Unlike the previous card, where I had trouble finding my three stars, this one was much easier. With an abundance of quality performances on UFC 170, the problem was narrowing it down to just three.
3rd Star(s): Aljamain Sterling and Cody Gibson
It is always a pleasant surprise when as a fan, you see two promising prospects go out there and both are able to perform in their UFC debuts. This is exactly what happened in the preliminary bantamweight fight between Aljamain Sterling (9-0) and Cody Gibson (11-4). Both fighters came into their UFC debuts riding a strong win streak competing in the smaller promotions, with “The Renegade” being victorious in his last 6 bouts, and “The Funkmaster” undefeated in his 8-fight career. Both became the fight testing each other in the standup, throwing several creative strikes that one would see in a video game, before exchanging a series of takedowns. The first two rounds saw Sterling and then Gibson control the other against the fence, with a lot of jockeying for position. Sterling ultimately took control of the fight in the 3rd, landing a quick takedown and nearly submitting Gibson with a d’Arce choke attempt, and later on a rear naked choke attempt. And winning the unanimous decision to improve to 9-0.
Coming into this fight, Aljamain Sterling was the more highly-touted of the two prospects, having famed coach Matt Serra calling him a future champion in the UFC. But Gibson despite the loss, definitely held his own in this fight and gave Sterling all he could handle for the first two rounds. Looking forward to seeing these two fight in the future, both still in their mid-twenties and have a bright future.
2nd Star: Ronda Rousey
All week long leading up to the fight, Ronda Rousey (9-1) and her coach Edmond Taverdyan were praising the evolution of Rousey’s striking claiming that she had been dropping world champion boxers in sparring with body shots. Well, it wasn’t a punch that paved way for Rousey to defend her title for a 3rd consecutive time, rather it was a knee to the liver of challenger Sara McMann (7-1) that sent her crumbling to the mat. Referee Herb Dean stepped right in and waved an end to the bout at 1:06, with McMann on all fours and unable to move for the brief moment that the impact of the shot was still being felt. Handing McMann her first career loss in MMA. With her first 8 victories coming by way of armbar, this was a breath of fresh air for Rousey and the fans, she had won her first fight via TKO. Showing that she can win by other methods besides the armbar. Ironically with the talk leading up to the fight also about the bronze medalist in Judo vs the silver medalist in wrestling, neither fighter landed or attempted a single takedown in this fight. The performance nabbed Rousey an extra $50,000, being rewarded with one of two Performance of the Night bonuses.
Having fought twice already in 56 days, Ronda Rousey now sets her sights on the big screen and is now scheduled to film the movie Entourage. She estimates that she will be back late summer to take on either Cat Zingano or Alexis Davis when she defends her title for a 4th time..
1st Star: Stephen Thompson
MMA fans were salivating when this fight was first announced between strikers Stephen Thompson and Robert Whittaker, there was a great potential for fireworks on the feet between two guys who love to throw the hands and feet. When it was all said and done, it was ‘Wonderboy’ who came out on top. Combining an excellent mix of karate and kickboxing backgrounds, Thompson is a joy to watch perform in the cage, mainly for his unpredictability and creative striking.. He started out of the gates quickly mixing up his arsenal of kicks, to the body and head of Whittaker, coming from all sorts of unorthodox angles. But it was a 1-2 combination with the hands that sent Whittaker to the mat and several follow up punches, ending the fight. Doubling the strikes of Whittaker 38-19, and landing at a high 48% of his strikes—just 3 off of his UFC career accuracy of 51%.
Since the loss to Matt Brown, Thompson has won three straight fights (4-1 in UFC) and continues to climb up the welterweight ladder.