Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, last night (Sat., Nov. 2, 2019) for UFC 244. One of the biggest events of the year, UFC 244 introduced the BMF title to the world and featured a seriously high-profile batch of fights that were also quite entertaining. Top-to-bottom, it was one of the best nights of fights in a long time, so let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques of the night!
Decades of Damage
Nate Diaz has been getting beaten up for a long, long time.
That’s not a knock on the younger Diaz brother, who’s been scrapping for his meals since he was a teenager. There are some established flaws to the Diaz approach to combat, and Diaz has paid for them repeatedly over the years, but often he was able to tough it out and win anyway (HIGHLIGHTS).
Last night, Masvidal expertly punished Diaz’s habits. When Diaz tried to push forward into the clinch, Masvidal cracked him on the way in. Once there, Masvidal kept his composure, waited for an opening, then released a vicious flurry in much more athletic fashion. Whenever he did land clean, Masvidal immediately followed up by ripping into the mid-section, which prevented Diaz from really storming back into the fight.
All the punishment — both from Masvidal and the decade prior — added up. Diaz suffered a pair of severe cuts around the eye. The doctor called the bout, and it’s difficult to argue that decision — unpopular though it may be. Diaz’s visibility didn’t seem to be affected, but his face was completely destroyed.
It was an unfortunate end to a great fight, but it’s time for Jorge Masvidal to receive a hard-earned title shot.
Vicente Luque took the fight to Stephen Thompson like few others.
The Brazilian hammered both legs from the beginning of the fight and stalked constantly. Each time Thompson attacked, Luque either slipped or absorbed the blows, firing back and often landing hard shots. The first five minutes were brutal for both men, as they returned to their corners bleeding freely.
However, “Wonderboy” showed the value of a life time of kickboxing experience. It’s hard to describe precisely what Thompson did differently, but the results were immediate. More than anything else, Thompson seemed to really figure out his foe’s timing. Suddenly, Thompson’s side kick was knocking his foe off his feet, and Thompson’s Southpaw cross was landing at a brutally efficient rate.
The fight slowly slid from Luque’s hands, but the Brazilian did his best to hang on. Even as Thompson landed at a better and better clip, Luque still bit down and tried to time his left hook and overhand right. The result was perhaps the most entertaining fight of Thompson’s career, the first time Thompson has been forced into a true blood-and-guts battle.
It may not have been the win Luque was chasing, but that’s still an accomplishment.
Return of the Motown Phenom
Kevin Lee has taken some tough losses, but don’t mistake hardship for a lack of talent.
Lee returned to the win column in style last night. Lee and Gregor Gillespie wasted no time in meeting each other in the center of the cage, standing in the pocket, and trading blows. The two quickly did damage, connecting with lots of jabs and crosses. Most likely, Gillespie was hoping to exhaust Lee’s gas tank with this high-volume war of attrition.
It might have worked. However, Lee smartly followed a right hand with a left high kick, and it sailed directly into Gillespie’s jawbone. It was picture-perfect, and Gillespie went down hard. There are still questions to be asked about Lee’s overall game, but it’s hard to imagine a better way to return to 155 lbs.
As for Gillespie, he’s still a massively talented fighter himself, but striking defense requires cage time.
Levels to the Game
Corey Anderson battered Johnny Walker last night. On paper, its among the most improbable results of the entire card. There was always a real chance that Anderson used his wrestling to grind Walker to dust, but few to none predicted “Overtime” would drop a right hand on his jaw and introduce Walker to the mat.
Early on, Walker feinted, juked, and jived like normal, looking to create an overreaction from Anderson. However, all of Anderson’s past experience against excellent opposition proved its value, allowing him to calmly see through much of the deception. When Walker carried his hands low for a bit too long, Anderson timed it perfectly.
With Walker hurt, Anderson did not simply return to his wrestling roots and happily ride out the round. He swarmed, releasing punches-in-bunches and lunging after his wounded foe. Walker could not get his legs beneath him, as the Brazilian wobbled around the cage and absorbed lots of punches until the ref intervened.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik is not a prospect to be taken lightly.
Fresh of a nine-second knockout victory, the decorated kickboxer faced a considerable step up in competition opposite Andrei Arlovski. Now, Arlovski may not be a championship-level fighter anymore, but “The Pitbull” has genuinely been performing pretty well as of late, showing smarter kickboxing and making full use of his experience to grind out some wins.
It didn’t matter at all opposite the massive power of “Bigi Boy.” Almost immediately, Rozenstruik stabbed his foe with a clean jab, wobbling his foe’s knees. Rozenstruik immediately pursued, stalking Arlovski with combinations. When Arlovski fired back with a right hand to gain his foe’s respect, Rozenstruik skipped backwards with a little left hook.
It didn’t seem a terribly hard punch, but it landed right behind the ear as Arlovski threw himself forward. “Pitbull” hit the mat face-first, and Rozenstruik really announced himself as a contender.
- Shane Burgos defeats Makwan Amirkhani via third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Burgos thoroughly abused Amirkhani last night. Early on, Amirkhani was able to make it enough of a wrestling match that the fight was competitive, but he was never able to establish top position. As a result, Amirkhani emptied the gas tank quickly, a problem which Burgos added to by ripping the mid-section repeatedly. By the third round, it was a complete beating, as “Mr. Finland” was largely running from exchanging and shooting at every opportunity. Even with his attempts to avoid the power punches, they still added up, securing Burgos a finish in the final 30 seconds.
- Edmen Shahbazyan defeats Brad Tavares via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): There’s not much to say here other than the simple fact that 21-year-old Edmen Shahbazyan is the real deal. Tavares was a step up in every level: a better kickboxer, better wrestler, and more experienced athlete than any of Shahbazyan’s past foes. It didn’t matter a bit though, as Shahbazyan calmly landed a perfect right hand to drop Tavares, patiently pursuing the finish that eventually came via high-kick KO.
- Lyman Good defeats Chance Rencountre via third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): From the literal first bell, Good did damage. The longtime veteran slammed home kicks to the inside of the thigh early, and it didn’t take long for his right hand to begin landing with brutal consistency. For the majority of 15 minutes, Good stuck his opponent with seriously hard jabs and crosses, all of which Rencountre absorbed like a zombie. It was crisp, technical work from Good, and one right hand that looked like all the others proved the straw that broke the camel’s back in the third, sending Rencountre to the mat in a heap.
For complete UFC 244: “Diaz vs. Masvidal” results and play-by-play, click HERE!