Romero vs Rockhold | Hunt vs Blaydes | Tuivasa vs Asker | Jingliang vs Matthews | Pedro vs Safarov | Brown vs Kim | Adesanya vs Wilkinson | Kennedy vs Alex Volkanovski | Formiga vs Nguyen | Hirota vs Pearson | Ishihara vs Quinonez | Abe vs Jumeau
UFC 221: Romero vs Rockhold main card
Main event: Yoel Romero vs Luke Rockhold
The first round found both saw Rockhold landing his signature leg kicks, while Romero struggled to find range and missed several overhand punches. Romero got the best of Rockhold to open the second round with a flurry of connecting punches that backed Rockhold to the fence, before both fighters settled into a stand-and-trade in the center of the Octagon, with Rockhold landing plenty of strikes of his own. Similar action began the third when Romero landed a left that knocked Rockhold to the mat, and another left that froze him. Romero gets the KO in the third, and is tied for second among middleweights for most KOs (7).
Mark Hunt landed some of his patented concrete hands on Curtis Blaydes enough times to edge towards a knockout, but Blaydes' prowess as a wrestler and his first round takedowns allowed him to settle in and control the fight. The fight stayed on the mat for most of the second, controlled again ny Blaydes from the top position. Similar story for the third round, much to the consternation of the Aussie crowd who wanted to see more of their beloved Hunt's fists. Hunt had said that if Blaydes could beat him, then Blaydes deserved his place in the rankings. Balydes's ground control is good for the unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27), and he's tied for second place in the heavyweight division for consecutive wins (3).
THEY SAID IT:
Curtis Blaydes : “That was my game plan. He wants to stand and bang, he’s the better striker, he’s a veteran, but I didn’t want to play his game. I want to play my game. I’m the wrestler, I’m the judoka master champ, and I’m going to drag him to where I want to be. On the feet, he’s a lion and I’m not a lion. But on the ground, I’m a shark and he ain’t a shark, so I took him to where I wanted to be.”
Yet another first round finish for Tai Tuivasa, who, once he started landing his punches and elbows, was more than Asker had bargained for. His Australian home crowd gave him a hero’s celebration. The former rugby star remains undefeated.
THEY SAID IT:
Tai Tuivasa: “He’s a really tough dude, but I knew if I got after his body a little bit, it would eventually come. I didn’t rush myself. I was patient, saw that he was hurt and then just moved in. I train to the best of my ability and then when I’m in there, I just freestyle it. This is my home. I expect a big crowd. I put a show on for them. I show them love and they show me love back, so that means more to me than anything.”
An old-fashioned fist fight in every respect, this high energy bout saw both fighters alternately taking damage and dishing it out. Seeming to thrive on the support of his home crowd, Jake Matthews marched forward even when it clearly cost him. Li Jingliang had an answer for everything, but eye pokes to prevent a submission did not seem to go unnoticed by the judges. Matthews gets the unanimous decision (29-28, 39-26, 30-26).
THEY SAID IT:
Jake Matthws: “This fight was about bringing the enjoyment into it for once. All my fights I’ve gone in not to lose, rather than just going in and doing what I do, showcasing what I can do. The confidence was always there. I just needed to bring it out and show everyone I could do it. In training, it’s all there. Today, it still wasn’t quite 100%, but about 70% of what I can do, and hopefully I can bring more in next time. I want to heal up a little bit, take some time to enjoy life a little bit after back to back fights, and then get back in there toward the end of the year. I love Perth. It’s my home away from home. Apart from Melbourne, it’s my next favourite place in Australia. The people are wonderful here and I have a lot of friends here. I always love fighting in front of the Aussie fans. There’s nothing like this kind of crowd."
Tyson Pedro had promised anyone who would listen this week that he and his Aussie/Kiwi brethren would put on a show for the crowd, and he did exactly that with a heavy handed back and forth with Safarov before ending his night on the mat with a first round kiumura submission to kick off the main card at UFC 221.
A surprisingly even match that left fans wondering who came out ahead, the edge went to “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim who, while he trailed in strikes, seemed to land his own with more precision and weight. Kim gets the split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
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The debut of Israel Adesanya lived up to the hype in a big way as “The Last Style Bender” put on a striking clinic en route to a second-round TKO finish of Rob Wilkinson at 3:37 of the second round. Wilkinson was tough as they come, taking 52 significant strikes from the flawless technical striker before falling along the fence. Adesanya defended 12/15 takedowns from a relentless Wilkinson. Adesanya was patient as he waited for his opportunities in the striking exchanges. When he finally was able to throw at distance, he picked Wilkinson apart with a variety of kicks and punches to the head and body. After the fight he claimed not to be overly impressed with his performance, but it was a wonderful display for a fighter making debut in the UFC. Adesanya improves to a perfect 12-0. All wins have come by KO or TKO.
THEY SAID IT:
Israel Adesanya: “The pressure has been the same since the jump, since 2008 when I started fighting. After my first fight, people were like wow, look out for this guy, and it’s been growing, following me. Pretty sure I had more hype than Conor before he jumped in UFC. Now people know who I am and it’s time to work. This isn’t my first rodeo. I’m used to this. I’ve been watching the UFC for a long time. I know how this works. I’ve prepped, visualized all this and it’s happening now. I just need to roll with it. I ran toward this fight. It’s been a long time. It’s not an eight-week training camp. It’s been an eight-year training camp."
Aussie Volkanovski's prowess for takedowns was on display right off the bat, giving the Canadian Kennedy a buffet of strikes and elbows from the top position, thwarting standup attemots and exerting near-total control throughout the first round to the sheer delight of the Perth home crowd. More of the same punctuated round two with Kennedy having no answer for Volkanovski's ground and pound. Volkaovski scores the win by TKO in the second just before time expires.
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FORMIGA!!@JussierFormiga drops Nguyen w/ a spinning back fist, then locks in the RNC and puts him to sleep!
Jussier Formiga could not afford to lose to a rising star like Ben Nguyen, and he didn't. Despite getting his head opened, and taking some truly heavy strikes, his knack for controlling a fight was on full display. When a spinning back fist in the third that dropped Nguyen to the mat didn't yield a TKO, Formiga went in and executed a clinical submission. Formiga is now ranked third in overall flyweight victories with seven.
THEY SAID IT:
Jussier Formiga: “I worked a lot with my coaches and boxing partners, and I came here for a show to display my striking game. I feel great and right now, I want to get my belt. I have six years in the UFC and I deserve my shot.”
UFC 221: Romero vs Rockhold FIGHT PASS prelims
Mizuto Hirota vs Ross Pearson
In another mostly standup battle, Verteran Ross Pearson seemed to have the edge as time expired in the first, until Hirota erupted in the second and not only won the significat strikes battle in that round, but visibly wobbled Pearson. The forward-marching slugfest continued in the third, with Pearson doing enough for the third unanimous decision of the night in three fights (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
THEY SAID IT:
Ross Pearson: “It was getting a camel off my back. I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t enjoy it like I normally do. When Dan (Hooker) knocked me out, I kind of lost the love a little bit, lost the drive and the motivation. There was a lot of pressure, tension going into this fight, just on me personally. Can I still do this? Can I still compete in UFC? I’ve been here a long time and I’ve had a lot of fights and can I still do it? Tonight, I didn’t execute my game plan like I tried to, but my coaches wanted us to be settled. Everyone sees Ross Pearson going out there firing, going for it, looking for the knockout, looking for the finishes, and my coaches wanted me to be balanced, see his shots, pick the shots and pick him apart. We thought the knockout would come. Unfortunately, it didn’t and that’s just the way the sport goes. When I was hitting him, it reminded us of Diego Sanchez. So heavy, tight, like he wouldn’t budge. I was hitting him with some good shots, my left hand, my left hook, my right hand at the body. He was solid. We knew he was a tough guy. I was prepared for that, and I just thought he would come forward a bit more and open up more with that right hand. I feel like piece by piece I was better and on the right way to what I can be doing."
Teruto Ishihara vs Jose Quinonez (135)
In a battle between two unorthodox fighters, Quinonez held the early control against the fence for most of the first ahead of relatively even striking battle in the second that featured Ishihara scoring a brief takedown as the bell sounded. A show of sportmanship and a standup striking battle characterized the final round, with Quinonez's prowess in significant strikes being enough for the unanimous decision win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). With his fourth consecutive win, he ties for second in the featherweight divinion for longest win streak with Pedro Munhoz.
Throughout the first round it was Abe who delivered most of the damage, with Jumeau's chin able to withstand some knees and a near-TKO from Abe's hammer fists after a takedown. Abe tired visibly in the second, giving Jumeau a chance to repay some of the punches and land ten more signficant strikes than his opponent. An eye poke from Abe halted the action for a few moments early in the third, and with the Perth crowd behind their beloved Kiwi, he continued outstriking Abe, knocking him to the mat as time expired. Jumeau gets the unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 28-27).