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  1. The UFC is in Miami on Saturday 27th April with a quality ESPN card. ESPN MAIN CARD Jacare Souza vs Jack Hermansson Greg Hardy vs Dmitrii Smoliakov Alex Oliveira vs Mike Perry Glover Teixeira vs Ion Cutelaba John Lineker vs Cory Sandhagen Roosevelt Roberts vs Thomas Gifford ESPN PRELIMS Ben Saunders vs Takashi Sato Andrei Arlovski vs Augusto Sakai Gilbert Burns vs Eric Wisely Carla Esparza vs Virna Jandiroba ESPN+ PRELIMS Jim Miller vs Jason Gonzalez Jessica Penne vs Jodie Esquibel Court McGee vs Dhiego Lima Love that card. I had it in the back of my mind that Romero vs Jacare was at the end of April but didn’t realise just how strong a card this was throughout. There’s a good 4 or 5 fights there that you’d have as sure-fire FOTN on most shows. Yoel Romero vs Jacare Souza 2 tops the bill. This was originally supposed to be Romero vs Paulo Costa which would’ve been a proper clash of the titans that would’ve been all kinds of awesome. But for whatever reason that fight just seems destined not to happen. As consolation prizes go though, Yoel vs Jacare is a fucking good one. You really can’t complain at a fight like this, can you? It’s a rematch 4 years in the making. They fought at UFC 194 in December 2015. That night is remembered more for the 13 seconds of chaos in the Aldo vs McGregor main event but the undercard saw these two middleweight wrecking machines clash. Whenever there’s a big rematch, I usually try to revisit the first fight to refresh my memory. Don’t think I’ve seen this one since the night it happened so this will be an interesting watch. At the time of this fight Romero was coming in off big finishes against Lyoto Machida and Tim Kennedy. Jacare was coming off 8 wins, nearly all finishes, with Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson and Yushin Okami among his victims. Marc Goddard is on reffing duties and it’s the old Goldberg and Rogan team in the commentary booth. Round 1: Cautious start from both men to begin. Jacare putting pressure on and Romero is like a coiled spring just waiting for a chance to attack. Not a lot connecting though. Then about halfway through the round... Thwack. Jacare looks more stunned by it than badly hurt but either way he’s now on his back with Yoel Romero on top of him with about 2 minutes left in the round. Not good. Yoel is all over him now but Jacare looks clear headed and is constantly moving and looking for submissions or sweeps off his back. Yoel with some hard elbows on top as the round comes to a close. Romero 10-9. Under the new scoring criteria you might give it 10-8 but it’s 2015 so... Round 2: Romero moving well, in and out with his attacks early this round. Brief takedown battle that goes nowhere but made me wish we got more of a grappling match here. Looked like two bulls colliding. Jacare really aggressively going for a takedown now and Yoel grabs the fence to stop it. Blatantly. Naughty. He does it again and winds up on top of Jacare as a direct result of the fence grabbing and Goddard’s having none of it. He restarts them standing up and gives Yoel a warning. Jacare looking more lively now and Rogan and Goldberg are starting with the ‘Yoel gasses because muscles’ bollocks. It’s much more even on the feet than Rogan would have you believe. Jacare goes to the body. Yoel appears to hurt Jacare with a calf kick in the dying seconds. Close one but I’d lean ever so slightly to Jacare 10-9 but it’s by the narrowest of margins and based mostly on Jacare coming forward and pushing the action a bit more. So I’ve got them tied going into the final round. ”Yoel with some BIG deep breaths as he goes back to his corner. Look at him. That’s a tired man. He is exhausted.” - Joe Rogan Yeah, Rogan’s fully on the ‘Yoel is gassed’ thing as the round ends. He looks tired but nothing like Rogan’s making out and who wouldn’t be a bit tired after 10 minutes in the cage with Jacare? Round 3: Both coming out with a bit more urgency now. Rogan again harping on the gassing/muscle thing. Christ. Jacare fails on a takedown but lands a big body kick. Yoel with a hard left hand. Jacare lands some shots and backs Yoel against the fence and starts teeing off. Yoel doesn’t really take anything flush but Jacare uses it to drop low and finally secure a takedown. That’s big in a close fight like this. He’s trying to set up an arm triangle but no joy. Elbows and punches from half guard with about 90 seconds left on the clock. Yoel does eventually manage to explode out and get back up but by then there’s only about 10 seconds left. It’s over. Jacare’s round clearly. So I’ve got it for Jacare 29-28. Winner - Yoel Romero via split decision. Scores were 29-27 Romero, 29-28 Souza and 29-28 Romero. So the one judge had the first a 10-8 for Yoel. The crowd hates the decision and are booing but, despite me scoring it for Jacare myself, all those scorecards are justifiable. It was razor close. Romero definitely won the first and Jacare definitely won the third. All depends how you had that second round and that was a bastard of a close round. Rogan’s got his ‘I don’t agree with this’ face on in the post-fight interview with Yoel. Fuck off. But Ray The Translator is standing behind them, looking like a henchman from Scarface, so Rogan is on his best behaviour. Decent fight that. Although the way it ended it certainly felt like if they had 2 more rounds Jacare would’ve really taken over and possibly finished it. The momentum was with him. But who knows? Yoel shits all over your momentum. He’s been losing in nearly every fight that he’s won spectacularly. Since that fight Romero has brutally knocked out both Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold and narrowly lost 2 title shots in wars against Robert Whittaker. Jacare also lost to Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum but stopped Vitor Belfort, Tim Boetsch and Derek Brunson before knocking out Chris Weidman at MSG in November in one of the best fights of 2018. Kind of crazy to think that when these 2 first met back in 2015 they were knocking on the door of a title shot. Fast forward 4 years and they’re again knocking on the door of a title shot. Both still absolute beasts. But it might be both guys’ last real run at the gold. Jacare is 39 years old. And Romero turns 42 just 3 days after this fight. Time is very much of the essence now where these 2 are concerned. Greg Hardy vs Dmitrii Smoliakov co-mains. Fucking Greg The Wifebeater getting a co-headline spot again. Even after stinking the joint out in his debut and then getting himself DQ’d by blatantly kneeing his downed opponent’s head off. Here we are again. It’s like the company, or Dana, whoever is doing it as a ‘fuck you’ to the critics at this point. Nobody likes this arsehole. The MMA media bash him, other fighters bash him. And this ‘he’s a changed man just trying to make a living’ doesn’t tally with what you see and hear from his actions and words. He’s got proper go-away heat and I’ll be glad when he inevitably gets destroyed by someone good and slides down the card and out the door. Smoliakov is no great shakes but he might beat Hardy, to be honest. He’s 9-2 and hasn’t beaten anyone of note but he’s a big Russian grappler and am I imagining it or didn’t Hardy’s ground game look shocking against Crowder? Team Smoliakov! Alex Oliveira vs Mike Perry could easily be the show stealer. Cowboy Oliveira has a knack for being a highlight of any card he’s on. Whether it was the forgotten FOTY contender against Yancy Medeiros or his finishes over Carlos Condit or Ryan LaFlare. He’s a wildman. He got bloodied and submitted by Gunnar Nelson last time out though so he’ll be looking to redeem himself here. Perry is kind of cut from the same cloth. Never liked him or got the love for him, he seems a proper mouth breathing knuckle dragging nob to me but there’s never a dull moment when he fights. His KO against Jake Ellenberger is one of the most vicious you’ll ever see. He’s been figured out at this point though. He’s lost 3 of his last 4 and is coming off tapping to Donald Cerrone in a round in November. So he’s trying to bounce back against another Cowboy here. Should be a fun fight however long it goes. Glover Teixeira vs Ion Cutelaba is another fight that has barnburner written all over it. This was originally supposed to go down in January on the Dillashaw vs Cejudo card but Cutelaba picked up an injury. Glover ran through Karl Roberson that night instead, getting the first round submission. Glover is 39 now and has had very mixed results over the last couple of years but that performance in January showed that he’s still got something left in the tank. On a good night he’s still a handful for most 205ers, or at least a solid test. And that’s exactly what Cutelaba needs right now. He’s the younger and much fresher man here at 25 years old. He’s 14–3-1 and coming off 2 big knockouts. This is his first proper ‘name fight’. Really like this matchup. Should give us an idea of where Cutelaba stands among the current pool of new breed guys in the 205 division. Carla Esparza vs Livia Renata Souza does sod all for me. Never been a fan of Esparza. The person or the fighter. Seeing Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Tatiana Suarez completely school her was beautiful. She’s lost 2 on the bounce now with the Suarez beatdown in her most recent outing. Souza is 13-1 with the only loss being a split decision to Angela Hill. She’s won her last 4 but I can’t say I’ve been massively impressed so far. She looks decent enough but nothing has knocked my socks off. Hope she wins this one though. Andrei Arlovski vs Augusto Sakai then. At this point it feels like Arlovski has been going FOREVER doesn’t it? By the time he steps into the cage in April he’ll have been fighting 20 years to the month. Started in April 1999. Made his UFC debut at UFC 28, for fuck’s sake. So many ups and downs. And amazingly, he doesn’t look that bad these days. He’s 40 and has dropped 3 decisions in a row but when you watch the fights themselves he’s competitive. He’s not embarrassing himself or looking like BJ Penn out there. It’s clear he’s on the way out but he can still go with the right opponent. Not sure if Sakai is that guy or not. I’m 50/50 in my experiences of watching Sakai. The 2 times I’ve seen him, one was a fuck-awful rotten fight against Cheick Kongo in Bellator but then the next time I saw him was his last fight and he had a really fun scrap with Chase Sherman in his UFC debut. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Many a fighter has had their worst fight against Kongo. This could be decent. John Lineker vs Cory Sandhagen is this card’s ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** for me. On most shows I’d have picked Glover vs Cutelaba or Oliveira vs Perry but there’s something about this pairing that I love. I really think we’re in for a treat with this one. I’ve made no secret that Lineker is one of my favourite fighters on the whole roster. You know exactly what you’re getting out of him. Not many fighters could carry the ‘Hands Of Stone’ nickname after the legendary Roberto Duran but Lineker lives up to it. He’s an animal. Once he starts throwing those bombs he’s like a little tornado and just wrecks whatever is in his path. He’s 31-8 now and has won 8 of his last 9. Sandhagen is 10-1 in MMA, 3-0 with 3 finishes in the UFC. He doesn’t look like much but he’s granite tough and attacks from all positions. His comeback stoppage and overall performance against Iuri Alcantara last year was ridiculous and really made me sit up and take notice of him. He’s up against it here but if he can put Lineker on his back I could honestly see him overwhelming him. He’s going to have to walk through hell to get there though. Jim Miller vs Jason Gonzalez, I don’t really know what to make of. I don’t know much about Gonzalez and I’m not sure what Miller has left. He’s had a long, gruelling career and has fought most of the top guys from a couple of different eras of 155. He’s never been ‘the guy’ but he’s been swimming in that shark infested pool for over a decade now and is still staying afloat. Tough as nails, Jim Miller. That bloodbath he had against Joe Lauzon is still up there with my favourite fights in lightweight history, and that’s saying a lot because 155 might’ve had more amazing fights than any other division. It’s winding down though. He’s lost 5 out of his last 6 and has started getting finished more recently. Gonzalez is nothing special. He’s a guy Miller should be beating, so if Miller loses again here it might be time to do the old gloves on the canvas bit. Court McGee vs Dhiego Lima doesn’t interest me much but could be alright. McGee is a tough guy with an inspiring backstory after overcoming heroin addiction and turning his life around. Never been a massive fan but he seems a likeable enough bloke and has had some entertaining scraps on undercards over the years. Off the top of my head I vaguely recall loving a fight he had with Josh Neer. Might have to revisit that at some point. Dhiego Lima is solid enough but Bellator’s got the better of the Lima brothers. Jessica Penne vs Jodie Esquibel was rescheduled for this card after being pulled from the Ngannou vs Velasquez show when Penne injured her foot or rolled her ankle or something. Nothing fight really. Penne badly needs to get a W here though. She’s lost her last 3, took serious beatings from Andrade and Jedrzejczyk and hasn’t won since 2014. Esquibel is 6-4 and all I really know of her is that she shares a bed with Keith Jardine. Yeah. Penne should probably be winning this but who knows where she’s at physically or mentally at this stage in the game? Roosevelt Roberts vs Thomas Gifford interests me purely because I thought Roberts looked very promising in his UFC debut in November. Looked really loose and relaxed and got the finish inside a round. He’s 7-0 with 7 finishes. Gifford is the newcomer, 14-7 record, mostly submissions. Ben Saunders vs Takashi Sato might be worth a look. Saunders is floundering now at 35 and coming off a couple of bad losses. A shame because he’s always seemed a good guy and looked to have bags of potential when he was on TUF 6. That was 2007 though. Still good to watch when on form but he sadly doesn’t seem to be on form often these days. Sato is making his debut here. 28 years old, 14-2 with 11 finishes. Really strong card, I reckon. Main event could be tremendous and there are 3 or 4 fights I could well see bagging FOTN. Yoel’s coming back for that belt.
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