UFC 281 was one of the most exciting cards of the year on paper. In the octagon, it delivered. The card had so many finishes, including the entire main card ending in finishes.
The first fight between Dan Hooker and Claudio Puelles was a... strange fight. Puelles obviously spent the entire fight pulling guard and trying to rolling to entrap Dan Hooker's ankle. In the first round he about got it done after securing the ankle, but Hangman was able to get out of trouble. The entire fight after that was all Dan Hooker, the entire time standing up it was all Dan Hooker. I think this fight showed just how high level the guys at the top of weight divisions are. Puelles took a huge jump in competition and it showed. He simply was not on the same wavelength as Hooker. Dan fed a lot of body front kicks to Puelles and it would eventually score him a TKO victory. It was great to see Dan Hooker back in the win column.
The next fight was scripted to be the last hoorah for UFC legend Frankie Edgar, but there are no fairytales in this game. Chris Gutierrez looked in control of the fight from start to (quick) finish. He caught Frankie early and looked lightning fast. Eventually, he would land a flying knee that would end the night for Frankie Edgar and in turn also ending his career. MMA is a brutal and unforgiving sport. I wish 'The Answer' a happy retirement. I am sure he will do great in whatever he chooses to do next. Yet another example of the UFC using its legends as stepping stones for young prospects. In a fight that we know is a fighter's last fight, it sucks to see the promotion time after time send a fighter out of their prime into the octagon to get mauled.
The people's main event lived up to its billing. I thought all along that Poirer was probably the more technically sound fighter but I do not think I am out of line when I say Michael Chandler controlled most of this fight. He hurt Dustin bad early and even Dustin said in the post fight presser that he was a couple of straight shots from going out but Chandler was looping his strkes. Chandler then got caught at the end of round 1 and hardly survived it. The second round was all Chandler, possibly even a 10-8. The third round started off with Chandler attacking again and he picked up the 'Diamond' to take him down but instead of flipping him behind him on his back like he had done Gaethje in the same arena, he chose to try and throw Poirer forward and in turn got himself in a weird position. Poirer took his back and submitted him via RNC. I feel for Chandler. He has put on so many good performances but in the fights he needs to win he just doesn't seem to get the job done. This fight was his, but one mistake led to another and he found himself getting choked out. Dustin made a lot of noise after the fight about Chandler cheating. Dustin has cheated in a fight before, he grabbed the cage to get out of a guillotine in the last Conor fight. (coming from a McGregor fan haha) Regardless, the narrative he tried to start after the fight that Chandler was mallicious and immoral was just... not true. Especially trying to talk about Chandler right after he was buddy-buddy with him in the octagon after the fight. Another instant classic for Chandler and another stripe on the belt for Poirer. It is cloudy where either of them go from here. For Chandler, I have no clue, for Poirer- maybe Dariush? We will see where the paths line up in the near future I am sure.
The co-main was what I expected it to be, a Weili domination. Carla moved well, she had some positive moments but the result was always going to be a win for Weili. It will be exciting to see where she goes from here, will we see a Rose/Weili 3? Probably.
The main event was a hard watch for Izzy fans and an intense watch for fans around the world. Izzy dominated the fight, I do not think there is much denial of that. The moments that Izzy scared me and ended up spelling his fate were the moments he had with his back to the cage. After attacking Pereira he would get up against the cage and try and slip punches and get some distance from Pereira but in the 5th round he was not clinching with the same success he had early in the fight. Pereira tagged him with the left hook and that was just about all she wrote. Now, the discussion is "was the stoppage an early stoppage?" and I think the debate goes both ways. I can respect Marc Goddard looking out for fighters, not wanting them to get injured to the affect of their future bouts. However, I do think in a fight on this magnitude and a fighter who has done so much fotr the UFc, you have to let him go out on his shield. I have no quarrel with the stoppage but I also cannot ignore the fact that Izzy was still moving his head (in a circle like anyone whos getting punched does). He had just gotten dropped before that which I think is why Goddard stopped the contest, but one of two things would've happened had the fight gone another 5 seconds. 1) Izzy could have miraculously clinched or moved away from the backed corner he was in and survived and still been champ today 2) Pereira connects with another big shot and the fight is over with a KO, no T. I think the latter is much more likely, but I also love Izzy and believe in his ability to reach into his heart and get a victory. Pereira is a scary dude and his left hook is world-destroying. He is a strong champion, but if he beats Izzy again I think a strong wrestler beats him (if they can get around that left hand to take him down). An immediate rematch is in order and I will pick Adesanya again because I still believe he is the better fighter, he just got caught as all great fighters do.
There is one thing I am certain about going forward and that is we have not seen the last of the "Stylebender. "
Written by Joe Gee
Top comments (3)
This is was so weird.. Puelles reminded me of that Brazilian fighter in Bloodsport, the spider crawler - I can imagine Dana wanting him cut for a performance like that especially with it being his first card.
You're right, Izzy was moving his head - must also factor in the power of Pereira though, one big crack from him and it could be end of days.
I don't think Izzy's stock will take a hit, it needed to happen, he's cleaned up the division, it's gotten boring, I think this is good for him, a fresh challenge.
I'm actually gonna disagree pretty heavily with the assertion that he "dominated the fight". I think without that late jab-overhand Adesanya would have been losing the first two rounds, having picked up the next two. It's also a case where 3-1 on the scorecards doesn't really tell much of the story at all. The only shots from Adesanya that were actively bothering Pereira were those jabs and overhands, a combination which Alex adjusted to as the fight wore. Izzy's adjustments (setting up the overhand with a body feint instead) flustered Alex a little, but didn't seem to land or really concern him. Indeed, where Adesanya's main advantage was the open space of the cage he seemed intensely reluctant to use it, backing up in straight lines in ways we haven't seen before likely with the read that Pereira doesn't work in blitzes but instead would be more likely to catch him circling lazily. However, all it did was put Adesanya on the fence where he'd have to risk (several times before the stoppage) being crowded by the right punches and kicks into Alex's left hooks. Alternatively, Adesanya would look for a clinch in which he often had better positions but was still eating up body shots.
I just don't think he looked like the superior fighter or really dominated much of anything outside R3. Up on the scorecards for sure, but I don't think 3-1 with R1 being close outside of one moment and then being finished makes it much of a domination. Hardly a Volk vs Max III performance if it went to a decision