Fight Notes: UFC On ESPN 14
The final card on the "Fight Island" slate of events, UFC On ESPN 14 also served as a dumping ground of sorts, for fights that were scrapped previously. The pacing of the undercard was actually very brisk, despite the number of bouts.
Referee Herb Dean had a bad night, drawing the ire of the commentary team in light of 2 egregiously late stoppages during the preliminary bouts. Both Paul Felder and Dan Hardy were varying levels of upset with the veteran referee who has been experiencing these lapses more and more frequently as of late. He wasn't removed from the card, though, and officiated the main event without incident.
After having fought just 10 days ago, at UFC On ESPN 13 (Fight Notes), Khamzat Chimaev simply walked down Rhys McKee, put him against the cage, dragged him to the mat and beat him mercilessly until referee Leon Roberts finally stepped in. McKee would have been lucky to have only lost 10-8, had he somehow survived the round.
Alex Oliveira had a really good showing against Peter Sobotta, hurting him with stinging body kicks early, and keeping him at the end of his kicks for the majority of the 15-minute affair. The second round was punctuated with trifecta of fouls, a pair of low blows and an eye-poke, but no points were deducted (because MMA). Oliveira dropped Sobotta at the very end of the second round, but threw kicks for the majority of the fight. Sobotta just could not get into range and ceded every round to the Brazilian. A composed effort in victory from a notorious brawler who tends to fade in fights.
Gadzhimurad Antigulov made the brilliant decision to take Paul Craig down and fight in his guard. This, as is custom, ended with Craig locking up a triangle choke on his hapless opponent. I will never tire of these submissions or the hubris of those who continue to dismiss Craig's abilities. Antigulov's UFC tenure has been horrendous and has almost certainly come to an end with this loss.
Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez had a bit of a weird back-and-forth fight. Esparza's wrestling was the story of the fight, taking Rodriguez down each round, although she wasn't able to do much with it. Rodriguez cut Esparza's left eyelid early in the fight, and landed some damaging elbows from the bottom. The second round saw Esparza control the position from the top, but went for a baffling ankle lock which gave Rodriguez an opening to land some significant strikes. The third raw was a blanket-fest for Esparza. I had it 29-28 for Rodriguez, because Esparza didn't do much except nullify her opponent but I'm fine either way.
Alexander Gustafsson's forray into the heavyweight division did not go well. Fabricio Werdum, who has looked terrible in his last few fights, easily dove for a leg, then latched on to the back of a fleeing Gustafsson, and quickly transitioned to an armbar. It took 2.5 minutes to force the tap, and the fight was done. Gustafsson's 'defence' has always consisted of turning his back and running away and, again, it hasn't worked out for him — just ridiculous.
The co-main event was a spectacle, but expectedly so. Both Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Mauricio Rua looked every bit their ages (44 and 38 respectively), and the fight was a tepid, slow-motion re-enactment of their last encounter in 2015, at UFC 190. I had them splitting the first and second round, with "Shogun" winning the first and "Lil Nog" taking the second. The final round was also difficult to score, largely due to the lack of activity, but it probably should have gone to Nog. The judges were split, awarding Rua the win and a clean sweep in their trilogy of progressively worse fights. Lil Nog retires, and hopefully "Shogun" joins him in this, although I doubt it — combat sports don't work like that.
The main event was a very slow, calculating battle from both Darren Till and Robert Whittaker. They split the first 2 rounds, with Till scoring a knockdown with an elbow, and Whittaker scoring his own with a right-hand counter. The third round went to Till, as Whittaker forgot how to deal with his range again. Whittaker then spent most of round 4 kicking Till's lead leg as he circled away. The fifth round was close, but another Whittaker round in my books. Till sliced open Whittaker's ear at the end of the round but got taken down in a round he did little else in. I had it 48-47 for Whittaker in an uneventful fight that I don't want to see ever again — it was a bad contrast of styles.
- Robert Whittaker def. Darren Till by Unanimous Decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
- Mauricio Rua def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Fabricio Werdum def. Alexander Gustafsson by Submission (armbar) @ 2:30 of Round 1
- Carla Esparza def. Marina Rodriguez by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
- Paul Craig def. Gadzhimurad Antigulov by Submission (triangle choke) @ 2:06 of Round 1
- Alex Oliveira def. Peter Sobotta by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee by TKO (punches) @ 3:09 of Round 1
Mike Grundy and Movsar Evloev had a tense first round, with Evloev narrowly escaping an anaconda choke before taking over the rest of the round. The next 2 rounds of the fight saw Grundy get more and more tired and discouraged as his takedowns whiffed on nothing but air. Evloev's wrestling is still a weakness, but he was able to land strikes at range, swelling Grundy's eye and winning a decision 29-28 at worst, I gave him all 3 rounds.
Tom Aspinall needed just 45 seconds to TKO bloated middleweight Jake Collier, ending his dalliance in the heavyweight division. There's nothing else to say, the fight was something that didn't even need to be booked in the first place. I'm just glad it was brief, Collier is absolutely not a heavyweight — he was way out of his league here.
In a clash between a pair of fighters on their second UFC stint, Nicolas Dalby tried to walk down the natural lightweight fighting at 170 pounds. That didn't end up working out so well, as Ronson was able to parry or block strikes, drop Dalby with a counter-left and coax out a rear-naked choke with some heavy ground-and-pound elbows. Dalby looked like he was in a rush, while Ronson was able to bide his time and secure a quality, bonus-worthy win. Ronson finally notches a UFC win, avoiding a fate like John Alessio, after being the victim of 3 split decision losses in the past.
The catchweight tilt between Francisco Trinaldo and Jai Herbert was a little bit of everything. Trinaldo took the first round, damaging Herbet to the body, taking him down and threatening submissions. In the second, Herbet drops him with a big right hand immediately, and the fight is even after a bloody brawl. In the final round, Trinaldo summons a second wind and starts landing leg kicks and crosses. At one point, Herbert moves in, Trinaldo slips a punch and lands a counter directly on his temple. Herbert staggers back and collapses, completely unconscious. Trinaldo is able to stroll up, loom over him and hold his punch for a second while Herb Dean just stood there. After some needless follow-up punches to an oblivious Herbert — and screams from the commentary team — the fight is finally waved off. Dan Hardy and Herb Dean ended up having a heated argument, with this being the second lapse in judgment Dean had in the night. Replays only made Dean's performance look worse. The stoppage ended up overshadowing an impressive in-fight comeback from a 41 year-old veteran.
- Francisco Trinaldo def. Jai Herbert by TKO (punch) @ 1:30 of Round 3
- Jesse Ronson def. Nicolas Dalby by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ of 2:48 Round 1
- Tom Aspinall def. Jake Collier by TKO (punches) @ 0:45 of Round 1
- Movsar Evloev def. Mike Grundy by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
The night's first bout saw Nathaniel Wood cruise to a 30-27 decision over last minute replacement John Castaneda. The fight wasn't a total blow-out, but Wood's superior striking and footwork allowed him to handily win each round. They both exchanged a lot of leg kicks, but Wood was landing a lot of head strikes and body shots. A very diverse striking performance from Wood — he countered very well.
Ramzen Emeev and Niklas Stolze had a fight, that's about all you can say about it. Emeev pressured Stolze back against the cage and controlled him with a strong clinch game and little else. Stolze had a few jumping guillotine attempts that had precisely 0% chance of success. Both fighters combined for no more than 50 total strikes. A 30-27 for Emeev that was easier to score than it was to watch.
Former bantamweight title contender Bethe Correira was physically present in the cage for her fight with Panni Kianzad. Correira did her usual bit, where she lumbers forward trying to tank shots and land power punches and labourious takedowns. Kianzad was able to keep Bethe on the end of her punches for most of the fight, save for a slip in the second round that allowed Bethe to fight in her full guard for a bit. Correira landed 1 significant left hook, but that was it. 30-27, both women had marked up faces but Kianzad was the clear winner.
Our final early prelim was a heavyweight fight that managed to not be abysmal, and it also ended the streak of decisions we'd had up to this point. Tanner Boser was able to use superior footwork and striking to eventually solve lumbering ogre Raphael Pessoa. In the second round, Boser slipped a lazy right-hand and cracked Pessoa in the eye. The huge Brazilian backed against the cage, grabbed his eye in visible paid and fell to the canvas. Pessoa turtled up and Boser swarmed with heavy punches. Herb Dean took his sweet time waving off the fight, continuing his slide into incompetence.
- Tanner Boser def. Raphael Pessoa by TKO (punches) @ 2:36 of Round 2
- Pannie Kianzad def. Bethe Correira by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Ramzan Emeev def. Niklas Stolze by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Nathaniel Wood def. John Castaneda by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
A strong "B+" show to end the Fight Island festivities. The main event was lacking in fireworks and the co-main event was just downright sad, but everything else was entertaining. The fact a 15-fight card didn't feel like an eternity if both praise for this show and condemnation of some of the other 'shorter' fight cards in the last year or so.
Published: July 25th, 2020.