Last night (Sat., Nov. Dec. 3, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) traveled to Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., for UFC Orlando. The event was a clear step up from recent UFC Apex shows. Entertaining and established names like Tai Tuivasa, Clay Guida and Rafael dos Anjos, among others, filled up the card top-to-bottom, making for a consistently fun night of action. As an added bonus, several fights were between ranked contenders, meaning there were real title implications as well.
Let’s take a look at UFC Orlando’s best performances and techniques:
An Instant Classic
Kevin Holland vs. Stephen Thompson delivered more than we possibly could have hoped, largely because neither man played it safe.
Holland should have played it a bit safer. He dove straight into Thompson’s counter punches, and “Wonderboy” does not punch soft! Really, Holland’s strategy seemed to entail waiting for Thompson to throw and then attacking with wild combinations. He gave the interesting look of leaping into his combinations, but he did so too often, opening himself up to counter shots.
Still, it worked quite a bit through the first ten minutes. Holland hurt Thompson badly, and he barely missed quite a few likely fight-ending swings. It does go to show, however, that no matter how solid a fighter’s jawline, absorbing shots does count for something.
It was also a bad idea to willingly give up top position, even if we viewers benefitted.
“Wonderboy” looked so damn fast last night, it’s incredible. How is the man nearly 40 years old and still fighting at such an elite level? His cardio and quickness are still world-class, not to mention his legendary kickboxing skill. His counter crosses and darting straights were on point from the first bell, but those kicks! He clearly injured Holland’s arm with his power left kick, the same weapon that had Holland shooting desperately later in the fight when taken to the body. Then, how many spin kicks and hook kicks did Thompson sneak around the guard, straight to the jaw? An unreasonable amount!
As it stands, Thompson is probably never going to become UFC champion. He fought Tyron Woodley twice and came up essentially even with “T-Wood,” and thus the stars didn’t align for him. Even so, he’s an absolutely remarkable and unique athlete, and I hope this isn’t the last chance we get to see “Wonderboy” successfully show off his art inside the Octagon.
Back at 170 pounds, Rafael dos Anjos demonstrated his grappling dominance.
The Brazilian soundly outwrestled Bryan Barberena, who is not exactly helpless on the mat. He was hitting inside trips and chaining takedowns beautifully. Barberena was thoroughly smothered on bottom position and eventually strangled, failing to land anything significant in the process.
It’s always fun to be reminded of just how great of a wrestler/grappler dos Anjos is. It’s a testament to the talents of men like Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, and Khabib Nurmagomedov that there were able to employ that same strategy against him, because “RDA” is genuinely a damn good wrestler by MMA standards.
Lastly, it probably won’t happen, but calling out Conor McGregor was a sage move from the former champion. That fight should happen!
A Flyweight Contender
Matheus Nicolau really dominated Matt Schnell last night. He spent most of the first round just circling and picking up reads, blocking his opponent’s attempts at offense. Just as the boo birds began to sing, Nicolau dropped Schnell with a cracking left hook — it would not be the final knockdown.
Schnell is tough, and he survived into the second. Nicolau really had his timing down by that point, and the second knockdown came soon afterward, a darting cross straight to the jaw. Twice more Schnell hit the canvas, and on the final occasion, he was flat on his stomach and fully gone.
Nicolau is 4-0 since returning to the UFC, and he just outclassed a longtime Top 10 member. It’s time to push the Brazilian in the title mix, assuming UFC decides someone other than Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo should ever fight for the 125-pound title.
I don’t know how we’re supposed to learn anything from Sergei Pavlovich fights when he knocks everyone senseless so quickly. Just as he did to Derrick Lewis back in July, Pavlovich immediately swarmed Tuivasa with a hail of nasty right hands. Despite the aggression, he maintained composure and form too, quickly destroying the Aussie slugger.
He’s now a bonafide Top Five contender in a thin division. It feels like it’s time for him to face someone extremely established like Ciryl Gane or Stipe Miocic, even though we hardly know much about him! Good luck trying to watch film on the Russian, as there’s only one lesson to be learned.
Don’t get hit by that right hand!
Roman Dolidze pulled off some seriously slick Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to come-from-behind against Jack Hermansson. For a more in-depth breakdown of his techniques and strategy, check out my full article HERE.
Return Of Ya Boi
When Eryk Anders first made a splash inside the Octagon, he did so by knocking jiu-jitsu guys senseless. He is genuinely very difficult to take down, and when in close distance, Anders’ clubbing power is a real problem — that’s why he was given a main event slot in his third UFC fight!
Since then, Anders’ progress up the ladder stalled. He’s bounced around weight classes and had some miserably flat performances. Several times, he’s focused too much on his wrestling, ignoring his strongest attributes of physicality and a heavy left hand.
Last night, the “Ya Boi” of old returned. He abused Kyle Daukaus, beating the grappler from pillar-to-post. Each time Daukaus tried to wrestle, he was smacked upside the head by big hooks, and Anders’ punches were really hurting him.
Anders also showed some good technical development. He was giving interesting looks in ripping the body with his lead hand, as well as hiding his left high kick behind his combinations. If Anders can maintain this level of aggression and activity, he’s once again an interesting slugger at 185 pounds.
A War At Welterweight
Niko Price never fails to deliver a brawl.
In his first fight in over a year after knee surgery, Price looked a bit rusty. His timing was off, which is never a great trait, but it’s especially problematic against an opponent with a massive reach. Phillip Rowe was patient and accurate, throwing far fewer strikes but nevertheless connecting on the nastier blows. His right hand was on point, hurting Price badly in the first round.
Price started heating up in the second, marching his way forward with combinations more often. However, a slick guillotine to back take transition from Rowe cost him another round. With five minutes to go, Price pulled out all the stops, and it worked! He stunned Rowe, who was fatiguing, and chased him all over the cage, landing punches-in-bunches.
Somehow, Rowe survived and returned to his feet. Price had fully emptied the tank, and Rowe still had snap on his punches. “The Hybrid” was reduced to a punching bag, and Rowe completely turned the tables to secure his own stoppage win just moments after nearly being battered.
That’s a great win for “Philly Fresh.”
A Standout On The ‘Prelims’
Lots of Contender Series products come and go, but only a select few stand the test of time.
Francis Marshall looks to be one of them. The 23-year-old debutante is clearly still a touch rough-around-the-edges, which is perfectly reasonable given his level of experience and youth. His talent, however, is clear. Marcelo Rojo is not a perfect fighter, but he’s a hard-nosed veteran with nasty offensive Muay Thai, and Marshall just smoked him! When an inexperienced wrestler shows comfort in the pocket and vicious power this early in his career, he’s definitely one to watch.
- Yazmin Jauregui defeats Istela Nunes via second-round knockout (watch highlights): Jauregui is legit! After a bonus-winning performance in her debut back in August, Jauregui followed up in style against a decorated kickboxer. Nunes started the fight strong, showcasing a strong control of range, but Jauregui’s ability to build combinations eventually overwhelmed her. In the second, Jauregui continually swung big enough to get Nunes backing off, then she swarmed before Nunes could reset her stance. The result was several big connections, a pair of knockdowns, and a brutal flurry of ground strikes.
For complete UFC Orlando: “Thompson vs. Holland” results and play-by-play, click HERE.
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