A busy combat sports weekend turned out to be even more exciting than fans could have hoped for, with a changing of the guard in the UFC, an exciting Bellator event, and a TLC pay per view, with the help of some viral meningitis/mumps/whatever is going around the WWE locker room, turned out to be more eventful than fans could have ever hoped.
Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN — Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino — Las Vegas, Nevada
In a battle of middleweight fringe contenders badly in need of a win, Gabriel Rosado (24-11, 14 KOs) stopped “Jersey Boy” Glen Tapia in the sixth round. Tapia (23-5, 15 KOs) actually started out boxing well, using his legs to set up pinpoint combinations. But towards the end of the 2nd, Rosado, who was sitting down on his punches more than usual, started to land hard rights hands. By the end of the fourth round, the Philadelphia fighter was starting to produce a horrid hematoma above the left eye of Tapia. Rosado then used the hematoma as a target, and in the sixth round, put a left hook behind a right and dropped Tapia. Tapia rose to his feet, but Rosado jumped on him with combinations and referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight at 1:15 of the sixth round. Rosado, probably best known for his role in the movie Creed, is right back in the mix of middleweights, which is great place to be in what has become boxing’s richest division.
Bellator 185 — Mohegan Sun Arena — Uncasville, Connecticut
Gegard Mousasi became the latest UFC fighter to crossover into Bellator MMA, and like others before him, found out that the competition was stiffer than expected, as he barley won a unanimous decision over former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. Shlemenko (56-10) hit Mousasi (43-6-2) with a left hand directly on the right eye in the first minute of the fight, and soon that eye was closed shut. Despite that, Mousasi dominated the first round, taking down Alexander again and again. Twice, Mousasi had the Russian’s back and was seconds from locking in a rear naked choke, but despite his head turning purple several times, Shlemenko survived. But Shlemenko failed to go after the eye in the second round and again Mousasi had Shlemenko’s back at the end of the round. But the longtime Bellator standout turned up in the third, attacking Mousasi’s eye with overhand lefts. Even though he outstruck Mousasi and even landed his own takedown in the third, Mousasi ended up winning the fight, (29-28) on all three scorecards. Sometimes you win tonight and look better later, something the Dutchman surely took to heart this night.
In his first co-main event, the latest of the storied Gracie clan, Neiman Grace, submitted late replacement Zak Bucia in the second round to move at 7-0 as a pro. Bucia (18-9), who was fighting a week’s notice, actually showed pretty good takedown and submission defense, but the much bigger Gracie continually stayed on him. Then midway through the second round, unable to lock in the RNC, Gracie shifted his weight and locked in a neck crank, pulling at the neck, face, and soul of Bucia, forcing him to tap out.
And in the most noteworthy fight of the night, unheralded Oklahoman Kristina Williams (1-0) shocked the MMA world and former boxing champion, Heather the Heat Hardy (1-1), stopping her in the second round. Making her pro debut, but an experienced amateur kickboxer, Williams masterfully kept the fight at kickboxing range, nailing several headkicks, and when Hardy did get inside, Williams bruised her up with elbows. Then in the second round, Hardy ducked her head RIGHT into a devastating headkick from Williams, shattering her nose. The ref called for the doctor, who mercifully stopped the fight. The finish alone makes this fight-and Hardy’s face- a must see.
UFC Fight Night Gdansk — Ergo Arena — Gdansk, Poland
The MMA Leader’s second card in Poland was highly beneficial to the home country’s fighters, who 3-0 on the main card and 4-2 overall, but this card will go down in history for a changing of the guard in the welterweight division and the antics of one very special fanboy.
The main event saw England’s Darren Till (16-0-1, 4-0-1 UFC) stop legendary action fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (32-10, 19-7 UFC) in the first round. Fighting in his first main event, the English kickboxer showed excellent striking, solid takedown defense, and tremendous size and power for the weight class. Till was hitting Cerrone with hard left hands right away, and even though Cowboy took the Brit down, Till was back up immediately. Cerrone landed a few leg kicks and just when he seemed to be finding a rhythm, Till touched him with a hard left hand and a step in elbow, which setup a flurry of punches that dropped Cowboy and Till stayed on him until Marc Goddard stopped at 4:20 of the first round.
In the co-main, homegirl Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2, 4-2 UFC) bounced back from two losses, decisioning Jodie Esquibel (6-3, 0-1 UFC) over three rounds. Coming off losses to champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and former number one contender Claudia Gadelha, Karolina kept the fight standing, nailing the former pro boxer with combos and when the fight got to the clinch, the Polish fighter lit Esquibel up with hard knees to the head. Kowalkiewicz briefly took Esquibel down and almost locked her an armbar at the end of the second, but the savvy ground fighter from New Mexico survived. Karolina kept the attack up throughout the third and while Esquibel landed enough shots to rise a mouse under Karolina’s right eye, the cool girl from Poland did enough to secure a decision. The scores were 30×27, 3 times.
The rest of the main card saw Polish light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz (20-7, 3-4 UFC) end a two-fight losing streak, submitting American Devin Clark (8-2, 2-2 UFC) with a rare standing rear naked choke. Also in his UFC debut, Polish middleweight Oskar Piechota (10-0-1, 1-0 UFC) dominated American Jonathan Wilson (7-3, 1-3 UFC) in route into a unanimous decision victory.
The most noteworthy fight of the undercard saw Team Alpha Male product Andre “Touchy” Fili (17-5, 5-4 UFC) decision “The Russian Hammer” Artem Lobov (13-14-1, 2-4 UFC). The fight was noteworthy for Lobov’s friend and training partner, UFC lightweight champion Connor McGregor cheering wildly for his friend, raising the ire of both Fili and referee Marc Goddard, who briefly stopped the fight to warn McGregor for unwarranted cornering. But a Fili head kick at the end of the first round, combined with excellent takedowns throughout the third secured the win for the California fighter, who found it necessary to go up to the cage and yell at McGregor at the end of the fight, and talk about him in his postmatch interview.
Also on the undercard, Poland’s Marcin Held(23-7, 1-3 UFC) finally notched his first UFC win, decisioning Nasrat Haqparast. In what became the Fight of the Night, Long Island’s Brian Kellerher (18-8, 2-1 UFC) stopped Damien Stasiak (10-5, 2-3 UFC) late in the third, dropping him with an overhand right followed a left hook and following up with vicious GNP. And in her UFC debut, former Invicta standout Aspen Ladd (5-0, 1-0 UFC) stopped Lina Landsberg (7-3, 1-2 UFC) with GNP in the second round.
HBO Boxing After Dark — Turning Stone Resort and Casino — Verona, New York
In a fight in the vein of classic B.A.D main events, undefeated but untested Albert Machado (19-0, 16 KOs) knocked out Jezreel Corrales(22-2, 8 KOs) in the eighth round to win the WBA junior lightweight title. Corrales drew the ire of fans and media when he missed weight by three pounds, forfeiting his title on the scales. But the fight went on, and for five rounds, the young Puerto Rican had trouble dealing with Corrales’ difficult style. Corrales hurt him several times with wild left hands, even dropping him in the fifth round. But in the sixth round, Machado started to find his range, and then in the eighth round, they landed left hands at the same time, but this it was Corrales who went down. Many thought the ref’s count was fast, but Corrales was clearly on queerstreet. It’s an upset win for Machado, who had never had a twelve round fight before this, and he becomes Puerto Rico’s first new male world champion in over two years.
The co-feature saw the return of former US Olympian and two-time 154 pound titleist Demetrious Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs) who decisioned Alantez Fox (23-1-1, 14 KOs) over twelve rounds. The scores were 118-109, 118-110, and 116-111 for Andrade. It was mostly easy work for Andrade, despite going down for the first time in his pro career, a flash knockdown in the seventh. Andrade seemed content to just shake the rust off, but he will need to be much more exciting if wants to be a major player at 160.
The night started out with an important fight on tape delay from Belfast, Northern Ireland, IBF bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett decisioned former teammate and WBA bantamweight champion Zhanat Zhakianov of Kazakhstan, much to the delight of his hometown crowd. Zhanat was in Burnett’s face from the first bell, but after a lot of holding in the early rounds, Burnett was able to more and more use a solid jab and good foot movement to find the openings to land solid combinations. Zhanat had a couple of good rounds, but never seemed to muster up enough offense. The fight was more busy than exciting, but there were some good, scrappy rounds in there. The scores were 119-109, 118-110, and 116-112 all for Burnett.
WWE Tables, Ladders, and Chairs — Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota
As Paul Heyman once said, “When there is chaos, there is opportunity.” And when some mysterious viral infection took Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt out of their expected matches on this show, it paved the way for a show which to me, is the best Raw brand show of the year.
Substituting for Roman Reigns was Raw General Manager Kurt Angle, who wrestling his first in WWE in eleven years, on the seventeen year anniversary of his first WWE title win. Teaming with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose and donning the tactical vest and black pants of the Shield, Angle, Rollins, and Ambrose defeated the Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, Kane, and Braun Strowman in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match. There was way too much to even comment on in this match, but it was a barnburner. At one point, Strowman powerslammed Angle through a table and he was taken to the back. The heels seemed determined to put the Shield in a garbage truck, but a miscommunication led to Kane attacking Strowman, and eventually throwing him in the damn truck. This left the opening for Angle to return and take out Sheamus and Cesaro, while Ambrose and Rollins double team tackled Kane through the guardrail. The ShIIIeld then laid put Miz with the Triple Powerbomb for the win.
The other big substitution saw Smackdown’s AJ Styles face Finn Balor for the first ever battle between the former leaders of the Bullet Club. The two put on a phenomenal match, but in the end, Balor managed to escape several predicaments and hit the Coup De Grace for the win. There are so many things you can say about this match, but in the end the words that matter the most is GO WATCH IT!
Also, Asuka made her Raw roster debut, defeating Emma. The story was the Australian continually trying to outsmart the former NXT Women’s Champion, but eventually Asuka overpowered her and submitted her with the Asuka Lock. Also, Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss beat a very game Mickie James with the DDT, and an eye rake helped Enzo Amore regain the Criuserweight title from Kalisto.
Overall, this was a great show and a great way to cap off a simply awesome combat sports weekend.
Also This Weekend: In boxing, Ryota Murata of Japan righted one of the worst decisions of the year, defeating Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam by seventh round stoppage to win the WBA middleweight title on Sunday morning in Tokyo. Murata was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist. In pro wrestling, despite a last day change in venue, Wrestlecircus’ Circusmania went on without a hitch, as Brian Cage regained the Ringmaster Championship from Shane Strickland and Tessa Blanchard retained the Sideshow Championship in dramatic intergender battle with Impact tag team champion Dave Crist. Also at PWG All Star Weekend, The Chosen Bros, Matt Riddle and Jeff Cobb, beat The Lucha Brothers, Penta El Zero and Rey Fenix for the PWG Tag Team titles on Night one, and Ricochet beat Chuck Taylor to win the PWG World Championship on Night 2.
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