Fight Pass Prelims
Khalil Rountree def. Daniel Jolly via KO (knee) at 0:52 of Round 1
Well, that’s one way to dissuade people from trying to take you down.
Daniel Jolly, looking very much like a lighter shade of Stormzy, had what seemed to be the right idea. He started the fight immediately looking to close the distance, clinch and take Rountree to the ground, which on-paper was exactly what he should be doing. Rountree showed two things: that he’s working on his defensive wrestling, and that he’s able to generate absurd power in incredibly tight spaces. With his back to the cage, still defending the takedown, all it took was one well-timed knee to the chin. And then another that was maybe illegal or maybe to the chest. Either way, the fight was over. Rountree finally finds himself in the win column after just under a minute.
Niko Price def. Alex Morono via KO (punches) at 5:00 of Round 2
Given that my prediction for this fight was a Price submission, you can imagine how irritated I was during the first round, as my pick consistently refused ground the fight and instead elected to stand with a superior striker who had clearly found his timing. Sometimes young prospects have this problem. They want to beat their opponents at their own game; to show they can do everything. By the end of the first round, this seemed like a terrible idea. Morono landed a spinning backfist and then a flush right hand, dropping Price, and if there were a few more seconds left to work in perhaps he would have finished him.
There’s no use speculating. Price came out in the second with the same strategy, and I was incredibly annoyed about that, but lo and behold he started to do well. He fought more aggressively and started to lead. His striking is ropey, for sure, but he has a great chin and a wild aggressiveness that works for him. He took over. And at the end of the second round (the very, very end) he landed a right hand to the temple that, for a few seconds at least, reduced Alex Morono to a new-born baby. There was some debate if the punch was after the bell; if the fight would continue. But you could tell by how Morono was curled up, staring dopily at the camera. He was done.
Maybe Price was a little too enthused about a fight he convincingly lost 50% of, but still. Dude’s an exciting prospect. He’s still undefeated and he just strung together two finishes against solid competition. Let’s keep an eye on this one.
Tecia Torres def. Bec Rawlings via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Sometimes this whole prediction thing works out rather well.
You could go back and read my breakdown for this fight and accuse me of clairvoyance. Not that it was a particularly difficult one to call, but I’m claiming the credit either way. The story here was the speed of Torres, who was able to stick and move, control the pace of the fight, and dart in with sharp combinations before quickly getting herself out of trouble. Rawlings looked lost and frustrated for most of the fight as Torres continued to punish the legs and body with hard kicks. It was an easy night’s work.
In the few grappling exchanges Torres was able to hold her own against the bigger, stronger fighter, managing to slickly take the back on a couple of occasions. She never looked close to finishing, but that isn’t what she’s known for. Primarily she’s a speedy, awkward striker, and she showed a version of that last night that most women in the strawweight division won’t be able to handle. And bonus points for throwing and landing the side kick immediately following the round kick from the same leg – that’s a tricky bit of striking dexterity.
Ricardo Ramos def. Michinori Tanaka via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
He did it! Ricardo Ramos broke the Looking for a Fight curse. And despite looking just a little bit like a sex offender, he was impressive in doing so. It’s not easy to fight a guy who likes to stay on the outside and engage on their own terms. Ramos dropped him with a right hand late in the first, but couldn’t find a finish. I dunno what they’re feeding guys over in the East, but fighters from that part of the world seem to be made of granite.
Still, this fight was closer than the judges’ scorecards would have you believe. The second and third rounds saw very little action; Ramos was impressive in defending himself during grappling exchanges, but Tanaka was able to secure top position more than once, and in the final frame, despite receiving a warning for timidity, Tanaka was able to land and looked the much superior striker. I could argue about the scoring, but I won’t bother. Ramos won. Although I’m not entirely sure it’ll be a victory he’s all that proud of.
Chas Skelly def. Chris Gruetzemacher via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:01 of Round 2
There isn’t really much to say here. It’s another fight I called almost exactly, other than the fact I didn’t imagine Skelly would finish Gruetzemacher with the speed and efficiency that he was able to. It was obvious he had a distinct grappling advantage, and he used his frame well in the stand-up to land without putting himself in danger. It was another relentless grappling-oriented performance for Skelly, who earned his second consecutive submission victory – this time a RNC that he finished without even getting under the chin. High-level stuff from an entertaining guy.
Curtis Blaydes def. Adam Milstead via TKO (knee injury) at 0:59 of Round 2
Well, this was fucking horrific.
There’s a lot to be said here, and I should probably credit Brian Stann for his willingness to call out Milstead’s corner for not intervening between the first and second round. Milstead was getting ragdolled and utterly dominated from the opening bell, he had a blatant knee injury, could barely walk, and they sent him out there regardless. It was a bad call on their part. It was bad call on the referee’s part. And it meant that we had to watch Milstead’s knee visibly dislocate at the end of the fight.
It’s obvious that the talent of Blaydes has been overshadowed somewhat by his loss to Francis Ngannou. This was an impressive, dominant performance, and he’s one to watch in the future.
Jessica Andrade def. Angela Hill via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
It’s funny that Angela Hill styled her weigh-in after Sagat from Street Fighter, because this fight was reminiscent of the game in a way that few are. Imagine Angela Hill as a fairly novice player. She knows the buttons, she has a combo or two, but she hasn’t looked up any special moves and a high-level player is going to give her fits. That’s what we saw. Jessica Andrade is some EVO-level shit: endless strings of combos, relentless pressure, and a thorough understanding of her own strengths and weaknesses.
This was a great fight. I think we can pump the breaks on any “Fight of the Year” talk – it was a little one-sided for that, with Andrade dominating almost every phase and Hill trying mostly to survive, but either way it shows that the lighter women are more than capable of putting on a barn-burner when the mood strikes them. This win will put Andrade directly opposite Joanna Jedrzejcyk in her next fight, and goddamn I’m excited to see that one.
Marcel Fortuna def. Anthony Hamilton via KO (punch) at 3:10 of Round 1
Anthony Hamilton came into this fight with a point to prove after getting submitted last December by Francis Ngannou, and you could see him striving for a statement finish throughout the whole fight. It’s faintly depressing watching a man with such a significant size, reach and weight advantage wade forwards with no respect for his opponent’s power. That approach played right into the hands of Fortuna, the smaller, faster man, who picked up Hamilton’s timing early and made him pay in almost every exchange. The final bill was a short right hand that shut Hamilton’s lights off, earning the debutant a walk-off KO.
Volkan Oezdemir def. Ovince Saint Preux via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
I enjoyed this fight about as much as the crowd did, which is to say not at all. And I can’t really pinpoint who’s to blame. I suppose more of the responsibility has to rest on Ovince Saint Preux, a former interim title contender who really has no excuse not to be conditioned for three rounds. Having said that, the same applies to Volkan Oezdemir, although at least he has the convenient excuse of facing a ranked opponent on short notice. He was game in the first round, at least, backing Saint Preux up against the cage and hurting him, but his output slowed significantly after that and by the end of the fight he was struggling to stay upright. It wasn’t an impressive fight for either athlete, but Saint Preux now slips to a three-fight skid, having lost four of his last five, and with his latest being against a debuting, underprepared upstart you really need to ask some questions about his future with the promotion.
James Vick def. Abel Trujillo via submission (D’Arce choke) at 0:49 of Round 3
It took him three attempts, but eventually James Vick managed to seal the deal with a D’Arce choke after cleaning Abel Trujillo’s clock with a flying knee. With the victory, Vick finds himself back in the win column after suffering his first professional defeat at the hands of Beneil Dariush at UFC 199.
It wasn’t the easiest night’s work for the lanky Vick, who spent the vast majority of the fight trying to keep Trujillo away with straight punches and kicks up the middle, often being unsuccessful and eating shots. I thought Trujillo had the tools here, but he lost patience with the length and style of Vick, throwing haymakers instead of working his way inside with smart footwork. It eventually cost him in the third round, where the choke snapped his three-fight win streak.
Felice Herrig def. Alexa Grasso via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
So, Felice Herrig has upset the applecart again. And it was arguably even more unexpected than her last victory over Kailin Curran, given how she beat the young upstart at her own game, derailing a lot of the Mexican’s hype.
The straight right hand was there for Herrig all night, and Grasso continually struggled to close the distance and land her punch combinations. She was falling short and hitting air with a surprising degree of regularity given how sharp and technical her striking has been thus far. Grasso was, amazingly, shocked at the decision, which went unanimously to Herrig. I have no idea what Grasso’s corner was telling her, but it was obviously bollocks.
The mid-tier of the strawweight division is in flux as a result of this. Is Herrig talented enough to be a top contender? Probably not. Has Grasso been “exposed”? Who knows. But for now, we have an interesting situation, and we’ll have to see how both women fare going forwards to make a proper assessment.
Chan Sung Jung def. Dennis Bermudez via KO (punches) at 2:49 of Round 1
If you ever wondered whether or not Chan Sung Jung is a special athlete, consider this: the dude just took three years off, spent at least one of them recovering from shoulder surgery, came back to fight a guy who had entered the octagon seven times while Jung was holding down a military office job, and knocked him out cold in the first round. That’s impressive.
It was a typical Zombie performance, too. He took some licks from Bermudez, who looked sharp, darting forwards with a long overhand right that kept landing flush. And what did Zombie do? Shake it off, raise his hands in a gesture that asked “Is that all you got?”, and kept marching forwards. There’s a reason this guy is a fan-favourite, and that’s it. He’s crazy tough. But he’s also crazy talented. Bermudez can’t take much of a smack, but it’s rare for him to get slept like that. It was a short uppercut that did the business, putting us in the wonderful position of having an injury-free, fighting-fit Korean Zombie in the featherweight top 10. Rejoice.