Fight Notes: UFC On ESPN 2
Starting off as yet another underwhelming, decision-heavy event, everything felt slow and laboured, even the pacing of the event which seemed to revert back to a FOX Sports 1 feel at times. The co-main event began at 9:30pm, EST, and luckily ended in under a minute, however. The main event ended just before 10pm which, I will have to admit, was somewhat impressive. It would have been amusing to see UFC run late and cut into Top Rank Boxing's show that aired after. There are a number of gripes about this card but, again, the main event salvaged the night in spectacular fashion.
Sodiq Yussuf and Sheymon Moraes had a good fight, but they ended up kind of stalemated throughout most of it. Yussuf almost ended the fight in the final minutes of the third round, but Moraes was able to recover from a devastating punch and even escape full mount. Still, Yusuff did enough to win the final round and the fight itself. A good fight, even if it was yet another decision. The 29-28 score was ... something.
Paul Craig and Kennedy Nzechukwu were on their way to waging what was easily the worst, most awkwardly uneventful fight of the night. Nzechukwu was docked a point for repeated fouls which culminated with a really bad eye-poke in the third. Paul Craig, who had been shooting for takedowns all fight — to the point that his knees were horrifyingly raw and bloody from friction against mat — managed to secure a last-minute armbar. This is the second time Craig had pulled off a submission like this, and he continues to amaze me as he is consistently outclassed in his fights and yet he snags another win here.
Michelle Waterson was able to blank Karolina Kowalkiewicz over 3 rounds, outstriking and outgrappling her. In the second round, it looked like Waterson had an armbar secured but somehow, displaying frightening flexibility, Kowalkiewicz was able to maneuver her way out. Aside from that moment, Kowalkiewicz was outclassed but never in danger of being finished. Another solid win for Michelle Waterson, who looked like she might be on the downturn when she racked up back-to-back losses in 2017. It seems like she'll be getting the next women's strawweight title shot, after Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade fight at UFC 237. It also looks like Kowalkiewicz's title ambitions may be permanently shelved after accruing her second loss in a row.
Michael Johnson and Josh Emmett spent the bulk of their 3 rounds landing less-than 50 combined strikes. Johnson was clearly winning each round, although the fight was very low-action and frustrating to watch. Then, out of nowhere, in the final minute of the third round, Emmett landed a killshot and KO'ed Johnson before he even hit the ground. A shocking end to what was otherwise a terrible fight. Michael Johnson continues to baffle me... In the next fight, Jack Hermansson needed just 48 seconds to submit David Branch with an arm-in guillotine choke. Branch's downward spiral continues, racking up another harsh loss.
The main event was short and sweet; Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza didn't disappoint, opting to start off by trading full-strength leg kicks. Gaethje kept Barboza backing up, staggered him early but needed another minute or so to find an opening, knocking Barboza out with a right hook as he circled off the fence. Gaethje looked great and, thankfully, didn't absorb too much damage in this fight. It was short, sweet, and extremely violent — as promised.
- Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barboza by Knock Out (punch) @ 1:30 of Round 1
- Jack Hermansson def. David Branch by Submission (guillotine choke) @ 0:48 of Round 1
- Josh Emmett def. Michael Johnson by Knock Out (punch) @ 4:14 of Round 3
- Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Paul Craig def. Kennedy Nzechukwu by Submission (armbar) @ 4:20 of Round 3
- Sodiq Yusuff def. Sheymon Moraes by Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
The prelims opened with Kevin Holland and Gerald Meerschaert engaging in a baffling display of fight IQ. Holland gave up position repeatedly, and they spent the first 2 rounds trading submission attempts in a display of horrible grappling. The third round was mostly spent against the cage, although Meerschaert did manage to get a takedown and probably won an otherwise boring round. The fight went from sloppy fun to difficult to watch. Holland was awarded a split decision, which I don't have a problem with, the 30-27 for Holland I don't.
We finally got a reprieve from the weirdness and lack of action as Kevin Aguilar shutdown Enrique Barzola for the bulk of their fight. Aguilar's boxing was really sharp and I especially liked his body work. Barzola did well to fight back in the third, and I gave him that round but it wasn't enough to win the fight. Aguilar looks like someone to keep an eye on, moving forward.
In keeping with the strange nature of the fight card up to this point, Desmond Green actually finished a fight. Ross Pearson didn't look great, and once Green saw an opening he shot for a takedown and pounding Pearson out as he failed to defend his head as he tried to get back to his feet. Pearson took a lot of punches, but couldn't get free from Green and the referee correctly stepped in to end the fight. Green looked every bit the 4:1 favourite he was, and Pearson should probably give some serious consideration to hanging up the gloves.
The featured prelim started off competitive, with Jessica Aguilar managing to take Marina Rodriguez down and almost submit her with an armbar. Rodriguez lost the first round, but still managed to cheesegrate Aguilar's face with some short elbows. For the rest of the fight, Rodriguez just put a beating on Aguilar — to the point that a stoppage between rounds 2 and 3 would have been acceptable. Rodriguez' stand-up looked good, as she demolished an incredibly tough Jessica Aguilar 29-27 on my scorecard.
- Marina Rodriguez def. Jessica Aguilar by Unanimous Decision (29-26, 29-27, 29-27)
- Desmond Green def. Ross Pearson by Technical Knock Out (punches) @ 2:52 of Round 1
- Kevin Aguilar def. Enrique Barzola by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Kevin Holland def. Gerald Meerschaert by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Fight Pass Prelims
The event opened with a fair of mediocre fights, as Alex Perez was able to outgrapple Mark De La Rosa for 2 rounds, and then they decided to have a low-grade kickboxing match for 4 minutes of the final round. Perez easily won a fight that wasn't great to watch. Next, Maryna Moroz handily outstruck Sabina Mazo over the course of their fight, although there was never any feeling that a stoppage was imminent.
Ray Borg and last-minute replacement, Casey Kenney, had a good back-and-forth, wrestling-intensive fight. The fight was very close, although I felt Borg won the first 2 rounds, and likely conceding the third to Kenney. The judges all scored it for Borg, which was a bit of a surprise to me, and one judge turned in an indefensible 30-27 score. An unfortunate outcome for Borg, who also forfeit 20% of his purse for missing weight; after a run of 6 cancelled fights, former flyweight contender takes a questionable loss in his UFC return.
- Casey Kenney def. Ray Borg by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Maryna Moroz def. Sabina Mazo by Uanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Alex Perez def. Mark De La Rosa by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Another C-grade event, with a small number of highs and a lot of unremarkable fights otherwise.
Published: March 30th, 2019.