UFC 224 Standout Performances

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The UFC returned after a three-week hiatus for UFC 224 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The main event saw a women’s bantamweight title fight between Brazil’s champion, Amanda Nunes, and Raquel Pennington. Plus in the co-main event, Brazil’s own Jacare Souza took on Kelvin Gastelum in a pivotal middleweight matchup. Also on the main card, the return of Mackenzie Dern against Amanda Cooper. Also, a bantamweight fight between John Lineker and Brian Kelleher. Finally, starting off the main card was the retirement fight of Vitor Belfort against fellow Brazilian legend, Lyoto Machida. Out of thirteen fights, eleven were finishes, tying the modern promotion record. Out of all those finishes, only five can make this list. So here are the five standout performances from UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington.

#1: Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort via KO (Front Kick) at 1:00 Round 2

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MAY 12: Lyoto Machida (R ) of Brazil celebrates victory over Vitor Belfort of Brazil in their middleweight bout during the UFC 224 event at Jeunesse Arena on May 12, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Round One

The opening fight of the main card saw two Brazilian legends go toe to toe. Those two legends were former light heavyweight champions, Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida. The first round saw barely any action. Both fighters were feeling each other out with each throwing some strikes. Machida utilized his kicks more while Belfort occasionally rushed in with a flurry of punches.

Round Two

The second round was a bit different from the first. The round began with both fighters throwing. But one minute into the round, Lyoto Machida landed a front kick to the face of Belfort, much like Anderson Silva’s at UFC 126. The kick knocked Belfort out cold, awarding Machida the victory, his first KO win since 2014.

Leading into the fight, Belfort has said that this fight would be his last, and he stuck to his word afterwards. During his post-fight interview, he set down the gloves in the octagon announcing his retirement. Congratulations to him on a great career.

#2: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Sean Strickland via KO (Heel Kick) at 3:40 of Round 1

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MAY 12: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos ( L) of Brazil submit Sean Strickland of the United States in their welterweight bout during the UFC 224 event at Jeunesse Arena on May 12, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Round One

Opening up the Fox Sports 1 preliminary card was a welterweight fight between MMASucka’s Fighter of InterestElizeu Zaleski dos Santos, and Sean Strickland. The beginning of the first round was close as both guys landed their own shots. Late in round one, dos Santos shot in for a takedown, but Strickland denied it. The fight went back to the striking battle. With a little over a minute in the round, dos Santos threw a spinning hook kick that landed clean on Strickland and knocked him down. Dos Santos jumped on him, throwing some ground and pound hoping to get the finish. Just a few seconds later, dos Santos landed one or two hammer fists that knocked Strickland out.

#3: Aleksei Oleinik def. Junior Albini via Submission (Ezekiel Choke) at 1:45 of Round 1

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MAY 12: Aleksei Oleinik of Russia celebrates victory over Junior Albini of Brazil in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 224 event at Jeunesse Arena on May 12, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Round One

Both Aleksei Oleinik and Junior Albini came into this fight off of a loss. Both guys were looking for a win to climb the rankings and not drop consecutive fights. In the beginning of the first round, Oleinik was the aggressor. He was landing shots and initiating the clinch, controlling Albini against the fence. At one point, Albini was able to land a shot that cut Oleinik under the eye, but he didn’t seem affected by it at all. He continued to push forward and control Albini in the clinch. Over a minute into the fight, they were once again locked up in the clinch and Oleinik locked in an Ezekiel choke. As soon as he locked it up, he pulled Albini down to the mat and continued to pursue the choke from the bottom. Eventually, Albini was forced to tap out due to the pressure and awarded Oleinik just the second Ezekiel choke finish in the UFC, the first also being himself.

#4: John Lineker def. Brian Kelleher via KO (Punch) at 3:43 of Round 3

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MAY 12: John Lineker of the Brazil celebrates victory over Brian Kelleher of the United States in their bantamweight bout during the UFC 224 event at Jeunesse Arena on May 12, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Round One

In the last year, this is the second fight that John Lineker has taken against an unranked prospect, this time against Brian Kelleher. The first round was close at the beginning, but as the round went on, Lineker started gaining momentum. He was landing hard shots on Kelleher on multiple occasions. About halfway through the first round, Lineker landed a hard right hook followed by a hard left hook that dropped Kelleher. After some time on the ground, the two got back up. But “Hands of Stone” picked up where he left off and did what he does best, and that’s land hard punches. He was landing to the body and the head, stunning Kelleher multiple times.

Round Two

In the second round, Lineker was controlling early, pushing Kelleher back towards the fence while connecting with hard shots. Time after time, Lineker would land the right hook to the body and left hand over the top and it was working throughout the fight. As Lineker continued to walk forward, Kelleher shot in for a takedown, but Lineker was able to defend it easily. Although Lineker was controlling the round, Kelleher has his moments, landing good punches, but they didn’t seem to faze Lineker. For about the last minute of the round, Kelleher was walking Lineker backwords but Lineker was still landing the better shots until the end of the round.

Round Three

In the third round, it seemed as if Lineker was slowing down a little bit. Kelleher began to pick up the pace and was landing much more than he was in the two previous rounds. Early in the round, Lineker went for a standing guillotine, but Kelleher defended it well, getting a takedown and staying on top of Lineker for a little bit. Although Lineker was looking a little slower, he was still able to explode for some good punches. With about a minute and a half left in the fight, Lineker exploded with a flurry of punches that stunned Kelleher. A few seconds later, Lineker landed a perfect left hook that shut the lights out on Kelleher.

#5: Jack Hermansson def. Thales Leites via TKO (Punches) at 2:10 of Round 3

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MAY 12: Jack Hermansson (L ) of Sweden celebrates victory over Thales Leite of Brazil in their middleweight bout during the UFC 224 event at Jeunesse Arena on May 12, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Round One

Once the fight started, Jack Hermansson was throwing already. He rushed in on Thales Leites, throwing punches and kicks and knees until he finally took it easy. Throughout the first round, both guys were going back and forth in the clinch. Each guy was getting their own takedowns, controlling their opponents for a little before they got up and did it again. The first round was very close and once it came to a close, it could’ve been given to either guy.

Round Two

In the second round, Leites got a very early takedown. As he was finishing the takedown, Hermnasson started wincing in pain as he had clearly hurt something. As Leites was controlling him on the ground, Hermansson was yelling in pain but the referee didn’t stop the fight. About two minutes into the round, Leites locked in a very tight head and arm choke that looked as if it would finish the fight. Hermansson defended well, all while injured, and eventually escaped the submission attempt. The rest of the round was Leites controlling Hermnasson on the mat until the horn.

Round Three

As soon as the third round began, Hermansson rushed in for a flying knee attempt but Leites defended and shot in for a takedown. Hermansson went for a guillotine and held it for as long as he could until he was forced to let it go. After his submission attempt, Leites locked in an anaconda choke, but Hermansson was once again able to escape and reverse position. Hermansson ended up on top and eventually passed into full mount. As soon as he got into full mount, he started landing hard ground and pound. After many good shots, the ref was forced to step in and stop the fight, awarding Hermansson the comeback victory. In his post-fight interview, Hermansson revealed that he was fighting the majority of that fight with a broken rib.

Honorable Mentions

Amanda Nunes def. Raquel Pennington via TKO (Punches) at 2:36 of Round 5

Mackenzie Dern def. Amanda Cooper via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:27 of Round 1

Next Week

After a great show in Brazil, these were the five performances that stood out among the rest, plus some honorable mentions. Next week, the UFC makes their debut in Chile for UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Usman as Demian Maia  takes on rising welterweight Kamaru Usman. So join me next week as we reflect on what should be an exciting welterweight matchup in Chile and determine the five standout performances from that card.

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Discovered the UFC and the sport of MMA the night Nate Diaz upset Conor McGregor and since then I have been a die hard fan and have rarely missed a fight.

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