One of the biggest combat sports weekends of the year turned out to be just as fun as fight and wrestling fans could have hoped and there was little bit of everything. The UFC surely delivered on their biggest night of the year, Bellator had a fun card, and there was plenty of boxing and pro wrestling. Call me exhausted just trying to keep up with it all!
Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN 2 — Casino Del Sol — Tucson, Arizona
The latest edition of Golden Boy boxing saw the collapse of an action hero, just another tale in boxing’s endless story. Jesus-Soto Karass (28-13-4, 18 KO’s) has engaged in countless memorable fights throughout his seventeen year career, including a 2010-2013 run that including an upset win of Andre Berto and excellent battles with Mike Jones and Keith Thurman. But he is 0-4-1 since his won over Berto, but he was ready for one last battle against The Dominican Republic’s Juan Carlos Abreu (20-3-1, 19 KOs). Abreu got off to a fast start against the veteran, but is usually the case, Soto Karass began working into the fight in the middle rounds. However, Abreu halted all of that in the eighth round, when he dropped Soto Karass with a huge overhand right. The old pro got to his feet, but Abreu jumped on him and finished him with a combination. It’s the biggest of Abreu’s career and a sad end to a solid career for Soto-Karass, who deserved a better send off after the many great fights he had in his career. But so is boxing…
Friday, November 3rd
LFA 26 — Arena Theatre — Houston, Texas (AXS TV)
The latest LFA card featured an upset in the main event, as Jeff Hughes (8-1), a 29-year-old fighter from Ohio who was making his promotional debut, upset the bigger and more experienced Richard Odoms (13-4) to win the LFA heavyweight title. Hughes survived a rough first round and managed to out quick and out hustle the San Antonio police officer Hughes for the rest of the fight, staying away from Odoms big bombs. It’s an excellent step for the previously unknown Hughes, who is young enough to make a possible run at the UFC.
In the most notable fight of the undercard, Brazil’s Nicole Caliari (4-1), on the night before her 21st birthday notched an excellent win over Mexican prospect Itzel Esquibel (2-2). Esquibel, a noted striker who almost made the Mexican Olympic boxing team, ended up being outstruck and out everything by the much faster Caliari, who ended up mounting Esquibel and finishing with GNP. It was Nicole fourth knockout win and her United States debut.
Bellator 186 — Bryce Jordan Center — State College, Pennsylvania
It was a celebration of wrestling in many ways as Bellator held their first ever show on the campus of Penn State University, in which was actually a pretty brilliant move by the promotion, given that they have two Penn State graduates on their roster. Both were in the cage tonight, as well as two title matches.
The main event saw Ryan “Darth” Bader (24-5, 2-0 Bellator) successfully defend his Bellator light heavyweight title for the first time, stopping Britain’s Linton Vassell (18-6, 7-3 Bellator) in the second round. The Arizona State wrestler imposed his game Vassell early on, taking him over Belly to Belly suplex. Vassell managed to get to his feet and had some success striking in the middle part of the first round, but Bader scored another takedown and pounded out the rest of the round. Bader continued his assault in the second, managing to stay out of Vassell’s guard, with his GNP getting harder and harder as the round went on in. In the end, Bader had Vassell in the turtle and gained wrist control and unleashed a furry of shots until John McCarthy stopped the bout at 3: 58 of the second round. That makes four wins in a row for Bader and nine out of the last ten for a man who is quietly become one of the best light heavyweights in the world. Vassell saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end.
The co-main saw Ilima Macfarlane (7-0, 6-0 Bellator) become the first ever Bellator flyweight champion, submitting rival Emily Ducote (6-3, 4-2 Bellator) with a triangle armbar at 3:42 of the fifth round. Unlike the spirited battle these two ladies had eleven months ago, Macfarlane dominated most of the fight, boxing well on both the inside and outside, and dominated in the occasions when the fight ended in the clinch. Ducote had some moments, specifically at the end of the second and fourth rounds, and she carried that momentum in the fifth, landing some nice leg kicks. Macfarlane tried to go for a suplex, but Ducote blocked and ended up in Macfarlane’s guard. Macfarlane responded by attacking with rubber guard and slowly switching into the triangle, then grabbed both arms and stretched out to get the submission victory.
The undercard saw both of the Penn State boys, Phil Davis and Ed Ruth, get wins of their own. In just his fourth professional fight, Ruth, the three-time national champion, starched UFC veteran Chris Dempsey (11-6, 0-1 Bellator) in the second round with a perfect right cross. Ruth was dominant in the first round, nailing Dempsey with strikes and taking him down when it suited him (and at one point, just shoving him over). But Ruth showed one glaring weakness-his jiu-jitsu. Several times he had his back, but was either unable and unwilling to put the hooks in and go for the choke. But still a good win for Ruth (4-0). Meanwhile, Davis, the UFC vet and former Bellator light heavyweight champion, scored a pedestrian but clear win over Judo Olympian and former two division Legacy FC champion Leo Leite (10-1, 0-1 Bellator). Leite showed excellent striking and takedown defense, but never showed the kind of offensive output needed to get Davis’ respect. This allowed Davis to use his range and speed advantage to pound and peck his way to a unanimous decision.
Saturday, November 4th
HBO Boxing After Dark — Casino De Monte Carlo — Monte Carlo, Monaco
HBO kicked off their surprisingly busy end of the year schedule with an afternoon excursion to Monaco where Dmitri Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) needed only a round to destroy Australian Trent Broadhurst (20-1, 12 KOs) and retain the WBA light heavyweight title that he was given after the retirement of Andre Ward. Bivol has already been called the best light heavyweight in the world by some, and it was easy to see their point here. Broadhurst did his best to jump on Bivol to start the fight, but within about thirty seconds, Bivol had gained control of the fight with solid defense, a faster than usual pace, and good combinations. Broadhurst went down on a shoulder bump that was bogusly called a knockdown with about a minute to go in the round, but as the round came to end, Bivol dropped Broadhurst with a perfect right hand. Broadhurst’s guard was up, but Bivol came right through it a right. The punch was so perfect that Bivol didn’t even get all the way across his body, but it didn’t matter. Broadhurst didn’t get up and Bivol got the knockout at the end of Round One.
Bivol is promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport out of England, but Matchroom has stepped in to help fill the void left at HBO with Top Rank leaving for ESPN, meaning that we could be seeing Bivol on the Heart and Soul of Boxing for years to come, and I ain’t mad at it.
Showtime Championship Boxing — Barclays Center — Brooklyn, New York
It was another useless title defense for WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, who knocked out the man he beat for the title, Bermaine Stiverne, at 2:59 of Round One. Nearly three years ago, these two men went the distance a good scrap that saw Wilder go twelve rounds for the first time in his career and wrestle the green belt away from him. But this was one was no struggle, as Stiverne hadn’t fought in two years, came in fifteen pounds heavier than the first fight, and just stood in front of Wilder. Wilder dropped him with a one two with about thirty seconds left in the round. Two more knockdowns convince the ref to call it off.
This was the sixth title defense for Wilder, but his technique peaked a couple of years ago and he doesn’t seem to be getting better despite his success. The fight he desperately wants with WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua may actually happen in 2018, but I don’t think that fight goes well for him, as Joshua has far superior technique and unlike most of Wilder’s opponents, he actually punches back.
The co-feature was much more competitive as former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter decisioned Adrian Granados over twelve rounds. It was a rough fight, with a lot of clinching and some headbutts early, but Porter carried the fight before gassing out late. Granados probably swept the last few rounds and he thought he won the fight, as usual, but Porter won 117-111 on all three cards. He is heading to a rematch with WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman next year, in a rematch of an excellent fight they had last summer.
UFC 217 — Madison Square Garden — New York, New York
Well, what else can you say? In the days since this Saturday, many are lauding UFC 217 as the best UFC PPV of all time. While it feels a little early to say that, I don’t think that it can be argued that it was certainly the most eventful show of all time. Not only did we see an unprecedent three title changes, all by conclusive and violent stoppage, but from the Fight Pass prelims on we saw insane things happening.. We had crazy knockouts-from Ricardo Ramos kicking off the night by blasting out Aiemann Zahabi with a spinning elbow in the third round of a close fight; to Ovince Saint Preux, down two rounds to nil to a better than ever looking Corey Anderson, pulling a VICIOUS walk away head kick knockout.
Then there was the controversy in the heavyweight fights, first when a DAMN good heavyweight scrap between American Curtis Blaydes and Russian Alexey Oleynik ended when an errant kick from Blaydes to a grounded Olenik accidentally grazed his ear, which ended with the ref calling the fight. At least it was called a second round TKO for Blaydes, who put on the best performance of his career and is looking like a legitimate heavyweight contender. Then Walt Harris got himself disqualified in a fight that he was in firm control of, when he caught Mark Godbeer first with a knee to the groin. When the referee tried to stop the fight and give Godbeer time to recover, Harris kept going and nailed Godbeer with a head kick. The referee also made the correct call here, awarding Godbeer a win by disqualification.
The prelims also had two minor upsets. FS2 showcased a solid welterweight fight that saw Dana White: Looking for a Fight alums Randy Brown and Mickey Gall lock horns. In a tale of three highly different rounds, Brown overcame a rough second round to control and pound a decision win. Brown overwhelmed Gall with his size, and controlled him on the ground for most of the first and third rounds. Meanwhile, James Vick closed the prelims with a second round TKO victory over Joe Duffy. A very competitive fight began to swing towards Vick as the second round continued, until Vick dropped Duffy with a beautiful right uppercut and jumped on him with GNP for the victory. Vick moved to 8-1 in the UFC, and he’s definitely the most underrated fighter in the lightweight division.
The main card opened with Brazilian Adonis Paulo Costa destroying former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks in the second. Hendricks held his own in the first round, but soon the speed and power of the much larger Brazilian overwhelmed Hendricks and Costa won by second round TKO. Then Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson returned to form, dominating Jorge Masvidal over three rounds, using his deft movement, numerous sidekicks, and pinpoint boxing combos to subdue “Gamebred.”
Then things got really crazy when Rose Namajunas knocked out UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the first round to win the title. Joanna Champion had defended her title five times and was one win away from tying Ronda Rousey’s record for female title defenses. But “Thug” Rose, as she had all week, paid no mind to the hype. Instead, she came out in a tight stance and firing. First, she dropped Joanna with an overhand right, but Rose let Joanna up to her feet, but stayed right on her and eventually landed a perfect left hook that dropped Joanna again. Rose then jumped on her, took her back, and pounded her with strikes until Joanna tapped from strikes at 3:03 of the first round. Rose had been as high as a ten to one underdog coming into this fight, but the signs that an upset was looming were there all week. But I don’t think anyone thought it would be like this…
The insanity only continued in the co-main event, as the rivalry between UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw reached a new (but definitely not the highest) height, with Dillashaw upsetting the champion by second round TKO to regain the bantamweight title. Both men were a little wild from the start of the fight, but in Round One Dillashaw was hitting mostly air, while Garbrandt caught Dillashaw several times with counters before finally dropping him at the end of the year, but didn’t have enough to follow up. Garbrandt may have also made a mistake in not jumping on Dillashaw at the start of the round. Dillashaw was beginning to find his groove when he caught Garbrandt with a headkick and dropped him. Garbrandt was up to his feet quickly, but was now eager to exchange, and Dillashaw caught him going straight back with a short right hand and dropped him, then jumped on him and finished him on the ground for the win. As huge as this win is for Dillashaw, I would bet the farm this rivalry is FAR from over.
Then in the main event, Georges St. Pierre defied logic and the entire history of combat sports, choking out Michael Bisping in the third round to win the UFC middleweight title. St. Pierre was pushing a fast pace from the first round on and he looked pinpoint in his striking and takedowns. At the same time, Bisping did catch him with more than a few shots, and in the second round was beginning to find his groove, especially as Georges began to slow down. The fight was pretty even late in the third, when Georges dropped Bisping with a perfect left hook. GSP pounded him elbows and punches from the guard as Bisping tried desperately to get back to his feet. But as the champion tried to stand, GSP took the back and locked in a rear naked choke. As the blood poured down his face, Bisping refused to tap and John McCarthy called the fight of at 4:23 of Round 3.
It was a pure insanity from the opening fight and a shot in the arm that was desperately needed in what has been a tough year for the MMA Leader. Things in the UFC just got a whole lot more interesting.
Sunday, November 5th
New Japan Pro Wrestling ‘Power Struggle’ — Edion Arena Osaka — Osaka, Japan
The biggest New Japan event of the fall delivered for a promotion that is having one of their very best years in their forty-five-year history. The main event saw IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Takahashi defeated Kota Ibushi in an insane thirty minute classic to retain the title. Meanwhile, “The Villain” Marty Scrull won his first IWGP junior heavyweight title, defeating longtime rival Will Ospreay, who was making his first title defense. This is the third title that Scrull has taken from his long-time rival. But the real story of this show came after the IWGP United States title match, where Kenny Omega retained the title, defeating Trent Berretta. Omega was on the mike saying that he had no more challengers left for his title, when a cool video played and Chris Jericho appeared on the screen. He challenged Omega for Wrestle Kingdom, calling himself the Alpha of his business. Alpha vs Omega, get it. Kenny accepted and now the whole wrestling world is talking.
Impact Wrestling ‘Bound for Glory’ — Aberdeen Pavilion —Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Impact Wrestling, branded on the third different branding this year alone, returned to pay per view for only the second time this year, and the first of in the post-Jeff Jarrett, Anthem era. On paper, the card actually looked very good, and in the end, the action in the ring wasn’t terrible. The best match of the show was Ohio Versus Everyone, Jake and Dave Crist, retaining their Impact tag Team titles against LAX when their third member, Sami Callahan, made his debut in the promotion. The show started with Trevor Lee winning a six-way match to retain the Impact X-Division title and MMA fans will be interested to see Bobby Lashley and King Mo defeat Moose and Stephen Bonnar in a cage match.
But sadly, most came away with a bad taste in their mouths from this show thanks to one man-Alberto El Patron, the former champion he was making his return to the promotion after being suspended on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend, WWE’s Paige. He cut a long heel promo in the middle of the show, trying to be a rebel, blaming the company for not standing beside him, but it did come off well at all. Then in the main event, which was a very good match between champion Eli Drake and challenger Johnny Impact (Nitro Morrison Mundo). The match ended with Patron breaking a chair over Impact’s head and Drake getting the pin. Many have shit on the finish, wanting a clean win in the main event, something that has happened way too rarely in the history of Impact. In the end, despite great work from most of the crew, this was another miss for the promotion.