Bad officiating. That is what I come away with after a slower, but explosive boxing weekend. Most of the action was limited to Saturday, which saw the return of a UFC legend in the main event, and another successful title defense from boxing’s most bankable heavyweight. Knowing when to stop a fight doesn’t seem like it should be that confusing of a thing, but for referees in Wales and Brazil, no one could seem to get it right.
Showtime Championship Boxing — Principality Stadium — Cardiff, Wales
The largest indoor crowd in boxing history of 78,000 people turned out to the UK’s biggest draw, as WBA and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) stopped a much tougher than expected Carlos Takam of France (35-4-1, 27 KOs) in the tenth round.
The Frenchman, who was replacing Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev on three weeks’ notice, came in at top shape at 235 pounds and showed a unique combination of smarts, toughness, and a herky jerky defensive style that often disrupted the timing of Joshua, who was coming in a career high 254 pounds. Takam had a solid round one, but Joshua opened a cut over Takam’s eye in the fourth round, and dropped him with a right late in that round. Takam had a solid seventh round, landing several right hands, but Joshua cut him over the other eye in the eighth.
Despite the blood in his eyes, Takam never stopped trying to win, and for whatever reason, when Joshua landed a combination in the tenth, referee Phil Edwards stopped the fight at 1:34 of Round Ten. Even though Takam had lost every round, he was still trying and defending himself and the stoppage was nowhere near justified. It robbed Joshua of the chance to get a true knockout, and a good fighter a chance of landing the one big shot he never stopped trying for.
UFC San Paulo — Ginasio do Ibirapuera — Sao Paulo, Brazil
With UFC 217 next week, this week’s card in Sao Paulo flew under the radar, and is usually the case, provided some excellent fights and plenty to talk about before we look to the biggest card of the year.
In the main event, former UFC light heavyweight champion and middleweight title contender Lyoto Machida (22-8, 14-8 UFC) made a great entrance the theme of Game of Thrones and looked like his old self for a few minutes against the eighth ranked middleweight Derek Brunson. But then Brunson caught Machida with a pair of overhand left hands. Brunson followed up with some serious GNP and the referee stopped the fight at 2:30 of the first round, although Machida took several unnecessary hard shots before the ref stepped in. It was typical of the awful officiating we saw throughout the night. Brunson (18-5, 9-3 UFC) called out former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, a fight that actually makes a lot of sense. We can’t say what happens until after next week’s title fight, but it’s one that we may very well see.
The co-main saw former welterweight and middleweight title challenger Damien Maia (25-8, 19-8 UFC) drop a three-round decision to American Top Team’s Colby Covington (13-1, 8-1 UFC). What on paper looked like Death by Jiu-Jitsu versus The Wrestling Machine turned out to be a lackluster striking battle. Maia did come out early and rock Covington with series of left hands, ripping up his right eye, but he couldn’t finish the former Division I wrestler and was gassed by the end of the round. Covington successfully stuffed all of Maia’s takedowns, and this fight was just a lackluster battle between two subpar strikers. Covington did push the pace and landed enough to get the decision, but exposed himself as being nowhere the top of the division. Covington has emerged as a low-rent version of Chael Sonnen, even appearing alongside teammate Bobby Lashley on Impact Wrestling, but he is nowhere near ready for the man he has been calling out, UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. The truth is, Covington doesn’t last a round with him.
In the Fight of the Night, bantamweights Pedro Muhnoz and Rob Font had a short, but frenzied battle that ended decisively when Muhnoz hurt Font enough to make him go for a desperation shot and Muhnoz caught him in a sick one arm guillotine and forced him to tap out so quickly that it took him several seconds to release the choke. The main card opened with fifth ranked bantamweight John Lineker halting spoiler Marlon Vera’s three fight winning streak with a controlled, measure performance. Vera turned it up in the third round, but couldn’t finish the Brazilian. Scores were 29×28, three times.
The prelims were headlined by late replacement Vincente Luque handling Niko Price the first loss of his career, dropping him with an overhand right and finishing him with a D’Arce Choke on the ground in the second round. Middleweight Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace Antonio Carlos Junior made a case as a force in the division, choking out Jack Marshman with a RNC in the first round. In his first fight at lightweight Jared Flash Gordon overwhelmed Brazilian Hacran Dias in a fight that went the distance, but should have been stopped several times. At one point the ref actually came into contact with Gordon as if to stop the fight, but reconsidered and let the fight go on. It was a terrible call. The prelims began with an excellent battle with Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos decisioning Max Griffin. Dos Santos hurt Griffin badly at the end of the first, but Griffin preserved to take the second, but Dos Santos overwhelmed him in the third.
The Fight Pass prelims saw Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Golm choke out Christian Columbo in the first round with a RNC. The featured bout of undefeated flyweights saw Brazilian Devieson Figueiredo earn a questionable decision over American Jarred Brooks, who earned seven takedowns throughout the fight and controlled much of the first two rounds, but lost by split decision.
Also This Weekend: On the Joshua-Takam undercard, some important fights that weren’t televised in the US. Former British heavyweight Champion Dillian White decisioned Robert Helenus of Finland in lackluster fight that may have put White in position to challenge WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Also, WBA junior bantamweight champ Kal Yafai decisioned Japan’s Sho Ishida over twelve rounds, which could put him in a position for a big fight in the suddenly money rich 115-pound division. And Olympic Gold Medalist Katie Taylor notched her first world title just eleven months after her pro debut, decisioning Argentina’s Anahi Sanchez over ten rounds to win the WBA lightweight title.
Also in the UK, top British promotion This Is Progress returned to their home base at the Electric Ballroom at Camden in London, with four title matches. The show will be available later this week at DemandProgress.com.
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