Jimmy Flick vs. Charles Johnson
Flick comes out of retirement for this fight to face the very talented boxer in Johnson. In the opening round the ring rust is somewhat apparent in Flick. He attempts his usual grappling approach, but Johnson is very skilled in his grappling defense and continues to force Flick to have to fight in other departments. Each time the fighters are back on the feet Johnson is having his way. He lands several significant shots that hurt Flick. Late in the round Flick attempts another takedown but is once again reversed with Johnson on top raining down blows. He lands some good shots, and the referee warns Flick of needing to improve his position. Flick does a fairly good job at defending most of the ground strikes but ultimately the referee still does not like what he’s seeing so the fight is stopped. Flick protests and it does seem somewhat justified as the fight may have been stopped a little early. Regardless, Johnson looks great in his boxing and takedown defense and secures a nice victory to start off the year. Johnson by first round TKO.
Daniel Argueta vs. Nick Aguirre
In the opening round of this bout Argueta gets to the grappling early. He lands a nice takedown, but Aguirre does a nice job at staying calm and defending well on the ground. The fighters eventually stand back up and in the next grappling scramble Aguirre is able to take the back of Argueta and now has his moment in the better position. This position does not last long because Argueta eventually finds his moment to explode out and end up back on top. He lands some nice ground strikes and spends the rest of the round on top. This should be enough to comfortably win the round for Argueta. In the second round Argueta doesn’t take much time before he’s forcing Aguirre back against the cage and searching for takedowns. Aguirre defends the takedowns for the first few minutes but eventually his resistance fades as the fatigue begins to set in. Arguetta lands a takedown with two minutes left in the round and eventually takes the back to immediately start hunting for rear naked chokes. Aguirre finds a way to survive but it is once again another comfortable winning round for Argueta. In the final round Argueta continues to strike on the feet until he sees his next grappling opportunity. The more the fight goes on the more Aguirre’s resistance fades. Both fighters are now clearly fatigued but Aguirre appears to be the more exhausted fighter. Argueta lands another takedown and is once again on top and landing ground strikes. He spends the final few minutes of the fight in a dominant position and being the only fighter scoring points. It is yet another comfortable round for Argueta which should be enough to score him an easy 30-27 win on all three score cards. The judges agree. Argueta by unanimous decision.
Allan Nascimento vs. Carlos Hernandez
This fight was short lived. In the opening round the fighters take turns trading strikes on the feet. Eventually Nascimento starts pursuing the grappling. Hernandez does a nice job at defending but eventually Nascimento is able to take the back of Hernandez. This is a terrible place to be against a fighter like Nascimento, who trains with Charles Oliveira. It takes only a matter of seconds before Nascimento starts pursuing rear naked chokes. Eventually Hernandez is able to get to the feet but Nascimento hops on his back with the body triangle secured. He gets the choke under the chin and now Hernandez is in a race against the clock to try and escape. He does the right thing and tries to pry the top hand of Nascimento loose, but Nascimento is smart and switches the grip. After a few more seconds the choke is too tight, and Hernandez now has no more resistance left in him. He taps out and the fight is over quickly. A very nice performance for Nascimento to start off the win with a big finish. Nascimento by first round submission.
Mateusz Rebecki vs. Nick Fiore
In the opening round of this bout, it is a mostly striking affair. Both fighters have great grappling skills, and the respect may be the reason the fight stays on the feet early. Rebecki plows forward like a wrecking ball throwing heavy shots with little fear of what might come back at him. Fiore tries to stay calm, but the heavy pressure sees him almost freezing and only backing up. Rebecki lands some heavy shots and late in the round he is finally able to land a very nice takedown. He finishes the round in top control after landing a heavy elbow and opening a pretty bad cut on the face of Fiore. A clear winning round for Rebecki. In the second round Rebecki keeps the heavy pressure going immediately. As the round progresses it does appear that he is beginning to slow down. Fiore lands a takedown, but Rebecki works his way back to the feet. His arms are looking heavy, and his mouth is open which are tale tale signs of being tired. As soon as he has the chance, he blasts in for a takedown of his own which is likely an attempt at finding some rest for himself. He spends the final couple minutes of the round on top again and lands some more ground strikes. This will likely result in another winning round for Rebecki. In the final round Fiore follows the instruction of his coaches and tries to go first. He lands a nice shot and then attempts a takedown, but Rebecki defends. About 30 seconds later, Rebecki lands a takedown of his own where is once again on top and in control. Fiore is now out showing little to no urgency in trying to get back up. Rebecki spends a majority of the final round in top control where he is able to coast his way to a very comfortable win. Rebecki by unanimous decision.
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Claudio Ribeiro
The opening round of this fight is fireworks as expected. However, after trading a couple of big shots, Alhassan does something unexpected. He clinches Ribeiro and forces him against the fence which now slows down the fight and shows the maturity of Alhassan. He controls the fight more from the clinch while landing strikes and trying to manage the fight on his own terms. Ribeiro stays patient along the fence, but he is being controlled while Alhassan is slowly accruing points from his clinch striking. This very likely results in a winning round for Alhassan. In the second round Ribeiro comes out aggressive. He throws heavy shots and is overextending at times. Alhassan makes him pay by waiting for an opening and then landing a heavy counter strike. Ribeiro is wobbled and Alhassan notices. Instead of using footwork and trying to buy time to recover, Ribeiro makes the mistake of continuing to just bite down on his mouthpiece and throw more wild shots. Alhassan makes him pay again and lands another heavy shot. This drops Ribeiro and Alhassan now stands over him landing a few more heavy strikes. Alhassan throws so hard that it only takes a couple of shots before the referee rushes in to stop the fight. A very impressive win for Alhassan who is now showing maturity and patience. This just makes him that much more dangerous. Alhassan by second round TKO.
Mateus Mendoca vs. Javid Basharat
In the opening round Medoca is the far more aggressive and explosive fighter. Basharat appears wiser as he is more economical with his energy and picks his openings. Mendoca continues with the heavy lunging shots and eventually Basharat finds an opening and lands a beautiful flush strike that wobbles Mendoca for a split second. Basharat remains composed and continues with his poise and patient game plan. In the final 30 seconds Basharat lands a takedown during a scramble and ends up on top where he lands a couple quick ground strikes. The round is competitive and could have gone to either fighter depending on if the judges are favoring aggression or tactical precision. In the second round Mendoca pursues aggressively once again. He eventually forces Basharat to the fence and attempts a takedown, but Basharat defends nicely and even lands some nice elbows to the side of the head of Mendoca while he is bending over attempting a takedown. As the round progresses Mendoca is heavily pursuing the takedowns despite the openings not actually presenting themselves. Basharat’s defense continues to hold up and these wild lunging takedown attempts are now starting to tire Mendoca. Eventually Basharat ends up on top with a fatigued Mendoca underneath him. Basharat lands some nice ground strikes and continues to control. He eventually starts landing elbows that open up a cut on Mendoca and no matter how much Mendoca squirms he just doesn’t seem to have an answer. The round comes to a close and this round is much more clear-cut in favor of Basharat. In the final round Mendoca shows a sense of urgency but Basharat is always one step ahead. Basharat continues to land strikes from range while implementing brilliant takedown defense which often results in him ending up in top control. The final round once again belongs to Basharat which leads him to a hard fought but mostly comfortable win. Basharat by unanimous decision.
Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Raoni Barcelos
This fight was another one that was over quickly. Nurmagomedov faces his toughest test to date in Barcelos. As the opening round begins to play out, it is an all-striking affair. Each fighter stays at range and carefully picks their moments to enter and throw precision strikes. Barcelos is doing a nice job at evading and throwing his carefully selected shots and Nurmagomedov is doing the same. Both are having their subtle moments of success but late in the round Nurmagomedov explodes with brilliance. He throws a knee up the middle as Barcelos enters the pocket. Barcelos is not hit by the knee but Nurmagomedov throws and follow up left hook almost simultaneously that completely catches Barcelos off guard. The shot is flush, and Barcelos falls backwards violently. When he hits the canvas, the audience quickly discovers that he is out cold. Nurmagomedov rushes in to throw follow up shots but he soon realizes there is no need. The fight is over and Nurmagomedov once again displays his dominance which appears to only be growing. A scary concept for the rest of the division. Nurmagomedov by first round KO.
Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington
The first round of this fight is almost all boxing. There is an occasional kick thrown in but other than that it is all punches. Vieira is the bigger, longer and more powerful fighter. Pennington sticks that jab out while circling and occasionally lunges when she gets cornered, but Vieira is having the better success. She lands the crisper shots and as the round progresses there is a cut eventually opened up on the face of Pennington. The round is competitive but still appears to be won by Vieira. In the second round Pennington tries to move forward more. She continues with the jab and lunges with hooks, but Vieira is utilizing footwork and range control to keep herself safe. After the first minute Pennington is finally able to initiate some grappling. She takes the back of Vieira while still standing. Unfortunately for her, Vieira is able to defend nicely and escape before Pennington can ever do much of anything with the advantageous position. As the round finishes up, Pennington has made it more competitive this time but she is still bleeding a good amount from the face which does not paint a good picture for the judges. In the final round Pennington continues to be tenacious. She is clearly going after it and leaving it all out there. Despite this, it appears that Vieira has used her size, range and skills to do the better work. In the end however, two of the judges do not agree with that statement. They give a surprising edge to Raquel which now makes it five wins in a row. Pennington by split decision.
Punahele Soriano vs. Roman Kopylov
This fight was the coming out party for Roman Kopylov. He had a rough start in the UFC but as of late has been showing improvements. However, in this fight his improvements seem to have increased tenfold. From the very beginning Kopylov throws a devastating jab with crispy precision. He is knocking back the head of Soriano repeatedly and landing straights and hooks on top of that. As the round progressed Kopylov then started doing some nasty body work. He’s throwing devastating body kicks and hooks to the same spots. The damage is quickly adding up on Soriano. The round ends and is a clear winning round for Soriano. In the second round Soriano comes out and tries to regroup but Kopylov is just too good. He continues to throw with bad intentions but does so with blistering precision. Soriano is only throwing lunging shots that never seem to land and only leave him out of position. Kopylov continues to punish the body. He eventually throws a spinning back kick to the midsection of Soriano that he somehow eats and is able to stay standing. Each time Kopylov lands Soriano is now wincing in pain. The onslaught continues and eventually just becomes too much. Kopylov lands more body shots and Soriano finally curls up in a ball along the fence. Kopylov stands over him and throws some final shots, but they are not needed. He has already destroyed Soriano. The fight is called off and Kopylov gets the most impressive win of his UFC career. Kopylov by second round TKO.
Dan Ige vs. Damon Jackson
This bout was a very intriguing matchup between a highly skilled striker on a skid versus a dominant grappler on the rise. Ige comes into this fight after losing three in a row, but the defeats are only to the absolute elite. Jackson comes into the fight on a four-fight win streak with his recent win being the most impressive. As the first round begins Ige stalks forward while Jackson circles around the edge of the cage and hops back and forth trying to evade. Ige continues to close the distance and each time he pulls the trigger it is only at ideal moments when he sees the openings. He starts to land some good shots and Jackson continues to hop around horizontally while trying to counter. Jackson is far more known as a grappler but for some strange reason he is only choosing to strike. Each time the fighters trade shots the skill advantage for Ige is highly apparent and almost makes Jackson look foolish. Ige lands some really good shots and even lands a takedown in the final ten seconds just to put a stamp on the round. A clear-cut winning round for Ige. In the second round it feels like Jackson will now finally start his super dominant grappling. However, shockingly, he does not. He continues to only engage in the striking which begins to give the feeling of impending doom. Ige continues to stalk and pick his shots until eventually he lands the big one. He waits for Jackson to lunge in again and when he does Ige pulls back and throws a fake right followed by a devastating left hook that lands flush. Jackson falls violently and Ige just walks away knowing that the fight is over, and no follow up shots will be needed. It is a very impressive performance for Ige to get him back on track and a very surprising approach for Jackson to end his win streak. Ige by second round KO.
Sean Strickland vs. Nassourdine Imavov
In the opening round of this main event Imavov starts off aggressively. Strickland, as per usual, marches right into phone-booth range where he is most comfortable. Imavov takes this opportunity to start throwing heavy strikes that quickly get the attention of Strickland. Despite this, Strickland does not shy away and utilizes his 1tricky defense and crisp boxing. For the early part of the round, Imavov is the aggressor but later in the round Strickland appears to have downloaded all the information that he needs. He then flips the script and starts going on the offensive much more. He starts to land and even blitzes after Imavov on occasion when he catches him off balance. It is a tale of two halves as the first half appeared to belong to Imavov and the second half appeared to belong to Strickland. In the second round Strickland continues to inch forward and is constantly staying in phone-booth range. This pressure makes Imavov feel like he always has to be throwing, which is part of the technique of Strickland that slowly drains his opponents. About halfway through the round Strickland lands a nice takedown that catches Imavov off guard. Imavov works his way back to the feet immediately, but the rhythm change of Strickland is a smart approach. Each fighter has their moments in the round, and it is a very close fight up to this point. In between rounds, it is noticeable that Strickland is breathing very heavily. This is likely due to taking the fight on short notice and carrying more weight in this fight than he is used to. The tempo of the third round is slightly more controlled and both fighters seem to be taking a small break. Strickland stays in that close range and works the jab, but the output of Imavov has slowed considerably. Nothing too significant happens in this round but it may have been edged out by Strickland simply due to the higher output. In the fourth round the activity is picked up by Imavov after stern instruction from his corner. Despite this, Strickland still does well since the fight is taking place in his preferred area of close range. The round is close and the strike count for both fighters is still nearly even after four rounds. In the final round Strickland picks up the activity as he usually does late in his fights. He unloads combinations and each time Imavov tries to fire counters, Strickland ducks under and clinches to stifle the offense. Despite this Imavov finds his moments and lands his shots as does Strickland. It is another close round in a fight that is very competitive but in the end the judges felt that it was Strickland who had done the better work. Strickland by unanimous decision.