Here we are, collectively sad not because of dislike of Tyron Woodley — I hope not, because that would be terrible — but for the end of Robbie Lawler’s reign as UFC welterweight champion. It was never going to last forever, but the worst way for it to end was by getting brutally KO’d after all of the wars he’s had over the past couple of years. Woodley’s best chance at victory was to put Lawler away early, and my goodness he put him away. Walloping right hand to send him down, more right hands on the ground to put him out. The odds were close, but I don’t think anyone was mentally prepared to see the dream run of Robbie Lawler getting knocked out in ruthless fashion (pardon the pun). It’s been a magical ride for Lawler since his UFC return, but the magic carpet ran into a brick wall known as Tyron Woodley’s fist.
Welcome to the UFC in 2016, where Woodley, Michael Bisping, Amanda Nunes, Stipe Miocic, and Eddie Alvarez are some of the champions. Woodley won after an 18 month layoff. Bisping won on two weeks notice. The common thread for all of them is that they won their belts via 1st round stoppage this year, with only Nunes opting for a submission instead of a knockout. What a time to be alive.
More thoughts on tonight’s event.
- Woodley has a bazooka for a right hand. There’s no denying that. Knocking out Lawler is something only Nick Diaz had previously achieved. Stephen Thompson is surely next up for him, although his post-fight callout of Nick Diaz will probably make a sub-section of MMA fans completely support giving Diaz another title fight.
- Atlanta will forever be known as the place where Chuck Liddell and Robbie Lawler both got KTFO all of 8 years apart. Rashad Evans sprung the Liddell KO to an eventual championship win, whereas Woodley won the title with his KO.
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz beat up Rose Namajunas so badly in the clinch battles. I mean she just blasted her with knees and elbows. Her Muay Thai was exemplary, as was her takedown defense, and she really wore Namajunas down in rounds 2 and 3 to the point where Rose had nothing left on her punches. I know nothing is set in stone, but how can you not be stoked for Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz? All-Poland matchup for Joanna’s strawweight title.
- Jake Ellenberger looked so depressingly bad over the last 2 years, but tonight he just destroyed Matt Brown. He nearly knocked him out with a punch inside of 20 seconds, then actually stopped him with a body kick, finally punishing Brown for his historical inability to handle body shots. What a massive, possibly career-changing win for Ellenberger after being on the precipice of a UFC release. Brown is now 1-4 in his last 5 and now nowhere near title contention.
- Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez both got knocked out this month for the first time ever. Go figure.
- Let’s go straight to round 3 of Erik Perez vs. Francisco Rivera. There wasn’t any need for Perez to engage with Rivera, who went full Leonard Garcia windmilling mode, and it’s the type of thing that could’ve been punished with a KO. Rivera literally punched until he fell over in exhaustion, at which point Perez dominated the rest of the 3rd and … got two 10-8s on the scorecards, which I don’t really agree with. Good win for Perez, and now Rivera finds his UFC job very tenuous with a 1-5 record in his last 6.
- What the hell was that Ryan Benoit vs. Fredy Serrano fight all about? And this is mostly Serrano’s doing, as he did a lot of cool slams while managing to lose top position every single time, tried some forward rolls and stupidly low entries, threw random flashy strikes (axe kicks galore!), and also used his hip to hit Benoit in the head while downed at the end of the 2nd. Benoit gets the win on short notice, and we cannot go on further without mentioning that he clearly threw (and missed) a punch well after the 1st round horn had sounded. He’s gotta calm himself down, because you may recall he kicked Sergio Pettis after their fight was stopped.
- Chris Lee scored Kowalkiewicz-Namajunas for Namajunas, Benoit-Serrano for Serrano, and was one of two judges to hand in a 10-8 3rd round for Perez. He stood out as far as bad judging tonight.
- Nikita Krylov put Ed Herman to sleep with a vicious head kick to defend his UFC interim light heavyweight title. I can only assume a championship unification bout with Ilir Latifi (after he beats Ryan Bader) is next. In all seriousness, Krylov has made big strides in his game to the point where being a fan of him is no longer done in jest. Time for tougher competition for the Ukrainian.
- Glad Jorge Masvidal got the win over Ross Pearson, but let’s talk about the end of round 2 after Pearson nearly got KO’d. He walked to the wrong corner and also raised his arms as if the fight was over. Unless he’s just raising his arms to pump himself up, I’m really not sure Pearson’s corner should have let that fight continue. At a minimum, I think it should’ve been considered if he was that out of sorts.
- Anthony Hamilton pulverized Damian Grabowski with a violent KO of “The Polish Pitbull.” The 14-second destruction was the 2nd fastest KO in UFC heavyweight history (TODDDUFFEE halved that time vs. Tim Hague) and thankfully Grabowski was able to walk out of the cage under his own power.
- Hector Sandoval was ultra aggressive against Wilson Reis, but Reis stayed calm and used his BJJ skills to get a quick rear-naked choke victory. We’ll see where Reis goes from here after Demetrious Johnson withdrew from their scheduled title fight due to injury.
- Michael Graves and Bojan Velickovic fought to a majority draw in a forgettable contest in which I thought the decision was thoroughly justified.
- Damien Brown destroyed Cezar Arzamendia, who has some of the worst defense I’ve ever seen at a UFC level. At least he showed off some jumping switch kicks in a fight otherwise highlighted by Brown socking him in the face with right hands.
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