Hola, fight fans! The UFC's maiden voyage to Uruguay has wrapped up, and although it fell apart at the very end with the women's flyweight title fight, it was all in all a solid card. No use wasting any time, let's get down to what the hell happened!
The Main Card
Shevchenko retains her title in a one-sided, uninspiring fight
Valentina Shevchenko (c) def. #3 Liz Carmouche by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
If you're one of the many that were once again reeled into the idea that Shevchenko is some sort of destroyer at 125 lbs, let this fight be (another) lesson to you: she isn't. Styles and competition level can yield spectacular results from her, but as talented as she is, she is not an inherently dangerous fighter. She's a dedicated counter striker and although there are certainly exceptions (Jessica Eye will tell you), she's not a particularly powerful one. While she isn't too hesitant to pressure, she rarely opts to strike first, and because of that she makes few mistakes for her opponents to capitalize on. When you have an opponent who adopts a similar strategy and refrains from pushing the pace, you might get a pretty dreadful fight. That's essentially what we got here, and unfortunately it was exactly what I expected to see. The fight sucked.
For all of her success, Carmouche is still not a comfortable striker. She tends to stay either all the way out of range or in very close, and doesn't spend much time in between. Because of this, when she's not clinching or driving for takedowns, she's generally using a lot of throwaway strikes that do nothing but make her look busy. I lost count of how many times she threw a 1-2 combination at Shevchenko while two or three feet out of range. I don't think I've seen a fighter miss as many leg kicks as she did simply because she mostly threw them from too far out. It became frustrating to watch because she threw a ton of these strikes that seemed to serve no real purpose. The official stats show this, as she threw 76 total significant strikes, but a whopping 191 total strikes. These two figures are normally close when a fight is contested mostly on the feet at range. By comparison, Shevchenko threw 115 significant strikes and 159 total strikes, which makes sense when you consider the short shots she landed when she was in top position.
The few times she did close the distance she was usually met with a jab or a 1-2 that stopped her in her tracks. There were a few notable moments, such as in round three where Shevchenko knocked an advancing Carmouche off balance with a 1-2, or when she grabbed a body lock and ragdolled Carmouche to the ground.
There goes the one advantage people thought Carmouche might have.
Carmouche also failed to register a single significant strike in round four, and not for lack of trying. Other than that there honestly wasn't much of interest going on in the fight. Shevchenko was technically on point as usual; she showed quick hands, great mastery of distance and timing in the sporadic instances where Carmouche gave her opportunities, and looked strong in top position, even though she didn't do much other than stay heavy and hold position. Wrestling was pretty much the only area Carmouche was seen to have a chance, but Shevchenko easily shrugged off all four of her takedown attempts and banked the only top position in the fight. Carmouche was simply outclassed here, so much so that she couldn't even muster up an interesting fight because she essentially just stayed away from Shevchenko most of the time and really didn't show much of a desire to take any risks to turn things around.
One thing that was noticeably different about Carmouche was that she was a bit sprier and showed more and better movement than usual. That opens up the opportunity for a shameless mention of the fact that my father actually worked with Carmouche on rehabbing a lot of nagging injuries and provided her with PRP treatments leading up to the fight. She said she felt great after the treatments, and although her performance was very lackluster, she seemed able to move in and out and bounce around much more fluidly. But as I mentioned to my dad when he told me he was working on her, it would take a lot more than being healthy for her to win the fight.
Shevchenko essentially did what she wanted.
After such a dominant shutout performance from Shevchenko, it's difficult to see a viable challenger for her title on the horizon. Hell, most didn't see Carmouche as viable, and for good reason. If Andrea Lee defeats Joanne Calderwood next month there's a good case to be made there, but even she doesn't seem incredibly ready. Of course the fight many want to see is a trilogy bout with current bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, who also finds herself with a dearth of challengers. Either option can work, although Katlyn Chookagian can be seen making a strong case here:
She's clearly been training hard.
As for Carmouche, she can take on Shevchenko's previous victim, Jessica Eye.
Luque edges out Perry in 15 minute slugfest
Vicente Luque def. Mike Perry by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
What a fight! As many would have expected, this one was an all-out war that was very deserving of Fight of the Night honors despite there being a few good bangers on the card. Luque has been one the best dark horse contenders in the division for a minute, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Perry's performance. He looked more composed than usual, and didn't get as wild on the feet as he customarily does. He threw far more leg kicks and jabs than usual, which really served to keep Luque honest throughout. In fact Perry's jab was probably his most effective weapon during the fight, which is pretty crazy when you think of how he typically depends exclusively on power shots. I was beginning to think that Perry was essentially a finished product, but he does appear to still be improving; if anything just as he gains experience at this level of the sport. Luque leaned even more on heavy leg kicks, but as we all would suspect, both men mainly focused their offense on trying to knock each other out, which put some pretty sturdy chins on display. Both of them took some pretty big shots flush and at no point did either man appear badly hurt, which is very impressive given the power they wield in their hands. Additionally, they both showed improvements in defense. Perry showed more effective head movement, while Luque actually did move his head a bit instead of falling back on his high guard exclusively.
This didn't stop Perry from finding his way around it pretty well.
Perry actually held the edge in head strikes and also seemed to land the harder shots at times, but a granite chin and what I suspect is the clever use of a high guard helped Luque out in the eyes of those watching. Luque's use of the high guard has always been useful for him because he tends not to stay in it too long, instead using it to feel when his opponent's shots are coming and launch counters before they can find a way around the guard. Another useful thing about it is that it can obscure the view of some shots that land. I noticed several instances of Perry landing hard shots between the guard, but from another angle they could've just as easily appeared to glance, especially since Luque eats shots so well. I actually expected more people to score the fight for Perry, but Luque's pressure and his ability to mask some flush shots (and also Perry being more visibly damaged; more on that later) probably had an effect there. Personally I think Perry might have had more success if he went to the body more, and took advantage of Luque's hands being up high so often.
The fight was close across all three rounds; these types of wars are always a bit tricky to score because both fighters land so much and the action is so back and forth that it can be hard to keep track of who is ahead. The visual damage is where Perry looked to be the more affected fighter, and that was turned up to 11 by the end of the fight. Luque may have narrowly won on the scorecards, but there was nothing narrow about what his knee did to Perry's nose. Late in the fight Perry changed levels for a takedown and was caught flush on the nose by a jumping knee. Luque locked up a guillotine off the resulting takedown shot and went to his back, locking it in tight for several moments while Perry leaked blood all over him, but ultimately escaped. Once they rose it was revealed that the knee (which commentator Michael Bisping initially though missed) not only landed, but absolutely obliterated Perry's nose, leaving him looking like this...thing:
Is that even a nose anymore?
I don't care how level-headed and unbiased you are, it's tough to give someone the round when they finish it looking like the Toxic Avenger. Still, it was a solid performance by both men. It was entertaining, surprisingly technical for how much of a slugfest it was, and close enough to raise everyone's stock. At this point it makes no sense not to give Luque at least a top 15 guy; Geoff Neal seems the best fight of the bunch unless they really want to give him a step up with Santiago Ponzinibbio (assuming he's healthy), which makes for an incredible fight. Perry vs Niko Price not only makes perfect sense, but is a match made in heaven; it's a guaranteed barn-burner that pretty much also guarantees a finish.
Garagorri, the UFC's first Uraguayan fighter, wins his hometown debut in a thriller
Eduardo Garagorri def. Humberto Bandenay by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
“You just kicked my ass for a second, I kicked your ass for a second; that was pretty cool.”@bisping is a fan of the action (and high fives) between Garagorri and Bandenay at #UFCUruguay -- pic.twitter.com/dx0zvsHg9w— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 11, 2019
The only Uruguayan fighter on the card (and in the UFC) made sure the crowd remained unsilenced with an fun win over Bandenay. Now, I know what this fight was. In breaking it down I pretty much considered it a fight between an experienced UFC fighter who isn't very good and an undefeated fighter who was unproven against even decent competition. The latter rose to the occasion, as Garagorri used a karate stance with frequent stance switches, well-timed counters, and a keen ability to stay off his back to secure a clear-cut decision win over a game Bandenay. Throughout the fight, Garagorri showed off a pretty entertaining style built on pressure and counters while still employing an in-and-out karate-based attack. In the opening round Bandenay managed to land a takedown, but Garagorri scooted back to the fence and got to his feet; a tactic he'd use effectively throughout the fight. From there Bandenay curiously swung him away from the fence, and Garagorri in turn took him down before disengaging and standing immediately. From there, Garagorri started running away with the striking exchanges, including a right hand to the body followed by a left hook up top that appeared to wobble Bandenay, who struggled to find his range.
Call him Captain Hook.
In the second stanza Bandenay started to have more success, stunning Garagorri with a right hook and blitzing him with a flurry of punches; though Garagorri would just roar back and flurry on Bandenay in response. From there he just continued to take control of the striking and still maintain the edge with a more varied attack. The final round was another good one for Garagorri who mostly got the better of the striking exchanges and thwarted takedowns more easily as the round progressed. Garagorri's style was very entertaining, but one has to think he'll probably end up in trouble against better opponents (Bandenay represents a pretty low bar) with his reliance on head movement and his tendency to lean deep to his left after throwing punches, but at the same time he did show a decent ability to roll with punches enough to time and land good counters. It'll be interesting to see how he does from here on out. I'm not sure who to test him with next, but hopefully it'll be someone who compliments his style and skill level well.
Oezdemir shows some maturity as a fighter, takes his time breaking down Latifi
#7 Volkan Oezdemir def. #9 Ilir Latifi by KO via strikes (4:31, R2)
I was one of the vocal contingent who believed Oezdemir should have won his fight with Dominick Reyes, and that played a decent amount into why I picked Oezdemir to win despite thinking the fight was almost a toss up on paper; Oezdemir has his flaws but was clearly improved in that fight. He still tends to drop his hands and rely on his chin in exchanges, especially off the break, but his height and reach advantage made it hard for Latifi to catch him too flush with his punches. He also showed solid takedown defense and carried on a pretty furious pace, particularly in the decisive round, without seeming to tire. Latifi mostly found it difficult to establish his range, with Oezdemir catching him with leg kicks, knees, and elbows in the clinch. Latifi did manage to land a pretty spectacular slam, his only takedown of the fight, but Oezdemir was back on his feet quickly. It wasn't long before Oezdemir started timing Latifi's level changes and catching him with hard knees coming in that Latifi just ate and drove through. Near the end of the opening round the leg kicks started to add up, as a hard kick stumbled Latifi, and although he would survive it seemed apparent that things weren't looking up for Latifi's future in the fight.
In round two Oezdemir turned up the aggression, even walking through a flush right and left hand from Latifi and moving forward without issue. Latifi changed levels right into a knee for the third time, and this one put him down.
Oezdemir beat Latifi all over the cage.
Oezdemir followed him to the ground and swarmed for the finish, but Latifi managed to survive and get to his feet. Oezdemir wasted no time pressuring him and after landing knees in the Thai clinch he hurt him with a right hand off the break. Oezdemir started landing at will at that point, hurting him again with a knee to the body, and landing a left hook and another knee. Latifi landed a stiff jab and circled out, only to be hurt with a leg kick. Latifi showed heart in trying to fight back with a right hand that landed flush, but a left hook from Oezdemir dropped him along the fence, and a follow up left him face down and unconscious.
This was arguably Oezdemir's best performance in the UFC thus far, and although the win snapped a three-fight losing streak, you have to figure he's still in good standing in the division. Following the fight he called for Jan Blachowicz or a rematch with Reyes, and I think he's pretty much right on point. I'd go with Blachowicz, and if that doesn't work out then the winner of Reyes vs Chris Weidman. Latifi has suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career and should fight Misha Cirkunov or Mauricio Rua next.
Dogged takedowns lead Vieira to submission win
Rodolfo Vieira def. Oskar Piechota by submission via arm triangle choke (4:26, R2)
This was one of those fights I felt was oddly difficult to pick because while Piechota is far and away the more well-rounded fighter who theoretically would just need to keep the fight standing to win, he also has a penchant for wrestling and welcoming grappling exchanges rather than disengaging. Essentially a pure jiu jitsu guy, Vieira grabbed the first kick Piechota threw and dragged the fight to the ground, but Piechota was able to pop right back up and separate. That looked to be a positive sign for Piechota, who began to land on the feet, until Vieira used a jab to mask a double leg that he managed to land and secure top position with. Piechota did an admirable job from the bottom, but would be on his back for the remainder of the round.
In the second round Piechota once again started landing on the feet, but as soon as he threw a body kick he found himself dragged to the ground; though once again he rose right back up. Piechota started to advance and walked right into a double leg that landed Vieira in half guard. He eventually passed to mount but Piechota immediately exploded out of it and got to his feet. However, Vieira was all over him, pushing him into the cage with a double leg before switching to a single leg and taking him down. At this point Vieira started to land some heavy ground and pound, and Piechota attempted to scramble, eventually being put on his back with Vieira in side control. Vieira passed to mount again, Piechota turned over to his side, and Vieira wasted no time locking in an arm-triangle choke and hopping to off to the side, leaving Piechota with no choice but to tap.
This was Piechota's second-straight submission loss, and although those losses came to two high level grapplers, this exposed his takedown defense as a liability. He should probably get a break from dangerous grapplers for now, and Trevin Giles might be a good fit. Despite the win Vieira is still only six fights into his career, but being such a high level grappler, why not put him against the last man to submit Piechota: Gerald Meerschaert?
Barzola squeaks by Moffett on the strength of late takedowns
Enrique Barzola def. Bobby Moffett by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 28-29)
This was a fun, tireless, back-and-forth affair, and the rounds were so close that you have to figure takedowns at the end of every round really helped push Barzola to victory, even though he was unable to do anything with them. I'm sure it also helped that Barzola pushed the pace and was the aggressor in most of the fight. Barzola's lead left hooks and right hands seemed to be landing a little harder than Moffett's shots, but Moffett held slight the edge in volume, and much like the co-main event both men were just able to wear each other's punches very well. Moffett started early making very good use of body and high kicks, often throwing them at the end of combos, but once he slowed down on those Barzola was able to pressure and get inside much easier. Still, Moffett stood toe-to-toe and pretty much gave as well as he got. The fight could've gone either way or even been a draw, but I did feel the right man got his hand raised.
Barzola has quietly run up a 6-2 ledger in the UFC and shown to be a pretty reliable roster guy. I'd like to see him fight Makwan Amirkhani next. Moffett can take on Sheymon Moraes, with the loser likely being on the chopping block.
Gilbert Burns def. Aleksei Kunchenko by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
I'll admit I was surprised by Burns' performance here. I expected him to be too small and too willing to strike at range with Kunchenko, and get picked apart. Instead he was not only surprisingly effective from range in the first two rounds, but mixed in well-timed takedowns that were key to his victory. It seemed like Kunchenko was thrown off after getting swept off his feet by Burns' first low kick of the fight, and he just sort of let Burns take over the pace. Once Burns secured a takedown he didn't do much in the way of damage, but stayed heavy on top and just stifled anything Kunchenko wanted to do. In round two Kunchenko became more aggressive and had success early but again was easily taken down and controlled for most of the remainder of the round. In round three Burns was noticeably fatigued and essentially tried to take the round off knowing he'd banked the previous two. He still managed to secure a takedown, but couldn't really do anything with it but drain the clock a bit. He was outstruck 24-to-8 in a clear Kunchenko round, but he held on and took home a decision. Burns' cardio may be a bit of a concern here, but he did take the fight on short notice so he should get some slack for that.
It was a disappointing performance from Kunchenko, who came into the fight undefeated at 20-0. For as much of a physical specimen as he is, he showed holes in his takedown defense as well as his normally patient counter striking style coming back to haunt him when he's behind on the scorecards. A more aggressive game might have made a big difference in the third, but the threat of the takedown and his measured game just didn't allow for it.
Cyril Gane def. Raphael Pessoa by submission via arm triangle choke (4:12, R1)
And the UFC officially has another bricked up African French heavyweight on the radar! Unsurprisingly he trains with Francis Ngannou, and although he announced his arrival against a relative nobody, he did look impressive in doing so. Unlike Ngannou, Gane came out hands low in a karate stance. Pessoa frequently looked for a jab-overhand right combination and frequently came up short, while Gane stayed efficient and picked his shots well, countering with jabs and overhand rights of his own. Pessoa managed to grab a body lock and bring the fight to the ground with an outside trip, but Gane rolled through with the momentum and ended up on top in side control. He immediately locked up an arm-triangle, and mostly through sheer power coaxed a tap out of Pessoa. His level of competition isn't proven, but I'm curious to see if Gane will blossom into a worthwhile prospect at heavyweight. He definitely looked like one here.
Marina Rodriguez def. #8 Tecia Torres by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
The downfall of Torres continues. Once thought to be a front runner in the strawweight title picture when the division was brought into the UFC, she has now dropped four-straight fights, albeit to high level competition. As is the case in several other divisions, the fighters are generally getting bigger, and smaller fighters are starting to suffer. Standing a diminutive 5'1", Torres was always pegged as someone who could fight at 105 lbs, and her last four losses have come to current champion Jessica Andrade, former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the next title challenger Weili Zhang, and now Rodriguez. All four of these fighters have marked size and/or height and reach advantages over her. This lead to fights where if she wasn't overpowered in the clinch, she was kept outside of range and couldn't figure out an effective way inside. On commentary Bisping made this fight out to sound as the fight were pretty competitive, but Torres was pretty clearly losing the exchanges and getting pummeled in the clinch with knees from Rodriguez, whose muay Thai was pretty on point. When they weren't clinched up, Rodriguez kept her at bay with push kicks and long right hands.
In the past Torres was usually able to rely on a solid wrestling game, but recent fights have seen her either thrown around or beaten up in the clinch by better muay Thai fighters. I favored Torres here mostly due to experience but I feared she'd have all the problems she had to deal with in this fight, though that's not to take anything away from how good Rodriguez looked. She should fight the winner of Claudia Gadelha vs Cynthia Calvillo next. I doubt Torres won't get another shot in the octagon despite her skid, but it should be a relative softball. If Jessica Aguilar were still in the UFC and Jodie Esquibel didn't have a fight lined up I'd go with either of them, but Cortney Casey also works. She has a similar size advantage to women Torres has lost to, but has shown to be far less capable of utilizing it.
#8 Rogerio Bontorin def. #14 Raulian Paiva by TKO via injury (2:56, R1)
This was a wild one for the short time it lasted. After a short feeling out period Paiva cut Bontorin with the first flush left hand he landed, and Bontorin in turn took Paiva down. The referee paused the fight to check Bontorin's cut, which was underneath the eye and really didn't warrant checking, and for some reason decided to restart the fight back on the feet.
He grazed him, we might need to stop the fight!
Realizing his mistake he paused the fight again and reset them on the ground. Paiva managed to get to his feet pretty quickly from there, and Bontorin chased after him landing a big knee to the forehead before lifting him up and slamming him to the ground. The action is stopped once again, but this time it was for good reason; the knee opened up a pretty horrific gash over Paiva's eye that looked more like a gunshot wound than a cut. Obviously the doctor wasn't having that and stopped the fight immediately. It was pretty anticlimactic since this was a great sleeper fight on paper that looked to be delivering in practice, but these things happen. I kinda want them to run it back.
I CAN SEE HIS INNERMOST THOUGHTS.
Chris Gutierrez def. Geraldo de Freitas by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
This was another razor-thin decision that could've gone either way, though the stats would suggest a more clear win for Gutierrez. He pretty comfortably outstruck de Freitas in the first two rounds and was gotten the better of in the third. Aggression and takedowns on de Freitas' part evened the fight out a bit more in practice, but he really wasn't able to do much with the time he had on top. Gutierrez was the more accurate striker, and started affecting de Freitas with calf kicks late in the fight. They really turned up the volume in the final round, and the fight ended with a wild exchange that saw both men fall over each other. Several people including one judge gave the fight to de Freitas 30-27, which I don't agree with (I actually scored it a draw), but it was a close one.
Alex Da Silva def. Rodrigo "Kazula" Vargas by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Not much to say about this one. I picked Da Silva basically because he had offensive wrestling and Vargas didn't have defensive wrestling, and that's pretty much the story of the fight. Vargas had the edge on the feet, but whenever he got confident Da Silva would just time a level change, take him down, and keep him there since Vargas just doesn't have much of a ground game from the bottom. Rinse and repeat.
Veronica Macedo def. Polyana Viana by submission via arm bar (1:09, R1)
Sean Shelby apparently loves matching up the more notably attractive female fighters against each other. When fighter/Instagram model Rachael Ostovich was injured and forced to pull out of a scheduled bout with Macedo, Shelby must've combed through his "hot fighter" list and landed on Viana.
Shelby: Yep, she'll do.
Aside from that it was actually a pretty well-made matchup style-wise. Viana is robotic on the feet and prone to staying there even when she's losing instead of using her grappling acumen, and Macedo is a fluid striker who is often too willing to grapple and make bad decisions once on the ground. It was an interesting style clash on paper. The fight played out even more interestingly, as a spinning back kick to the body from Macedo was answered immediately by Viana rushing into the clinch and securing a body lock takedown. As she tried to pass to half guard, Macedo rolled underneath her for an armbar. Viana tried prevent Macedo from securing it, but was forced to roll through where Macedo extended her hips and forced the verbal tap. Both women needed a win, but Macedo was 0-3 in the UFC and it was do or die for her, so it was good to see her finally pick up a victory. With Viana now on a three-fight skid herself, they'll need to match her up carefully if she's to remain on the roster.
And that does it for UFC Fight Night Uraguay! Shevchenko continues to clean out women's flyweight, Luque remains a standout talent at welterweight, and we got a couple gruesome injuries just in case our stomachs were a little too settled. From here it's onward and upward, as UFC 241 is upon us next week, and it should be a helluva card. Until then, sado out!