The UFC couldn’t have been happy when they received the news that their co-headline fight had to be called off due to Khabib Nurmagomedov being taken to the hospital due to issues with cutting weight. This left them with a very big hole to fill on their main card and coming off the disappointment that UFC 208 was for many fans, it would be a tough one to do. But some people really stepped up their game and created a few surprises for fight fans. I think it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that not a lot of people were thrilled by the “action” that they saw in the main event, but the rest of the fights on the main card were pretty good.
#3 Alistair Overeem (41-15) vs. #8 Mark Hunt (12-11-1)
Mark Hunt fighting in the UFC is something I really didn’t expect to see again, especially not when he’s suing them and Brock Lesnar, but apparently he still had fights left on his contract and a payday is a payday. This fight was about what you’d expect from Hunt and Overeem. Hunt busted his shin open on Overeem’s knee in the first round, but kept throwing kicks throughout the fight sending blood flying everywhere. Overeem looked to be in much better shape and did a decent job of using his reach advantage and proved that his chin isn’t as weak as many have said it is. This was an okay fight, there weren’t any highlight reel punches being thrown. The end came in the third round when Overeem got a visibly winded Hunt against the cage and hit him with a Muai-Thai knee to the head that had Hunt out on his feet. A quick shot followed and Hunt was left sprawled out on the mat. Overeem is now clearly back in title contention and will likely be on the short list of contenders to take on the winner of Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 in May.
Cynthia Calvillo (3-0) vs. Amanda Cooper (2-2)
The women’s strawweight division match got bumped up to the main card and Calvillo made quick work of Cooper. I wish I could say more about this fight but it ended really quickly and Calvillo was just so dominant with both striking and grappling that there isn’t a whole lot to say. After a short feeling out process Calvillo was able to get Cooper down, worked her way to the back and got the submission via rear-naked choke in about 3 minutes.
Rashad Evans (24-5-1) vs. Daniel Kelly (12-1)
Evans making his debut in middleweight against a fighter that on paper isn’t really known for his striking. I said in my preview article that I thought the UFC might have picked Kelly, who is a great fighter and was 5-1 as a middleweight coming into the fight as a way to perhaps give Evans a tune up and see how he would do after being off for nearly a year. The fight certainly didn’t play out the way it looked like it would on paper. Kelly, a southpaw, was throwing a lot more volume in rounds 1 and 2, and was able to land a lot of nice combinations despite being the “slower” fighter. Evans wasn’t nearly as active as he needed to be in the first two rounds and seemed like he didn’t have a solid game plan to compete against the methodical Australian. He didn’t throw nearly enough kicks in my opinion to keep Kelly at distance and he didn’t attack Kelly’s leg which we found out in the post fight interview is actually pretty messed up. Kelly wins via split decision 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 in the biggest fight of his career and he used his interview to call out any ranked middleweight to fight him when the UFC is in Australia. This wasn’t a bad fight for Evans he just simply didn’t do enough.
Lando Vannata (9-1) vs. David Teymur (5-1)
Due to the Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson fight getting scrapped, these two got bumped up to the co-main and man did they bring it. I’ll be honest with you. I had no idea who either of these guys were coming into this fight, but after watch the display that they put on they are securely on my radar now and I will be eagerly waiting to see who they fight next. They came out at an incredible pace in the first. Vannata throwing a variety of kicks including a cartwheel kick and spinning back kick. Teymur was a 3-to-1 underdog coming into the fight, but he didn’t look it as he was throwing more volume than Vannata and mixing well between punches and kicks. Vannata slowed down a bit in the second round but both men continued to trade big punches and kicks. The pace picked back up in the third and it was Teymur who isn’t especially known for his takedowns who actually scored more of them and used fakes and fades to keep Vannata guessing. This one was really back and forth and went to the judge’s scorecards with Teymur winning via unanimous decision (30-27 on all 3 cards). The fight was much closer than the scorecards would lead you to believe. This was the fight of the night up to this point for me. I don’t know if it was as good as Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson would have been, but man it was good.
(C) Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs. #1 Stephen Thompson (13-1-1) Welterweight Championship
This one started out very slow, which after the “firefight” that the crowed had just watched between Vannata and Teymur caused them to boo loudly throughout much of the first round. It didn’t get any faster in the second. At some point during the round the commentators mentioned that the significant strikes were 7-to-7 through 9 minutes. That’s not a lot of production from two guys who claimed to know how the other fights. Things finally picked up in round 3 when Woodley was able to score a takedown and keep ground control for nearly 02:30. He landed a bunch of shots but because of positioning there wasn’t a ton of power behind them. The fourth round was very similar to rounds one and two with neither fighter landing much of anything, but Thompson controlling the octagon and Woodley backing away. The only real flourish in the match came in the final round. Woodley finally brought the pressure in the last minute of the round and rocked Thompson knocking him down and pouncing on him. Wonderboy was able to get back up to his feet and finish the round and we went to the judges score cards. Woodley won by majority decision. I didn’t see it that way, I’m also not sure where the 47-47 came from in the scorecards. I had Thompson taking rounds 1, 2 and 4. Woodley winning round 3 and then winning round 5. This fight wasn’t as physical as the first one and wasn’t nearly as good as the Vannata Teymur fight. Kind of a let down.
That’s it from from our side. Who do you think put on the Fight of the Night? Let us know in the comments.
Image from www.ufc.com