Fight Notes: UFC On ESPN 7
After a 2-week break from fight cards, the UFC broadcast schedule resumed with an incredibly violent offering in UFC On ESPN 7. The event had an unsettling tonal contrast as the broadcast alternated between violent MMA fights and poignant stories about lives lost to cancer. The UFC was running a donation drive for the V Foundation, in honour of deceased ESPN broadcaster Stuart Scott. It was a commendable effort, it just came off awkwardly; there were some uncomfortable interviews with fighters and even a promo — complete with heart-tugging piano music — in the middle of the main event! It was also jarring to go from Ben Rothwell decimating Stefan Struve's testicles to a somber eulogy for Walt Harris' stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, who was murdered by an escaped convict (story).
Opening the main card was a serious contender for Fight Of The Night, as Rob Font and Ricky Simon split the first two rounds of a very, very close fight. Rob Font was able to stifle the Simon's wrestling game after a bit of trouble early in the first round. Font picked up the second frame and peppered Simon with jabs consistently throughout the fight. The third round was practically split down the middle, but Font was much more effective as he took the second half of the round with superior striking and excellent takedown defence. Font correctly took the unanimous decision but both men looked great in this fight.
Cody Stamman was able to grind Song Yadong down and, after taking an illegal knee in the first — which rightly cost Yadong a point — slowly began a process of overwhleming his Korean opponent. Yadong's striking was very good, but Stamman was undeterred and his conditioning is absurd, as he was able to keep shooting and taking Yadong down throughout the fight. By the third round, Stamman was able to keep him down and begin working ground-and-pound. I had Stamman winning 29-27, but somehow the judges had it a majority draw — probably one of the worst scores in MMA this year.
Aspen Ladd and Yana Kunitskaya was 2 rounds of women's bantamweight action that played out like a bad heavyweight fight. There was a lot of clinching against the cage, and Ladd had periods of success on the ground, but would get very wild and inevitably lose positional control. The second round was more of the same, and things were probably tied by the end of it. Ladd's corner gave her rousing pep talk, the gist of which was "punch her in the fucking face" being repeated over and over. Unorthodox though it may have been, it worked; Ladd walked out, threw a 2-piece combo and dropped Kunitskaya on her back. From there, Ladd swarmed on her and unloaded a barrage of punches and elbows that earned a TKO.
Up next were heavyweights Stefan Struve and Ben Rothwell. What transpired was a typical (i.e. bad) heavyweight fight that also included Struve absorbing a pair of devastating kicks to the groin. Both kicks looked extremely painful, but Struve opted to continue the fight anyway. This proved to be a bad decision, as Rothwell was able to stun Struve in the final 20 seconds of the fight and land enough follow-up punches to force referee Dan Margliotta to wave the bout off. That Struve ended a brief retirement, only to come back and get kicked in the dick twice, underscores the sardonic streak of the MMA gods. I feel like this was foreshadowed by the pre-fight show celebrating Keith Hackney demolishing the groin of convicted rapist and murderer Joe Son. I also question what Margliotta was doing, telling Struve "you're likely up 2 rounds" as he was recovering from the second low blow, when taking the disqualification win would have been very prudent.
The co-main event was a fun scrap between Cynthia Calvillo and Marina Rodriguez. The latter picked up the first 2 rounds, landing some brutal strikes to Calvillo's body and bullying her in clinch positions. To her credit, Calvillo remained calm and staged a huge comeback in the third round, taking Rodriguez down and nearly finishing her with ground-and-pound on several occasions. Rodriguez did little more than survive the third round, but she did manage to do so. The fight ended up being scored a draw, which seems correct given how liberal the judges were with 10-8 rounds throughout the night. Calvillo needs to either sort out her weight cut issues or — more logically — move up to flyweight.
The main event was a shocking spectacle to behold. Alistair Overeem was cruising through 4 rounds, taking Jairzinho Rozenstruick down twice and controlling him on the ground for the bulk of 2 rounds, and outstriking him in a conservative kickboxing match for the rest of the fight. Even in the fifth frame, Overeem seemed to be on his way to a 50-45 decision victory when he began to fade in the final minute and found himself dropped with a brutal 1-2 combo in the closing seconds of the fight. Overeem got back to his feet, but stumbled around, and revealed a horrifying injury — his upper lip was mangled and barely hanging off his face. I made a prediction something like this would happen.
Rozenstruick pulled it off at the last possible second, and showed some definite holes in his game. Still, he was able to stay composed and pounce on Overeem as soon as he displayed any vulnerability. It's also a rough loss for Alistair, who was putting together another good run at a title shot, as he incurs a grotesque injury and racks up his 14th KO loss. Rozenstruick called out Francis Ngannou in his post-fight interview, which would be an interesting fight for as long as it lasted.
- Jairzinho Rozenstruick def. Alistair Overeem by KO (punch) @ 4:56 of Round 5
- Marina Rodriguez vs. Cynthia Calvillo by Majority Draw (29-28, 28-28, 28-28)
- Ben Rothwell def. Stefan Struve by TKO (punches) @ 4:57 of Round 3
- Aslen Ladd def. Yana Kunitskaya by TKO (punches) @ 0:33 of Round 3
- Cody Stamman vs. Song Yadong by Majority Draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
- Rob Font def. Ricky Simon by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
After almost 5 years away from MMA, Matt Wiman looked every bit like someone who used to fight a long time ago. Newcomer Joe Solecki dominated the whole fight, taking Wiman down, pummeling him with ground-and-pound and utterly outgrappling him. Wiman was outstruck 118-14, and had 7 seconds of top control to Solecki's 12 minutes. At the end of the fight, Wiman seemed incredibly sour, was talking a lot of trash at Solecki and left the cage without acknowledging him. It was a good debut for Solecki, but Wiman looked like fighting is the laat thing he should be doing at this point. There was no reason to even send Wiman out for the final round, but this is MMA...
Up next, Bryce Mitchell mauled Matt Sayles for 4 minutes before locking him in a twister and notching only the second win in UFC history via that submission. Sayles was outclassed completely, and was on his way to dropping a 10-8 round to Mitchell before he was submitted. Mitchell went on to spoil the mood a little bit, cutting a pro-Donald Trump promo before exiting the cage.
The one-sided contests continued as Billy Quarantillo pistol whipped Jacob Kilburn for the better part of 2 rounds before finally locking up a triangle choke for the win. Kilburn had nothing for Quarantillo, dropping an arguable 10-7 first round before he was battered and submitted for the majority of the second frame. Kilburn was beaten so soundly, I'd recommend taking stock of the realities of continuing to fight professionally. Kilburn showcased a huge threshold for pain but was utterly outclassed in all respects. Quarantillo looks like a legit prospect, whereas Kilburn is absolutely not UFC calibre — and may never be.
More violence ensued, as Thiago Alves started off strong against Tim Means, leaving a footprint in his left obliques. Means maintained his composure, however, and dropped Alves with a brutal counterpunch. From there, Means followed Alves to the mat, rained down a flurry of ground-and-pound and then quickly locked up a guillotine choke against the cage. A stunning victory for Tim Means and another tough loss for Alves, who should perhaps consider calling it a career at this point.
- Tim Means def. Thiago Alves by Submission (guillotine choke) @ 2:38 of Round 1
- Billy Quarantillo def. Jacob Kilburn by Submission (triangle choke) @ 3:18 of Round 2
- Bryce Mitchell def. Matt Sayles by Submission (twister) @ 4:20 of Round 1
- Joe Solecki def. Matt Wiman by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Makhmud Marudov put on a striking clinic against Trevor Smith. After battering Smith with a solid lead jab and vicious body shots throughout, it looked like Marudov was on his way to his second win via decision in as many UFC fights. And then, in the final minute, Marudov hit Smith with a right to the body, then a left and finished the combination with an overhand right that knocked Smith's mouthpiece out, spin him around and faceplanted him on the canvas. A savage KO win for the Uzbek, in a fight he was easily winning all 3 rounds.
Vina Jandiroba was able to pick up a UFC win, after an unsuccessful debut against Carla Esparza earlier this year. Jandiroba was able to take Mallory Martin down with relative ease, though her opponent showed some respectable defence in the first round. In the second, however, Jandiroba — whose stand-up looked pretty janky — was able to quickly take Martin down, transition to her back and secure a fight-ending rear-naked choke.
- Vina Jandiroba def. Mallory Martin by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ 1:16 of Round 2
- Makhmud Marudov def. Trvor Smith by KO (punch) @ 4:09 of Round 3
I have to rate this as an A-level event. The main card dragged a little, from the midpoint onward, but the main event ended with a finish — and a horrifying facial injury. Rob Font and Ricky Simon had a really fun Fight Of The Night, and there were so many violent finishes, including the second submission via twister in UFC history. A good event to end a 2-week draught in UFC fight cards.
Published: December 8th, 2019.