UFC Fight Night 141 started off with the returning Louis Smolka making his debut at bantamweight against Su Mudaerji. Smolka used his superior grappling to score a relatively easy armbar midway through the second round, earning his first Octagon victory since 2016 and bringing his Ultimate Fighting Championship record to 6-5. Although his wrestling and takedowns looked sloppy, Smolka’s top game is always dangerous and it will be interesting to see how he fares at bantamweight after spending his career as a flyweight.
Dana White’s Contender Series alum Kevin Holland defeated John Phillips with a rear-naked choke near the end of the final round. Holland was picking him apart from all fight with his quirky striking style before using his brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to take the bout to the ground. Holland still has some concerning habits in the cage, but his creative striking along with his grappling background make him a prospect you want to keep your eye on.
Xiaonan Yan took on Syuri Kondo in a flyweight bout that saw Yan dominate from bell to bell to take home a unanimous decision victory. Yan’s relentless combination striking was too much for Kondo to handle as she outstruck her 150-86, the biggest strike differential of the night. Yan is now 3-0 in the UFC, with each victory looking easier than the next.
Liu Pingyuan defeated Martin Day via a close split decision in a great showing for both bantamweights. Day’s kickboxing looked better than ever as he lit up Pingyuan with counter body shots nearly every time he tried to close the distance and maintained the range of the fight with teeps to the midsection. But despite breaking his hand in round two, Pingyuan rallied in the final frame and dropped Day with a counter straight right to steal the stanza -- and the fight -- in the eyes of the judges.
Highly-touted prospect Zhang Weili made quick work of Jessica Aguilar with an armbar victory towards the end of the opening period. Weili was winning the striking exchanges, but decided to show off her grappling skills and take the fight to the ground, where she quickly transitioned from a triangle to an armbar to earn the submission victory. Weili is now 18-1 with a 2-0 UFC record and should be on the shortlist of contenders at woman’s strawweight.
Rashad Coulter took on Hu Yaozong in a catchweight bout and won the fight via unanimous decision. Yaozong put a major focus on attacking the body and legs, but Coulter landed the better shots to the head which are almost always scored more significantly than body and leg strikes. Coulter desperately needed a win to keep his UFC career alive and is now 1-3 with the company.
Wu Yanan defeated Lauren Mueller with the third armbar of the night, bringing her UFC record to 1-1. The 22-year-old prospect has been fighting professionally since she was 17 and now has a 10-2 record, with 8 of those wins coming via knockout or submission. This card was filled with young Chinese prospects looking to make a name for themselves and Yanan did just that.
The prelims headliner saw Alex Morono use his wild and exciting striking to get the better of Kenan Song for all three rounds. Morono’s right hand was landing with ease when working on the lead, but he also landed some nice counter lead hooks when Song attempted to close the distance. Morono is now 3-2-1 in the UFC and at 28 years-old he still has plenty of time to round out his game and possibly become a contender.
The first fight on the main card saw Li Jingliang defeat David Zawada via TKO. Jingliang’s pressure had Zawada working off his back foot all fight and didn’t have the room or time to get off much offense. After a dominant performance throughout, near the end of the final round, Jingliang landed this beautiful sidekick to the liver to set up the TKO finish. Jingliang is now 8-3 in the UFC and deserves a ranked opponent next to test his skills.
Song Yadong took on Vince Morales and won the fight with ease. Yadong is one of the hottest prospects in the UFC today. He has been fighting professionally since he was 15 and at only 20 years-old he is already one of the most polished young prospects in MMA. As expected, his striking looked fantastic and his defense and footwork were much improved. Out of all the young Chinese prospects on this card, Yadong is the one with the best chance at becoming a title contender in the next few years.
The co-main event of the night saw MMA pioneer Alistair Overeem take on newcomer Sergey Pavlovich. After losing his last two, Overeem was able to get back in the win column with vicious ground-and-pound for the TKO victory and returned to his old self. At 38 years-old it might seem crazy to think that Overeem has one last run in him but with the state of the division, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in another title fight with one or two good wins.
The highly-anticipated main event didn’t last long and saw Francis Ngannou earn the fastest knockout of his UFC career against Curtis Blaydes. Coming into the fight, we knew Blaydes gets hit a lot and is often wide open to counters, but few if any expected it to come into play less than a minute into the fight. As Blaydes was throwing a jab, Ngannou landed a perfect counter right hand over the top and finished the fight with a flurry of strikes. Ngannou desperately needed this win to save his reputation and is now back in the title picture with a win over the No.3-ranked Blaydes.