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UFC: Fight Night 22 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on December 24, 2010, 8:34 AM

UFC: Fight Night 22

Austin, Texas

-Some cards just seem cursed from the onset – see UFC 108 for a perfect example – and this one could definitely be added to the list. Initially the main event here was Demian Maia vs. Alan Belcher in an intriguing Middleweight contest, with the secondary fight being Mac Danzig vs. Matt Wiman in a rematch of their controversial June encounter. Of course, it wasn’t meant to be as firstly Belcher ended up pulling out with a detached retina that threatened his whole MMA career (hopefully he’ll make a full recovery). When the only guy they could find to fight Maia was relative unknown Mario Miranda, the decision was made to move Nate Marquardt vs. Rousimar Palhares from UFC 118 to this card, and put Maia’s fight in its place. Next, Danzig pulled out of his fight and was replaced by fellow TUF winner Efrain Escudero, but before the promotion even announced Wiman-Escudero, Wiman was out with injury too and in stepped Brazilian prospect Charles Oliveira. Personally I didn’t mind either change (aside from UFC 118 becoming weaker) as I’m not huge on Wiman or Danzig and I like Efrain and Oliveira, but BOTH main bouts being changed completely is a rarity!

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. They discuss the main event of Marquardt vs. Palhares and in a cool feature, show Anderson Silva as the champion with a list of contenders – Marquardt, Palhares, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen. This leads into announcing Belfort vs. Okami at UFC 122 and the Silva-Sonnen rematch in January 2011. Of course it didn’t work out like that as Sonnen got busted for roids and Belfort’s stepped in to replace him against Silva.

Lightweight Fight: Cole Miller vs Ross Pearson

After looking excellent in both of his post-TUF fights – against veteran Aaron Riley and striker Dennis Siver – the UK’s Pearson was given a different test in the form of lanky submission expert Miller in this fight. I suspected Ross would still pull the win out though despite being overmatched on the ground, as his striking had looked light years beyond Miller’s and Cole’s takedowns aren’t that great either.

Fight begins and Pearson opens with a hard leg kick. Miller circles on the outside, and lands a good right counter as Pearson throws a right hook. Good leg kick from Cole and he tries to use his reach to keep distance, but Ross hits him with a right hand and a leg kick. Flurry lands for Ross and Cole dives on a leg, but Pearson hops on one leg and lands some right hands while defending. Miller keeps trying for the takedown and gets him down, but Ross immediately springs back up to his feet. Flurry from Ross to break and he lands a leg kick, but Miller fires back with a right hand and looks to clinch again. Miller jumps to guard this time, but Ross is having none of it and doesn’t bother to slam him, letting him go instead. Combination from Miller and he begins to push forward, but Pearson catches him coming in with a left. Good leg kick from Pearson and he follows with a left. Good jab lands for the Brit and it looks like he’s beginning to deal with the reach now. Couple of kicks from Miller keep the distance, but Pearson pushes the action and lands some counters. Seconds to go in the round and Ross catches him with a nice left hook. Round ends with Pearson wading in with a flurry. Close round but it goes to Ross Pearson, 10-9.

Round Two and they exchange jabs before Ross lands a sharp leg kick. Good left hook to the body follows. Takedown attempt from Miller but Pearson sprawls so Cole pulls guard. He tries to sweep but Ross is having none of that and pulls out, before charging in with punches as Cole stays on the ground. Pearson waves Miller back up and lands a couple more leg kicks. Jab from Miller but Pearson lands with a nice counter right. Couple more shots land for Ross but a right hand from Miller lands flush and causes his legs to wobble slightly. The Brit backs up and eats another right, and Miller senses that he has him hurt and comes forward with a flying knee and follows with a BIG FLURRY that drops the TUF winner! Pearson looks out of it and tries to get up, but Miller quickly leaps onto his back and slaps on a rear naked choke to force the tapout! Damn.

Pretty wild finish as just as it looked like Pearson was beginning to take over the striking and deal with Miller’s reach advantage, Miller caught him with the right and then followed with the flurry to drop him. I mean sure, he won by submission, but Pearson was practically out at that stage from the strikes anyway, ala Drew Fickett getting the choke on Josh Koscheck after knocking him silly with a knee. Disappointing loss for Pearson but I’m sure he’ll learn from it and bounce back, and hopefully this is the beginning of a good run for Cole Miller who has always shown potential before but has always been inconsistent. He looked much improved standing here and so maybe he will develop into a title contender now. Only time will tell. Good opener.

Lightweight Fight: Jim Miller vs Gleison Tibau

Hugely interesting clash between two real standouts at 155lbs here. Tibau had put in his most impressive showing to date in smashing Caol Uno at the last UFN show, while Miller was riding a four-fight winning streak coming in. Despite Miller’s very impressive resume – 17 wins with his only two losses at the hands of the top two fighters in the division in Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard – I was picking Tibau to win here based on what I saw as a slight advantage in the grappling department.

Round One and Miller looks to work the jab early before Tibau throws a heavy combo that doesn’t land cleanly. Good leg kick from Miller but Tibau catches a second one and gets him down. Butterfly guard from Miller as Tibau tries to pass, and then Jim rolls and works his way back to his feet. They circle and a STIFF JAB lands for Miller, wobbling Tibau badly. Jim looks to follow up but Tibau clinches and forces him into the cage. They muscle for position before Tibau drops for a takedown and gets it, but Jim uses a front choke attempt to work back to his feet right away. They remain clinched before Tibau breaks off, and they exchange some punches with both men landing. Miller throws a kick that Tibau catches, but this time he manages to spin away from the takedown attempt. Clinch from Miller and he drives Tibau into the fence, but the Brazilian quickly switches position on him. Right hook breaks for Tibau and he counters a kick with a left hand. One minute to go in the round and Tibau begins to push forward some more, but he gets cracked with a pair of big left hands that put him on the back foot. Round ends on the feet. Tibau was the aggressor there but Miller landed the better shots, so 10-9 Miller.

Second round and Tibau opens with a combo. Miller pushes forward and lands a BIG LEFT HAND that puts Tibau on the run, and he chases forward and drags the Brazilian to the ground! Miller tries for a choke, but he has no body control and Tibau manages to muscle up to his feet. Flying knee to the body into the clinch from Miller and he drops for a single leg, but Tibau shows some good defense and avoids. Miller keeps trying, but Tibau shrugs it off and they end up clinched. Knees to the legs from Tibau and he looks to secure a bodylock for a takedown. Left hook breaks for Tibau and he gets a powerful takedown as Miller pushes forward. Miller looks for a triangle, but Tibau pulls out and they stand back up. Both men throw out some combos that miss for the most part, with a short left hook from Tibau being the only significant shot. Good one-two from Tibau and he shrugs off a single leg before hitting a nice takedown of his own into Miller’s guard. Triangle attempt from Miller again, but Tibau pulls out and stands over him before dropping back in with a left hand to end the round on top. Close round again but you’d have to go for Miller again I think, putting him two rounds up.

Third and final round and they exchange some punches with Tibau landing a double jab into a nice left hook. Flurry from Miller but it doesn’t land cleanly and Tibau gets hold of him and forces him into the cage. Big knee breaks off for Miller and both men continue to swing big punches, Miller the aggressor now. Takedown attempt from Tibau is stuffed, and the action is beginning to slow up a little here. Good left hook coming forward for Miller and he drops for a takedown, but Tibau defends with a possible kimura attempt. Miller keeps trying for the single leg, but Tibau shrugs him off. They clinch again and this time Tibau goes for the takedown, but he can’t get it and the ref separates them. Takedown attempt from Miller but Tibau stuffs it nicely. Miller pushes forward, but Tibau lands with the short left hook. Flying knee misses for Miller and Tibau goes for the takedown, but Miller stuffs it and the round ends there. I have this 29-28 for Miller with Tibau just about taking the third round, but I could see 30-27 for Miller too.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Jim Miller. Close fight but in the end Miller just about did enough, outstriking Tibau by a hair and avoiding the ground game to pull out the victory. Wasn’t the most exciting fight ever but it was a pretty solid midcard bout so I’m not complaining. With Wiman, Danzig, Bocek and Tibau amongst his victims now I don’t see how you can’t rank Miller in the bottom end of the top ten at this point. Definite title contender in my opinion.

-We get an interview via satellite with Frank Mir, to discuss his fight at UFC 119 with Mirko Cro Cop. Mir claims he’s healthier than he’s been in a while, and says Cro Cop is still dangerous, putting him over hugely. Methinks he’s been following the school of building your opponent up so when you beat them it looks better for you. Nothing interview really.

-Interview now with Cro Cop who says he feels good, but won’t say that he feels young. He’s been training with Dean Lister on his ground game and he’s ready. All he’ll say to the fans is that he’d like them to support both himself and Mir in the name of sportsmanship. Man, it’s no wonder that show did so badly in terms of a buyrate as neither man talked any trash really to build the fight.

Lightweight Fight: Charles Oliveira vs Efrain Escudero

With both men taking this fight on relatively short notice, it was a hard one to pick. Oliveira had looked smooth in his debut submitting Darren Elkins, but no offense to Elkins, I didn’t think he was anywhere near the calibre of Efrain despite ‘Hecho En Mexico’ not quite living up to the potential he’d shown in his TUF run. With that in mind I figured Efrain would probably use his wrestling advantage to stifle Oliveira for a decision – unless Oliveira turned out to be the second coming of Jose Aldo that was! The weigh-ins almost changed my mind though when Efrain inexplicably came in at a staggering 159lbs, four pounds over the lightweight limit. Amazing that a guy could miss weight so badly.

Fight begins and Oliveira comes out with some kicks that miss. Flying knee lands glancingly but Escudero grabs him and forces him into the cage. Ref calls a break when nothing happens and Oliveira lands a nice leg kick. Good right hand follows. Beautiful one-two into a takedown attempt from Oliveira, but Efrain shows some good balance to avoid and forces the Brazilian into the fence. They muscle for position before Oliveira breaks and drops to his back, but Escudero refuses to follow him down. Back to the feet and Oliveira lands a leg kick. Good right hand from Escudero as he avoids a flying knee. Leg kick lands for Oliveira. They circle off and Oliveira lands another two leg kicks. Nice straight jab from Oliveira and he shoots on a single leg, but Escudero does well to avoid and lands some elbows as Oliveira keeps trying for it. Oliveira decides to pull half-guard and then works into full guard, but he eats some nasty elbows as the round ends. Good finish for Escudero but the round was Oliveira’s.

Round Two and they exchange some strikes that largely miss to begin. Overhand right lands for Oliveira and both men slip off balance for a second before Efrain answers with a short right hook. Takedown attempt from Oliveira but Escudero hops around on one leg again, but this time Oliveira manages to trip him down. Escudero hits a reversal though and takes the back as they go down, very nice move. Oliveira manages to scramble, causing Escudero to lose position, and they come back to their feet. Nice leg kick from the Brazilian. They exchange into a clinch and Oliveira grabs the plum and lands a SLICK jumping double knee! Efrain manages to muscle him into the cage, then attempts to drag Oliveira to the ground, but the Brazilian slips away. Good leg kick again from Oliveira. Front kick follows. Escudero begins to taunt him, but he’s taking leg kicks freely now which is not good. Oliveira is owning him in the stand-up. Escudero tries to fire back with punches, but Oliveira covers up well. Flying knee lands for Oliveira and causes Efrain to get a takedown, but they come back to their feet quickly and Oliveira ends the round with the leg kick. I’ve got this 20-18 quite comfortably for Charles Oliveira going into the third.

Final round and Oliveira comes out with a leg kick that lands low, and the ref quickly calls time to allow Escudero to recover. They restart and exchange some jabs before Oliveira lands a front kick. Nice combination from Oliveira. Jumping kick into the clinch from Oliveira but Efrain muscles him into the cage and then lands a BRUTAL knee to the groin. Oliveira collapses down to the ground in pain while Escudero for some reason plays to the crowd. Hey now, that isn’t right and you’re not Keith Hackney, dude. Ref tells Oliveira to get ready, which is odd as the rules state you should have five minutes to recover. They restart and he’s still clearly hurting. Efrain comes out aggressively, throwing strikes, but Oliveira catches a kick and bounces him off the fence into a takedown! Efrain tries to scramble out, but in the process Oliveira grabs an over/under and hops onto the back! Oh man, somehow he also TRAPS THE RIGHT ARM with his leg ala BJ Penn in the process! Sick stuff. Escudero looks in deep trouble and Oliveira SINKS THE CHOKE FOR THE TAPOUT!~!

Wow. Amazing ending. Not only did Oliveira display some serious stand-up skill here, but the most impressive thing was the finish as he just showed sick killer instinct in taking the slightest window of opportunity to finish things off. I mean, to trap the arm in a scramble leaping up onto the back like that is insane and you have to wonder who else could pull a move like that off. This kid has all the potential in the world and seems to be the real deal. Can’t wait to see him fight next. As for Escudero, in a bit of a surprising move he was released following this fight, becoming only the second TUF winner to get his walking papers following the other bad weight-cutter Travis Lutter. Personally I would’ve kept him around, but I guess Dana really hates guys who don’t make weight and it is unprofessional. Amazing that of the whole TUF 8 class we now only have Bader and Soszynski left. Well, Roop too but he had to drop to 145lbs to survive.

Middleweight Fight: Nate Marquardt vs Rousimar ‘Toquinho’ Palhares

I was looking forward to this fight as much as any in 2010 if I’m honest, as I’m a huge fan of Toquinho and he’s the one guy I’d love to see against Anderson Silva as he makes for a bad styles clash for the champ. I thought he matched quite favourably with Marquardt too, as despite being the better striker, his takedown defense had been brought hugely into question against Chael Sonnen and Toquinho’s chin had also looked solid in the past, standing up to the power of Dan Henderson well. I thought Marquardt would try the Hendo gameplan – sprawl and brawl – but in the end Toquinho would get him to the ground and finish with one of his sickening leglocks.

First round begins and both men look tentative, keeping their distance early. Looks like Marquardt wants to stay on the outside. Crowd begin to get restless about 1:30 in as neither man’s landed anything. Lunging left hook misses for Toquinho and he narrowly avoids an uppercut counter. Halfway through the round and Palhares finally closes the distance, walking right through a straight right hand to do so. He gets a takedown but Marquardt pops back up and sprawls out. Odd position follows as Nate gets a triangle variant from his back, but Toquinho sits up and escapes into north/south. He considers the north/south choke for a second before going for one of his leglocks, falling back with it, but as he looks to lock up the heel hook Marquardt slips his leg free! Toquinho looks confused, and sits up pointing at the leg while trying to get the ref’s attention....but Marquardt drops a HUGE RIGHT HAND down onto him that knocks him silly! He comes round immediately but Nate opens with some VICIOUS SHOTS and the ref steps in there.

Post-fight sees a bit of controversy as Palhares accuses Nate of greasing up his legs in order to escape the leglock, and to be fair he did look very slippery in pulling out of the hold, but Marquardt claims he was checked by the Athletic Commission coming in and just did a thorough warm-up to get a sweat going. Regardless of the truth of the matter (Palhares and his camp have since retracted the allegations) Toquinho committed a cardinal sin here by taking his mind off the fight for a second, and Marquardt simply capitalized on that error. Tough break for Toquinho and a disappointing result for him but these things happen in MMA and I’m sure he’ll bounce back. Really good win for Marquardt to come back from his loss to Chael Sonnen.

-And the show ends there, no prelims or highlight reel or anything. Bit abrupt to say the least!

Final Thoughts....

This was another really good Fight Night show from the UFC. We could’ve done with one extra fight – I’m sure they could’ve shown Brian Foster vs. Forrest Petz, which was quick – but of the four fights we did get, they were all pretty solid. Miller-Tibau got slow in parts but wasn’t a bad fight or anything, Pearson-Miller and Oliveira-Escudero were both exciting with great finishes and while the main event ended in a bit of an odd fashion, it was certainly a highlight reel knockout for Marquardt. Not one of the best shows of all time but it’s an easy thumbs up overall.

Best Fight: Pearson-Miller
Worst Fight: Miller-Tibau

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 119-124
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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