UFC Boston: The Highlights
By Arwen Sheridan
Last Friday night we saw the UFC return to Boston’s TD Garden. The stacked card was not without its share of contentious figures.
The much-maligned Greg Hardy’s fight against Ben Sosoli featured prominently on the bill. Hardy has made headlines for all the wrong reasons throughout his careers in both football and MMA, with arrests for drug related offenses as well as domestic violence, marring his resume.
Hardy seems unable to avoid controversy and his UFC Boston fight would prove to be no exception. The fight ended with a decision in Hardy’s favour. However, due to him using an inhaler in his corner between rounds, this decision was overturned, and the bout was ruled a no contest. However, we may not have heard the last on this incident.
The provocative card was also to feature the rematch between Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens as the co-main event.
These two rivals last faced each other in Mexico back in September. That bout ended after a mere 15 seconds, when an eye poke by Rodriguez rendered Stephens unable to continue. Despite Herb Dean giving Stephens the sanctioned five minutes recovery time, he ultimately had no choice but to end the fight, declaring it a no contest.
Since then there has been no love lost between these too fighters, with Rodriguez accusing Stephens of exaggerating the extent of the injury to his eye. With this backdrop it is not surprising that fans and the media have been eagerly awaiting this rematch.
It did not disappoint.
From the first seconds, both men demonstrated supreme levels of conditioning and athleticism. In round one Rodriguez put on a clinic in kicking. Adapting expertly each time his opponent switched stance. There were shots landing on both sides through the opening round and the crowd got behind the fighters, appreciating such a display.
In round two, one of Rodriguez’s kicks landed flush to the body of Stephens and it dropped him. Rodriguez followed Stephens to the canvas, and I held my breath expecting a finish to come any moment. Stephens did just enough to protect himself on the ground to satisfy referee Kevin McDonald and allow the fight to continue.
Somehow Stephens managed to get back to his feet and deliver some powerful shots of his own. He showed patience, grit and determination to be still in the fight when round two came to an end.
Round three saw Stephens take the upper hand. He took Rodriguez down and punished him from this dominant position. Rodriguez for his part never looked like he was in serious danger.
The bout went to the judges and all three saw it the same way. Scoring the contest 29-28 in favour of Rodriguez. The fight raised the question of how the outcome might have differed if it had been scheduled for five rounds, as it had been in Mexico. Both men can be proud of the show they put on for the fans. They looked evenly matched and professional throughout. I have no hesitation in calling this the fight of the night.
I also have little difficulty in picking my fighter of the night. The main event of the evening saw Dominick Reyes step into the Octagon with Chris Weidman at light heavyweight. Weidman put his wrestling background to work, securing an early take down.
The first 90 seconds of the fight saw Reyes trying to defend against Weidman’s wrestling. Reyes showed great composure and fight awareness. He did not demonstrate even a hint of panic at being dominated so early in the opening round.
When the break came, Reyes knew exactly what to do. He hit Weidman with a thundering straight left that despatched him to the canvas. From there Reyes followed up with a rain of hammer fists which left Herb Dean no choice but to call a halt to the proceedings. Reyes was declared the winner by TKO in the first round to retain his undefeated status.
Reyes is my fighter of the night because of the exhibition he put on. He was clinical and remained unfazed even when his opponent looked to be getting the better of him. Keeping a clear head and taking the very first opportunity that presented itself.
I can’t end a piece about UFC Boston without giving an honourable mention to one fighter on the undercard. Liverpool’s Meatball Molly McCann. McCann faced Diana Belbita at flyweight. Through fifteen minutes of action the pace was frenetic, and McCann used the opportunity to showcase some of the many tools in her arsenal.
On display was fierce striking, multiple take downs, vicious ground and pound and supreme grappling. McCann was facing an opponent with ten finishes on her record and at no point in the fight did she look at risk of becoming number 11. The crowd were thrilled by what they were seeing.
With three wins on the bounce, McCann is looking like a force to be reckoned with in the division. Personally, I look forward to seeing her name on a main card in the not too distant future.