The ESPN era of the UFC started off early on ESPN+ and culminated with the retirement of one of the UFC’s most reliable workhorses.
The featured prelim saw longtime featherweight contender Dennis Bermudez, fighting at 155 pounds for the first time in the promotion, get back in the win column for the first time in five bouts, dominating the young Te Edwards in route to a shutout unanimous decision. As UFC commentator Jon Anik came into the ring to do the post-fight interview, Bermudez took his gloves off and announced his retirement.
The night started out a little rough for Bermudez (17-9, 10-9 UFC), as Edwards, in just his second UFC fight, came out strong, catching him several times with head kicks and dropped him with a hard right hand. But Bermudez popped right back up and used his excellent wrestling to control much of the remained of the fight. The single leg takedown was money for the Long Island native, and he ended both the first and second rounds on top, raining down elbows.
Edwards (6-2, 0-2 UFC), fighting out of the MMA Lab in Phoenix, looked gassed out by the end of the first round. He was able to relax his way out of a series of submissions, including a kimura in the second round and a guillotine choke in the third, but he wasn’t able to keep Bermudez off him. All three judges scored the fight 30-26 for Bermudez.
It may have been the right time for Bermudez to go out. “The Menace” had won seven fights in a row between 2012 and 2014, including a split decision win over current champion Max Holloway. But a submission lost to Ricardo Lamas and a flying knee knockout to Jeremy Stephens halted his title chances. Bermudez lost his lost four fights, the last three by split decisions that were all close and controversial. So it must be nice to go out on a win.
Bermudez dedicated to his fight to an uncle who is battling cancer and was in tears as he left his gloves in the cage. Not a bad way to go out.
Neal shines against Muhammad
The Dallas/Fort Worth area has become a budding area for rising MMA talent and the top of that list may be welterweight Geoff Neal, who notched his third straight win with a dominant decision over veteran Belal Muhammad.
Neal used a concise, measured attack based around a sharp straight left hand to consistently keep the Chicago native off-balance. Muhammad did little in the way of offensive in the first round, but started to open up in the second, landing consistently to Neal’s body. But Neal kept attacking smartly in bursts and closed the second round with a flurry of lefts that hurt Muhammad and left no doubt that he won that round.
The most impressive thing for Neal (11-2, 3-0 UFC) may very well have been his takedown defense, as he was to stop all but one of at least seven takedowns by Muhammad, including a beautiful double leg attempt the first round. Despite winning both of the first two rounds, the fight was still on the table going into the third. But Muhammad (14-3, 5-3 UFC) abandoned his second round body attack and spent most of the third round trying to wrestle. Neal however stopped all of the takedowns, and twice dropped Muhammad in the third, once with a left hand and one with a head kick. Yet Muhammad just keep going and made it the fifteen minute distance.
The judges scored the fight 29-28, 30-27, and 30-27, all for Neal. This marks his third win since coming to the UFC last year. The loss stopped Muhammad’s four fight winning streak.
Recountre Submits Stewart
No matter what else happens in the career of Chance Recountre, he can always say he got the first win of the UFC era.
The Native American fighter from Nebraska made short work of late replacement Kyle Stewart, utilizing a beautiful counter double leg to make this the kind of fight he wanted it to be. He quickly had Stewart’s back and despite some quality defense from the former US Marine, Recountre (13-3, 1-1 UFC) was able lock in a rear naked choke and force Stewart to submit at 2:25 of Round 1.
Recountre, only his second UFC fight, did have to overcome the first hard low blow of the ESPN era, but he did it well. He has a great frame for the welterweight division and comes from a great camp at Alliance MMA. For Stewart (11-2, 0-1 UFC) who had been knocking on the door of the big show for a while, this an unfortunate occurrence, but the former Marine should be back.