The UFC made their first trip to Maine last Saturday, and after 5 straight finishes on the main card Ryan Bader earned a decision victory over Ovince St. Preux in the main event. Bader’s wrestling was too much for OSP, who was taken down for the first time in his UFC career, and OSP didn’t have any answers for Bader, with the exception of his striking in round 2 which won him that round on all cards.
This fight was somewhat lackluster overall, and the only really exciting parts were the heavy striking of OSP hitting Bader in short bursts. Bader has become a consistent fighter, consistently stuck at the bottom of the top 10 and he proved that nothing changed after this fight. Bader has heavy hands and solid wrestling to use when that fails, but if he can’t get the knockout or do a large amount of damage on the feet it is likely to be a long and uneventful night. Bader needs an opponent near the bottom of the top 10, but above him in order to see if he takes a step forward or backwards, as he didn’t make a big statement in this fight. Bader vs. the loser of Phil Davis vs. Glover Teixeira might be a good fight to book following their bout later this fall, giving Bader time to heal his frequently ailing hands. OSP has a ton of raw talent and athleticism, but needs to tame those assets into technical ability with a higher fight IQ in order to move towards the top of the division, and a rebound fight vs. Jimi Manuwa would be a good test to see who has the technical skills to match the outstanding physical assets that both men possess.
Ross Pearson faced Gray Maynard in the co-main event to determine who can get or keep a spot in the top 15. The long and damaging career of Maynard was quite evident, as after some back and forth exchanges on the feet where both fighters looked to give some and take some shots, possibly being a little bit rocked, Pearson landed several punches which knocked down Maynard, who turned his back to Pearson in a futile effort to block the incoming shots that led to the referee to stopping the fight since Maynard was not defending himself. While Dana White stated after the fight that he won’t force Maynard to retire, someone close to him needs to enable him to realize that while fighting is what he knows and loves, after 3 straight knockout losses he needs to retire for the future health of his brain, because on top of those 3 straight losses he has another one earlier in his career on top of the countless blows that he’s taken in training. Pearson should take Maynard’s spot in the lightweight rankings and he should face someone in the bottom of the top 15 once again, because while Maynard was ranked in the top 15 the main reason for that ranking was the trilogy he had with former champion with Frankie Edgar, since his title shot he has 1 draw, 4 knockout losses and 1 split decision win. Rustam Khabilov would be good opponents for Pearson next.
Tim Boetsch fought for the time in his home state near his hometown, against Brad Tavares, looking to rebound from a stretch that saw him go 1-3 with a lone split decision victory. Tavares punished Boetsch with hard shots, drawing blood in the first round and showing signs that a finish could come in the second round. While the finish came in the second round, it wasn’t at the hands of Tavares, as Boetsch bounced back to land 2 hard shots that both dropped Tavares, and some ground and pound after the second knockdown prompted the ref to intervene. Boetsch showed the same killer instinct that he used to take out Yushin Okami back in 2012, but this time it took less shots to end the fight. Boetsch needs to fight someone at the bottom of the top 15, maybe the winner of Thales Leites vs. Francis Carmont, and Tavares needs to work his way back with an opponent out of the middleweight rankings.
Alan Jouban made his UFC debut against veteran Seth Baczynski, and while I am always hesitant to pick against newcomers, especially when they debut against veterans, my choice was clearly wrong in this outing. Jouban and Baczynski had a few wild exchanges before Jouban was able to find the chin of Baczynski and separate him from his consciousness. The former runway model has a clear place on the UFC roster with a strong and exciting debut, finding the finish just before the end of the first round. Jouban needs to slowly work his way up the welterweight ladder, maybe facing someone who’s been awhile like Neil Magny in his next outing, and Baczynski needs to get some wins out of the UFC before we see him again inside the octagon.
Shawn Jordan and Jack May faced off in a heavyweight bout that promised a quick finish, and while the fight lasted for almost two and a half rounds, Jordan eventually found the TKO in the third round. Jordan showed visible damage on his face for almost the entirety of the fight, trading shots with the taller opponent in May throughout the fight, and at times struggling to get past the reach advantage his foe possessed. Jordan was able to get on the inside and get the finish on the ground after tagging May on the feet. Jordan can match up with any of the newly signed heavyweights who are looking to work their way up the ladder much like he is, and May needs to spend some time outside of the UFC after 2 straight knockout losses in the UFC with no wins.
The main card opened with Thiago Tavares facing off against Robbie Peralta, and Tavares making the cut from lightweight to featherweight for the first time saw his size and power transition well to the new weight class. Cutting to a lower weight class can either be a big disadvantage in the cardio and power department, or a big advantage in the speed and strength department, and fortunately for Tavares it was the latter. Tavares was dominant everywhere, getting takedowns, punishing with strikes, threatening with jiu jitsu and eventually found a rear naked choke to get the tap right before the end of the first round. Tavares should stay at featherweight despite his vocal intentions to move back up in his post fight interview, and should face someone who is on the verge of being ranked because he looked like an absolutely terrifying matchup for anyone outside of the rankings. Peralta needs to work his way up with opponents who are on a 1 or 2 fight losing streak at featherweight.
Jussier Formiga tried and succeeded to derail the hype-train behind Zach Makovski Sara McMann faced off against debuting, undefeated prospect Lauren Murphy, a bout where McMann was the biggest favorite on the entire card. McMann won the fight by decision, but she did not have the decisive performance that she needed to keep her name in talks of the title, winning a split decision. The judges were torn between awarding the first round to either fighter, as McMann showed off her wrestling credentials to end up on top with significant offense outside of a few shots after that, and Murphy landing frequent uneventful blows from the bottom. The same chain of events led McMann to win the second round clearly, and a struggle to get the takedown, some losing exchanges on the feet and more work from the bottom gave Murphy the third round. If this fight was meant to possibly determine who was going to be in talks of the title in the near future, it didn’t achieve that at all, as both fighters showed massive holes, in either wrestling, striking and certainly strategy.
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