Fight Notes: UFC On ESPN 1
The debut edition of UFC On ESPN 1 was a strong card with a few issues, but overall a good show. The main card featured an incredible Fight Of The Year contender, the co-main event was a tense, tactical battle, and the main event was saw a quick finish — even by heavyweight standards. I was unable to watch the undercard, and will append my thoughts on those fights to this article at a later date. For what I did see, I thought the show was good — a lot better than the tepid offering of UFC 234.
Francis Ngannou def. Cain Velasquez by TKO (punches) @ 0:26 of Round 1
This was short and anything but sweet; Cain Velasquez shot for a takedown and it looked as though his knee gave out. Replays revealed a short uppercut from Ngannou that actually landed first, Cain then dropped to the mat in visible pain, covered up, and was flurried by Ngannou. The referee correctly ended the fight just 26 seconds into the first round. Francis Ngannou picks up another quick finish, while Cain Velasquez goes 0-2 in major TV network debuts — once again getting wrecked almost immediately. It's unfortunate to see this play out as expected, the safe bet was that Cain was / is shot and this fight didn't definitively prove it, but it made a strong argument for it.
Paul Felder def. James Vick by Unanimous Decision (29,28, 30-27, 30-27)
Vick and Felder waged a very competitive three-round fight. Felder worked tirelessly to chop down Vick's legs, while his opponent did well to avoid backing himself against the fence and getting blasted. Felder's leg-kicks really began to add up, by the third round Vick was visibly limping and switching stances often. Felder landed several perfectly timed spinning elbows, but Vick's chin somehow managed to hold up. The strike totals were fairly close until the third round, where Felder really started to pull ahead. It was a good, tactical fight, but one that Felder won handily. Vick's defence, or lack thereof, was his downfall. Post-fight, Felder called out the winner of Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje, like a maniac.
Women's Strawweight Fight
Cynthia Calvillo def. Cortney Casey by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
This was an entirely unremarkable, middling kickboxing match that just happened to take place in a cage. Calvillo was able to get the better of the exchanges, but nothing of consequence transpired throughout the 15 minutes this fight stole from me. Not the worst fight I have ever seen, not even close, but given the intensity of the previous fights this was utterly forgettable.
Kron Gracie def. Alex Caceres by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ 2:06 of Round 1
Making for a very impressive UFC debut, Kron just walked Caceres down, moved in for a body lock, transitioned to Caceres' back and then dragged him to the mat. It took the young Gracie about 30 seconds to lock down a very tight rear-naked choke and forced the tap. Caceres looked completely outclassed for the entirety of the fight's brief duration. It's still a bit hard to believe that this was also Gracie's professional MMA debut. I know it's only 1 fight to go on right now, but Kron looks like a promising featherweight prospect.
Vicente Luque def. Bryan Barbarena by TKO (knees and punches) @ 4:54 of Round 3
This fight was simply absurd. Barbarena ate countless punches that would have KO'ed almost anyone else, and kept coming forward. He dropped Luque in the first and almost finished him, before getting his back taken and almost choked out in a rear-naked and then an anaconda. The second round saw Barbarena rally better, taking a lot of hard punches but landing combinations of his own. Luque dropped Barbarena with a knee late in the second, but I still gave it to Barbarena to tie things up heading into the third. The final round was even crazier than the first two, as both men just wailed on each other for almost another 5 minutes. In the final seconds, Luque was able to land a pair knees to Barbarena's chin which dropped him to his knees, and a series of follow-up punches earned a last-minute TKO for Luque in what was easily a Fight Of The Year contender.
Andre Fili def. Myles Jury by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
The story of round one was Fili's jab, which was used to piece-up Jury for most of the five minute stretch. Bleeding from a likely broken nose, Jury was able to briefly stun Fili with a backfist and follow-up punch, but Fili recovered and landed a hard shot of his own in the closing seconds of the round. The second round went pretty much like the first, except Jury was able to drop Fili in the last 2 minutes of the round, and take full mount position. Tied going into the third, Fili looked to have the superior conditioning and continued to put on a jab clinic, while Jury accumulated a lot of undefended shots to the head. I had it 29-28 for Fili — who coasted easily through the last round — as did all 3 judges.
Aljamain Sterling def. Jimmie Rivera by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Almost all of the first round was spent clinching against the cage. I gave the round to Aljo because he spent more time holding Rivera against the cage, nothing else really happened. We got another solid 2 minutes of clinching in the second, before Aljo switched gears and began throwing wild punches and kicks. Rivera landed a few punches of his own, but was mostly confused and stifled by Sterling's unorthodox, but extremely fast strikes. Sterling picked up right where he left off in the third, keeping Rivera at bay with kicks and fast, looping punches. Rivera got a brief takedown — he was attempting a guillotine just as the round ended — but never had Sterling in any danger. Rivera just got outclassed by Sterling's absurd athleticism; he didn't lose to crisp technique, he lost to a guy who is gifted enough to get away with really unorthodox stuff.
Catchweight (140 lbs) Fight
Manny Bermudez def. Benito Lopez by Submission (guillotine choke) @ 3:09 of Round 1
After a very brief feeling-out process on the feet, Bermudez closed the distance and grabbed ahold of a body-lock. It didn't take long for Bermudez to ragdoll Lopez down to the mat and take his back. Lopez defended well, and even got back to his feet for a bit. He never broke free of Bermudez' grasp, however, and got dragged down with a guillotine attempt. Lopez defended the first choke, but Bermudez adjusted and eventually got the choke cinched in and earned the submission win. Bermudez' grappling is really, really sharp; Lopez did well to defend but just could not keep up with his opponent.
Women's Flyweight Fight
Andrea Lee def. Ashlee Evans-Smith by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
The first round was all Lee, who was able to land effective punches when she pressed forward and was able to counter Evans-Smith on the majority of her strikes. Lee continued to pile up the volume on Evans-Smith throughout the second, mixing shots to the body and head and wearing her down. Evans-Smith briefly secured a takedown in the second, but Lee rose to her feet almost immediately and continued to press her assault. The third was more of the same, with Evans-Smith showing off a high capacity for taking punches, but not being able to put together any truly effective offence. Lee was busier, with better footwork, more accurate shots and easily took all 3 rounds for a clear decision win.
Nik Lentz def. Scott Holtzman by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Both wrestlers had decent success in the stand-up, though neither was able to take the other down and keep them on the mat. The first round was the closest. The second round was very similar, with Holtzman landing more body kicks this round, and neither managing to secure takedowns yet. I had it tied going into the third. Both fighters seemed very tired in the final round, and Lentz kept spamming takedown attempts but couldn't do anything with them, even when he did get Holtzman to the mat briefly. The last round was quite close, I gave it to Holtzman for landing more strikes and doing more damage but I guess the judges saw fit to reward Lentz' control of the position and his forward pressure. A decent wrestle-boxing match.
Fight Pass Prelims
Catchweight (138 lbs) Fight
Luke Sanders def. Renan Barao by KO (punches) @ 1:01 of Round 2
The first round was a fairly even striking match, though I gave the edge to Sanders. Barao looked decent, but kept getting caught with the same left-hand shots over and over. Sanders took some return fire, but otherwise seemed to be remaining composed. The second round ended quickly and violently; Sanders, heeding his corner advice, started landing counter-rights and more left-hands, eventually dropped Barao and knocking him out with some brutal ground-and-pound. Barao looked okay until the end, but he's definitely looking every bit like a fighter with almost 50 bouts to his name. Big win for Luke Sanders, easily the most significant of his career thus far.
Women's Strawweight Fight
Emily Whitmire def. Aleksandra Albu by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ 1:01 of Round 1
A very brief fight, Whitmire immediately took Albu down and fought in her guard for about a half-minute. As Albu scrambled back to her feet, Whitmire jumped on her back and quickly locked up a rear-naked choke — leaving Albu no choice but to tap out. A very nice, quick win for Whitmire.
Published: February 18th, 2019.