Especially for the doubleheader, this review of the UFC Fight Night cards features some the good, the bad and the ugly moments from New Zealand and San Antonio. After 21 fights in 24 hours, here’s the some of the highlights and shocking moments from both events.
First from San Antonio, the main event between featherweights Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens was a five round showdown between two top ranked competitors in the division. Both earned Fight of the Night for the hard fought contest, which went the distance with Swanson getting the nod on the scorecards.
In the first, the action was pretty even between the two, but Stephens was able to snag a takedown. In the second, Cub survived a barrage of right hands from Stephens. Stephens’ power had Swanson in trouble and he secured a second takedown.
Between the second and third round, UFC President Dana White tweeted that he had heard from the production truck that Stephens had broke his hand.
By the third, Swanson began taking over. He landed a big liver shot that doubled Stephens over. Swanson swarmed for the finish, but Stephens was able to recover. From then on, Swanson managed to make the fight his. He unloaded punches, and landed another liver shot in the final frame. He had Stephens’ against the cage and went for the finish. But Stephens stayed in the fight. As the last moments ticked off the clock, Stephens threw all that he had left at Cub. However, it was too little, too late.
Following his win, Swanson said he wouldn’t “beg” for a title shot. Stephens said in the post-fight press conference that he thought Cub had earned one. Stephens also updated that he did not break his hand, but it went numb from delivering a hard shot.
In the co-main event at UFC Fight Night 44, up and comers Kelvin Gastelum and Nico Musoke showed they both have promising careers in the UFC ahead. Though the TUF 17 winner failed to make weight, was fined 20 percent of his purse and was ineligible for bonuses, he didn’t falter in his performance.
Musoke controlled the first round, he was working to submit Gastelum. Additionally, Gastelum looked flat and unable to improve his position. By the second and third, Gastelum made adjustments to take the fight back.
Following his win, he apologized for not making weight and stated he would do all that’s in his power to not make the mistake again.
Also on UFC Fight Night San Antonio’s fight card, Johnny Bedford was on the wrong end of a bad referee stoppage that cost him a W. Cody Gibson survived an early barrage from the Texas native. Gibson then came in with an overhand right that dropped Bedford to the canvas, referee Kerry Hatley that stepped in to halt the fight. Though it may have been a ‘flash knockout’ from which Bedford was recovering from, Hatley waved off the contest.
Newcomers Joe Ellenberger and James Moontasri had a back and forth battle in the AT & T Center. Moontasri made for Ellenberger’s sixth opponent after his previous opponents fell through. He took the fight on 10 days notice.
A standout in RFA known for his Taekwondo, Moontasri had Ellenberger hurt. After the first round, Ellenberger could hardly open his right eye. After the doctors checked on it, the fight continued and Ellenberger worked his way back to take a decision.
“The Moon Walker” may have been a little too enamored with being on camera on the big stage. Several times he looked up at the cameras to smile and stick his tongue out. One of the times he did it, he was taken down while showboating. In the end, Ellenberger took the split decision.
Flyweight Ray Borg rebounded from a loss in his debut to utterly dominate Shane Howell who also took the fight on short notice. Borg wasted no time getting the fight to the ground and sinking in a rear-naked choke. In his first attempt, Howell fended off the submission. Still, Borg stuck with it and again found the opportunity. This time, Howell would go out from the choke. He earned Performance of the Night for his effort.
Lastly, Carlos Diego Ferreira soared to victory in his promotional debut finishing season 16 Ultimate Fighter winner Colton Smith. He used a modified rear-naked choke to submit Smith and remain undefeated. He too raked in a $50,000 bonus for the finish.
Smith has now lost 3 of his last 4 in the UFC. Aside from defeating Mike Ricci in to become the TUF 16 winner, Smith hasn’t won since.
On the UFC Fight Night 43 main card, Hatsu Hioki and Charles Oliveira took the cake when it came down to flaunting their skills in grappling and the submission game. Coming in with highly touted credentials as Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts and 22 submissions between them, Oliveira stunned in a breakthrough performance.
Oliveira has been up against some top competition in the UFC. When he’s faced the best of the best, Oliveira has failed to bring home a signature win. That was not the case in Auckland, New Zealand. At just 24-years old, “Do Bronx” became the first man to ever stop Hioki in his 37-fight career.
From the onset, both men went after submissions. Hioki went for a triangle. Oliveira went for a standing guillotine early and the back and forth exchanges would continue. While neither could secure the early finish, their persistance and elite level ground work exceeded expectations.
During a very close ground battle waged in the second round, where both made attempts to submit the other, there was a pause in the action for an eye poke delivered by Hioki. Oliveira found an opportunity to latch in an arm-in guillotine in the second.
Hioki has now lost 4 of his last 5 in the UFC. Charles Oliveira now owns back-to-back wins and took a performance bonus home.
In the main event for New Zealand, Nate Marquardt made quick work of James Te Huna, who had fired up the Vector Arena by coming out to a traditional Maori Haka dance. Despite the warrior entrance, Te Huna couldn’t avoid sucuumbing to am armbar submission. The move back up to middleweight proved to be what Marquardt needed to rebound from 3 straight losses. “The Great” also took home a bonus for Performance of the Night.
For Te Huna, who was making his debut at 185-pounds, he has now lost 3 consecutive fights. The finish marked the sixth time out of his seven losses he’s been submitted.
Newcomers Dan Hooker and Ian Entwistle put on an interesting showdown at lightweight. A native of New Zealand, Hooker elbowed his way out of a heel hook to earn his first win in the UFC. Enwistle snagged the submission early, but Hooker stayed patient and composed. Once he found his opening, he unloaded brutal elbows to finish the fight.
Also making an impact from UFC Fight Night 43, Gian Villante and Sean O’Connell who both took home Fight of the Night in their outing. Vic Grujik also powered his way to his first UFC win knocking out his former TUF Nations teammate, Chris Indich.