Newman’s Take: UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi

-This was the first show of 2013 to be really hit by an injury issue, as originally the main event would’ve seen Sweden’s top fighter Alexander Gustafsson facing off with StrikeForce import Gegard Mousasi, but unfortunately Gustafsson suffered a deep cut in training and pulled out with a week to go. With little time to find a replacement Zuffa called upon the total unknown – even to hardcore fans – Ilir Latifi, and so the show went from arguably a one-match card to probably the least anticipated UFC show in recent memory.

UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi

04/06/13
Stockholm, Sweden

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian. Bit weird to see Goldie doing a Fuel card but no complaints from me as I’m not a hater of his and I prefer him to Jon Anik anyway.

Featherweight Fight: Akira Corrassani vs Robbie Peralta

Peralta had been slowly creeping up the ranks at 145lbs since his 2011 debut, and was looking for another win here to follow up a nice knockout of Jason Young in September, while TUF 14’s top heel Corrassani was also looking to follow up a win – in his case, a controversial decision over Andy Ogle.

Fight begins and Akira circles on the outside and throws some early leg kicks as Peralta stays in the center of the cage and looks to throw heavy shots. Good counter from Corrassani and he keeps on moving. Announcers mention that Akira’s been working with Frankie Edgar’s camp which is interesting as he’s using an Edgar-type gameplan thus far. Beautiful right hand lands for Akira and he dodges out of the way of a counter. Heavy combo from Peralta but Akira clinches to slow him down. Peralta forces him back into the cage and I never noticed before but he’s HUGE for 145lbs. Akira breaks off and pushes forward with a glancing combination. Body kick from Akira but Peralta catches the leg to deliver a knee to the body. Overhand right lands flush for Corrassani. Another one follows but doesn’t land as heavily. Akira is still moving nicely too. Peralta pushes forward with a combo but Corrassani dodges back and lands a counter. Uppercut glances for Peralta. Leg kick lands for Corrassani. One minute to go in the round and Akira shoots on a single leg. Peralta blocks it and they end up clinched, exchanging some short strikes against the fence. Good knee inside from Peralta as they muscle for position, and with seconds to go they break. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Corrassani for me as he utilized nice movement to land the better strikes.

Into the 2nd and Akira remains on his bike, before catching a low kick and clocking Peralta with a hard right hand. Peralta throws some kicks out that don’t really land and Akira connects on his own leg kick. Fans are chanting something but I can’t work out what it is. Combination lands for Akira and he circles out to avoid a big shot from Peralta. Wild hook to the body from Peralta sets up a takedown, and he gets Corrassani down for a second but the TUF vet pops right back up. Good knee inside the clinch from Akira but Peralta breaks with a right. Clipping right hand from Peralta but Akira answers with a leg kick. Combo glances for Corrassani. Good left hand lands for Peralta to end a combination. Another left wobbles Akira badly and he goes staggering back towards the fence. Big knee puts him down and he’s in trouble. Peralta pounds away looking to finish, but Akira does a tremendous job of surviving and gets to his feet in the clinch. Looks like he’s okay as Peralta knees to the legs and only manages to land some really glancing short punches. They exchange some knees from the clinch and muscle for position and now Akira drops for a takedown. He gets a double leg and takes Peralta down for a second, but Robbie pops right back up using the fence. Good knee inside from Akira. They break off and now Akira lands a HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT that wobbles Peralta! Peralta looks in trouble and tries to clinch, but he takes another right and Corrassani starts to walk him down. Crowd are going crazy now. Right hook and a left hand land for Akira and wobble Peralta again, but the round ends before he can follow it up. 10-9 Corrassani in a really close round. Would’ve gone to Peralta had he not got wobbled at the end there.

Third and final round and Akira lands a glancing combo early to back Peralta up. Brief trade follows before Peralta shrugs off a clinch. Right hand connects for Corrassani. Nice leg kick from Peralta. Overhand right glances for him too. Big combination from Akira backs him up though and he follows with a nice trip takedown into the guard. Peralta immediately rolls for a kimura on the right arm, but he’s in an awkward position pinned into the fence and he can’t get it. Corrassani pulls out and passes to half-guard, but Peralta stands. Akira manages to get his back and brings him back down, but Peralta pops up again. Trip puts him back down in guard this time. Pass into half-guard from Akira but Peralta looks like he’s going to wall-walk to his feet. Corrassani passes again though and looks for the full mount. He gets the back, but can’t get any hooks in and Peralta stands. Corrassani keeps a rear waistlock locked on and tries to trip him back down. Good job from Peralta to turn into the clinch and he lands an elbow inside. Good knees from Peralta in the clinch and he muscles Akira into the cage. Akira breaks off and forces Peralta back, and they continue to muscle for position in the clinch. Looks like Corrassani’s cut on his forehead quite badly. One minute to go and Corrassani lands a solid knee and drops for a takedown, but Peralta defends it. Knee from Peralta but he slips to his back and Corrassani settles on top in half-guard. Round ends with Akira on top. 10-9 Corrassani and I’ve got it 30-27. Good fight.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Akira Corrassani. Really impressive showing for him and evidently the move to Edgar’s camp worked as he looked like a completely different fighter from his TUF run as a crude-ish brawler, showing improved movement, footwork, takedowns, striking and ground game, as well as a smarter fight IQ as he was able to change it up in the third and take Peralta down when he started to lose standing. Guy has a bright future in the UFC if he can continue to improve at this rate for sure.

Featherweight Fight: Diego Brandao vs Pablo Garza

On paper this looked like a really exciting fight as both men are well-known for finishing opponents early and in violent fashion. Garza was coming off a win over Mark Hominick while Brandao had beaten Joey Gambino in his home country of Brazil. I was favouring Brandao just because I love his super-aggressive tendencies but it was a close one to call.

First round begins and they circle before Brandao glances with a leg kick. Nice leg kick connects clean for the TUF winner. Head kick is blocked by Brandao. Another leg kick lands for Brandao. Brandao is doing a decent job at closing the distance on the taller fighter. Double jab from Garza backs him up slightly. Combo lands for Brandao. Good leg kick from Garza into a right hand. Jumping knee misses though. Right hand into a left hook from Brandao and he tries a flying knee that doesn’t really land. They clinch and Brandao hits a big slam down into half-guard. Garza quickly gets to a full butterfly guard but Brandao postures up to drop some strikes and works to pass in the process. He gets to half-guard and appears to be setting up for an arm triangle. Garza works to defend but Brandao passes into side mount. Garza keeps squirming from the bottom, but Brandao remains in control and then he manages to lock up the arm triangle. Garza manages to survive for a few moments but it’s too tight and in the end he has to tap out.

Super-impressive performance from Diego Brandao who remains arguably the most dangerous one-round fighter in the UFC at 145lbs. Garza isn’t a tomato can by any means but Brandao blew right through him, showing more patience than he’d done in the past and a smarter gameplan to take the fight to the ground rather than stand with the lankier fighter and deal with the reach disadvantage. Probably his best performance in the UFC thus far in fact. Nice finish too.

Featherweight Fight: Conor McGregor vs Marcus Brimage

This was a prelim taped earlier in the night, with the Irishman McGregor – bringing quite a reputation with him from his days on the smaller circuit – making his UFC debut against Brimage, who had pulled off two solid upsets in 2012 by beating both Maximo Blanco and Jimy Hettes. To add to the intrigue, McGregor had basically done his best Nick Diaz impression at the weigh-in, talking loads of trash and trying to headbutt Brimage for no good reason.

Fight begins and Brimage comes out swinging, and they exchange right away. McGregor looks to be doing a nice job of dodging Brimage’s strikes, though. Leg kick does land for Brimage and he connects on a right hand. Left uppercut fires back for McGregor though and snaps Brimage’s head back. Front kick to the jaw follows but Brimage keeps wading forward. Counter left lands for McGregor and then a pair of uppercuts and a combination drop Brimage HARD and McGregor finishes him off with some super-accurate punches on the ground. Wow.

Talk about living up to the hype – whole fight took about a minute as McGregor just used Brimage’s aggression against him by countering with harder, sharper strikes and once he’d got the TUF veteran hurt it was all over. Zuffa seem to be giving this guy the huge superstar push and it’s understandable with his wild personality – I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone not named Chael talk so much trash – and if he can continue to perform like this then he’ll be a main eventer in no time. Tremendous UFC debut.

Bantamweight Fight: Brad Pickett vs Mike Easton

Like the previous one this was an exciting fight on paper, although both men hadn’t looked great in their last showings if we’re honest, in losses to Eddie Wineland and Ivan Menjivar respectively. As far as a winner went I was leaning towards Pickett as he’s just a little more talented in my opinion, but it was a close one to call for sure.

Round One begins and they clash on a pair of leg kicks to begin. Couple of jabs glance for Pickett as both men show a ton of movement early on. Couple of combinations land for Pickett. Kick from Easton is caught and Pickett gets him down for a second, but Easton reverses right away and forces Pickett into the fence. Pickett manages to turn into a clinch, and the action slows from there as Easton simply forces him back into the cage with a couple of knees. Takedown attempt from Easton but Pickett fights it off brilliantly, popping the crowd. Big elbow lands for the Brit and he follows with another that hurts Easton. Pickett takes the opportunity to switch position and force Easton into the fence. They break off and Pickett lands with a jab. Another jab connects for the Brit and he glances on an uppercut. Head kick misses for Easton. Right hand lands for Pickett. Combo backs Easton up a bit and Pickett shoots. Easton stuffs it and breaks with a knee. Head kick glances for Easton but Pickett lands with a one-two. Combo from Pickett and he avoids a counter from Easton. Right hand lands for Pickett but Easton tackles him to the ground in guard. Pickett kicks him away quickly though and pops back up with a combo. Takedown attempt from Pickett now but Easton defends for a moment before being slammed down. Easton gives his back to try to get up, but Pickett stays on him and tries to drag him back down. Easton blocks but goes down on the buzzer. Tight round but I’d go 10-9 Pickett.

Round Two and Easton lands with a nice overhand right, then follows with a leg kick. Pickett backs him up a bit with some punches and then they trade wildly in the clinch for a second before breaking off. Right hand connects for Pickett. Combo answers for Easton. Takedown attempt from Easton but Pickett blocks it. Good knee from Easton in the clinch but Pickett answers back with a pair of uppercuts. Jab into a left uppercut connects for Pickett. Combinations from both men but Pickett’s slightly getting the better of it. He’s using the jab quite nicely. Knee glances for Easton but he eats an uppercut and a couple of jabs. Takedown from Pickett but Easton pops right back up into the clinch. They exchange some shots inside the clinch and Pickett drops for a takedown and hits another slam. Easton pops right back up but Pickett stays on him like glue. Hard knee lands inside for Easton. Another one follows but Pickett lands with an uppercut. They break off and now Easton hits a takedown into guard. He passes into half-guard and looks to work on a kimura, but Pickett reverses to his feet. One minute to go and Pickett goes for a takedown but Easton stuffs it and backs him up with some punches. Pickett looks tired and Easton clinches and looks for the takedown. Pickett blocks and delivers a knee and a combination on the break. Big uppercut lands and Easton looks hurt, but he fires right back and they trade off wildly until the round ends. 10-9 Easton in another close one.

Round Three begins with a trade of punches and it’s Easton that lands a heavy left hand. Both men have slowed down a lot now and they miss with some strikes. Combination from Pickett as Easton pushes forward. Good knee to the body from Easton. Uppercut from Pickett. Body kick answers for Easton. Combinations connect for both men. Takedown attempt from Easton and he gets Pickett down, but the Brit hits a sick sweep to take top position in guard. That was beautiful. Short elbows land for Pickett and Easton looks a little stuck from his back now probably due to fatigue. Pickett passes into half-guard and he looks to pass that. Easton turns to his side and ends up giving his back, but he stands before Pickett can get the hooks in. German suplex from Pickett puts Easton back down but he pops back up. Pickett trips him down again and then grabs a front headlock in the scramble, looking for a potential guillotine which Easton avoids. One minute to go and they come back up, where they continue to exchange strikes. Right hook lands nicely for Pickett. Easton keeps coming forward but Pickett hits him with a knee to the body to slow him down. Right hook from Pickett but he eats one from Easton on the counter. Good combo from Easton but Pickett fires right back and they continue to exchange until the buzzer. Great fight. 10-9 Pickett and I think the only result is 29-28 for him.

Official scorecards have a split decision; 29-28 Easton, 30-27 Pickett and 30-27 for Brad Pickett to take the win. Well, I really have no idea how you’d have Easton winning that fight but there you go, at least the right guy won in the end. Really fun, closely fought contest with both men giving out punishment and receiving their fair share too. Difference was the third round as Pickett dominated a tired Easton on the ground, but you can’t take much away from Easton either as it was such an exciting fight. Good stuff!

Heavyweight Fight: Matt Mitrione vs Phil De Fries

This felt like an odd fight to make as I figured they’d give Mitrione a tougher fight, but I guess they wanted to throw him a bit of a bone after he stepped up to face Roy Nelson on relatively late notice in December. I couldn’t see him losing here as De Fries hadn’t exactly looked stellar to this point in his UFC run and his striking is his big weak point.

Fight begins and they come out swinging before Mitrione stuffs a takedown. Another attempt by De Fries follows but he goes down off….well, something, and Mitrione ENDS HIS NIGHT by bouncing his head off the ground with punches. I legitimately have no idea what put De Fries down there.

Replay appears to show that De Fries tried the takedown but ducked right into some sort of strike – even the slow-motion shot can’t identify it – and before he could recover, Meathead finished him off. Not much of a fight really with a really strange ending, but hey, Mitrione did what he had to do so you can’t knock him. Post-fight Mitrione talks so quickly that he has to use Chris Lytle as a translator, which is beyond ridiculous.

Lightweight Fight: Reza Madadi vs Michael Johnson

This was another prelim taped earlier in the night, with Sweden’s popular Madadi facing TUF veteran Johnson. The fight also got PERSONAL at the weigh-ins as Madadi flipped out and screamed into Johnson’s face, causing a pull-apart type deal. Always fun.

Round One and they circle before Madadi looks for a clinch. Johnson shrugs him off and they circle out. Leg kick and a right hand connect for Johnson. Right hand answers back for Madadi. Johnson shrugs off another takedown attempt. Couple of left hands connect for Johnson from the outside. Single leg attempt from Madadi but Johnson defends it really well, showing some excellent balance. Madadi manages to switch to a trip though and gets him down into full guard. Short ground-and-pound connects for Madadi and he drops back for a leglock, but Johnson manages to defend it despite a heel hook looking deep at one point. Johnson reverses out and gets into top position in Madadi’s guard, and he begins to land short ground-and-pound of his own. Oma plata attempt from Madadi and he rolls into it but ends up caught against the fence and Johnson manages to escape to get back into top position. Great grappling exchanges here. Madadi attempts a sweep, but Johnson stays on top and lands some punches and as Madadi reverses to his feet, Johnson WAYLAYS HIM WITH A RIGHT HEAD KICK! Madadi CRASHES DOWN and somehow manages to crawl for an ankle as Johnson looks to finish. Johnson lets him up and swarms with strikes, but he can’t finish the wobbled Madadi before the round ends. Wow. 10-9 Johnson.

Round Two begins and Madadi looks recovered pretty much. Johnson surprisingly comes out slowly, but he does brush off a takedown. Couple of glancing strikes connect for Johnson but Madadi gets a rear waistlock and trips him down to take the back and then full mount! Crowd are DEAFENING, really into Madadi. Big elbows and punches from Madadi and Johnson is in trouble. He tries to slip out of the back door, but Madadi remains in control in side mount where he continues to land shots. Johnson manages to escape to his feet somehow and we’re back to standing. Single leg from Madadi and he gets Johnson down into guard again. Elbows land for Madadi from inside the guard as the crowd continue to cheer and chant loudly. Triangle attempt from Johnson is avoided and Madadi passes into side mount. Johnson regains half-guard, but he continues to eat short elbows as the “REZA!” chants are quite loud now. More shots land for Madadi and this is quite the turnaround for him. Crowd seem to be singing Seven Nation Army now which is weird. Round ends with Madadi on top. 10-9 Madadi.

Round Three and Madadi quickly goes for a single leg and forces Johnson into the fence. Trip puts Johnson down but he reverses and almost takes the back before Madadi reverses THAT and gets on top in side mount. Punches land for Madadi and Johnson tries to reverse by going for a leg, but he can’t get out and Madadi continues to land. D’Arce choke attempt from Madadi and he locks it in nicely and rolls into a better position to force the tapout and send the crowd into RAPTURE.

Well, that was a hell of a fight and would’ve been a star-making performance for Madadi, but unfortunately he’s decided to become Sweden’s equivalent to Lee Murray and is now serving time for some sort of robbery involving designer handbags. Sad really. Really good fight, though!

Lightweight Fight: Ross Pearson vs Ryan Couture

Well, when his father once again bit the hand that fed him so many times and jumped ship from the UFC to Bellator, a lot of people expected Ryan Couture to simply be cut from the roster after StrikeForce closed its doors. Instead he asked Dana White to be kept on and so he was given a super-tough fight to debut in the UFC with, against the dangerous Brit Pearson, who had looked back to his best in his win over George Sotiropoulos. I was taking Pearson to win here as I’d never been overly impressed with Couture during his StrikeForce run.

First round and they circle before Couture shoots for a takedown. Pearson stuffs it, but Couture forces him back into the fence in the clinch. Trip attempt from Couture but he can’t get Ross off his feet and they muscle for position on the fence. Good knees inside from Couture but Pearson breaks with an elbow. Couture clinches again though and continues to force Pearson into the cage. Good elbow inside from Couture and he lands a couple of knees too. Pearson can’t seem to shake him off here. Takedown from Couture but Pearson pops right back up. Pearson breaks off and they finally circle out. Pearson begins to stalk forward as Couture circles around, and a head kick glances for the Brit. Front kick to the body from Couture. Spinning kick from Couture lands to the leg, strangely enough. Pearson can’t seem to find his range. Takedown attempt from Couture off a glancing knee from Pearson, but it’s stuffed and they wind up clinched. Good knees from both men and Pearson breaks with a nasty left hook. Good right to the body follows. Couture uses some kicks to keep distance and that’s the round. 10-9 Couture.

Second round and Pearson opens with a stiff jab. He begins to close Couture down and he seems to have found his range as he lands with a pair of right hands and a combination as he shrugs a takedown attempt off. Left hook wobbles Ryan and forces him to shoot, but he can’t get Pearson down. Clinch follows and Couture forces the Brit into the fence, where they exchange short punches and knees to the body. Good right hand breaks for Couture but doesn’t seem to have much effect. Pearson continues to stalk forward as Couture circles on the outside. Good right hand to the body and a short right hook sends Couture back, and another body shot follows. Leaping left hook from Pearson. Takedown attempt from Couture is blocked easily. Left to the body from Pearson. Spinning back kick and a front kick glance for Couture. Pearson answers with a left hand. Another left hook connects for the Brit. Kick from Couture is caught and Pearson sends him down and drops a right hand over the top. Good punches land on the ground and Pearson follows with a kick to the body as Couture stands. Couture might be in trouble here. BRUTAL COMBINATION has Couture badly wobbled and finally he goes down off a BIG LEFT HAND and Ross closes it out with some shots on the ground.

Couture actually did well in the beginning of the fight as he kept Pearson at bay and used the clinch wisely, but once Ross found his range in the second round it was all one-way traffic and the end felt like only a matter of time really. Fun fight and a good win for Ross Pearson – I think the move back to 155lbs from 145lbs has really helped his career as he just didn’t look right at Featherweight and yet looks back to his best now.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Gegard Mousasi vs Ilir Latifi

Well, as I mentioned in the introduction this turned out to be a massively anticlimactic main event, as nobody had heard of Latifi before and his record didn’t exactly inspire excitement. Still, a Rocky story is always somewhat fun I guess and on the plus side for me as a fan of his, it was nice to see Mousasi get a likely showcase win to debut in the UFC with. Every man and his dog was taking Gegard to win here and understandably so. Latifi walks out to the theme from Rocky – what else? – and while he’s described as a wrestler he looks more like a powerlifter, just a stocky, thick dude. Mousasi of course looks as chilled as ever.

Round One and Mousasi opens with a leg kick. Stiff jab lands for Mousasi and stops Latifi as he leans in for a takedown. Crowd are red hot for Latifi. He’s coming up short on his punches though and Mousasi continues to land jabs and leg kicks right from the bat. One-two connects for Mousasi. Mousasi throws a lot of feints and continues to land jabs both to the body and head. Takedown attempt from Latifi is stuffed and Mousasi breaks off. Latifi’s face looks marked up already from the jabs. Leg kick again from Mousasi. Beautiful jab and a straight right connect for the former DREAM champion. More jabs back Latifi up but a big right hook that glances for the Swede pops the crowd. Left hook follows but Mousasi just looks ridiculously calm and he lands with another leg kick. Mousasi’s jab is looking brilliant here. Right hand lands again for Gegard and he easily avoids a takedown. Latifi is beginning to wince as the punches are landing. Mousasi is really hanging his hands too. Total disdain for Latifi’s striking. More jabs and a leg kick and he easily avoids a haymaker. Jab snaps Latifi’s head back. More jabs follow and Latifi tells Mousasi to bring it, but he needs to actually land for it to help him. Round ends with another pair of jabs. Clear 10-9 for Mousasi.

Round Two and Mousasi picks up right where he left off, using the jab and his range to beat Latifi to the punch. Right hand connects to the body for Mousasi. Left hook lands for Latifi but Mousasi seems fine and he continues to work the jab. He’s working in the jab to the body now as well. Big right hand connects for Latifi but again Mousasi takes it and continues to push the action. Latifi’s punches for the most part are still coming up way short. Left hook lands hard for Mousasi and a leaping jab follows. Mousasi’s jab is awesome. Right hand from Mousasi and he sprawls to avoid a takedown and almost takes the back, but Latifi avoids and we’re back to standing. More jabs and a left hand and Latifi’s face is beginning to look messy. Mousasi continues to pick him apart and Latifi is beginning to look lost. Seconds remaining in the round and Mousasi isn’t letting up with the jabs. Round ends with more of the same; stiff jabs to the face. 10-9 Mousasi.

Round Three and Latifi’s right eye is near enough swollen shut. Good leg kick lands for Latifi to counter the jabs early on. Mousasi is still doing a tremendous job of dodging Latifi’s punches though and cracking him with the jab. Wheel kick misses for Latifi but it does pop the crowd. Doesn’t stop him from eating more stiff jabs though. Crowd sound a bit pissed off but I mean, it’s only because their hometown guy is being tooled rather than the fight being bad. Right hand connects for Mousasi and backs Latifi up. Latifi’s face looks like he’s been in a car wreck. Mousasi continues to mix up his strikes, landing the right cross to go with the jab now and it’s got Latifi stumbling a little. Outside leg kick connects too. Latifi tries to fire back with a right haymaker but it doesn’t land flush. Pair of jabs back Latifi up and he appears to be using the fence to work out where he is, which is worrying. Just under two minutes to go. Hard leg kick lands for Latifi but he eats a stiff jab for his efforts. Heavy combo from Mousasi. Mousasi is just picking at him now with beautiful punches from range. Seconds to go and Latifi catches a kick and gets a takedown and the crowd EXPLODE. It’s too late though and Mousasi ties him up from the guard. Couple of big punches get through for Latifi but it’s not enough and he eats an upkick as he stands to drop a right hand. Buzzer goes and that’s it. 10-9 Mousasi and it has to be a 30-27 shutout.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Gegard Mousasi. Post-fight Mousasi reveals he’s carrying a bad knee injury, which would explain his somewhat conservative gameplan, but to be honest can you blame him anyway? It was a no-win situation for him as Latifi was such an unknown and a loss would’ve been devastating to his career, but to win without taking risks like this came off as a bit underwhelming too. From a technical standpoint though this was a masterclass on how to pick apart a shorter, less experienced striker, and I can’t remember the jab being used much better than this in the UFC. I think because of his demeanour Mousasi seems to get a rep as a lazy fighter but I don’t think that’s true at all – he’s such a cold technician that he can fight in that way and still beat the majority of fighters without having to come off as crazy. I was impressed with him here at least. As for Latifi I’m sure he’ll get another go around after bailing the UFC out on short notice, and I guess with an easier opponent he may do well enough to stick around. We shall see.

-Show ends there with Mousasi and his team celebrating.

Final Thoughts….

For what was basically what you’d call a b-show, this was actually a very entertaining card. I mean granted, none of the fights really had much effect on the title pictures or anything, but not all of the shows these days can be stacked and when they’re not, the best you can hope for is a bunch of really exciting fights. Which is what we got here – Pickett/Easton, Corrassani/Peralta and the two aired prelims were really good and Pearson/Couture, Brandao/Garza and Mitrione/De Fries had nice finishes. Main event was a little underwhelming in the end but from a technical standpoint it was really fascinating to watch. Definite thumbs up for this one and it’s worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet.

Best Fight: Johnson vs. Madadi
Worst Fight: Mitrione vs. De Fries

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
[email protected]
The Oratory
TJR Sports

Newman’s Take: UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann

-Well, let’s not beat around the bush – for a Fuel TV show this card was unbelievably stacked – a title fight main event away from being a high-end PPV card, effectively. I actually thought it was weird that they’d put it on Fuel TV where the viewership is pretty low, but I guess it was more like a gift for the Japanese fans than anything else and hey, Fox must’ve been happy as the show ended up shattering the viewing records for Fuel TV anyway.

UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann

03/02/13
Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.

Welterweight Fight: Dong Hyun Kim vs Siyar Bahadurzada

This was a great-sounding fight on paper, although admittedly some of Kim’s fights don’t exactly come off exciting in the end. Still, any fight involving Bahadurzada gets me pumped up – dude is a violent man and had been on the shelf for almost a year prior to this after turning out Paulo Thiago’s lights with one punch. Smart pick was Kim to stifle the Killer with his ground game but I was pulling for Siyar.

Round One and they circle before Kim throws a body kick that connects with Siyar’s arm. Front kick misses for Kim. Siyar looks pretty tentative here. Into the clinch from Kim but Bahadurzada shrugs him off. Right hand glances for the Korean. Head kick is blocked by Siyar. Siyar has the right hand cocked for a counter. Head kick lands for Kim but he slips to the ground and Bahadurzada manages to escape before he’s put on his back. Right hand lands for Siyar and Kim’s right eye looks marked up. Takedown is avoided by Bahadurzada. Good left from Kim sets up the clinch and then he drops for a single leg and gets it. Siyar turns and gets half-guard but Kim immediately passes into full mount. Short punches land to the side of the head and he lands some elbows too for good measure. Looks like Kim might be looking to set up for an armbar, but he gives up on it to land some more elbows instead. Siyar gives his back and Kim gets one hook in as he stands, then slaps on the body triangle. Bahadurzada is in trouble. He manages to hold onto Kim’s right arm though and avoids the choke until the round ends. 10-9 Kim as he totally controlled Bahadurzada.

Round Two and Siyar comes out swinging, but Kim avoids the shots by circling out of range. Counter right hook does connect for Bahadurzada as Kim throws a head kick. Takedown attempt is avoided initially and then Siyar lands a right hand as they separate. Kim comes back with a double leg and lands in side mount. He’s not doing all that much but Bahadurzada can’t get out from underneath him at all. Bahadurzada turns and gives his back again, and Kim gets a hook in and lands some solid punches. He rolls through to take top position again and gets full mount. Kim’s ground game is incredibly powerful. Big elbows and punches land for Kim and Siyar is basically just holding on. Double punches begin to land for Kim and pop the crowd, but mainly he continues to land short elbow strikes. Round ends with Kim in dominant position again and I’d say it’s a 10-8, too.

Round Three and Siyar clearly needs a KO to win this one. He does glance with a right hook and backs Kim up a little, but Kim comes back with a hopping kick and an easy takedown to side mount. He looks for the mounted crucifix and then decides to switch to full mount and Bahadurzada just has no answer, looking totally lost from his back. Kim begins to work for a possible arm triangle choke, landing some knees to the body for good measure. Arm triangle looks sunk and Kim slides out to the side, but somehow the Afghan survives and so Kim slips back into full mount. He continues to look for the arm triangle, then goes back to punching away at the body. Big shots begin to land for Kim and he nails Siyar with elbow after elbow, although it doesn’t look like he’s close to a stoppage. Bahadurzada lands some hammer fists from his back, but Kim allows them and then opens up with some more heavy shots from the top. Bahadurzada manages to escape mount…but Kim gets side mount instead and then takes north/south. Siyar kicks him away, but the fight ends there. 10-8 Kim for a 30-25 (!) on my scorecard.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Dong Hyun Kim. No idea how you could give 10-9’s in each round there as Bahadurzada basically did nothing throughout outside of defending and landing the odd glancing right hand. This was one of the most one-sided bouts I can remember seeing in the UFC in some time and while some would knock Kim for being dull, why wouldn’t he fight like that if he’s against a guy who can’t regain guard from his back?

Featherweight Fight: Rani Yahya vs Mizuto Hirota

Bit of an odd fight to make the main card as I’d totally forgotten Yahya was even under UFC contract – although his last fight was a win over Josh Grispi in August. Japanese star Hirota had made the move over from StrikeForce and was dropping to 145lbs for the first time, and after remembering what he did to grappler Satoru Kitaoka in Sengoku a few years ago I was picking him to win, probably by TKO.

Round One and Yahya throws out some feints as Hirota stalks forward. Overhand right glances for Yahya but he eats a counter right for good measure. Takedown attempt from Yahya and he gets Hirota down for a second before the Japanese fighter pops back up. Yahya stays on the single leg and almost gets the back before transitioning right into an oma plata. Hirota avoids and escapes to his feet, then winds up on top himself after a brief scramble. Into half-guard for Hirota but Yahya reverses into a single leg of his own and takes top position with a beautiful sweep. He gets into half-guard and it looks like Hirota wants to stall it out. Reversal from Hirota allows him to stand, but Yahya drags him back down with a single leg and he lands some solid shots from the top. He looks to work free of the half-guard and then decides to go for a far-side kimura, but Hirota looks pretty calm. Particularly considering he’s a dude who had his arm broken by Shinya Aoki! Hirota avoids that but Yahya passes into side mount and then takes the back to end the round. Clear 10-9 for Rani Yahya.

Round Two and Yahya lands a crude overhand right. Surprisingly Hirota decides to clinch and muscles him into the fence, but when they break off Yahya hits a double leg into guard. He passes into half-guard right away and then ties up both legs, Kawajiri style. Hirota looks to use the fence to stand, but Yahya drags him away from it and continues to work from the top to pass. Arm triangle attempt from Yahya and it looks like it’s sunk in from the full mount. He can’t quite slide out into side mount though as the fence is in the way, and that pretty much keeps Hirota in the fight. Yahya can’t finish it and gives it up, but winds up in full butterfly guard. Yahya continues to work from the top with ground-and-pound as Hirota looks to use the fence to stand, but the Brazilian has a tight top game and keeps him firmly down, passing into half-guard for good measure. More of the same follows and that’s the round. 10-8 Yahya.

Round Three and they circle before Yahya drops for a single leg. Hirota avoids this time and Yahya has to get back up. He is looking a little tired. Hirota stalks forward, but he looks a bit gunshy due to the threat of the takedown. Yahya telegraphs a shot though and Hirota shrugs him off easily. Another attempt ends the same as Hirota sprawls nicely. Another takedown is avoided and Yahya is clearly gassed at this point. Another single leg attempt is more successful though and he gets Hirota down. Hirota tries to reverse and take the back, and then Yahya tries a really odd reversal like a wrestling roll-up, and off the scramble Hirota goes for a triangle choke! He switches to a triangle armbar and it looks tight, but Yahya avoids and slips out to take the back. That was a great exchange. One hook in for Yahya and he drags Hirota down. Hirota manages to shake it off and works to his feet, where he looks for a double leg of his own. He puts Yahya down, and then takes the back where he lands some solid punches to the head before standing. Flying knee misses for Hirota and Yahya dives for a takedown, but Hirota avoids it again and lands some more punches from a front facelock. Yahya looks exhaysted and in trouble, but there’s only seconds to go and he circles out. Combination from Hirota but Yahya clinches and lasts the round. 10-9 Hirota but 29-27 for Yahya overall.

Official scorecards read 29-28 all round for Rani Yahya. Decent grappling-based fight if nothing outstanding, as Yahya totally bossed the first two rounds before gassing badly and almost allowing Hirota back into the fight. Would’ve been better with a finish but this was a perfectly acceptable midcard fight.

Middleweight Fight: Yushin Okami vs Hector Lombard

After Lombard crushed Rousimar Palhares in December this was the fight I was hoping they’d make for him, as I figured his style matched well with Okami’s – in a sense that I thought he’d be able to stuff Okami’s takedowns and smash him up standing, which would be a cool thing. No offense to Okami but Lombard makes for far more exciting fights at the top of the division. Fun fact – the nicknames of the fighters meant this fight was technically THUNDER VS. LIGHTNING!~! too which is unspeakably cool.

First round and Lombard stalks forward right away. Okami circles out and avoids a right hook early on. Combo glances for Lombard. Big low kick from Lombard is caught and Okami puts him on his back in guard. Quick reversal puts Lombard vertical again and he tries a trip, but Okami blocks it and they break. Couple of nice jabs land for Okami as he does a good job of keeping his distance. Lombard fires back with a right hand and a left hook. Big combo just misses for Lombard and Okami ducks under and hits a single leg to half-guard. Okami grinds away from the top without really doing much damage, but he’s controlling Lombard and the round is ticking away. Lombard looks to reverse and manages to get to his feet, but Okami keeps him clinched on the fence. 30 seconds to go now and Lombard can’t seem to break free. Good body shot does connect for him but Okami answers with a knee to the midsection. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Okami.

Second round and Lombard is dropping his hands and trying to egg Okami into trading. Okami doesn’t bite though and stays on the outside throwing the jab. Hard knee into a right hand from Okami. Couple more jabs from Okami and he seems to be beating Lombard to the punch. More jabs follow for the Japanese fighter and Lombard seems reduced to stalking forward and walking into them. Beautiful one-two snaps Lombard’s head back. Lombard comes back with a body shot. Single leg attempt from Okami and he gets Lombard down again and immediately moves into half-guard. Okami chops away with short ground-and-pound and looks to get out of the half-guard, taking full mount. Big pop from the fans for that move. Solid shots land for Okami from the mount but he can’t really open up. Round ends with him in dominant position, though. 10-9 Okami.

Third and final round and Lombard comes rushing out swinging and he lands a couple of left hands early on. Okami looks wobbled and stumbles around, and Lombard follows up with some HUGE POWER HOOKS, looking for the finish! Okami manages to back out and survives, but he still doesn’t look quite out of the woods. Clinch and a knee from Okami but he eats a big left hand. Lombard keeps on swinging and then stuffs a takedown and gets on top in half-guard. He can’t do much from there outside of some short strikes though, and Okami looks for a reversal and goes for a single leg. Lombard avoids though and takes the back to land some punches, but Okami keeps clinging onto the leg to survive. Okami ends up on his back and Lombard settles into the guard to land some more short shots, and then stands back up. Okami gets to his feet and immediately goes for a takedown, but Lombard blocks and they wind up clinched. Knee from Okami but Lombard breaks off and pushes forward. Takedown attempt by Okami is blocked and he pulls guard with about a minute to go. Lombard moves into half-guard but Okami regains full guard and manages to last out the round. 10-9 Lombard but not enough for the decision.

Judges have it 29-28 Lombard (!), 29-28 Okami and 29-28 for Okami to take the split decision. No idea how you’d score that for Lombard but whatever, right man won in the end anyway. Fight wasn’t great though as Okami stifled Lombard for two rounds as he tends to and then while Lombard came out swinging in the third he just couldn’t do enough to put Okami away. I think the drop to 170lbs will do Lombard good as he just isn’t able to be the bully in the UFC at 185lbs. Okami continues to roll but he’s in the Fitch role now where he’s never going to get another title shot, unfortunately, so he’s just a really tricky gatekeeper. Which is cool I guess – someone’s got to do it!

Lightweight Fight: Diego Sanchez vs Takanori Gomi

When this was announced as Diego’s first foray back into the Lightweight division since 2009 I really didn’t know how to feel – on one hand it sounded like an AWESOME fight to see, but on the other hand I hate to see either guy lose and with the flurry of roster cuts in the early part of 2013 I certainly didn’t want to see either man vanish from the UFC. I was taking Diego of course because I never pick against him, but I was hoping to see Gomi look good too so that his job would be safe!

Sad note for Diego – he missed weight spectacularly for this fight, coming in looking out of shape at 158lbs. Word was that he didn’t like the Japanese water or something but who knows really? To say I was worried would be an understatement!

Round One and they circle before Gomi clips Diego with a right. High kick comes back for Diego but Gomi answers with a one-two. Leg kick from Diego but Gomi lands a right to the body. Nice right connects for Gomi. Short right lands for Diego. Nice counter by Gomi as Diego comes forward. Right hand glances for Gomi but Diego catches him low with a kick. Ref calls time and they restart and Diego immediately hits a double leg and stacks up to land some punches, but Gomi quickly scrambles to his feet. Leg kick from Diego. Loud chant for Gomi. Couple of wild swings miss for Gomi. Left body kick from Sanchez. Nice right hand counter lands for Diego. Gomi is really pushing forward now. Left hand glances for the Fireball Kid. Takedown from Diego after taking a knee and he goes for a kneebar, and it looks tight. Gomi manages to slip free though and escapes to his feet again. Couple of jabs from Gomi and he follows with a hard body shot. Exchange continues with neither man really landing anything major before Diego catches a kick and gets a takedown on the buzzer. Super-close round but I’d lean towards Diego, 10-9.

Round Two and Gomi pushes forward with some jabs. Nice right to the body from Gomi and he follows with a right hook to the head. Stiff jab from Gomi. Diego looks like he’s slowed down, surprisingly enough. Takedown attempt from Diego is stuffed nicely. Body shot again from Gomi. Kick connects low for Diego and Marc Goddard calls time and warns him that he’ll take a point if he lands low again. They restart with Gomi continuing to work the jab. Leg kick from Diego. Right to the body and left hook from Gomi. Diego tries to swing back but he’s being outboxed by the Japanese star. Body kick from Diego but Gomi counters with a right hand. Uppercut glances for Sanchez. Pair of inside leg kicks connect for Gomi. Couple of kicks from Diego don’t land but back Gomi up a little. Right hook glances for Diego. Jabs from Gomi set up his right hand. Takedown is stuffed by Gomi and the standing exchange continues. Nice body kick from Diego. Another one follows. Gomi pushes in with a combo, but Diego fires right back. Flying knee misses for Diego. Round ends with a bit of a scramble for the clinch. 10-9 Gomi.

Round Three and Diego comes rushing out but he takes a couple of jabs. Gomi immediately has him circling out by using crisp punches. Nice jab from Diego. Good leg kick too. Punches miss for both men. Body shot lands for Diego. Big swings miss for Gomi. Good right connects though. Front kick glances to Gomi’s face. Stiff right lands for the Japanese star. Nice body kick into a right hand from Diego. Gomi is switching stances a ton here. Body kick from Diego. Takedown attempt follows but Gomi stuffs it again. Kick is caught by Gomi and he takes Diego down for a split second but lets him up. Right to the body and head from Gomi. Seconds left now and Diego charges in for a takedown but Gomi shrugs him off. Counter left lands for Gomi. Both men throw kicks and Diego slips down for a second but pops back up. Flurry from Diego backs Gomi up to end the round. Really close round but I’d call it 10-9 Gomi and 29-28 for him overall. Could see it either way though.

Judges have it 29-28 Sanchez, 29-28 Gomi and 29-28….for DIEGO THE DREAM SANCHEZ!~! Man, to say I was worried when that verdict came in – especially after Diego missed weight and all….whew. I think he dodged a major bullet there as the fight wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as I’d hoped either and a loss in that manner plus missing weight might’ve been trouble for him. In the end both guys seem pretty secure with the UFC which is what I wanted, but the fight was a disappointment in my eyes as neither man seemed at the top of their game. Wasn’t bad or anything but I expect more from a Diego Sanchez fight I guess.

Heavyweight Fight: Mark Hunt vs Stefan Struve

This looked like another fun fight, with the more well-rounded skills of Struve looking to match up with the concussive punching power of the New Zealander Hunt. As far as a pick this was one of those fights that really depended on who could impose their game – if the fight stayed standing then Hunt’s punching power would likely be able to smash through Struve’s somewhat questionable jaw, while if the fight hit the ground Struve had the clear advantage. I ended up picking Hunt just because I didn’t trust Struve to try to take him down.

First round and Struve opens with a head kick that Hunt blocks. Hunt closes in with a one-two and totally walks through Struve’s reach advantage. Good leg kick from Hunt. Left hook and a right to the body follow. Struve isn’t using his reach at all. Another leg kick connects for the New Zealander. Lunging left hook narrowly misses. Good right to the body from Hunt. Left from Hunt but Struve clinches and pulls guard. Beautiful sweep from Struve puts him in full mount and Hunt could be in trouble. Hunt hits a nice hip escape to half-guard though before any damage can be done. Looks like Struve might be working to set up an arm triangle, but Hunt manages to defend it and avoid. Pass to mount from Struve and he opens up with a big flurry that has Hunt covering up. Armbar attempt from Struve and he goes into a belly-down variant, but can’t get it and Hunt gets free to take top position. Good right hand from the top for Hunt. Triangle attempt from Struve but Hunt postures out and drops another right. Another armbar attempt is avoided too. Seconds to go and Struve decides to look for the sweep again, but Hunt avoids, passes into side mount and lands some punches. Round ends with Hunt in control. Close round but I’d lean slightly towards Struve for the ground work; 10-9.

Second round and Hunt pushes in and lands a short right before following with a pair of vicious left hooks that have Struve covering up. Struve manages to stay in the fight but he’s leaning back with his chin up to avoid some of these punches. Couple of jabs land for Struve but Hunt is continuing to walk through his reach. Looping left hook lands again for Hunt and he’s beginning to land more and more. Good body kick from Struve. Nice combo from Hunt. Struve just isn’t using his reach here at all. Into the clinch and Hunt hits a surprising takedown into guard. No idea why he’d do that! Struve immediately looks to set up a possible triangle, then switches off for a leglock attempt. Hunt tries to roll with it and manages to get free, but decides to settle back into the guard. Couple of short hammer fists connect for Hunt in the guard and then he passes into side mount. Reversal from Struve though and he puts Hunt on his back and takes full mount again. Nice punches from Struve and he’s looking to finish. Hunt manages to cover up though and Struve drops for an armbar, but TOTALLY botches it and that allows Hunt to take top position again. Elbows from the bottom for Struve and that’s the round. I’d go 10-9 Hunt there actually as he was all over Struve standing and didn’t get into major trouble on the ground outside of the short period when he was mounted.

Third round and Struve opens with a jab but eats a combo from Hunt ending with a body shot. Big left hook follows, lands flush, and wobbles Struve badly. Struve tries to clinch but Hunt breaks with an uppercut. Both men look gassed suddenly. They both keep swinging and both land, but Struve is still letting Hunt walk through the reach and land combos. Big head kick lands flush for Struve but Hunt eats it. Hunt drops his hands and takes some good punches, but he walks into a left hook that forces Struve back. Hunt is exhausted now but he lands a BIG RIGHT HAND that wobbles Struve badly. He stumbles back and Hunt F------ WAYLAYS HIM WITH A HUGE LEFT HOOK!~! Struve goes DOWN and Hunt walks away before Herb Dean even decides to stop it. Of course, it’s OVER.

Well, that was a really fun fight even if both guys showed their massive limitations. The big difference in the end was that Struve for some reason seemed quite happy to stand with Hunt (despite Hunt seeming willing to go to the ground!) and when you’re not using your reach in the way you probably ought to against a striker the calibre of Hunt it’s always likely to end badly. For Struve it ended REALLY badly as the final left hook actually broke his jaw in a nasty way, but hey, you pick your poison. Big win for Hunt and incredibly this was his fourth straight win in the UFC, which would’ve seemed inexplicable when he first debuted with that awful loss to Sean McCorkle!

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Wanderlei Silva vs Brian Stann

When this fight was announced at 205lbs rather than 185lbs it seemed strange, as neither Wandy or Stann had fought at Light-Heavyweight since 2010, but the rumour was that Wanderlei was considering retirement after the fight and so he didn’t want to cut weight, and Stann was quite happy to oblige him. Despite Stann seeming to have more in the tank than the Brazilian legend, with the fight being in Wandy’s old stomping ground of Japan I couldn’t help but pick him to win and I ended up laying some cash on him too.

Fight begins and they circle with Stann pressing, and they TRADE WILDLY for a second before Stann looks to drop for a takedown. Silva blocks it and lands a knee, and they go SHOT FOR SHOT from inside the clinch and Wandy goes down! He pops right back up and forces Stann into the fence, where they continue to trade knees. Looks like Stann’s nose is bloodied already. They break off and Stann swings a haymaker that misses, and that causes Wandy to grin at him before they THROW DOWN WITH RECKLESS ABANDON and a right hand PUTS SILVA DOWN! He pops up and drives Stann into the fence, but they break off quickly. Another brief trade follows with both men landing. This is AWESOME. Low blow lands for Stann though and the ref has to call time to let Wandy recover. Comical moment follows as Wandy juggles his balls a few times before they restart. Stann’s nose looks F----- UP. Wanderlei seems to be looking to work the jab off the restart, and he lands a nice right hook too. Right hook connects for Stann too. Stann continues to stalk forward and he connects with a hard leg kick. WILD TRADE FOLLOWS AGAIN and this time Wanderlei goes down to a knee but POPS UP AND DROPS STANN FACE FIRST!~! Stann comes back up and FIRES RIGHT BACK to DROP SILVA HARD and he pounces into the guard looking to finish! Holy f------ s---. Silva manages to tie him up and there’s BLOOD EVERYWHERE as Stann is evidently cut bad. Round ends there. Crazy stuff. 10-9 Stann I guess. Trades were hard to PBP as they were so f------ wild!

Into the 2nd, incredibly enough, and Stann comes out stalking again. Big right hand from Stann and Wanderlei counters with one of his own. Another mad trade follows but it’s a shorter one this time as Wandy gets out of dodge. Good leg kick from Stann. Exchange continues and both look a little slower now and rightfully so. Another leg kick lands for Stann. Right haymakers narrowly miss for both men. Leg kick again lands low for Stann and Marc Goddard calls time. We get MORE BALL JIGGLING before they restart and Stann almost walks into a right haymaker. Good right hand from Silva. Stann continues to move around and lands with a glancing right hook. Head kick misses for Wandy. Leg kick from Stann. Silva looks in full counterpuncher mode now. One minute to go and Stann continues to stalk forward. Suddenly a BIG ONE-TWO lands for Wandy and STANN GOES DOWN and some punches on the ground STIFFEN HIM UP!~! Unbelievable.

Incredible fight. Total FOTYC level stuff from start to finish and the first round alone was one of the best rounds of fighting I’ve ever seen. I mean, you got the feeling that Stann could’ve come in with a smarter gameplan and tried to pick Wandy apart ala Rich Franklin, but I guess he knew the fans wanted to see a crazy old-school brawl and he decided to oblige them and these two THREW DOWN LIKE MEN. Tremendous stuff. This turned out to be Stann’s final fight as he retired a month or so back and I can’t think of a better way for him to go out really. As for Wanderlei? He probably should’ve retired after this too – one final triumph in front of his Japanese fans – but he’s chosen to continue, which in a way isn’t surprising as I’m guessing he’ll go out on his shield. Like Chuck Liddell before him, live by the sword, die by the sword. Amazing main event to end the night on the highest high possible.

-And the show ends there with a BANG.

Final Thoughts….

Up to the final two fights this was looking like a bad show, as while Yahya/Hirota was solid enough the other three fights had been really disappointing if not horrible or anything. The last two fights absolutely saved the show though, with Hunt/Struve being a lot of fun and ending in a brutal knockout and of course Wanderlei/Stann turning into one of the wildest brawls in recent memory. Those two fights alone are enough for a thumbs up – just about – but you can probably skip the first four fights.

Best Fight: Silva vs. Stann
Worst Fight: Kim vs. Bahadurzada

Overall Rating: **3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
[email protected]
The Oratory
TJR Sports