The UFC returned to Abu Dhabi for the first time since UFC 112 in 2010, and I can say with a good deal of certainty that this was a much better card (Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie, anyone?). The majority of the fights were solid, and the action was called by my favorite commentating team, Brits Dan Hardy and John Gooden. It’s impossible to overstate how much more I like watching MMA without some shouty blowhard trying to pimp catchphrases the whole time. I’d love to see Hardy-Gooden-Rogan call every event, or for Goldberg to get a new brain and Jon Anik to get a new voice and eyebrows. The only real drawbacks were that because of the time difference, the event started in the middle of the day and it aired only on Fight Pass (to which I subscribe – worth it).
Before we start, I’d just like to point out that I correctly predicted winner of all but one of these fights, excluding the (SPOILER ALERT) no contest. This all but ensures I will get all of them wrong next time, so gamblers be aware.
BONUSES: Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri took home Fight of the Night, while Ramsey Nijem and Roy Nelson got paid for Performance of the Night, to the tune of $50k each. I guess I can’t really argue with those, though I thought Thales Leites’ performance was also pretty boss.
Johnny Bedford No Contests Rani Yahya via Headbutt, 0:39 of Round 1
Off to an inauspicious start when Johnny Bedford KOs Rani Yahya in 39 seconds with what later turns out to be an accidental headbutt. It’s ruled a no-contest, which is good, since I picked Yahya.
Thales Leites Def. Trevor Smith via TKO, 0:45 of Round 1
Ha, remember when people thought Thales Leites was a boring fighter? Not no more. Leites swarmed on Smith, coming forward the whole time, eventually landing three overhand rights in a row until it was goodnight, Hot Sauce. “Goodnight Hot Sauce” sounds like it could be a Schiavello-ism, doesn’t it? That’s why I hate Schiavello. Anyway, I may be alone on this, but I’m excited for another Thales Leites title run. Dude’s only lost four times, one of which was a split decision and another of which was to Anderson Silva. He’s got skills and he’s only 32.
Jared Rosholt Def. Daniel Omielanczuk via UD (30-27 X3)
Do you like wrestlers holding half guard without trying to advance?? Strikers barely attempting sweeps?? Then the first round of this fight is for you! It got interesting only briefly, when Rosholt sat up from half guard and grabbed a “rape choke” (note: Joe Rogan is no long allowed to use this term, descriptive as it may be) and landed a couple shots. More of the same in rounds two and three. What do you get when you pair a wrestler without great submission skills with a striker without great takedown defense? A MASSIVE LAY-POCALYPSE! Go ahead and take a lay-cation on this one, it’s just lots of Rosholt holding Omielanczuk down and failing to get submissions while executing some half-hearted ground and pound. Rosholt has great wrestling, if he learns to ground and pound a little harder and execute submissions a little better he could become an exciting fighter. But watching a fight end with a failed North-South choke attempt while the guy on the bottom boredly waits for the bell is pretty terrible.
Ramsey Nijem Def. Beneil Dariush via TKO, 4:20 (whoa, 420, braah) of Round 1
Even fight early on as both these guys have very similar skill sets – solid BJJ and hard hitters. After coming out aggressive and paying for it, Ramsey starts going with a stick-and-move strategy that pays off when he staggers Dariush with a left hook to the ear while moving away. Ramsey smells blood and pounces, and mother of God it is a beating after that. You do not want Ramsey Nijem to have you hurt. He follows Dariush from position to position, with Dariush doing an incredible job staying in the fight, but Ramsey is just overwhelming, managing to pound on Dariush’s face like a whack a mole even when he’s half turned around from a heel hook attempt. It looks like there’s a spider on Dariush’s face and Ramsey hates spiders. The cockiness that can sometimes get Nijem caught when he drops his hands (the reason I picked against him) really works in his favor when he has someone hurt. Finally the ref stops it. Dariush leakin’. Great fight.
Huge win for Nijem, who’s apparently fighting out of San Francisco now. Which is cool, because with Jake Shields out of the UFC, there are only so many SF guys to root for. Nijem, who’s Palestinian, says he wants to bring the title to the Middle East. Bro, wouldn’t you have to move there first? You from Cali.
Ryan LaFlare Def John Howard via UD (29-28 X3)
Two more guys with extremely similar skill sets, sharp, technical strikers with solid wrestling. Howard is more of a strength grappler while LaFlare is a bit more technical. LaFlare drops Howard in the first to clearly win round one. LaFlare knees Howard hard in the testes in round two, probably the worst nutshot I’ve seen since Alessio Sakara spent the end of his first UFC bout dry heaving in the ring before they called it a no contest. Howard is still in clear pain after taking the full five minute delay, but still wins the round, landing hard hooks and buckling LaFlare a few times. In round three, LaFlare manages to control the grappling juuust enough, getting to side control even after getting swept a few times (once with Howard just muscling him straight over his head in side control). LaFlare is the clear winner, though just barely, and Howard is still holding his sore nuts when the decision is announced. He’s kind of shaking his package at the camera, to be honest. Great fight, especially if you’re into testicle trauma (looking at you, Burnsy).
Clay Guida Def. Tatsua Kawajiri via UD (30-27 X3)
This fights starts even as well, with both guys competing to see who can look more like a Muppet. Seriously, Kawajiri really, really looks like Muppet. Guida drops Kawajiri with a huge overhand right, nearly knocking him out and– wait, who the hell is this? I’ve never seen Guida throw a decent punch in his whole career, where’d that bomb come from? They spend the rest of the round mostly with Guida trying to finish a suplex while Kawajiri defends by threatening with a Sakuraba-style kimura. Guida goes back into Energizer Blanket mode in round two, and it’s five more minutes of suplex vs. kimura. Kawajiri manages to sweep with it a few times, but Guida rolls out of it every time and it’s back to square one. More of the same in round three, though Kawa does lock up a pretty tight looking arm-in guillotine at one point. Guida tries to slam out of it and it doesn’t work at first but he eventually wriggles free. Guida basically wins via persistence, which is classic Guida. He’s the most persistent fighter on the planet.
In the post fight interview, Guida calls out Conor Macgregor, saying “the UFC’s protecting its leprechaun.” He looks out into the crowd and says “You want to fight a real man? There ain’t no gold at the end of this rainbow, man. Just a chest hair sandwich from a mullet with a caveman at the end of it.” I think he meant to say a caveman with a mullet, but it actually works better the way he said it, and either way, it’s the best post-fight call out since Chael Sonnen. A chest hair sandwich? That is accurate, descriptive, and disgusting. Well done, Guida, who strikes me as a guy who probably smells terrible.
Roy Nelson knocks Nogueira into next week at 3:37 of Rd 1
Nelson comes out to “We Will Rock You,” Nogueira to Diddy’s cover of “Kashmir.” Jesus, what is this, a fight over who could pick the cheesiest song? Then it’s the tale of the tape, and holy shit, Big Nog and Big Country are the same age? Damn, Nog’s got some city miles on him.
The fight starts, and Nog is clearly trying to use a pressure boxing strategy while avoiding Roy’s big right hand, the same stategy employed by Miocic and Dos Santos when they beat Nelson. Problem is, Roy’s got a chin like an Easter Island statue so you have to be quicker than he to out box him. Big Nog is a lot of things, but quick ain’t one of ’em these days. Big Nog has some success with the jab, but he keeps getting popped with Roy’s looping hooks and uppercuts. Roy fights like a Lord of the Rings dwarf who was raised by Chuck Liddell videos. Roy drops Nog HARD with a big overhand right, but Nog sort of recovers and keeps coming forward. It happens two more times, and I probably would’ve stopped the fight there. But you can’t fault Leon Roberts for not stepping in when Big Nog is still upright and defending himself and moving forward. He would’ve gotten much less crap if he’d jumped in as soon as Nog went down and came up wobbly, but the fact that he recovered and kept coming forward is proof that it was a good no-stoppage.
Roy times another overhand right PERFECTLY and smashes Big Nog right on the chin. He’s out before he hits the canvas, and his head bounces off the ground and he goes stiff, almost as bad as Lawler-Lindland or Liddell-Evans. It’s always sad watching a legend get knocked stiff like that with his toes curled up, but when you take a fight against Roy Nelson you have to know that’s a distinct possibility. Roy’s just as dumb-sounding as always in his post-fight interview. He has the strangest persona, where he’s a fan favorite as long as he just knocks people out and rubs his belly and talks about cheeseburgers, but ever since Dana White got on him about that it seems like he’s going with this humble “just happy to be here” act. Which not only doesn’t suit him, it makes him seem extra dumb.
For Big Nog, hopefully retirement. He’s a legend and nothing is going to change that. No need to keep getting knocked out. Though we’ve all said that about Wanderlei too, and… You know, let’s just leave it at hopefully he retires.
For Big Country, the show ended with Hardy suggesting a fight with Mark Hunt. That’d be a nice slugfest. Nelson’s clearly one of the best heavyweights out there not named Velasquez or Dos Santos. I wouldn’t mind seeing him fight Travis Browne (who’s fighting Verdum next week) or Josh Barnett, if Josh Barnett isn’t retiring.
Until next time.