Well they've made a right balls up getting here but they've managed to cobble together a pretty strong lineup in the end. On Saturday 3rd November, the Octagon is back in Madison Square Garden.
PPV MAIN CARD Daniel Cormier vs Derrick Lewis - Heavyweight Title
Luke Rockhold vs Chris Weidman
Jacare Souza vs David Branch
Derek Brunson vs Israel Adesanya
Sijara Eubanks vs Roxanne Modafferi
FOX SPORTS 1 PRELIMS Shane Burgos vs Kurt Holobaugh
Karl Roberson vs Jack Marshman
Lando Vannata vs Matt Frevola
Jason Knight vs Jordan Rinaldi
FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Ruslan Magomedov vs Marcos Rogerio De Lima
Julio Arce vs Sheymon Moraes
Brian Kelleher vs Domingo Pilarte
Lyman Good vs Sultan Aliev
Bout order's probably all to cock, I'll update it as and when. Like I say, not a bad card at all. Nowhere near as stacked as the first two MSG shows and it could've been better but, well, it could've been a fair bit worse. And very nearly was.
Madison Square Garden. The World's Most Famous Arena. The original MSG was built in 1879. It was rebuilt, renovated and relocated a bunch of times over the next 100-odd years but it's always been where it's at as far as the glitz, the glamour and the big events. The history of MSG is something else. Everyone who was anyone has performed there. From Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Bob Marley, KISS, Madonna, SD Jones, the lot.
Sports have also been a huge part of the Garden's rich history. All manner of sports but I'll focus on the three I give a fuck about here. Some snippets from MSG's history with sports of the combat variety...
1951: Rocky Marciano knocked out the legendary but past-it Joe Louis in 8 rounds. Louis never fought again, retiring with a 66-3 record. Marciano retired, undefeated 49-0 record intact, four years later.
1971: The Garden hosted the first Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier fight. Both were unbeaten. Ali was 31-0 with 25 knockouts, Frazier was 26-0 with 23 knockouts. It was the first time two unbeaten boxers had faced off for the heavyweight strap and they called it 'The Fight Of The Century'. An estimated 300 million people watched the fight around the world. It's not as famous as their brutal third fight, 'The Thrilla In Manila' but it's a classic in its own right. Frazier won the fight on points, knocked Ali down in 15th round and handed him his first loss and a nasty swollen jaw to go with it. The second fight in 1974 also took place at MSG, Ali evened the score that night with a decision of his own but the fight was nowhere near as good as their first or third. Not a bad fight but definitely the weak link of their trilogy.
1983: SUPER-SUPER-SUPERFLY! Everyone on here will know all about this one. Here you see Jimmy Snuka taking time out from murdering to hit his signature Superfly Splash on Don Muraco. To young fans today this is no big deal in an era when you regularly see 9 stone weekend wrestlers in trackies diving off high places in school gyms in front of 14 and a half people but back in '83 this shite was unheard of. The match, and more specifically the splash, famously (in wrestling circles anyway) inspired a young Mick Foley who was in attendance that night, to become a wrestler.
1984: "Thunderlips is here! In the flesh, babeeey!" Hulk Hogan, fresh out of the clutches of Verne Gagne and into the WWF, pisses right through the Iron Sheik in a few minutes to become the WWF champion for the first time. Hulkamania was born.
1985: The first WrestleMania. Vince brought out the big guns for this one. His new golden boy the Hulkster on top proving he was never a racist, teaming with Mr fucking T, when T was a mega TV star, in the main event. Crazy times. Celebrities in wrestling is a thing now but it wasn't then. Add Roddy Piper at his bastard heel best, Andre The Giant plus Cyndi Lauper and Muhammad Ali popping in for a cup of tea and you've got quite the event.
1994: A decade later and WrestleMania X. One of my favourites. You had some cack on there but it was far outweighed by the two tremendous matches everyone associates this show with years later. That ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon blew my simple innocent 9 year old mind at the time. And the Bret vs Owen opener is about as close to perfect as a wrestling match gets IMO.
2004: Another decade on at WrestleMania XX and...
Ahh shit. OK, it wasn't ALL a bowl of cherries. At the time, as a workrate perv who was just getting balls deep into internet wrestling fandom and Meltzer star rating wankery, this was basically porn to a fan like me. Seeing Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero on top of the wrestling world, on the biggest show ever, in the 'world's most famous arena'...it was some moment. It's all ruined now though. I don't think I could ever watch that post-match bit again, with Nancy and Daniel in the ring.
2011: This probably isn't one that'll jump out to most. But Miguel Cotto getting revenge against that horrible cunt Antonio Margarito was something I won't forget in a hurry. Cotto's always been one of my all time favourite boxers and, by all accounts, he's one of the nicest, classiest and most hornourable men in a game not known for them. An all-round good egg. So when Margarito bashed Cotto up in their first fight back in 2008 it was hard to watch. And the sour taste got even more sour when Margarito got caught with loaded gloves (Plaster of Paris, if I recall right) later on. A dirty shit of a fighter and he showed no remorse in the buildup to the rematch. Margarito came into the fight with a fucked up eye, he shouldn't have been cleared to fight to be honest. I didn't want to see him go blind or anything but I can't lie that seeing Cotto batter him, stop him and then just coldly staring at him was so satisfying to watch.
2016: After years and years of campaigning and jumping through legal hoops, it finally happened. The state of New York legalised MMA. The UFC brought a monster of a card for their debut at the Garden. In the headliner Conor McGregor made history, knocking out Eddie Alvarez to become the first UFC double champion. The undercard featured Woodley vs Wonderboy for the welterweight title, Jedrzejczyk vs Kowalkiewicz for the strawweight strap, Yoel Romero kneeing Weidman's head into the 17th row before telling Bisping he loved him, and Khabib ripping Michael Johnson's arm off. Quite a night.
2017: The UFC returned to MSG with a second stacked card. This time welterweight GOAT Georges St Pierre returned after a 4 year layoff, going up in weight to submit and dethrone middleweight champ Michael Bisping, cementing his legacy as the best to ever do it even further. Undercard that night saw TJ Dillashaw twat Cody Garbrandt into oblivion, THUG ROSE, THUG ROSE, THUG ROSE scored the shock KO over Joanna Jedrzejczyk to become the 115lbs champ and Paulo Costa wrecked Fatty Hendricks which is always a good time.
So with the UFC making the November PPV an MSG tradition, what would the 2018 instalment bring?...
It had to be something mega. It just had to be. Months and months out the speculation was rumbling. The UFC made us wait and wait. And the longer we waited, naturally, it only added to the speculation and raised hopes. Would it be Khabib vs Conor? With hindsight, thank fuck it wasn't, eh? Would it be Brock Lesnar? GSP's next fight? Jon Jones' return? Was Cain Velasquez coming back? Nick Diaz? Would it be some mad superfight like GSP vs McGregor?
Well in October, just weeks before show time...the UFC finally announced it.
Shevchenko vs Eubanks.
If only it was that Eubanks. No. It was annnounced that the main event would be a flyweight title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Sijara Eubanks. Who?
Sijara Eubanks. Still not ringing any bells? It's OK, Joe Rogan doesn't know who she is either.
"No offence but I don't even know who Sijara Eubanks is and...I'm the commentator for the UFC." - Joe Rogan
That was his legit reaction when he heard the news on his podcast.
Of course, the announcement was met with a mixture of outrage, confusion, laughter, back to confusion, back to outrage. Just such an odd choice. Even shitter was they were sacking off a much better Shevchenko vs Jedrzejczyk fight for this load of old bollocks. The decision was unanimously and universally panned. I didn't see any fucker defending it.
Thankfully the UFC listened and scrambled for something, anything else.
Now we got this.
SHEEEEIIT! Daniel 'DC' Cormier vs Derrick 'The Black Beast' Lewis for the heavyweight title. It's happening. A mismatch on paper? Yes. But I'm so much happier and more invested in this than that shite sandwich we were going to get.
And no doubt with this announcement Rogan's gone from this...
This is one of those fights that could be awesome or awful or hilarious or a mix of the lot.
We last saw DC back in July. As 205lbs champ he went up to challenge heavyweight champ and wrecking ball on a streak Stipe Miocic. Everyone thought DC's only real chance was to outwrestle Stipe but most felt Stipe was just too big and too good and didn't fancy DC's chances. I know I didn't.
But he did it. Knocked out Miocic in the first round to become the second only double champ in UFC history.
As if that wasn't enough, he was lining up for a colossal fight and payday.
Brock Lesnar was in attendance, got in DC's face, shoved him then called everyone a "piece of shit" and fucked off again.
The night belonged to Daniel Cormier though.
The plan from there was set out. DC was vocal and determined that he was going to retire by the time he hit 40, so by March 2019. The plan was to get two more fights in before then. The Lesnar fight was looking like early 2019 and potential fights at 205 that were rumoured for DC like vs Gustafsson or Romero, DC shot down. With Jones and Lesnar the two obvious choices, yet no clear timetable for either man's return, things went a bit quiet on the Cormier front.
Meanwhile Derrick Lewis was plugging away in the heavyweight division. Bad back and all. After a loss to Mark Hunt in June 2017, Lewis bounced back with a stoppage win over Marcin Tybura. Then on the undercard of Cormier's fight with Miocic, Lewis faced off with Francis Ngannou. A fight that looked like a proper Clash Of The Titans going in...turned out it was fucking awful. Lewis won a decision, mostly on account of Ngannou doing NOTHING the whole fight.
But the Black Beast rolled on. Back in the win column and still as entertaining as ever outside the cage and on social media etc.
His next fight was booked for UFC 229, on the undercard of Khabib vs McGregor. A huge opportunity. He'd be up against 6'7" Russian Alexander Volkov. A horrible matchup on paper for the Beast. As I said in the 229 thread, Volkov had big Derrick outgunned in almost every area from size to speed to technique to youth. And he was coming in off a huge knockout win over Werdum. I really didn't like Lewis' chances. Again, outgunned in every area. Except one. Power.
For about 14:30 of the 15 minute fight, Volkov was showing why my prediction was right. He was schooling Lewis while Lewis plodded about looking all sad, dejected and like he just wanted to go home, eat some ribs and throw his wife's legs in the air. He looked well miserable.
Then all of a sudden, with just seconds left in a fight he was losing handily...
THWACK! Lewis fucking wallops him and that's that. Lewis by KO at 4:49 of the 3rd round. With just 11 seconds to go!
Rogan was beside himself.
And the post-fight interview was pure gold.
Rogan: I'm here with the winner Derrick Lewis. Derrick why did you take your pants off?
Lewis: MY BALLS WAS HOT.
Rogan: I understand.
Rogan: Listen Derrick, you came into this fight the number two contender. With that knockout you're absolutely one of the top guys in line for a shot at the title next. So tell us what you think about that.
Lewis: I need to sit my black ass down, do some mo' cardio. Fuck what you talkin' about right now. I ain't tryin' to fight for no title right now. Not with no gastank like that. SHEEEEIIT.
But here we are. And you must watch this promo. Now.
Don't disrespect the Popeyes.
After the ugly scenes at 229, this is exactly what's needed.
Rockhold vs Weidman 2 is an interesting one. This rematch was actually supposed to go down in June 2016 at UFC 199. Weidman pulled out with an injury, Michael Bisping stepped in on short notice to fight Rockhold and...you know the rest. If you don't, look it up, it's always worth watching again.
Anyway, last time these two met was December 2015. They were co-main under Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor. Weidman was the middleweight champion back then, he was still undefeated and still had that aura as the man who ended Anderson Silva's reign of terror.
That night though, he lost his 0. Weidman had a solid enough opening round but made a costly mistake when he tried a reckless spinning back kick that missed. Rockhold pounced on the error and never let him off the hook. He absolutely battered Weidman with ground and pound for the TKO. They've both had their ups and downs since. Rockhold got KO'd by Bisping. They both got brutally knocked out by Yoel Romero. Although Weidman looked good in his most recent fight, submitting Kelvin Gastelum. But even still, that was over a year ago now. Hard to really call this as they're both in a completely different phase of their careers than they were when they first fought.
Should be a hell of a fight though. Both men have a lot to prove. They were considered THE two best 185ers on the planet not too long ago. It's a fight you know Weidman especially is going to be well up for as well. Rockhold was not only the first man to beat him, he proper smashed him. And it's on Weidman's turf New York. There's plenty of motivators for Weidman here. Whearas Rockhold, how does he beat Weidman better than he already did last time? Interesting one.
Jacare vs Branch is one of the more intriguing yet overlooked fights coming up over the next few months. I like this sort of middleweight tournament feel this card's rocking. We should come out of this show with at least one clear contender, maybe two. Jacare is a beast. I feel like he's definitely lost a step recently, he's 38 now so no surprise, but he's still a fucking handful. He had a cracking fight with Gastelum at UFC 224 in May. Lost a split decision but had his moments and it was one of those fights you wish had 5 rounds. Before that he'd KO'd Derek Brunson in a round. He's a badass. I don't have to tell the story again do I, of him letting his arm break against Roger Gracie in a BJJ match to win on points? OK good I just did. He's an animal. Branch is no fucking joke though. I think he's almost criminally underrated but I kind of understand why because he hasn't yet had those big signature wins on the UFC stage. But he's good, he's really good. He did stop Thiago Santos last time out. And before the loss to Rockhold he'd put together a 11 fight winning streak.
Another quality fight here. Look at Rogan he's loving it. On the feet it's a bit of a tossup for me, could see it going either way. On the ground you'd have to favour Jacare against almost anyone but Branch is a Renzo Gracie black-belt himself and that's legit. Really liking this fight.
Brunson vs Adesanya is ***WAND'S ONE TO WATCH*** for 230. Love this. Really feel like these two have serious potential to be threats to the title down the road with little adjustments here and there. Brunson is another guy who doesn't get the credit he deserves for me. He's got some losses but I think he's capable of more than we've seen so far and even the losses were mostly to elite guys like Whittaker, Jacare, Romero. He's knocked out Machida, Uriah Hall and I thought he beat Anderson. Adesanya is the big hot prospect at 185. Charismatic, tall for the weight, top level striking, tons of Kickboxing experience, undefeated at 14-0 in MMA so far. He looked really good against Brad Tavares last time out.
Could be a fantastic fight this. But what I like is I think it's the first real hard test for Adesanya so we should get some questions answered on him here. They've stepped him up gradually so far, it's rare that the UFC are patient moving their prospects along but in this case I think they've done it right. I think it's time for this kind of test now. Let's see what he's got. Can see Brunson's wrestling giving Adesanya real issues here but we'll see.
Oh and Sijara 'Who?' Eubanks is still on the card, but not against Shevchenko. The UFC decided to reschedule that Shevchenko vs Jedrzejczyk fight, logic prevails!
Sijara Eubanks vs Roxanne Modafferi 2 is what they went with. Their first fight doesn't show on either woman's record. They fought on TUF so it doesn't count on their pro records. Anyway, Eubanks won by decision. She's 3-2 overall in MMA, Modafferi is the much more experienced with a lacklustre journeywoman's record of 22-14. Still can't believe they were seriously going to have Sijara Eubanks headline MSG!
Can't say I'm arsed about this fight. All I even remember of Eubanks is that she struggled making weight on TUF, to the point she had to cut her dreadlocks in one episode to hit the weight. I vaguely recall thinking she looked decent in her fights on TUF, and I think it was Noah Southworth on here who was bigging her up, but she can't be that good at 3-2.
Shane Burgos vs Kurt Holobaugh is probably going to be an exciting fight from what I remember of these guys' styles. Burgos is 10-1 with his only loss being against Calvin Kattar in a good fight at UFC 220. I recall him doing well before Kattar got him late. Before that he'd gone 3-0 in the UFC. Holobaugh is 17-5, most of his wins by submission and he has a win over Gesias Cavalcante, who was a pretty big name and top fighter in the lighter weight classes years ago.
Karl Roberson vs Jack Marshman could be a bit of a standup war. Roberson is 6-1 in MMA. He subbed Darren Stewart last year and his only loss is to Cezar Ferreira. He also went 5 rounds with Jerome Le Banner in a Kickboxing bout in 2015 which, even against an ageing JLB, is an achievement in itself. Wales' Marshman is 22-7 and was a headliner on the UK MMA scene for years. His UFC run hasn't been the most successful, he's gone 2-2, but the losses were to Thiago Santos and Shoeface, no shame there. He had a great scrap with Ryan Janes on the Scotland card last year. Can see this being a good ruck.
Lando Vannata vs Matt Frevola will be worth your time because it's Lando Vannata. Patchy UFC record but he's so much fun to watch I hope they keep him around. Frevola is 6-1 and is a Serra-Longo guy. That's about all on him.
Ruslan Magomedov vs Marcos Rogerio De Lima is a battle of heavyweight curtain jerkers. I think Magomedov is one of Khabib's teammates. He's 14-1 and has a few names on his résumé like Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez but he beat them when they were pretty much done and he still couldn't finish them. He's a bit of a decision merchant. He's gone to the cards in his last 6 fights and hasn't fought since 2015. First it was injuries and then USADA popped him and suspended him. De Lima is 15-5-1. Got Von Flued by OSP in his last fight and holds wins over ex UFCer Igor Pokrajac and nutcase Paulo Filho.
Julio Arce vs Sheymon Moraes is a bit of a shot in the dark for me. Can't say I've seen much Arce (ooh-er) but he's 15-2 and submitted Daniel Teymur. So not bad. Moraes I'm slightly more familiar with. Mostly because he fought Zabit Magomedsharipov not too long ago. He's 10-2 and seems a decent fighter from memory.
Brian Kelleher vs Domingo Pilarte is a fight I'll probably track down if it's not televised. I've quite enjoyed Kelleher in his short UFC stint so far. He first got my attention when he submitted BJJ black belt Iuri Alcantara in a round, which was impressive. On top of that he beat Barao and fought valiantly in a losing effort against John Lineker. Pilarte I know fuck all about. He's 8-1 with 6 finishes. I've got sod all else to go on but Kelleher is nearly always good value so I'll probably seek this one out if it's not on the telly.
So there you go. UFC 230. MSG.