutal finishes as well. Here is how things played out.
The pay-per-view kicked off with heavyweights Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa having a decent heavyweight scrap. Ivanov was able to stagger Tuivasa a couple of times in the first, but couldn't finish him off. Tuivasa seemed to wobble Ivanov in the second, but couldn't capitalise either. As the second round ended, Tuivasa looked to be tiring and Ivanov was able to land a hard shot and latched on to a guillotine choke, but wasn't able to get the tap within the round — Tuivasa did tap, but it was well after the bell. The final round was very slow and tentative, as both seemed very tired. Tuivasa was doing damage to Ivanov's inside leg with kicks, but it just wasn't enough. They went to the scorecards and Ivanov won a a clear unanimous decision. This was a decent fight by heavyweight standards but hardly a barn burner.
Peter Yan and Jimmie Rivera had a very close opening round, with Rivera most likely winning it before getting dropped in the final seconds. Rivera survived until the end of the round and picked up right where he left off when the fight resumed. Rivera looked to be damaging Yan's lead leg with kicks, but was again dropped in the closing moments of the round. The third was more of the same, with Rivera countering and moving well, and even managing to avoid being dropped at the end of the round. This was a tough fight to call, as Rivera had the misfortune of having a lot of his good work negated by being knocked down at the end of the first two rounds. Yan was give the nod by all three judges, and took the win. Rivera looked really good, but Yan was persistent and more effective. A good fight, but far less violent than a typical Yan fight.
Donald Cerrone and Tony Ferguson had exactly the sort of fight you'd expect, with Ferguson moving forward almost the whole time, eating and landing punches. Cerrone looked to be the one landing the better shots throughout the first, but Ferguson was persistent and not without some success of his own. In the second, Ferguson's pressure started to mount and Cerrone started to visibly accumulate damage — racking up a swollen eye and broken nose. Ferguson's excellent showing in the second was marred by a late punch, well after the bell sounded. Between rounds, Cerrone blew his nose and his massively swollen right eye blew up even more, forcing the end of the fight. Those two rounds were amazing, and it's really unfortunate we got robbed of a third. There was some concern that the late punch, which was directly to Cerrone's nose, but that did not factor into the end result.
Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Eye looked to be settling into a tough, grinding battle, as Shevchenko took Eye down in the first minute and meticulously moved to a crucifix mount. Shevchenko then switched to a kimura, but Eye reversed the position just as the round ended. The second round saw the two exchanging on the feet when, suddenly, Shevchenko blasted Eye with a savage left high-kick that starched her instantly. Eye was unconscious for several minutes before finally waking. Shevchenko notches a highlight reel KO, and successfully defends her flyweight title. I fully expected a very tedious, albeit very proficient fight from Valentina and was elated to be dead wrong here.
The main event bantamweight title fight was a little bit of everything. The first round was all Marlon Moraes, who demolished Henry Cejudo's legs with kicks. The second turned into a crazy brawl about half-way through, with Cejudo smashing Moraes with hard punches and knees in the clinch. Moraes seemed to be tiring and Cejudo just continued to turn up the aggression, completely taking over the fight in the third round. Moraes was getting manhandled in the clinch and eventually got taken to the mat and put in a D'Arce choke, but managed to escape. Cejudo switched to ground-and-pound and eventually landed a sufficient flurry to force referee Marc Goddard to wave the fight off. An incredibly impressive turnaround after losing the first round very handily, Henry Cejudo adds his name to the short list of champions in multiple weight classes with his most impressive win to date. (He didn't beat Demetrious Johnson in my opinion and that fight was exceedingly close regardless.)
- Henry Cejudo def. Marlon Moraes by TKO (punches) @ 4:51 of Round 3
- Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Eye by KO (head kick) @ 0:26 of Round 2
- Tony Ferguson def. Donald Cerrone by TKO (eye injury) @ 5:00 of Round 2
- Petr Yan def. Jimmie Rivera by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Blagoy Ivanov def. Tai Tuivasa by Unanimuous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Calvin Kattar capped off a strong opening round by sparking Ricardo Lamas out in the final minute. The majority of the round was very closely fought, but Kattar was pressuring Lamas back almost the whole time. The finishing sequence was a beautiful sequence of a left jab, left hook, straight right that devastated a perennial contender in Lamas. This is a rough setback for Lamas, who will likely never sniff a title shot at this juncture. Kattar had essentially a perfect showing and put the division on notice with this win.
Alexa Grasso battered Karolina Kowalkiewicz over the course of the first round. The Polish fighter's somewhat porous defence was exploited by Grasso, who racked up a significant lead in strikes landed. Kowalkiewicz was undeterred, constantly trying to push forward and engage, but was outclassed throughout the entirety of the fight. Grasso took a clean sweep, unanimous decision win and looked impressive in doing so. Another tough loss for Kowalkiewicz, who opted fight a stand-up battle with almost no wrestling or clinching despite a consistent lack of success on the feet. Grasso is definitely a prospect to keep your eye on.
Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz had a really fun fight. Sterling's unorthodox style paid off well, landing a lot of shots, staggering Munhoz and clearly winning the first round. In the second, Munhoz was able to assert himself more, and landed some damaging leg kicks as well as closing the gap in strikes. Sterling righted the ship in the final round, pressuring Munhoz as the two exchanged a lot. A really entertaining, high-level fight; Sterling took the win, but both performed very well. Munhoz suffers a small setback and Sterling inches closer to a potential title shot.
Tatiana Suarez spent most of her fight with Nina Ansaroff either clinched against the cage or smothering her from top position on the mat. Ansaroff defended well off her back, but was unable to stop Suarez's takedowns. In the last 3-4 minutes of the fight, Ansaroff managed to stay on her feet and mount a bit of a comeback. Suarez seemed to be tiring, and Ansaroff did everything she could to get a finish by ran out of time. What started off looking like a rout turned into a competitive battle. Suarez continues her rampage through the strawweight division, while Ansaroff picks up an 'L' but didn't look terrible by any means.
- Tatiana Suarez def. Nina Ansaroff by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Aljamain Sterling def. Pedros Munhoz by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alexa Grasso def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Calvin Kattar def. Ricardo Lamas by KO (punches) @ 4:06 of Round 1
Fight Pass Prelims
The event kicked off with Kaitlyn Chookagian and Joanne Calderwood throwing down. They split the first two rounds, with Calderwood getting the better of the striking in the first and getting not-quite-pieced-up in the second, but did end up wearing a lot of damage. The second round arguably could have gone to Calderwood, as she did in the round with a takedown and retaining top position. The third was largely a stand-up round, with Calderwood landing a lot of leg kicks but also taking a lot of punches. I had it 2-1 for Chookagian, but one judge gave her all 3. A decent fight to start off the show with.
WEC vet Eddie Wineland and UFC newcomer Grigori Popov wasted no time, throwing down immediately. Wineland peppered Popov with counters and power shots, briefly stunning him but without coming close to finishing him. The second round started off much better for Popov, as he landed 3 really powerful strikes that wobbled Wineland, but he was able to recover. As the round progressed, Wineland began to takeover and eventually finished Popov with a series of powerful right hands. Four consecutive right hands dropped him, but he recovered; patiently, Wineland waited for his opening and slumped Popov against the cage and referee Marc Goddard called the fight off. Impressive showing from a tenured fighting veteran and a harsh debut for Popov.
Bevon Lewis and Darren Stewart waged a back-and-forth battle. It was a very closely contested, three-round fight. I'll be honest, my attention waned during parts of it so I don't have a strong case to make for either winning. It wasn't a bad fight, just not terribly engaging; despite the lack of huge moments of action, both men were exhausted by the conclusion of the bout. The judges were unanimous in awarding the fight to Darren Stewart.
Yan Xiaonan and Angela Hill ended off the early prelims with a solid, back-and-forth fight. The first round ended with X locked in a triangle choke and was literally saved by the bell at the end of the round. The rest of the fight was fairly close, with Xiaonan throwing in much greater volume and landing takedowns that didn't lead to much. In fact, Hill was probably more offensive off her back than Xiaonan was from top position. In the end, though, Xiaonan took the judges' nod.
- Yan Xiaonan def. Angela Hill by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Darren Stewart def. Bevon Lewis by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Eddie Wineland def. Grigori Popov by TKO (punches) 4:47 @ of Round 2
- Kaitlyn Chookagian def. Joanne Calderwood by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
This was easily an A-level show. The whole fight card was littered with good bouts, none of which ended up being a stinker. The pay-per-view main and co-main events both delivered tremendous finishes. Nothing to complain about here.
Published: June 12th, 2019.