There’s a lot to unpack following a loaded day and night of MMA activity Saturday. I took Sunday to recuperate. Now it’s time to dig into the action that took place during UFC 242 and Bellator 226.
I set the alarm clock early because the fine folks at the UFC were on the other side of the world in Abu Dhabi. UFC 242 kicked off at 7 AM PST and I was awake and ready for some must-see fight activity. The prelims took place on ESPN+ and then switched to FX before the UFC 242 PPV began at 11 AM.
There were a few fights in the UFC 242 undercard that deserve a mention and we’ll start with a tremendous knockout when Muslim Salikhov caught Nordine Taleb with a single overhand right hand that dropped and incapacitated him. The thunderous strike brought the fans in the arena to their feet. With the victory, Salikhov climbs to 15-2 as a professional and his UFC record improves to 2-1.
In what was one of the most impressive knockouts in recent memory, Ottman Azaitar destroyed Teemu Packalen with a crushing knockout. Ottman delivered a right hook that landed just behind the ear of Teemu and it sent Teemu crashing face-first into the canvas. In what was a scary sight, Packalen twitched on the mat unconscious for a bit while doctors and officials poured into the cage. It’s the second time in a row that a crushing right hand has left Teemu unconscious and prone on the mat. Marc Diakiese sent him to the land of nod in 30 some seconds in his last fight. It’s troubling back to back devastating knockouts for Teemu.
On the UFC 242 PPV portion of the card, Curtis Blaydes looked very impressive, dominating Shamil Abdurakhimov with takedowns and smothering ground and pound. Curtis is certainly establishing himself as a top-level threat in the heavyweight division. Curtis has won seven of his last eight bouts and has only tasted defeat in the UFC at the hands of one man, Francis Ngannou, who defeated him twice. I think Blaydes should meet a Derrick Lewis/Blagoy Ivanov winner or the Junior dos Santos/Alexander Volkov winner in his next fight. He’s on the short-list of potential contenders the division.
Paul Felder and Edson Barboza had an incredible back-and-forth fight that resulted in a split decision victory for Paul Felder. It was a close fight and the vast majority of my Twitter timeline felt Barboza won the fight. I scored the first for Barboza and the third for Felder so in my mind it came down to the second round which was really close. To be fair, I felt Edson Barboza had done enough to win the fight, but in my mind, it’s not a robbery or some horrible decision. That said, the fact that two judges saw the fight 3 rounds to 0 for either fighter is a head-scratcher. It was a crystal clear 29-28 for me.
Whatever your thoughts on the decision, it was great to see Paul Felder’s respectful reaction post-fight. He will be looking for a top-five opponent in his next outing, and try to move up the ladder in the very crowded Lightweight division. I’d be interested in seeing Felder face the winner of the Donald Cerrone/Justin Gaethje fight this Saturday in Vancouver.
Championship Main Event
The main event was pretty interesting as Khabib Nurmagomedov controlled the fight against the cage and on the mat, while Dustin Poirier had some fleeting moments of success standing in the second round and had Khabib Nurmagomedov stuck in a very deep guillotine at one point. If we’re being honest here, Khabib looked dominant for much of the three-round affair and was able to secure a neck crank/rear-naked choke in the third round, forcing Poirier to tap. It was another in a series of incredible victories for Khabib and was devastating for Poirier who worked so hard to climb into this position. He’ll be back and outside of Khabib and Tony Ferguson, I feel he’s the class of the 155-pound division.
Khabib is a monster and fights like it. All signs are pointing towards his finally meeting Tony Ferguson in the cage sometime next year. It’s a fight that’s been cursed in the past and if the two can finally meet in the Octagon, we’ll know who’s the best in the world without a shadow of a doubt. Khabib and Dustin showed great respect and sportsmanship all week and Khabib will be helping with Dustin’s charity, which is great to see.
After taking the afternoon to take in some college football, it was time for Bellator 226 and the first round of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. In addittion to those featherweight encounters, Ryan Bader defended his heavyweight title in the main event against Cheick Kongo.
In the first of the Featherweight tournament fights, Tywan Claxton took on the always fun Emmanuel Sanchez. I’m a fan of Sanchez and he didn’t disappoint Saturday night. After dealing with takedowns from wrestling expert Claxton, Sanchez was able to lock on a Triangle Choke. Though it took some time, he was finally able to lock it in and pull down on the head. A few moments later, Claxton tapped ending the fight. Emmanuel moves on in the tournament. I like him as a longshot pick to win this thing.
Pedro Carvalho was also victorious. He used a wicked neck crank to submit the game, Sam Sicilia in the second round of their first-round fight.
The undefeated and exciting Adam Borics defeated veteran Pat Curran in the second round of their fight. Borics is a very exciting fighter and he’s without a doubt going to be a tough out in this tournament. He handled a very crafty and tough veteran in Pat Curran. He was superior in all facets of the game and finished him with brutal ground and pound. It was a big win for Adam who runs his record up to 14-0.
In the last of the first four Grand Prix fights, Derek Campos defeated Daniel Straus in overtime. After three competitive rounds, the fight went to a decisive fourth round. Campos controlled that fight on the mat and won the round easily and thus moves on in the tournament.
Main Event and Featherweight Future
The second four fights of the Grand Prix will take place later this month on the 28th in Inglewood, CA. The matchups include Patricio Freire vs. Juan Archuleta, Darrion Caldwell vs. Henry Corrales, Daniel Weichel vs. Saul Rogers and AJ McKee vs. Georgi Karakhanyan.
In the main event, Ryan Bader dominated Cheick Congo. He landed left hands at will standing and then took Cheick down, advancing to the mount. He controlled the action completely. Unfortunately for all, Bader stuck his thumb in Kongo’s eye and that was a wrap. Cheick told doctors he could not see and they halted the action and ruled the fight a No Contest. It was a sad way to end a pretty solid card. The two will undoubtedly run it back in the not too distant future.
There you go, you’re all caught up with what went down this weekend in the wild world of MMA.
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