Fight Notes: UFC 243
On paper, UFC 243 did not inspire a lot of confidence; clearly a one-fight pay-per-view which would the UFC would have had to cancel if either main event fighter got sick or injured. Luckily that didn't come to pass, but it was a significant risk — especially given the injury history of Robert Whittaker. The preliminary bouts were as entertaining as they were irrelevant to their respective divisions, so the show was fun despite the utter dearth of name value on the card. The co-main and main were both star-making performances for their respective winners. Overall, it was a very fun night of fights.
Seemingly, a Bellator prelim bout managed a sneak its way onto a UFC pay-per-view. Justin Tafa, the hometown fighter, coming in at 3-0, ended up charging right into a killshot after a few skirmishes in the opening minutes of round 1. Yorgan De Castro laid out his opponent and scored a walk-off KO with a one hitter quitter that awed the crowd and instantly won them over; usually there is complete silence when the hometown fighter goes down like that. Yorgan De Castro is proving to be an entertaining addition to the UFC and he wasn't bad on the mic, in his post-fight speech, either.
Dhiego Lima spent 3 rounds outworking Luke Jumeau. It wasn't the best fight, but Lima's performance was very technical and measured. Jumeau held the centre of the cage for almost the whole fight, and plodded after Lima in vain. Lima's striking output was low, however; Jumeau's lead leg got chewed up with kicks to the calf, but Lima was content to stay at range and not push for a finish. His restraint almost cost him, too, as somehow — in defiance of all logic and reason — one judge had it 29-28 for Jumeau. Lima still won, but that should not have been a split. Jumeau did okay in round 1, but was out of his league as the fight progressed and Lima settled in; there is no way to award him 2 rounds, even 1 is a stretch.
In our third fight on the main card, the Tai Tuivasa experiment seemingly came to an end. Ukranian journeyman Sergey Spivac was able to dominate him with repeated takedowns throughout the first round and then tapped him with an arm-triangle in the second after securing full mount. Tuivasa seemed lost on the ground and it was kind of funny hearing the commentary team explain his pre-fight training adjustments as "I lifted more at the gym" basically.
The co-main was a surprisingly one-sided fight. While I expected Dan Hooker to come away with a win, he outclassed Al Iaquinta to a much greater degree than I thought possible. Hooker chewed up Iaquinta's lead leg with calf-kicks, but had difficulty stopping him from landing right-hooks after being forced to switch to the southpaw stance. Still, Hooker was able to keep Iaquinta backing up for the bulk of the fight, peppered him with punches and kicks and busted him up bad. There were a couple of ground-and-pound near finished, but Iaquinta's toughness prevailed. Dan Hooker is the real deal.
The main event was a lot more one-sided than I anticipated. Robert Whittaker came out very aggressive, not frantic but like he was in a hurry to get the fight over. Adesanya was able to keep Whittaker at range and pick away at him. Whittaker landed a few shots but was most lunging at air, and what did land had no noticeable effect. At the close of the first round, Adesanya dropped Whittaker with a beautiful counter hook. The second round went even worse for the defending champion, who started to get picked apart — his face and mouth busting up within the first minute — and then, suddenly, he was KO'ed by a 2-piece counter of right and left hooks. Whittaker stumbled back and collapsed; referee Marc Goddard intervened and Israel Adesanya is the undisputed middleweight champion less-than 2 years into his UFC tenure.
- Israel Adesanya def. Robert Whittaker by KO (punches) @ 3:33 of Round 2
- Dan Hooker def. Al Iaquinta by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
- Sergey Spivak def. Tai Tuivasa by Technical Submission (arm-triangle choke) @ 3:14 of Round 2
- Dhiego Lima def. Luke Jumeau by Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Yorgan De Castra def. Justin Tafa by KO (punch) @ 2:10 of Round 1
The televised prelims opened with a sloppy, but mercifully quick women's featherweight fight between Megan Anderson and a complete unknown in Zarah Fairn. The two locked up very quickly, and a Fair took Anderson down but essentially landed in a triangle choke and proceded to do the exact opposite of defending it properly. Anderson got the tap after Fairn rolled over to her side and was completely stuck in the choke. The grappling from both women was pretty rudimentary, but Anderson still had a significant advantage in that department. Anderson remains the only true 145'er on the roster, so it's going to be difficult for her to get meaningful experience.
Brad Riddell and Jamie Mullarkey had an absolutely crazy fight. The first round was kind of tentative, but Riddell's kickboxing experience showed as he still won the stand-up exchanges. In the second, Mullarkey was able to land a takedown but did very little with it and eventually got reversed. Riddell's pressure was mounting and Mullarkey just seemed out of his league. The third round was the craziest, as Riddell really began to turn it up and land a high volume of shots. Mullarkey rocked Riddell late in the round, but wasn't able to capitalise and took a savage beatdown for the last ~2 minutes of the fight. Two judges had it 30-26, as Brad Riddell made a very entertaining UFC debut. This was an early Fight Of The Night contender and there is no way either of those guys will be paid enough for such a brutal fight. Mullarkey looked to have a broken jaw and his left ear was severely cauliflowered and seemed like it was going to burst at any moment.
Up next was another sloppy, violent mess, as Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender series alumn Maki Pitolo lost a messy brawl with Callan Potter. Initially, Pitolo was having a lot of success, landing almost every punch he threw. Potter absorbed a lot of damage, but was able to clinch and take Pitolo down. As the fight progressed, neither showed any defensive capabilities and Potter continued to beat Pitolo down. It was an action-heavy fight, but felt like the sort of thing you'd expect on a regional fight card. Pitolo is the latest example of a Contender Series fighter looking like anything but UFC-level talent — and more like a body filling a slot in the UFC's relentless schedule.
Jake Matthews and human carpet Rostem Akman ended the preliminary fights with a bit of an underwhelming affair. Matthews did not look anything like a 4:1 favourite, edging out a win with takedowns and mostly non-threatening but dominant grappling. I'll be honest, I wasn't feeling this fight and spent a fair bit of tweeting jokes about Akman's mind-bogglingly dense body hair. Matthews won each round pretty handily, even if there was never a danger of a finish; this was a decent showing but Matthews has not lived up to the hype that he rode into the UFC on.
- Jake Matthews def. Rostem Akman by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Callan Potter def. Maki Pitolo by Unanimious Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Brad Riddell def. Jamie Mullarkey by Unanimous Decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-26)
- Megan Anderson def. Zarah Fairn by Submission (triangle choke) @ 3:57 of Round 1
The show opened with a fun bantamweight fight between Khaled Taha and Bruno Silva. The latter lost the first round narrowly, despite landing 2 groin strikes, Silva couldn't get Taha down. In the second, Taha came out very aggressive and — just like in the first — demonstrated significant power in his strikes, rocking and / or knocking Silva down more than a couple of times. Silva managed to secure a takedown, and spent about 3/4 of the first round with dominant position. It seemed tied going into the third, but Silva was exhausted and wasted the last of his energy on a failed takedown attempt. From there, Taha beat Silva down, stuffing him, taking him down, and pounding him until he surrended an arm-triangle choke. A very slick performance from Taha, who did come in 2 pounds over the 135 limit.
Nadia Kassem and Ji Yeon Kim had a really fun fight. After getting dropped almost immediately following a front kick thrown at the same time as the glove-touch, Kassem managed to keep Kim at bay for most of the first round. The first was fairly conservative, while the second was a much more high volume striking match as Kim began to walk Kassem down and apply endless pressure. There was a terrible referee intervention when Kim knocked Kassem's mouthpiece out, and he paused the action and effectively saved Kassem from Kim who was flurrying her with punches against the case. Nevertheless, Kim persisted and Kassem began to wilt and retreat. In the final seconds of the round, Kim dropped Kassem with a pair of vicious body-punches and ended the fight at the 4:59 mark.
- Ji Yeon Kim def. Nadia Kassem by TKO (body punches) @ 4:59 of Round 2
- Khalid Taha def. Bruno Silva by Submission (arm-triangle choke) @ 3:00 of Round 3
The prelims had some fun fights and great finishes, which offset the fact that this was a weak card even by UFC Fight Night standards with a title fight at the top. Seven of the fighters on this card didn't even have a profile picture by the day of the weigh-ins. The co-main heralded the arrival of a legit up-and-comer at lightweight in Dan Hooker, and the main event cemented Israel Adesanya as the real deal. This show punched way above it's weight, so I'll give it an "A."
Published: October 6th, 2019.