Loik Radzhabov vs. Esteban Ribovics
The opening round of this bout is a fairly clear round for Radzhabov. He lands some nice shots and mixes in his wrestling very well. Ribovics hangs tough and returns plenty of counters but Radzhabov is putting forth enough output and variety that he keeps Ribovics constantly on the defensive and having to address all that is coming at him. In the second round Ribovics starts to find his own success. He lands a couple of different shots that clearly wobble Radzhabov. The heavy punches clearly give Radzhabov problems, but he is always able to fall back on his wrestling when he gets in trouble. The second round is likely scored for Ribovics on most of the judges score cards. In the final round it is a back and forth affair. Each fighter has their moments of momentum, and the fight remains scrappy to the very end. Ribovics hurts Radzhabov with strikes once again, but the wrestling is always there to bail him out of trouble. The fight is extremely competitive but in the end the judges felt it was Radzhabov who had done just enough. Radzhabov by unanimous decision.
Farid Basharat vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
Basharat comes into this fight a huge favorite but in the opening round Blackshear gives him all that he can handle. Blackshear presses forward aggressively and is throwing heavy shots with full commitment. He also mixes in the wrestling which is keeping Basharat guessing and on the defensive. Late in the round Basharat finally gets some success of his own by gaining top control on the ground. He peppers in ground strikes while controlling and stifling any offense coming back from Blackshear. The round is close and could have gone to either fighter on the score cards. In the second round Blackshear keeps forcing the action but Basharat is starting to adapt now. About halfway through the round Blackshear lands a nice takedown and accrues over a minute of control time. He lands ground strikes and continues to search for ways to improve his position. With about a minute left in the round Basharat reverses and is able to get on top. He now accrues his own minute of control time to end the round. It is another close round which could have gone to either fighter. In the final round Blackshear continues to go first. This forward aggression of his can help on the score cards if the judges see the fight as razor close. A couple minutes into the round Basharat lands a nice takedown. Blackshear eventually gets back up, but he is later taken down again. Basharat ends up winning the final round clearly, which may have been enough to steal the fight. The judges
Jessica Penne vs. Tabatha Ricci
The opening round of this fight is dominated by Ricci. She beats Penne to the punch every time and blitzes with takedowns anytime she pleases. She is always one step ahead and wins the first round easily. In the second round it is more of the same. Ricci continues to be the aggressor and continues to have her way. She does whatever she wants and when she wants. Later in the round the fight hits the ground again and this time Ricci locks in an armbar with lightning precision. It takes only a matter of seconds before Penne is forced to tap out to keep from having her arm broken. It is the best performance we have ever seen from Ricci. She makes a huge statement to the division. Ricci by second round submission.
Mana Martinez vs. Cameron Saaiman
This fight is very competitive in the first round. Both fighters are very aggressive and plot forward with heavy shots. Each fighter lands their share and within minutes Saaiman’s nose is already bleeding. As the round progresses Saaiman ends up landing two different low blows which cause the fight to be paused. The second infraction causes a point to be taken away. This could prove to be a huge factor in this fight. In the second round it stays competitive and very exciting again. The level of skill in the striking exchanges is something to behold. Martinez slips punches and throws counters with such power that it’s very impressive to witness. Both fighters land beautiful strikes but it is Saaiman who lands a shot that actually drops Martinez. Saaiman follows him to the ground and then works from top control. He lands plenty of ground strikes and this round is a clear-cut round in his favor. In the final round Martinez shows signs that his hand may be broken. His left hand appears to be giving him some problems and he is now switching stances and rarely throwing it. In the middle of the round Saaiman accidentally lands an eye poke. This is the third foul of the fight, and the eye poke appears to be fairly significant. There is no point taken and the fighters are allowed to resume but the fouls are clearly piling up and starting to affect Martinez. This does not help his cause when you consider the possible broken hand as well. Martinez ends up surviving but Saaiman starts to pile up the offense against him late in the fight. It is a very impressive performance from Saaiman which shows serious potential for this young twenty-two-year-old. Saaiman by unanimous decision.
Ian Garry vs. Kenan Song
The opening round of this bout is going Garry’s way for most of the time. However, late in the round Song connects flush on the jaw of Garry with a blistering left hook. Garry drops immediately and song rushes onto the ground with him which might have been a mistake. The grappling allows Garry time to recover as opposed to making him stand back up and keeping it in the striking. Garry survives the round, but the round is likely stolen by Song with that blistering knockdown. In the second round Garry comes out and appears to be recovered. He gets back to his forward pressure and starts to outland Song once again. Garry stays sharp and as the round comes to an end it feels like a clear-cut round for him. In the final round Garry really starts to dominate. The damage is now starting to accrue and the face of Song is badly battered. In the final minute Garry steps on the gas and sprints to get the finish. He backs Song to the fence and hits him with a flurry. He lands shot after shot until Song finally collapses and shells up. This is enough to employ the referee to stop the fight. A very impressive win for Garry who continues to improve and has now put the division on notice. Garry by third round TKO.
Julian Marquez vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
The opening round of this fight shows Marquez finding some decent success. He is out landing Barriault in the striking exchanges and giving him problems with his heavy forward pressure. The first round is clear cut for Marquez, but the next round things will change. In the second round, as usual in Marquez fights, he starts to become fatigued. Barriault on the other hand, is called “the power bar” for a reason. He is known for keeping good cardio throughout the entirety of his fights. He notices the fading of Marquez in the second round and starts to pour it on. He forces Marquez against the fence and then begins to sprint with flurries. From that point on it is all Barriault. He lands shot after shot until eventually it is just too much. Marquez falls down into a shell position and the referee has no choice but to stop the fight. Barriault by second round TKO.
Viviane Araujo vs. Amanda Ribas
In the first round of this fight Araujo starts throwing heavy shots right away. She lands a couple which prompts Ribas to take the fight to the canvas. Once the fight hits the ground Ribas is now in top control and is landing ground strikes. However, Araujo only takes minimal damage before she is able to work her way back to the feet. Once back in the striking exchanges, Araujo starts finding success again. She lands some good shots that clearly get the attention of Ribas. The round is close but may have been edged out by Araujo, despite the takedown from Ribas. In the second round Ribas lands a beautiful flush shot early that rocks Araujo badly. Ribas follows that shot with more flush shots until Araujo hits the ground. Ribas then jumps into top control and is now controlling Araujo while landing ground strikes. She lands a huge amount of volume while on the ground. This round is not only clear cut but may be dominant enough for a 10-8 to be possible. In the final round Araujo regains her bearings and makes the fight competitive again. Late in the round the fight hits the ground and Araujo is threatening an armbar that looks very dangerous. Ribas remains poised though and is able to survive without being submitted. In the end it is a very dominant fight on the score cards. Ribas by unanimous decision.
Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis
The opening round of this bout is all action. For the first minute the fighters trade strikes but it doesn’t take long for Brunson to utilize his wrestling. He gets the fight to the ground and starts having his way. He lands ground strikes and is constantly staying one step ahead of Du Plessis in order to remain in control. The round is clear cut in favor of Brunson but the legendary cardio crash is just around the corner. In round two the fighters come out and both look tired. However, Du Plessis is able to keep pressing forward while Brunson is declining rapidly. Brunson is no longer wrestling, which is not a good place to be against a striker with the skill level of Du Plessis. Once Du Plessis notices the fatigue of his opponent he starts to press forward and force the issue. He starts landing repeatedly and the more wild exchanges that happen the more Brunson looks completely done. He almost is out on his feet. The fight then hits the ground with Du Plessis on top. He rains down hard shots and Brunson is so exhausted he can barely raise his arms to protect himself. He barely makes it to the bell but he is absolutely done. His corner knows this and throws in the towel. A nice comeback win for Du Plessis who makes it through adversity. Du Plessis by round two TKO.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones
The opening round of this fight we see a much more poised and patient Garbrandt. He picks his shots and is no longer being careless. In the past we would see Garbrandt eager to stand in the pocket and trade wild exchanges. That fighter is not there in round one. He lands nice shots at lightning speed and clearly wins the round. In round two Garbrandt now starts utilizing wrestling. He lands several takedowns with slamming authority. This is a much improved Garbrandt who is finally looking like the former world champion that he is. He lands ground strikes and neutralizes any offense from Jones. Another clear-cut round for Garbrandt. In the final round Jones starts to press forward more knowing that he needs a finish. Garbrandt dances along the outside trying to evade which angers the crowd. Despite the lack of output in the final round Garbrandt does enough in this fight to get him back on track. A much-needed win. Garbrandt by unanimous decision.
Jamie Pickett vs. Bo Nickal
This fight went about as expected if you ask most MMA fans or the Las Vegas odds makers. Nickal comes out and within seconds he is blitzing across the cage and shooting for a takedown. The takedown attempt is a little forced and telegraphed but for a wrestler of his caliber, it doesn’t matter. He achieves the takedown and immediately starts working to improve his position. It doesn’t take long until he is attacking chokes. His first attempt is a rear naked choke, but he doesn’t get all the way under the chin. So, he quickly switches to a head and arm choke. Pickett does a good job at surviving, but Nickal stays patient and continues to adjust the choke. Eventually he tightens it up enough that Pickett has no choice but to tap out. A very impressive performance for the debut of the most exciting prospect we maybe have ever seen. Nickal by first round submission.
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner
The opening round of this bout is competitive. The fighters stay on their feet for the first few minutes, and each finds some nice openings to land strikes. Later in the round Turner lands a flush right hand that drops Gamrot. Turner follows him to the ground and then starts searching for submissions. Gamrot defends nicely and eventually reverses to take top control for himself. The round ends with Gamrot on top, but he is not there for long. Likely a winning round for Turner. In the second round the fighters trade on the feet until Turner once again lands flush. Gamrot drops again and Turner blitzes after him with follow up shots. Gamrot hops back up quickly this time. The wild exchanges ensue but don’t last long. Gamrot finally gets a convincing takedown and is now able to find success of his own. He stays in side control and lands some nice ground strikes. This is his best momentum of the fight so far. He even briefly has Turner in a partial crucifix and lands repeated strikes despite them only being rabbit punches. It may have been enough to steal the round back for Gamrot but considering he was dropped earlier in the round, it could have gone either way. In the final round Gamrot spends the first minute on the feet and then blitzes in for a takedown. Turner almost sprawls enough to escape but not quite enough. Gamrot spends the final round doing just enough with the grappling to edge out this very close fight. Gamrot by split decision.
Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
For the first minute of this bout, it is strictly striking. After that Rakhmonov starts clinching and pursuing the grappling but Neal does a nice job at defending. With Neal forcing the fight to remain on the feet the heavy punches start flying. Each fighter lands flush at points in the round. Each has their moments, but the most significant strike of the round is a devastating head kick landed by Rakhmonov. Neal hangs tough though and as the round comes to an end there is blood coming from the nose of Rakhmonov. In the second round the trading of heavy strikes continued. Rakhmonov has the edge in numbers but Neal lands plenty of his own significant strikes, and possibly with a bit more power. The fight is competitive up to this point and each fighter has their hands full. In the final round the chaos continues but Rakhmonov eventually lands a flush shot that is absolutely brutal. Neal somehow stays in the fight but he is wobbled and his nose is bleeding profusely. Rakhmonov presses forward with more and more pressure until the fighters get near the fence. From there Rakhmonov gets behind Neal and sinks in a rear naked choke. Within seconds Neal is out cold and Rakhmonov drops him and walks away smiling. An incredible win for Rakhmonov but we finally got to see him tested. It will be great to continue watching his journey through the division. Rakhmonov by third round submission.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso
The opening round of this title fight is a surprising one. Grasso not only holds her own but lands possibly the best two strikes of the round. She lands a flush one-two combination to the head of Shevchenko but surprisingly, Shevchenko just eats them. The round is close but could have been edged out by the challenger due to having the best two strikes. In the second round Shevchenko gets the fight to the ground and quickly starts searching for her patented crucifix. She actually secures the crucifix briefly, but Grasso explodes with urgency as she is highly aware of the dangers. Shevchenko spends a majority of the round in top control. She lands some decent ground strikes but more importantly she stifles the offense of Grasso. This is a clear-cut round for the champion. In the third round the fighters trade jabs, straight punches and kicks for the first half of the round. However, in the middle of the round Shevchenko times a beautiful takedown when she anticipates a blitzing attack from Grasso. Shevchenko ducks under, secures the takedown and gets back to work with ground strikes. The ground strikes are limited but once again she is stifling the offense of the challenger. In the fourth round the fighters are very competitive and neither have any key moments to set themselves apart. However, this quickly changes late in the round. Shevchenko throws a spinning body kick but Grasso quickly evades and takes the back with lightning speed. She forces the champ to the ground and immediately starts attacking the rear naked choke. The choke is not completely underneath the chin but Grasso recognizes this may be her only chance and she is squeezing with everything she has. It’s almost as if she can see her entire journey, career and legacy flashing before her eyes. She squeezes harder and harder crushing down on the jawbone of the champion. Eventually the squeeze is just too unbearable, and the champion is forced to do a partial begrudging tap out. Despite the half-hearted tap, it is enough to crown a brand new champion. What a performance. And new. Grasso by fourth round submission.
Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane
Wow, just wow. The greatest of all time returns after several years off and he does it in a much higher weight class than he’s ever competed in. Not only did he do it with lightning speed, but he also made it look easy. As the bout begins the fighters trade punches and kicks but neither lands much of anything. During a kicking attack from Gane, Jones is able to evade and quickly blitz inside to grab a body lock. Jones then uses that to quickly force Gane to the ground which ultimately is the beginning of the end. Jones forces Ganes back to the cage while sitting on the ground. Jones stands over him facing Gane and locks up a front facing guillotine. The choke doesn’t look too threatening until all of a sudden Gane is tapping out and the crowd is erupting. Later when the replay shows the choke it does actually look significant from another angle. Regardless, the GOAT returns, the GOAT conquers, and we now have a new heavyweight champion. Jones by first round submission.
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