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 217, set in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, sure delivered. The card featured three championship bouts, but hardly anybody expected all three titles to change hands. That’s how it turned out, though, when Georges St-Pierre returned from a multi-year hiatus to clobber and submit Michael Bisping and take the middleweight championship, T.J. Dillashaw finished Cody Garbrandt to reclaim bantamweight gold, and, least likely of all, Rose Namajunas scored a first-round technical knockout of Joanna Jędrzejczyk to become the women’s strawweight titleholder. All three victors put on stunning performances that left no doubt about their validity as champions.
Lost in the title mix, the rest of the card wasn’t so bad either. From the early prelims, where Ricardo Ramos delivered a vicious spinning back elbow to finish Aiemann Zahabi, to the Fox Sports 1 prelims, where Ovince St. Preux knocked Corey Anderson into next week with a head kick, to the main card, where Paulo Borrachinha put a likely nail in the coffin to the UFC career of former welterweight champ Johny Hendricks, the highlights kept coming.
That doesn’t mean the UFC 217 docket was controversy-free. Aleksei Oleinik should have found a way to continue against Curtis Blaydes following a grazing kick while downed, but he seemingly gave up. Granted, Oleinik took a beating, but he was still in the fight to the very end. Meanwhile, further up the card, Mark Godbeer claimed a disqualification victory over Walt Harris following an illegal kick.
The main-card showdown between welterweight contenders Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Jorge Masvidal went almost exactly as anyone would have expected. Thompson fought a longer, rangy karate-style game to Masvidal’s more upright boxing technique. By the end of three rounds, Thompson had done enough to edge Masvidal on the scorecards. There can’t be too many people out there yearning for another fight between Thompson and Tyron Woodley, but that might be where this is headed.
Of course, UFC 217 wasn’t the only major event of the weekend. In fact, things kicked off a day early, on Thursday, with a four-fight card from the Professional Fighters League. Blagoi Ivanov won the headlining contest with a decision nod over Caio Alencar. The event also featured a decision victory from Lance Palmer over UFC veteran Steven Siler and a submission finish from bantamweight competitor Timur Valiev over opponent Josenaldo Silva.
On Friday, Bellator touched down at Penn State University for its 186th show. Ryan Bader defended his light heavyweight crown with a second-round ground-and-pound TKO stoppage of Bellator mainstay Linton Vassell. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane captured the vacant women’s flyweight title with an armbar submission finish of Emily Ducote. Penn State alums Phil Davis and Ed Ruth also added victories at the event.
Richard Odoms had a brief run as a 42-year-old with a mid-major title in his hands as the Legacy Fighting Alliance heavyweight champ, but Jeff Hughes ended his run at LFA 26. Odoms was over the hill, but Hughes isn’t exactly a world beater. It just goes to show how shallow the heavyweight division is at a global scale.
By the way, ONE Championship had a show this weekend. Yeah, it was easy to forget about this one given the lack of star power in the lineup, but only two fights went the distance. In the main event, which was technically an open-weight contest, Aung La Nsang submitted Alain Ngalani in the first frame.
In this weekend’s regional action, Michail Tsarev scored a victory in his Fight Nights Global headliner against Artur Guseinov. Meanwhile, UFC veteran Maiquel Falcão continued his long downward spiral with a loss to Ayub Gimbatov. Falcão has now lost three of his last four fights and five of his last eight.
Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong cemented himself as the best kickboxer in the world when he knocked out famous Chinese combat-sports star Yi Long with a head kick at Wu Ling Feng 2017: Dragon King Challenge on Saturday. The current GLORY champion and now Wu Lin Feng 71-kilogram titleholder put on a masterful performance from the opening bell to the final devastating kick. Sitthichai hurt Long to the body with knees, punches and kicks. However, he did the most of his damage in the way of a scintillating high kick that bounced Long’s head off of each rope before the Chinese star finally crashed to the mat.
The other notable match-up on the card featured 63-kilogram fighters Adrian Maxim and Jin Ying in a rematch of their WLF tournament bout from earlier this year. After another entertaining bout, Maxim pulled out the extra-round decision against the very game Chinese fighter.
On Sunday, Kunlun Fight crowned two new tournament champions, Vitaly Gurkov and Seksan Somai, at Kunlun Fight 66.
Gurkov conquered the 75-kilogram tournament field with victories over China’s Nurla Mulali, Arthit Hanchana, and tournament reserve fighter Hossein Karami in the finals. Chinese prospect Xu Yongba picked up to solid wins over Mohamed Diaby and Marko Milanovic, but he was unable to compete in the finals.
In the 61.5-kilogram tournament, Thailand’s Somai picked up three wins to take home the title. He beat Chinese opponents Yang Guang, Jiao Diabo, and Wang Wenfeng on his path to the tourney victory.
Elsewhere on the card, former K-1 MAX champion Albert Kraus picked up his second win in three weeks. Kraus topped Li Zhuangzhuang for the second time.
Krush 55-kilogram champ Nobuchika Terado defended his belt in an absolute war against Kenji Kubo, the younger brother of K-1 star Yuta Kubo. Terado was able to survive some danger and take the extra-round unanimous decision.
The Krush event also featured top 62.5-kilogram kickboxer Gonnapar Weerasakreck, who scored a first-round knockout over Kenta Hayashi.
Gonnapar Weerasakreck KOs Kenta Hayashi in 1R (Krush) pic.twitter.com/5qQXzUn8Aw
— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) November 5, 2017
Meanwhile, rising Japanese prospect Rukiya Ampo put on a dominant performance against Kyoshiro. Rukiya already had two “Knockout of the Year” contenders prior to the bout, but his Japanese foe was able to survive another highlight flying switch kick knockdown. Rukiya earned 30-24 cards from all three judges.
瑠輝也 vs 恭士郎
— 新生K-1bot (@New_K1_bot) November 5, 2017
Deontay Wilder handled business like he said he would. On Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the undefeated heavyweight improved his record to 39-0, with 38 knockouts, after an absolute beatdown on Bermane Stiverne. Stiverne showed up uninterested and out of shape, and he couldn’t even make it out of the first round. Wilder knocked Stiverne down three times and continued to fuel the discussion for a potential match-up with Anthony Joshua. The fight is one every boxing fan wants to see in 2018, so now it’s up to their promoters, Lou DiBella and Eddie Hearn, to get it done.
Prior to Wilder and Stiverne, Shawn Porter and Adrian Granados fought for 12 highly entertaining rounds, culminating in a Porter decision win. The win for Porter sets the stage for a rematch with Keith Thurman. Porter is the mandatory for the returning champion’s WBA world welterweight title. The two previously fought in June 2016, when Thurman successfully defended his title in a close decision win.
Elsewhere on the card, Amanda Serrano further displayed why she is one of the best female boxers on the planet. Serrano knocked out Marilyn Hernandez. Sergey Lipinets won a decision over Akihiro Kondo for the vacant IBF super lightweight title. Dominic Breazeale defeated Eric Molina in a heavyweight contest. Breazeale could end up fighting Wilder next if Wilder and Joshua cannot come to terms.
HBO held a lackluster card, where Dmitry Bivol did what many predicted. Bivol knocked out Trent Broadhurst to keep his WBA world light heavyweight title. It was a “stay busy” fight for Bivol, who wasn’t in there long. Bivol put away Broadhurst in the first round. On the same card, Jamie McDonnell retained his WBA world bantamweight title against Liborio Solis. It was an unfortunate result, with a clash of heads leading to a stoppage and a technical draw.