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UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ 3: Błachowicz vs. Santos (2/23/2019) - Prague, Czech Republic (O2 Arena)

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UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ 3: Błachowicz vs. Santos 
February 23, 2019
Prague, Czech Republic (O2 Arena)

Jan Błachowicz (205) vs. Thiago Santos (204) - Santos, TKO (punches), R3 (0:39)
Stefan Struve (263) vs. Marcos Rogério de Lima (255) - Struve, SUB (arm triangle choke), R2 (2:21)
Gian Villante (206) vs. Michał Oleksiejczuk (204) - Oleksiejczuk, KO (body punch), R1 (1:34)
Liz Carmouche (125) vs. Lucie Pudilová (126) - Carmouche, DEC (unanimous)
John Dodson (136) vs. Petr Yan (136) - Yan, DEC (unanimous)
Magomed Ankalaev (204) vs. Klidson Abreu (209)** - Ankalaev, DEC (unanimous)

ESPN2 Preliminary Card:
Carlo Pedersoli Jr. (171) vs. Dwight Grant (171) - Grant, KO (punches), R1 (4:59)
Daniel Teymur (146) vs. Chris Fishgold (145) - Fishgold, SUB (rear naked choke), R2 (1:10)
Veronica Macedo (126) vs. Gillian Robertson (125) - Robertson, SUB (rear naked choke), R2 (3:27)
Damir Hadžović (155) vs. Polo Reyes (155) - Hadžović, TKO (punches), R2 (2:03)
Michel Prazeres (170) vs. Ismail Naurdiev (170) - Naurdiev, DEC (unanimous)
Rustam Khabilov (156) vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira (157)* - Ferreira, DEC (unanimous)
Damir Ismagulov (155) vs. Joel Alvarez (156) - Ismagulov, DEC (unanimous)

*Forfeits 20% of purse for missing weight
**Forfeits 20% of purse for missing weight

Event Bonuses ($50,000)
Performance of the Night: Dwight Grant
Performance of the Night: Michał Oleksiejczuk
Performance of the Night: Stefan Struve
Performance of the Night: Thiago Santos

Attendance: 16,583
Gate: $1.606 million

Cancelled Fights:
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Darko Stošić - Injury to Stošić
Sam Alvey vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov - Injury to Antigulov
Michel Prazeres vs. Ramazan Emeev - Injury to Emeev
 

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Dodson is a pretty big step up in competition. Looking forward to that.

Is this Santos' trap fight?

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I know I will watch the ESPN 2 part of the card. 

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1 hour ago, Oyaji said:

Dodson is a pretty big step up in competition. Looking forward to that.

Is this Santos' trap fight?

Probably, but then again, maybe that's his level though. Błachowicz is a pretty decent gatekeeper at 205. The problem with Marreta is he lives and dies on the basis him being able to hurt and then straight up blitzkrieg his opponents. Błachowicz got hit with a few good shots by Manuwa in their rematch that normally gets a majority of his foes outta there, but Błachowicz was durable enough to grab the decision and win rounds. Błachowicz's problem is that he doesn't deal with wrestlers well. He's been in the UFC for a little over four years and hasn't been finished yet though. If Marreta can't finish him off in the first two rounds, can he stay in the fight long enough not to lose a 48-47 decision? Fighting an unprepared Eryk Anders who is a work in progress in five rounds is much different than a guy who has shown he can stay upright and doesn't just crumble at the first sign of adversity. This is less a trap fight and more a test to see if Marreta can perform at a more adequate level than he did at 185.

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I can't really argue about the Khabilov vs. Ferreira decision. Rustam was basically getting takedowns and doing nothing with them or just letting Ferreira get back up or sweep him. Then, he was backing up and getting hit frequently. I thought Ferreira would be the one who would look uncomfortable striking, but that wasn't the case.

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Prazeres was so tired after the third round, he couldn't get up. Nuardiev tried to help him up, but he was just yanking on his arm while the guy laid there like a fallen tree. Hadzovic was pretty impressive though. He looked outclassed early, but that was super hard GnP to get the win.

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Pedersoli was going for a high kick. But he was punched so hard, it turned into a missed Enziugiri.

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Just settling in for this now but I don't know if there's anybody else out there, particularly in the lighter weight classes, whose defense relies so much on just the threat of offense as Petr Yan. His hand speed, timing, accuracy, and power let him get away with very little head movement in the pocket. He has some of the best feints I've seen in MMA. He doesn't paw or throw lazy feints out there. He waits until he'd actually throw a power shot and then it's a crisp, short in and out. Every feint means something with him. He can stand there and basically engage in a staring contest because of the danger he presents offensively and it freezes fighters. He's a pressure fighter but not in an overly aggressive or reckless sense. He's always pushing forward to get into the very edge of boxing range and the threat of strikes are almost always there, so he doesn't even need to go crazy with volume. He does have very good footwork and is excellent at circling away and throwing check hooks on the counter too, so it's not entirely just scaring opponents but I do feel like it is a significant part of his game. The lack of head movement may be concerning though moving forward. Dodson's regressed a lot but still has pretty good hand speed and power. That one straight landed cleanly but Yan was able to recover quickly after being dropped. But his footwork and distance control is so fucking good that he usually just moves out of range of punches or at the very end where most of the power is gone. Could do without the fingers out towards his opponents though.

He's also got sneaky great kicks that he throws in every so often to keep opponents guessing. One body kick to Dodson's ribs left him with a huge welt.

Petr Yan, pretty good at MMA. 

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I think Dodson made a pretty big tactical miscalculation. When I saw him still with the big Afro in the interviews, I assumed he'd have it in cornrows by the time the fight happened. But instead he went with a fronytail that came loose really early on. He's lucky he has such a masculine hairline, or it would have been getting in his eyes and stuff.

Also, he puts a bit too much faith in his power. I dunno, outside of Jon Jones, it looks like Jackson/Wink has turned into a pretty mediocre gym lately. Feels like AKA and ATT are both well ahead of them now, and they were well behind a few years ago.

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It might just be me, but light heavyweight is definitely looking better than it has in a while. Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos were great additions to 205. People need to take Thiago Santos a lot more seriously now. He was a pretty tough middleweight, and now he's surging at 205. He also just beat Jan Blachowicz in the midst of his best UFC run ever.

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Some of my thoughts after catching up:

- When I was doing my picks earlier this morning, looking back over their respective records, I was surprised that Polo Reyes was at even odds with Damir Hadžović. Hadžović has fought way tougher opponents (Taisumov, Marcin Held, Alan Patrick,  and Nick Hein) and looked more sturdy during his UFC tenure even if the record was 2-2.  Polo Reyes was 4-1 but those four wins: Cesar Arzamendia, Maestro Kim, Jason Novelli, and Matt Frevola. He didn't look like a good fighter against James Vick. I think the fight at UFC 199 bought him enough goodwill to make people believe he isn't a fringe level UFC fighter. I say that because his best win Dong Hyun Ma fka Maestro Kim aka not Stun Gun got absolutely destroyed by Devonte Smith a couple weeks back in Melbourne. Maybe Devonte Smith does something in the UFC, but that looked like a squash match with someone who doesn't belong in the UFC. You can have great fights with fighters who don't belong in the UFC in the UFC, and I think that's more and more what Reyes-Ma/Kim was as time goes on. Being a Mexican fighter got Polo Reyes in the UFC and the crazy fight with Maestro kept him in the UFC. So I went w/Hadžović as my pick and wasn't shocked when Hadžović steamrolled him. 

- Sabina Mazo may be looking at her future with Veronica Macedo going 0-3 in the UFC. I think the head kick KO in her amateur career made people think that Macedo can pull that off at will in the pro ranks. The woman she head kicked got head kicked in her next (and last) fight but that time in 16 seconds (8 seconds faster). Macedo is a solid striker, but she doesn't have the grappling ability to be in the UFC. They gave Macedo an easier opponent than Ashlee Evans-Smith and a much easier opponent than Andrea Lee, and she got submitted. I don't see Mazo just head kicking people in the UFC, and I think her last couple fights in LFA are more realistic to what she probably would do in the UFC. Macedo is probably Bellator bound because of her looks because her UFC run is definitely over. One flyweight from South America known for head kicks leaves and the next one arrives next month in Philadelphia.

- I think what makes Petr Yan great in my estimation is Dodson dropping him twice is something that would happen all the time to someone if they marched in at people. Yan is extremely good at effectively pressuring his opponents and throws crisp combinations in addition to being able to switch stances no problem. Getting caught on the button and going down didn't slow him one bit. Besides DJ, Dodson is use to people staying down when he does land flush. Yan just popped right back up and was moving forward hitting Dodson when he wanted to. That's something you look for as far as a prospect going to the next level is: how they handle adversity and what their natural inclination is. By the third round, Dodson just kinda looked bewildered especially when Yan just snatched him down to the ground causing Dodson to go facefirst into the mat. Yan not only tries to swamp you with activity but he is willing to fight you anywhere. He didn't do what Magomed Ankalaev did earlier against Abreu or several other fighters have done in the UFC where they look decidedly better on the feet and for no reason grab for a single. Yan does it in a more elaborate and strategic way where he is absolutely forcing you to be ready to stop getting hit with left hands, straight rights, uppercuts, flying knees, low kicks, spinning back kicks, spinning wheel kicks in addition to stopping the trip takedowns, the go behinds, and the double legs. He can literally attempt and successfully pull off any of those techniques based on what makes the most sense at the time as opposed to let me just do something to look busy or this person might be slowing down. There is a method to the madness. I can't wait to see who he fights next.

Re: Jackson/Wink. I don't think it's fair to compare any gym to American Top Team because they have sheer numbers on any gym. I see Conan, Katel Kubis, Mike Brown, Dyah Davis, or Marcos da Matta damn near every week either in some combo or by themselves. Din Thomas has his own fighters as well. It's been that way for years now. AKA still has some decent fighters (like Dwight Grant who won on this card) in addition to DC, Khabib, Rockhold, and Cain but there are not above and beyond a Jackson/Wink. They are comparable in the very least. I think today you have some better smaller gyms like Fortis MMA or the MMA Lab and fighters are more capable of making wiser decisions when it comes to their choice of coaches. I mean you still get the Pennington/Tecia Torres thing of let's just go to some camp in Colorado with no history of producing successful fighters, but that's still mostly something prevalent with fighters on the prelims who still have a day job. Even then, some of those guys look way better than fighters in the same predicament ten years ago. You don't have to be with a super team to be a great fighter anymore and to beat fighters who train with one.

Michał Oleksiejczuk may be...good? Like I dunno, man. He comes off a USADA suspension and somehow looks better than he did against Rountree. Hardy pointed this out immediately: he's undersized at 205 but he moves fast as hell. That body shot was absolutely wicked. Maybe it was the style matchup, but he looks like somebody who could at the very least blow the doors off of fighters who just been at 205 not doing a whole bunch. It's time for new blood at light heavyweight.

- Sad to see Struve go, but he won in the most Stefan Struve manner possible. He got concussed inside of 15 seconds, recovered, and then took the guy down and submitted him easily the next round. He underachieved greatly in the UFC, especially when he left Bob Schrijber for a little while for the first time in his career to be at Jaco Hybrid Training Center/Blackzilians only to be the same fighter, to the point where I think they just put him against anyone with no rhyme or reason. People thought he was just going to put weight or muscle on like a one-and-done at Kentucky or Duke who was a 1st round pick in the NBA draft. We've come to find out over the years it just doesn't happen that way. He has had fights where he absolutely trucks people (see the fight against the more famous Pezao), but usually he looks like a 7'0" fighter who at worst is a magnet for punches and gets flattened and at best struggles somewhat before taking over. If this is it for him, good on him for knowing that it wasn't going to magically turn around just because he is still young. He is saving himself from ten years of more damage.

- It was intriguing to see Marreta be patient in the fight against Jan Błachowicz. I think he knows he has that tendency to run into punches as well and even though Błachowicz isn't a puncher, he can catch you and then finish you on the ground. I mean Marreta was still throwing ridiculous windmills at a couple points, but he was clearly trying to stay out of harm's way as to not eat that counter. I think on the part of Błachowicz, he knew it was going to be an ugly stalemate if he didn't force the issue. On one hand, you question why someone would wildly throw strikes at Marreta while backing him up to the fence forgetting to look out for a left hook counter. On the other hand, you put yourself in an odd spot because a pedestrian fight with nothing going on with small bursts of offense here and there doesn't afford you the ability to effectively win rounds. Moreover, he had to expend the gas tank of Marreta. Just throwing outside low kicks wasn't really going to do it. So hats off to Marreta for getting it done. I think my one big drawback with Marreta here is he didn't really have to do or show anything extra to get it done. No fault of his own, but I don't see an avenue to win over a Jon Jones or even an Alexander Gustafsson. Marreta still needs you leave that door open so he can walk through it. Against the very best in any division, unless it's a Fabricio Werdum letting Stipe cold cock him as Werdum frantically stumbles toward him and essentially what Błachowicz did against Marreta, you have to force those openings to be created. I think the weight cut likely did have an effect on Marreta's performance down a weight class, but at his core, he is still the same fighter in terms of his habits. He will either win big or lose big. As a fan, I don't really have a problem with that. Just temper the expectations.

 

 

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