UFC on ABC 4 was fine, not great. A solid Fight Night offering that just happened to be on big TV. Most of the main card delivered well, with Jailton Almeida continuing to prove that he’s not your grandma’s brand of heavyweight. While Johnny Walker put together reasonable, round winning performance in the co-main. Probably the biggest takeaway from the whole night is that Ian Garry is pretty damn legit.
So, is Almeida ready for an elite heavyweight matchup? Does Walker have a path to title contention at light heavyweight? And did it make any sense for Garry to call out Neil Magny?
To answer those questions—and a bit more—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
For a large portion of the UFC heavyweight division Jailton Almeida is a real big problem. The Brazilian is fast, confident in his offense, and can shoot the kinds of takedowns that most heavyweights never have to worry about. Things like low single legs, and swiping, knee level double legs, with lots of leg drive and a knack for landing in advantageous positions the moment he hits the mats.
265 is not in any way a grappler’s division and the level of ground work from most of the men there is simply bad. There may be a few fights at the very highest level that will remind Almeida that he’s really a light heavyweight playing in the big-man division, but until I see it happen I’m not that confident I know who would really cause ‘Malhadinho’ problems.
After this win he called out Tai Tuivasa. It’s a smart pick. Tuivasa’s ground game and takedown defense are both poor. But with ‘Bam Bam’ riding back to back KO losses, it’s also not a fight that really thrills me at the moment. Instead, I’ll say that Almeida should take on Alexander Volkov. The Russian has always been hard to hold down and has the kind of cardio that could cause real problems if he can extend the fight. A true step up challenge where a win would line the Brazilian up for a top-5 booking. Volkov vs. Almeida would be rock solid.
Everybody and their dog knew that this was going to be a brutal matchup for Jairzinho Rozenstruik. His penchant for planting his feet and looking for heavy counters with legs locked firmly in place was always going to leave him perfectly exposed for the kinds of takedowns that Jailton Almeida loves to hit. Credit to ‘Bigi Boy’, he stuffed the first one. But he didn’t stuff the second. As Aljamain Sterling would say, “That’s a wrap wrap.”
That loss will likely drop Rozenstruik firmly out of the heavyweight top 10. In fact, a quick glance shows that the only current UFC heavyweight Rozenstruik has a win over is Andrei Arlovski. A resume that once looked fairly solid suddenly seems a bit like a flash in the pan. Clearly the best way to solve this is a fight with Derrick Lewis. It’s either that or Blagoy Ivanov, and I know which fight I’d rather watch. Lewis vs. Rozenstruik is the obvious fight to make.
I’m not sure that I actually trust the new, calmer Johnny Walker at all—but this performance was a decent sign for fans wondering if he’d ever turn a corner. When Walker first came to the UFC he did so as an absolute wildcard. A kill-or-be-killed talent capable of amazing violence and of getting knocked into next week just as fast. Unfortunately, the knocks he took back then seemed to break a lot of the violent offense that defined his success. Contests against Thiago Santos and Jamahal Hill were notable for their tentativeness and lack of urgency. That makes this fight against Anthony Smith a solid step forward, if only perhaps a small one.
At the very least, Walker’s use of low kicks and and jabs showed a consistency of output and functional offense from round-to-round that his game has never had before. It only really led to fight changing damage when Smith stepped in on wild shots and got countered, but in the meantime it won Walker rounds and got him his first decision win in 5 years (and only the second decision win of his entire career).
After the bout, Walker jumped out of the cage and went to have a really rather pleasant chat with Jamahal Hill, essentially to announce his intention of making a run to the title. No idea if he can actually give life to that dream, but a fight against Aleksandar Rakic—when Rakic is recovered from injury—seems like the best way to find out. Or, possibly, a bout against Azamat Murzakanov. I’ll say Rakic vs. Walker is the way to go, just for the sheer size of these men.
A stellar performance from Ian Garry. He kept his strikes long, he kept his jab active, and he walked Daniel Rodriguez on to big counters. Once Rodriguez gave him the time and space to set up his own strikes, Garry delivered a perfectly placed head kick that knocked ‘D-Rod’ silly. A few followup punches and that’s all the ref needed to see. Five UFC fights for Garry, five wins.
After the bout, Garry had a callout all ready to deliver. He asked for perennial gatekeeper to the stars, Neil Magny. It’s a bold ask to make. Win or lose, Magny is rarely a fighter people look good against and he’s beat a lot of very very solid competition. Seems like an effort from Garry to really prove doubters wrong.
Unfortunately for him, however, Magny already has a fight booked against Philip Rowe. Michael Chiesa is the only fighter ranked between 15-10 right now that doesn’t have a next booking already. He’s also coming off two-straight losses. Garry could take on the winner of Brady vs. Maddalena, but how about a fight with Kevin Holland instead. He’s not ranked, but he’s got a lot of fan cache. Garry vs. Holland would be a thriller.
Early on it looked like Ihor Potieria was giving Carlos Ulberg a little trouble. The Ukranian fighter was finding some low kicks, and a couple heavy overhands and getting to do a lot of pressuring. But that success was very short-lived. One reaching overhand right too many and Ulberg landed a huge counter left hook behind the ear that sent his opponent sprawling. A few followup shots and Ulberg felt he could walk away without any danger. Given that Poteiria didn’t have the wherewithal to follow him to his feet, it seems Ulberg was right…
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