The UFC Heavyweight Division is in complete disarray after both the Overeem vs. Arlovski Fight Night card and UFC 198. While I predicted shake ups, if I’ve learned anything about the UFC it’s to expect the unexpected.
UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Arlovski
Of note on the preliminary card, past UFC Flyweight (125lbs) title contender Kyoji Horiguchi and rising Lightweight (155lbs) Rustam Khabilov picked up Decision victories.
The main card did not disappoint, as there were fireworks and stoppages aplenty prior to the legendary meeting between MMA icons Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski in the main event. 3x Kickboxing World Champion, Muay Thai World Champion, and 37-0 in Kickboxing Germaine de Randamie did not disappoint, improving to 3-1 in the UFC Bantamweight division on the power of a nasty knee to the body.
Anna Elmose, her opponent, was much shorter and attempted to take the fight (wisely) to the ground. Elmose was somewhat successful pressuring de Randamie on the cage, but all-the-while, de Randamie was landing strikes in-close. Once de Randamie got space, it was all her as she completely overwhelmed Elmose with her striking prowess, finishing her with a masterful Muay Thai clinch.
In the next fight, UFC fan-favorites (5-1 UFC) Albert Tumenov and (5-2 UFC) Gunnar Nelson squared off in the Welterweight (170lbs) division. While it was slated as striker vs. grappler, I’m a big fan of Gunnar Nelson if only because of his no-BS personality and overall-fighting style (this includes his strikes). He employed some beautiful takedowns and set-ups before he got the stoppage.
In the co-main event of the night, 28-year old, 7ft UFC veteran (10-6 UFC) Stefan Struve shocked the crowd when he rocked Antonio “Big Foot” Silva in under 20 seconds.
Silva has been on a potentially dangerous streak of losses since he was sanctioned for elevated testosterone back in 2013. Entering the fight, Silva was 3-5-1 in the UFC with four T/KO losses in his last six fights. Struve’s KO makes it five T/KOs in Silva’s last seven fights. Hopefully Silva keeps his health in mind. As for Struve, hopefully he can continue to progress (as he has continued to). He is the only man to ever finish the new Heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic.
In the main event of the evening, two legends squared off as Arlovski and Overeem put on a show. While Arlovski came out quickly and put a lot of pressure on, it was Overeem’s technical prowess that would lead to his victory.
The weekend after Overeem stopped Arlovski, the division was rocked again and UFC fans were given a spectacular show. Early on the card, Antonio Rogerio Nogiuera handed Patrick Cummins his second straight loss, stopping Cummins on his feet, to the elation of the Brazilian crowd.
Also on the prelims, John Lineker picked up a decision to make it two-straight wins since he returned to the Bantamweight (135lbs) division. He had trouble with missing weight at Flyweight (125lbs) in the past.
(4-2 UFC) Thiago Santos landed a huge win as he was able to stop a UFC veteran in Nate Marquardt. Including this loss, Marquardt is now 2-5 in the UFC since he returned to the promotion in March of 2013. Similar to Big Foot Silva, I would hope Marquardt keeps his health in mind going into the future.
Jiu Jitsu master Demian Maia fought Matt Brown in a highly-anticipated bout, particularly after Matt “The Immortal” Brown's antics led to the over-involvement of the Brazilian fans during the pre-fight. That said, the always classy Demian Maia continued to masterfully use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in MMA as he tallied 3:36 in “control time” in the first round as he maintained back control on Brown for much of the round, wearing Brown down with submission attempts and annoying punches directly to the face. In the second round, Maia kept to the same strategy: get the takedown and take his back. By the third round, Maia’s persistence would earn him the submission victory.
On to the main card, The Ultimate Fighter 19 winner and 5-1 Corey Anderson (who picked a sloppy win on the UFC 196 card) had a real test in MMA legend and former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Mauricia “Shogun” Rua. In the first, Rua got to his striking way earlier, but by the latter half of the round, Anderson started to exchange successfully with Shogun. However, opening up his offense led Anderson to essentially get into Shogun’s game, and Shogun dropped Anderson big time at the end of the first round. In the second, Anderson sought to employ his wrestling to nullify Shogun’s strikes and for the most part was winning the round. But Shogun was able to drop Anderson again (and arguably stole the round) toward the end of the second. Into the third, Shogun began to coast as Anderson kept to the wrestling strategy and beat up Shogun a little on the cage, but it was to no avail as Shogun picked up a split decision victory (29-28x2, 28-29 for Shogun).
In the much anticipated debut of Cris “Cyborg” Justino to the UFC, she did not disappoint. A tough and game Leslie Smith gave Cyborg all she could, but Cyborg dominated the fight to say the least. I hope the Cyborg vs Ronda Rousey fight comes to fruition.
In the co-main event of the evening, 5-1 Ronaldo Souza returned after a split decision loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 194 (where Romero tested positive for a banned substance) and took on (the post-TRT) Vitor Belfort. After some initially tentative exchanges, Souza forced Belfort to the cage, eventually securing the takedown. Souza put on heavy ground and pound that would eventually force the referee to call the doctor to check Belfort’s now bleeding and cut face. On the restart, Belfort would find his feet, but Souza would again get him to the cage. Belfort pulled guard and it would cost him as he had no answer for Souza’s ground-and-pound which led to the TKO stoppage for Souza.
Fabricio Werdum sought to defend his newly-unified heavyweight title against the new-age Stipe Miocic. Unfortunately for Werdum (who was the first man to stop MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko), Miocic was game for all Werdum had to offer on the feet and it cost him the title.
A big point that Joe Rogan, Brendan Schuab, and Bryan Callen covered on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast ep. 799 was the possible fact that Werdum’s Kings MMA camp instilled a certain value of tagging an opponent back for landing. Prior to the KO punch that leveled Werdum, Miocic answered a double-jab with the same right-hook to stumble Werdum. Werdum would subsequently rush Miocic with his chin up. It was lights out after that.
"I'm the World Champion!"
On To The Next
It is likely that by the time this is published, UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Garbrandt will have completed. Interesting fights on that card include:
Sara McMann vs. Jessica Eye: both women are on two-fight losing streaks. My wrestling bias leads me to choose the 4x World/Olympic medalist in McMann.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Lorenz Larkin: both men here are coming off split decision losses (Masvidal to former UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson and Larkin to tough Albert Tumenov). The winner here gets to advance in the welterweight rankings.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Rick Story: Saffiedine enters the fight fresh off a victory over Jake Ellenberger in January while Rick Story returns after a layoff that stretches back to October of 2014.
Renan Barao vs. Jeremy Stephens: in the co-main event, the former UFC Bantamweight champion in Barao takes on Jeremy Stephens, who was 1-1 in 2015 and coming off a loss to surging star Max Holloway. Renan Barao moves up to Featherweight (145lbs) as he comes off his second career loss to TJ Dillashaw in the Bantamweight title-fight last July.
Thomas Almeida vs. Cody Garbrandt: at the top of the card, 21-0 Thomas Almeida takes on 8-0 Cody Garbrandt in a bantamweight scrap between undefeated fighters.
*UFC records reported are prior to the conclusion of the reported fight.
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