The Rickety Old Shack

Fight Notes: UFC Fight Night 168

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The UFC returned to New Zealand with a fairly interesting fight card on paper, and which delivered an epic throwdown in the main event, a number of violent finishes and a high overall quality of fights. I can't comment on the pacing of the show, as I watched everything the following day — I was too busy watching the Ottawa Senators get crushed in a 0-3 shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens that night. By modern standards, UFC Fight Night 168 was a really good event.

Main Card

Despite scoring a flash knockdown in the opening minute of his fight against Magomed Mustafaev, Brad Riddell ended up winning a grindy, 3-round decision to the Russian, who was able to neutalise him with relentless grappling. Mustafaev was able to dominate Riddell in the clinch — which is where the bulk of the fight took place — and scored 8 takedowns. Riddell won, but the judges were split; I thought Riddell took the latter 2 rounds pretty clearly.

Marco Rogerio De Lima made short work of Ben Sosoli, best known as some of the — to borrow pro-wrestling parlance — "enhancement talent" brought in to make Greg Hardy look good. Sosoli rushed De Lima and got melted with a right-left-right combo in just over a minute. We thank the MMA gods for this fight's brevity.

Yan Xiaonan used 3 rounds to execute a controlled demolition of Karolina Kowalkiewicz, brutalising her with punches and kicks that seemingly could not miss their target. Kowalkiewicz incurred an eye injury in the first round, but the ringside doctor cleared her to continue between rounds, but things only got worse from there. The fight ended on the ground, where Xiaonan controlled position and kept Kowalkiewicz in a purely defensive posture. A completely one-sided mauling by Xiaonan and another tough loss for Karolina, who has been on a bad run since her KO loss to Jessica Andrade.

The co-main event was an utter mauling. Jimmy Crute shot for a takedown immediately and got Michal Oleksiejczuk down to the mat. Oleksiejczuk was able to get to his feet quickly, but Crute was incredibly tenacious from the bodylock position. Crute was eventually able to lift Oleksiejczuk off his feet, take him down again, and then quickly pass to mount and lock-up a kimura to force a tap. A great performance from the Australian.

The main event easily lived up to everyone's expections and surpassed them. Paul Felder and Dan Hooker went to war for 25 minutes, neither man willing to give an inch. The fight was very competitive, but Felder ended up wearing the majority of the visible damage — as is seemingly his custom. I scored the first round for Felder, the second for Hooker, the third for Hooker, the fourth for Felder, and the fifth went to Hooker by a hair. The fight might have been decided, essentially, by the takedown Hooker scored in the last half of the final round.

Both fighters had their moments throughout the fight. In the third, Hooker's counters really started to land, punishing Felder every time he tried to close distance. Hooker's footwork kept him safe from a lot of Felder's advancing shots, as he managed to stay just inches from the very end of his punches. To his credit, Felder refused to yield and was not without his own success in the striking exchanges. Hooker got a lot more flat-footed in the fourth round, and Felder capitalised — landing staggering shots in what was easily his best round.

This was a great fight, but yet another in Paul Felder's career that exacted an immense physical toll. Given his skills as a fight analyst and broadcaster, one has to wonder if Felder should keep doing this — and his post-fight comments make it seem like retirement is likely. His fights are always fun to watch but the cost seems to be really steep. I wasn't intently scoring the fight, as I was too busy enjoying it, but it was fiercely competitive and the numbers bear this out too. Dan Hooker takes a hard-fought decision win in a fight I would have accepted scored either way; a tremendous effort from both men.

Results:

Preliminaries

Women's flyweights Priscila Cachoeira and Shana Dobson opened the show with a very short, violent brawl. Dobson had no real offence, and ended up ducking into a perfectly timed uppercut from an advancing Cachoeira and got starched. A great, highlight reel finish for Cachoeira and another bad night at the office for Dobson.

Filling in on a week's notice, Angela Hill had a very good showing against Loma Lookboonme and ended up taking down a decision win. Hill was able to effectively pressure Lookboonme, threaten an armbar in the second round, and never gave an inch. Hill landed left jabs, straight rights and some standing elbows as she outstruck the accomplished Thai fighter and budding MMA prospect. Hill seems to have really turned a corner, career-wise, over the last year.

Kai Kara-France and Tyson Nam served up another scrappy, competitive decision. Kara-France evaded the bulk of Nam's strikes and tripled his output on the unofficial fight stats. Neither fighter gave an inch, and it was a very close fight, although a clear win for Kara-France. Nam looked sharp, but couldn't land many effective counters and, despite doing the most visible damage, conceded every round.

After a pair of fun decisions, Song Kenan got things back on the violence track with a brutal beatdown of Callan Potter. The Chinese fighter established his striking immediately, peppering Potter with shots, finally dropping him with 1-2 combo and forcing the referee to intervene. Amazing work by Kenan, who made Potter look like a rank amateur.

Jake Matthews and Emil Meek split the first 2 rounds of their fight. Meek's takedown defence was much improved since we last saw him in 2018, and Matthews seemed to be tiring by the midpoint of the second frame. Meek was persistently moving forward, and ate a lot of hard punches for his efforts, but remained undeterred. The third saw Matthews spend a lot of time failing to secure a single-leg takedown, and Meek walked him down for the final 2 minutes — truly a madman with incredible conditioning. Matthews took the decision 29-28 unanimously, thanks to his grappling control and more effective striking.

Jalin Turner steamrolled Joshua Culibao in a round-and-a-half, battering him with knees to the body and punches. In each round, Turner threatened a guillotine choke from mount, but Culibao defended very well. Turner finally earned the TKO after taking 's back and raining down unanswered punches from back-mount. The finishing sequence came shortly after Culibao twisted his ankle — a rough way to end your night.

Zubaira Tukhugov wasted no time, going right after Kevin Aguillar and melting him with a barrage of punches in a little over 2 minutes. Aguillar was dropped twice and swarmed in very short order. Tukhugov gets back in the win-column after a losing effort against Renato Moicano in his last outing. A good, violent end to a solid set of preliminary bouts.

Results:

Easily an A-level Fight Night card. The line-up had a good mix of newer talent and all the fights delivered either violent, quick finishes or quality action en route to the decisions we did get. The main event was showcase of toughness and grit from a pair of very talented fighters and there were no real low points during this event. The UFC's incredibly dense schedule would be easier to handle if this was the baseline quality level.

—by Derek

Published: February 23rd, 2020.