By Richie B
Last night we saw the highly eventful UFC 206 after many hurdles from the main event getting scrapped because of an injury to a last minute interim title fight that turned out to only be for Max Holloway after Anthony Pettis missed weight, we saw one of the best UFC PPV’s of the year and one of the better fight cards of the year in all of combat sports. This weekend wasn’t just about UFC 206, though, we saw Francis Ngannou show everyone why he’s a contender at heavyweight, Villante-Safarov giving fans the slugfests they seem to want on every fight card, and Corey Anderson giving MMA fans some hope that he can become a new face in the UFC‘s Light Heavyweight division.
UFC Fight Night 102
Friday was UFC Fight Night: Derrick Lewis vs Shamil Abdurakhimov. It was a night little event and became the third UFC event to be held in New York, however, it was the first fight night held in New York. In terms of star power, this event would look lackluster on paper but outside of the main event, it was a pretty good event that provided fans with dominant performances and some slugfests.
The main card kicked things off with New York’s own Gian Villante who took on Russia’s Saparbek Safarov in what was a crazy fight. Gian Villante is one of those fighters you like a lot but he’s inconsistent and doesn’t have the best gas tank. Villante is a giant Light Heavyweight with good power and heart. When it comes to Russian fighters, you’ve got two kinds: technical Russians and brawling Russians. Saparbek Safarov falls into the latter. I was initially going with the Russian scoring the upset but in all of his fights, he comes out and brawls before going for the takedown and that’s exactly what he did against the bigger Villante and it cost him big time. Both fighters were committed to throwing down and while Safarov landed his fair share of good shots, it was Villante who rocked then dropped Safarov. Leaving the Russian leaking with blood. Safarov would survive and keep fighting but once he got hit with a good shot, his wrestling wasn’t there for him like it had been for him in his fights outside of the UFC, he was able to stagger Villante a few times but in the end, it was a second round TKO win for Gian Villante. Not the most appealing fight if you like two quality fighters showcasing their technical skill but there’s nothing wrong with a good back and forth brawl even if it is sloppy.
Corey Anderson is probably the confusing prospect in the UFC, it’s tough ever seeing him compete with the elite at 205 but he’s 27, 6’3″, 79-inch reach, and has a good wrestling background. Anderson has all the tools and while he’s got some good performances in his UFC career, he’s looking for that defining win. Anderson’s opponent on Friday was Sean O’Connell, who was on a 2 fight losing streak, and while Anderson put on a dominating performance against O’Connell winning by 2nd round TKO, this fight still leaves Anderson in the same position he was in before the fight. O’Connell has beaten by lesser fighters at 205 but at least Anderson was able to get into the win column, right? All joking aside when it comes to building up a contender, this was a good booking job by the UFC. Anderson lost a close tough fight vs Shogun back at UFC 198 so two losses in a row for him could have been disastrous.
In the main event, you had what many expected to be the man known as “Black Beast” Derrick Lewis’ coming out party but it was anything but that. Five round Heavyweight fights are always risky because most guys at that size don’t have good cardio outside of the elite in the division. Derrick Lewis’ opponent Shamil Abdurakhimov utilized a lot of takedowns on the less mobile Lewis and you could argue that based on UFC scoring Lewis was down three rounds heading into the fourth round. Richie B personally had it two rounds to one in favor of Abdurakhimov, however, Lewis found new life against a tired Abdurakhimov, and was able to stop him in the fourth round in a very lackluster fight. Lewis is a likable fighter and he has fight changing power but it’s tough to ever see him competing with the top guys at Heavyweight. He’ll always have a place in the UFC because of his style of fighting, he should drop a few spots in the Heavyweight rankings, though.
Richie B saved the best for last: Francis Ngannou. This wasn’t your normal dominate performance by a fighter, Ngannou went 100% on his strikes, takedowns, and submission attempts as he submitted Anthony Hamilton in the first round. Ngannou is athletic, strong, and hits hard, not to mention he possesses a lot of technique which is rare at Heavyweight. Ngannou is also 4-0 in the UFC and should draw a top 10 guy next, he’s a killer, and we haven’t seen a guy build himself up like this at Heavyweight since Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
UFC 206 showed once again why the UFC is the premier MMA organization in the world, they lost the main event, had to make an interim title fight on the spot then had to change the stipulation of that because of a fighter missing weight. The result? A great PPV, that left MMA fans be entertained.
UFC 206 Fight Pass Prelims
The undercard of UFC 206 gave fans much to be hyped about, the first fight was in the UFC‘s Flyweight division as we Dustin Ortiz upset Zach Makovsky, despite being #7 ranked this past Saturday don’t be surprised if Makovsky, he hasn’t won a fight in almost two years and was only ranked top 10 because of how thin Flyweight is. Makovsky is game and is good enough for the UFC but there’s no upside in keeping a 33-year-old fighter on a three-fight losing streak that doesn’t garner much popularity. Dustin Ortiz was able to win the first two rounds by winning the battle of wrestling, he was able to control Makovsky and impose his will for the most part and that was the main reason why he was victorious in this one. This was a big win for Ortiz as he was in the same boat as Makovsky even though he is younger. Ortiz-Bagautinov makes a lot of sense and with a win, we could see Ortiz in the top 10 at Flyweight. Jason Saggo-Rustam Khabilov was a lot like Makovsky-Ortiz, it was Khabilov who was able to control the Canadian Saggo en route to a unanimous decision victory for the Russian fighter. After the fight, Khabilov called out fellow Lightweight Kevin Lee in a match-up that Richie B wouldn’t mind seeing, the winner would probably find themselves in the Lightweight rankings. Now onto the highlight of the Fight Pass Prelims: John Makdessi-Lando Vannata. This was a great matchmaking decision by the UFC as both fighters are well versed on the feet, however, it was Vannata providing the highlight of the night when he hit Makdessi with a beautiful wheel kick. Just when you thought Lightweight couldn’t get any deeper, Lando Vannata comes along and almost upsets number 2 ranked Tony Ferguson back in July then gives the fans this kind of finish. Enjoy.
UFC 206 FOX Sports 1 Prelims
The Prelims on FOX opened up with a great performance by Matthew Lopez against Mitch Gagnon, not only did Lopez survive getting dropped in the first round and looking like he was out cold but he came and won the final two rounds including surviving a brutal nut shot in the third. Lopez bounced back from his bad UFC debut while Gagnon looked great for one round then not very good for the final two. If Lopez can clean up his striking then he could be a potential contender at 135. Mitch Gagnon has some slick boxing, he was able to hang with ex-champ Renan Barao a few years back(first fight since) but he’s gotta improve later in fights, he’s now 1-3 in his UFC career when his fights go past the first round. The worst fight of the night goes to; Valerie Letourneau and Viviane Pereira. There’s not really much to say about this one, the fight literally has no replay ability to it.
The Quebec Kid Olivier Aubin-Mercier beat the ever frustrating Drew Dober by submission in an exciting fight between two fighters that do some things well but also have some significant flaws to their games. Both fighters seem to rock each other constantly until Olivier got the sub. Drew Dober has power with some good wrestling skills but his striking defense is still porous, he got lit up by Olivier who still has very robotic striking. It seems like Dober will go down as one of those fighters that you want to see put it all together but he just never quite does. As for Olivier Aubin-Mercier, he’s not quite ready for a ranked guy but another win or two should put him in a position to fight a ranked fighter at Welterweight. Someone needs to tell Richie B how Nikita Krylov is ranked 8 in the UFC‘s Light Heavyweight division… Is it because he’s one of the few young guys at 205 and on a win streak? I don’t know but he should fall out of the top 10 after his performance on Saturday. Misha Cirkunov was able to submit Krylov in the first round so hopefully, they can switch rankings. Cirkunov looks like he’s ready for the top 10 at 205, he’s now 4-0 in the UFC beating two “prospects” in that span.
UFC 206 Main Card
To kick things off on the main card, the put together what everyone thought would be a bloodbath but didn’t necessarily end up that in Jordan Mein vs Emil Meek. Mein is game, he’s a veteran, and has fought some really good fighters whereas Meek is despite being only two years younger the more inexperienced fighter by a long shot coming into this one. Mein won the first round showcasing his boxing ability, however, Mein started to fade as the fight went on. Meek started to find himself as the fight went on winning rounds two and three easily. Richie B just doesn’t see Mein fighting in the UFC again, he was already semi-retired before this and did nothing to show that he should be a UFC level fighter. Emil Meek has his flaws but he’s a heavy hitter and has the fighting mindset that Dana White loves.
Kelvin Gastelum or “El Gordito” as I like to call him in a joking way lit up Tim Kennedy this weekend. This seemed like a make or break fight for Gastelum as he was once again on Dana White’s shit list for missing weight. Kelvin Gastelum is a frustrating fighter because he’s the perfect blend of talent and underdog, however, his weight issues have plagued him. When he’s dedicated and motivated Gastelum is a very good Welterweight, he did fight current Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley to a split decision. Even at Middleweight, he’s quality but he might be too small for the elite at Middleweight. Gastelum was able to survive the early storm from Kennedy before finishing in the third round via strikes. As for Tim Kennedy, he’s 37 and before this hadn’t fought since 2014. Kennedy is still a solid fighter but it seems like his best days are behind and he’s just way too thick to be fighting as he’s put on some more unnecessary muscle. This could have very well been the last time we see Kennedy in the UFC.
Now onto the fight of the fight, fight of the year, the fight of the century, etc. Cub Swanson and Dooho Choi both went to war and neither man would quit. To date, nobody had been able to take shots flush from Choi but Swanson took everything that Choi threw that him and Choi did the same. Both men took a severe amount of punishment that most fighters would have been finished by. This fight was an absolute war and no amount of words will do this fight justice. This is one of those fights that every MMA fan should watch at least 10 times. Cub Swanson is still a top fighter at 145 just in case anyone forgot and this fight should end up being a good learning experience for Choi, he’s fairly young and should improve after this war. Choi looked a little lost when Cub was able to take his best shots, you could tell that he wasn’t expecting Cub to deal with his power but you’re talking about the same Cub Swanson who to date has only been stopped once and that was by Jose Aldo via double flying knee. I would not be opposed to a rematch between Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar since it looks like Max Holloway will be fighting Jose Aldo to officially unify the Featherweight title.
Donald Cerrone vs Matt Brown was like a classic wild west showdown between two gunslingers. There was apparently some bad blood heading into this fight even though it was all coming from Matt Brown but it seemed like he was just doing it for mental warfare in hope that Cerrone would break because of it. Cerrone ended up knocking Brown out in the beginning of the third round with a head kick, however, this all started in the first round. When the fight first began Cerrone opened up with some crisp combinations where he attacked the head and body of Brown because of Brown’s weak body especially his liver, you could see Brown really keep his hands low including having his right elbow in front of his liver. Cerrone landed the head kick quite a few times because of this including the final one. This was a quality fight, at first, it looked like Cerrone was gonna give it away to Brown after a good first round, Cerrone started to look sluggish and stopped mixing up his strikes which allowed Brown back into the fight. However, in typical Cowboy fashion, the fight was over with a bang.
The main event ended up being Max Holloway’s coming out party, despite being on a big win streak, it didn’t feel like Holloway had that one big win that could elevate him in the MMA world, and while Anthony Pettis might not be the champion he once was, he’s still a big name in MMA. It seemed from the start that Pettis was going to have trouble with Holloway, he was having a tough time locating the more energetic Holloway and was just getting outclassed because of it. The second round was even better for Holloway as he dropped Pettis and almost doubled Pettis in both strikes as well as significant strikes. However, the third round would prove to be even worse than the first two as Holloway ended up finishing Pettis with a nice flurry after doubling him in strikes and significant strikes.
After the fight, Pettis said that he was moving back to 155 because of the weight cut to 145. Pettis is insanely talented but he is also insanely flawed and doesn’t seem to have that added fire to his game that most elite guys have, not to mention 155 is still MMA‘s Death Row division. There’s still quite a few good match-ups for Pettis but it might be time to officially say goodbye to the guy we once thought would be the next dominant champ of the UFC. As for Max Holloway, he once again proved that he is indeed the real deal and will now get Jose Aldo to unify the new 145 belt. Aldo proved at UFC 200 that he is still an elite guy when he 5-0ed Frankie Edgar in a flawless performance but Holloway is younger and has all the physical tools to give Aldo a very tough fight. It’ll be interesting to see if we see a changing of the guard when those two fight.
Overall it was a great weekend of fights that should have left fight fans happy. We saw fighters make a name for themselves, highlight reel KO’s, back and forth wars, submissions, etc. This next Saturday, Richie B will return when I review UFC Fight Night: Sacramento at the new Golden 1 Center when Paige Van Zant takes on Michelle Waterson in what should be a great fight. Well, this was the first installment of “Richie B Reactions” this will be the descendent of my “Richie B Speaks” by yours truly, Richie B. I hope you enjoyed.
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