The UFC make their first trip back to UAE since the UFC 112 show back in April 2010. Now, in April 2014, heavy hitter Roy Nelson takes on fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a, admittedly, less stacked card than the last UAE show, but one that is equally as intriguing.
A win is crucial for both Nelson and Nogueira, and both possess the skills to get it done inside the Octagon. Nelson has a significant edge in terms of punching power, but Nogueira has technical, crisp boxing; on the ground is where it could get very interesting. While Nogueira is often credited as being one of the greatest BJJ practitioners in the division, Nelson’s ground skills are some of the most underrated in the UFC, and though Nelson prefers a knockout, he is adept on the ground too.
In the co main event, featherweights Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri battle for divisional relevance in a bout that pits the man ranked #9 with the #12 ranked at 145lbs. Guida was unsuccessful in his last bout against Chad Mendes, while Kawajiri made a successful UFC debut with a win over Sean Soriano in January. A win is vital for both fighters to stamp their place as a top 10 featherweight, and this should be a fun one.
Elsewhere on the card, welterweight prospect Ryan LaFlare faces tough veteran John Howard, who has been on a tear since returning to the Octagon. Beneil Dariush faces TUF winner Ramsey Nijem, Thales Leites hopes to make it 3-0 since returning to the UFC with a win over Trevor Smith, and there are three more undercard bouts on the card.
This article will be a play-by-play of the full event.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson
Both fighters desperately need the win, and I would be shocked to the core if this one went the distance. Nelson was slightly heavier than we’ve seen him in the past, I don’t think a move to LHW is on the cards at this rate. Will the winner call-out Conor McGregor?
Round 1 – Big respect between these two, and I have no idea who’s going to win this one. We’re underway. Nogueira takes the centre early, trying to establish his reach advantage. They each land short shots, but nothing big. Nogueira’s reach advantage very clear to see early. Nelson with a huge uppercut! He then hits him with his trademark haymaker! Nogueira is down! He got to his feet and is on wobbly legs! Nogueira is on the ropes. Nelson has definitely rocked the Brazilian, but he’s taking a patient approach. He tries to land the haymaker again twice but misses. Another big right and that seemed to hurt Big Nog again. Nelson isn’t bull rushing, which could be costly or could be a great approach, we will see. Nogeuira lands a nice jab and seems to have his feet under him now. That huge right lands again for Nelson but Big Nog takes it. A BIG RIGHT BY NELSON! THIS COULD BE IT! NOGUEIRA IS DROPPED BUT GETS BACK UP! Another big right but Nogueira takes it. He’s staggered. A big left by Nelson. Big Nog on wobbly legs and he’s not defending. HOLY MOLY! A HUGE RIGHT AND NOGUEIRA IS OUT! HE WENT DOWN IN BRUTAL FASHION! Huge victory for Nelson. That was massive. He went down stiff as a statue. It took a lot of restraint not to swear on here, because that was craaaazy.
Result: Nelson via KO (punch) at 3:37 in first round.
Everything Nelson attempted was with ill intent and he got a highlight reel knockout. That could spell the end for Nogueira’s illustrious career, while Nelson has a new leash of life in the heavyweight division. I would love to see Nelson vs. Hunt next, but Schaub is Hunt’s next opponent it seems.
Clay Guida vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
I love this fight, and there are many intriguing aspects – will Guida’s wrestling be too much for Kawajiri? Will he get back on track, or will Kawajiri continue his progress? Carpenter vs. Crusher. It just doesn’t feel right not seeing Guida’s brother Jason slapping the daylights out of him before the fight.
Round 1 - Guida rushes forward early in usual Guida style. A nice spinning attack by Kawajiri. Guida lands a huge right early! THAT WAS MASSIVE! Kawajiri was dropped and now Guida takes the back. He’s got the back while Kawajiri is knelt over. Huge start by the American, but Kawajiri looks recovered. Damn that shocked me. Guida looking for a single leg while Crusher is working for a kimura. No luck for Guida so far in getting a takedown, he may be frightened about his right arm. Kawajiri has the arm extended while in the clinch and uses it to sweep Guida! He’s got an armbar here! Wow Kawajiri is crafty! Guida slams Kawajiri while he is working on his arm! This looks tight. This is a crazy fight. Guida muscles his way out, then gets Kawajiri’s back from the clinch again! That was a dangerous attack there by Crusher, and one that will keep Guida thinking. He’s working on the arm once again. Wow that was a huge slam by Guida! But Kawajiri just gets to his feet like it was nothing. Kawajiri still working on that arm and Guida is grimacing, he might be going for another slam but Kawajiri is doing a great job with that. They separate and exchange short strikes. Kawajiri gets a slam! WOW! Who saw that coming?! Now Guida is working a kimura?! This is insane. Kawajiri has the mount now, however, but just 10 seconds remaining. Guida sweeps to end the round, that was awesome. Round of the year? Man, crazy.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Guida.
Round 2 – Both have low stances to start this round. Kawajiri goes for a head kick but it’s blocked. Both try to get the takedown but fail. Kawajiri with some nice short elbows after stuffing a Guida takedown attempting. However Guida then sweeps the legs and gets the TD, but Kawajiri still working them elbows then works on the kimura. That’s the work of a savvy veteran. He uses it to get to his feet, but Guida relentless. Kawajiri reverses the takedown and gets to his feet. They’re on their feet, and Crusher is pushing forward. Guida goes in for a deep double leg attempt but Kawajiri stuffs it initially before a big slam by Guida. Crusher back to his feet, but Guida gets the clinch – Kawajiri working on the right arm once again. A deep arm lock attempt but Guida does a brilliant job of getting out of it! Guida controlling this round but Kawajiri always dangerous and threatening with a number of attacks. Them short elbows looks brutal by Kawajiri but Guida still looking for a takedown. Man, Kawajiri slams Guida’s head, then Guida somehow gets the takedown and is in side control. That was very unorthodox but Guida did a great job of gaining top position. He briefly gets Kawajiri’s back, but Crusher works his way back to his feet. Guida is slowing but he’s up two rounds. Kawajiri needs to do more in the third.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Guida (20-18 Guida).
Round 3 – A nice big head kick and leg kick by Guida at the start of the round. He’s landing often here in the third, and Kawajiri having little success on the feet so far. Another spinning attempt from Crusher but he misses. He goes in for the takedown but Guida goes for a choke, hard to see how deep this is. Kawajiri works his way out and works on the takedown some more while Guida is landing some clean elbows and punches. Short but effective. Kawajiri has one of his legs triangled but still can’t get the takedown. He really should give up on this. More short shots by Guida, Kawajiri having little success in this position. 2:30 remain in the third round, and Guida is winning this round so far as well. Guida gets to his feet and lands a nice short left, followed by a leg kick. Another failed spinning back fist. Kawajiri looking very tired, Guida looks like he has a second wind. Very laboured shots here by Crusher. Big swing and a miss by Kawajiri countered by the clinch by Guida, who gets back clinch. Kawajiri working the kimura once again, it’ll be hard to pull off while they’re slippery however. Now he’s working a guillotine, Guida slams him to the ground then works his way out of the choke. Guida is great at getting out chokes. He gets the back of Kawajiri, who tries to sweep but Guida ends up in side control. Now he has the side-back control and lands some knees to the body. The horn blows. Guida running around the cage, confident that he’s won. He should have all three rounds in this one, but stranger things have happened.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Guida (30-27 Guida).
Result: Guida via unanimous decision (30-27 Guida).
Guida back on track with a great performance in a very fun fight. These judges have been great so far, very impressed. A second call-out for Conor McGregor, he’s becoming the featherweight Michael Bisping – damn! He then calls out Josh Thomson, and says he has unfinished business at lightweight.
John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare
I’ve joined LaFlare bandwagon before he was in the UFC, and I truly think he could be the next big thing at welterweight. John Howard is a tough dude, and RLF will have to put on the biggest performance of his career to pull off the victory. A win would be massive for both fighters. LaFlare coming out to Joey Bada$$ ft. Capital Steez – that’s an odd, but pleasant surprise.
Round 1 - Southpaw LaFlare vs. orthodox Howard, this could be very interesting. A nice body kick by LaFlare, that is the go-to move for this type of fight. A nice takedown by LaFlare, who gets half guard and is controlling Howard on the ground so far. A very smothering approach by RLF, he seems to be working on an arm triangle position if he can get side control. He gets side control and is doing incredible work so far. Howard scrambles but gets nothing from it, great work by LaFlare. He goes for the d’arce choke! This looks pretty tight. That half guard is helping Howard, and LaFlare lets go. Howard giving up his neck. He gets to his feet, but takes a hard knee by LaFlare. A big punch by Howard and he gets on top, but only briefly. LaFlare gets him in the clinch, lands an elbow and then takes the middle of the cage and utilises a nice jab. He engages in the clinch against the cage once again, and Howard is struggling so far. He gets Howard to the ground and goes for another choke, but nothing too tight. Howard looking for a takedown now but stuffed by RLF. Them elbows look nasty by LaFlare. Howard lands some big shots but they don’t seem to faze LaFlare. A huge knee by LaFlare, followed by a body kick! He looks very comfortable so far, and these body shots are brutal. Howard breathing through his mouth already, that must be due to the body attacks from LaFlare. Great round by RLF.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 LaFlare.
Round 2 - A huge left counter by Howard staggers LaFlare! However RLF gets the clinch and has Howard against the cage. Howard turns it around and gets his first full takedown of the fight! Much better by Howard here. He has half guard but LaFlare is actively trying to get to his feet. Well done by LaFlare to sweep Howard and get side control. Great work by him. Howard gets a sweep of his own! Then LaFlare turns that around and gets to his feet! Awesome exchange on the ground. These two are high level. Some nice body kicks by LaFlare against the fence, and he’s controlling the clinch. They each turn around the position. OUCH. A big knee to the groin by LaFlare, accidental but deadly! Howard is in agony and screams, he’s kneeling on the ground and in real pain. They call the doctor in, oh man. This could be it, damn. Howard has used up 2 minutes of the 5 allotted, and is still grimacing in pain. He’s on his feet, but he’s nodding and looks in real pain. He’s now laying down and breathing heavy. I’d be surprised if this continues. WOW! Howard guts it out. He’s grimacing but continuing! Wow. There’s half the round to go. LaFlare gets a lovely trip takedown and is in side control. This does let Howard recover however. He’s got the back of Howard, but no hooks in. Landing some nice knees to the body. Howard gets to his feet! And gets the clinch of his own. LaFlare landing some nice short shots and them body strikes are brutal. Another takedown by LaFlare but a beautiful counter by Howard gets him in control of the clinch. LaFlare reverses the position and is in full control once again. Howard counters. And vice-versa. Very even battle. A nice uppercut by Howard, who then unloads with some big lefts and rights towards the end of the round! That was a big exchange by Howard! I had the round for LaFlare but that last exchange has swayed me.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Howard (19-19)
Round 3 - All tied up coming into the third. Howard with a huge low kick that drops LaFlare. But once again, RLF goes to his instincts and gets the fight to the ground, I can’t even count how many takedowns he’s got now. LaFlare on top but does nothing there. Howard gets back up and lands some huge short strikes! LaFlare’s chin is holding out. Then RLF lands some nice strikes of his own. This is so even. Another takedown for LaFlare, but Howard gets butterfly guard. RLF is postured up and landing some nice elbows, and works his way to half guard shortly after. Howard pushes him off but RLF jumps straight back into the guard. This is a pivotal round and LaFlare is finally getting some control. Another scramble ends with LaFlare getting Howard’s back, but no hooks in, just raining down shots on his opponent. He’s got one hook in, but Howard is reluctant in letting the second. Howard rolls for a knee bar, but this isn’t very tight. LaFlare does a good job of getting on top after that scramble, and there’s 30 seconds left in this third and final round. LaFlare still on top while Howard is attacking the legs with little success. A big round for RLF, and he should have his fourth UFC victory.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 LaFlare (29-28 LaFlare).
Result: LaFlare via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
Howard still looked in pain after the horn, that knee to the groin must have taken a lot out of him. Admirable that he even finished the fight. Solid win for LaFlare however, the biggest of his young UFC career. Unfortunate for Howard, but RLF showed a lot of potential in that contest.
Ramsey Nijem vs. Beneil Dariush
Well that last fight was a stinker, let’s hope these lightweights can get us back on track. Nijem is a former TUF winner, while Dariush made a big statement in his Octagon debut by defeating Charlie Brenneman.
Round 1 - Big leg kick to open the round by Nijem. The weigh-ins really pumped everyone up for this one. Big right by Dariush, who has the faster strikes it seems. He’s very calm, then suddenly explodes. A huge body kick by Nijem! Dariush is on the floor and Nijem lands some leg kicks. They’re back to their feet. Nice start here by Nijem. A big takedown attempt by Dariush is stuffed but he has Nijem in the clinch and lands some nice knees and short elbows inside. These are some lovely elbows, but Nijem gets away. Dariush is smiling and mocking his opponent. Nijem unloading with kicks, looks very comfortable in this one. A lovely exchange by Nijem, using nice head movement and landing a big right. He looks very sharp so far, this might be the best Ramsey Nijem we’ve seen. He rocks Dariush! He unloads some big shots on him! Now he’s grabbed a tight modified guillotine standing! They go to the ground with Nijem unloading! This is huge by Nijem! He’s mounted him and is unloading big strikes on Dariush! DAMN! Nijem is going all out. One minute left, Nijem in full mount. He has the back and flattens Dariush out. Now on top and landing some HUGE strikes. Dariush might be out. Neil Hall should stop this one. He finally stops it! WOW! That was incredible by Ramsey Nijem. First loss to a huge prospect in Dariush, and Nijem with an unbelievable display in all facets. He landed a big left, then kept on him for over a minute. He smelt blood and got the finish.
Result: Nijem via TKO (punches) at 4:20 in first round.
That right there is a statement by Ramsey Nijem.
Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Jared Rosholt
Omielanczuk made the more impressive UFC debut, but Rosholt’s wrestling ability is more than a match for him. Let’s see who goes 2-0 in the Octagon here. Omielanczuk has a 12 fight winning streak, Rosholt has won 5 in a row.
Round 1 - Tentative start, most significant strike in the first minute has been the continued left leg kicks from Omielanczuk. A lovely takedown by Rosholt, and Omielanczuk is trying to hold onto a guillotine but hard to pull off in half guard. Rosholt taking a measured approach and attacking to the body. He’s just expending energy by going for this guillotine, and Rosholt could easily go for the Von Flue choke. Rookie move by Omielanczuk. There’s a significant grappling edge for Rosholt and he has full control of his opponent in the early going. Nothing too entertaining to report, just Rosholt taking over and landing some strikes not too cleanly. Rosholt postures up and gets some big shots in on his opponent. This has been, and could be, a snoozer and I expect Rosholt to do more of the same for the next two rounds. No point changing his game plan when it’s working with such ease, and Omielanczuk has no answer to his grappling. He almost got up in the last 30 seconds, but Rosholt halted that attempt. Full control this round. Not enough damage to be a 10-8, however.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Rosholt.
Round 2 - Omielanczuk defended the first takedown attempt of Rosholt, but he came back and landed one in his next attempt. Side control for Rosholt against the cage, and Omielanczuk having no luck at trying to escape this position. Rosholt landing elbows and short punches from half guard and mixes it up with shots to the ribs also. Omielanczuk manages to get to his knees, and Rosholt hits him with a couple of hard knees to the body before Omielanczuk finally gets to his feet. Both fighters are very tired, but Rosholt doesn’t need the same urgency as his Polish opponent. He catches Rosholt with a big right hook! That was huge! His only success of the feet but a big strike! However Rosholt gets the clinch, gets the fight to the ground and they end the round there. Dominant by Rosholt but a nice strike by Omielanczuk woke him up in that round.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Rosholt (20-18 Rosholt).
Round 3 - Not a lot of love from the Abu Dhabi crowd for Rosholt, who gets a takedown early in round 3. I guess you can’t blame him, really, he has such a significant edge over Omielanczuk in this department. A finish would make it a little more impressive, but he’s playing it safe. More of the same by Rosholt, attacking to the body and the head of the Pole throughout the round. Nothing too significant, but they’re all adding up and frustrating Omielanczuk. He has his back, but can’t maintain the position or go for the choke. This isn’t the greatest fight you’ll ever see. Two fatigued heavyweights, one with such a huge advantage over the other. Nothing much to report this round, but a final north-south attempt towards the end of the round by Rosholt but no danger for Omielanczuk. It’s an easy win for the American, but not exactly an impressive one.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Rosholt (30-27 Rosholt).
Result: Rosholt via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
Thales Leites vs. Trevor Smith
‘Hot Sauce’ hoping to make it two in a row, while Leites – coming out to Bob Marley – has a five fight winning streak coming into this one. lets is the significant favourite.
Round 1 - Tentative start by the pair, Smith trying to utilise leg kicks but Leites checking. Leites with a huge right hand! Smith is rocked! He lands some shots on the ground and Neil Hall stops the contest! Third knockout win in the career of Thales Leites, and he has looked brilliant since returning to the Octagon. Big win for the Brazilian, even if we all knew it was going to happen. Three in a row inside the UFC, six in a row overall.
Result: Leites via TKO (punches) at 0:45 in first round.
Leites is now 8-3 in the UFC, a former middleweight title contender and he’s quietly making a statement. He could be ranked in the 185lbs division before you know it. Leites vs. Dollaway-Carmont winner next, I suggest.
Jim Alers vs. Alan Omer
Two debuting featherweights looking to make a statement inside the Octagon. Both are prospects who have their fair share of momentum, and this should be a fun one. Alers is 8 straight, Omer has won 9 of his last 10.
Round 1 - They engage early, Alers lands early. He looks the more relaxed and opens up early. Nice low kick by Omer staggers Alers. He looks the slightly quicker of the two in the early going. I really like the styles of both fighters, very technical. Omer the more technical, Alers willing to wing his punches. Alers is pushing forward throughout this round and is doing a good job of covering up. They exchange leg kicks, then throw some haymakers at each other. Alers is very prone to leaving his arms down when going forward, and that could spell trouble. Alers had Omer staggered briefly, but it could have been a slip. The leg kicks of Omer have worked well this round, and a nice spinning punch follows it. They engage in the clinch with Omer controlling the action inside. Alers turns it around and stifles the attack of Omer for the next 30 seconds or so, should be broken up. Little happening other than knees to the thighs and shoulders to the face. They separate, and this is where the round has been fun. Both are tagging each other and showing little defence. Omer looked hurt towards the end of that round, tough one to judge but a fun one. I think I’ll give it to Alers, he landed the more significant shots in that one.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Alers.
Round 2 - CRAZY START! Wow Alers got in a hard right and rocked Omer, who replied with a takedown attempt which he landed. Alers then reversed the position and got some nice ground and pound in from the half guard. He’s landing hard on Omer, but he gets back to his feet somehow. Alers is really taking over and landing the bigger shots so far. A lovely spinning back kick to the body by Alers, but Omer then counters with a huge right that drops Alers! Omer needs to make this count, but they just stay in the guard for around 30 seconds. Alers was hurt there, yet Omer is letting him recover. This is one hell of a fight. Alers looks more comfortable on the ground and drags Alers towards the cage and unloads with some nice shots from the guard. He gets half guard and is starting to steal this round, and fight, back. Back in guard and both seem fairly tired here, not keeping too busy. 90 seconds remaining in this round and Alers gets to his feet with a lovely sweep, that could be vital. They’re in the clinch and Alers is taking control of the position, but little is happening in this position whenever they’re here. A reversal by Omer, they look like they’re both trying to take a breather. Another tough round to judge. Final 30 seconds is a little more tentative.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Omer (19-19).
Round 3 - That was a great round, and this has been a great fight. I have it all tied, though you could give either round to either fighter. The hype has been justified so far. Some vicious leg kicks by Omer to start the round, Jose Aldo soccer kick style. A takedown attempt by Alers and he gets it, he’s fighting sensible in this third as he knows this is crucial. Omer is cut on his right eye, and Alers is unloading to the body and head, mixing it up nicely with elbows and punches and posturing up. He passes to half guard and Omer is giving up his neck when trying to get up. Alers is too tired though and Omer gets to his feet. He goes from a trip on Alers but it’s stuffed easily. They’re against the cage in the clinch doing little, with Omer struggling to get the takedown. Both fighters need to show more urgency, this round is the deciding one I would imagine. Another takedown by Alers, and he gains half guard straight away. Nothing significant for 30 or so seconds. Alers postures up and lands some nice strikes, he’s taking this round from Omer. They’re both too tired to pose much of a threat. A stand-up by Mark Goddard after little action on the ground. Alers is showing a lot of urgency now they’re on the feet. He seems like he’s hurt Omer and gets a vital takedown right at the end of the round after a nice spinning back kick. I love that urgency but, in my eyes, too little too late. Cardio problems for both problems in the third but with the humidity in UAE, it’s excusable.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Omer (29-28 Omer).
Result: Alers via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford
This is Rani Yahya’s UFC bantamweight debut, and he’s facing a tough test in Johnny Bedford. A win is vital for both fighters. I really like this commentary team and I’m warming to the announcer also. Excited for this card, some pretty fun fights on this one.
Round 1 - Bedford taking the centre of the Octagon and Yahya looking tentative. A stuffed shot by Rani. A HUGE RIGHT BY BEDFORD STUNS YAHYA! Yahya is out. He was just sat there looking at him and Bedford didn’t want to follow up. Huge right, in fact his first punch of the fight. Oh wow. Replay shows it was a clash of heads that resulted in Yahya getting knocked out. I was wondering where the cut to Bedford came from. This should be a NC. They were both coming in, clashed heads and Yahya dropped to his knees stunned. If this is a Bedford victory, fully expect it to be overturned.
Result: No Contest (accidental headbutt) at 0:39 in first round.
Wow Bedford is amped up after the fight, Hardy did a great fight of stopping anything from happening. Bedford with a bum move, claiming he should be the winner despite the headbutt and saying he fairly knocked Yahya out. He’s trying to fight him right now, but luckily nothing breaks out. Looks like a rematch between the two will be set up. I can understand Bedford’s frustration, but a little professionalism was needed there. Good call by the officials.