The UFC returned to Jacksonville once again for their second card of the week, UFC Fight Night 171. The main event featured a light heavyweight fight that could shake up the title picture. As they both looked to earn another title shot, Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira crossed paths in the main event. A win for either man would put them among two or three other names clamoring for a title shot.
In the co-main event of the night, Ben Rothwell welcomed Ovince Saint Preux to the heavyweight division. Rothwell started the fight well but seemed to slow down as time progressed. OSP would start to find his rhythm in the later rounds but it was too little too late as the judges awarded Rothwell the split decision. Rothwell would then proceed to call out another recent winner, Aleksei Oleinik, who is coming off a win over former champion Fabricio Werdum.
Another card with no one in the seats once again did not seem to be a problem. Each and every fight was still entertaining in their own ways. Looking back on UFC Fight Night 171 it is time to determine the five standout performances. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. Along with every performance will be a look at what could potentially come next for each fighter.
UFC Fight Night 171 Standout Performances
#1 Drew Dober
def. Alexander Hernandez via TKO (Punches) at 4:25 of Round Two
Leading up to this event, both Alexander Hernandez and Drew Dober were originally scheduled to face different opponents. Hernandez had already been booked for UFC 249’s original date, April 18, against Islam Makhachev. He had been coming off a unanimous decision win over Francisco Trinaldo and would look to make it two straight against Makhachev.
However, plans would change as UFC 249 was rescheduled and Hernandez lost his opponent. Then that is where Dober comes to save the day. Originally scheduled to fight at what was then UFC Fight Night 174, Dober was preparing to face Carlos Diego Ferreia. Yet that fight would fall through after postponements and cancellations eventually leaving Hernandez and Dober open for each other at UFC Fight Night 171. Entering the fight, Dober had put together an impressive two fight win streak, grabbing KO/TKO wins over Marco Polo Reyes and Nasrat Haqparast. Picking up a third straight win over Hernandez would surely put Dober in the top fifteen.
The first round started with Hernandez coming out of the gate quickly. It was clear right away that Hernandez was looking to keep distance between him and Dober as he utilized a lot of kicks early. Just over a minute into the round, Hernandez got his first takedown of the fight, but he was only able to hold Dober down for twenty seconds or so. Once the two got back to their feet, they broke apart as Hernandez landed a good right hand. From that point forward, Dober put on relentless pressure, backing Hernandez up to the fence and cutting him off as he tried to circle. As the round continued, Dober would be able to successfully close distance and soon start landing heavy combinations before the round ended.
The second round opened up with a brief timeout as Dober received an eye poke. After the action resumed, Dober continued pressuring. Early into the round, Hernandez attempted to get the fight to the ground again but Dober defended well this time. As Dober continued backing Hernandez up to the fence, he began landing more and more shots. Just about two minutes into the round, Dober landed a hard left hook that knocked Hernandez down for a moment. Dober began landing more and more punches before Hernandez, as stunned as he was, quickly took Dober down to the mat. It would only be moments before Dober was back on his feet again. As he kept landing, Hernandez continued looking for takedowns, but sooner or later Dober would get Hernandez on the fence where he would land the final punches.
Dober has now put together three straight KO/TKO victories and this most recent one came against the fifteenth ranked lightweight in the world. There is no doubt that Dober should be ranked come next week and with that being said, he had earned a shot at perhaps a top ten fighter. He made it clear in his post fight interview he is interested in the top strikes that the lightweight division has to offer. He even went on to mention Paul Felder as a potential opponent. Coming off a recent split decison loss to Dan Hooker, a match up with Dober could be good for Felder. A fight between these two would allow Dober the opportunity to prove himself. Meanwhile it gives Felder the chance to bounce back from his loss and start climbing towards the title again.
#2 Glover Teixeira
def. Anthony Smith via TKO (Punches) at 1:04 of Round Five
After moving up to the light heavyweight division in 2018, Anthony Smith quickly earned himself a title shot with three straight finishes. He met the champion Jon Jones at UFC 235 where he would go on to lose by unanimous decision. He returned three months later in a main event against another former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson. In the fourth round of their fight, Smith finished Gustafsson with a rear naked choke to keep him in the title discussion.
Smith would need to earn himself a couple more notable wins before he could face Jones again. Enter Glover Teixeira. Still competing at the age of 40, Brazil’s Teixeira has put together an impressive win streak as of late. Kicking off 2019 he defeated Karl Roberson by submission due to an arm triangle. He followed that up with another submission, finishing Ion Cutelaba by rear naked choke. To finish off his 2019, he defeated Nikita Krylov by split decision in September. After an undefeated 2019, Teixeira looked to keep the hot streak going in 2020 at UFC Fight Night 171 to earn himself another title shot.
In the first round, Smith came out fast, landing a hard right hand right away. The first round was all Smith as he had a lot of success with his strikes. He was keeping good pressure on Teixeria and mixing up his strikes very well. He landed many good combinations throughout the round giving him a clear one round advantage going into round two.
Smith started off the second round the same, still mixing up his shots and landing well. Just over halfway into the round, Smith landed a hard right hand that seemed to have caused Teixeira’s left eye to really swell up. That only seemed to have caused Teixeira to get better as he began closing distance and landing heavy shots. With just over a minute left, Teixeira forced Smith back to the fence. He would then proceed to land a heavy combination followed by a hard head kick. Teixeira was stunning Smith and Smith seemed to be getting tired as it was now probably 1-1 heading into round three.
Round three was the beginning of the end for Smith as just about a minute in, Teixeira began landing some heavy shots. One landed directly on Smith’s eye, causing him to pull back like he was poked but it had been ruled a punch. Teixeria closed in and started picking his shots, eventually landing a perfect left hook that dropped Smith. Teixeira would end the round on top before doing much of the same in the next round.
He opened round four landing heavy shots as Smith backed up to the fenced. Once there, Smith ate some more shots before desperately looking for takedown. About halfway through the round, Teixeira would allow Smith back to his feet. Once back to their feet, Teixeira continued to beat up on Smith before taking him down again. Round four ended the same way round three did, with Teixeira on top. In round five, it did not take long before Smith began covering up and looking for an out as he desperately went for another takedown. Teixeira defended it well once again and would end up on top. It would not take long until Teixeira passed into full mount. Once there, he postured up and landed the fight ending ground and pound.
The big win for Teixeira now makes it four in a row and puts him in the title picture. But this win only got him one step closer as the top of the light heavyweight division is clogged up. There are about three or four guys that can make their case for a shot at the 205-pound title. There is no need to go into detail as you can read that for yourself here. However, with that being said, Teixeira is one more big win away from another shot at Jones. So why not make a title eliminator fight between Teixeira and another man streaking towards gold, Jan Blachowicz. A win for either should put them in the position to be the next challenger at light heavyweight.
#3 Chase Sherman
def. Isaac Villanueva via TKO (Strikes) at 0:49 of Round Two
For two years from 2016-2018, Chase Sherman put together a record of 2-5 in the UFC, closing out his UFC run 0-3. After not being resigned, Sherman fought three times under the Island Fights banner and three times for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. With Island Fights, he went 3-0, picking up three straight TKO wins in the first round. Meanwhile, with BKFC, he went 1-1, 1NC, picking up his one win over Arnold Adams by unanimous decision to win the BKFC heavyweight championship. He would lose the title a few months later, losing to Joey Beltran by unanimous decision in his last fight before returning to the cage.
In his return to the octagon at UFC Fight Night 171, Sherman would be facing off against UFC newcomer Isaac Villanueva. Villanueva made his debut coming off a four fight win streak with Fury FC. All four of those wins came under four minutes into the first round by TKO. The most recent was in December, when he finished former UFC heavyweight Rashad Coulter in just over three minutes. He looked to pick up a big win in his UFC debut as he faced a very motivated Sherman who was entering his second UFC stint.
For the majority of the first round, both fighters met in the middle of the octagon and landed some good shots on each other. Sherman was doing a good job of using his leg kicks early, connecting with Villenueva’s leg nine times. Towards the end of the round, Sherman began pressuring forward and closing the distance. This allowed him to start landing some heavy shots that Villanueva just absorbed. The strikes that Sherman landed during that last minute plus all the leg kicks easily earned him round one.
The second round began as the two met in the middle of the octagon. Villanueva attempted to close distance and land a good combination on the way in. Sherman got out of the way and clinched with Villanueva where he landed a good knee as they broke. As Villanueva continued to try and pressure, Sherman began landing good shots. Villanueva soon began to back up to the fence and start covering up. Sherman began looking for the finish as he closed distance and began launching elbows. He eventually landed the fight ending elbow as he connected hard, sending Villanueva folding to the mat.
After a successful return to the octagon, Sherman has put together a four fight win streak. As Sherman slowly begins to try and rise to the top, an interesting next fight for him could be against another fighter that made his debut Philipe Lins. Lins came up short in his fight at UFC Fight Night 171 but that fight came against a very tough opponent in former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Lins put together quite an impressive streak of finishes before making his way to the octagon, winning four straight. A fight between Lins and Sherman would make for an exciting match up.
#4 Thiago Moises
def. Michael Johnson via Submission (Heel Hook) at 0:25 of Round Two
After a brief stint at featherweight that lasted nearly a year and saw him go 2-2, Micahel Johnson returned to lightweight last Fall. Welcoming him back to the 155-pound division was Scotland’s Stevie Ray. After three rounds, Johnson would end up losing the fight by split decision. With a record of 2-5 in his last seven heading into Wednesday, Johnson desperately needed to pick up a win.
Standing across from him at UFC Fight Night 171 was submission artist Thiago Moises. Prior to his matchup with Johnson, Moises had put together a record of 2-2 in his last four. He fought his way into the UFC on the Contender Series as he defeated Gleidson Moraes with a first round head kick knockout. In his UFC debut, he faced a very tough opponent as he fought UFC veteran Beneil Dariush. Dariush spoiled the debut of Moises as he defeated him by unanimous decision. Moises’ sophomore outing came about six months after his debut as he took on Kurt Holobaugh at UFC 237. He picked up his first UFC win that night as he defeated Holobaugh by unanimous decision. In his most recent outing, he would lose to Damir Ismagulov by unanimous decision setting up his meeting with Johnson.
For about the first half of round one, there was not much action between both fighters. Johnson was finding some success with his strikes while Moises seemed to be utilizing kicks early. During those first two minutes, Johnson was able to successfully defend a couple takedown attempts fro Moises. During the latter half of the round, Johnson began walking Moises back to the fence where he could land good combinations. Johnson started off the fight well and seemed to have won himself the first round, giving him the advantage heading into round two.
Right out of the gate in round two, Moises rushed across the cage and shot for a takedown. He seemed to have gotten it, but Johnson was doing all he could to defend it. While that was happening, Johnson opened himself up for a heel hook and the black belt in Moises immediately grabbed hold of the leg. Just moments later he had the heel hook locked up and Johnson’s tap came shortly after.
After a big win over Johnson, Moises has now put together a record of 2-2 in the UFC. Matching him up with another entertaining fighter Luis Pena. Pena came off the Ultimate Fighter and has put together a 4-2 record in the octagon. Since his debut at the TUF 27 Finale, Pena holds wins over Steven Peterson, Matt Wiman and Steve Garcia. A win for either gives them their second straight win and earns them tougher competition.
#5 Brian Kelleher
def. Hunter Azure via Knockout (Punches) at 3:40 of Round Two
After going 1-2 in 2018, Brian Kelleher did not make a single octagon appearance in 2019. He made his return earlier this year when he fought at UFC 246. That night he took on Ode Osbourne who brought in a four fight win streak. It would end up being Kelleher’s night as he returned to the cage with a first round submission win over Osbourne. He now looked to make it two in a row as he headed into UFC Fight Night 171.
Facing off against Kelleher was Hunter Azure. Azure entered the fight with an undefeated record of 8-0. He made his UFC debut last September coming off a unanimous decision win on the Contender Series. Azure made his debut against The Ultimate Fighter Season 27 winner Brad Katona. He put on a great performance against Katona and would win the fight by unanimous decision. He looked to pick up another big win in his next outing as he faced the heavy hitting Kelleher.
The first round saw a lot of action as both fighters stood in the middle and traded shots. Each guy was mixing it up well, landing a variety of punches and kicks. A couple times during the round, Kelleher would look to take Azure down, but Azure defended well and kept the fight standing. The round ended with the two in the middle of the cage. It could have very well been either man’s round.
The second round saw a lot of the same, both fighters meeting in the center of the cage trading shots. It was Azure that was landing the majority of the shots as he continued to close distance and land very good combos. With just over a minute and a half left in the round, Kelleher began pressuring and landed a good combo followed by a head kick. Not long after he connected with a hard left hook that dropped Azure. Kelleher followed up with some ground and pound before the ref stepped in.
After the win, Kelleher went on to call out Sean O’Malley. There is no reason to find anyone else as that fight seems like a good fight to make. O’Malley holds a record of 11-0 with three of those wins coming in the UFC after earning a contract on the Contender Series. During his UFC run, he holds wins over Terrion Ware, Andre Soukhamthath and Jose Quinonez. Kelleher brings enough to the table to make his fight with O’Malley interesting as he can finish you on the feet and the mat.
Once again, we do not have to wait long to get our next fixing of fights. On Saturday, the UFC is live from Jacksonville once again for the final time this week. This time, the main event features a fight between Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris. It will be a very big fight for Harris, as he makes the walk for the first time since the tragic loss of his daughter. In the co-main event, former UFC strawweight title challenger Claudia Gadelha faces off against the women’s division’s “Anytime, Anywhere”, Angela Hill. Be sure to check back here in the following days to catch UFC on ESPN 8‘s Standout Performances.
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