There wasn’t a huge buzz heading into UFC Fight Night 21, perhaps because we have been spoiled for choice for MMA events in the last few weeks, but overall this turned out to be an enjoyable card with some notable performances in the televised bouts.
See below for more thoughts on the main card action on the night.
Kenny Florian Outclasses Takanori Gomi In The Main Event Of The Evening
Takanori Gomi may have been considered one of the best lightweights in the world at one stage in his career, but last night it was Kenny Florian who added yet more weight behind the idea that he is one of the elite at 155lbs in the present day.
Gomi is well known for his boxing, but it was Florian who quickly gained the upper-hand in that regard, showing excellent use of his jab which was accurate, fast and persistent throughout the bout. When combined with good movement and a keen sense of range this simple strategy proved to be hugely successful for ‘Ken-Flo’ in the bout.
One thing that was noticeable was that former PRIDE lightweight champion Gomi appeared lacking in ideas. Aside from throwing increasingly wild looking counter-hooks that more often than not swiped at thin-air, he offered very little to the proceedings.
By the time the third round came along it appeared that Florian was cruising to a unanimous decision victory, but the former No.1 contender had other ideas and mid-way through the round transitioned flawlessly into his first takedown of the night. From their Florian’s BJJ acumen was quickly evident as he passed Gomi’s guard and took his back before sinking in a fight-ending rear naked choke.
It was a well earned reward for the 33 year old, and when combined with another strong performance against Clay Guida in his last bout it serves as a reminder that outside of BJ Penn, Florian can put forward a strong case that he is the No.2 lightweight fighter in the world.
Gomi on the other hand becomes the latest Japanese star and former PRIDE champion to fall short in his UFC debut. The result seems certain to squash any chance of a rematch with BJ Penn, and with a division full of talented fighters ‘The Fireball Kid’ will now have his work cut out for him to remain in the picture at 155lbs.
Roy Nelson Earns A Quick KO Victory Over Stefan Struve
This fight was an oddity for a couple of reasons. First off there was the power outage which happened during the fighter introductions which caused a 15 min delay in the fight. Secondly the size difference between Roy Nelson who stands 6ft tall and 263lbs, compared with Stefan Struve’s 6ft 11″, 248lb frame was as bizarre as we’ve seen at a modern-day UFC event.
Despite the height and reach advantage held by Struve it was clear right away that Nelson was not fazed as he waded in with fists flying. Struve’s attempts to keep him at bay using his jab failed when just 39 seconds into the fight Nelson threw a powerful overhand right that crashed into his opponents face and crumpled the giant down to the mat where he was met by a further flurry of punches before the referee stepped in to end the fight.
The result marks Nelson’s second knockout in two fights inside the octagon, and despite Dana White’s lack of enthusiasm for the TUF 10 winner performances like this make him hard to ignore, and he is now right in the mix in the upper half of the division.
As for Struve, this is a real set-back after building up a three-fight winning streak, and it must be troubling to have been overwhelmed by strikes so early in the bout, reminiscent of his debut loss to Junior Dos Santos. The good news is that he’s still only 22 so there’s plenty of time for him to improve and come back stronger than before.
Jorge Rivera Wins The Stand-Up Battle With Nate Quarry
Both Jorge Rivera and Nate Quarry have knockout power and enjoy being in stand-up wars, but in the opening minutes of the round it became apparent that Rivera was the more technical boxer. He quickly found a home for his right hand which Quarry seemed a little too sluggish to avoid.
Rivera’s power was clear for all to see as Quarry was dropped several times during the opening round, though the former TUF season 1 competitor has to be commended for somehow finding the will to keep fighting and get back up to his feet. The round ended with Rivera raining down unanswered blows to his downed opponent.
Going into the second a major issue was cardio. Rivera had expended a lot of energy beating up Quarry, and if he wasn’t able to finish him soon there was a risk of him burning his arms out trying to do so. In the end he didn’t need to worry though as Quarry is clearly on his last legs and as Rivera begins to dominate the stand-up again he connects cleanly with his chin and it’s clear that ‘Rock’ is done just 29 seconds into the second round.
Overall it’s an excellent results for Rivera who at the age of 38 is having something of a resurgence, going three fights undefeated for the first time in his UFC career which spans as far back as 2003.
Quarry has also recently turned 38 and after being involved in some punishing encounters in his last couple of fights you can’t doubt his heart, but he does appear to be slowing down, and perhaps isn’t evolving in a manner that suggests he is going to remain a significant threat at 185lbs.
Ross Pearson Impresses In Victory Over Dennis Siver
Ross Pearson and Dennis Siver opened up the televised portion of the card strongly with a competitive bout in which Pearson proved that the improved striking he showed in his last bout against Aaron Riley wasn’t a one-off.
Pearson looked light on his feet and showed good movement, allowing him to keep control of the range of the fight which proved to be a key factor. Most impressively though was his counters, moving back just out of range of Siver’s strikes and then firing back with an effective combination of his own.
The TUF season 9 winner also showed good versatility in his striking, landing some strong leg-kicks along with his punches, and the occasional head kick attempt to keep his opponent guessing. With Pearson getting the better of the action Siver dug deeper into his bag of tricks, utilizing his impressive spinning back kicks, one of which did connect well to his opponents stomach, but Pearson took it and kept coming forward regardless.
After an entertaining three rounds of largely stand-up action the fight went to the judges where Pearson earned the unanimous decision and extended his unbeaten run to three fights. The 25 year old has proven himself to be a promising competitor at 155lbs, and hopefully a step-up in competition now awaits him in the coming months.
Siver meanwhile picks up his first loss in the UFC in four fights, but the loss is unlikely to damage his reputation too much after a solid performance.