UFC Fight Night 121 on Saturday in Sydney set a record for the most in-cage time for an event in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. It was a night of attrition. Back-and-forth contests carried the day, along with plenty of controversial decisions, and a heavyweight great took home yet another win in the main event. The Australian crowd got its money’s worth.
Pride Never Die
Fabricio Werdum made the walk to the cage for the 30th time in his career and the 11th time in the UFC. This one played out like most of his others, with Werdum dominating much of the bout against Marcin Tybura. Unlike many fights early in his career, this one was won with superior striking. Since he moved to Kings MMA and came under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro, we have seen Werdum make significant strides in his standup; and against Tybura, it proved to be enough to secure a hard-fought win.
The fight played out over five rounds in which Werdum was the aggressor, landing hard straight punches and knees. While Tybura was criticized for his lack of output, he was effective with his right hooks over the top and his head kicks, four of which he landed on Werdum. Alas, nothing Tybura offered stifled the Pride Fighting Championships veteran, who seemed a step ahead in each round.
The win was Werdum’s second straight, and afterward, he set the record straight on his immediate plans: He wants a rematch with heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. However, Werdum’s next move remains unclear, with Miocic on the sidelines due to ongoing contract negotiations and the forthcoming UFC 218 showdown between Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou being viewed as a likely title eliminator. With that said, expect to see “Vai Cavalo” in the cage against another contender in early 2018.
Sifting Through the Chaos
In the co-main event, Australia native Bec Rawlings took on Jessica-Rose Clark. Although Clark took the fight on 11 days’ notice and failed to make weight, she came out on top in her UFC debut and won a split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” alum. In between the first and second rounds, audio picked up Rawlings in her corner touting the physically imposing nature of her opponent. “She’s real big in there,” Rawlings said. It was evident in Clark’s game plan, as she shut down her counterpart’s striking advances with well-timed takedowns and ground-and-pound.
Following along with what seemed to be the theme of the event, Belal Muhammad and Tim Means engaged each other in another back-and-forth contest, this one playing out predominantly on the feet. Muhammad walked away with a split decision. The former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder was a step quicker in the majority of striking exchanges, landing early and often with his overhand rights and hooks. On the other side, Means seemed to be content to fight from the outside, pawing with a jab and looking to capitalize on his significant reach advantage. Afterward, Muhammad took to the mic to call out Colby Covington, who has become a hot target thanks to his harsh words towards Brazilians and a highly publicized altercation with Werdum during fight week.
Meanwhile, Jake Matthews returned to the welterweight division and eked out a split decision over Bojan Velickovic. The fight was contested primarily in the clinch and on the ground, as Matthews made his intentions known from the start. The Aussie attempted to physically impose his will on Velickovic, working hard for double-leg takedowns against the fence. The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Matthews and gave him some welcomed momentum at 170 pounds.
Alexander Volkanovski won for the third time in as many UFC appearances, earning a unanimous decision over short-notice fill-in Shane Young. Now 16-1 as a professional, the highly regarded 29-year-old figures to get a step up in competition with his next assignment ... Ryan Benoit endured a rough start to his week by missing weight, but it proved to be a moot point, as he knocked out Ashkan Mokhtarian with a brutal third-round head kick ... Nik Lentz and Will Brooks finally met inside the Octagon following a lengthy social media feud and an earlier fight cancellation. Lentz showed himself to be superior, tapping the former Bellator MMA champion with a guillotine choke in the second round ... UFC debutant and Mark Hunt protégé Tai Tuivasa froze Rashad Coulter in the first round of their heavyweight pairing. Tuivasa chopped down Coulter with a heavy leg kick and then lunged in with a flying knee when he attempted to stand. The strike landed clean on Coulter’s chin, putting out his lights before he hit the canvas ... Frank Camacho and Damien Brown brought the Australian fans to their feet in a three-round slugfest that was awarded “Fight of the Night.” Brown lost a split decision but left the arena with a $50,000 bonus check. Camacho was ineligible for any bonus money due to his failure to make weight.