Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Melbourne, Australia, last night (Sat., Feb. 9, 2019) for its first pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2019. UFC 234 was already a weak PPV that relied almost entirely on its top two fights to sell the event, but things took a major dive just a few hours before the event when Robert Whittaker was forced to withdraw from his title defense (details). Nevertheless, there were still some definite highlights. Let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!
A ‘Stylebender’ Showcase
Israel Adesanya successfully landed more and better shots opposite Anderson Silva, but was it the showcase win for which UFC planned?
Heading into this fight, the Adesanya hype train was rolling forward full steam. Domination was expected, and Silva entered the fight as an absolute massive underdog. Adesanya fought well, using low kicks and long, straight punches to sting Silva repeatedly across 15 minutes. He did not, however, knockout Silva or embarrass the legend. In fact, Silva arguably won the second round, which is undoubtedly the highlight of the fight: competitive, explosive, and varied in terms of action and strategy.
None of this is criticism for Adesanya. Again, he did the right things and earned an important victory. At the same time, I don’t know if this is the star-making performance many were hoping for? Was this victory enough to leapfrog Kelvin Gastelum’s title defense? It seems unlikely.
I’m not complaining though. If I am correct and Adesanya has to fight again, which just means we get to witness his special brand of violence once more before he receives his shot at the strap.
Vannata Finally Wins!
Lando Vannata is a talented fighter, but for several reasons, Vannata hasn’t scored a victory since Dec. 2018 and entered with an Octagon record of 1-3-2.
A definite amount of blame can be thrown at his conditioning, which routinely faltered at about the eight-minute mark in fights. This time around, Vannata ended things before that point, so the question of cardio remains in the air. On the bright side, Vannata’s strategy was sound: faced with a solid kickboxer, he finally made use of his wrestling background.
From top position, we witnessed a combination of Vannata’s accurate punching and newcomer Marcos Rosa Mariano’s complete lack of bottom game. From his back, Mariano held close guard with his legs but did nothing to prevent Vannata from posturing up, meaning Vannata could casually take his time and blast Mariano with elbows and punches. Mariano’s inexperience on the mat continued to show when he finally did open his guard under duress, as Vannata passed guard and landed a kimura in about 15 seconds.
Vannata desperately needed a victory, so a safe approach was best. Calling out Jim Miller — who is nowhere near his prime — in the post-fight though? LAME!
The Worst UFC Event in Recent Memory
I’ll keep this brief to avoiding being a downer, but only a single fight on this PPV card deserved to be on the main card, which just so happened to be the main event. Otherwise, the skill level of at least one fighter fell somewhere between lacking and abysmal.
Sam Alvey should not be on the main card of a PPV — his fights are routinely terrible, and he’s coming off a bad knockout loss to “Lil Nog,” who is 42 years old! Nadia Kassem and Marcos Rosa Mariano both showed a complete lack of any defensive grappling at all. Ricky Simon fought very smartly against Rani Yahya, but the unfortunate reality is that the end result was still an ugly kickboxing match between grappling specialists.
Jimmy Crute, Montana de la Rosa, and Landon Vannata all did what they were supposed to do and made quick work of their opponents. Kudos to them and their skill, but that does not make this set of five fights worth $60. Losing the main event is always possible in mixed martial arts (MMA) — that’s why the rest of the card needs to be built solid.
- Montana de la Rosa defeats Nadia Kassem via armbar: De la Rosa completely dominated this fight. She showed Kassem no respect, driving her into the fence and scoring takedowns. Once in top position, de la Rosa focused on advancing into dominant position, eventually resulting in a mounted triangle. Kassem scrambled and tried to wiggle her way free for a solid minute, but eventually a hyper-extended arm ended the match. A very solid display for de la Rosa, who showed great control and jiu-jitsu.
- Jimmy Crute defeats Sam Alvey via knockout: It’s difficult to look good against Sam Alvey: he forces ugly, slow contests most of the time. Crute did the impossible, knocking out Alvey early enough that his foe was unable to lull Crute into a staring contest. He did it smartly, too, staying well out of range of Alvey’s signature right hook to work the jab and kicks. Eventually, Alvey felt pressured to lead — never his strong suit — and Crute countered an attempted lead hook with a cross down the center. It crashed into Alvey’s jaw, and Crute slammed home heavy shots until the ref called it. As those who read my X-Factor article (read it) will understand, Crute is definitely set to be a long-time member of the UFC roster.
- Devonte Smith defeats Dong Hyun Ma via knockout: Smith is a powerful athlete with a majority of his wins coming via knockout, but he is not an impatient fighter or one who relies solely on his athleticism. Smith’s footwork was beautiful, he confounded his opponent with constant feints from the outside, looking to pull and fire the one-two combination. A long jab and chopping calf kick convinced Ma to move forward, but it didn’t take long for that pull one-two to land perfectly as Ma recovered his footing after a low kick attempt. Smith knew exactly how he would win this fight, and he patiently searched for that opening.
- Kai Kara-France defeats Raulian Paiva via decision: A really great, competitive Flyweight fight ended in a debatable split-decision. Paiva put volume and hard kicks against the in-and-out movement and power shots of Kara-France. The difference maker proved to be head movement, as Paiva left himself vulnerable repeatedly by leaving his head straight up in the air. Kara-France took notice and added extra loop to his overhand and rolling hook, which proved to be the hardest punches of the bout. Paiva did show some great technique in defending the high-crotch takedown, falling to his hip in the crackdown position and reversing multiple times as well as threatening the guillotine choke to gain top position.
- Kyung Ho Kang defeats Teruto Ishihara via rear-naked choke: Despite the early ending, this was a back-and-forth fight. Ishihara struck first, absolutely leveling Kang with a counter left hand as Kang ran forward. The South Korean recovered though, regaining his feet and returning the favor with a big knee of his own. Ishihara hit the mat, bounced back, and the two wasted no time in trying to waste each other with massive punches. When both were still unexpectedly standing after that wild exchange, Kang tackled his foe to the mat and secured a rear naked choke in the following scramble.
- Jalin Turner defeats Callan Potter via knockout: This might as well have been Turner’s UFC debut, as his short-notice match a division up against the violent Vicente Luque didn’t last too long nor end in his favor. Now back at Lightweight at 6’3” and solidly built, Turner cut an intimidating figure opposite his much smaller foe. Potter fought somewhat panicked as a result, but his rush to close distance did not keep him safe from the Southpaw’s power punches. The fight lasted less than a minute, but Turner landed some seriously powerful check right hooks and body shots prior to the finish. Classic Southpaw tactics employed by a very talented athlete means we have yet another Lightweight prospect to watch!
For complete UFC 234: “Silva vs. Adesanya” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.