Weekend Wrap: March 30-April 1
In the Weekend Wrap, we take a look at some of the more out of the way events and results from the past few days, so don’t expect to see any Zuffa results in here.
If you’ve been suffering from MMA withdrawal since the last UFC event, you’re probably not looking hard enough for quality fights to watch. Last weekend alone, I spent 11 hours of my time watching live MMA events from around the globe, and another couple catching up on the fights I didn’t get a chance to catch as they happened. It was a fantastic weekend to be an MMA fan, even if the largest organization in the world wasn’t the one putting on the fights.
As a sign of how truly packed this weekend was, I have scoured results pages and come up with 13 different events that had notable fights on them. I’ll run down those events and the results that matter, so you don’t have to do all the legwork I enjoy doing anyways. The weekend got off to a quick start, as Friday night saw the typical Bellator card, as well as offerings from Legend FC, Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Extreme Fighters World Championships (EFWC), and Unified MMA. Some of those names likely mean absolutely nothing to you, as they are upstart promotions to the nth degree (especially the last two), but that doesn’t mean they can’t put on meaningful fights.
This event saw the opening round of the Welterweight tournament, likely the organization’s most lacklustre bracket of season six, so the lack of hoopla surrounding it wasn’t surprising. The card itself delivered though, as Ben Saunders, Karl Amoussou, David Rickels and Bryan Baker moved through to the semi-finals, where Saunders will match up with Baker and Amoussou will face Rickels to determine who will face the man coming out of this weekend’s Welterweight title fight.
Amoussou was the only fighter in the tournament who truly looked impressive in dispatching Chris Lozano with a first round rear-naked choke. Rickels took care of his opponent, Jordan Smith, within the first minute via strikes, but other than existing chin issues Smith had, we really didn’t learn anything in that fight. Saunders struggled more than he should have against a vastly overmatched opponent in Raul Amaya, whom he should have been able to stop in the early going had he mixed more striking into his ground attack. Finally, Baker looked tentative and flat against ‘Indio’ Pereira, eking out a decision by securing a last minute takedown and crucifix.
The Saunders/Baker match in the semi-finals is particularly intriguing, as both seem to be favourites of Bellator management. What this booking shows me is that the higher ups clearly would like to see each fighter prove themselves once again in their next bout against a stiff test, to show that they really deserve a spot in the finals.
On the undercard (of which Bellator has made a quantum increase in quality recently), two fights stand out. Russian prospect Andrey Koreshkov laid Tiawan Howard to waste in under 90 seconds, and is definitely a Welterweight to keep an eye out for in the future. Bellator has done a fantastic job of searching out fresh talent (particularly from overseas) for their roster, and Koreshkov is the next in that line.
The other fight is the case of a hype train coming to a screeching halt. Marianna Kheyfets was thought to be someone who could do big things in Female MMA over the coming years, but she was stopped violently by Munah Holland. Kheyfets can still be a player in the Women’s game, but she will never be an elite fighter, and will never beat elite fighters. She is marketable as an entertaining and attractive fighter, but that’s about it.
Legend FC 8
I still haven’t watched the entirety of this card, but I’ve seen the fights I need to see. In the main event, the man with one of the hardest names in MMA to pronounce, Jadamba Narantungalag, retained his Legend Lightweight title with a second round Guillotine over Yui Chul Nam. Narantungalag used his superior striking to stun Nam, setting him up to use his rapidly developing submission game for the victory. It would be nice to see the Mongolian get a shot in the UFC, if only to hear Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg absolutely butcher his name, but also because the man is an entertaining fighter who now sports an eight-fight winning streak. His potential is limited by the fact that he is already 36 years old, but that shouldn’t preclude him from bringing us some entertainment.
With another Guillotine victory, Yusuke Kawanago became the first Legend Featherweight champion. I see his impact on the global MMA scene being almost nil, as he has struggled at times coming up through the Pancrase ranks, and would likely fall if Legend decided to bring in someone other than a mediocre Chinese featherweight to test him against.
Elsewhere on the card, Keita Nakamura picked up his sixth win in his last seven fights, albeit due to his opponent not coming out for the second round due to a broken hand. 154lb Shooto Rookie Champion Yusuke Kasuya suffered his first defeat at the hands of Rob Hill in a bout Kasuya was controlling early. The Japanese youngster is still a fighter to watch, as he is only 22 and has a solid submission game to fall back upon. In terms of relevance, that about does it for the Legend card, but if you’d like to catch the prelims (and I recommend it, as they are highly entertaining) you can do so below:
Resurrection Fighting Alliance 2
The second card from RFA, an organization that has been in headlines recently for signing Lightweight prospect Bubba Jenkins, certainly aired on the side of entertainment as opposed to relevant competition. There were some bouts that were interesting because of the action they’d bring, others that just had to be watched out of sheer curiosity, and a couple that actually could matter.
The main event falls under the first category, as neither Gilbert Yvel nor Houston Alexander is going to amount to anything in a top MMA organization at this point, but both can put on exciting fights. On this evening, despite the card taking place in Nebraska, the state was not in the building in the hypothetical sense that Mr. Alexander uses it. Although he got the better of the early going, his chin betrayed him, as it has so many times before, as Yvel ended his night emphatically.
In the co-main event, the RFA did their best to build off of the recent Dakota Cochrane hype surrounding his past career and brief stint on The Ultimate Fighter. Cochrane was dominated throughout the short fight by Cliff Wright, who does possess a nice submission game, and now has all six of his career wins by sub. Cochrane originally made his name by beating up a completely uninspired, bloated Jamie Varner, and has since showed more of the quality of fighter he actually is, than what people expected after that performance.
The closest thing to a freakshow fight this weekend was Maurice Smith making his MMA return, and knocking out a completely overmatched Jorge Cordoba with a head kick. A 50 year-old man knocking out someone half his age with a kick to the face, only something you’ll see in MMA. A must watch… but skip to the third round, as the rest of the fight is sloooow.
Moving down the card, the two most relevant fights featured Tara Larosa putting on one of her more lacklustre performances in the last few years in earning a last second armbar victory over Kelly Warren. Larosa remains one of the best female fighters on the planet, but her struggle continues to be getting quality fights in her division. The other fight which could lead to bigger things, potentially even a UFC contract in the newly minted Flyweight division would be Tim Elliott’s submission victory over Josh Rave. After beginning his career 0-2-1, Elliott has now won eight straight fights, including a knockout of Jens Pulver. He seems well-suited for the 125lb class, and seeing as the focus in that division is making new matchups to flesh out the best 125ers in the world, Elliott could fit in well with that strategy.
A couple other notable fighters picked up wins as well, including Bellator veteran Jared Downing, Elaina Maxwell who had three Strikeforce appearances, and former Titan FC and HDNet Fights fighter Aaron Derrow. Additionally, in one of the more contentious decisions of the weekend, Laramie Shaffer took a split decision over prospect Aaron Ely in the Bantamweight division.
I’m not even sure any videos exist from this card, but the event featured Antonio McKee picking up a win in classic McKee style (by decision) over Chad Dietmeyer. Nova Uniao Middleweight Leandro Silva also picked up a win over Jesse Juarez, while fighter/writer R.J. Clifford and Tachi Palace mainstay Cody Gibson both picked up wins over highly anonymous foes. Not much to see here, but anytime McKee goes out there and puts his physical talents to waste it’s notable.
Unified MMA 11
There is only one fight I want to discuss on this card, as if there were a Venn diagram of my MMA fandom is would have three circles. One would be relevant fights, of which the one I’m about to discuss really isn’t. The other two circles would be Canadian MMA and lighter weight classes, and this fight covers both perfectly.
You see, Unified MMA crowned the first ever Canadian Flyweight champion this past weekend, as Mike Davis defeated Corey Lautischer via Rear-Naked Choke in the 3rd round. That hardly means Davis is the best Flyweight in Canada, but he’s likely the best outside of Ontario and Quebec. Nonetheless, congratulations to Mike for being the first Canadian recognized as a Flyweight titlist, and kudos to Unified MMA for putting together a 125lb division.
So… all of that happened on Friday. Saturday featured another five cards with fights of note on them.
To some, the most anticipated card of the weekend took place in Singapore, as OneFC continued to try establishing itself as the premiere MMA event in Asia. With a card that featured the likes of Tatsuya Kawajiri, Masakazu Imanari and Melvin Manhoef the excitement was warranted, and the card certainly held up its end of the bargain.
While Kawajiri actually found himself in the co-main event, his fight was by far the most relevant to MMA fans. With his easy victory over Donald Sanchez, “Crusher” continues to solidify himself as a top Featherweight in the world, now sporting a 3-0 record in the division, with all three victories being by way of submission. Kawajiri was a top 10 Lightweight before dropping 10 pounds, and to me he clearly finds himself in the top 5 at 145. His next move should be to the UFC, where after Hatsu Hioki challenges Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title, there are no contenders who are quite ready for the leap in competition Aldo provides (neither Dustin Poirier nor Erik Koch is quite there yet, in my eyes). Kawajiri could easily help bridge that gap, and isn’t going to draw any fewer fans than someone like Poirier or Koch, neither of which has drawing power at this point.
The other highly relevant fight featured leglock wizard Masakazu Imanari in action against undefeated prospect Kevin Belignon. I’ll keep this short, just like the fight. Imanari is good at leglocks. Really good. He must have been pissed off that people were beginning to call Rousimar Palhares the top leglock artist in MMA, because he went out there with intentions to win via leglock and nothing else. It ended in 78 seconds, and Imanari’s status was restored.
Unfortunately for Manhoef, his bout was cut short due to a massive goat vagina on his shin from his opponent checking a kick. Luckily there was plenty of action that would have made that frightening Dutchman smile if he wasn’t so pissed about his fight being stopped that he tried to convince Yoshiyuki Nakanishi to ignore the refs and doctors to keep fighting anyways. Ole Laursen and Eduard Folayang put on what some were calling a Fight of the Year candidate. I call those people hyperbolic, but it was a damn fun fight. Hong Kong prospect Eddie Ng blasted through his squash match with ease. Finally, Zoro Moreira put on a gem of a performance in dismantling Felipe Enomoto in every imaginable way before submitting him in the third round with a beautiful armbar from back control, which was set up by an even better transition to mount.
Head over to OneFC’s YouTube page, where the event was streamed for free, and you can catch up on all the action.
Amazon Forest Combat 2
Most of the Brazilian MMA attention these days is heaped on the upcoming stadium show in Rio that will host the Anderson Silva/Chael Sonnen rematch. Failing that, it’s talking about The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. However on Saturday night, Manaus, the oft overlooked MMA hotbed of Brazil played host to a fine card from AFC. The top 5 fights on the card all featured former UFC veterans, including two former champions and two other title contenders. The card was also streamed live on Rede Globo TV’s website, for those seeking an authentic Portuguese experience.
Murilo Bustamante and Dave Menne were unfortunately booked in the main event, and the fight was nothing to write home about, as both guys looked like their primes were about 10 years ago, which they were. Bustamante picked up the unanimous decision, and that’s about all there is to say on that topic.
Thales Leites avenged his embarrassing submission loss to Matt Horwich in the co-main event. Horwich has now lost 10 of his last 13 fights, with one of those lonely three wins coming against Leites. At times, it even looked like the former UFC title contender was about to blow this fight as well, but he held things together and picked up a second round Arm Triangle. Something about Horwich’s grappling style just gives Leites fits, and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason for it. All I know is that if I was Thales, I wouldn’t be looking for a rubber match any time soon. Leites has now won 6 of 7 since leaving the UFC – the lone blemish being the previous Horwich bout – but given his last two performances in the Octagon, will likely have to make a bigger impression before being granted a return invitation.
Conversely, Patrick Cote will likely be making his way back to the UFC shortly, as he notched his fourth consecutive victory since his cut. I’d be surprised if Cote wasn’t brought back on board for the Montreal card in November, not that the event will need ticket sales to be bolstered by a local draw like him anyways. Cote laid out Gustavo Machado against the cage, and then proceeded to melt layers of his face off with about 12 unanswered shots to the unconscious Machado as Mario Yamasaki waited, and waited… and waited, for the perfect time to stop the fight.
The best knockout of the night didn’t belong to the French Canadian however, it belonged to a guy who won by decision. Yeah, you read that right. Pete Spratt notched the greatest walk-off spinning backfist in MMA history, but waited so long to do so that the referee couldn’t even stop the fight before the final bell. Daniel Acacio didn’t technically get knocked out, but he got knocked out, so the judges had no choice but to award Spratt the decision victory. It would have been interesting if the judges had scored the fight 29-28 for Acacio, since he was winning handily up until that point, but alas, we didn’t see the first win via being knocked out since Matt Hughes’ infamous power bomb on Carlos Newton (still bitter). Congrats Pete Spratt, on your well-earned, asterisk-marked decision.
The most impressive performance of the night hands down belonged to Ronys Torres, who is probably the most deserving fighter of a return trip to the UFC of anyone. His opponent, Ferrid Kheder decided to come in Anthony Johnson overweight, 172lbs for a 160lb Catchweight, and Torres punished him for all of 22 seconds, including dropping a hilarious flying punch over a stunned Kheder’s guard in the finishing sequence. This fight took place two years to the day of Torres’ last UFC bout, and in that time he has gone 10-1, currently sports a 10-fight winning streak, and has finished eight of those fights in the first round. Considering even his two UFC losses were close fights against Melvin Guillard and Jacob Volkmann – two pretty decent Lightweights in their own right – it would be a crime if Ronys didn’t find himself back inside the UFC in 2012. I hear there’s some card coming up in Rio soon, maybe an exciting “Brazilian Banger” (as Mike Goldberg would undoubtedly call him), would be a good fit.
I didn’t get a chance to catch the undercard, but Dileno Lopes – who was grossly undersized on TUF Brazil and ended up losing his preliminary bout – picked up his ninth career win, and is another Nova Uniao product to keep an eye on moving forward in the lighter divisions.
Worldwide Mixed Martial Arts 1
Now we get into the April Fool’s portion of April Fool’s weekend. Oh WMMA, the joy, the laughter, and the embarrassment that is Sean McCorkle’s attempt to get back into the UFC.
McCorkle lost to slovenly Brian Heden, who was supposed to be just another notch on his tin can belt in an effort to convince the UFC that by beating guys who were 2-12 he was good enough to warrant another shot. Oops. I have no sympathy for McCorkle, as he was just trying to take the easiest road back to the UFC, and it bit him in the ass. Also, I don’t really have patience for McCorkle’s shtick. It saddens me that this man relatively recently beat Mark Hunt, and then I remember that Heavyweight MMA tends to suck, and I don’t particularly care about it and I’m fine.
Aside from that freakshow, we had Karo Parisyan picking up his first win since July 2010, but it was over another MMA punch line, Thomas Denny. You know, Thomas Denny, the one MMA fighter who couldn’t outduel the bully on Bully Beatdown.
A couple of other fighters who have had significant low moments in their MMA careers and personal lives, like Karo, bounced back with first round Guillotine victories as well. Lyle Beerbohm and Drew Fickett both posted wins, but in true regional MMA fashion their level of competition would make it McCorkle levels of embarrassing had they not won easily.
Further down the card, Rodney Wallace and Darrill Schoonover picked up decision wins, with Schoonover defeating Paul Buentello. Also, a fighter I had not previously heard of, Chris Gruetzemacher dispatched WEC veteran Frank Gomez in the first round with strikes. Gomez’s previous losses have come to Scott Jorgensen, Wagnney Fabiano, Johnny Bedford and Daniel Pineda, pretty good company for the 25 year-old “Gritz” to join.
Jungle Fight 37
In the main event, Adriano Martins – the only man to defeat Ronys Torres since his UFC departure – picked up his fourth straight win, and 10th in his last 11, the only loss in that period of time coming to TUF Brazil favourite Francisco “Massaranduba” Drinaldo. Martins should be another Brazilian that makes his way to the UFC shortly.
A couple of other Brazilians with nicely padded records also fought on the card, but that’s not an uncommon sight in that scene, and to be entirely honest, I haven’t been staying up to date enough on my Brazilian MMA to differentiate between the meaningless records and actual prospects.
Brutaal Fight Night
Only one fight of note here, as UFC, WEC and Sengoku veteran Logan Clark beat Marcus Sursa by armbar in the first round. Sursa is best known for getting in a brawl backstage at an event and despite being a Heavyweight at the time, getting beaten up by Lightweight Donald Cerrone, yet another indictment of Heavyweight MMA. Clark isn’t going to be making it back to the UFC any time soon, but he’s entertaining, and the type of fighter that can give young guys coming up on the regional circuit a solid test before they get to the big shows.
That does it for Saturday. Exhausted yet? Over in Japan, they love to rock to some Sunday MMA events, and Russia got in on the action as well, so we’ve got a bit more to cover.
Pancrase Progress Tour 4
Isao Kobayashi continued to show why he is one of the better prospects coming up in Japan’s MMA scene, as the 23 year-old avenged his only career defeat by taking a unanimous verdict over UFC veteran Koji Oishi to capture the Lightweight King of Pancrase title. Other than a couple of fighters like Kobayashi, Pancrase’s roster has mostly been pillaged to other Japanese organizations already, but the one division they still have some talent in is the Flyweight division. Unfortunately not a lot of that division was featured on this card, so this fight was the only one of note.
Shooto Border: Season 4
Strawweights!!! They’re the new rage. Okay, maybe not. However, since the UFC has opened up the Flyweight division, Shooto has gone one step further and developed their 115lb division, which is thin at the moment (pun entirely intended), but has some decent talent that can drop down from the 123lb class that Shooto uses.
Tadaaki Yamamoto, 2010’s 115lb Rookie Finalist picked up his third straight win, and has been climbing the ranks of the division, I’m not entirely sold that he’s ready to face the likes of Yuki Shojo – one of the top 123lbers to drop down – but perhaps a fight with Mikihito Yamagami (who also holds a win over Yamamoto’s victim, Junji Ikoma) could propel the winner to bigger things… figuratively, of course.
Finally, we are at the end of the road. This last fight would be a whole lot more exciting to talk about if Shamil Abdurahimov didn’t lose to Tony Lopez in December, but even still, we’re talking about Heavyweight MMA, and you’ve got to think that any fighter with even an iota of skill could potentially make it to the UFC, and even make a run in the organization. Still, his most recent loss doesn’t change the fact that Abdurahimov has wins over Jeff Monson and Sokoudjou, and as far as European Heavyweights go, he’s one of the best out there. Don’t expect world beating stuff from the Russian, but don’t be shocked if you hear his name on a bigger stage sooner than you’d expect for anyone who loses to Tony Lopez.
As I said in my opening remarks, there was no shortage of MMA to watch this past weekend. Hell, it took me until Wednesday to sort through it all, so take a peek at some fights you may not have otherwise seen.