Even going in to this weekend it was clear that the UFC was not going to own the show on Saturday night. There were no major boxing PPVs, Bellator and the PFL were taking a break. There was no obvious competition. Just a strange sideshow called BKFC, and their ongoing attempt to bring bareknuckle boxing back to the main stream with a fight between Mike Perry and Luke Rockhold.
They haven’t quite hit that mark yet, but BKFC 41 went a long way toward the goal. Especially with UFC superstar Conor McGregor showing up to cut a (seemingly) free promo for the event and square up with Mike Perry fresh off Perry’s detonation of a former UFC champ.
What is Conor McGregor doing?
I’m not going to try and spin my way through matching up the whole BKFC 41 roster. After all I can’t pretend to know who the obvious next contender for Christine Ferea might be, or why Conor McGregor had a belt over his shoulder when neither he nor Mike Perry are title holders. What I do know, however, is that Conor McGregor has about as much chance of fighting in the BKFC ring as a graham cracker has of making it through a sandblaster. What I also know is, after Saturday night, that is suddenly a fight I absolutely want to see.
I may not have any special love for Mike Perry, or Conor McGregor, and I may find BKFC’s matchmaking worryingly predatory. But good promotion supersedes sense. And that was good promotion. If only I could believe it would come to anything.
Now let’s get to the rest of it.
Heading into fight night, this seemed very much like a fight Ricky Simon was ready to win. Much was made about his extreme cut to bantamweight and—given how much a volume takedown game was a part of Cory Sandhagen’s win over the Team Alpha Male fighter—Simon’s size, wrestling, and impossible pace, felt like they should give him the edge. They didn’t. Trouble started immediately with Song’s kicking game, but more than that he was able to punish the predictability of Simon’s entries to shut down the bulk of the wrestling before it even had a chance to get started.
The end result was a 5th round TKO, and another chance for Song to take a stab at the very elite of bantamweight. After this win, he called for a possible rematch with Marlon Vera, or maybe a bout against Sean O’Malley. That O’Malley fight seems entirely unlikely, assuming that ‘Sugar’ Sean is still primed for the winner of Cejudo/Sterling next week. The Vera fight’s not a bad idea. A little strange considering it’s a fight he’s already won before.
In part, of course, all this will depend on what actually happens at UFC 288. If Henry Cejudo wins, that puts Merab Dvalishvili in a better spot to take a swing at the belt. If the Georgian isn’t about to get that chance, however, I’d be very happy to see him fight someone like Song Yadong. Or, there are fights with Rob Font and Pedro Munhoz. I’d previously suggested Munhoz for this booking after his last fight. But the way everything stands now, I’ll say Song Yadong vs. Rob Font seems like an exceptionally fun action bout. It’s also much more likely to get booked than Song suddenly getting another crack at a title contender.
If this was a solid (mild) underdog performance from Song Yadong, it was also something of a disappointment from Ricky Simon. The Team Oyama talent hit one blast double late in the second round and landed some solid GnP as a result, but even that ended with Song scrambling quickly to his feet—it wasn’t a success Simon was ever able to repeat. He’s put a lot of work into his boxing, made real, tangible improvements there, but that doesn’t mean he’s a natural kickboxing talent who can rely on his strikes alone to take over a fight at the highest levels. Song was a hard reminder of that fact.
Still, bantamweight being the constant sharktank that it is, there’s no shortage of men for Simon to fight in contests that should prove every bit as thrilling. Song Yadong called out Marlon Vera, but ‘Chito’ is coming off a loss. As is Dominick Cruz, Adrian Yanez, Chris Gutierrez, and Said Numagomedov. To my knowledge, none of them has a fight booked. Do any of them sound like the right fight? I’m not so sure.
In this case, I’m going to go winner/loser instead. Give Simon a chance to jump back in against someone with a little momentum to their name. Pedro Munhoz didn’t exactly thrill in his bout against Gutierrez, but he did prove that he’s still awfully dangerous. He’s also been a tough fighter to tangle with on the mats for years. Munhoz vs. Simon feels like it could turn into something very cool.
For a moment or two it seemed like Michal Oleksiejczuk might know exactly what to do with Caio Borralho. He kept on the front foot, countered any and all of Borralho’s aggression, and threw punches in volume. He even stuffed some early takedowns. But once ‘Hussar’ started to lose just a little pep in his step, those takedown entries from Borralho began working with much greater frequency. The Brazilian may not have proven any kind of submission machine in his UFC career to date, but there’s always time to start changing the narrative. That’s what he did in the second round with a rear-naked choke.
That puts Borralho at 4-0 in the Octagon, and seems like it will likely start shoving him into deeper waters in a hurry. Edmen Shahbazyan has a bout next month against Anthony Hernandez, seeing Borralho against the winner of that fight feels like it would answer some important questions about his ability to be a contender. There’s also fights with Bruno Silva, or hot prospects like Joe Pyfer or Christian Leroy Duncan. But I like the idea of Borralho vs. the Shahbazyan/Hernandez winner. Get that W and he’s knocking on a spot in the rankings.
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