The Sunday Aftermath

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Sydney, Australia and Uberlandia, Brazil were the host cities for this weekend’s UFC double header. Both cards were headlined by top-15 match-ups with plenty for MMA fans to sink their teeth into in the twenty or so warm up fights from either side of the globe. As usual, it was an up-and-down, eventful weekend.

No Judges Necessary

Friday in Sydney kicked off the weekend, and boy, was it a good one as every fight on the eleven strong card finished inside the distance – a new UFC record.  As the early morning Australian crowd filed in to see some of their home country fighters mix it against the best from around the globe inside the Octagon, they weren’t to know what lay ahead. If the Aussies were still a bit bleary eyed from the night before it didn’t take long for them to be woken up. Former Conor McGregor victim Marcus Brimage was the first big name on the card and put his opponent Jumabieke Tuerxun to sleep with a beautifully timed high kick directly to the chin of the Chinese star. The next two fights were equally devastating as local favourite Daniel Kelly submit Luke Zachrich with a terrific kimura in the first round and Chris Clements smashed out Vic Grujic also in the opening five. Louis Smolka vs. Richie Vaculik was the first to go past the second bell but it didn’t see the last as Smolka unleashed a thunderous Shawn Michaels-esque super kick to the chin and knocked out Vas in the third. After that, it was back to first round finishes with Sam Alvey brutally laying out Dylan Andrews with ground and pound after the New Zealander landed awkwardly and Guto Inocente getting rear naked choked by the Hippo Anthony Perosh. The final prelim saw maybe the most impressive display of the night as Australian prospect Jake Matthews choked out Vagner Rocha in the second.

The main card started at a much slower pace as heavyweights Soa Palelei and Walt Harris avoided each other for large parts of the fight before The Hulk finished it late in the second from his patented controlling top position. The middleweight bout which followed it couldn’t have been much different and saw Clint Hester get viciously knocked out by Robert Whittaker after a barn burner which went on to win fight of the night. While there was a big upset in the co-main event as Al Iaquinta picked Ross Pearson apart and put him away with an exocet of a right hand in the second.

Rockhold Finishes The Beef

The main event, though, was the one the crowd all came to see. Former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold and long-time UFC top-10 middleweight Michael Bisping were matched after a long rivalry stemming from a sparring session between the pair before Rockhold was signed to the UFC. It was all settled on Friday night. Bisping started marginally the stronger, taking the centre of the Octagon and attacking with a high volume of strikes as his opponent stalked from range. Rockhold looked light on his feet and sprung his left kick high and low which caused Bisping to circle away from the power. As the round progressed following an accidental headbutt to the eye of Bisping, Rockhold grew in stature and battered the body of the Brit with his booming left boot.

By the time the second round began Rockhold was completely in charge and found his aim immediately. As Bisping was on the back foot and pushed against the cage, Rockhold let go another high kick which this time found its mark and floored the Englishman. Bisping, initially, did well to recover but left himself open as he struggled to his knees. Rockhold saw the opportunity and latched onto the neck of Bisping before mounting him and getting the tap with only arm in suffocation mode. It was clear who the better fighter is at this stage in their respective careers and, to his credit, Bisping acknowledged it after as the pair squashed the beef and showed mutual respect. Next for Rockhold could well be Jacare Souza who he called out in the post-fight interview. Whoever he gets, the former Strikeforce champ is only two fights away from possibly holding the UFC strap he so hugely desires. For Bisping this signals the end of any possible title hopes as his best days are past. The Englishman can still win fights and be a useful commodity for the UFC but won’t be troubling the engraver anytime soon.

Shogun Shot Down

Saturday night’s fight card in Brazil was exponentially less exciting or noteworthy. Before it even got underway the card was on the back foot when Ian McCall came down with a blood infection after weighing in and was forced to pull out of his fight with John Lineker which was, by a margin, the most highly anticipated bout scheduled. Nonetheless, there were some nice displays on what turned out to be basically a one fight card. Colby Covington impressed again with a third round submission win over Wagner Silva, Thomas Almeida dominated Timmy Gorman and Caio Magalhaes finished Trevor Smith after just 31 seconds.

After Jimi Manuwa unfortunately fractured his foot in training less than two weeks out from last night, American Ovince Saint Preux was plucked from the co-main event and stepped in to face MMA legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Saturday’s headliner. Both men looked calm and collected as they walked to the cage. St-Preux was heavily jeered while Shogun got a rapturous applause from his home country audience. It wasn’t long before they were completely silenced. Unlike many people would have thought, OSP was happy to trade early rather than use his wrestling from the bell. The American landed clean with a body kick from the outset before Shogun struck with a leg kick – it would be his first and last successful shot of the night.

As Rua pushed his opponent against the fence and attacked with an overhand right, St-Preux beautifully dodged it and dropped the Pride legend with a huge left hook. Shogun was hurt on the floor as silence filled the arena. OSP quickly dropped down and drove ten successive blows to Rua before referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in and stopped the fight with just thirty four seconds of the scheduled twenty five minutes gone. After the fight, St-Preux was humble in his victory before calling out Fabio Maldonado and Anthony Perosh. For Shogun, that makes it two knockouts in a row. Before the fight, Rua promised that the wouldn’t retire, win or lose, but after losing four of his last five fights the former UFC light-heavyweight champion clearly doesn’t have much left in the tank at this stage of what was a wonderful career. It could very well be the last time we ever see one of the legends of the sport compete.

Lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Co-host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Tuesday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma