The first wave of UFC shows held inside the APEX in Las Vegas were a massive hit. Every single card, including the Florida shows, since returning from the shutdown, have delivered. Because most every other sport is not operating at the moment, there has never been more eyes on the UFC.
Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker put an exclamation point on the first wave of stateside shows before the promotion heads to Fight Island next month.
In reference to the preview column for the card, let’s take a look at where I got it right and where I was wrong.
What I got right:
My gut tells me to bet the house on Dustin Poirier here. Dustin Poirier is a beast in this division, plain and simple. Outside of getting caught, I just do not see Hooker pulling this one off.
#3 Dustin Poirier is an animal, but #5 Dan Hooker proved that he is deserving of his seat at the top 5 table. This was not just the fight of the night, it is a strong candidate for fight of the year with many, including commentator Michael Bisping, stating that this was one of the greatest fights they have ever seen.
Whether or not it edges out Weili vs Joanna, who cares, we added two fights to the greatest of all-time discussion. Fun fact, the Paul Felder curse held true. No one wins the fight after fighting Felder for whatever reason.
What’s next for Dustin? A 155 lb. rematch with #4 Conor McGregor (if he’s not really retired) would be great, and so would a matchup with #2 Tony Ferguson. It doesn’t make sense for Dustin to go backwards out of the top 5. For Hooker, a rematch with #6 Paul Felder or a matchup with #7 Charles Oliveira would be fun to see.
I do not believe that Gall has the power to threaten Perry… Although Perry may not have any coaches in his corner, one thing for certain is that Mike Perry is a junkyard dog who will scrap to the bone. Overall, Perry is too much for Gall to put away.
Mike Perry put on a good show while snapping his two fight skid with his girlfriend being his only corner person. I will go so far as to say this, I would much rather have Latory Gonzalez in my corner than Joshua Fabia.
Mickey Gall had a solid first round, but Perry settled in, he dominated the next two rounds. Platinum was able to outgrapple the blackbelt, Gall, and he was without a doubt the superior striker. Gall also got away with a couple of fence grabs, one of which Perry was able to outmuscle him on a takedown slam.
Perry is a born fighter, and if he can get the right people around him, he can be even more dangerous than he already is — keep in mind that he is only 28-years-old. He has intangibles that just cannot be taught. At the highest level, you either have that dog in you, or you don’t. He also has the type of raw power that very few humans on this Earth have.
Pair being a dog with elite technical skill, and you have a diamond in the rough just waiting to be found.
Allen’s strength of schedule and proven success in the UFC gets him the nod here.
Brendan Allen was able to pull off the win, but he suffered a lot of damage including three facial fractures that will likely see him on the shelf until 2021. This was a fun, bloody fight to watch with a lot of grappling and ground and pound.
Allen continued to call out Ian Heinisch after his win, but based on Saturday night, he does not want that smoke with “The Hurricane”. With all due respect to Kyle Daukaus (who fought a hell of a fight), he is nowhere near as violently powerful and explosive as Heinisch is.
The only reason the Heinisch vs Allen matchup was booked to begin with was that within the short few hours that Heinisch pulled from UFC 250, he was rebooked right away. Once the fight with Gerald Meerschaert (Allen’s Roufusport teammate) was back on and Heinisch came away undamaged, the Allen fight was still on. Heinisch had to pull out of this fight due to an injury in training.
Look for the “Crochet Boss” Maurice Greene to bounce back in a big way against Gian Villante.
Maurice Green pulled off one of the more interesting submissions in MMA — he managed to pull off a modified head and arm choke from the bottom. Gian Villante landed a punch that sat the 6’7” giant down to the canvas, and Villante began to put the heat on Greene with GNP. To Greene’s credit, he was able to do enough to keep the referee from stopping the fight.
Villante, who was 55 lbs. heavier from his last fight, emptied the tank trying to finish Greene. Both in an exhausted state, Greene was able to use his long forearms to lock up the choke.
If you’re feeling froggy, a couple bucks on the underdog (+331) vet Erosa could have a high return.
In what may have been his last chance with the promotion, “Juicy J” Julian Erosa showed that he is a durable and scrappy vet. He was hurt badly in the first, but recovered and survived the round. Erosa put the pressure on and got inside Sean Woodson’s range and turned it into a brawl.
Ultimately the 32-fight pro vet, which is four times as many fights as his counterpart, drug Woodson into deep water and sunk the Japanese Neck Tie submission finish halfway into the third round.
Peña comes in as the favorite, but do not ever count Worthy out of a fist fight… I like the upset in this one.
Khama “The Deathstar” Worthy is the upset master right now. He has been the underdog in each of his UFC fights, and he has not only won, but finished each fight. Worthy pulled off a nasty guillotine choke on a sloppy shot from Luis Peña. Instead of attempting to hop over Worthy to try and create a scramble, Peña’s multiple grappling mistakes in that final exchange ultimately cost him the fight.
Before this fight, Peña switched camps from AKA in San Jose to American Top Team in south Florida. You have to wonder if this played a role at all.
Hansen is the physically stronger fighter with solid technical experience on the ground with a combination of five finishes coming by either submission or GNP… I am leaning towards the fighter who is used to carrying the weight.
At just 20-years-old, Kay Hansen produced a submission finish in the third round of her UFC debut against a fighter 15 years older in Jinh Yu Frey.
This fight was even through two rounds. Frey had a sense of urgency right away in the third, and began to rip with her striking. Hansen showed that she was durable enough to march through the former Invicta atomweight champion’s offensive barrage to relentlessly pursue the takedown.
Hansen largely accredits her MMA inspiration to women’s pioneer Ronda Rousey, so what better way to pay homage to the former champ than to win a sequence that started with a toss and ended with an armbar?
Griffin is the toughest test of Zalal’s young career, but Griffin has shown fundamental flaws in his stand-up game that the tactical striker will look to expose… This is a very winnable matchup for Zalal. He may be a lot younger in age and cage time, but he is the more well-rounded fighter in this contest. The Moroccan Devil gets it done. Lock it in.
23-year-old Youssef Zalal is now 2-0 in his first two fights in the UFC. He has taken both fights on short notice and up a weight class, so just imagine what the future holds when he gets a full camp and at 135 lbs.
Jordan Griffin was able to land a couple of takedowns and get Zalal’s back, however, the position was short lived and Zalal was able to escape or reverse positions without ever being in any real danger.
Zalal hit Griffin with a bodyshot in the second round that had him visibly hurt. The durable veteran Griffin avoided the finish and survived the round. In the third, Zalal ramped up the striking volume and successfully found his mark 36 times. Zalal made use of all eight limbs and more than doubled both the significant strikes and total strikes landed.
What I got wrong
(Lins) ability to finish gives me the hunch that he pulls this one off for his first UFC victory.
In 2018, Felipe Lins looked like a world-beater after finishing his way through the PFL tournament. In two fights with the UFC, he is 0-2, and was knocked out in devastating fashion by Tanner Boser.
Crazy to think that this highlight reel knockout did not earn Boser a performance bonus.
This is a great matchup for the short notice fill in and UFC debutant Jason Witt… As long as Witt can get his hands on Sato, I like him in this matchup.
Jason Witt really does have solid grappling, the only problem was, he was unable to get a hand on Takashi Sato. Sato brought a bink bink that was right on the money sending Witt to the canvas in the opening exchange of the first round. Witt tried to scramble for a leg, but was unable to navigate through the punishment Sato was delivering from the top before referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.
The safer pick is the surging prospect Woodson, who currently sits as a -480 favorite.
Early in the fight, it looked like this was a spot on prediction. Sean Woodson boxed up Julian Erosa and scored a knockdown in the first round. The veteran Erosa weathered the storm and was able to pull some tricks out of the bag to pull off the Japanese neck-tie submission in the third.
Moneyline Picks (70%)
The UFC takes the weekend off this Saturday and will return on July 11 for the stuffed-to-the-gills UFC 251 card for the first ever show in the Fight Island setup.
-Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303