Last night (Sat., June 4, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remained in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 56. As is commonly the case in the UFC Apex, the big appeal of the event was big men in a small cage! Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik met in the main event, and there were plenty of other heavy-handed athletes featured, like Dan Ige and Alonzo Menifield.
Let’s take a look at the best performances and techniques:
Is Kickboxing Even Real?
Jairzinho Rozenstruik is such an odd fighter.
He’s got an extensive kickboxing record, and yet it only sometimes feels like Rozenstruik actually makes use of all that experience. When he passed by a Volkov from kick and blasted him with a hook-cross, for example, that was classic kickboxing! Other times, Rozenstruik remains inactive while his opponent in out-striking him, and he seems especially uncomfortable when backed into the cage. I understand kickboxers fight in a ring, but the core principal of have one’s back to the wall is the same.
Of course, Volkov deserves major credit for performing so well too. Right off the bat, Volkov’s left leg was fast and accurate, snapping up effortlessly to the inner thigh or mid-section. Volkov’s jab was on point as well, and generally, he seemed to really be enjoying his size advantage over “Bigi Boy.” When Rozenstruik tried to force the issue and trade big shots, he seemed to expect Volkov to back down.
“Drago” did the opposite, and as a result, he rebounds with a first-round knockout win.
War of the Left Hooks
Lucas Almeida vs. Michael Trizano was a really entertaining kickboxing battle.
Almeida quickly made his speed advantage clear, putting together lovely Muay Thai combinations to gain an early lead. Trizano’s defense looked sharp, but initially, he was behind on the volume game despite the pressure. A huge left hook made Almeida do the chicken dance, but the opening round ended before Trizano could really chase the finish.
That knockdown gave Trizano an extra bit of confidence, so he led a bit more in the second. Despite seemingly being the correct move — Trizano definitely needed more activity — Trizano was walking a very tight line, and he erred a bit too far on the side of aggression. Almeida returned the favor with his own counter left hook knockdown, leading to tied up cards ahead of the final frame.
Urged forward by his corner, Trizano kept the pressure up, but Almeida’s counters were too sharp. Once again, a crisp left hook put his opponent down, and this time, there would be no recovery once on the mat.
It was really just a stellar debut from Almeida, who showed off high-level kickboxing and solid takedown defense.
Killer Silva Impresses
Karine Silva really lived up to the hype in her UFC debut, scoring her 11th first-round finish.
What really makes the win impressive is how sharp Poliana Botelho was looking on the feet! Botelho was moving well and had a great judge of her opponent’s distance, just barely making her opponent miss throughout much of the first round. She looked really slick, but a single overhand connection from Silva changed everything.
Silva shoot a simultaneous double leg as she fired the overhand, knocking her foe down and landing the shot all at once. With only 30 seconds left in the round, time was short, but Silva immediately went after the neck. Botelho tried to defend with half guard, but that opened up the d’arce as an option. Silva locked it up really quickly, forcing the strangle with just five seconds left in the round.
A heavy-handed finisher with real-deal jiu-jitsu skill — that’s just when women’s Flyweight needs!
Raw Aggression Backfires
Charging wildly and swinging big overwhelms opponents to a certain level. No matter how athletic and dangerous a fighter is, however, that style almost always a wall at a certain point. As is often the case, Askar Mozharov found that out in his UFC debut.
Experienced UFC fighters like Alonzo Menifield are rarely overwhelmed by simple aggression. Menifield himself is something of an aggressive slugger, which perhaps made it easier for him to game plan for Mozharov’s wildness. Immediately, Menifield baited his foe with a big swing then ducked into a takedown. In Mozharov’s one moment of success, Menifield against interrupted his offense by ducking an elbow and planting him on his back.
It’s too easy to wrestle against an opponent throwing himself off-balance with punches. Maybe Menifield would’ve scored a big knockout had he opted to trade with the Ukrainian athlete, but why bother when the takedown and ground strikes produced a much safer first-round knockout win?
Smart work from “Atomic” Alonzo Menifield.
Welcome Back Kowalkiewicz!
It’s been a really rough streak for Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Heading into this bout vs. Felice Herrig, the Polish athlete had lost five in a row. These weren’t competitive defeats either. Ever since Jessica Andrade knocked her out, Kowalkiewicz hasn’t really looked motivated to be inside the Octagon.
Kowalkiewicz either needed to retire or drastically change something. She opted for the latter, relocation to American Top Team and working with former foe Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Perhaps more important than the camp change itself was the resulting affect on her mentality: Kowalkiewicz really, really wanted to win last night.
She fought hard as a result, and lots of the old Kowalkiewicz tricks were on display. She landed good counter shots as Herrig tried to advance, shredded her opponent with her trademark violent clinch work, and absolutely dominated from top position.
She picked up the second-round strangle as a result, and she looks rejuvenated for future scraps.
A Successful Sophomore Debut
As it turns out, fighting on short-notice up a weight class is not a recipe for success or evidence of an athlete’s true skill. In his actual debut, Benoit Saint Denis basically got his ass kicked by a very tough Welterweight named Elizeu Zaleski. He showed off a ton of toughness, but otherwise, it was unremarkable.
Against Niklas Stolze, Saint Denis was fully prepared and fighting at his proper weight class. As a result, he gave a real account of his abilities, and he looked great! The French athlete was relentless with his pressure, using that aggression to set up takedowns. Once on top, Saint Denis showed excellent control, remaining heavy to force his way to back control and the eventual rear naked choke.
This was Saint Denis’ true debut, the one that’s worth remembering.
- Ode Osbourne defeats Zarrukh Adashev via first-round knockout (watch highlights): Adashev came out trying to take his opponent’s head off. He was swinging huge shots, landing some of them, and Osbourne was leaning to barely avoid them. That’s a bold strategy, but it paid off big when Osbourne timed a pretty perfect check hook from the Southpaw stance, ducking his head off the center line and using Adashev’s aggression against him. Adashev hit the mat, and Osbourne began his first UFC win streak.
- Tony Gravely defeats Johnny Munoz via first-round knockout (watch highlights): Gravely is a God-damn powerhouse at 135 pounds. A highly credentialed wrestler with considerable knockout power, he scored his fourth win in five trips to the Octagon with a well-timed short uppercut as his opponent changed levels. That’s all it took!
- Erin Blanchfield defeats JJ Aldrich via second-round guillotine (watch highlights): The 23-year-old Blanchfield really looks like the future of the women’s Flyweight division. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was struggling a bit early with Aldrich, who’s a longtime training partner of Rose Namajunas and decidedly technical striker for her division. Blanchfield adjusted in the second, however, landing better shots and countering a knee with a quick shove to gain top position. Aldrich tried to scramble quickly, but Blanchfield latched onto her neck to immediately finish the rare standing guillotine choke. The high-elbow finish was a great bit of technique, and the whole sequence was excellent opportunism from the young talent.
For complete UFC Vegas 56: “Rozenstruik vs. Volkov” results and play-by-play, click HERE.