Saturday night saw the UFC return for their 3rd fight card in the past 7 days and it was set to be a really tasty card from huge featherweight bouts, to an emotional main event, fans across the world were set for one hell of a night. Here’s my breakdown of every fight on the card, as it happened.
Rodrigo Nascimento (W) vs Don’Tale Mayes – Heavyweight Bout
We got off to a very quick start with this fight as both men were eager to start throwing strikes at each other and enjoyed success with their early leg kicks. Nascimento was constantly walking Mayes down and both men were trading strikes in the pocket. Nascimento eventually went to his superior ground game and took Mayes down but there wasn’t much action on the ground and round 1 came to end with Mayes getting to his feet and clipping Nascimento with a nice left counter. Round 1 went to Nascimento for me, 10-9 but Mayes did enough to have a chance at that round.
Round 2 started in a similar fashion. Nascimento hit a great head kick which sent Mayes back into the cage wall but Mayes enjoyed some success with heavy shots himself. They both clinched up and Nascimento hit a nice knee to Mayes’s face, however, Mayes came back with some knees of his own. Nascimento hit a lovely trip whilst up against the cage wall, took Mayes’ back seriously quick, locked a rear-naked choke in and Mayes had no other option than to tap.
Nascimento really impressed me with his debut, he looked confident in the standup and against a taller guy like Mayes, that’s impressive. He had some really nice ground game, had some real speed to his transitions and the way he took Mayes’ back was impressive. He called Chase Sherman out after the fight and it’s a fight that makes sense, and one I would like to see.
Cortney Casey vs Mara Romero Borella – Women’s Flyweight Bout
Both women touched gloves to start the bout and spent the first 30 seconds feeling each other out, throwing fakes until Borella came inside and pinned Casey against the cage wall. Whilst having the underhooks, Borella was constantly hitting Casey with small knees to the thigh and was keeping active whilst Casey was looking for a way out.
Eventually, Borella got the takedown she was shooting for but unfortunately for her, it cost her the fight. Casey spent the whole time sneakily setting up for an armbar attempt, and just as Borella got comfortable in guard BANG, armbar was locked in and Borella had no choice but to tap out instantly.
Casey was really impressive in this fight and she got her first finish since 2016, moving divisions seems to suit her and she was much more patient with her game, she wasn’t panicking when she didn’t have the upper hand and it worked out for her as she got the finish through that.
Darren Elkins vs Nate Landwehr (W) – Featherweight Bout
Round 1 started and Elkins enjoyed the first minute of the round on the feet, he was consistently hitting with his left hand including some really sharp jabs and a nice left hook. Elkins eventually shot for the takedown and got one via a trip on the cage wall. Landwehr had some really nice submission defense as Elkins was shooting for the back and possibly a rear-naked choke.
The fight got back to the feet and Elkins was dipping down to then send a left hook but Landwehr was growing confident as the fight went on and he found the timing of Elkins. Landwehr looked great at the end of the round when he landed a nice right hand. I had Elkins winning that 10-9 but Landwehr may have convinced the judges with that last couple of minutes.
Round 2 started and both guys just stood in the middle and threw bombs at each other, Landwehr seemed comfortable letting Elkins come inside and try to counter punch him. Landwehr was finding real success with some nice combos at length but he ate a nasty right hand from Elkins. There seemed to be a really nice knee in the clinch from Landwehr that rocked Elkins a little and then Landwehr hit another nice right hand but Elkins seemed to just ask for more. Landwehr then hit a nasty elbow that cut Elkins up and he shouted to Dana to watch this fight, just another bit of his showboating throughout the fight. Round 2 went to Landwehr for me so it’s 19-19 heading to round 3.
Round 3 began and holy goddamn was this an absolute brawl. Both guys stood in the middle and started swinging, both guys were successful with multiple hits and combos. Elkins shot for a few takedowns but didn’t find any success, however, he hit a really nice left and a right hook that had Nate rocked. Nate at the end of the fight hit a huge uppercut that rocked Elkins and then followed it up with a couple of rights. In my opinion, Elkins won the fight 29-28 but I could see a Landwehr 29-28 as well. The judges, however, gave 2 30-27’s which is just straight bad judging and Landwehr won via decision.
Landwehr was impressive in this fight, he shrugged off the nerves during the first round and went into a bloody, brawling war with a legend like Elkins. Elkins also proved, during this fight, that he’s still got it at a high level, he suffered two bad cuts in the fight and was covered in blood but was still throwing and connecting with some really nice combos.
Giga Chikadze (W) vs Irwin Rivera – Featherweight Bout
Round 1 started and Rivera came out with all the energy in the world, was constantly charging in on Giga, throwing superman punches, and even managed to jump over an attempted leg kick by Giga. However, Giga was staying composed throughout, refusing to fight on the inside and kept Rivera at a distance as he had the reach and height advantage. After the first half of the first round, Rivera slowed down and this fed into Giga’s gameplan, Giga was throwing all sorts of kicks and found some good success. Round 1 went to Giga for me 10-9, he controlled the pace of the fight.
Round 2 started and Rivera came out once again with all the energy he could possibly have and connected with some nice strikes early on, however, Giga once again stayed composed and kept the distance between them. Giga then started lighting up Rivera with a lovely front kick and the cracked Rivera with a beauty of an uppercut.
Giga just started to pick his shots and pick Rivera apart, from kicks to the body and legs, to beautiful hand strikes to the face of Rivera he was truly looking dominant in this round. Gig hit some really nice combos later on and hit a great side-kick to the body and the 2nd round came to an end with Giga taking it again for me, 20-18 heading into the 3rd round with Rivera needing an unlikely finish to win the fight.
Round 3 was a carbon copy of round 2 as Chikadze was just picking Rivera apart, everything Rivera had to throw at Chikadze, he had a counter for it. Giga knocked Rivera down as he was shooting for a takedown with a lovely knee to the head but Rivera got straight back up throwing at Giga. Later on, Giga went for a spinning kick, fell to the floor, and Rivera tried to lock in a heel hook but he ran out of time. Giga got the win via UD and it was a fantastic showing for the Georgian fighter. Also hats off to Rivera, he took the fight on two days’ notice at a weight division above his natural weight and stayed in there for the whole 15 minutes, UFC has a very intriguing talent in him.
Anthony Hernandez vs Kevin Holland (W) – Middleweight Bout
This was a bout between two Contender Series alum’s and it was Kevin Holland who started the fight with a serious pace. He tagged Hernandez up with an early hard combo and then backed Hernandez up against the cage wall. From there Holland exploded, caught Hernandez with a beauty of an elbow to the chin, followed it up with a knee to the body that winded Hernandez, and sent him to the mat. From there, Holland hit him with a huge right hand on the floor and the ref stepped in to stop the fight after 39 seconds. Wow! What a performance from Holland, there’s not much more to say!
Matt Brown vs Miguel Baeza (W) – Welterweight Bout
The final fight of the prelims saw welterweights do battle and the round started with Baeza looking for front leg kicks whilst Brown was looking to enter inside with speed and hit Baeza with some combos. Brown was finding some real success with the combos and then connected with a beautiful 4 piece combo that sent Baeza’s mouthguard flying out of his mouth, Baeza recovered well in the end and scored a beautiful knockdown with a lovely right hand to the temple that sent Brown to the canvas. Brown recovered well and got back to his feet and the round ended. For me Baeza won that round with that knockdown, so 10-9 Baez heading into the 2nd round.
The 2nd round started and both men were swinging for the fences, trading combos and then BANG, Baeza catches Brown coming inside with a beautiful strike that sent Brown crashing to the canvas. Baeza tried to follow it up with hammerfists but the ref jumped in and the fight was stopped, Baeza continues his undefeated career in MMA and stops Brown tying the record for finishes in the UFC.
Song Yadong (W) vs Marlon Vera – Featherweight Bout
The opening fight on the main card saw the featherweights do battle and both guys started the round off slowly, trying to find the timing of their opponents. Both guys enjoyed success early on with some leg kicks and then Song was the first to strike with a nice combo up top to Vera. As the round went on both guys got loose and started throwing some nice combos, to end the round they clinched up on the cage wall and Vera landed some nice knees to the body. Tough round to call for me, could have gone to either guy.
Round 2 had another slow approach to it by both guys until Song started to find some real success with his counter punching. He hit a lovely right to left hook combo that hurt Vera, forcing Vera to clinch up against the cage wall with Song. Vera was hitting some nice knees to the body and thighs and then both guys got into a firefight throwing bombs at each other. Vera found some good success near the end of the round, especially with a great body shot that Song really felt. Another tough round to call, I genuinely have no clue how to call this fight right now.
Round 3 started and it got off to a high pace with Song clinching Vera up against the cage wall, Vera managed to score a great takedown early on and both guys were trading blows on the ground. Song managed to fight to his feet and caught Vera with some nice shots that lead into some nice feeling out moments for both fighters. Song found more success in the middle of the round with some solid combos and Vera wasn’t backing down, closing the distance with Song and hitting him with some great shots of his own.
Throughout the fight Vera was finding Song’s body with some really nice knees and this round wasn’t any different. Vera scored another takedown with one minute to go but Song got to his feet quickly and both guys were trading absolute bombs. Another takedown saw Vera take a dominant position and was cutting Song up with some lovely elbows. Vera took round 3 for me but I don’t have a clue who won the overall fight.
The judges gave the fight to Song via UD and Vera wasn’t a happy guy, refusing to shake the hand of Song after the result was announced. I can’t really say whether it was the wrong call, the only round I had clear was round 3 to Vera. What I can say is I was shocked to see Song win on all three cards, I don’t think that was fair.
Eryk Anders vs Krzysztof Jotko (W) – Middleweight Bout
Up next were the middleweights and both guys started this fight off slowly, Jotko was looking to keep Anders at his range and Anders was looking to get active straight away, Anders looked like he was wanting the takedown and was closing in but getting caught on the way in by Jotko. The fight went to the ground and both guys showed their scrambling skills as they both dodged bad positions and the fight went back to the feet. Anders found much more success in the latter stages of the round and cracked Jotko with some nice right hands to end the round, clinched up on the cage wall. I have Anders taking this round 10-9 but Jotko could have it also after some nice work early on.
Round 2 started with a higher pace as both guys threw shots early on, after that though it had a similar feel to it, Anders was constantly looking for the takedown but Jotko had some great takedown defense against the cage wall. Anders landed a nice spinning elbow and then got Jotko up against the fence again but couldn’t take him down. Round 2 was a difficult one to score, both guys haven’t really shown much in the fight.
Round 3 started with Anders pushing Jotko up against the cage wall but once again Jotko successfully stuffed any takedown attempt Anders shot for. Anders kept on changing the setup of his takedowns but never went through with them, which was really confusing. Jotko cracked Anders with a lovely left hand and Anders came back inside looking for a takedown, taking Jotko up against the fence again. After they broke up, Jotko landed some nice shots again and the round ended. For me, Jotko did really well in the standup game and stuffed every takedown shot Anders had, I had it 29-28 Jotko and so did 2 judges so Jotko won via UD.
Dan Ige (W) vs Edson Barboza – Featherweight Bout
Next up was the fight I’ve been waiting weeks for and what a start to the fight, Ige came in with a lot of energy and was looking to overwhelm Barboza and then out of nowhere Barboza dropped Ige with a beauty of a right hand, Barboza jumped on Ige and baited an armbar roll to unleash some brutal hammerfists. Ige managed to recover and was finding some success of his own but Barboza cracked him again with a left hand. Barboza enjoyed the majority of the first round so I’m giving it him 10-9.
Round 2 started and both guys were hot out of the gate, Ige was putting a lot more pressure on Barboza and cracked him early on with some nice right hands. Barboza came back with some nice kicks and knees across all levels and managed to stuff a takedown attempt from Ige. Barboza tried for an Anaconda but Ige got out and the fight went back to the feet. The round ended with Barboza hurting Ige with a nice knee to the body, stuffing a takedown attempt, and hammering Ige in the face and the body on the floor. I think Edson did enough to take that 2nd round from Ige but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 19-19 going into the 3rd round.
Round 3 began and both guys were throwing bombs early on, Barboza caught Ige with another beautiful body shot that hurt Ige. Ige then hit back with a couple of left hands over the top that reminded Barboza that he can’t just be complacent in the 3rd round. Barboza stuffed another takedown attempt by Ige but he followed it up with a right hand into a left jab and then pinned Barboza up against the cage. From there he took Barboza down and tried for some ground and pound but Barboza had some really nice grappling defense. Ige probably won that round but I have Barboza winning it.
Well, I was wrong and yet another questionable judging performance in a UFC event this week as Ige won it via split decision. In my opinion, Barboza won 2 rounds at the very least and he was robbed of the victory, this seems to be a real issue for the UFC over the 3 events this week.
Claudia Gadelha (W) vs Angela Hill – Women’s Strawweight Bout
The Co-main event of the evening saw the women do battle and Hill came out with some good energy, keeping Claudia moving, not allowing her to get her feet set so she could shoot for a takedown. Claudia shot for a takedown but Hill stuffed it and kept the fight on the feet where both fighters found success with some nice shots. Eventually, Claudia managed to get Hill against the cage wall and finally managed to get the takedown with just a minute to go in the first, from there she had dominant side position for the rest of the 1st until Hill got herself to her feet with a few seconds remaining. 1st round for me went to Claudia after that takedown so 10-9 heading into the 2nd.
Round 2 was entirely on the feet and it definitely worked in the favor of Hill. She managed to drop Gadelha on her face early in the round with a very impressive strike to the chin. After that Claudia was being picked apart by Hill for a little bit until she managed to get her against the cage, Hill, however, pulled off a powerful twist move and got dominant position. Both women separated and Claudia hit Hill with some nice combos to remind her that she can still strike. The round ended with Hill being really active, landing a really nice combo that ended with a solid kick to the body. For me, Hill took that round and it’s 19-19 heading into the 3rd round, but who knows with the judges tonight.
The 3rd round saw Hill find some really nice success early on, she kept finding that right hand that dropped Claudia in the 2nd and it was clear Claudia didn’t have a way to stop her. Hill started to throw some variety into her striking game and was throwing some nice head and body kicks. That was until Claudia came back towards the last 2 minutes of the fight and landed some nice, big right hands and some really nice left hooks as Hill came inside. The fight ended with both women swinging for the fences and that last round is a tough one to call.
The judges ended up scoring the bout to Claudia via split decision and it’s another one that will be called into question. If I had to pick a winner in that 3rd round, I’d pick Hill just because she threw the better strikes during the round but the judges obviously saw something else.
Alistair Overeem vs Walt Harris – Heavyweight Bout
Now it’s time for the main event of the evening and it was an absolute cracker of a round. Things started off quickly with both guys faking big shots until Harris cracked Overeem with a huge striking combo. Walt jumped on Alistair and was throwing bombs down on him but Overeem stayed really active throughout and kicked Harris away. After that Overeem found some really nice success of his own, managed to take Harris down and keep dominant position for 2 minutes, throwing some really nice left hands to the face. Tough round to call as both fighters got some really dominant moments, do you value the knockdown over the takedown and dominance on the ground or vice versa?
Round 2 started at a much slower pace with both guys trying to regain their breath and recover from huge shots. Then, all of a sudden, Overeem burst out of the blocks and cracked Harris with a beautiful head kick into a right uppercut that sent Harris crashing to the mat. Overeem took Harris’ back and was unleashing shot after shot and the ref had no other choice than to step in and call the fight, Overeem won via TKO.
Right after the stoppage Alistair sat with Harris, hugged him, and was talking to him the whole time. This wasn’t a fight, that was just something that happened, what it was, was a man who showed mental strength that anyone in the world could strive for. To get back into the Octagon after what happened to him and his family is unbelievable and personally, from a guy who’s suffered with mental health issues for years and struggle daily, he’s a true inspiration and I cannot wait for the time that he’s dominant in that heavyweight division, because it’s going to happen.
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports