Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Prague, Czech Republic, last night (Sat., Feb. 23, 2019) for UFC Fight Night 145. In the main event, Light Heavyweight kickboxers Thiago Santos and Jan Blachowicz looked to take a step closer to title contention. The rest of the card was pretty standard for a mid-afternoon European card: mostly prospects few of us have ever heard of, and a few old veterans looking to rebound. Nevertheless, there was still some decent mixed martial arts (MMA) skill on display, so let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!
Santos Drops The Hammer
Thiago Santos is best known for his immense kicking power and wild fighting style. In the bout previous to this one opposite Jimi Manuwa, Santos threw dozens of power strikes per minutes and sprinted at his opponent. He ate some shots along the way, but Santos’ commitment to offense largely ensured that Manuwa was absorbing much of the damage.
Against a skilled counter striker in Blachowicz, Santos did not rush forward like most expected. Instead, Santos did his best to trade kicks with the Polish striker, who himself is an excellent kicker. Santos might kick a touch harder than Blachowicz, but in general the kicks matched up rather evenly.
Still, Santos did manage to deny Blachowicz’s boxing. Repeatedly, Blachowicz’s punches came up short, whereas Santos was the one landed the hardest counter shots. After a competitive ten minutes, Blachowicz felt the need to expand on his offense, perhaps hoping that Santos would slow down a bit himself. Blachowicz went to the well one time to many with his favorite shifting combination of uppercut and hooks, a combination Santos timed and countered mightily.
Blachowicz went down, and a new title challenger emerged.
No Mercy Shown
Petr Yan was arguably the night’s most impressive fighter.
John Dodson may not be an elite contender anymore, but it’s rare to see him soundly beaten. Even top contenders like John Lineker and Marlon Moraes defeated him in closely contested split-decisions. Last night, Yan — who’s been on the UFC roster for just eight months — picked apart the two-time title challenger, winning all three rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
Yan’s great advantage over many prospects is that he knows exactly how he wants to fight. A Master of Sports in Boxing, Yan has an excellent pressure style. He never relents, walking opponents down and forcing the pocket. Once at his preferred range, Yan’s high defensive guard, excellent combinations, and strong defensive wrestling keep him well ahead of his foe.
Dodson came into this fight with a clear strategy: try to slow Yan down with low kicks, body punches, and counter wrestling. To some extent, all of these strategies worked — it’s precisely what you’re supposed to do against constant pressure! It did not matter though, as Yan’s output forced Dodson to be less offensive, and once that happened, “No Mercy” really thrived.
- Stefan Struve defeats Marcos Rogerio de Lima via second-round arm triangle choke (highlights): For a couple years, Struve via second-round submission was a common occurrence. The reasoning was simple: Struve would spent the first round getting beaten up in some fashion because he’s slow and awkward, his foe (being a Heavyweight) would fatigue, and then Struve’s jiu-jitsu would take over. Well, it happened again in exactly that fashion: de Lima dropped him in the very first exchange and laid on him to win the first, Struve tripped him to the mat in the second, and de Lima looked tired while getting strangled. I would say that some things never change, but it appeared after the fight that Struve may have retired in the cage. It’s easy to disparage Struve, but 10 years inside the UFC scrapping with Heavyweights is a seriously impressive accomplishment.
- Michal Oleksiejczuk defeats Gian Villante via first-round technical knockout (highlights): Oleksiejczuk impressed in his short-notice UFC debut, but a failed drug test saw him suspended and cost him any momentum. In his return bout, Oleksiejczuk reminded fans of his talent. Despite looking a bit soft and clearly being far smaller than Villante, Oleksiejczuk bounced in-and-out, making Villante miss often and following up with counter punches. The Southpaw also made great use of his left hand, mixing in hooks to the body and looping overhands. Both were landing clean, leaving Villante confused as to how to defend himself. Just a couple minutes into the round, another left to the ribs saw Villante crumble to the mat. Villante may not be the best Light Heavyweight on the roster, but the veteran is certainly durable, and Oleksiejczuk completely dismantled him!
- Dwight Grant defeats Carlos Pedersoli via first-round technical knockout: Grant’s game is a mess. Luckily, there’s a lot of athleticism behind his movement. Until the end of the first round, Pedersoli threw smart combinations and landed well, but his volume-first approach eventually ran him directly into a clean power shot that sent his mouth piece flying through the air. Grant is a prospect given his natural abilities, but he needs to be brought up slowly.
- Gillian Roberson defeats Veronica Macedo via second-round rear naked choke (highlights): For most of this scramble-fest, Macedo wound up on top and did the actual damage with elbows. However, Roberson used a beautiful armbar attempt in the second to roll her opponent into mount. This time, Macedo’s athleticism did not result in an immediate reversal, as she gave up her back — and the rear naked choke — in the attempt of powering out.
- Damir Hadzovic defeats Marco Polo Reyes via second-round technical knockout: Ahead of time, most expected a serious brawl between the two. Hadzovic flipped the script, timing his entries into the clinch and looking to trip from there. In the second round, he landed a clinch sweep directly into mount. Once in that dominant position, Hadzovic’s hip pressure was immense, trapping Reyes into place. A flurry of punches and elbows saw Reyes give up his back, but again that hip pressure flattened him into a defenseless position.
- Ismail Naurdiev defeats Micheal Prazeres via unanimous decision: Naurdiev accepted this bout on very short-notice and was thrown to the wolves. Prazeres may be one of the shortest Welterweights on the roster, but he’s a fire hydrant of muscle, takedown chains, and crushing submissions. Miraculously, Naurdiev did not defeat Prazeres by denying all his takedowns; instead, he was able to use his own bottom game to sweep and constantly force the Brazilian to work. Between some hard body kicks and the constant wrestling/grappling scrambles, Naurdiev forced Prazeres to empty the tank in a hugely impressive debut.
For complete UFC Prague results and coverage click here.