Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) celebrated its 25th anniversary last night (Nov. 10, 2018) inside Pespi Center in Denver, Colorado. How did the world’s premiere mixed martial arts (MMA) organization choose to celebrate such a milestone. Why, with a fairly lackluster card filled with debuting athletes and Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veterans, of course! I had reasonably high hopes for this card, and if I’m being honest, most of the fights failed to deliver. Thankfully though, the main- and co-main events were spectacular and saved the night.
Night of the Living Dead
“Korean Zombie” found a willing dance partner in Colorado.
From the beginning of this fight, both Jung and Rodriguez tried to hurt each other. “Pantera” immediately went to work on his opponent’s lead leg, slamming home inside and outside kicks as well as stomping the lead knee. Jung was right there though, pushing forward with combinations and shifting punches to do plenty damage of his own.
By the fifth round, the two warriors were battered. Concepts like footwork were abandoned in favor of energy conservation, but that did not at all affect their output. With just seconds remaining, it seemed up in the air as to which man would see his hand raised — especially given the absurd officiating from earlier in the night. Instead, Rodriguez eliminated all doubts with a sneaky upward elbow on the counter, one that connected cleanly to Jung’s jawline and sent him to sleep with just a second remaining in the fight.
This bout was truly a great display of MMA. Both men brought creative offense to the Octagon, from Rodriguez’s spinning strikes and kick combinations to Jung’s integration of clinch trips into his boxing combinations. In addition, though the two are primarily strikers, they each attempted takedowns and showed great scrambling ability. The finish was worth a $100,000 bonus, an insane and improbable ending to an already legendary contest.
Crafty Cowboy Wins like a Veteran
Immediately, this fight was interesting. Perry was light on his feet, moving and throwing quick kicks to the lead leg, showing off the influence of Jackson-Wink. Cerrone and Perry traded kicks at range and knees in the clinch, but neither man was really taking control of the fight.
Perry looked to change things with a beautiful body lock takedown into side control. I’ve watched it twice and am still not sure how he pulled it off, but Cerrone somehow reversed position with a scramble. Perry was in a bad, dangerous position, but “Platinum” wisely waited for his moment to explode and land back in top position.
Perry thought he was safe, but Cerrone’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu actually accounts for more of his career finishes than his kickboxing. After Perry slipped his way out of a triangle, Cerrone hooked a leg and pivoted immediately, locking Perry in a deep armbar. “Platinum” picked Cerrone up and slammed him on his head with ease, but that wasn’t enough to release the hold.
With this victory, Cerrone takes control of two amazing records: most wins and most finishes in UFC history. That’s incredible on its own and more special when you consider 1) that Cerrone has competed at such a high-level and 2) that he won plenty of great fights in the WEC that don’t even count!
Cerrone did the “Mile High City” proud.
- Germaine de Randamie is not the most popular fighter because of her disastrous “title reign,” but the multiple time Muay Thai champion can strike. She picked apart Raquel Pennington without any issues for 15 full minutes, snapping Pennington’s head back with straight punches and driving hard knees into the body from the clinch. Most important, “GDR” showed much better takedown defense, denying some strong entrances from Pennington. Like Dariush, it was a strong enough performance to avoid the random Denver split-decision.
- Beneil Dariush fought like a man in desperate need of a victory. Much of the time, that meant clinch takedowns into back control, but Dariush pushed the pace hard on the feet as well. Dariush’s durability has been called into question, but his offensive kickboxing cannot be denied. Opposite his orthodox foe, Dariush fired hard overhand lefts, power left kicks, and mixed knees into his combinations to earn a clear-cut victory in every area of the fight. It was so dominant that ALL THREE JUDGES agreed!
- Maycee Barber’s performance was fantastic. After a series of mediocre fights and annoying officiating, Barber lit up the stage with a performance of raw violence and athleticism (watch it). Opponent Hannah Cifers tried to hang tough, but volley after volley of elbows eventually saw her fold in the second round. At just 20 years old, Barber already looks like she could handle a ranked opponent.
- Luis Pena — aka “Violent Bob Ross” — came with quite a bit of hype behind him into his bout with Mike Trizano, but the results were disappointing. Trizano beat him largely with consistency, working an inside low kick and active cross throughout all of Pena’s stand up flash. Furthermore, Pena’s top game is dangerous, but his ability to set up takedowns needs serious work. In the end, both men showed a bit of their inexperience, but Trizano deserved to have his hand raised.
- Amanda Cooper defeated Ashley Yoder in a terribly sloppy contest only to be robbed by the judges’ scorecards. Most scorecards last night featured at least one oddball card, making it an awful night for officiating all around.
- The referee RUINED a competitive fight between Chas Skelly vs. Bobby Moffett. Moffett countered a deep half-guard sweep from Skelly beautiful with a d’arce choke, and that submission was tight. However, Skelly was defending correctly, framing his elbow out to create space to breathe and circling away from the choke. MID-CIRCLE the referee called the bout, seeming to think Skelly was unconscious despite the fact that the wrestler was actively defending himself? Aside from all of that, there is very little risk accompanying a choke like the d’arce, meaning the referee could have safely allowed Skelly to continue until things were certain. It was a bizarre and disappointing end to an otherwise interesting ground contest.
- Re: Davis Ramos vs. John Gunther: Is there a single person in the entire world who didn’t expect just this to happen? Gunther is a tough grinder without any athletic gifts or deep technical game. That can work against many styles — “fatigue makes cowards of us all” — but not against the ultra athletic jiu-jitsu guy. There is simply no way to tough out a rear-naked choke!
- Devonte Smith’s UFC debut lasted less than one minute (watch it). Julian Erosa is a tough-as-nails veteran with an awkward style, but it didn’t take long for the more athletic man to pick up on that strange timing. Ultimately, Smith didn’t even have to show much of his game, relying on straight counter punches to bring an early end to the contest. Erosa gave him a perfect opportunity to land the right, as the Southpaw advanced and stepped too deep into an outside low kick, leaving a perfect path from Smith’s right hand to his own chin.
- The card opened with a pair of Flyweight bouts on the Fight Pass portion of the “Prelims” undercard — insultingly appropriate given the division’s upcoming dissolution. Neither fight was spectacular, but both were competitive and high-level, especially compared to some of the bouts that occurred later on the card.
For complete UFC: “Denver” results and coverage click here.