Fight Notes: UFC 244
Taking place at Madison Square Garden, in New York, UFC 244 — the promotion's 500th live event — had a legitimately stacked fight card. From the early fights, through the entirety of the televised prelims, violence abouned. We got some good, high-level fighting and a succession of violent finishes. THe pay-per-view portion featured more violence and some interesting results. The main event was marred, somewhat, but a doctor's stoppage but overall UFC 244 was a huge success. We saw some prospects derailed, and a whole lot of finishes, making for a really entertaining night overall.
Picking up right where the prelims left off, Kevin Lee took 2 minutes and 47 seconds to dismantle and knock out Gregor Gillespie. Lee's speed and reach was a huge problem right away, and he was able to land on Gillespie early and often. In the finishing sequence, Lee got inside Gillespie's jab and blasted him with a right and a left kick to the head. In his return to lightweight, Lee looked very impressive. The fact he also moved his fight camp to Tristar Gym also looks to have helped, as Lee gets back on the winning track and upsets a very talented prospect in the process. How Gregor Gillespie bounces back from this loss will tell us a lot about his future in the sport of MMA.
We finally halted the streak of finishes as heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Blagoy Invanov turned in a decent back-and-forth fight that went all 3 rounds. Lewis, looking a bit more fit than usual, landed a lot of hard shots that barely seemed to faze Ivanov. Each round consisted of Lewis throwing big single shots and getting taken down periodically. Invanov used a combination of judo and wrestling to get Lewis to the mat, and fished for a keylock a few times, but Lewis was able to get back to his feet every time. I had Lewis winning rounds 1 and 2, and gave Ivanov the last round as he seemed to be wearing Lewis down with clinches and his disturbing ability to absorb punches to the head. Lewis took down a split decision and delivered a typically vulgar post-fight speech. Bless this man.
Stephen Thompson made a successful rebound after a pair of harsh losses. Vicente Luque's rampage through the welterweight ranks was finally halted, although it took a huge effort from Thompson to persevere. Luque more than held his own in the stand-up, but Thompson used superior speed and his ability to endlessly switch stances to rack up a lot of damage over the course of the fight. Multiple times, Thompson had Luque staggered and reeling, but couldn't end the fight. Luque's toughness was absurd, but ultimately wasn't enough to win him the fight. Stephen Thompson looked great, he took a lot of stiff shots — so concerns about a diminished chin seem unfounded at this point — and he handily defeated a surging prospect in his division. I suspect Vicente Luque will adjust after this setback, meanwhile Thompson serves notice that he's anything but done.
Darren Till made a successful middleweight debut, although things got a little dicey when the first score that got read off was a 30-27 for Kelvin Gastelum. In in all honesty, their fight was a lot closer than that, but Till definitely won. Gastelum was unable to deal with the brutal leg kicks and power of Till, and had difficuly closing distance except to clinch and waste time. Till was measured and landed a greater volume of strikes, even if Gastelum was the one pressing forward in a lot of instances. The first round was close, but I had it for Gastelum, and gave Till the final two. There is no way you can defend a 30-27 score for Gastelum. The cards were all over the place; never change MMA judging — never change. Als o, I have to give Darren Till a lot of credit for his composed performance and adjustments during the fight, it looks like middleweight is the right place for him, and he might be able to demonstrate the talent that was often hinted at down at welterweight.
The main event was pretty much what I expected in my Pre-Fight Thoughts article (link). Jorge Masvidal was just too quick and too accurate with his boxing. Nate Diaz, as per usual, showcased an iron chin and absorbed a lot of damage without just folding up and conceding the fight. Masvidal ate a few good shots here and there but, for the most part, picked Nate apart and won almost all of the clinch battles. Late into the third round, Nate seemed to be getting somewhat of a second wind, though Masvidal didn't let up whatsoever. When the ringside physician stopped the fight between rounds, I was livid; I am still shocked that the main event ended the way it did.
I had Jorge Masvidal up 3 rounds to zero, going into the fourth, but Nate was far from done. While it wasn't exactly the same circumstances, this outcome reminded me a lot of when Nate's brother Nick got a similar loss against KJ Noons at Elite XC: Renegade almost exactly 12 years ago. The cuts Nate had around his right eye were pretty bad, but not the sort of thing you'd expect a UFC fight to be stopped for. The ringside doctor for this fight, right or wrong, seemed a lot more trigger happy than one would expect. This was a really disappointing way to end the fight. Even though I had Masvidal winning anyway, to have the potential for a Diaz comeback taken away by an arguably overzealous ringside physician is a huge kick in the dick.
- Jorge Masvidal def. Nate Diaz by TKO (doctor stoppage) @ 5:00 of Round 3
- Darren Till def. Kelvin Gastelum by Split Decision (27-30, 29-28, 30-27)
- Stephen Thompson def. Vicente Luque by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
- Derrick Lewis def. Blagoy Ivanov by Split Deciison (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
- Kevin Lee def. Gregor Gillespie by KO(head kick) @ 2:47 of Round 1
Jairzhino Rozenstruick need 29 seconds to leave Andrei Arlovski face-down, unconscious in the cage. A terrifying performance for the heavyweight prospect and a brutal loss for Arlovski, who has been in the twilight of his career for some time now. There's not much else to say about such a quick fight, but Rozenstruick has some very quick, accurate hands — especially for a heavyweight.
The violence continued as Edmen Shahbazyan utterly demolished Brad Tavares in approximately half-a-round. Shahbazyan hurt Tavares with several hard punches and had him backing away, into the cage. Shahbazyan disguised a left high-kick perfectly and put Tavaeres out cold. An incredible breakout performance from Edmen Shahbazyan, running through a talent like Brad Tavares with such ease. Shahbazyan's striking looked sharp and deadly accurate, I'm extremely interested in seeing how he develops over his next few fights — there is serious star potential here.
Making a very uncharacteristic second appearance within a calendar year, Makwan Amirkhani ended turned in a strong first round against Shane Burgos. "Mr. Finland" managed to damage Burgos' left eye with a right hand and spent a lot of the first round ragdolling him with takedowns. Unfortunately, this seemed to completely exhaust Amirkhani who began to fade considerably throughout the second and third rounds. By the final minute-and-a-half of the fight, Amirkhani was breathing heavily and barely able to get back to his feet when they would seperate. Burgos brutalised him with body shots, eventually dropping him with punches low and high. Amirkhani looked good but his conditioning problem remains unaddressed and will limit him severely at high levels of competition.
In the featured prelim, touted prospect Johnny Walker was utterly wrecked by Corey Anderson. While he no longer beasts 25/8, Anderson was pinpoint accurate with a barrage of brutal right hands. Walker was rocked several tmes and dropped repeatedly before the referee stepped in. In a shocking turn of events, pre-fight dancing and quick KOs over middling opponents aren't terribly reliable indicators of talent. Anderson looked good, Walker proved to be mostly hype; we'll see how Walker bounces back from this. Anderson might be next in line to fight Jon Jones, and by fight I mean get smashed by.
- Corey Anderson def. Johnny Walker by TKO (punches) @ 2:07 of Round 1
- Shane Burgos def. Makwan Amirkhani by TKO (punches) @ 4:32 of Round 3
- Edmen Shahbazyan def. Brad Tavares by KO (head kick) @ 2:27 of Round 1
- Jairzhino Rozenstruick def. Andrei Arlovski by KO (punch) @ 0:29 of Round 1
The opening featherweight fight between Hakeem Dawodu and Julio Arce was a great primer for the rest of the card. It was a strategic striking battle, which Dawodu got the better of throughout all 3 rounds, landing a lot of distance strikes and knees to the body in the clinch battles. Arce had some meager success in the second round, taking Dwaodu's back and pulling him down to the mat, but he couldn't hold him for long before Dawodu reversed the position and moved to full-guard and then back to his feet. Arce was always in the fight, but I can only make a case for giving him the third round, as he was landing a lot more than in previous rounds and Dawodu was slowing down a bit. I have no idea how the judges had it as a split decision, but at least they got the winner right.
Chance Rencountre looked like he was going to survive to lose a 3-0 decision to Lyman Good, but in the final minute of the fight he ended up getting his nose severely broken and dropped with a straight right. Good was dominant throughout most of the fight, landing hard shots and in high volume for the first round, and kept up a good pace — while dialing back the power — in the second. Rencountre showed absolutely no head movement, as per usual, and this time it caught up with him. The finishing sequence was brutal, and reminded me a lot of when Robbie Lawler demolished Rory MacDonald. This was a huge win for Good, in what was only his third fight since signing with the UFC in 2015.
The early prelims closed out with a fairly typical Kaitlyn Chookagian fight, as she soundly outstruck and outpointed Jennifer Maia en route to a unanimous decision win. Chookagian didn't exactly run away with this fight, but Maia spent a lot of the fight just plodding after her, missing a lot, and taking shots in return. Maia took a solid beating but kept pressing forward, but aside from this vague moral victory this wasn't a very close fight. Chookagian retains her spot as the top-ranked women's flyweight, and should theoretically be challenging Valentina Shevchenko next for the title.
- Kaitlyn Chookagian def. Jennier Maia by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Lyman Good def. Chance Rencountre by TKO (punches) @ 2:03 of Round 3
- Hakeem Dawodu def. Julio Arce by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
The UFC's 500th event delivered an incredible night of fights. The prelims were a showcase in ultra violence, and the pay-per-view did its best to deliver top notch fights. Everything, save for the main event was given a chance to deliver the goods. Unfortunately the main event was ended after 3 rounds due to — what I conisder, at least — to have been an over eager ringside doctor. Nate Diaz was not having a good night, but he wasn't finished either. I feel like this ending is what the UFC gets for trying to crown a 'BMF' champion. That said, UFC 244 was still an A-level show.
Published: November 3rd, 2019.