Last night (Sat., Aug. 7, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) traveled to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, for UFC 265. After a handful of pretty unheralded (but fun!) events from inside UFC Apex, the promotion returned to pay-per-view (PPV) on a big stage. Most of the storylines centered around the main event clash of Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane and their interim title, but there were lots of quality match ups from top-to-bottom on this 13-bout card.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Gane followed the gameplan perfectly last night.
He didn’t do anything outrageous, but he didn’t need to. The French athlete made the most of his Muay Thai experience, keeping the fight at long distance with his stance shifts, movement and feints. Lewis swung big with his right hand or jump kick on occasion, but mostly, his aggression was contained by Gane’s distance management.
As Lewis searched for an opening, his leg was getting destroyed. Gane poked him on the jaw often enough to keep him honest, but really, Gane hammered away at the leg. Every so often, Gane would switch from Southpaw to Orthodox solely to deliver a full power rip at the thigh.
Those kicks looked brutal, and they were the beginning of the end. Once Lewis was wobbly, Gane released the floodgates, pouring on punches-in-bunches and refusing to let Lewis off the hook. “The Black Beast” tried to swing back and keep the fight alive, but Gane stayed on him and kept landing, eventually putting him down following a clean knee.
It was a pretty flawless performance from Gane, and hopefully, fans are excited for the true title fight when he squares off vs. Francis Ngannou.
Jose Aldo, Title Threat
I wrote an entire piece about Aldo’s remarkable victory over Pedro Munhoz and the generally wild nature of his professional career, so check that out here.
Welterweight’s Best Finisher
I don’t know if Vicente Luque will ever capture the title, but I wouldn’t want to be locked in the cage with him.
“The Silent Assassin” is such a dangerous finisher. His bout with Michael Chiesa didn’t last more than one round, but Luque still managed to show off his considerable power. In just about two minutes of stand up striking, Luque threw maybe a half-dozen strikes, but they all hurt. His Southpaw calf kicks buckled the knee, and a right hook briefly dropped his opponent.
Chiesa managed to score a takedown, however, and the fight moved into his world. “Maverick” looked powerful from top position, and he nearly locked up a face crank. When Luque scrambled out the back door, Chiesa tried to drive back into the shot, falling directly into Luque’s signature d’arce choke.
One small mistake cost Chiesa dearly, and that’s the nature of fighting “The Silent Assassin.”
Rafael Fiziev has a pretty ridiculous amount of talent. The Lightweight prospect has brutal power in both hands and especially his shins, as Fiziev brings a wealth of Muay Thai experience with him into the Octagon. The Kyrgyzstani fighter is widely looked at as a future contender, if not champion.
Bobby Green matched all that talent with pure moxie. He was not as fast or as powerful as Fiziev, but Green fought hard, trusting his high-risk, high-reward defense to keep him safe. Fiziev landed enough to take the first two rounds in a competitive effort, but Green was always there, ducking shots and firing back.
Fiziev’s hard-nosed offense combined with Green’s evasiveness and belly pokes resulted in a strong final frame for the veteran. He really shined, doubling up on Fiziev’s shots landed with beautiful timing and stellar head movement. It wasn’t enough to earn him back the win — somehow, one Texas judge even awarded the round to Fiziev — but it made for an all-around great fight.
Manel Kape Finally Arrives*
RIZIN fans were excited (if also sad) when Kape jumped ship to the Octagon. Over the last few years, the former RIZIN champ has been consistently entertaining and scored some huge finishes, which is exactly the type of athlete Flyweight needs at the moment.
Unfortunately, his first two fights didn’t go well. Against a pair of top-ranked foe, a slow start cost him the first match, while bad judges burned him on the latter. Either way, the pressure was on to perform here, otherwise, Kape was likely headed back to Asia.
Fortunately, Kape did just that. His timing on the counter seemed sharp from the first bell, but he really showed his craft in convincing Ode Osbourne to duck into the flying knee. Hidden by a stance shift, Kape lined up the blow then exploded, finally delivering on the promise of explosive action that came with his signing.
*Kape’s performance is marred by his scale fail
- Jessica Penne defeats Karolina Kowalkiewicz via first-round armbar (HIGHLIGHTS): A very pivotal moment came early in this bout when Kowalkiewicz opted to follow her foe down to the mat after throwing Penne to her back. The grappling specialist quickly used a sweep to score a takedown along the fence, methodically advancing her position soon afterward. From top mount, Penne slid to one side and brought her knee high, forcing Kowalkiewicz’s arm out of position. After stepping over the face and attacking the arm, Penne showed excellent skill in adjusting around her opponent’s defenses with continual transition prior to the eventual tap. It felt like a throwback to her Invicta FC fights!
- Miles Johns defeats Anderson dos Santos via third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Miles Johns put an absolute beating on his Brazilian foe last night. Early on, he targeted the lead calf, brutalizing his foe’s lower leg until dos Santos was forced to fight Southpaw. From his lesser stance, dos Santos’ defense was pretty open, allowing Johns to bomb him repeatedly with double and even triple right hands. The finish was a thing of beauty, a brilliantly timed counter left hook to the mid-section followed by a crushing right hand that fully shut off the lights.
- Melissa Gato defeats Victoria Leonardo via second-round doctor stoppage: The broken bone curse of 2021 continues! It’s not exactly clear how Gate injured her opponent, though it’s possible an early kimura attempt did the damage. Either way, she was consistently winning some very fun scrambles when the doctor examined Leonardo’s arm and felt a break in her forearm. Ouch!
- Johnny Munoz defeats Jamie Simmons via second round rear-naked choke (HIGHLIGHTS): There’s not a ton to analyze here: Munoz was simply much better on the mat than his opponent. The grappler was even the busier man in the first round, but an earlier takedown in the second saw him advance position quickly. A couple attempts later, and the choke was sunk in.
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