Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Canada last night (Sat., Oct. 27, 2018), this time from Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick. As has become standard with international “Fight Night” events, UFC assembled a 13-fight card filled with some regional fighters, some veterans still sort of hanging around, and a couple damn good fights.
It was a long card, but it did produce some solid highlights.
Experience Wins Out
Smith spent most of the first 10 minutes of his main event slot getting battered. Oezdemir pressed him into the fence, ripped heavy hooks and uppercuts, and chopped his lead leg into jelly. All the while, Smith did manage to land some hard counter shots, slowly chipping away at his less experienced foe.
Composure is a big deal. In round two, Oezdemir took down Smith and moved into the turtle. For about three minutes, Smith stayed calm and defended against hooks while eating the occasional hard shot to the head. Compare that to Oezdemir’s reaction to Smith’s takedown in the third, which saw him immediately give up his back and subsequently the rear-naked choke.
I don’t know if he panicked or is simply bad at defensive Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but it was a bad look for Oezdemir. As a whole, the Blackzilian’s team has a clear problem with giving up their backs and getting strangled (watch it). Meanwhile, Smith showed a ton of heart and grit. He stayed in the fight and waited for his opportunity, capitalizing perfectly the second it appeared. There’s still room to improve, but that type of opportunism gives him a chance against anyone in the division.
Don’t Count Out Misha Cirkunov
Cirkunov dropped from “next big thing” at Light Heavyweight to the point where I saw quite a few people talking about how he might come up short against Patrick Cummins. The odd part, his two losses are far from embarrassing: Oezdemir hit him with a short shot behind the ear, and Glover Teixeira has 17 (!!) wins via (technical) knockout.
Last night, Cirkunov outclassed Cummins. In the first exchange of the fight, he stunned Cummins with a counter left hand that had Cummins diving for the legs. “Durkin” managed to get in very deep on a single leg, but Cirkunov managed to latch onto a guillotine and use it to stall the position. Cummins had great position to finish his shot, but Cirkunov’s strength and technique prevented it somehow.
When Cummins abandoned the shot and moved into the clinch, it was still a decent position for the decorated wrestler on paper. Instead, Cirkunov slammed some hard knees into his belly, then he blocked Cummins knee and circled him towards the mat. Cummins tried to counter with a bridge, but it only served to land Cirkunov in the mount.
The arm triangle choke came shortly after (watch it).
All in all, it was a pretty flawless victory for the Canadian. He’s one of the most skilled fighters in the division, and now that he’s back in the win column, it’s time for him to get another step up in competition.
A Heart-Warming Win
Court McGee joined UFC’s roster back in 2010, winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) with an impressive run of finishes. The man had an odd approach to fighting — to this day, his game is an odd mix of slapping kicks, oddly timed straights and grinding wrestling — but it was his life story that really stood out, as McGee recovered from heroin addiction both to make it as a professional athlete and help others.
Eight years later, and not a whole lot has changed. McGee is still tough and well-conditioned, and that’s how he wins. He’ll never ascend to the title mix, but McGee is an ultra tough fight and still pushes a hard pace. Last night, he bounced back from a two-fight losing streak, looking arguably better than ever.
The path to victory opposite Alex Garcia was clear: Don’t get knocked out in the first, make him work, and take over late. In fact, McGee’s technical game was enough to overcome the power disadvantage, as he won some exchanges in the first and timed a nice takedown. in the end, conditioning did win out though, as McGee scored repeated takedowns in the second and third.
I appreciate McGee’s honest, hard-nosed approach to the fight game. I hope you do too.
- Michael Johnson vs. Artem Lobov was everything I expected it to be. Johnson was clearly the faster and more technical fighter — that’s the reason he won. Lobov is legitimately tough and more skilled than he gets credit for — that’s the reason it was fun.
- I wrote mean things about the Gian Villante vs. Ed Herman fight before it happened, but I was happy to be wrong. The two veterans delivered a fun brawl. And there was a clear gentleman’s agreement in place: No head movement, only three kicks maximum per round, and absolutely none of that goddamn wrestling nonsense. As such, the two stood in front of each other for 15 minutes and swung haymakers. Herman’s jab did the most damage, carving up Villante’s face, but ultimately the split-decision swung the other way.
- Calvin Kattar is building an argument for the best boxer at 145 pounds. “The Boston Finisher” rebounded from his first UFC loss opposite Chris Fishgold, a talented newcomer who tried to overwhelm Kattar with heavy hooks and thudding low kicks. Instead, Kattar weathered the early storm, and the second Fishgold gave him a second to breathe, he began snapping nasty jabs into the Englishman’s face. The wind quickly left Fishgold’s sails, a bad cut opened up on his face, and it wasn’t long before a crisp right hand ended things in the first round (watch highlights here).
- South African MMA has rarely fared well at the highest level — does anyone else remember Ruan Potts’ disastrous run a few years back? Don Madge’s performance as a +350 underdog inspires hope, though. Opposite a powerful athlete with ferocious punching power in Te Edwards, Madge slammed home body kicks, dropped his opponent with a hook-cross, and nearly ended things with an armbar all in the first round alone. He secured the finish in the second (watch it), going high with a left kick that stunned Edwards through his block. As Edwards stumbled along the fence, a second high kick, this time from the lead leg, landed flush. Lightweight has yet another prospect.
- Jessin Ayari absolutely deserved to have his hand raised over Stevie Ray. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from the fight, as I only know Ayari from getting whooped by Darren Till (understandable) and defeating Jim Wallhead in a fight I don’t remember. Nevertheless, Ayari made the most of his Lightweight debut, clearly taking the first and third round with precision punching and slick right hand counters — some of his counters actually looked like something out of a Darren Till fight! Ray fought hard and landed some good low kicks, but he did not deserve that win.
For complete UFC: “Moncton” results and coverage click here.