UFC Fight Night 45 was one of the best cards in UFC history but that did not matter as the crowd in Dublin set the tone for UFC Fight Night 46. They were epic from the weigh-ins through the now almost mythical Conor McGregor victory. No matter what the card was like (it was pretty awesome in its own right) the crowd guaranteed that UFC 46 rocked harder. By the end of it we all wished we were Irish and for moment it seemed like we were.
Together these two cards gave us 21 entertaining fights out of 21. Out of 21 there were 16 finishes and the five fights that went the distance were interesting and had exciting action. It was easily two of the best back-to-back cards in their history. They will be the UFC’s stock answer to the watered down fight card complaints.
After watching UFC FN 45 I thought that the UFC Dublin was certainly going to have the louder fans but would fall short when it came to the fights. Instead, the fights ended up being close and when you factor in the crowd it is a clear win for UFC Dublin. Here are the highlights of each card.
Conor McGregor and SBG Ireland Team
It was an impressive performance by the team led by John Kavanagh going 4-0 on the night with four finishes. The most impressive of course being Conor McGregor’s first round TKO of Diego Brandao, netting him another performance of the night bonus. Once again, McGregor went out and did what he said he was going to do by getting the first round stoppage. It ended the night perfectly for the crowd who reached insane levels of sound for a crowd of 9,500.
This weekend just proved to the world that McGregor is a huge star in the Ireland. By the end of this year he will be one worldwide. It was not just him though. His teammates showed that there is more to SBG Ireland than McGregor.
TUF 19 alumni Cathal Pendred also took him a bonus as he and former TUF teammate Mike King put on the FOTN. If there was a comeback bonus it would have gone to Pendred as well. If the fight had been stopped in the first round not many would have protested that it would have been an early stoppage. Pendred was rocked, in trouble and King was raining down blows. Somehow Pendred survived and came back in the second to get the technical submission win.
The numbers from this fight are crazy as King landed 63 total and significant strikes to Pendred’s 13 total and 9 significant ones. Pendred proved that in MMA math the numbers do not matter because there is not one for heart.
The other performance of the night bonus went to their teammate Gunnar Nelson for his second round submission win over Zak Cummings. Nelson once again just seems to handle every challenge with relative ease. His next fight should be against someone in the top ten. The welterweight division is one of the deepest but Nelson has the ability to challenge for the title with a few more wins under his belt.
Their teammate Patrick Holohan could also find himself very quickly in the title picture. He was the biggest underdog on the team going into his fight with Josh Sampo. Holohan went out and easily submitted a tough fighter in Sampo. Many people have mentioned Zach Makovsky as being a title contender after he took a tough three round decision win over Sampo in February. With a couple more wins like this and Holohan will find himself right in the middle of the title picture.
It was a good night to be Irish
Joining SBG Ireland on the card were fellow Irishmen Norman Parke and Neil Seery. They also joined them in the winner’s circle. On the night the Irish went 6-0 including Nelson who is at least an adopted brother at this point.
For Seery the win was sweet for many reasons. He avenged a loss to Phil Harris, got his first win in the UFC and did it in his home country with the crowd roaring for him. While he did not get the finish Seery got the definitive win in an exciting action filled fight.
After dropping a questionable majority decision in his last fight it is easy to understand why Parke wanted his first finish in the UFC. To get it in Ireland is even juicier for him. This was his biggest win in the UFC since winning TUF. He called out Diego Sanchez after the fight and that would make a nice matchup. We will see what the UFC has for him next.
It was not just the Irish
While the UFC did stack the card with some of the more popular Irish fighters who went on to satisfy the fans with their wins. There were some other big winners on this night.
Ian McCall dominated Brad Pickett to bring himself closer to a third fight with the champ Demetrious Johnson. He also derailed the Pickett title train. Pickett is now 1-1 at flyweight and the win came against Seery who took the fight on just days notice.
Whether it was his approach, or maybe he is just slow for this weight class, but Pickett did not look good against McCall. Sure, if the opponent wants to just stand in the pocket and trade, or if he can out wrestle them, then Pickett is fine. McCall won the wrestling and the striking. He moved in, landed his strikes and avoided most of Pickett’s big bombs. People want to hold on to his win over Johnson back in the WEC in 2010. They need to let it go because Pickett has no chance against Johnson anymore.
When they first fought Pickett was 31 and at the tail end of his prime and Johnson was 23 years old. Now Johnson is entering his prime and Pickett’s has passed. Also, this is Johnson’s correct weight class while Pickett has only made the weight twice. Johnson is a much better fighter than when they first fought while Pickett is lucky to be even the same fighter he was in that matchup.
The other big winner on the night was Ilir Latifi getting the TKO win over Chris Dempsey. This is his second straight stoppage win in the UFC after dropping his UFC debut to Gegard Mousasi. Latifi should get himself a top 20 opponent for his next fight to give him more of a challenge. Another win or two and he could crack the top ten.
UFC Fight Night 45 put up a good fight in the octagon
Honestly, the A.C. crowd had no chance in this one. Even if Donald Cerrone had saved a school bus of children from a pack of wild dingos and then rode out of the arena on the back of a Centaur he wouldn’t have generated the excitement that McGregor’s walkout did.
The fights however did stack up very nicely for UFC FN 45. They actually lead the way with 9 finishes out of 11 fights to UFC FN 46 and their 7 out 10 in that category. If it just came down to the fights then UFC FN 45 might just edge out UFC FN 46 but the crowd in Dublin was an entity unto itself and became a huge part of the whole event. Still, their were some awesome fights with several significant wins at UFC FN 45.
The Cowboy Way
Cerrone seems to have this all figured out finally. Come in, kick some ass. Get the finish. Collect $50,000. Go drink some Budweisers and ride a bull. Take another fight a month or so later and do it all over again.
While he has fought three times this year already he has barely spent 15 minutes in the octagon total in those three fights. He has been hit 57 times in the three combined which is not that much at all. If he keeps getting quick finishes and takes little to no damage he may just be able to fight six or more times this year.
UFC FN 45 started with the very first strawweight fight in UFC history when Claudia Gadelha defeated Tina Lahdemaki via a three round decision. These two showed why so many fans are excited about this weight class coming into the UFC as they put on an exciting fight.
There are many who think that Gadelha will be the first challenger for the new champion after TUF 20. She showed why in this fight. First came the aggression and brutally violent ground and pound in the opening round. When Lahdemaki showed her toughness in surviving the round and then coming back in the second against a tired Gadelha. Who had visibly slowed down in the second especially during the later parts of it.
Everything was setup for Lahdemaki to takeover in the third as she seemed to have the momentum. Instead, Gadelha dug deep and clearly won the third round showing some excellent striking and a lot of heart. There was no doubting Lahdemmaki’s heart either as she took a lot of punishment and kept coming at Gadelha.
The other two women on the card Leslie Smith and Jessamyn Duke also have a lot of heart. Duke first showed the TUF audience as her fight with Raquel Pennington was one of the best in TUF history.
Smith made her UFC debut against Sarah Kaufman in a rematch she took on short notice. Kaufman landed 202 strikes in three rounds but could not put Smith away. Smith kept coming at Kaufman with her hyper-aggressive style.
In this fight with Duke though Smith slowed it down just enough. The patience paid off as showed the ability to get inside and do some damage without getting hammered herself. There are several interesting fights out there for her including Jessica Eye. This would be an exciting matchup for the fans.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
What may be true in physics is not always true in MMA. Yes, there is a winner and loser fight with a few exceptions. That was clearly the case for many fights on this card where there were clear winners and losers after the fight. Not just in the actual outcomes but their place either in the company or rankings was also affected.
A perfect example of this was Gleison Tibau and Pat Healy fight, the other one besides the strawweights that went the distance. After this fight Tibau’s stock had clearly risen and Healy’s was in a free fall since his win over Jim Miller had been overturned.
When that fight ended it looked like Healy was a win or injury away from a title shot. Instead, he tested positive for marijuana and has gone 0-4 in the UFC. We have seen bigger names who were ranked higher get cut. Healy is going to need a win in his next fight or be in danger of that happening to him. Makes you wonder if maybe weed is a PED after all.
Tibau meanwhile rebounded from a TKO/KO loss to Michael Johnson last December. He now finds himself in position for a fight with a top opponent with this win.
Another fighter who made some changes and sees his stock rising again is Rick Story. Coming off of his loss to Kelvin Gastelum in his last fight Story needed a win if he did not want to fade away in a deep and talented welterweight division. He got that win in this fight with Leonardo Mafra by showing some patience and using all of his MMA skills including his wrestling. Instead of getting into a brawl as he often does he fought an intelligent fight. The recent move to join Benson Henderson, who was in his corner along with John Crouch at the MMA Lab looks to be a perfect fit for him.
Edson Barboza was saw his stock go up due to him showing some patience in the octagon in his first round KO win over Evan Dunham. Who saw his stock go down with his third straight loss making him 1-4 in his last five UFC fights. While Barboza got back on track after his loss to Cerrone in April by waiting for the opening instead of trying to force one. It was an impressive bounce back performance from him.
The win by Barboza has him again working his way back towards the top of the rankings but he could face another challenge from a familiar foe in Lucas Martins. Who saw his bank account go up, along with his place in the rankings, with his performance of the night bonus for his KO of Alex White in the third round. Both Barboza and Martins looked great in their fights and why not give Martins a shot at the only fighter to defeat him.
One of the examples of both fighter’s stock going up was the FOTN between John Lineker and Alptekin Ozkilic. While Lineker will move up in the rankings and more importantly in the title order Ozkilic will not drop that far in them. He showed a lot of talent and heart battling until he was KO’d. Usually when a fighter has started their UFC career at 1-2 they are often cut. He will at least get another fight or two before that is likely to happen.
The best of the rest
Aljamain Sterling looked great getting a dominant TKO win in the third round over Hugo Viana. That makes Sterling 2-0 to start his UFC career and shows that the 10-0 young fighter has a bright future. He looked great in this fight and is someone to watch going forward. At only 24 years old he is a couple of years away from his prime and should continue to get better between fights.