Carlos Ulberg v. Nicolae Negumereanu
Ulberg starts the evening off with a bang for the UFC 281 fans and his fellow CKB teammates. The two fighters meet in the middle and Ulberg keeps distance to eventually frustrate Negumereanu. Ulberg lands two nice calf kicks that have Negumereanu in trouble and limping. Ulberg continues to keep the distance with pop shots. Negumereanu decides to rush in and Ulberg clips in with a nice combination. Negumereanu falls and tries to get back up but is hit with the final blow that ends him entirely. An impressive win for Ulberg that starts the night of beautifully for his fellow City Kickboxing teammates. Ulberg by first round TKO.
Julio Arce v. Montel Jackson
In the first round Jackson is very persistent on clinching. He forces Arce to the cage and clinches him tightly while peppering in various clinch strikes. He uses up about three minutes of the round with this approach. Arce does a nice job at defending the takedown and minimizing damage until eventually the referee breaks them up due to not enough action. In the final minutes Arce presses forward trying to get some momentum back. He lands a nice takedown in the final ten seconds, but it will be interesting to see if it was enough to steal the round. In the second round the fight takes place much more in the center of the cage. Arce presses forward but is having trouble finding Jackson. Arce continues to throw single shot attacks which are not getting the job done. In the final minute Jackson blitzes for a takedown but the takedown defense of Arce is very impressive despite being caught in a bad position. In the final round Jackson lands a nice shot that drops Arce. This big moment was perhaps the deciding factor the judges were looking for to separate the two fighters. As the fight comes to a finish it was a competitive affair, but Jackson did enough to cruise to a comfortable decision. Jackson by unanimous decision.
Mike Trizano v. Seung Woo Choi
The opening round of this fight is all action with nonstop excitement. In the opening seconds both fighters throw hooks at the same time. Both land their shot, dropping each other simultaneously. The crowd erupts as both fighters get back up and continue the wild slugging exchange continues. Choi lands a few more flush left hooks and Trizano somehow is able to eat them. He keeps pressing forward and is now landing some good shots on Choi. The crowd is on their feet in pure excitement. Each fighter continues to throw bombs while being hit with them. Eventually Trizano lands another flush shot that echoes throughout the arena. This one drops Choi with a different effect this time. Choi doesn’t scramble back up to his feet and instead looks up in a daze. Trizano blitzes on top of him and throws some follow up shots. Choi rolls over and curls up which tells the referee that he doesn’t want anymore. The fight is stopped, and the crowd was treated with an exhilarating slug fest to fire them up. Trizano by first round TKO.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz v. Silvana Gomez Juarez
The first round of this bout starts off on the feet with Juarez throwing heavy shots. Kowalkiewicz evades most of them and eventually blitzes in to force the grappling. The fight hits the ground and Kowalkiewicz is able to take the back of Juarez. She threatens rear naked chokes, but Juarez defends nicely. Kowalkiewicz is able to keep control and constantly adjust her position to stay in control during the scrambles. Not a lot of damage is landed but there is enough control time for Kowalkiewicz that she likely wins the round on all three judges’ score cards. In the second round Juarez does much better and is landing some good shots on the feet. She presses forward and does a nice job at keeping the pressure with heavy strikes. Kowalkiewicz stays scrappy though and never backs down. Both fighters have their moments, but it feels like this round is edged out by Juarez. In the final round Kowalkiewicz continues to stay scrappy and is constantly showing how bad she wants this win. She keeps pressing forward and occasionally mixes in the grappling attempts. Juarez hangs tough but it is not quite enough. All three judges felt that it was Kowalkiewicz who had done enough to take the win. Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision.
Ottman Azaitar v. Matt Frevola
This was another wild and exciting fight that once again sent a surge of electricity through the crowd. Frevola comes out bouncy and energetic and is throwing big shots from distance trying to get a reaction. Azaitar stays patient and studies the timing in hopes of picking the perfect moment to land a counter shot. As the round progresses and the fighters start to open up, Azaitar starts getting a little reckless. He starts lunging in and overextending until eventually it costs him. Frevola times a beautiful counter left hook that drops Azaitar instantly. Frevola lands a couple follow up shots, but they are not needed. Azaitar is clearly out of it and the fight is over. The crowd erupts for their fellow New Yorker and Frevola is overcome with emotion. A beautiful win for Frevola that hands Azaitar the first loss of his career. Frevola by first round TKO.
Andre Petroski v. Wellington Turman
The first round of this bout is exciting and competitive. Petroski comes out aggressively and is putting everything into his shots. He lands some decent strikes but so does Turman. In addition to punches, Turman is also landing some good body kicks straight up the middle. As the round progresses it seems like the pace and body kicks are already starting to slow down Petroski. His shots are looking slower and more labored now. The round is close, but Petroski lands a couple of key takedowns that may have been the difference. In the second round Petroski comes out rejuvenated but he once again sprints and which costs him later in the round. He initiates a couple of grappling exchanges, but the cardio and scrappiness of Turman keeps him right in the mix and is wearing on the gas tank of Petroski. In the final minutes of the round Turman is now taking over. He clinches from behind and is landing knees and punches. Petroski finds a way to escape and ends up in full mount but is he so tired that he is not able to do much with it. The round is a nonstop sprint back and forth and will be a tough one to score for the judges. In the final round Petroski sprints at the beginning again. He lands a quick takedown and is able to remain in control while threatening with constant attacks. Turman tries to escape but he is finally showing some fatigue as well. For the entire final round Petroski is in control. This proves to be enough to seal the deal for him. Petroski by unanimous decision.
Molly McCann v. Erin Blanchfield
This fight was pure domination on the side of Blanchfield. McCann displays an unfathomable amount of toughness and determination but unfortunately for her it made absolutely no difference. The two fighters exchange a couple of shots in the first 20 seconds, but then Blanchfield blitzes and lands a takedown. This was the beginning of the end for McCann. It doesn’t take long before Blanchfield has her in a crucifix and McCann is squirming wildly trying to escape. No matter how much she flails and bucks she just cannot break free. The entire time she is squirming she is getting punched and elbowed repeatedly in the head. After taking close to a hundred shots Blanchfield then starts pursuing the submission. She locks up a kimura which McCann escapes once despite the whole audience cringing. However, it only takes a matter of seconds before Blanchfield locks up another kimura with an even tighter hold this time. After nonstop scrappiness from McCann, she finally is forced to accept her defeat. It is a one side clinic from Blanchfield who continues her surge through the division. Blanchfield by first round submission.
Dominick Reyes v. Ryan Spann
Unfortunately for Reyes this was yet another disappointing night for him. There was a time when many people felt he had just defeated the greatest of all time, despite not getting the nod from the judges. After that defeat he then loses two more fights, making it three in a row. He comes into this fight looking to redeem himself and right the ship. As the opening round begins the fighters immediately start throwing heavy shots. Reyes lands a nice kick up the middle to the body of Spann, but he is undeterred. Spann keeps pressing forward and is throwing crispy straight shots with blistering power. He lands a nice shot that drops Reyes, but he somehow gets back up despite having his neck attacked on the way up. The two fighters meet in the middle for another exchange and this time Spann lands a flush jab that drops Reyes again. He is knocked out this time by a single jab. Spann lands a couple more follow up shots that are not needed. The fight is stopped, and Reyes has now lost four in a row. Such a terrible fall from the heights he had once achieved. Spann by first round TKO.
Brad Riddell v. Renato Moicano
This fight was another short-lived affair. Riddell comes into this bout looking to get back on track after two disappointing losses where he was finished in the first round. As the fight begins they meet in the middle and feel each other out briefly. When they finally start to exchange, Moicano holds his own very impressively considering that Riddell is the kickboxing specialist. In fact, it is Moicano who lands the significant shots that get Riddell concerned so much that he is forced to clinch. This is not the area any fighter wants to be in with Moicano. Riddell is now bleeding, and it doesn’t take long before the fight hits the ground. Moicano then gets to the back quickly and is now threatening a rear naked choke. Riddell tries to hang tough but the squeeze of Moicano is nothing to be underestimated. After a few seconds of the tight squeeze and the face of Riddell pouring onto the canvas, he is left no choice but to submit. He taps out and this is now the third fight in a row where Riddell has been finished in the first round. Moicano by first round submission.
Dan Hooker v. Claudio Puelles
This fight was an odd pairing but as it began to unfold it started looking like a mismatch. In the opening round the fighters meet in the middle and Hooker immediately starts throwing straight shots. Puelles evades and just waits for his moment to attack a leg. Eventually Puelles finally gets the leg and wrestles Hooker down to the ground. He quickly attacks the leg bars and heel hooks and has Hooker in all kinds of trouble. As per usual, Hooker just endures all the pain and looks as though he never even considered the possibility of tapping out. He eventually finds his way out of the trouble and the fighters meet on the feet again. As the remainder of the fight plays out Puelles begins to look out of his element. He continues to go for rolling attacks lunging for the legs of Hooker. The more he keeps trying and failing the more the fans start getting upset and booing him. Eventually it becomes apparent that it is his only strategy and when it continuously fails he looks exposed. Hooker continues to land shots and eventually Puelles is wilting in front of our eyes. He finally searches for a way out and folds up on the ground after a mediocre shot. A poor performance for Puelles but a great way to get back on track for Hooker. Hooker by second round TKO.
Frankie Edgar v. Chris Gutierrez
This fight was a hard one to watch if you’re a fan of the legend Frankie Edgar. This fight was proclaimed to be his swan song and was taking place in front of his fellow New Yorkers. Unfortunately for Edgar he once again was paired up with another assassin. As the fight begins Edgar stalks forward patiently while Gutierrez is throwing kicking faints. Eventually he starts to sit down on the kicks and lets them fly with explosive power. He lands a brutally flush leg kick that quickly gets Edgar’s attention. Edgar keeps stalking forward but never lunges in for the takedowns. Gutierrez continues to pick at Edgar from the outside and eventually the terrible moment happens that ends it all. Frankie rushes in yet again and this time Gutierrez loads up an absolutely devastating knee that he sends flying right up the middle. It lands flush on the chin of Edgar and sends him falling straight on his back, flatlined. A terrible final fight for the legend but another reminder that it is definitely time to call it quits. Gutierrez by first round KO.
Dustin Poirier v. Michael Chandler
This fight was an absolute barn burner. One of the greatest fights you will ever see. In fact, Chandler may have just participated in the fight of the year for the second year in a row. From the opening minute this fight was a high-octane fire fight. Chandler lands first and has Poirier in trouble. Poirier is under fire and has to dig deep to survive. He then finds his footing and lands nasty shots back. Chandler is now in trouble and under a blitzing attack. The crowd is on their feet and louder than they’ve been all night. Both fighters are hurt and bloody. In the final ten seconds Poirier is landing shot after shot and finishes the round with a blistering elbow that lands flush. Chandler is extremely wobbled but is saved by the bell. The crowd erupts. In the second round Chandler comes out recovered and quickly lands a takedown. He is pouring blood all over Poirier while controlling him from top. Poirier shows no urgency in getting back up and just accepts the bad position. Chandler controls nearly the entire round and easily wins it despite painting Poirier with all of his own blood. In the final round it is more nonstop chaos. Chandler lands another takedown but this time is reversed. Poirier gets behind him and quickly locks on a body triangle. This is the beginning of the end for Chandler. Eventually Poirier sinks in a rear naked choke that is extremely tight. There is no escaping for Chandler and he now realizes has no choice but to tap out. An absolute war of a fight with so many momentum swings and even more blood. What a fight. Poirier by third round submission.
Carla Esparza v. Weili Zhang
This fight was a chance for Zhang to finally get her belt back. She faces another fighter who just recently got the belt back as well after eight years. In the opening round Zhang stalked forward patiently but with intent. Esparza backs up and is trying her best to be cautious of the dangerous strikes flying her way. Esparza does okay at staying safe but is clearly looking for her opening to get the takedown. She eats a couple of shots but finally gets her chance. There are some amazing scrambles on the ground and Zhang shows her explosive athleticism which helps her never get in too bad of a position. Esparza has her moments and is constantly pressing on the ground. The scrambles are a site to behold and both fighters are highly impressive. As the round comes to a close Zhang is on top and raining down blows but Esparza survives. In the second round Esparza continues to pursue the wrestling but the athleticism is just too much to ever pin Zhang down. She stays scrappy and always scrambles with explosive power, never accepting any bad positions. Eventually Zhang ends up in a favorable position and sinks in a rear naked choke. Esparza tries to endure but she quickly realizes the choke is too tight to escape. She quickly submits and we have a new champion. Zhang by second round submission.
Israel Adesanya v. Alex Pereira
The opening round of this main event title fight is a nail biter. Pereira presses forward with confidence as Izzy dances around on the outside and shows his footwork and elite skills. Both fighters throw single shots when they see openings, but both are evasive. The leg kicks of Adesanya eventually start landing with a lot of power. They get the attention of Pereira until he eventually starts landing leg kicks of his own. For the most part the opening round is even until the final ten seconds when Adesanya lands the best punches of the round. He lands a flush right that wobbles Pereira and immediately lands a left hook to follow. Pereira is basically out on his feet but is saved by the bell. In the second round Pereira comes out fully recovered and once again presses forward. This round is another close round but appears to be edged out by Adesanya. Pereira continues to have his moments and land some nice shots but Adesanya does the same. In the third round the audience is surprised when both fighters begin to show their grappling prowess. Both fighters have their moments in the grappling and some of the scrambles are a sight to behold, especially for two fighters usually only known for their striking. Adesanya officially lands the first takedown of his UFC career, and the crowd erupts. Another close round and the fight continues to be a nail biter. In the fourth round the fight stays competitive. The grappling, clinching and striking appears to now slightly fatigue Pereira. Adesanya senses this and continues to press forward. Another great round for both but appears to be edged out by the champ once again. In between rounds Pereira’s corner is telling him he needs the knockout. The final round begins. Pereira presses forward and backs Adesanya up against the cage. Adesanya continues to flirt with danger by keeping his back against the cage. He usually likes to bend backwards to evade shots but with his back on the cage this limits that ability. Despite the fight being competitive Adesanya appears to be edging out almost all of the rounds. In the final minutes Pereira presses him against the cage once again. This time he lands flush. Then he lands another one that wobbles the champ. Pereira continues to press and has Adesanya now wobbled and in trouble. Pereira pours it on and continues to land until the referee steps in to stop the fight. There is a new middleweight champion of the UFC. Pereira by fifth round TKO.