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UFC Vegas: Blachowicz vs Rakic - May 14 🇺🇸


wandshogun09
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Posted (edited)

Another Saturday. Another night at the Apex.

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Jan Blachowicz vs Aleksandar Rakic 

Ryan Spann vs Ion Cutelaba 

Louis Smolka vs Davey Grant

Katlyn Chookagian vs Amanda Ribas 

Frank Camacho vs Manuel Torres

Jake Hadley vs Allan Nascimento 

ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS
Viviane Araujo vs Andrea Lee

Michael Johnson vs Alan Patrick 

Virna Jandiroba vs Angela Hill 

Tatsuro Taira vs Carlos Candelario 

Nick Maximov vs Andre Petroski 
 

That’s the right bout order as I type this but you know the score by now. It’ll change multiple times before fight day. I reckon there might be a last minute addition or two yet as well because I think a couple of undercard fights dropped off this one. But to be honest, I’d be happy with a shorter card. This is one of the better Fight Nights we’ve had in a while as well, I reckon.

 

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Jan Blachowicz vs Aleksandar Rakic then. This was originally supposed to headline a card in March but Blachowicz got injured forcing the delay. Not gonna pretend I’m counting the days but it’s a solid enough fight in a division that’s not really heaving with them. I’m not expecting a barnburner but it should be decent and it’s an interesting test for Rakic, the toughest of his career so far.

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Big Jan’s back. We haven’t seen him since he lost the title to Glover Teixeira back in October. He’d been on a good run before that - knocking out Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes, and outpointing Israel Adesanya in their champ vs champ fight last year. Still the only man to hand Adesanya a loss in MMA, although Izzy did come up in weight for it. He was on a nice streak there for a while but Glover pretty much just walked through him. He got off to a strong start, which is unlike Glover as he‘s usually a slow starter and takes a few digs early in fights, and he just never let Jan get going. I love Glover and was chuffed to see him win the gold but I did think Jan looked off. Maybe it was just a case of Glover having a great night but it was the worst I’ve seen Jan look in a long time. He never even got out the blocks. I’ve grown to like Blachowicz over the years after being indifferent to him for a while when he first came in. I’d like to see him get back on track here but this could be a tricky one.

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Aleksandar Rakic hasn’t been the most popular or dynamic prospect to come up the ranks at 205 but I’ve felt for ages that he’s one of the most promising to come through the division in years. He’s 14-2, from Austria, trains at American Top Team, and he’s still fairly young at 30 years old. His only loss in the UFC has been a split decision against Volkan Oezdemir, can’t remember if that was considered a controversial decision at the time? Aside from that, on the way up he stopped Devin Clark and absolutely murdered Jimi Manuwa with a headkick on a card in Sweden in 2019.

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Genuinely one of the scariest knockouts I can recall in all my time watching MMA. I remember Manuwa was down for ages, they kept the camera off him, went to break, came back and he was still down with the cameras staying away. I had a really bad feeling about it for a few minutes but thankfully Jimi got up and was OK. He hasn’t fought since though. Since the Oezdemir loss, Rakic has bounced back with points wins over Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. I don’t recall either being much fun to watch and Rakic got a bit of stick for his style but he won these fights comfortably and, like him or not, he’s not a fighter who seems to have many flaws or weaknesses. He’s already looking like a future contender now, in a couple more years he could be a bastard to beat.

There was a spell a few years back when we saw that cluster of new blood come in at Light Heavyweight. You had Rakic, Dominick Reyes, Johnny Walker, Magomed Ankalaev, Paul Craig, Tyson Pedro, Nikita Krylov etc. And then Jiri Prochazka and Jamahal Hill came in a bit later. Of that lot, naturally it was Walker and Prochazka who caught everyone’s eye immediately due to their exciting and wild styles. Walker’s unfortunately fizzled out, Prochazka still has his meeting with the champ booked for June. But I’ve long felt like Rakic and Ankalaev will end up going the furthest of this group. This matchup reminds me of that Ankalaev vs Santos fight in March. It’s got a real ‘changing of the guard’ feel to it. And as much as I like Blachowicz, he’s 39 now and I can’t help but feel like his moment in the sun might be over. In fairness, nobody saw him holding UFC gold so he’s already surpassed most expectations. But while I think he can stick around a couple more years still, I don’t see him going strong into his 40s the way Glover has. Remains to be seen how Rakic does over 5 rounds and there are still questions for him to answer. This is definitely his biggest test to date and far from a gimme. But it’s one I think he passes and I see him or Ankalaev challenging whoever the champ is by the end of the year.

 

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Ryan Spann vs Ion Cutelaba. I feel like they’ve tried to book this one a few times in the past. Could be decent actually. I’m neither here nor there on Spann really. He’s alright, wins over Little Nog, Devin Clark and Misha Cirkunov. But he’s pretty inconsistent. He’ll look really good one fight, then he’ll go to a split with fucking Sam Alvey. He got absolutely battered by Anthony Smith last time out as well. Smith proper big brothered him and put him away in a round. Slaphead Cutelaba should make it entertaining though.

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Say what you want about him, and he is a bit of a knuckle dragging div, but he doesn’t really do boring. He’s not had the best win/loss ratio of late, and Ankalaev really fucked him up, but he’s usually always good for a scrap. His last couple against Devin Clark and Dustin Jacoby were slobberknockers, he stopped Khalil Rountree in a chaotic one rounder and even in defeat those two Ankalaev fights were wild. Ankalaev isn’t exactly known for being exciting but Cutelaba seems to bring the fight out of everyone he steps in with. He’s got that type of aggression where you pretty much have to fight fire with fire or you’re getting steamrolled. You never know how Spann is gonna look but I’m struggling to see him winning this one. I think Cutelaba might just be too much animal for him.

 

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Louis Smolka vs Davey Grant is probably my front runner to bag FOTN. I’d say it’s a fairly safe bet as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight even approaching dull out of either of these two. I still remember Smolka’s fantastic fight against Paddy Holohan in Dublin years ago. It ended up as the unlikely headliner because the original main event (Poirier vs Duffy) fell out, and I remember people were down on it. This was back when the Flyweight division was getting shat on and people were saying they were boring. Smolka and Holohan went out and had an absolute belter. It was one of the first times the Flyweights really tore the house down in the UFC and Smolka came out with the submission on hostile territory. He’s been hot and cold since and his record currently stands at 17-8 but there’s never a dull moment watching him. And Davey Grant’s the same way.

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He was on the Rousey vs Tate season of TUF back in 2013 and came across as one of the soundest people in the show’s history by far. Just a top, top bloke. He made it to the finals, losing to Chris Holdsworth, then had a nightmare run of injuries and only fought sporadically in the 5 or 6 years following TUF. He’s managed to stay healthy and more active over the last couple of years though and he’s had some brilliant fights. He’s gone 2-2 in his last 4 but they were all wars. Stopped Martin Day and Jonathan Martinez in back and forth barnburners, then lost decisions to Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez. All blood and guts battles, and he got 4 straight POTN/FOTN bonuses for all of them. Nice to see after all the setbacks a few years back. I think he should get back in the win column here as well, as long as he avoids Smolka’s ground game. Should be a fun one.

 

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Katlyn Chookagian vs Amanda Ribas is both a fight I’m not expecting much from but also one of the fights I’m most invested in on this card. One of my least favourite fighters in the women’s Flyweight division against one of my favourites. I almost feel harsh on Chookagian, I’ve got nothing even against her but she’s just no fun to watch. I’ve seen most of her UFC fights and all I really remember is 1) her getting finished by Shevchenko and 2) the time Jessica Andrade folded her with a body shot. She’s bored me to tears in almost all of her wins. Problem is, she’s 17-4 now and coming off 3 straight wins. She’s no Sam Alvey. She’s not a shit fighter, she wins a lot and is actually effective with her style. I just don’t find it pleasing to watch. At all.

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Team Ribas all the way. Complete opposite to Chookagian. She’s 11-2 and had a really fun first few fights in the UFC, beating Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos and Paige VanZant along the way. For a good while she was the only loss on Dern’s record. It all came crashing to a halt in early 2021 when Marina Rodriguez knocked her out but she rebounded in October with a points win over BJJ specialist Virna Jandiroba. She’s likeable as fuck as well. She reminds me of Junior Dos Santos, but with a slightly better arse. If someone told me they were siblings, I’d probably believe it because they’ve got the same personality. I’d love to see her get the win here but I’ve got a bad feeling Chooky’s gonna jab and clinch and evade her way to another dull decision victory.

 

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Frank Camacho vs Manuel Torres. Not arsed really. Camacho is 22-9, hasn’t fought since June 2020, has lost 4 of his last 5 and is coming off back-to-back first round defeats. To be fair, one of them was against Beneil Dariush, which was way above the level he should’ve been in against, but safe to say he’s probably gone with another loss here. And a loss is probably what he’s getting. Never seen Torres fight but he’s 27 years old, was on DWCS in October, 12-2 with 11 finishes and comes into this one off the back of 3 consecutive wins in the first round. I mean, you never know, from my recollection Camacho usually brings it and he’s definitely mixed at a higher level than Torres. But he’s on a terrible run of form and coming off 2 years on the shelf against a young finisher like this? Just has the feel of them pushing Camacho out the door but we’ll see.

 

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Jake Hadley vs Allan Nascimento is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** this time. Very interested to see how this goes. It’s the UFC debut of Birmingham’s Hadley and there’s a strong case to make that he shouldn’t even be here. He fought on DWCS back in October and won via third round submission. But he’d missed weight for that fight and you don’t usually see guys get a contract after missing weight on the show, even if they go on to win their fight. There was quite a thing made of it at the time and it came down to Dana himself deciding to still give him a contract. Against the wishes of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, who reportedly stormed out of the Apex when Hadley was given a pass by Dana. Apparently he was a nightmare to deal with behind the scenes, even before he missed weight.

“When I left the back room, my instructions were not to sign this guy. According to Hunter Campbell, Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard stormed out of the room when I did and took off. So they’re not happy about it.”

“I just have a gut feeling that this kid has something special. And I broke all my own rules and didn’t listen to what they said. So hopefully I’m right on this, and this kid doesn’t make a dickhead out of me.” - Dana White 

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Hasn’t even made his debut yet and already he’s surrounded in controversy. Being a fellow Brummie, I’ve heard his name for a while now and he’s done pretty well for himself outside the UFC. He’s undefeated at 8-0 with 6 finishes, Flyweight champ in both Cage Warriors and EFC, had one fight in Bellator etc. He’s got about in his short MMA career. I watched his fight on DWCS as well, it was my first proper look at him and I thought he looked really good. Constantly attacking on the feet and off his back. Not sure how far he’ll go but he’s gonna need to get the weight cutting sorted. And his attitude. Nascimento I’m hazy on but I keep reading that he’s legit and a real potential banana skin for Hadley. He’s 18-6 and lost a split decision to Tagir Ulanbekov in his Octagon debut in October. Can’t remember if I saw that fight but he must’ve looked good and he’s got a decent record, experience advantage etc.

I’d love to root for Hadley with him being from my neck of the woods but he seems a bit of a helmet so far. That’s part of what could make him a great addition to the division as well though. I love what the Flyweight division has become over the last few years but the one thing that’s been missing is a proper prick who can ruffle some feathers in there. There’s no real ‘heels’ at 125. Already getting the feeling Hadley could fill that role. And from an in-cage perspective, there’s so many exciting fights to make. Hadley vs Mokaev could be a hell of a domestic rivalry down the line, I reckon.

 

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Viviane Araujo vs Andrea Lee. Never really been blown away by either of these two, to be honest. Araujo’s 10-5 and coming off a year of inactivity. She’s had some alright wins over the likes of Roxanne Modafferi, Montana De La Rosa and Alexis Davis but she’s nothing special from my vague memories of her. She lost her last fight to ol’ ‘Snoozer Brody’ herself, Katlyn Chookagian. Lee’s slightly more memorable to me. She’s 13-5 and coming off a couple of sweet finishes over Cynthia Calvillo and Antonina Shevchenko. The triangle/armbar on Shevchenko was especially cool. Go in with low expectations and maybe it’ll be a pleasant surprise. Probably not though.

 

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Michael Johnson vs Alan Patrick. It’s alright, not grabbing me but it’s OK. Johnson’s a weird one. You look back over his record and he’s beat the likes of Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, Edson Barboza and Joe Lauzon. Yet somehow here he is with a 19-17 record, coming off 4 straight losses. A few of those losses he was looking great then just randomly got caught in a sub or got ironed out or something as well. My memory’s sketchy but I’m pretty sure that was the case in both the Moises and Emmett fights anyway. He’s got undeniable skills but he just tends to find a way to lose, sometimes from a winning position. He really has been in with almost everyone over the years though. Fair play, he’ll fight anyone. Patrick’s 38 with a record of 15-3-0-1. I’ve seen him fight a bunch of times but can’t say much stands out about him. Bit of a journeyman but not a bad fighter. He’s coming off that weird fight with Mason Jones that ended on an eye poke. Purely on skills I’d fully expect Johnson to get the W here but…it’s Michael Johnson so who the fuck knows?

 

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Virna Jandiroba vs Angela Hill is a cool little clash of styles. Jandiroba is a killer grappler, Hill’s pretty much all Muay Thai. I like it. Unlike Chookagian vs Ribas though, this is a fight I’m a bit torn on as I really like both. I remember not being keen on Hill back when she was on TUF years ago but she’s won me over more and more over time. Always enjoy watching her fight and she’s a great follow on Twitter. Just seems to be having fun 24/7. She’s hard not to like. Shitty record at 13-11 but it’s a tad misleading really. I still think she won those Waterson and Gadelha fights. Had she got the decisions there, not only would they have been the biggest name wins of her career, she actually might’ve even bagged a title shot around that time because she was on a decent streak. A lot of people had her winning her last fight against Amanda Lemos as well but the decision went against her again. With different judges, that 13-11 could be 16-8 now. Still not amazing but her record looks a lot different. She had a cracking fight against Jessica Andrade back in 2017 as well. Seriously, get that watched if you’ve never seen it. Proper hidden gem. Jandiroba’s been a joy to watch since she got on my radar as well though. 

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She’s 17-3, a BJJ black-belt and her grappling is just beautiful to watch. The way she seamlessly transitions to the mount, to the back and into submissions reminds me of BJ Penn in his prime. The way she breezed through Felice Herrig on the ground and armbarred her in less than 2 minutes was so satisfying to watch. She’s come unstuck the few times she’s gone up a level though sadly. Ribas, Dern and Esparza have all put her in the L column already in the UFC. So I don’t see her ceiling being particularly high but she’s great to watch. This is very much gonna depend on who can get their game going early, I think. If Hill can keep it on the feet and hurt Jandiroba early, it could set the tone for the rest of the fight. But if Jandiroba can get the grappling going she should run away with it. I’m leaning towards the Brazilian. I can see the path for Hill to win but she’s 37 now and I just don’t see her coping with Jandiroba’s relentlessness and grappling over the course of 15 minutes.

 

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Tatsuro Taira vs Carlos Candelario. Interesting one here. Couple of Octagon newcomers but it sounds like it’ll be worth a look. Taira is only 22 years old, already 10-0 with 8 finishes and is the Shooto Flyweight champion.

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He’s submitted his last 3 opponents in the first round. Obviously very early days and it remains to be seen how he does in the UFC but I’ve just gone from ‘no fucks given’ to ‘I’m definitely tuning in early’ just off a quick Google search of this kid. Candelario is 30 with a record of 8-1 and 5 finishes. He’s coming off a split decision loss against Victor Altamirano on DWCS last August. Anyone see that? For a guy to get in the UFC off a loss on DWCS is fairly uncommon isn’t it? Was it a bit of a controversial decision and this a case of them doing him a favour and giving him a shot? Or is it simply them feeding Candelario to their new Japanese prospect? Either way, my interest has been piqued.

 

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Nick Maximov vs Andre Petroski. Could be good. Haven’t seen a great deal of either of them but they’ve looked quite handy from what I have seen. Maximov’s a Diaz brother teammate, unbeaten at 8-0 with 5 finishes. Really strong grappler. He’s won his 2 fights in the UFC so far, decisions over Cody Brundage and Punahele Soriano. Hasn’t blown anyone away but you can tell he’s gonna be an issue for anyone who doesn’t have answers for his takedown game. Petroski is 7-1 with all his wins coming inside the distance, he’s stopped Micheal Gillmore and Hu Yaozong in his two Octagon appearances so far. He’s clearly dangerous but so was Soriano and he couldn’t get anything going. Again, if Petroski can’t stop Maximov from taking him down, it’s gonna be a frustrating 15 minutes for him but hopefully he can make more of a fight of it.

 

Not bad. 

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Edited by wandshogun09
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Posted (edited)

Strong ass Fight Night card, i got interest in near enough all of this.

Nick Maximov jerking the curtain against the last TUF winner after co-main eventing in his last fight and winning is another in the recent string of strange fight placements, but it makes me wanna tune in from the start.

Wanna see Taira's debut too.

Jan aint there to mess around either, look at this nose to nose action 😄

 

Edited by Egg Shen
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I was going to post the exact same thing about Maximov. Winning in the co-main in his last fight and then opening up the prelims for his next fight, it makes such little sense.

Petroski made it to the semi's in TUF but lost to Brian Battle. He did fight in the finale thought against Mike Gilmore.

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Unfortunate ending to the Blachowicz vs Rakic fight. I was quite enjoying it, more than I expected to actually. Then it all went tits up.

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Shitty for Rakic. The fight was still very much up for grabs with another 2 rounds to go as well. Crap way for Blachowicz to win as well. I thought Big Jan was looking good. He’s no spring chicken now and after looking so flat against Glover last time out, I was starting to think he might be ripe for the younger Rakic to take out here. But he looked well up for this. Real shame how it ended but what can you do? One of those things that unfortunately happens in combat sports from time to time.

Says it all about what state 205 is in that they were talking like Blachowicz is pretty much nailed on for the next title shot now. Nothing against Jan, he’s a likeable big sod, but you wouldn’t usually see everyone just accept a guy getting a title shot off an unsatisfactory win like that but after Glover vs Jiri plays out in a few weeks, there really aren’t any other obvious choices. Maybe Ankalaev but he really didn’t blow anyone away in that Thiago Santos fight. With hindsight, that was the perfect opportunity for Ankalaev to really make his case for the next shot and he kind of squandered the chance. Now he’s booked against Anthony Smith and Jan’s probably gonna back door another crack at the gold. The 205 division is wide open. There are a bunch of fighters I like in the division but none of them really seem like they’re in the title mix. It’s weird.

Ryan Spann rolling over Cutelaba in 2 minutes wasn’t how I expected that fight to go. Not that Cutelaba’s without flaws, I just didn’t really have confidence in Spann. He blows hot and cold at the best of times and seeing how completely dejected he looked after Anthony Smith crushed him in September, I just didn’t have a good feeling he’d do well here. He probably looked the best he ever has though.

Davey Grant vs Louis Smolka was a fantastic 2 and a bit rounds. So happy to see Grant active. He had an absolute nightmare run of injuries for a few years after TUF. Watching his comeback over the last couple of years, it really makes you wonder what awesome fights we missed out on in his time on the shelf. You look back over his last bunch of fights and, whether he won or lost, it’s been banger after banger. Had a feeling he’d come out on top in this one but, Christ, he never makes an easy night of it does he? Smolka was giving him all he could handle but Grant got him in the end.

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The finishing ground and pound punches that did it gave me flashbacks to Hendo’s KO on Renzo Gracie way back in the Pride days. This was my FOTN. Can’t believe Grant never got a bonus of any kind. Either POTN or both of them getting FOTN. Bollocks.

Chookagian vs Ribas was a better fight than I expected. Probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed a Chookagian fight. Seen some whinging about the decision but I did think Chookagian won. And trust me, I was rooting for Ribas and wanting to score her rounds. Didn’t even realise Ribas was going up in weight for this either. That completely slipped by me. Fair play. Going up a division to fight someone as tricky as Chookagian is a brave move. She didn’t disgrace herself in there either. Good fight. No way it should’ve got FOTN over Grant vs Smolka though.

Manuel Torres

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Fuck me. Just wiped Frank Camacho out in a round. First time seeing Torres but he made quite a first impression.

Allan Nascimento vs Jake Hadley was a solid main card opener. That’s Hadley’s hype straight down the shitter on his first night in though. Had a feeling this might be a banana skin. Heard good things about Nascimento and, although Hadley looked sharp in spells, Nascimento was just the more polished and effective in there.

Michael Johnson getting the win and an emphatic finish was nice to see.

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It had been a while. 2018 was the last time he tasted victory in the Octagon. It’s been a rough old run. One of the strangest really. Because just looking at the wins and losses on his record doesn’t really tell the whole story. There’s been a few times when he’s been putting on a hell of a performance only to get clipped or caught in a sub right at the end or something. You look back at some of the names he beat earlier in his career - Poirier, Ferguson etc - it’s crazy he’s never been able to put a proper run together. I doubt he does now either. This was a feel good moment and I think he has the tools to beat a lot of guys. But I think the ship’s sailed on him really making a run at the top end of the division at this point. Still some fun fights to make though.

Was really impressed with Tatsuro Taira in his debut. Everyone loves a spectacular finish and that would’ve been nice to introduce himself on the big stage. But this was a complete MMA performance and I thought he looked really promising. Had to remind myself that he’s only 22 years old. He looked like a seasoned UFC veteran to me. Fair play to Candelario as well. I think Taira would’ve finished a lot of opponents with a performance like that. I think it going the distance was more a testament to Candelario’s durability than any weakness on Taira’s side.

Petroski vs Maximov then. Probably a bit of a shocker to a lot of people. Both had looked impressive previously but, of the two, Maximov was the one touted as the big prospect. Unbeaten, standout grappler, the Diaz bros association. Christ, there was even bits of talk about him fighting Khamzat Chimaev somewhere down the road. Petroski didn’t get the memo…

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1:16 is all it took. Again, Petroski was deserving of a POTN bonus for this, I thought. He got sod all though. Hopefully he at least get higher billing than the Fight Pass curtain jerker next time out.

Pretty solid card all around, I reckon. Even the fights I didn’t expect much from pleasantly surprised me. I’ll say it again though, I think they got the bonuses all wrong on this one. Chookagian vs Ribas got FOTN and Ryan Spann and Manuel Torres got POTN bonuses. I don’t begrudge any of them but for me Grant vs Smolka was the FOTN. And I’d have given Michael Johnson and Andre Petroski the POTN coin.

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1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

 

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On the right he looks like his missus just dumped him and his mates are consoling him. "I fucking loved her mate"..."Plenty more fish in the sea mate, dry your eyes"

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