Fight Notes: UFC On ESPN 11
Another week, another fight card staged from the UFC APEX facility. After a rough offering for UFC On ESPN 10 (Fight Notes), we got a much better line-up this time around. The heavyweight main event delivered as expected, which is to say it was bad. Otherwise, we got some really good performances and some more fodder for the discussion about how terrible MMA corners are about stopping fights.
This was much closer to a typical, pre-pandemic UFC card in terms of match-ups and performances. We didn't get the slew of squash matches, and the fact that 4/5 of the main card went to the scorecards throws some water on the theory that the smaller cage means more finishes. Amazingly, the quality of the opposition matters.
Jim Miller was, to my shock, a huge underdog to Roosevelt Roberts. Almost immediately, Roberts slipped after throwing a kick and Miller pounced on him. Roberts kept Miller in his guard for a while, but got dragged over to the cage and transitioned to an armbar. Roberts was able to defend for a bit, but then tried to slam his way out and ended up tapping as he just made the hold worse. Jim Miller, folks, still going strong in one of the UFC's toughest divisions; you love to see it, folks.
Lyman Good and Belal Muhammad had a really fun scrap, as Muhammad looked better than ever. For the first 2 rounds, Good could do little more than stalk after Muhammad who was fighting superbly off the back foot. Good was undeterred, and nearly pulled off an upset in the opening minute of the third, rocking Muhammad and swarming him with punches. Muhammad recovered well, despite eating a lot of hard shots in what was Good's best round by far. The fight ended with Muhammad securing a pair of takedowns and closing out the third round on Good's back, with hooks in. All of the judges correctly had it 29-27 for Muhammad.
Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau didn't exactly thrill me. There was a lot of fighting in the clinch, which mostly consisted of Reneau throwing exclusively body punches as she ate knees in return at about a 2:1 losing clip. A tough, grindy fight, with Pennington just bullying Reneau and never giving her an opportunity to assert herself. Pennington took a clear decision win in a fight I can't call underwhelming since I didn't have high hopes to begin with.
The co-main event was simply absurd. On paper, Shane Burgos and Josh Emmett was a pairing that guaranteed violence — as much as one can in MMA. The actual end result was beyond what anyone could have forecast, as Burgos and Emmett went to war for 15 solid minues. Burgos displayed a legendary chin, absorbing countless full-power punches from Emmett, one of the featherweight division's hardest hitters. Emmett took his fair share of strikes, and shrugged them off accordingly. Despite jacking up his left knee in the first 15 seconds of the fight, Emmett managed to outland Burgos and dropped him twice in the final frame. An amazing bout; Burgos was tough as hell and never wavered, but this was a breakout performance from Emmett as far as I'm concerned. Fight Of The Night for sure, and certainly in the Fight Of The Year discussion.
If the words "5-round heavyweight fight" don't get you salivating, you're probably an MMA fan with a basic understanding of the sport. The UFC booked a classic striker versus wrestler match-up, and we got the expected result of a 5-round smothering courtesy of Curtis Blaydes. His opponent, Alexander Volkov, was unable to stuff all but the most laboured and exhausted takedowns — which came late in the fifth frame — and was likewise helpless to extricate himself from Blaydes' clinch and various other control positions. The judges' scores were baffling, this was a clear 50-45 for Blaydes, but the judges were all over the place — there is no argument for giving Volkov a single round except maybe the fifth. They got the winner right, although given Dana White's reaction Blaydes may as well have lost this one; it's going to be fun when they talk contracts next. A deflating main event after an incredible fight prior.
- Curtis Blaydes def. Alexander Volkov by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-46)
- Josh Emmett def. Shane Burgos by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
- Raquel Pennington def. Marion Reneau by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Belal Muhammad def. Lyman Good by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Jim Miller def. Roosevelt Roberts by Submission (armbar) @ 2:25 of Round 1
Courtney Casey had a rough night at the office, getting taken down and dominated on the mat by Gillian Anderson for the entirety of 3 rounds. Just as it looked like Robertson was on her way to notching a cleansweep on the judges' score cards, she saw an opening for a rear-naked choke and forced Casey to tap. The bulk of the fight saw Robertson controlling the position, so I don't think there were any 10-8 rounds, but Casey had no answer for her trip takedowns.
Marc-Andre Barriault mauled Oskar Piechota in a relatively one-sided fight. Piechota looked to be fading by the end of the first round and things didn't get any better from there. Barriault just kept pressing forwared and eventually landed a sequence of a power punches, punctuated with a brual uppercut and ground-and-pound. The fight probably could have been stopped sooner, Piechota seemed visibly defeated well before the finish materialised.
Tecia Torres snapped a 4-fight losing streak, with a hard-fought win over Brianna Van Buren. The first round was hard to score, basically a clinch-fest that Van Buren maybe got the better of. The second round was clearly Torres', as her superior speed, striking and wrestling let her dictate the pace and pressure Van Buren. The third round was more of the same, with Torres backing Van Buren up, shucking off her clinch attempts and shooting for her own takedowns. A tough fight but a clear win for Torres who was somehow a 2:1 underdog against a relatively green fighter.
The featured prelim was a strange bout on paper, with Bobby Green (yeah, apparently he still fights - who knew?) taking on Clay Guida. What transpired was a really fun fight, with Green cruising to a relatively obvious decision win. Guida displayed his usual toughness and tenacity, but was unable to take Green down no matter how persistent he was with his takedown attempts and shots. Green landed quick, accurate strikes from range, countered any significant grappling exchange with guillotine attempts and was never in any danger from Guida's attacks. Bobby Green finally gets a decision to go his way and gets back in the win column. Clay Guida remains a tough out, but is clearly on the decline.
- Bobby Green def. Clay Guida by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Tecia Torres def. Brianna Van Buren by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Marc-Andre Barriault def. Oskar Piechota by TKO (punches) @ 4:50 of Round 2
- Gillian Robertson def. Cortney Casey by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ 4:32 of Round 3
The show opened with a really engaging fight between Austin Hubbard and the debutting Max Rohskopf. The first round saw the ground prodigy display some serious grappling skills, although Hubbard defended well, including a chain of kneebar and heel-hook attempts. The second round is where the wheels started to fall off, for Rohskopf. He opened the second frame strong, but Hubbard was able to stuff takedown attempts and accumulate significant striking volume as Rohskopf tired and his rudimentary defence failed him. Hubbard began to measure body and head shots, interspersing them with hard leg kicks. By the time he took his stool at the end of the second, Rohskopf was defeated. He said "I don't have it," repeatedly, only to be ignored by his corner. Luckily, referee Mike Smith intervened, asked Rohskopf if he wanted to continue and halted the fight when he said 'no.' A harsh debut for a prospect, but he might have learned something about himself and didn't have to take any excessive damage.
Roxanne Modafferi obviously annoyed the UFC brass, as her reward for overcoming serious underdog odds in her win over Maycee Barber is to be buried on the early prelims. Her fight with Lauren Murphy was the typical sort of grindy, mid-tempo kickboxing we tend to see in MMA these days. Murphy had Modafferi on baby giraffe legs with a spinning kick in the second round, but could not seal the deal. Modafferi was unable to secure any takedowns and Murphy was very strong in the clinch, taking down what I thought were 3 clear rounds in her favour. Not a great fight, but far from terrible. Murphy, another UFC misfit, solves their Modafferi problem for them.
Justin Jaynes, who took this fight with Frank Comacho on Wednesday night, got right down to business and swarmed Comacho with power punches, earning a standing KO at just 41 seconds. Herb Dean, of all referees, made a great call in waving the fight off before Comacho took a kill shot — the outcome was already clear. Yet another very quick finish in the smaller cage; credit to Jaynes for not overthinking the moment.
- Justin Jaynes def. Frank Comacho by TKO (punches) @ 0:41 of Round 1
- Lauren Murphy def. Roxanne Modafferi by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Austin Hubbard def. Max Rohskopf by TKO (retirement) @ 5:00 of Round 2
A good show with a main event that took a bit of the shine off the Fight Of The Night performance that came before it. The betting odds for some of the fights seemed way off, and there were many upsets. Overall, very fun to watch and Emmett / Burgos was one for the history books. I'll give it a srong "B+", the 25-minute slog at the end really hurt. I understand why Curtis Blaydes fought the way he did, it just wasn't great to watch.
Published: June 21st, 2020.