The UFC had three events in three days in Las Vegas as part of their International Fight Week. It all started with UFC Fight Night 90, followed by the TUF 23 Finale, and finally capped off with one of the biggest UFC events ever in UFC 200. That brings the overall records to 56-36 for the Heart and 53-39 for the Brain. There were so many big moments over those three events it would be easy to lose track. I could easily make a list of the top 20 moments, but I won’t make everyone invest that much time in reading them so I’ll condense the list down to the top 10 moments of UFC’s International Fight Week:
- Gastelum Outstrikes Hendricks
Kelvin Gastelum and Johny Hendricks have both had a tough time making the welterweight limit in the past. Both fighters had to make use of the towel in order to successfully make the 171 pound weight limit. Gastelum succeeded in making weight, but Hendricks fell just short and was fined 20% of his purse. That was definitely a precursor to how the fight would go. Hendricks looked off all night and Gastelum pushed the pace and constantly beat him to the punch. Gastelum took home a clean sweep on the judge’s scorecards with the exception of one judge giving Hendricks one round. Hendricks has now lost two in a row and three of his past four. He’ll definitely need to reevaluate things following this loss. Gastelum picked up the biggest win of his career and gets back into the win column after a split decision loss to Neil Magny in his previous fight. He’ll definitely be looking to take on another top 10 opponent in his next fight.
- Sanchez and Suarez Take TUF Crowns
The men’s light heavyweight final was between Andrew Sanchez and Khalil Rountree. Sanchez was definitely looking to avoid the big power of Rountree and constantly took the fight to the ground. Rountree appeared to have no answer for the multiple takedowns and was unable to return to the feet as the fight wore on. Sanchez walked away the winner with a clear decision. The women’s strawweight final was between Tatiana Suarez and Amanda Bobby Cooper. Suarez was able to get on top early and rain down punches while keeping Cooper down. Suarez was able to find an opening and was able to lock in a slick brabo choke that forced the tap from Cooper. Both TUF winners received a brand new Harley Davidson in addition to their UFC contract. Suarez was also given a $50,000 Performance of the Night Bonus for her submission as well.
- Velasquez Looks Sharp in Return
Cain Velasquez returned to action for this first time since his June 2015 title loss to Fabricio Werdum. Injuries have really derailed his momentum over the past few years and kept him from being active. Travis Browne was looking to build some momentum of his own coming off of a TKO win over Matt Mitrione. I thought Browne could give Velasquez some trouble given his height, but Velasquez was on point from the start. Cain did a nice job of pressing the action and even added a spinning heel kick to his repertoire. He was really able to use his wrestling to set up his punches. He caught Browne several times, and with time winding down in the first round, Velasquez dropped Browne and hammered away until the fight was stopped with only three seconds remaining in the round. Browne has now alternated wins and losses in his last six fights. His job should still be safe, but he just can’t seem to break into the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. Velasquez looked solid throughout the fight and if he can stay healthy a title shot against the winner of the Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem fight may be in his near future.
- Brooks Wins UFC Debut
I was shocked that Bellator didn’t was to resign Will Brooks, but I was definitely glad to hear that he was able to sign with the UFC. He was faced with a tough task in his debut by taking a short-notice fight against the always tough Ross Pearson. Pearson would be a solid gage for Brooks to see just how he truly stacks up in the UFC. Although anyone that has watched Brooks fight knows he belongs, he proved it to everyone by taking a 29-28 unanimous decision over Pearson. Brooks did a nice job of striking at range and he was definitely the aggressor in the first two rounds. He faded a bit in the third and allowed Pearson to come back into the fight, but I definitely think his next fight will be no problem given a chance at a full camp. Pearson is a longtime vet, but he has alternated wins and losses in his past nine fights. Although I don’t think he’ll get cut, I don’t think he’ll break into the rankings either. I’m excited to see who Brooks will fight next and see how far he can go in the UFC.
- Cormier Tops Silva
Had Daniel Cormier actually fought Jon Jones, this would’ve likely topped the list no matter the outcome. However, Cormier had to settle for fighting Anderson Silva on two days’ notice after Jones was removed from the card. Cormier was definitely cautious of Silva’s power and spent most of the fight holding Silva down on the mat. In the end Cormier easily cruised to a unanimous decision. Silva is now without an official win since October of 2012. Cormier has now won three in a row since losing the only fight of his career against Jones. Since it appears that Jones won’t be fighting any time soon, a fight between the winner of Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira makes the most sense.
- Aldo Captures Interim Featherweight Title
Since Conor McGregor opted for a second fight with Nate Diaz (at welterweight for some reason), the UFC decided to make this fight for the interim featherweight title. Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar first fought back in 2013 with Aldo retaining his title. Many thought the second fight would be different, especially since Aldo was coming off of a KO loss to McGregor. However, Frankie didn’t seem to have the answer for Aldo. The first round was fairly close, but Aldo really started to pull away after that. Any time Edgar would try to get in close Aldo would land precision shots to halt his advances. Edgar tried, but just couldn’t find the opportunity to really get any momentum against Aldo. The judge’s decision wasn’t in question; it was just a matter of how many rounds were scored for Aldo. The judges ended up scoring the fight 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47 for Aldo. Edgar has now lost to Aldo twice and his best shot at a second belt would appear to be a cut to bantamweight to face Dominick Cruz. Aldo is now the interim champ and will be looking for a rematch against Conor McGregor after he fights Diaz at UFC 202.
- Brock Successful in UFC Return
Brock Lesnar felt the itch to fight again and the WWE granted him the opportunity to step back inside the Octagon. He was on a two fight losing streak when he decided to hang it up the first time. For his return he was given no easy opponent. Quite the opposite actually; he was given the hardest hitting heavyweight in the UFC, Mark Hunt. There was no question that Lesnar would try to get the fight to the ground, while Hunt would try to knock Brock out on the feet. The only question was whose gameplan would succeed. Both men were cautious at the start. Lesnar was finally able to land a takedown and some ground and pound. Hunt was eventually able to get back up but was taken down again and mounted right at the end of the first. In the second Lesnar tried several times to get the fight to the floor, but didn’t have any success. He did manage to avoid taking too many hard punches, but it looked like Hunt was able to take the round. It looked to be all tied up after two rounds. Hunt tried to connect early in the third, but was taken down and spent the rest of the round absorbing heavy shots with Lesnar on top of him. It was a bit of a surprise to see this fight go to a decision as I figured someone was getting knocked out. The judges scored the last round 10-8 in Brock’s favor, giving him the fight 29-27 on all scorecards. A fight between Mark Hunt and Travis Browne would make a lot of sense. If Lesnar does decide to return, he’s put himself right there in the mix for a title shot, and could be afforded one early given his massive drawing power.
- Alvarez Batters dos Anjos
There weren’t a lot of people picking Eddie Alvarez to win this fight. I would mainly attribute that to how unstoppable Rafael dos Anjos looked in his past few fights. Even fewer people were picking Eddie to win with a first round beatdown of the champ. Many people were upset at Alvarez’s “boring” performances since coming to the UFC, but they definitely got a vintage Alvarez performance. A massive right hook by Alvarez badly hurt dos Anjos. Alvarez followed with brutal shots against the fence. The referee mercifully waived off the fight and just like that Eddie realizes his potential in the UFC by becoming lightweight champion. dos Anjos has a ton of possibilities for his next fight in the stacked lightweight division, but he should get a top 10 opponent for sure. Alvarez will likely be looking at Khabib Nurmagomedov for his first title defense, and if for some reason the oft-injured Khabib is unable to fight, Tony Ferguson would be a likely suitor assuming he wins his fight on Wednesday.
- Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha Put on a Show
Of all of the fights over the three different events, this one is hands down my favorite. It came extremely close to making my number one moment of the weekend. Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha first met in 2014 with Jedrzejczyk getting the split nod, though I personally scored if for Gadelha. Claudia really went to work in the first two rounds of this fight. She was able to put Jedrzejczyk in trouble several times and constantly battered the champion with big shots. Joanna was somehow able to take them on the chin and keep coming. The tide really shifted in the third round. It was clear that Gadelha was starting to fade due to the heavy pace in the first two rounds. Jedrzejczyk kicked things up a notch and went to work against the tired Gadelha. She consistently landed two, three, and four punch combinations with solid kicks mixed in there as well. Joanna came close to getting the finish in the fourth round, and it appeared that she could very well secure finish in the fifth and final round. Claudia seemed to have gotten a little energy back and emptied the rest of her tank, knowing she needed to win the final round. Jedrzejczyk simply had too much energy left and continued her striking assault on the exhausted Gadelha. The referees scored the fight 48-45, 48-46, and 48-46 for Jedrzejczyk. Both women showed an incredible amount of heart in this fight and it was easily one of my favorite fights of 2016 so far. Gadelha won’t drop too far down the standings, but she’ll definitely need a string of quality wins to get another title shot as long as Jedrzejczyk is still the champ. Joanna’s next title defense will likely come against the winner of the Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz fight.
- Nunes Dominates Tate
Everyone knew that Amanda Nunes had power, but not many expected her to put on the dominant performance against Miesha Tate that she did. Nunes was able to blast Tate with powerful strikes from the start of the fight. It was clear Tate was hurt and Nunes patiently but aggressively went to work trying to get the finish. Tate went for a desperation takedown, but Nunes easily defended and took Tate’s back. She quickly sunk in a rear-naked choke and forced Tate to tap. This makes four different champions in the last four women’s bantamweight fights. This division seems wide open with the temporary departure of Ronda Rousey. A matchup between Tate and Julianna Pena would make some sense. They have trained together in the past, but Pena said she wanted the belt even before Tate lost this fight. Nunes would almost definitely face Rousey if she returns. Otherwise, she may face the winner of the Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko fight coming up in two weeks.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for a preview of Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 91 which features a bantamweight clash between John Lineker and Michael McDonald
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