If the main event of Saturday’s New Orleans Fight Night card doesn’t intrigue. Allow me to present a counterpoint.
Australia has had a steady stream of visits from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, since they made their debut in 2010 with UFC 110. The eight sided cage made a rather quick turn around back to the land down under, only six months after the last Fight Pass event in Sydney, to Adelaide, a first time host to the UFC. The UFC’s last offering in Australia last year was considered by some, the event of the year, last night could also be in the running at the year’s end for best event of the 2015. There were finishes aplenty, remarkable comebacks and statement making beatdowns in Adelaide, Australia last night, so with UFC Fight Night 65 now wrapped up, let’s take a look at who shined brightest.
It’s no secret that Stipe Miocic is a good fighter, he’s a top 5 ranked heavyweight in the world, but his performance against Mark Hunt was an undeniable statement. Miocic came on to the radar of mixed martial arts fans after his last fight against former champion Junior Dos Santos. Miocic was dominating some of the early portions of that fight. Dos Santos didn’t seem to have an answer for his boxing and pressuring pace, but as the fight went on, Junior gutted through to win a decision. The scorecards were not met with much agreement, many, including myself, believed Miocic should have won that fight, and although he lost, he put on a performance that put all men weighing above 220 pounds know that he was a formidable opponent.
If the fight against Dos Santos won Miocic a pat on the back and some praise from the MMA world, his mauling of Mark Hunt last night was his coming out party. Miocic won virtually every second of the bout after the referee said “Fight.” Solid fundamental boxing combined with his collegiate wrestling were simply too much for the former K1 World Grand Prix champion to handle. Miocic layed some heavy hands on Hunt but never left himself vulnerable, using small steps in his foot movement to circle away from the Super Samoan’s power strikes and utilizing his reach by throwing crisp straight punches down Hunt’s center line. Mark Hunt seemed flustered and exhausted by the end of the first round and Stipe Miocic never gave him, even an idea, that this onslaught would stop. Following the first, Miocic began to actively search for takedowns and seemed to succeed with them, almost at will. The ground and pound by Miocic wasn’t delivered with massive fight finishing potential, but it was relentless. Short elbows and punches took it’s toll on Hunt, and by the latter portion of the contest, it was quite clear that it was only a matter of time until Miocic had his hand raised. The end came halfway into the fifth round, after Hunt could no longer muster any form of intelligent defense to the pounding Miocic was inflicting.
So with that big name under Stipe Miocic’s record, what’s next? A fight against the Travis Browne/Andrei Arlovski winner wouldn’t be too bad, but his performance last night showed he is very capable to give the champion problems. If Miocic is willing to wait, give him the winner of Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. His pace, boxing, tenacity and wrestling could be ripe ingredients to defeat either man.
There is a new contender at 185 pounds, his name is Robert Whittaker. Whittaker’s speed is almost indescribable, his accuracy is outstanding, his style is unique. The speed and power that Whittaker hit Brad Tavares with was jaw droppin,. It only took 44 seconds for Whittaker to end the fight. After throwing a front kick that missed, Whittaker threw a left hook that staggered and dropped Tavares, after quickly getting back up, another left hook dropped Tavares again and two rapid right hands shut the lights out.
The 24 year old Kiwi is full of potential and after that quick finish last night it is clear that middleweight is the right division for him. Whittaker’s on the coattails of the top 15 right now, a fight with the likes of Roan Carneiro, or the winner of Uriah Hall/Rafael Natal would be a good test for all potential combatants involved.
After going 1-1 in his first two appearances in the Octagon, Daniel Hooker made a name for himself in the featherweight division with his knockout of tough Japanese fighter Hatsu Hioki. The first round of the fight was fairly competitive but Hioki had an edge. In the second, Hioki got a little looser with his striking and hurt Hooker with a kick to the body, but mere seconds after, Hooker unleashed a head kick that sent Hioki plummeting face down to the canvas.
Dan Hooker could be in the top 15 rankings next week, so it’s fitting he fights a lower ranked 15 opponent. Hacran Dias is a stern test for most featherweights, he’s very physical, has a grinding grappling style, and still holds some good power in his hands. Dias could be the stepping stone for Hooker’s entrance into the top 10.
“Smile’n” Sam Alvey is quickly becoming a standout at middleweight. Alvey knocked out Dan Kelly with some vicious right hands in under a minute last night. Alvey’s greatly improved his boxing since his time on The Ultimate Fighter, and now with another first round KO to his resume, he’s steadily climbing up the middleweight ladder. With three knockouts in a row, the big names in the middleweight division are fast approaching. Alvey said in his post fight interview that he would like to fight TUF Nations winner Elias Theodorou next, it’s a good matchup, but there’s no harm in pairing him with a ranked opponent either.
With all the middleweight fights scheduled, it was difficult to stand out but Bradley Scott made all of the opportunity. Scott got a big name win last night in Adelaide, the Brit submitted New Zealander Dylan Andrews with a textbook guillotine choke and showed he has great skills that are bad news to many 185 pounders. Scott’s in fighting is top notch, his utilization of the clinch is very good, his chin is iron, and his ground game is lethal. Andrews hit Scott with some big shots and Scott never retreated, no matter what Andrews threw at him he kept pressing forward. Even after a tough first round, Scott got the fight to the floor, hurt Andrews with some hard top position elbows and subsequently got the tap.
Getting a win over a dangerous opponent like Dylan Andrews is always a great thing, especially in a growing talent pool division like middleweight. It’s tough to know what could be next for Scott but if the skills he showed in the Octagon last night keep improving, it can mean a lot of trouble for middleweights out there.