The Severe Spotlight: Aoriqileng

In any given fight card, there are several variables that make it special or memorable. Two of those variables are jeopardy and storylines. It is difficult to do this on a consistent basis, even more so as the UFC is now putting on an event almost every week of the year. UFC Vegas 52 felt more lacking than the usual fight night card. This might be due to the event following the highs of Tyson Fury walking out to a rousing, ram packed Wembley arena, dismantling Dillian Whyte over 6 rounds, retiring, bringing Francis N’Gannou into the ring, and of course having a sing song, but outside of the main event, lacking was the word.

Said main event between two of Brazil’s best females certainly had plenty of those variables. Lemos came into her first main event, looking for a huge win to propel her toward her first title shot. Andrade making her way back down to 115lb to attempt to battle back to a title she won over current champion Rose Namajunas. Andrade showed her overall depth after a difficult start on the feet, managing to lock up the first standing head and arm choke in the UFC in the very first round.

To echo the lack of jeopardy and storylines, the co-main event was Claudio Puelles and Clay Guida. Guida, a legend fighting the final fight of his UFC contract, and Peru’s Puelles (whom the commentary team admitted they did not remember), albeit his 5th outing for the promotion. Regardless, the card had some entertaining fights.

Maycee Barber stamped her name firmly back into the fabric of 125lb with a good showing against Montana De la Rosa. Charles Jourdain out grooved Lando Vannata for a rare one arm guillotine. Fellow Canadian Marc-Andre Barriault also guillotined Jordan Wright. Sergey Khandozhko made good on his return to the octagon winning a banger against Dwight Grant.

The opening fight must be touched on. Ireland’s Dean Barry made his long-awaited UFC debut against Mike Jackson. Jackson was awarded the first round DQ win due to an eye gouge, resulting in the American being unable to continue. The fight, looked like a fight between two men with 8 professional MMA fights combined. It was sloppy and laboured at times. Littered with poor decision making and inadvertent fouls. Barry, prior to the eye gouge, had begun to come on strong, hurting Jackson with several shots. However, the foul did occur, the second of the fight causing the DQ.

Nestled in those prelims was a matchup between England’s Cameron Else and China’s Aoriqileng. Both men fast starters, both men known for hunting finishes. Aoriqileng, after fighting most of his career at 125lb, moved up to 135lb for this matchup with Else. Aoriqileng takes a traditional MMA adapted Muay Thai stance; his hands in a traditional Muay Thai position, right angled arms positioned away from his face, but his legs slightly more splayed. The primary reason or his leg positioning is that he can sit into his shots at all times, a telling part of his game.

The grappling exchanges began Aoriqileng effectively began to counter Else with big shots. On his way into the clinch Else took a nice check right hook as a welcome. After riding the mat return attempt from Else, he gained an over under, head position and threw Else with a whizzer kick. Immediately limp arming to the back body lock and putting some points on the board by way of knees and foot stomps.

The break is the pivotal point of the fight, a slight level change, cover of distance and a smashing left hand to the ribs followed by an overhand right sends Else darting back to the cage. In Aoriqileng fashion a flying knee is the finish to that combination, Else did a good job to duck under it.

The read had been made, Else had his mouth open trying to suck deep breaths into his stomach to block out the pain from the body shot, and bring his wind back. To land the decisive shot, Aoriqileng fakes the overhand right, the reverse of the combination that landed previously and uses that momentum to twist his core, bringing his entire weight with him to land a crushing left body shot.

Else turtles, desperate to draw air back into himself. But the damage had been done, Aoriqileng threw his ground and pound directly to the body. Else forced to give his back, allowed Aoriqileng to drive his hooks in for full back control, break the posture of the Englishman with a drive of his hips, and railed the sides of Else’s skull until Keith Peterson had no choice but to stop the fight.

Albeit a short fight, Aoriqileng showed several things. Firstly, that good things can come from moving up a weight class and fighting closer to your natural weight.  Secondly, that body shots are an underutilised shot in MMA and can have devastating effects.