Some online writers have bashed the UFC for throwing top prospects in with the big guns too soon, but while I agree with that when it comes to certain fighters, you’ve got to admit they’ve done a solid job with ‘Rumble’ Johnson. He was two months removed from his last fight – a highlight reel head kick knockout over Kevin Burns – and here he was faced with tough brawler Luigi Fioravanti, who, after showing some promise himself, had never really lived up to his early potential. On paper this was a fight tailor-made for the longer, more technical striker Johnson.
We begin and they circle around, both men looking to strike, before Johnson lands with a nice inside leg kick. Good leg kick to answer from Luigi and he continues to move around and avoid Johnson’s power. Another leg kick lands for Rumble and then he tries the head kick, but Fioravanti blocks it. Luigi fires off a combo and nearly lands an overhand right, but Johnson comes back with another heavy leg kick and a good jab. Leg kick and body shot by Rumble. His leg kicks look vicious here. Luigi shoots on a single leg but Johnson easily stuffs it into the clinch. Knee from Fioravanti catches Johnson low though and the ref calls time. Johnson’s okay to continue and they restart and they briefly trade punches before Luigi backs out. Right hand to the temple from Johnson and Luigi goes down, and as he pops up he looks hurt. Johnson closes in with a high kick and Luigi desperately shoots, but eats two knees as Rumble stuffs the takedown. Luigi is in big trouble now and another right hand puts him down, and this time Johnson pounces and pounds him with punches and hammer fists for the stoppage.
Post-fight Johnson tells Rogan he was disappointed with his performance, which is pretty crazy, but then I guess the guy has high standards and that’ll only make him improve over time. For my part I thought this was a solid showing from him to put away a tough veteran in under a round; I mean obviously he can improve in areas but he’s young and he has plenty of time. Decent little opener.
Really evenly matched bout on paper, with TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig looking to bounce back from his loss to Clay Guida by taking out ‘The Dentist’. This was in fact Neer’s second fight in a row against a TUF winner, as he’d lost to Nate Diaz in his last Octagon performance in a low-end FOTYC. Close one to call on paper but being a longtime fan of Neer’s I was taking him to win. Unbelievable that the guy is only 25 too.
Round One and Neer presses forward and starts taunting Danzig like he’s Nick Diaz or something. Danzig goes for a high kick but Neer counters with a right that knocks him off balance, and then he closes in with a flurry. Danzig survives and they exchange in the clinch before breaking off. Neer continues to stalk forward, landing a heavy leg kick before yelling at Danzig to bring it on. Mac obliges by swinging into a clinch where they exchange inside, and suddenly as they break Danzig takes over with a combo that looks to have Neer hurt! Neer recovers quickly though and they exchange into the clinch again, where Neer cracks him with a couple of elbows. Exchange continues in the clinch with Neer landing knees, but Danzig comes back with uppercuts and then breaks the clinch with a right hand that cuts Neer. Neer comes forward again though and forces Danzig into the fence, where he lands some heavy knees to the body before breaking. Good leg kick by Danzig. Neer presses forward with a low kick and attempts a lunging knee, but Danzig counters with a right hand that drops him! Mac goes down into the guard, but Neer’s recovered quickly and he ties Danzig up and goes for a triangle! Danzig looks in trouble as Neer goes to an oma plata and uses it to sweep into top position, and now they come back up and Neer lands with a body kick! Big flurry from Neer and then both men taunt one another and the crowd are going APESHIT. Both start to swing, with Neer landing the body kick again and continually pressing the action until the round ends. Great round.
Round Two and Neer comes out pushing forward like the terminator, until Mac shoots and decides to pull guard. Neer opens up with some BRUTAL ELBOWS though that seem to have Danzig stunned as he tries desperately to cover up. Neer into half-guard and he continues to bomb away before standing over the TUF winner. Back into the guard and he’s feeding Danzig more brutal elbows. Neer passes into side mount but Danzig does a good job of spinning back to guard. He ends up giving his back to try to escape, and Neer gets one hook in. He’s too high though and ends up trying an armbar, but slips off and Danzig ends up on top in half-guard. Neer works to full guard and controls Mac from there, and as Danzig tries to pepper him with strikes the Dentist catches him in a triangle choke! It looks locked in and Neer twists him over, and Danzig taps out! Crowd are going absolutely crazy for the finish, a totally mixed reaction though.
Post-fight Neer tells the crowd he doesn’t care what they think about him, and then talks about the cut he had being caused by an accidental headbutt. Didn’t spot that one myself. Neer says he would’ve died before losing this fight though and just didn’t want to get stopped on the cut.
Tremendous action there; a low-end FOTYC in fact. Both men came to fight and just went to war in all areas, and really it could’ve gone either way if we’re being honest. Neer looked just a little hungrier though and did a far better job than Danzig when he was on his back, and that proved to be the difference as he caught Mac with a beautiful triangle. Danzig in terms of record alone is probably the most disappointing TUF winner at this stage, but then he’s faced really good competition so I’d like to see him kept around for the time being. Any fight involving Josh Neer is normally fun and this was certainly no exception. Perhaps his best fight in the Octagon in fact.
-Joe Rogan is joined by some guy from the Spike series DEA, and they preview the new series. Looks like a pretty ill show actually.
Bit of an odd match-up here, as the word was that UFC had wanted to match the hot up-and-comer Velasquez with someone higher up on the ladder, but due to Cain’s lack of exposure and fearsome reputation the higher-ranked fighters didn’t want to take him on at this stage, so he was faced with unknown Bosnian kickboxer Stojnic instead. So basically this was what it was – a showcase match for Cain on free TV to show the fans exactly how good he was. Stojnic has Alistair Overeem in his corner – man what I’d give to get that guy into the Octagon.
First round begins and Stojnic lands a jab. Cain comes back with a pair of leg kicks and a right hand before they clinch. Knees to the gut from Cain and then they break off. Velasquez clinches again and lands some knees to the legs, and they break off where Cain lands with a glancing head kick. Stojnic tries to wade forward with punches, but Cain grabs him and forces him into the cage again, where he lands with a big knee to the head and a HARD right hand. Stojnic looks in trouble as Velasquez flurries on him, forcing him to back up along the side of the fence. Another combo lands and Cain follows with some vicious knees as Stojnic desperately tries to cover up. Stojnic is hanging tough though. He breaks off, but Cain comes back in and just UNLOADS with a combo, hitting Stojnic with knees and punches to the body and head, and this resembles Tim Sylvia vs. Cabbage Correira at this point. Good right from Stojnic and they trade leg kicks, but then Cain rocks him with a right again and follows with another combo. Cain is unbelievably quick for a big guy. Headlock from Cain and he drags Stojnic around a little before breaking off. Couple of leg kicks land for Velasquez and then he knocks Stojnic backwards with a right hand and this could be the beginning of the end. Big combo lands and Stojnic is on wobbly legs, but he’s still surviving. More punches land and now Cain’s even landing leg kicks from the clinch position. Velasquez continues to punish the Bosnian, but the buzzer sounds to end the first round. That was an unbelievably one-sided round, 10-8 Velasquez.
Into the 2nd and Stojnic swings for the fences, but eats a leg kick and a body kick for his troubles. Cain just looks by far the better striker here. Big right hand and body kick have Stojnic hurt again and Cain opens up with another flurry before Stojnic swings back. Takedown from Velasquez and he easily pops out of a guillotine and passes to side mount, where he lands some elbows and punches to the head. Hughes crucifix from Cain and he lands more elbows before Stojnic turns and gives his back. Cain lands punches to the head with Stojnic stuck in the turtle position, and then Stojnic rolls to his side and takes more punishment. Back to the turtle position but he’s still taking more shots, and it doesn’t look like he’s getting out of the position. Referee Jorge Ortiz steps in and Cain thinks he’s restarting them standing, but he’s actually stopped the fight as Stojnic wasn’t defending.
Ending was anticlimactic as it didn’t look like Stojnic was out or anything, but admittedly he definitely wasn’t escaping the position so the referee probably did the right thing for his safety. Cain looked fantastic here, showing more skill and versatility standing than basically anyone else in the UFC’s Heavyweight division, and although Stojnic proved to be incredibly tough to finish the whole fight was like a highlight reel for the AKA fighter.
Post-fight Cain says he was disappointed with his showing as he wasn’t relaxed enough and didn’t feel he opened up enough. Man, these guys are incredibly hard on themselves! Well, I was impressed at least!
This was a prelim taped earlier in the night. Oklahoma state wrestler Grice was coming off a layoff of well over a year into this fight, and after his original opponent, Greek-Australian TUF veteran George Sotiropoulous pulled out due to injury, he was faced with a fellow wrestler in Matt Hughes student Veach, making his UFC debut.
We begin and Veach lands a low kick before they trade wildly in the clinch. Takedown attempt from Veach and he gets Grice down in guard and looks to land some elbows. Grice looks to work to his feet and does so, but takes a hard one-two on the way out. Leaping punch from Veach and he drops for another takedown, but Grice defends it this time and rolls for an anaconda choke! Veach manages to slip free and they come back to their feet, where Veach lands a big right hand into the clinch. They exchange inside the clinch, but Grice works him over with uppercuts and sends him down to the mat! Grice pounds away and looks for the finish, but somehow Veach survives in the guard despite taking some huge punches. Grice tries to pass, but Veach scrambles and gets back to guard, only for Grice to mount him and go for an arm triangle. Veach pops free and gets to half-guard, but Grice works to full mount again. Veach scrambles from the bottom and gets to half-guard, but takes a couple more elbows and then Grice tries a guillotine and pulls guard. Veach pops free to take top position and then they come back up to their feet. Good left hook from Grice and he stuffs a takedown, then breaks with an uppercut. They trade some shots inside again before breaking off, and we get a WILD TRADE where Veach drops Grice with a right hand! Holy shit. Veach drops down to pound him and it’s ALL OVER!
Post-fight Grice complains about the stoppage but hey, he got dropped and took some shots on the ground so I think it was fair enough. Hell of a fight while it lasted though, incredible back-and-forth stuff from start to finish. Bit sloppy in places but who cares really in a fight as fun as that one? Great debut from the Hughes student Veach.
Originally this main event would’ve seen Lauzon facing Hermes Franca, but Franca injured his knee in training and so his training buddy Stephens, preparing for an April fight with Efrain Escudero, stepped in to take his place. Bit of an underwhelming main event, but hey, injuries happen and these two are exciting young fighters anyway. General consensus was that Lauzon had the advantage on the ground, while Stephens was better standing.
Round One and Lauzon closes the distance and drops to the ground, looking to roll into a leglock first, and then he turns to guard and tries to isolate an arm. Butterfly guard from Lauzon and he looks for a sweep, but Stephens blocks and they come back up to their feet in the clinch. Lauzon pushes him up against the cage and lands a couple of knees, before dropping for a heel hook attempt. Stephens scrambles free to his feet, but Lauzon has a bodylock and he gets a nice takedown to side mount. Stephens uses the cage to pivot into guard, but he takes a couple of punches and finds himself pinned into the fence. Stephens rolls and gives his back, but he’s too close to the fence for Lauzon to truly capitalize and he winds up in Jeremy’s half-guard. Full mount follows and he goes for an armbar, but he can’t straighten out the arm due to the cage and Stephens slips free into Lauzon’s guard. Stephens stands over him and starts to land with some HAYMAKERS, just swinging his whole body into it, but none of them connect clean and stun Lauzon. Lauzon uses the cage to get to his feet, but Stephens bodyslams him down and then works free of a guillotine into the guard. Round ends shortly after. That was one fun round.
2nd round and Stephens looks to strike, landing a leg kick, and then throwing some haymakers standing. Lauzon decides to fight fire with fire and swings right back, but then clinches and gets a fireman’s carry takedown (!) to put Stephens on his back. Lauzon looks to pass and ends up taking Stephens’ back for a second before settling into half-guard. Lauzon passes into side mount and he lands with some short elbows. Beautiful control from Joe Lauzon and then he slides over into full mount. Stephens is in trouble and he takes a couple of elbows before giving his back. Lauzon gets both hooks in to control him, but he gets sloppy going for a body triangle and Stephens slips out into Lauzon’s guard. Butterfly guard from Lauzon again and it looks like he’s going for a sweep, but then he settles into a closed guard where Stephens lands with a couple of elbows to cut him. Stephens stands over him and lands a haymaker to the body, and Lauzon ends up in the turtle position. Stephens tries to take his back, but gets reversed and now Lauzon’s on top in north/south and then side mount. Full mount from Lauzon and he immediately goes for an armbar. Stephens tries to get out of it by rolling and stepping over, but it’s sunk in too deep and Lil’ Heathen taps out.
Great fight; Stephens was game and definitely came to fight, but Lauzon’s skill on the ground was too much for him and it seemed to be only a matter of time before he was caught in something. Tremendous performance from Lauzon to take out a fellow young rising star, and hopefully when he returns from injury he can be matched up with someone a little higher up the ladder. Back to the drawing board for Stephens, but then he took the fight on short notice so it shouldn’t be so much of a big deal for him to rebuild himself. Very good main event overall.
Another prelim taped earlier in the night. World-class wrestler Rosholt – I believe the most accomplished wrestler in UFC today in fact – was making his first UFC appearance after moving from the WEC, and originally he would’ve faced a much better opponent stylistically in Italian boxer Alessio Sakara, but Sakara injured himself and so Miller – a BJJ expert with some solid wrestling of his own – stepped in. I actually felt bad for Rosholt here as this was a horrible match on paper, and really a guy of his potential ought to be brought along slowly.
First round gets underway and they circle before Rosholt looks for the takedown. It’s a telegraphed shot and he eats a knee, but still manages to get Miller to the ground. Rosholt lands with a few punches but Miller goes for a leglock. Rosholt manages to roll free, but he’s on the bottom now and they’re pinned into the fence. Rosholt works to his feet and you can audibly hear his corner warning him to watch for the guillotine, but he continues with his takedown attempt and sure enough Miller’s got him in a tight guillotine and he pulls him down for the tapout. Replay shows Miller didn’t even need to pull guard as the choke was locked up so tightly.
Quick and impressive win for Dan Miller but it was more Rosholt’s inexperience that gifted him the win as the guillotine was right there and all he had to do was take it. Rosholt could still be a force in the future with his great wrestling background, but a trip to a camp like Xtreme Couture or AKA probably needs to be on the cards if he really wants to improve to the elite level.
-Announcers go back over Joe Lauzon’s win, and then we roll the highlight reel to finish the night.
Tremendous show. Not only did we get more fights than usual for a free TV card, but they all ranged from good to great, with the best of them (Neer-Danzig) being a low-end FOTYC. Overall the show was just a testament to the amount of great young talent in the UFC today, as all of the fights featured hot up-and-comers, from Johnson and Velasquez to Lauzon and Miller, and really showcasing young talent like this is primarily what the Fight Night shows should be all about. Two thumbs up for an excellent show.
Best Fight: Neer-Danzig
Worst Fight: Miller-Rosholt
Overall Rating: ****
UFC: 95-101, Fight Night 18.
King of the Cage: Various shows