UFC 173 takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. with a card full of bouts with divisional implications. The main event will see dominant bantamweight champion Renan Barao put his title on the line against TJ Dillashaw, with the former being a heavy favourite coming into the fight. Dillashaw has gone 5-1 in his last six, with his sole loss being a highly contested decision against Raphael Assuncao, while Barao has gone on an incredible 33 fight unbeaten streak.
The co-main event features two light heavyweights looking to fight for the belt in the near future, with the winner of the Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson bout being guaranteed a title shot in the next fight. While Cormier is unbeaten as a professional and has gone 3-0 since moving to the UFC, Henderson has lost three of his last four. This would point towards an easy victory for Cormier, though the experience, knockout power and will to win for Henderson makes this a more interesting bout than it suggests on paper.
Elsewhere, welterweight contenders Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger could earn a shot at the title with an impressive victory in a battle between two 170-pounders with serious knockout power. Lawler is coming off a loss for the welterweight title against Johny Hendricks, but won two rounds against the champion and rocked him on more than one occasion. Ellenberger, meanwhile, is coming back from a number of setbacks due to injury, with his last fight – in July – being a disappointing performance against Rory MacDonald in a losing effort.
Bantamweights Takeya Mizugaki and Francisco Rivera square off, with both fighters coming into the bout off impressive streaks. A win is pivotal for both fighters as they look to fight for the title in 2014. Lightweights Jamie Varner and James Krause kick off the main card, with both fighters needing a victory in an intriguing bout.
Here is a play-by-play for the full card, covering the UFC Fight Pass, FOX Sports 1 and pay-per-view portion of the UFC 173 event.
Main Card (Pay-per-view)
Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw
Rumours have been circulating that Renan Barao had a tough weight cut, while TJ Dillashaw had a very easy one. This may play a factor in this one. Nonetheless, Barao – the champion – is a big favourite and the #3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. An interesting fight, even if many see it as an easy one for Barao. 35 fight unbeaten streak for the champion, crazy.
Round 1 – Barao takes the centre. Dillashaw with an uppercut and an overhand right, then a leg kick. Big kick attempted by Barao, nice pawing jab. Head kick attempted by Dillashaw. Flying kick attempted by the challenger. Barao marching forward and stalking him down. Dillashaw looking confident here, moving well from the outside, superman punch attempted. Huge uppercut tags Barao! Big shot there. Body kick from Dillashaw. Then a body kick by Barao, followed by a leg kick. He tagged him again with the left! Dillashaw having some success now! Spinning back kick by Barao. Lovely straight right counter from Barao there. Leg kick from Dillashaw but nowhere near the same power as Barao’s. Another. Dillashaw lands a couple of rights, and is looking far quicker than Barao. Head kick by TJ. Another attempted but telegraphed. Uppercut misses. A straight right, Dillashaw looking very smooth. He’s moving forward comfortably. HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT BY DILLASHAW! HE DROPPED BARAO! HE’S UNLOADING ON HIM! He may finish him here. He’s still tagging him! This might be stopped! Barao attacks the leg but Dillashaw counters and tags him again. He’s going for the rear naked choke now! THIS IS CRAZY! TJ Dillashaw looks amazing. Barao escapes the choke. Dillashaw hit him with a right, then a head kick! 10-8 round for TJ Dillashaw. Boy oh boy.
Cooper scores round 1 10-8 Dillashaw.
Round 2 – That was absolutely crazy, best round of Dillashaw’s career bar none. Barao with a front kick. USA chants from the crowd. Barao with a big 1-2. Dillashaw swinging but leaving himself open to the counter. Superman punch from TJ. Barao with a head kick, blocked by TJ. Dillashaw tagged him with a right there, and has him backing up again. Big left and a right, but Barao returns the favour. Lovely leaping combination by Dillashaw, who gets out of the way of Barao’s returns. They exchange leg kicks. Nice head kick by Dillashaw, well disguised. And another. Barao gets caught again. Dillashaw has a cut but Barao’s eyes look damaged. Dillashaw needs to keep his guard up though. Spinning kick avoided by Dillashaw, who tries to land a combination. Body shot from TJ lands. Takedown attempt by Dillashaw, and he has the neck, but lets go. Shot strays low and Dillashaw needs to take some time out, blatantly hit the cup. They resume and Dillashaw slips. Nice 1-2 by Dillashaw who evades the attacks of Barao. Head kick countered by Barao. A nice punch by Barao. Big overhand right from Dillashaw. Big straight right staggers Barao, and a left by Dillashaw. Lead right hurts Barao. Dillashaw looking great. Body attack by TJ. He evades the attacks of Barao, but a leg kick lands. Each lands a blow there. Big combination by Barao but Dillashaw returns with a body kick, and a left hook followed by a right kick. Dillashaw mixing it up body-head beautifully. Why on earth are Team Alpha Male getting rid of Duane Ludwig?!
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Dillashaw (20-17 Dillashaw).
Round 3 – Dillashaw lands a right and gets out of the way of Barao’s attacks. Barao gets in a couple of straight shots but Dillashaw’s movement still looking incredible. Great movement, kinda mesmerising so far. Huge high kick from Dillashaw, such a sneaky attack. Front kick by Barao. Dillashaw with a beautiful 1-2. Leg kick staggers him. TJ with the overhand right there. Nice sneaky right by Dillashaw, Barao misses the high kick and TJ just slides out of the way. Barao breathing out of his mouth, and eats a body kick from TJ. Overhand right attempted again by TJ, and tags him with a quick left. Dominick Cruz esque movement by TJ. He tags him with a big combination and a head kick. HUGE COMBINATION! Barao is in trouble. Dillashaw is looking like a world beater right now. Leg kick. Barao has nothing for him. This is insane. I never expected this. Body kick by TJ, then one by Barao. Barao with a hook kick misses. Beautiful jab by Dillashaw, and a right leg kick. Barao eats a right and looks like he doesn’t know what to do right now. Dillashaw landing at will. Huge left high kick by TJ, that technique is so sneaky. Jab by Barao. Incredible movement and a sneaky jab, then another. Dillashaw is looking incredible right now. Kick hits the cup but TJ continues and hits a left, then a nice 1-2 lands. Barao gets clipped against the cage, now Dillashaw looking for the takedown but unable to get it. Barao’s eye is bothering him. Another huge round from TJ Dillashaw. Crazy. Close to a 10-8, but not quite.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Dillashaw (30-26 Dillashaw).
Round 4 – Dillashaw went for the takedown but unable to complete it. Barao with a right straight, then a body kick. Chants of ‘let’s go TJ’. Head kick by TJ. Nice 1-2. Body kick from Dillashaw. Barao starting to open up with his leg kicks but Dillashaw still as energetic as ever. Big combination by Dillashaw lands, three rights and a left. Big straight left staggers him, then the head kick and a right hand from Dillashaw. He’s outclassing him. Barao offering nothing on the feet. Dillashaw with the jab then a leg kick. The movement is crazy. Beautiful right, and a big combination, backing Barao up against the fence. Big right and a left. Barao striking back however, this is where Dillashaw needs to watch out. His movement has been the key. He’s backing Barao up and striking him against the cage, Barao looking very tired now. Dillashaw is simply outclassing the man Dana White believes is the best in the world. Big right by Dillashaw. Barao attacks but slips and ends up on the bottom with Dillshaw in half guard. Barao trying to elevate him and get to his feet, but unable to. Dillashaw trying to work the ground and pound. Barao working the leg but TJ pulls out and is in half guard once again. Short shots by TJ Dillashaw, he’s outworking the champion here. Who predicted pure domination by TJ Dillashaw? Crazy.
Cooper scores round 4 10-9 Dillashaw (40-35 Dillashaw).
Round 5 – Barao needs the finish and his team are trying to encourage him, but I think he’s simply too tired now. Dillashaw may be the new bantamweight champion in five minutes time. Barao with the 1-2 then kick to the body. TJ with a leg kick. Dillashaw still looks like he has so much energy, quite sensational. Hook to the body by Barao, TJ landing the body kick. Barao is still dangerous, TJ needs to be careful. Spinning attack misses from Barao, TJ landing a knee. Nice jab by Dillashaw, then a left head kick. Mixing it up beautifully. Dillashaw still looking so comfortable, a lovely jab as he spins away from Barao’s attack. Flying knee attempted by Barao, very telegraphed. Jab again from TJ, and a left hook. Huge left head kick! He has Barao hurt! He might finish him right here! TJ DILLASHAW HAS DONE IT! WHAT A PERFORMANCE! CRAZY! TJ DILLASHAW HAS JUST DEFEATED RENAN BARAO, OH MAN.
Result: Dillashaw via TKO (head kick & punches) at 2:26 in fifth round.
I am disgusted at myself for ruling out TJ Dillashaw’s chances in this fight. He has just outclassed Renan Barao and knocked him out in the fifth. Pure domination over the man that is #3 pound-for-pound in the world. Duane Ludwig’s last moment as Team Alpha Male coach is marked with the bantamweight title.
TJ Dillashaw not only defeated Renan Barao for the first time in 36 fights, but did so in completely dominant fashion.
Barao very humble in defeat, and he’s back to the drawing board. The bantamweight division has gone from lacking contenders to wide open. And this is why mixed martial arts is the best sport in the world. What a fun card.
Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson
This is a big fight in the light heavyweight division. Hendo needs a win after losing three of four.
Round 1 – A huge and beautiful throw by Cormier there, straight into side control. That was such great technique. This is where Cormier shines and he’s already overwhelming Henderson. Dan with some hard elbows. Hendo went for a cradle position but Cormier powers his way out. Cormier with north-south now, Hendo trying to explode but unable to. Cormier has the arm trapped momentarily. Nice body shots from the top by Cormier. Half guard now. Nice short elbows from Cormier. Overwhelming Hendo so far. Mount now, but Hendo does a good job of regaining half guard. Cormier with some body kicks. Upkick by Hendo as Cormier postures up but Cormier gets right back into side control, now getting the back and unloading. Nothing significant but complete control. Side control now. Working for a kimura here but Hendo recognises and gets out. Hendo works the leg and stands back up with it, good job there. Overhand right attempted by Cormier, then a teep. Nice left-right combination lands. Hendo shot in but stuffed by Cormier who ends the round controlling Hendo against the cage.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Cormier.
Round 2 – Nice left jab by Hendo, just pawing out. He blitzes with the left and signature overhand right. Left by Hendo. Cormier with a couple of jabs then a takedown, which is momentarily stuffed but Cormier gets it to the ground with ease and has side control. Boos from the crowd. Big ground and pound by Cormier now. Possibly working an americana there, but he lets go and now Hendo trying to get to his feet. Cormier sticks to him and has the back. Big shots, Hendo looked hurt there. He’s trying to get up now, but Cormier is ragdolling him. Just looks too easy for DC. Kimura attempt now for Cormier, but Hendo recognises and escapes. Big body shots, now to the head from Cormier – mixing it up nicely once again. Cormier posturing up and unloading. Full mount. Henderson has nothing to offer here. He’s clearly declined but this is still very impressive. Now half guard but still full control, the mount is there for the taking. DC has side control and is trying to pin the arm down. More short shots. 90 seconds remaining. Dan is just turtling now and taking shots, this may not go on much longer. Short shots land by Cormier. Hendo trying to roll but Cormier just winds up on top in side control, landing shots and trying to work on the arm. Simply overwhelming so far from DC. Not fight-ending shots, but pure domination. He’s making a statement so far. 10 seconds left in this round and Hendo is just turtling and taking damage.
Cooper scores round 2 10-8 Cormier (20-17 Cormier).
Round 3 – Cormier once again landing the jab, controlling the centre and Hendo looking tired. He misses the overhand right but lands a punch. A huge throw by Cormier, then a beautiful trip. This is kinda awkward to watch. Cormier just threw him, literally threw him. Half guard. Now full mount. Short shots by Cormier and Hendo is looking for a way out, regaining half guard but still doing nothing in terms of offence. He has the back momentarily but instead gets the side back mount. Short shots by Cormier from this position. Big shots from the top, now side control. This is the sort of dominance that will probably send Henderson into retirement. Hendo tries to get up but Cormier now has the rear naked choke. This might be it. He’s out, Lavigne stops the fight. That was simply masterful, and Cormier is now right in the mix.
Result: Cormier via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:53 in third round.
Dan Henderson needs to retire after that beating, Cormier beat him like no-one else has before. DC made a statement there. Brutal to watch at times. The greatest performance of Daniel Cormier’s career, who goes 15-0 as a result. He simply is that good.
Cormier calls out Jon Jones, who fights Alexander Gustafsson next, but we really need to see Cormier fight for the title soon.
Henderson announces he may drop to middleweight but will not retire.
Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger
I am so so pumped for this fight. Lawler is rightfully ranked #1 at welterweight, while Ellenberger is #5. While Lawler is coming off a Fight of the Year candidate, Ellenberger is coming off a stinker, but this fight will be about who is more motivated by their last loss. Both have big power and are more than capable of landing a fight ending blow at any point.
Round 1 – Ellenberger takes the centre. Both using a lot of movement and faints, this is expected. Head kick from Lawler partially blocked, and another big one! That one landed. Big body kick, man that was hard. So technically sound. Another left head kick. Lawler fakes it there. Jab by Lawler. Little in terms of offence from Ellenberger so far. Left counter from Lawler, then a nice uppercut. Nice combination by Lawler. He’s really looking smooth and technical here. Another left high kick, his fourth of the fight. Ellenberger tries for a right but Lawler slides away. Big combination attempted by Lawler with the head kick at the end of it. They’re in the clinch, knee to the body from Lawler. Jab to the body by Ellenberger. Uppercut attempted but Lawler gets out of the way. ‘Ruthless’ is really having his way here and landing the significant blows so far. Ellenberger has landed barely anything in this round and there’s only a minute remaining. Another left high kick from Lawler. Body attack by Lawler. Body kick. He’s landing almost everything. Left tags Ellenberger. Nice jab by Ellenberger there, and another. He needs more of that. Big swing by Ellenberger misses, but a nice body shot there. Nice combination by Ellenberger. They exchange at the end, and Lawler lands another head kick. Ellenberger very hesitant in that round.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Lawler.
Round 2 – Ellenberger with a right at the start of the round. Lawler lands a 1-2 then a head kick, and he’s pushing forward now. Lovely combination by Lawler and a knee to the body. Another nice combination as Ellenberger gets the clinch, knee to the body from Lawler. And a jab. He’s so technical. Lawler’s backing him up so far and having his way with him, Ellenberger just looks out of his depth. Ellenberger shoots in and gets the back in the clinch, landing some knees from this position. Right head kick from Ellenberger as they separate but blocked. Juggernaut with a left but he gets tagged on the counter. Straight left by Lawler, and a right hand counter. Big combination, Ellenberger may be hurt. He’s circling away. Lawler with some nice combinations, big left. Robbie is just all over him. Ellenberger’s attacks don’t have the same power we’re used to. He gets a takedown from the clinch and has the back, Lawler laughing in that position. He escapes and hits him with a beautiful knee to the body that drops Ellenberger, now hitting him with shots on the ground. Lawler spins to the back and tries to lands some combinations. Lawler is looking great here. Big right by Ellenberger as he gets up. Jab by Robbie. Takedown from Ellenberger, Lawler smiles again. I hope the judges don’t think this wins him the round as Lawler is the one who has done the damage. He gets straight back up and lands a couple of knees. Mouse under the eye of Lawler. A 1-2 from Robbie, who then gets the clinch against the cage. Short elbow by Ellenberger.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Lawler (20-18 Lawler).
Round 3 – This really isn’t the same Jake Ellenberger that used to scare the s–t out of me when I saw him fight. He looks hesitant and too defensive. He’s lost the first two and if this continues the way it does, he’ll be out of the title picture for good I imagine. Big knee to the body from Lawler. Ellenberger tags him with a couple of rights, he’s hurting him now! That’s more like it. Lawler just smiles and fires back. A couple of knees to Ellenberger now. Big right from Lawler. He thrives off this sort of battle. Jab from Lawler. Ellenberger’s corner willing him on. Rogan believes Ellenberger’s right hand is injured. Lawler pushing forward once again, landing some lovely technical combinations before a knee in the clinch. Ellenberger backing up again. He had a great little flurry at the start of this round, but he’s now tentative once again. Kick from Ellenberger to the body, but Lawler just eats it and pushes on. Nice couple of rights by Ellenberger but nothing significant. Big left by Lawler, and a 1-2, he’s landing so often. Another beautiful right jab. That buckled his head. Big knee, and he’s hurt. Huge combination and Lawler has finished the fight! Robbie Lawler is incredible, man.
Result: Lawler via TKO (punches) at 3:06 in third round.
Robbie Lawler just outclassed the #5 in the world, simply outclassed him. Dominated all three rounds, got a finish in the third and was hardly fazed by anything. Sure, Ellenberger looked off, but that’s because Lawler looked so on. 4-1 since returning to the UFC and Lawler needs a title shot next.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera
The winner of this fight could easily be fighting for the title next. Mizugaki has won his last four, while Rivera is unbeaten in his last six. Rivera has been knocking bantamweight fighters’ heads off since joining the division. Both fighters are top 10 and have a ton of momentum, this should be a fun contest between two of the most talented fighters at 135lbs.
Round 1 – Rivera tags him with a big 1-2, that left hook looked particularly heavy. Rivera then snuck in a counter as Mizugaki came forward with a combination. Short right by Mizugaki. Takedown attempt by Mizugaki easily stuffed. Takeya with a quick jab, then a left leg kick. Big right, then an uppercut to the body by Rivera. Nice right by Mizugaki. Mizugaki has him rocked with a big combination! That right was heavy! Just as Rivera was starting to get an advantage, Mizugaki cracks him with a right. He’s in Rivera’s guard now, Rivera doing a good job of nullifying Mizugaki’s attack now. That was big. Short shots by Mizugaki, who now has half guard. Mizugaki posturing up and landing heavy blows. Rivera works his way up though, Mizugaki has him against the cage in the clinch but great job at recovering. He was essentially let off the hook there. Double underhooks, Mizugaki trying to drag it to the mat but unable to so far. Rivera does a great job with his defence then gets a takedown of his own, Mizugaki making his way up then eating a knee to the body. Mizugaki reverses the clinch and lands a knee of his own. 1 minute left. They separate and Mizugaki lands a short blow. Big leg kick by Rivera, then a jab. Great duck under by Rivera as Mizugaki comes in, and he has the Japanese fighter against the cage in the clinch, but unable to get the fight to the ground. Knees from Rivera. Nice takedown by the American, and some big elbows. Heavy shots by Rivera, then Mizugaki gets up and attempts some shots of his own but great head movement by Rivera, who gets another takedown to end the round. Fun round. Only a 10-9 due to Rivera’s success towards the end of the round.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Mizugaki.
Round 2 – Leg kick from Rivera. Body shot by Mizugaki, followed by a right, lovely combination. He’s looking great on the feet. He misses with that combination, nice movement from Rivera. Big head kick by Rivera, who’s swinging with reckless abandon. He tags Mizugaki coming forward, biting on his mouth piece and throwing heavy blows. Mizugaki tagged him a couple of times but Rivera did well there. Mizugaki has a cut under his left eye. Great slip and rip from Rivera, and another. He’s taking over now. Mizugaki with a takedown which is countered by Rivera, who gets to his feet. He’s going for a guillotine now, but Mizugaki has half guard and it doesn’t look too tight from this position. Mizugaki now on top in half guard, and that was a callous mistake from Rivera. Mizugaki trying to control the American from the top, he’s against the cage and landing short shots to the body. Both fighters are breathing heavy it seems. Mizugaki now takes the back of Rivera and has one hook in, but the cage is preventing any real danger. Rivera looks frustrated. Less than a minute remain and Mizugaki has taken this round from him due to Rivera’s own mistake. He’s working the face crank but Rivera won’t be submitted from this. The round ends with Mizugaki in back mount.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Mizugaki (20-18 Mizugaki).
Round 3 – Rivera needs a finish and he’s more than capable. Body kick by Rivera, countered by a left from Mizugaki. Mizugaki attempts a 1-2 but misses both strikes. Nice right by Rivera there. Each fighter are landing in the pocket. Mizugaki with a straight left catches Rivera. Rivera got caught with a counter from Mizugaki there, attempted a right kick and got caught with a straight right that dropped him. Mizugaki in his full guard now and Rivera should be in desperation mode. Mizugaki landing ground and pound, but Rivera doing a good job in his guard at stopping anything significant coming through. Half of the round remains and Rivera needs a finish. Nothing much to report here, Mizugaki inactive from top position and he’s easing his way to victory. 90 seconds left. Rivera is frustrated here, but he needs to work his way up rather than wait for Lavigne to rescue him. A minute remains for Rivera’s hopes at fighting for the title and Lavigne finally stands them up. Rivera throwing haymakers. Both are throwing heavy, Mizugaki urging him on! Both land. 30 seconds. Mizugaki fakes the shot and lands the right, his right eye is bothering him. Big left by Rivera, he’s throwing big haymakers at the end of the fight. Great finish! Rivera went all out. Too little too late for sure, but great to see that sort of desperation. Fun fight.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Mizugaki (30-27 Mizugaki.
Result: Mizugaki via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 x2).
Rivera threatened at times but Mizugaki was dominant in most of the fight. A great victory, his fifth in the row, and expect to see him fighting for the belt in the near future. Rivera put in a valiant effort, but Mizugaki outclassed him. His stand-up looked great.
Jamie Varner vs. James Krause
This is a really fun fight to start the card, and is must-win for both fighters, moreso Varner. Krause has a 3-and-a-half inch reach advantage, but is 6 inches taller. Varner has some big power and underrated wrestling, but Krause’s grappling is nothing to sleep on.
Round 1 – Krause with a nice jab to start the fight, and a nice leg kick. He’s trying to take the centre. He buckles the leg with a right kick then clips Varner with a overhand right. Front kick and two punches by Krause hurts Varner. Krause has him in trouble here, big combination and he now has the back. Varner is in trouble. One hook in. Varner trying to work his way to his feet. Front kick, then a combination. Big swing from Varner. It’s his left leg that’s the problem. But Varner gets a big double leg takedown, Krause looking for the guillotine and uses it to get on top into half guard. Varner’s left ankle is hurt, it wasn’t the punches that buckled him. Krause working on the guillotine momentarily but gives it up and gets half guard again. He goes for it but it’s sloppy, Varner in side control landing some big shots. He has the back, tagging him with big shots. They’re now in the clinch. Varner’s left foot is really in danger, he can’t put any weight on it but somehow he’s still trying to muster up enough energy to carry on. This can’t go on much longer, Varner can’t walk, he literally fell and they’re on the ground now. He gets up, Varner is in trouble. Another leg kick from Krause. Varner is a warrio, this is crazy. He falls again. I think it may be dislocated or something, this fight needs to be stopped. They finish the round with Krause on top. The fight is stopped. His ankle is broken.
Result: Krause via TKO (retirement) at 5:00 in first round.
Jamie Varner needs to stay in the UFC, that man has mad heart. He broke his ankle at around the 2 minute mark and still continued – that is crazy! Krause gets his second UFC win, and looked good in stages in that fight. Varner will be back, I hope.
Preliminary Card (FOX Sports 1)
Michael Chiesa vs. Francisco Trinaldo
The main event of the preliminary portion. Both fighters looking to win two in a row. Chiesa is 9 years younger, and has the reach and height advantage.
Round 1 – A lot of faints and feelers in the first minute, neither throwing anything. Chiesa goes in for a takedown but misses, telegraphed attempt. More inactivity. Body kick from Chiesa, then a punch. Chiesa shoots in, Trinaldo does well but they get in the clinch. Massaranduba with a big knee that hurt Chiesa and had him backing up. Trinaldo landed heavy there. Another takedown attempt stuffed by Trinaldo. Left by Chiesa, who then gets the fight to the ground from the clinch. He’s in the mount now, landing big shots while Trinaldo has his arm trapped. He had the back there momentarily but sticks with the full mount and lands some sharp elbows. This is much better for Chiesa now. Beautiful elbows. Trinaldo tries to explode but fails, and Chiesa is now away from the cage in full mount, landing heavy combinations while postured up. Just a minute remaining and this may not escape the first. Huge blows, this may be over. Huge elbows and punches here. He’s going for the kill. Chiesa’s mount is nasty. More left elbows. Trinaldo is bloodied and begins to turtle but somehow survives a big round 1. Close to a 10-8 for the TUF Live winner.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Chiesa.
Round 2 – Trinaldo pushes forward and lands a straight right. A big left from Trinaldo. Another tentative start to the round, especially on Chiesa’s part. Trinaldo counters Chiesa rushing in with a knee to the body. He goes for a guillotine now! He has the arm-in and really committed to that and jumped into guard, but Chiesa counters and is now on top. Half the round remains and Chiesa is once again in a great position. Trinaldo trying to escape but is unable to, now he’s working on a sweep but Chiesa trying to prevent it. Trinaldo going for the heel hook now, but it doesn’t look too troubling. Chiesa winds up in side control with his right arm trapped and lands a couple of short elbows. Chiesa really benefitted from that scramble there. He’s working on the d’arce now, and gets some short elbows in, none too damaging. Trinaldo sneaks out but Chiesa does a great job sticking to him and ends up in half guard, great job by Maverick there. Another solid round by the American, who ends it with some more short elbows.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Chiesa (20-18 Chiesa).
Round 3 – Trinaldo needs a finish and he looks exhausted coming into this round. He wings a left but it’s avoided easily. Head kick attempted by Chiesa. Trinaldo is pushing forward and trying to land that knee to the body again. A left hand clips Chiesa, but he just responds with a takedown defence. Trinaldo knees Chiesa to the groin and there is a momentary break. They resume. Chiesa is really opening up, landing a teep and some nice combinations from the outside. Trinaldo counters with a left but good defence from Chiesa, who then gets in a couple of jabs, establishing his reach advantage well. A shot from Chiesa, who gets Trinaldo to the mat in the guard, lovely stuff from Maverick. Chiesa in the guard, landing short shots but nothing too significant. He could pass the guard easily and try and work the submission but seems happy to ride this out and secure the victory. Trinaldo working on the armbar here! That was sneaky! He may have it here! This is dangerous! Chiesa got caught sleeping there. He’s out. Chiesa did well with his defence but he needs to be careful. He’s still in the guard, lands some more blows to end the round and should have a unanimous decision victory. Tremendous performance.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Chiesa (30-27 Chiesa).
Result: Chiesa via unanimous decision (30-26 x2, 30-27).
I didn’t quite see any of those rounds as 10-8, but Chiesa was dominant throughout that fight and really impressed. He’s two in a row and has beaten a tough fighter in Francisco Trinaldo. A step-up is certainly needed. Chiesa vs. Ferguson makes a ton of sense.
Tony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno
I really like this match-up, Kikuno has never been knocked out but Ferguson has some serious power. Archetypal striker vs. grappler match-up. Ferguson is 4-1 in the UFC, Kikuno won his debut in January.
Round 1 – Crazy head kick attempted by Ferguson. Kikuno with a couple of nice lefts. Ferguson with a right straight. Kikuno has his hands down but he’s tagging Ferguson coming forward. Nice body kick by the American. Kikuno’s stance is hard to adjust to, he’s tempting Ferguson in. Ferguson tagged him there and he’s coming forward now. 1-2 by Ferguson, he’s tagged Kikuno! Kikuno running backwards now. Kikuno is rocked. Ferguson gets out of the way of Kikuno’s attacks, and lands a big right there. Another combination, flying knee. Ferguson all over him now. Big right by Ferguson there, now he’s got him in the clinch, and lands a left. Ferguson went for a rolling leg lock, crazy attack. Nice 1-2, and again. He has him rocked and hits him with a big right while chasing him down. He has him down and has the back, going for the armbar now. He rolls him over and he may have it. Ferguson looking great here. He works for the d’arce now! It’s tight! Crazy sequence there. Kikuno somehow escapes but he’s back peddling. Ferguson landing nice combinations still. Huge right by Ferguson! Kikuno is out! One shot knockout! That was an excellent performance. First knockout loss for Kikuno.
Result: Ferguson via knockout (punch) at 4:06 in first round.
Incredible well-rounded performance, Ferguson showed his great ground and striking ability. Completely destroyed Kikuno and deserves a step-up in competition as a result. Kikuno should consider changing his stance now.
Chris Holdsworth vs. Chico Camus
Chris Holdsworth is dubbed the next big thing after winning TUF 18, and he’ll make his second UFC appearance. Chico Camus has gone 3-1 inside the Octagon, and will look to be the fourth underdog of the night to be victorious. Camus is a 4-to-1 underdog, in fact.
Round 1 – Nice right by Camus in the first exchange. They’re both throwing big punches inside, it seems like Camus is getting the better of these exchanges. Big left there by Holdsworth rocked Camus and dropped him momentarily. Nice jab being established by Holdsworth, he needs to utilise that more. Camus gets the clinch but separates shortly after. Hayemaker right attempted by Camus. Holdsworth has the clinch, now dropping for the single but to no avail. The reach advantage isn’t too noticeable so far, Camus doing a good job coming inside. Now Holdsworth drags it to the mat and gets side control immediately, great job by the 26 year old. Full mount now with 90 seconds remaining. Full guard now, great job by Camus at regaining that position. Holdsworth did little from that position, but now he has half guard and is trying to land some short shots. He’s going position over strikes here, mostly trying to get side control rather than land heavy. Some nice rights by Holdsworth from half guard now, but Camus stopping them from being too significant. He regains guard. Holdsworth postures up and lands a couple of shots to end the round.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Holdsworth.
Round 2 – Flying knee to the body by Holdsworth. Nice 1-2 by him. Camus is tagging him with that overhand right, he’s landing that at will. Nice knee to the body from Holdsworth. He gets the clinch momentarily but does nothing with it. Holdsoworth shoots in for the takedown but good job by Camus at nullifying it. He’s persistent though and finally drags him to the ground straight into side control once again. Full mount. This is big. A lot of time to work here. He almost has the back, but he’s going for the arm triangle instead. Wow, Camus explodes and gets to his feet! Great job there. Holdsworth drags it straight back down to the mat after threatening with a guillotine. Full mount once again, he makes it look so easy. Short shots there. He’s posturing up and landing combinations, but nothing too significant here. Arm triangle attempted again, but Camus doing a good job defensively so far. Holdsworth landing shots while working on this. He needs to go to side control if he has any chance of submitting Camus, but he’s unable to. He lets go and unloads from the mount. Back mount now. Both hooks in, body lock now. Great job here. Holdsworth working on the choke, but just 10 seconds remaining. Dominant round from Holdsworth there.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Holdsworth (20-18 Holdsworth).
Round 3 – Camus needs the finish and he’s swinging for the fences so far. None landing too heavy. Wow now he tags him! Big right and left. Camus is landing big now. Holdsworth looked hurt there. But he’s still answering with some jabs and now gets the takedown. Holdsworth in half guard and working the arm triangle again it seems. This must be frustrating for Chico. Side control now, Holdsworth in full control. Camus regains half guard but he’s not threatening with anything from the bottom so far. Holdsworth lands a big punch then gets side control, possibly able to get the back here. They’re against the cage, Holdsworth trying to drag him away. He gets mount monentarily but Camus defends. Now back mount, both hooks in now. He’s making Camus look amateur, when he’s actually a talented fighter on the ground. Holdsworth working on the rear naked but unable to. Body lock however. Holdsworth now working the arm triangle again, but Camus’ defence is doing great. Half guard, landing some blows to end the round in side control. Great performance by Team Alpha Male’s latest prospect.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Holdsworth (30-27 Holdsworth).
Result: Holdsworth via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
Holdsworth win an impressive win, Camus back to the drawing board. Complete control on the ground, but his stand-up has a few flaws.
Mitch Clarke vs. Al Iaquinta
Mitch Clarke lost his first two UFC appearances but rebounded with a win over John Maguire in June. He will face Al Iaquinta, who fights out of Team Serra-Longo and has gone three in a row since losing in the TUF Live Finale to Michael Chiesa, who also fights on the card. The TUF runner-up will look to make it four straight in the stacked lightweight division, and really announce himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Round 1 – Leg kick from Clarke, who’s the more active of the two at the start of this fight. Nice short jabs by the Canadian, and a teep. Big right by Iaquinta drops Clarke! His first strike of the fight. Just a minute into the fight and Iaquinta lands big. He has half guard, Clarke working on the kimura and seems to have his wits about him. Iaquinta escapes and is trying to posture up now, trying to work his way into full mount but struggling. Short elbows by Clarke, who’s attempting the kimura again but it’s recognised. They each try to unload some strikes, but Clarke then gets head control and gets the guard. Iaquinta postures and tries to land some blows, but Clarke does a good job of getting out of the way. Nice shots by Iaquinta here, mixing it up well. Clarke is dangerous from the bottom. Big right by Iaquinta. Half guard again. He tried for an arm triangle momentarily but lets it go. Full guard again, trying to posture up and land some blows but is unsuccessful. Clarke trying to work an arm but it’s too sloppy, Iaquinta now unloading with less than a minute remaining. Clarke explodes and tries to work a takedown of his own. He has the clinch now, but Iaquinta working the front head lock. He worked the standing guillotine and used it to get Clarke to the ground, in half guard. Now he has the back, and lands some short blows. Great round from Iaquinta.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Iaquinta.
Round 2 – Jab from Iaquinta, and another. Great technique. He looks so relaxed now. Front kick is caught, then he drops but Iaquinta gets the takedown, that was a strange series of events. Side control now, against the cage. Clarke trying for the d’arce, this is tight. Iaquinta is out! That was crazy! Clarke with the comeback! What a win right there! Out of nowhere. Clarke looking emotional, he caught Iaquinta trying to get side control and that was a big win, handing Iaquinta his first loss in four.
Result: Clarke via submission (d’arce choke) at 0:57 in second round.
Al Iaquinta looked great in the first round but Mitch Clarke pulled off the upset with a surprising victory. Great submission win from the Canadian, who improves to 2-2 inside the Octagon.
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
Anthony Njokuani vs. Vinc Pichel
Njokuani has gone 3-3 in the UFC and won his last bout in great fashion, but is coming off a 13 month layoff. Pichel rebounded from losing his first UFC performance with a win over Garrett Whiteley in January, and looks to make it two in a row with a win over ‘The Assassin’.
Round 1 – Nice short left by Njokuani as Pichel comes in. Eye poke to Njokuani as he came in with a 1-2, head kick combination. The doctor comes in. It’s Njokuani’s left eye, it’s very bloodshot but he looks like he may be okay. There’s about a 90 second delay, and they resume. Completely accidental. Head kick attempted by Njokuani. Nice right, then a big knee in the clinch from Njokuani. Pichel gets a takedown, great lift there, and he gets half guard straight away. Njokuani trying to shuffle to his feet, gets to the cage but Pichel still on top. He’s getting back up, but Pichel recognises it. Njokuani gets to his feet, Pichel has him in the clinch against the cage. Nice knee to the body from Pichel. They separate with half the round remaining. Njokuani’s left eye is shutting from that eye poke. Pichel with the clinch, lands a couple of knees to the body on the Nigerian lightweight. Low blow now. Another stoppage. Damn Njokuani is having some bad luck. Another 5 minutes on the clock for ‘The Assassin’ to recover. They resume in the middle, nice combination by Pichel – jab then leg kick. Njokuani fires back and does a good job of getting out of the way of the counters. Pichel is a lot more aggressive now, mixing it up well. Nice exchanges. Njokuani with a lot of faints, then a teep. Pichel gets the clinch once again and has Njokuani against the cage, landing some knees to the body, Njokuani returning the favour on Pichel. They disengage. Njokuani with a left at the end of the round, then a nice combination.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Pichel.
Round 2 – Pichel pushing forward, goes for the takedown but Njokuani avoids. Lovely kick to the body there, there was crisp from Njokuani. Great counter combination by Njokuani as Pichel comes in recklessly. He slips as he goes for the body kick but Njokuani lets him up. Nice uppercut by Njokuani, and again. Pichel is getting caught coming in by his faster opponent. Pichel gets the clinch and has the back from that position, landing knees to the thigh. Huge takedown by Pichel, that was great. Njokuani tries to scramble but Pichel gets the back. He lands a huge combination, Njokuani looked hurt there. Another huge throw by Pichel, but Njokuani works his way back to his knees. Big round so far by Pichel. More knees from the clinch. He tries to drag it to the ground but loses the position, then drags him from the front. He could get full mount now if they move away from the fence. 2 minutes left in the second round. Pichel has the back now, lands some big shots again but Njokuani works his way up. Big knees and punches from this position by Pichel. Another takedown attempt, but Njokuani separates. He goes in for the double and slams Njokuani into side control, landing some knees to the body from this position. He has full mount now. Pichel looks great here. He postures up, now Njokuani gives up the back. Both hooks in. Njokuani escapes, gets to his feet but Pichel goes in for the takedown again. He drags it to the mat. This is close to a 10-8. He finishes the round in half guard landing more ground and pound. Full mount, then back mount. Great round.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Pichel (20-18 Pichel).
Round 3 – Njokuani’s corner tell him he needs the knockout to win and I fully agree. Pichel pushing forward in the third with Njokuani trying to counter, landing a couple of nice jabs. Pichel goes in for the takedown twice but Njokuani does a great job shaking both of them off. Leg kick by Pichel, Njokuani trying to counter but failing. ‘The Assassin’ looks very tired, Pichel very relaxed. Pichel leaving a lot of openings but Njokuani failing to capitalise. 1-2 from the Nigerian lightweight. Another nice combination. Kick from Pichel. He goes in for the single leg, and he gets it. Njokuani voicing frustration. Pichel has the back from the clinch, and lands knees to the thigh, now the head. Mixing it up well here. Another great throw by Pichel. Full mount now. Pure dominance here. Back mount. Njokuani has nothing for him. He works his way up but Pichel still in full control. A flurry of knees from the clinch by Pichel, and he drags it down into half guard. Full mount now. He’s got the back again, both hooks in. 1 minute left, and Pichel looking for the arm triangle. Njokuani defends but still has nothing for him. Full mount again. This is brutal to watch, Pichel is simply too much for him. Njokuani rolls, Pichel with the back ad both hooks in sitting up. Nice short elbows by Njokuani, who gets to his feet, but Pichel tries to get the throw with one final burst of energy, but is unable to. Great performance from Pichel.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Pichel (30-27 Pichel).
Result: Pichel via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28).
Sheer dominance from Vinc Pichel against a fighter in Anthony Njokuani who is a talented stand-up fighter and a big lightweight. Perhaps the best Pichel we’ve seen, who goes 2-1 inside the UFC.
Sam Sicilia vs. Aaron Phillips
Phillips unbeaten and making his UFC debut, while Sicilia is 2-3 inside the Octagon and 12-4 as a pro.
Round 1 – Phillips is bobbing up and down, and lands a nice body kick. Tentative first minute. Sicilia trying to land a big left hook but misses. Nice leg kick established by Phillips. Sicilia gets the clinch, but Phillips does a good job of getting out. Big body shots by Sicilia, he’s throwing heavy leather. Nice body kick by Phillips, that may have hurt him there. That’s his go-to move. Big shots from the clinch by Sicilia, that’s where he shines. He has Phillips against the cage, trying to drag the fight to the mat. He gets the takedown and has half guard off the bat. Short elbows by Sicilia. Full guard now, but huge shots landed by Sicilia. He’s postured up landing bombs. Phillips escapes, but Sicilia grabs the back inside the clinch. Over-under now for Sicilia. That was a big exchange from the UFC vet. They disengage. High kick by Phillips there. Spinning kick from Phillips misses, he seems to be smiling while pushing forward. Nice combination from Sicilia, but the body kick once again lands for Phillips. Body knee from Philips seemed to hurt Sicilia, who drops to the mat. Phillips trying to get the guillotine but easily defending, now full guard for the undefeated prospect. Sicilia posturing up trying to land some big ground and pound now. Elbows from the bottom by Phillips, then some nice upkicks as Sicilia tries to posture up. He ends the round in Phillips’ guard. Tough round to score, both had a lot of success in different areas.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Sicilia.
Round 2 – Big left as Phillips tried to land a body kick, Sicilia caught it then landed a big counter. That dropped Phillips, who now has full guard, but Sicilia struggling to land anything significant from this position. Armbar attempt by Phillips, who used it to reverse. Great job, he has side control now. Sicilia tries to scramble, but Phillips reverses and tries to work a choke. Sicilia recognises it and ends up on top in side control. Now he has the back, full back mount with both hooks in. Phillips tries to scramble but Sicilia sticking on him. Now Phillips escapes and ends up in side control. Sloppy but fun, that exchange. Full mount by Phillips, then the back, but Sicilia reverses and is now in Phillips’ guard. Both fighters need to work on their control from the ground. Side control from Sicilia. 80 seconds remaining, close round. Sicilia goes for mount, then gets the back as Phillips explodes. One hook in. 1 minute remaining. Neck crank from Sicilia, but now looking for the arm triangle. Full guard. Sicilia should have done better with that good position. He’s stealing this round from Phillips, however. He ends the round posturing up and landing some blows.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Sicilia (20-18 Sicilia).
Round 3 – Sicilia is the aggressor in this round, landing some nice hooks to the body and attacking often. Body kick from Phillips, but Sicilia gets the takedown. Phillips looking tired now. Armbar attempt, but Sicilia uses it to get side control. He regains guard, but he really needs to do something big in this third round. Short shots from Sicilia now, he’s unloading! Posturing up, landing big blows now. Half guard. That’s where Sicilia is dangerous, but Phillips is nullifying that now. Full guard. Sicilia postures up and lands some shots to the body and works his way to half guard. 2:30 left now, and Phillips has nothing for Sicilia in the third. Full guard, Phillips trying to work from the bottom. He’s still attacking, but nothing significant. Side control attempted, but Phillips gets the leg in and gets half guard. Body shots by Sicilia. Phillips works his way up with a minute remaining but Sicilia drags him back down, and is now in half guard again. Phillips gets up, but Sicilia lands a couple of short blows in return. Sicilia gets the takedown, Phillips working on the guillotine but too little, too late. Dominant round from Sicilia there.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Sicilia (30-27 Sicilia).
Result: Sicilia via unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 30-27).
Sicilia hands Phillips his first loss, and did a good job of adjusting after facing some adversity in the first. Good performance as he goes 3-3 in the UFC.
Jingliang Li vs. David Michaud
Both fighters making their UFC debuts here, with Li 8-2 and Michaud 7-0. Michaud appeared on TUF 16. The former is 26 and the latter is 25, making this a bout between relatively young fighters in the welterweight division.
Round 1 – Michaud lands a big 1-2 off the bat, nice work there. He’s pushing forward early, and lands another big combination. Very relaxed is Michaud. Doing a great job of coming in, landing the right then getting out of the way of Li’s attack. Li is looking stiff as Rogan states. Big left counter from Michaud there. Nice combination from Li. Each fighter is landing some big blows in the early going. Not much atmosphere in the arena. Nice combinations there from Li, he’s looking a lot more loose now. Inside leg kick. Michaud isn’t attacking very technically, especially in the clinch. Very susceptible to the counter from Li. Both fighters get in some big shots there from the inside. Hard to judge who got the better of that exchange. Li gets it to the ground, Michaud springs backs up but gives up his back in the clinch position. They separate, then exchange leg kicks. Li with another takedown attempt but stuffed easily. Nice uppercut by Michaud. Clinch from Li, who tries to throw Michaud but great takedown defence there. More clinch work, a nice knee to the body from Michaud, then Li with a nice reversal. Michaud with a huge throw there! Then some big shots. But Li gets up, and gets the takedown. Michaud looked hurt there from that takedown, as Rogan remarks. Some big shots from Li here, now inside the clinch. Close round. Michaud limps to his corner.
Cooper scores round 1 10-9 Li.
Round 2 – It was the left knee of Michaud that landed funny on that takedown, but he’s looking fine now. Both swing with little success in that exchange. Li with a big right there. Now some clinch work, Michaud with a couple of knees and some body shots in exchange by Li. Jingliang with a nice stuff on that takedown, and he lands some blows. He has Michaud against the cage and lands some nice shots. Looking so much more relaxed now. They exchange some blows, both looking very sloppy though. Nice uppercuts by Li there. Li establishing his jab well, bloodying Michaud up. Michaud clinches up once again and lands to the body. 90 seconds left, Michaud ties him up against the cage and gets a takedown. That could be vital in this close round. Li trying to reverse but Michaud takes the back and remains there for the final 30 seconds. Not much to that round, but Michaud got the better in my opinion.
Cooper scores round 2 10-9 Michaud (19-19).
Round 3 – Michaud closes the distance but Li once again doing a good job of establishing his jab. Big elbow there by Li, who then gets the clinch on Michaud, but doesn’t do much with it. Michaud gets the double leg, nice takedown there by the 25 year old who busts Li open from the guard. Nice elbows from Michaud. Li’s working on the kimura and uses it to sweep, now in Michaud’s half guard and nearly getting the mount. 2 minutes remaining, it’s do or die for both fighters. Li gets him towards the fence, lands some nice ground and pound and Michaud is helpless here. He has the neck! This could be tight! Half guard but Michaud has it. But Li does a good job working the ground and pound and powers out of it. He finishes the fight with more punches from side control, and should have his first Octagon victory.
Cooper scores round 3 10-9 Li (29-28 Li).
Result: Jingliang via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
If I’m being brutally honest, neither fighter looked UFC calibre. Good win for Jingliang nonetheless.