UFC: Font & Esparza Shine in Vegas
By Harry Jensen
Rob Font put on the performance of his career as he beat the former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt by unanimous decision with a commanding use of his jab, mixed with near-perfect ring generalship.
The first round was tough to call, with Font landing two of the better punches and Garbrandt securing two takedowns, with few ground strikes to solidify his position. Rounds 3 and 4 was when Font really started to pull away in terms of output, as his jab kept Cody backpedalling for the majority of both rounds.
‘No Love’ did try to stunt Font’s forward movement with some calf kicks, but they were few and far between and did little to stop the New England Cartel man’s intense pressure.
The former champ looked completely defeated by round 4, but despite his recent 3-loss streak all by knockouts, his chin held up very well and he didn’t get knocked down once, although it was clear that Font’s strikes were taking a toll on Cody’s processing and movement in the fight.
Rob Font puts himself in a great position to fight for the 135lbs belt, although now that reigning champion Aljamain Sterling has put himself on the side lines with neck surgery until at least November, and with the Sandhagen vs Dillashaw showdown later this summer, the stacked division is at bursting point with elite fighters holding legitimate claims for a title shot.
In the co main event, Carla Esparza dominated Yan Xiaonan in what was supposed to be a close contest, securing only the 11th crucifix position technical knockout in UFC history and a $50,000 ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus.
The first round had ‘The Cookie Monster’ accumulate a whopping 4:52 of control time, landing some brutal elbows near the end of the round to open up a gash on Xiaonan’s forehead. Unfortunately for the Chinese national, the first kick she threw in round two was caught by Esparza which led to the takedown and transition to the crucifix hold.
Esparza breaks Xiaonan’s six fight win streak to create a 5 fight win streak of her own, and stakes the most convincing claim for a title shot in the strawweight division. To make that potential title shot even more interesting, Esparza holds a win over the current champion Rose Namajunas back in 2014. After absorbing a miniscule 5 significant strikes, we’ll hopefully see Esparza jump back into action sooner rather than later.
Jared Vanderaa defeated Justin Tafa by unanimous decision in the heavyweight division, but not without fighting through some severe adversity beforehand. A sweet overhand right opened a deep cut on Vanderaa’s head which saw his body cloaked in blood by the end of the second round. He managed to land 134 significant strikes in comparison to Tafa’s 60, and took home a clean sweep on the judges’ scorecards. The two’s heavy hands managed to win them ‘Fight of the Night’ commendations.
Norma Dumont Viana earned a tight split decision win against former featherweight title challenger Felicia Spencer in an affair which looked like it could have gone either way.
Dumont showcased the better striking, yet failed to capitalise on some positional advantages she found herself in, such as the time she had Spencer against the cage and chose to backstep to the centre of the Octagon. Spencer’s grappling-heavy approach in the third round helped to confuse the judges’ scorecards, but it wasn’t enough to get the win against the Brazilian, who is now on a two fight win streak.
Ricardo Ramos beats Bill Algeo in the featherweight division with a unanimous decision, although the 30-27 x2 scorecards may not have portrayed how closely fought the bout was.
Algeo seemed more fluent on the feet with his striking, whilst Ramos clearly would have preferred to take the fight to the ground. Eight takedowns certainly bolstered Ramos’ case for the win, but maybe Algeo could have been commended more than he was for outstriking his foe by 23 significant strikes.
Jack Hermansonn added to young gun Edmen Shahbazyan’s woes by winning a convincing unanimous decision against the 23-year-old Armenian. ‘The Golden Boy’ was coming off a loss against Derek Brunson by way of ground and pound, and he was definitely looking to stay away from any type of ground work with the prolific submission artist Hermansson. He did well to stuff takedowns in the first, and managed to see some of his strikes creep through the Swede’s high guard. Round 2 saw Edmen’s worst fears come true, as he was controlled for the majority of the round, and round 3 saw him concede a 10-8 round on all the judges’ scorecards due to heavy ground and pound.
It should now be as clear as day to Shahbazyan’s team what his biggest weakness is inside the cage, and hopefully, he can take a step down in opposition and refine his ground game so that we can see his true potential in MMA.
In the prelims, Bruno Silva won a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus by knockout out Victor Rodriguez in 1 minute flat in their flyweight affair, making it Silva’s second knockout in two months.
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