Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Fortaleza, Brazil, last Sat. night (Feb. 2, 2019) for its second event on ESPN+ (watch here!). UFC Fight Night 144 brought a number of the sport’s best Brazilian veterans to the cage, surprisingly against each other more often than not. Thankfully, the main card delivered in spectacular fashion. The undercard was something of a mixed bag — some of those newly signed regional fighters should have stayed on the regional scene — but also featured some absolute scraps. Let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!
Moraes Wins Big
The first fight between Marlon Moraes and Raphael Assuncao could not have been closer. The two Brazilians landed a nearly even amount of strikes, no one was ever taken down, and there were no true knockdowns. It was the type of fight that can be argued either way endlessly without a satisfying conclusion.
The rematch was different. Moraes didn’t just avenge his loss, he did it brutally. Efficiently, Almost easily. The nasty kickboxer showed nothing but smooth technique and smart game planning in the opening couple minutes, which resulted in a pair of heavy overhands that stunned Assuncao badly in a way oddly reminiscent of how Assuncao actually managed to catch Moraes at the end of round one in the first fight.
Afterward, Moraes’ killer instinct took over and eventually landed him a guillotine choke.
To me, there’s no question who should challenge next for the Bantamweight title. Moraes has more than earned his shot — this is three straight amazing first round finishes over guys who rarely lose, let alone get stopped! He’s a serious threat to Dillashaw, and the fight would be an amazing kickboxing match. Make it happen!
The Renaissance of Charles Oliveira
Since his loss to Paul Felder in 2017, Charles Oliveira has completely turned over a new leaf. Technically, his hands have never looked better. Oliveira’s offensive Muay Thai has always been an important factor to consider when facing him, but the Brazilian has been firing crisp 1-2s down the center, chopping into legs, and still surprising opponents with flashy spinning or jumping strikes. Last year, Oliveira landed three submission wins to secure his legacy as the most potent grappler on the roster.
Plus, there have been no random cases of Oliveira suddenly quitting or being finished.
Last night answered many questions about Oliveira. David Teymur spent a majority of the first 30 seconds jamming his fingers into Oliveira’s eyes and even dropped him early — Oliveira had plenty of reasons to quit of hang back. Instead, he upped the intensity and absolutely went after the professional kickboxer. Sticking the shorter man with long punches and slamming kicks up the middle, Oliveira won the first round with his kickboxing.
The madness grew in the second when Oliveira badly rocked Teymur with an upward elbow. Teymur shelled up along the fence and turned away, which should have resulted in a standing TKO stoppage. Instead, the ref let it go, and Oliveira wrapped up his foe’s neck for another submission victory.
It was a brilliant, complete victory. Perhaps most impressive is Oliveira’s ability to capitalize on his opponent’s crouched stance. Teymur had to stay low to deny any potential takedowns, but Oliveira chewed him up with front kicks, jumping knees, and eventually that upward elbow as a result.
Light Heavyweight’s New Contender
Johnny Walker has a funny name and cool dance moves, but that 6’6” monster can seriously fight. Against a dangerous boxer in Justin Ledet, Walker did not once look concerned in the walkout, introductions, or entire 15 seconds of combat. From his rangy kickboxing stance, Walker landed a hook kick as Ledet pressed behind his jab. Ledet tried to advance while his foe was out of position, but Walker reset with a crushing spinning back fist. Ledet was out cold, and a few punches sealed the deal.
Thank God that stupid soccer kick attempt after the knockdown missed.
Two lightning quick knockouts in two attempts, is Walker a perfect fighter right now? Probably not. But he has a perfect build for the division, clear athletic gifts, and some very obvious skill. He’s already one of the best Light Heavyweights in the world while still developing his game, a sign that the Brazilian’s ceiling is remarkably high. Plus, his background of Heavyweight competition opens up exciting options as well.
No matter what happens, Johnny Walker is a new can’t-miss fighter.
Jose Aldo defeats Renato Moicano via R2 TKO: The first round was something of a staring contest, but it did reveal the strategies of each man. Aldo paired the left hook with his right low kick, giving Moicano few opportunities to land while looking to counter. Moicano did not employ a high-volume attack, choosing to stay far back behind the jab and look for kicks of his own. The fight only heated up for an instant when one of Aldo’s left hooks connected: the Brazilian unleashed a mad flurry of left hooks to the body and head and crushing right hands. Moicano was never able to recover or slow the onslaught, and Aldo scored a second consecutive stoppage victory. Aldo plans to fight twice further in Brazil and call it a career — it would be unwise to miss any of the legend’s remaining fights.
Demian Maia defeats Lyman Good via R1 Submission: A lot of people expected Good to defend the takedown and knock Maia out. Too many people. It’s easy to write Maia given his age and recent losses, but the man has lost to nothing but the best! Maia’s combination of takedown chaining and relentless pursuit of the back mount remains almost unmatched in MMA, and he claimed another victim last night with a pretty effortless rear naked choke win. In fact, Maia didn’t absorb a single blow in his victory.
Markus Perez defeats Anthony Hernandez via R2 submission: Perez has a weird game that involves a random spinning elbow way too often, but the Brazilian has some talent. All those wild strikes have some real power among them, noticeable when Perez’s body kick sent Hernandez falling to the mat. Hernandez scrambled actively and regained his feet, but Perez was able to wrap up a standing d’arce choke a la Tony Ferguson. Tricky stuff! Hernandez looked real sharp on offense with his ability to flurry behind the right hand, but his lack of distance control and grappling defense left him vulnerable to his more experienced foe.
Thiago Alves defeats Max Griffin via split-decision: Let me first clear the air and say that Alves did not deserve the nod: it was tied up heading into the third, and Griffin dug deep to out-wrestle the Brazilian late in the fight. At the same time, Alves fought back from a terrible first round in which he was dropped twice and naerly finished to make it a war. The second round was vintage Alves, featuring tight, powerful combinations and brutal kicks. Given its his 18th year as a pro, it was glorious to watch. Both men deserve a round of applause.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik defeats Junior Albini via R2 TKO: Rozenstruik did not look perfect in his UFC debut, but damn if it wasn’t impressive anyway. The decorated professional kickboxer was hesitant early, allowing Albini — who looked to be in improved physical condition — to push the pace and score some takedowns. “Big Boy” stayed calm though, escaping back to his feet
Said Nurmagomedov defeats Ricardo Ramos via R1 TKO: At the start of the fight, Ramos looked uncomfortable. Nurmagomedov bounced around and found his range with some hard low kicks. Once he realized there wasn’t much offense coming back his way, Nurmagomedov loosened up and let the spinning kicks fly. Before long, a spinning back kick connected clean to the liver, sending Ramos to the mat holding his stomach. Nurmagomedov looked great in his Bantamweight debut, but this fight is also an important lesson in not allowing your opponent to grow too comfortable.
That’s it for this week, see you next Sunday after UFC 234!