I think the "Machida Era" is officially as extinct as the Mesozoic Era.
Yoel "Soldier of God" Romero buried Lyoto Machida under a tsunami of elbows in the third round of the main event at UFC Fight Night 70 last night (June 27, 2015) in Hollywood, Fla., handing "The Dragon" back-to-back losses in the process. And it can hardly be considered a passing of the torch either, since at 38 years of age the Cuban fighter holds a year over the Brazilian.
Or as Chael Sonnen put it:
The main event has the aging, past his prime, 37 yr old Machida vs the up & coming, future contender, 38 yr old Romero. Got it, no wait...— Chael Sonnen (@sonnench) June 28, 2015
UFC Fight Night 70 endured a series of twists and turns, bumps and bruises on its way to "Sunshine State." Originally scheuled for Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the event was moved to the United States to host the finals between The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 4" contestants.
But, computer glitches in the United States visa system forced several fighters to another card in August, including knockout artist Erick Silva.
Nevertheless, with four finishes in the five fights on the FOX Sports 1-televised main card -- including perhaps the most brutal knockout of the year -- it's safe to say the event survived the beating it took. There were more than a few surprises as well, with Romero and Lorenz Larkin performing well above expectations and getting finishes against notoriously nasty opponents.
So, who got top marks and who failed to make the grade this week? Find out in the UFC Fight Night 70 "Report Card" below:
Before the fight I knew two things about Romero.
First, that he nearly got knocked out by Tim Kennedy and looked like he was going to die on his stool last time he competed. Second, that all it takes is one punch for this guy to euthanize whoever happens to be on the receiving end.
Machida, meanwhile, is a crafty veteran who has been in deep water so often that he basically brings a scuba diving tank into the cage. And then brains the other guy with that tank when he gets tuckered out. It seemed logical that Machida would dance around for a while as Romero lumbered after him, wait for the Cuban to start huffing and puffing, and then blow his house down.
Yeah, but Romero had other plans.
Maybe it was the smaller cage (as predicted by our own Andy Richardson here), maybe it was the pressure by Romero, or maybe it's just the fact that I underestimated "Soldier of God." But damn, Romero busted up Machida from start to finish, using speed and aggression to keep the Brazilian back pedaling until the very end.
While Machida tried to play his usual "keep away" game of counter striking and circling, Romero routinely landed kicks and combinations that flustered his opponent. To the surprise of everybody, Romero even finished the second round with a "Showtime" move off the cage that had Machida backed into a corner.
Machida, who is usually adept in the clinch, made the unwise decision to engage with the Olympic wrestler in the third round, which led to a takedown and fairly brutal finish. Once landing in half guard, Machida tried to gain control of Romero's body.
Instead, he received a rain of hellbows to his temple, knocking him out cold.
It was an impressive performance, considering Machida had only been knocked out once in 28 fights prior to last night and even went the distance with Chris Weidman. Indeed, it was a great night for the Cuban until he took the microphone from Jon Anik and made an extremely bizarre statement that became ... a bit lost in translation?
This was another fight that really surprised me.
I knew Larkin had made an absolutely fantastic debut at 170 pounds, knocking out the extremely durable John Howard in the very first round. But, this is Lorenz Larkin we're talking about. The guy who dropped four of his first five fights when he moved from Strikeforce to UFC. The guy who was left a bloody mess by Costas Philippou just a year ago. A guy who lost to the tepid Derek Brunson 10 months ago.
But, I guess that was then and this is now. And all it took was shedding 45 pounds. Who knew? Well, I guess Anthony Johnson knew, but whatever.
Unlike Johnson, Larkin looks extremely fast and agile at this weight class and doesn't seem to have the attendant cutting problems of "Rumble." Despite the fact Santiago Ponzinibbio came out in his classic ultra-aggressive stance, Larkin wasn't for a moment concerned, battering the lead leg of the Argentinian, landing clean combinations, and using his push kicks to completely neutralize Ponzinibbio's attack.
Sure, there were some moments where Larkin was drawn into a stand-and-bang-in-the-pocket brawl that Ponzinibbio seems to enjoy so much, but those moments tended to favor "The Monsoon." It was clear by the second round that Ponzinibbio's reckless style was beginning to wear on his chin, as Larkin took an opportunity to land a brutal one-two combination that dropped the fighter and led to the finish.
Speaking of which, readers will know I despise early stoppages. And while referee Herb Dean didn't make an early stoppage here, what he did was botch the stoppage once again. I think Dean is having a hard time figuring out when to actually stop a fight.
My proof? His stoppages have come recently where a fighter has just gotten back to his feet. It's like he can't decide when to actually step in and save a fighter.
And that's dangerous.
The fight could easily have been stopped when Ponzinibbio was dropped by that beautiful combination. But, Dean let him fight back to his feet only to stop the fight moments later when it was clear he wasn't defending himself. So why not call it while he was laid out on the ground?
This was probably the stinker of the night as Antonio Carlos Junior and Eddie Gordon squared off in a competition to find out who wears the crown as most disappointing TUF winner in recent years.
That honor goes to Gordon, who dropped his third straight fight after winning TUF 19 one year ago. Junior, meanwhile, bounced back from a mauling at the hands of Patrick Cummins to get the finish in his Middleweight debut. You thought Larkin was cutting a lot of weight? Junior -- who won the TUF: "Brazil 3" Heavyweight sweepstakes last May, dropped his second weight class in as many fights to absolutely tower over Gordon.
Seriously, Junior is fucking enormous for 185 pounds, manhandling Gordon with relative ease all night long. That's not to say the fight was exciting ... or even remotely eventful. The entire first round -- literally the entire round -- was spent in the same exact position against the cage. The wall-and-stall in this fight was so ubiquitous that Randy Couture would have fallen asleep. There's only so much suckage that one fight can absorb before the suck factor begins collapsing under its own weight, creating an event horizon of garbage so hot it won't let anything escape.
Mercifully, those who returned from the kitchen after making a sandwich would have found out the fight was finally stopped with just 23 seconds left in the third round as Junior fell on top of Gordon, rolled him over and choked him out. Despite the dull performance, Junior should prove a threat at this weight class based solely on his gargantuan size. And considering he began training in mixed martial arts a scant 23 months ago, the 25-year-old may have a huge future if he can find ways to improve his striking.
I can't imagine these grades are particularly surprising. One guy got the arguable "Knockout of the Year," while the guy who hadn't lost a fight in eight years has become a highlight reel in a "Knockout of the Year" video (which you can watch in all its glory right here).
Those who watched the fight live, as I did, would probably have jumped out of their chairs, screamed so loudly their wives looked at them in a disapproving way, and clapped like hungry, happy seals at Sea World. Thiago Santos landed to the temple of Steve Bosse like a baseball bat at an Al Capone dinner party. Bosse was so unconscious when he hit the mat that by the time the video truck was queueing up the replay, the French-Canadian was still dreaming about poutine.
When you get KTFO and it looks like you're playing a Trumpet pic.twitter.com/abqwM0Dwlh— ZombieProphet (@ZProphet_MMA) June 28, 2015
It's got to suck for 33-year-old Bosse, a former professional hockey goon who turned a life of enforcement on the ice to one knocking fighters unconscious inside a cage. There was a lot of hype riding on Bosse headed into this fight, who owns eight knockouts, six in the first round. He didn't get very much time to demonstrate that power, however, as "Marreta" Santos landed the flush kick just 29 seconds into the fight.
Considering "Marreta" means sledgehammer in Portuguese, it's a very fitting nickname.
"Marreta" now holds the distinction of becoming just the fourth UFC Middleweight fighter to hold two knockouts in the first minute of the first round. After a disappointing result during his appearance on TUF: "Brazil" and losses to Cezar Ferreira and Uriah Hall, it would appear Santos has found his rhythm with back-to-back first round finishes.
I was a little surprised one judge gave Levan Makashvili two rounds since it seemed clear to me that Hacran Dias dominated the early going before coasting the final round. Indeed, I was surprised that it appeared to be a prevailing opinion on Twitter that Makashvili won the fight.
After all, he didn't do much to prove he belonged in the win column in the first two rounds. He was outgrappled and outworked by Dias, who took down the decorated wrestler several times and controlled him on the mat.
In the second round, Dias landed a beautiful kimura, which he converted to a belly-down armbar attempt, which he converted to a triangle from which Makashvili was forced to slam his way out. In terms of who was doing more to attempt to finish the fight you've got to pick Dias in this one. Not that Dias helped himself much with that lazy third round, one in which he was happy to stall against the fence and allow himself to get taken down late. Makashvili demonstrated some unexpected pep in the third round that actually made me respect him more than I did in a winning effort over Mark Eddiva in his Octagon debut.
Dias really needs to decide where he belongs in UFC. He's earned victories over some impressive competitors in Darren Elkins and Iuri Alcantara, while he lost by the slimmest of margins in fights with Nik Lentz and Ricardo Lamas, taking very little damage in the process. But at 3-2 in UFC -- with all five fights going to decision -- Dias is quickly becoming the "Decisionator" nobody wants to watch. Which is disappointing, since his wrestling, takedown defense and Nova Uniao striking style reminiscent of Jose Aldo makes me want to root for him.
Quick hits from the undercard:
A: Tony Sims. The UFC newcomer recovered from being rocked early to scoring a first round finish against a guy who literally towered above him. Bravo!
B: Sirwan Kakai. I enjoyed everything about his performance except the showboating. But, his head movement, takedowns and crisp striking were all on point.
B: Alex Oliveira. There are two fighters in UFC to have competed three times in 2015. Both are nicknamed "Cowboy." Weird.
B-: Joe Merritt. The kid was all kinds of hard to put away. I couldn't have been more impressed with a fighter who was otherwise dominated in a fight. I expect good things from him as he improves in the fight game.
C+: Leandro Silva. A win is a win, but Silva looked sloppy and amateurish at times in a fight that really had nobody interested.
C+: Danny Martinez. It's nice to have bricks for a chin, but Martinez had nothing for his opponent, who rocked him with knees all night long.
D: Lewis Gonzalez. The best thing that can be said about the guy is that he didn't get KTFO.
F: Steve Montgomery. Damn. "Creepy Weasel" can't wash the stench of American Top Team (ATT) failure from his appearance on TUF. And after all those years of waiting.
That's a wrap!
Now begins the agonizing waiting game for UFC 189: "Aldo vs. McGregor" where we cross both fingers and toes in the hopes that the Brazilian won't pull out. Be sure to join us on fight night for all the updates, play-by-play and recaps here on MMAmania.com.
In the meantime, for complete results from UFC Fight Night 70: "Machida vs. Romero" click here.