Last night (Sat., March 6, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remained in UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 259. It’s been a while since the most recent STACKED pay-per-view (PPV), but even true curmudgeons would find it difficult to deny last night’s bout list. Fifteen bouts took place with three titles on the line contested between four champion fighters — excellent! Plus, the undercard featured top-tier names like Dominick Cruz, so there were plenty of reasons to watch from top-to-bottom.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Ugly And Effective
Jan Blachowicz does not do anything effortlessly.
Every punch is a bit herky-jerky, more arm than hip. Many of his kicks see Blachowicz reaching with his hips or tripping afterward. He certainly could not match Israel Adesanya’s grace, as the Middleweight champion feinted and pulled fluidly in every which direction around the cage.
Fortunately, he did not have to nor did he try. Blachowicz successfully forced Adesanya into an ugly fight in more ways than one. Those lovely Adesanya low kicks that crippled Paulo Costa? I doubt “Stylebender” is walking well today, because Blachowicz checked a half-dozen of them with an appropriately disagreeable thud. How about Adesanya’s jab? It was definitely faster and trickier, and Adesanya does have the reach. Still, Blachowicz’s arm flick landed just as often.
Blachowicz hit Adesanya a lot. To the legs, body, chin — he was landing consistently. Over time, Blachowicz’s more powerful blows were beginning to find a home more often too. Just as it seemed Blachowicz’s hook or overhand might fully turn the tide, he fully committed to takedowns, and those worked too.
Blachowicz retained his title by smothering the fancy kickboxer man with his chest from half guard and breathing heavily on him. That’s perfectly appropriate and a genuinely great performance!
Megan Anderson never should have been in the cage with “The Lioness.”
She may have been the top contender in an imaginary division, but even so, there was just nowhere she could really compete with the Brazilian. Anderson is best known as a striker, but Amanda Nunes’ overhand still crumped her to the mat in less than two minutes.
From there, the massive gap in grappling skill also made itself known, as Nunes wrapped up an inverted triangle/armbar. The fight didn’t tell us anything new: Nunes is violent and an all-time great, and Anderson didn’t have the skill necessary to counter an amazing champion.
A Perfect Performance, Soiled
I wrote an entire article about how this knee should be legalized (but Petr Yan did bad, and Sterling is smart), so check that out HERE. Beyond that, I can only be impressed by just how thoroughly Yan dominated Sterling before throwing away an incredible victory.
There are so many unique elements to Yan’s kickboxing game. He keeps his guard so tight to his temples that he almost lulls his opponents to sleep. It’s rare to see a high guard employed effectively in MMA — it’s usually a last-ditch effort that means the attacking fighter has successfully outmaneuvered his foe, forcing him to cover up. Yan SOMEHOW blocks shots incredibly well in small gloves. At times, he’d block seven strike combinations from Sterling.
That’s unusual, and it saw Sterling open up more and more ... until Yan would suddenly drop the hammer with an unbelievably crisp cross or body kick, coming alive with no warning. After the first round, Joe Rogan dropped the statistic that Sterling threw 80 strikes, while Yan threw 20. “No Mercy” won that round, which is mind-blowing in the current era of volume over everything.
In addition, Yan’s clinch game is so uniquely effective. I’ve never seen an MMA fighter instead Muay Thai-style dumps and trips so cleanly at an elite-level. It’s a joy to watch, and few would have predicted that Yan score more takedowns than Sterling by a wide margin.
If only he hadn’t thrown that stupid knee ...
Makhachev Mauls Dober
Uhh ... maybe Islam Makhachev really is the next Khabib?
Makhachev walked through Drew Dober like he wasn’t even there. He took his first shot in the opening minute, effortlessly finishing a takedown. He nearly submitted Dober in the closing seconds of the first with an armbar, forcing his foe to rely on toughness and flexibility to survive.
The second and third saw further gorgeous wrestling transitions and effortless grappling mastery. Once on the mat, Makhachev drove so much shoulder pressure into Dober, exhausting and controlling him. That shoulder pressure turned into a modified arm triangle choke from half guard later in the bout, forcing Dober to submit.
Per the commentary, Makhachev was hit just about seven times in this bout. INSANE! Let’s get this man a top-tier opponent and find out for sure just where he stands.
Rogerio Bontorin took his opponent’s back with a big slam just about one minute into the round, and he spent the next 3.5 minutes riding his back. Squeezing the body triangle, Bontorin nearly secured the choke on several occasions, but Kai Kara-France’s ability to hand-fight held up.
Here’s something the commentary crew fails to mention: it’s largely more difficult to hold the body triangle than be in it. Sure, the trapped fighter’s breathing is restricted, but the man on the back is using his quads and hamstrings to contain a flailing professional athlete. Maintaining the body triangle is not easy ... and it leads to heavy legs.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
When Kara-France escaped in the closing 30 seconds of the round, he recognized his opportunity. Bontorin took a slow step towards his foe, and Kara-France decked him with a right. As the Brazilian backed off, a gorgeous cross-uppercut-cross combination put him down for good.
Brilliant work, even if there was some mouthpiece chucking and post-fight confusion regarding whether the fight was actually over ... it was!
Carlos Ulberg made his UFC debut last night at 3-0, and people were excited. City Kickboxing fighters have been on one hell of a run in recent years, and Ulberg was known as a training partner of Adesanya.
The hype was there, and watching his performance, it was understandable. Ulberg did some real cool stuff on offensive, ripping body punches and using frames to set up close distance power shots. Unfortunately for Ulberg, Kennedy Nzechukwu lived up to his “African Savage” nickname, walking through some brutal punches and continuing to fire back nasty shots.
Ulberg’s inexperienced showed, as he gassed himself out in the first landing his own offense. In the second, he was doing a better job of picking his spots to land, but his low hand position and high chin cost him — defense typically develops after offense! Kennedy turned the tide with a big hook straight to the jaw, scoring the come-from-behind win on the strength of his grit and punching power.
Great fight between two younger prospects, who will both likely grow from the experience.
Brady The Bonafide Contender
Sean Brady is the real deal.
There’s little that doesn’t impress about the 28-year-old Pennsylvanian. He’s a quality athlete, and he has demonstrated plus skills everywhere. The man can box, wrestle, and his jiu-jitsu just secured him a second-straight stoppage inside the Octagon.
Counting amateur and pro fights, Brady has won 18 straight.
Credit to Jake Matthews, the talented Aussie’s hands have likely never looked better. However, Brady’s transitions from punching to takedowns were excellent, and he showed a real depth of skill from the front headlock/guillotine position. Not only did he threaten the finish, but he hung on the head long enough to transition to better positions, keeping him ahead on the scorecards and in general.
As a result, he found the arm triangle choke and ultimately the tap.
- Amanda Lemos defeats Livinha Souza via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Every once in a while, physicality completely decides the fight. Such was the case in this bout, as Lemos’ aggression and power were immediately the story of this bout. From the first exchange, it was fairly clear the Souza wanted no part of getting punched by Lemos, but that didn’t stop Lemos from dropping her with an overhand early in the round. From there, the beating only grew worse, as Lemos continued to drop hammers on the mat then ultimately finish her foe with a stiff jab.
- Uros Medic defeats Aalon Cruz via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): File this one under the “could have been stopped about half a minute sooner” category. Medic hurt his foe early with a big hook, then when Cruz tried to slow things down with a takedown, yanked him off the legs into more big hooks! Heavy punches sent Cruz down to the mat, where he was pulverized further until the referee was finally satisfied.
- Trevin Jones defeats Mario Bautista via second-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Jones debuted on short-notice to knock out the highly credentialed Timur Valiev back in Aug. 2020, rallying back from a largely dominant performance to score the knockout. As such, it wasn’t exactly clear just how good the 13-5 newcomer was. His sophomore performance made one thing clear, however: “5 Star” has POWER! After a competitive opening frame, Jones dropped the hammer in the form of a Southpaw lead hand shovel hook, twisting into the punch like it was a corkscrew uppercut. The strike interrupted Bautista’s overhand attempt, and it shut off the lights.
For complete UFC 259: “Adesanya vs. Blachowicz” results and play-by-play, click HERE!