by Donny Rockett. @drockett6969
Off the heels of one of the year’s best events, several fighters answered a lot of questions and some left us with more questions then answers. Let’s take a look down the card and look ahead to some match ups that could make sense for each of the winners this past Saturday.
Hakeem Dawodu started off the card with a very good performance against the always dangerous, Julio Arce. He stifled Arce’s offense and looked extremely strong in the clinch. Dawodu has very good size at featherweight and has now reeled off 4 wins in a row. Arce, really fell into Dawodu’s game and didn’t use the threat of his ground game to give Dawodu any trouble. In Dawodu’s next fight I would like to see him against a guy who is also surging and who would implement his grappling heavy game, and see how Dawodu’s takedown defense and Muay Thai matches up.
- Next Matchup: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Dan Ige
The second fight of the night we saw Lyman Good vs. Chance Rencountre. It was a great bounce back performance for Good, as he thoroughly controlled and dominated the very tough Rencountre, in route to a 3rd round TKO finish. Lyman Good’s career has been riddled with injuries and the Tiger Schulman standout was able to come in, get the dominant win, and fight for the second time in a calendar year for the first time since 2015. He exits this fight healthy and I think we should see him in the 1st quarter of 2020. It would make sense to give him someone coming off a win and someone ranked right around the top 20. I think this match up could produce a war that I’m definitely down to see.
- Next Matchup: Lyman Good vs. Nicolas Dalby
- Next Matchup: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Flyweight Queen, (C) Valentina Schevchenko
In the opening bout of the Prelims on ESPN 2, it was a Heavyweight scrap that didn’t last long. Jairzinho Rozenstruik came in as the undefeated prospect and faced off with former UFC Heavyweight Champion and longtime veteran Andrei Arlovski. Arlovski came out extremely aggressive and definitely paid for it as he was met with the big power of Rozenstruik. Andrei was hurt with a jab and then left laying facedown after a huge Rozenstruik left hook. We learned last week due to the unfortunate dissapearance of UFC Heavyweight Contender Walt Harris’ step daughter, that Harris was pulled from the UFC on ESPN 7 Main Event vs. Alistair Overeem in Washington D.C in December. Rozenstruik threw his name in the hat to replace Harris, vs. Overeem. Well ask and you shall receive. The UFC has announced that Rozenstruik will indeed now fight Alistair in the Main Event on December 7th in Washington D.C!
- Next Matchup: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Alistair Overeem
Up next we have Edmen Shahbazyan vs Brad Tavares. Edmen came into UFC 244 on the backs of a quick finish of Jack Marshman. He was then matched up this past Saturday with long tenured UFC veteran Brad Tavares. To put things in perspective, when Tavares made his UFC debut Shahbazyan was only 12 years old. Many were excited to see how Edmend would do against a notable step up in competition in the talented and durable Tavares. Well the 21 year old of Armenian descent did not disappoint. He dropped Tavares in the 1st round and had him badly hurt. At a moment like this many could rush in or get overzealous and get caught themselves. However, the young Shahbazyan not only gave us a glimpse of his fight IQ but his composure. He picked his shots without getting reckless in pursuit of the finish, and closed the show with a beautiful headkick. It was a sensational performance and I believe the future of the Middleweight division flashed before our eyes. Next up, I would like to see him take a gradual step up against a heavy handed wrestler who has faced pretty much every killer the division has to offer.
- Next matchup: Edmend Shahbazyan vs. Derek Brunson
The fight to follow on the prelims was Makwan Amirkhani vs Shane Burgos. This was a very high paced fight in the Men’s Featherweight division. Amirkhani came out with his usual grappling heavy style and was having a lot of success in the opening round, actually opening a significant cut on Burgos’ face. Eventually after a takedown Makwan sunk up a pretty deep choke and was adjusting grips and it actually seemed to be a pretty deep anaconda choke at one point. The resolve of Burgos was on full display as he fought through it eventually getting out. This is where the tide started to turn. It was evident that Amirkhani burned a lot of gas in the early wrestling exchanges and in going for the subsequent choke. Anyone who has watched Burgos knows that his cardio is a huge weapon and it paid dividends here. The entries to takedowns from Amirkhani got sloppy as he started to panic wrestle, and Shane started to easily stuff them. Burgos punished Makwan with thudding body shots and power shots to the head eventually stopping him late in the 3rd round. It was a beautiful display of resiliency and overcoming adversity by the number 12 ranked Shane Burgos. Upcoming I would like to see him against someone with a name in the division who has previously been the main event of a card. This fighter is ranked a bit higher and is extremely well rounded and I think just the test Shane has earned.
- Next Matchup: Shane Burgos vs. Renato Moicano
The ESPN 2 prelims were capped off by a pivotal bout in the Light Heavyweight division. Many saw Johnny Walker as the man to possibly dethrone longtime Light Heavyweight King, Jon Bones Jones. 14 fight UFC Veteran Corey Anderson, however had other thoughts. The very flashy Walker came in loose as usual and potentially messing around a little bit too much, and Anderson came in with a chip on his shoulder and deadly serious. Anderson clipped Walker and put him down at 2:07 of the very first round. It was a coming out party of sorts for the Renzo Gracie fighter. Corey Anderson had been calling for a titleshot and got his 1st knockout in over 3 years. It was a big statement on the biggest stage possible. Corey is now ranked number 2 at Light Heavyweight and I say give the man what he wants. Not many will give him much of a chance, but he does push the pace like no other in the division and has some of the best cardio in the UFC. He was doubted here, and he will be doubted going forward, but he has earned his shot to put up or shut up.
- Next Matchup: Winner of Dominick Reyes/(C)Jon Jones
- That brings us to the opening bout of the UFC 244 Main Card. It was the battle of two Lightweight standouts in Gregor Gillespie vs Kevin Lee. As often is the case with two elite wrestlers, the battle took place completely on the feet. Lee entered the contest with a 6 inch reach advantage and was jabbed up a lot by the wrestling standout Gillespie. From my vantage point this reach advantage came in particularly useful for Kevin Lee because it obviously forced Gillespie to close the distance. Instead of bringing his feet with him when he punched, Gillespie was lunging and overextending a lot. It was in one of these exchanges that Kevin Lee landed the headkick heard around the world. It was as violent as it was beautiful and Gregor was out before he ever hit the canvas. Gregor Gillespie will no doubt be back but this was a must win for Kevin Lee and he definitely got it done in a big way. There is still a lot of question marks surrounding Kevin Lee such as the difficult weight cut and his cardio. I really need to see what happens when Kevin gets extended in a fight. This past Saturday was a great confidence booster for Lee, and a very important win. After a recent camp switch he will have more time to work on his game with his new head coach Firas Zahabi, and team at Tristar. The future is again looking bright for Kevin and next I would like to see him in a match up that fans have been talking about and see which fighter is ready to take that next step up the Lightweight rankings.
Blagoy Ivanov vs the always entertaining Derrick Lewis was the next fight up on the main card. The heavy hitting Lewis was coming back from knee surgery and looked to be in the best shape of his UFC career. Ivanov, has proved to be extremely durable and very well rounded for the heavyweight division and this fight wasn’t any different. Blagoy landed more strikes and a few takedowns as Lewis landed very heavy bombs and Blagoy’s toughness was on full display. He ate everything Lewis had to throw and just kept coming. It was a very closely contested fight and Lewis prevailed at least on the scorecards of 2 judges, winning by split decision. Any fight Lewis participates in will always be fun(Ngannou fight not standing) and will leave you on the edge of your seat. Lewis has fought a who’s who in the division and has had his chance to fight up in the rankings on numerous occasions. I say we match him up with an up and comer who has put together a few wins in a row and see if Derrick can continue the momentum or if we have a new Heavyweight contender.
- Next Matchup: Sergey Pavlovich vs. Derrick Lewis
Foreshadowing UFC 244 I was so excited to talk about and eventually see the match up between Vicente Luque and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and it did not disappoint. Luque entered on a 6 fight win streak and Wonderboy on the heels of his first career knockout loss. This was a matchup where one Luque had the chance to cement himself in the top 10 of the very deep Welterweight division. On the flipside it was a fight for Thompson to show that he still belonged amongst the elite and something definitely had to give. What we saw was vintage Wonderboy Thompson on full display. Wonderboy landed more strikes in this fight then he’s ever landed in any fight of his UFC career. In just 3 rounds he landed over 130 significant strikes, badly hurting Vicente on numerous occasions. The toughness of Luque was on full display and it likely helped each fighter pocket an extra 50k in a Fight of the Night winning performance for Stephen Thompson. It was a win that Thompson badly needed and deserved all the same. Consequently he didn’t leave the fight unscathed as he seemed to badly break his right hand. It was extremely swollen after the fight and depending on the severity, there’s a good chance Thompson could be on the shelf for quite a while. When he does return there are multiple exciting fights that could make a lot of sense for Wonderboy. Another striker’s delight would be very interesting and the following match up had actually been previously discussed and I’m not sure anyone would complain if the UFC made it sometime in 2020.
- Next Matchup: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Stephen Thompson
In the Co-Main Event of the evening, number 4 ranked Kelvin Gastelum took on newly minted Middleweight Darren Till. Besides name value and a potential bounce back win, I am not sure the fight made a lot of sense for Gastelum fighting an unranked Middleweight. It likely wasn’t going to propel him back into the title shot picture but could leave him farther then ever and for that it was a very risky fight. For Darren Till it was very risky but for very different reasons. The former Welterweight was coming off two devastating losses by finish and at only 26 years old, had taken some pretty stiff damage. Till definitely didn’t want to lose his 3rd straight fight and usually a loss to Gastelum leaves you waking up looking at the lights. The Liverpudlian however came out very composed and both fighters seemed to be very cautious. Many clinch sequences were initiated by Till and he looked extremely imposing at the new weight. Till landed several nice low kicks that seemed to hurt the right leg of Gastelum. It was a very tactical fight by both and in the end Darren Till edged it on 2 judges scorecards (not sure what the other judge was smoking) and has now put himself right in the thick of things in the Middleweight division’s top 5. Next up, I would like to see him fight someone who may not be as dangerous in the striking, but will certainly test his takedown defense and who has a deadly ground game.
- Next matchup: Jack Hermansson vs. Darren Till
Finally we arrive at the Main Event to cap of an exhilarating UFC 244 card. The BMF title was up for grabs between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal. From the start, Masvidal badly hurt Diaz and then landed a headkick that would have put down an elephant. The exchange floored Diaz and seemed to open a gash around his right eye. Diaz, being as durable as they come didn’t let it deter him as he kept coming forward but through 3 rounds Masvidal thoroughly outclassed Diaz and quite frankly beat his ass. Then going into the 4th round, everyone’s worst fears came to fruition. The extremely cautious New York Athletic Commission assigned doctor waved the bout off due to the lacerations sustained by Nate Diaz. This left Jorge Masvidal as the winner by TKO and only the 2nd man in the UFC to officially finish Nate Diaz. 2019 was a huge year for Jorge Masvidal, who is undoubtedly in the running for Fighter of the Year. (2 person contest between him and Israel Adesanya) Hardcore fans who have followed the sport have known how talented he is but this year “Gamebred” has emerged as a main stream star and proven himself as truly one Bad Motherf***** Masvidal has so many options at this time and I do eventually see an imminent rematch between himself and Nate Diaz. (if not next) The demand for the rematch and financial reward is way too big for both fighters to turn down and we already know it is something that Nate Diaz wants. For now, Nate should be on the sidelines and let the cut properly heal and could have the trilogy fight with Conor McGregor in the not so distant future. But it’s Jorge Masvidal’s time and I think it’s pretty easy to figure out what should be next for him.
- Next Matchup: Jorge Masvidal vs. the winner of Colby Covington/Kamaru Usman.
UFC 244 is now in the books and these were just my thoughts on some of the potential matchups that could lie ahead for those who emerged victorious this past Saturday. For now we move on to Moscow, Russia where Featherweight’s Zabit Magomedsharipov and Calvin Kattar collide in the Main Event this Saturday, November 9th on ESPN+ for UFC Fight Night 163. Stay tuned to PureEVilMMA.com for all your latest fight news.
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