Every Monday, the Combat Press staff gathers its thoughts on the previous weekend’s fights and fight news. This feature isn’t a recap and it isn’t an editorial, but rather a bit of both worlds. We’ll scour the best from the combat-sports landscape and deliver it, with some commentary, right here. Let’s get started…
UFC 216 certainly delivered. Despite some slow fights early in the card and two contests that ended in a draw, the event featured plenty of action, some upsets, strong finishes and even a little bit of controversy.
The controversy didn’t come in the form of any majorly botched fight outcomes, but in the discussion of whether Kevin Lee should have been allowed to fight in the evening’s headliner. Lee had visible signs of a staph infection on his chest, but he was medically cleared to fight Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title. Unfortunately for Lee, he couldn’t overcome his other big obstacle, the aforementioned Ferguson. Ferguson locked in a triangle choke in the third round to coax a tap from Lee.
In the UFC 216 co-headliner, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson made history when he finished Ray Borg. Johnson now holds the record for most consecutive successful title defenses by a UFC champion. He also put forth a strong argument to be considered as the greatest fighter of all time. Some people might argue that he has faced inferior competition since leaving the bantamweight division following a loss to Dominick Cruz, but it’s difficult to look at Joseph Benavidez (twice), John Dodson (twice), John Moraga, Ali Bagautinov, Chris Cariaso, Kyoji Horiguchi, Henry Cejudo, Tim Elliott, Wilson Reis and Ray Borg as anything but a cleaning out of the entire flyweight elite, plus some. Yes, Anderson Silva had some strong competitors in his string of defenses too, but he also had the likes of Thales Leites, Patrick Cote and an unwilling-to-engage Demian Maia among his group of title defenses. An argument can certainly be made for either man as the GOAT.
How about that armbar finish from Mighty Mouse? An absolute work of art.
Derrick Lewis was forced out of his UFC 216 bout with Fabricio Werdum at the last minute. Lewis was replaced by Walt Harris, but Harris didn’t stand a chance against the former interim champ Werdum, who finished the fight with an armbar in just 65 seconds. The Brazilian might be 40 years old, but he’s still among the best in the heavyweight division. He might not sniff another title shot, but he’ll be in another title eliminator bout soon enough.
UFC 216 proved to be a bit of a bust for some fighters who were viewed as up-and-comers. Kalindra Faria was upset by Mara Romero Borella, who locked in a rear-naked choke for the first-round finish in the pair’s women’s flyweight bout. Meanwhile, Tom Duquesnoy couldn’t get anything going against wrestling stalwart Cody Stamann in the featured prelim bout. Stamann claimed the split decision in the affair. Further down the card, former flyweight title challenger John Moraga provided the only finish of the preliminary card when he dropped former World Series of Fighting flyweight titleholder Magomed Bibulatov in just 98 seconds.
At Kunlun Fight MMA 15, Road FC $1 million tournament participant Rodrigo Caporal upset Kunlun Fight champion and UFC vet Lipeng Zhang with a first-round knockout. The victory was not only revenge for Caporal after he suffered a loss to Zhang at Kunlun Fight 11, but it also ended Zhang’s 16-fight winning streak since being cut by the UFC.
Top female strawweight prospect Weili Zhang extended her own lengthy winning streak to 16 straight. The Kunlun Fight titleholder moved her record to 26-3 with a submission win over Bianca Sattelmayer. Rumors are swirling that Zhang is in contract talks with the UFC to debut on the Shanghai card in November. We can only hope.
There were a few undefeated prospects in action this weekend. Jay Cucciniello moved his undefeated mark up to eight fights with a first-round submission finish of veteran Wesley Hawkey at EFC Worldwide 64 in South Africa. In Russia, Tagir Ulanbekov inched up to a 7-0 record with a fourth-round guillotine choke of Vartan Asatryan in a clash for the Fight Nights Global flyweight title at FNG 76. The remaining undefeated prospect we had our eyes on this weekend was Arthur Soares, but visa issues prevented Soares from competing in his scheduled bout against Kenta Sakuma at Pancrase 290.
The world’s top pound-for-pound kickboxer, Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong, was in action on Saturday in China. The current GLORY lightweight world champion made it look easy against former top-10 lightweight Dzhabar Askerov to win the Wu Lin Feng eight-man tournament. The tournament featured top kickboxers like Chingiz Allazov and Enriko Kehl. However, Allazov was forced out of the final with Sitthichai due to an injury. Askerov stepped in for the man who bested him in the semifinals.
With the win, Sitthichai will now face one of China’s most popular combat-sports figures, Yi Long. The “Shaolin Fighting Monk” is known for his do-or-die fighting style and exciting fights. He’s also known for his controversial decision victory against Buakaw last year in a fight he clearly lost.
Elsewhere on the card, top-10 light heavyweight Igor Bugaenko bested China’s Hao Guanchua. Also, Russian prospects Timur Nadrov and Tamerlan Bashirov picked up victories over Chen Wende and Lu Jun. The full results for the event can be found right here on Combat Press.
Enfusion Live #54 went down in Ludwigsburg, Germany. In the evening’s main event, Enfusion 75-kilogram champion Diogo Calado defended his title against Kosovo’s Berat Aliu with a fourth-round knockout.
Other notable action featured Diogo Neves returning to the win column against Karim Allouss and Greek heavyweight Giannis Stoforidis besting German Vladimir Tok.
Chris Eubank Jr. scored an emphatic third-round TKO victory over Avni Yildirim to advance in the World Boxing Super Series. Yildirim was aggressive from the start, but the quick and powerful Eubank was just too much for him. Eubank was able to time him with clean, powerful counters from the start of the contest. Eubank was credited with a knockdown in the first when a counter uppercut dropped Yildirim’s glove to the canvas. Eubank continued to have the advantage until the third round, when a quick combination of punches ended with a right and a left that landed flush on the chin of Yildirim, dropping him hard and prompting the referee to call a halt to the bout.
Anthony Crolla won a unanimous decision over Ricky Burns in Manchester, England. The two U.K. veterans have been top contenders for quite a while, but they had never crosses paths in the ring. Their styles suggested it would be a good, competitive contest, and it did not disappoint. Crolla was able to get the win, but Burns was certainly able to give him his share of difficulties throughout the night. Crolla, the slightly younger and fresher fighter, was able to outhustle Burns to earn the nod by scores of 116-113, 117-112 and 116-114.