For the first time in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career, Joaquin Buckley looked like a contender last night (Sat., Oct. 7, 2023), battering Alex Morono from pillar to post on UFC Vegas 80’s main card.
Don’t get me wrong, “New Mansa” has always been a lot of fun. He’s always been a clear athletic talent that can do things most other fighters cannot. The jumping spinning back kick knockout heard ‘round the world? It’s not an accident that Buckley was the man to pull off a finish so wild.
At the same time, there are historic flaws to Buckley. At Middleweight, his height and reach disadvantages were often insurmountable. Moving down to 170-pounds obviously goes a long way in alleviating those issues, but they weren’t the only ones. Time and time again, Buckley’s athleticism was used against him when opponents timed him with counter shots, as Buckley’s bursts forward would prove huge collisions in his opponent’s favor.
Not having to cover quite as much distance helps, but there have been intelligent developments in Buckley’s style that also keep him safe. Most notably, his use of feints and false starts is better than ever. Buckley demonstrated this perfectly in the third round time and time again, faking at Morono until the veteran showed his hand, then blitzing him with combination punches.
Speaking of combinations, Buckley threw some mean punches-in-bunches. His target selection was on point as well. He hit the body just as often as the head, often in the same combination and often while shifting stance. The result was that Morono slowly became less accurate and less powerful with his own strikes.
The random blast doubles were a fun wrinkle to his game as well. Why not! If Buckley has the gas tank to push hard at 170 pounds, a random slam or two doesn’t hurt in demoralizing and fatiguing his opponent.
Seriously, Morono was straight battered by the third. His face was cut, and his mouth was leaking blood, but that’s just the visible damage. Buckley’s repeated rips to the mid-section didn’t create such a visible effect, but Morono’s diminished posture and slower feet were more than proof of their impact.
Some context here is important too: Alex Morono has been doing really well! Heading into his bout versus Buckley, Morono had won five of his last six, and the sole loss came in the third round of a fight he was clearly dominating against Santiago Ponzinibbio. He’s been on the best run of his seven-year UFC career, and Buckley ran over him!
Buckley asked for a main event in his post-fight interview, and f—k it, if Dawson vs. Green and Yusuff vs. Barboza are suitable Apex headliners, why not? Buckley really looks to be living up to his potential, so let’s grab some popcorn and lock him in the cage with Neil Magny for 25 minutes!
For complete UFC Vegas 80: “Dawson vs. Green” results and play-by-play, click HERE.