New Fighter, Champion in Mexico City (UFC 180 Review)

ufc_180The heavyweight division is one of the most popular in the UFC as it marks the biggest and strongest fighters in the UFC. The champion of the heavyweight division is always a superstar and that is true of Cain Velasquez. The only problem is that Velasquez has not fought since November 2013. A brief break and a series of injuries have kept the champion out of fights and have kept him on the sidelines and unable to defend his belt. The At UFC 180 Velasquez was finally supposed to return to the octagon where he would try to defend his belt against Fabricio Werdum in his father’s home country. Just weeks before the fight though he was forced to drop out of the fight due to injury and after a year of inactivity the interim belt was forced to be created. If Velasquez cannot return at the beginning of 2015 the belt might be stripped from the fighter until he can return fully healthy. If the title is stripped the interim champion would look to defend his belt against the top contender to earn the undisputed championship. That interim title holder would be determined at UFC 180 where #1 contender Werdum took on the #4 ranked heavyweight Mark Hunt. Werdum had been waiting for this chance after quickly rising through the ranks. Werdum joined the UFC in 2012 after spending time in Strikeforce where he had a good, but not great, career. He had lost his last fight in Strikeforce and yet still got the opportunity to fight in the UFC. He was widely considered the greatest BJ practitioner in the heavyweight division but lacked the power on the feet. He was a great fighter on the ground but could not match the power of some of the best stand-up fighters in MMA. Still he got his chance in the UFC and proved that he did have what it took to be the top fighter in the division. Rattling off four straight wins in the UFC, he rose to the #1 contender spot and a chance to fight for the title. Throughout his win streak in the UFC Werdum had shown that his stand-up was nothing to be overlooked any longer. He continued to develop into a well-rounded fighter rather than a pure BJJ practitioner. That made him the top contender and gave him a chance at the belt in Mexico City. Although he would not get to take on the true champion he would settle for an interim belt against a fighter that many saw as only a fight or two away from a title. Hunt was a fast rising star in the heavyweight division and most of the hype was due to his walk-off knockouts that he had become known for. With a devastating stand-up game Hunt had the ability to end any night quickly and he proved that in his last fight. Facing off with Roy Nelson, Hunt unleashed a massive right hand that sent Nelson down and sent Hunt walking to his corner for the celebration. Nelson had never been knocked out before but Hunt had done it with his great power. That is what Werdum had to take on to earn the belt as he would need to avoid that big punch to win the belt. Many believed he would immediately take the fight to the ground and avoid the stand-up war with a great striker. That proved to be a smart thought as the first round saw Hunt land a few big shots that sent Werdum to the mat. It wasn’t looking good for Werdum as he continued to take big shots without landing any for himself. His takedown attempts were not working either and it looked like Hunt was on his way to an interim title. In the second round Werdum was still struggling to get anything going until he landed a big right knee that sent Hunt to the mat where he finished of the fight and took the title. Just when it seemed like he was about to lose everything one shot changed it all. The loss was the first in three fights for Hunt but after taking the fight on short notice don’t expect him to fall too far from a title fight. Meanwhile Werdum took the win with another TKO and earned the interim title. He will likely defend the belt against Velasquez early next year or could be fighting for the undisputed title if Velasquez can’t go.

The night was not all about the interim championship as it also marked the introduction of two new fighters into the UFC. UFC 180 marked the end of the newest TUF show, TUF Latin America, with two more fighters earning contract with a win. First up was the end of the Bantamweight side of the tournament between two fighters that got the chance to fight in front of a home crowd. Alejandro Perez and Jose Alberto Quinones faced off to earn the Bantamweight TUF crown. The two Mexican fighters had made their way through the tournaments and into the big show in Mexico City. The fight saw two fighters with very different styles as Perez was the steady hand looking for his spots while Quinones was the flashier fighter. The steady style worked out well for Perez who picked his spots and took the advantage in fight. Perez earned the unanimous decision win with his steady style and earned a UFC contract. The next fight featured Yair Rodriguez and Leonardo Morales with Rodriquez looking to become the second Mexican fighter to win the TUF tournament. Meanwhile Morales was looking to become the first ever fighter from Nicaragua to earn a UFC contract. Rodriguez immediately took advantage in the fight taking it to the ground in the first round. That was the only time it stayed on the ground as the rest of the fight saw both fighters exchange on the feet. The fight went on the judges as well and in the end it was Rodriguez who took the win and the contract. Neither fight was overly impressive but it two new fighters put their names on the official UFC roster where they will try to make a better impression on their way up the rankings as they represent The Ultimate Fighter as member of a small group of fighters.

Fight Bonuses

Performance of the Night
Fabricio Werdum is not known for his striking game but that didn’t stop him from earning a TKO win over Mark Hunt in the main event, a performance that earned him an extra bonus to go along with his interim belt

Performance of the Night
A TUF alumnus, Kelvin Gastelum has been on a tear since winning the show and he continued his strong performances with a first round submission of Jake Ellenberger that earned him a performance bonus

Fight of the Night
It wasn’t a main event fight that earned the biggest prize in the bonuses as Enrique Briones and Guido Cannetti proved that they may belong in the UFC after all even after participating in TUF Latin America but being unable to win the show instead settling for a Fight of the Night


Fight Results

Main Event:
Fabrício “Vai Cavalo” Werdum def. Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt
(TKO; Rd. 2)

Main Card:
Kelvin Gastelum def. Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger
(Submission; Rear Naked Choke, Rd. 1)

Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas def. Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez
(Submission; Guillotine Choke, Rd. 1)

Augusto “Dodger” Montano def. Chris “Stump” Heatherly
(TKO; Rd. 1)

Hector “El Toro” Urbina def. Edgar Garcia
(Submission; Guillotine Choke, Rd. 1)

Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez def. Leonardo “Chimmy” Morales
(Unanimous Decision)

Alejandro “El Diablito” Perez def. Jose Alberto “El Teco” Quinones
(Unanimous Decision)

Jessica “Evil” Eye def. Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith
(TKO; Doctor’s Stoppage, Rd. 2)

Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez def. Humberto Brown
(Sportsnet 360/FOX Sports 1)

Enrique “Henry Bure” Briones def. Guido “Ninja” Cannetti
(Submission; Rear Naked Choke, Rd. 2)

Marco Antonio “El Psycho” Beltran def. Marlon “Chilto” Vera
(Unanimous Decision)


Upcoming Events

UFC Fight Night 57: Edgar vs. Swanson (Saturday November 22nd; 10:00 pm ET)
Austin, Texas (Frank Erwin Center)
Main Event: Frankie “The Answer” Edgar vs. Cub Swanson
Notable: Bobby “King” Green vs. Edson “Junior” Barboza
Notable: Brad “One Punch” Pickett vs. Chico “The King” Camus

UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II (Saturday December 6th; 10:00 pm ET)
Las Vegas, Nevada (Mandalay Bay Events Center)
Main Event: Johnny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks vs. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler [Welterweight title]
Notable: Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez [Lightweight title]
Notable: Travis “Hapa” Browne vs. Brendan “Big Brown” Schaub

The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale (Friday December 12th; 9:00 pm ET)
Las Vegas, Nevada (The Pearl at the Palms Casino and Resort)
Main Event: Matchup TBD [Women’s Straweight title]
Notable: Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens vs. Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira
Notable: Joe Proctor vs. Yancy “The Kid” Medeiros

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