Recapping UFC Fight Night 118
The UFC returned Saturday to kick off a run of 10 events in 9 weeks to close out the year. The card was live Saturday afternoon from Gdansk, Poland for the first time in UFC history. The card was headlined by a Welterweight showdown between fan favorite and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (32-9 1NC #6 Ranked Welterweight) and undefeated rising prospect Darren Till (15-0-1). We also had a Co-Main event with a Polish former Title challenger in Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2 #3 Ranked Women’s Strawweight) who welcomed Jodie Esquibel (6-2) to the UFC. We had a fight moved at the last minute to a card in early November so 11 fights were slated for Poland. It was a day filled with decisions, and not all were very entertaining. Let’s jump into the recap.
We kick off the card on UFC Fight Pass with Felipe “Sertanejo” Arantes (18-8-1 2NC) and Josh Emmett (12-1). Arantes came right out and threw a spinning body kick. Emmett responded with a huge combination and a right hand that sent Arantes to the mat. Emmett waited and made Arantes get back to his feet. Emmett almost immediately started landing again and Arantes again found his way to the mat. Emmett this time followed him down but stayed cautious. Emmett let him up and again was just peppering him with shots against the cage. Emmett sent Arantes back to the mat and was unloading on him. They got back to the feet and now both guys were trading. Emmett again floored Arantes with a right hand, but Arantes was recovering on the ground. Arantes went for a late takedown Emmett stuffed it and then Arantes tried to pull guard. Emmett ended the first round on top. The two started off round two sort of dancing around the center of the Octagon until Emmett went for a takedown but it was blocked. Emmett was stalking Arantes momentarily trying to get him up against the cage. Arantes was finding a lot more success on the feet as the round was moving on. Emmett was plodding forward, but Arantes was responding with shots unlike earlier in the fight. The round ended with a late takedown from Emmett. The third round came right out with action from Emmett who ripped a big right hand. Arantes met him with a head kick and some returning shots. Emmett was continuing to move forward and ripped a big combination of punches against the cage. Emmett was clearly the aggressor throughout the round hitting right hands all over the cage. The fight finished with another flurry from Emmett right before the horn sounded. The judges came back with 30-26, 30-26, and 30-25 all for Josh Emmett. This was a great debut for Emmett at Featherweight. His power was good in the fight, and he looks like he could be a guy who can move up the rankings sooner rather than later.
The long-awaited UFC debut of 22-year-old Aspen Ladd (6-0) was up next against Lina “Elbow Queen” Lansberg (7-3). Ladd almost immediately grabbed for the clinch and had Lansberg pressed up against the cage. Lansberg reversed the position after about 35 seconds and was throwing knees to the thighs and body. This was a real clinch battle with Ladd eventually getting back in the dominant position after absorbing a lot of knees to the body. Eventually, the referee separated the clinch due to a lack of action. Ladd came out and ripped three big punches, but Lansberg got the fight right back into the clinch. A rather uneventful round from both fighters came to an end. Ladd came right out in round 2 with a few nice jabs, but Lansberg was responding. Ladd changed levels a scored a solid double leg takedown. Lad found herself on top in a high half guard trying to apply pressure to Lansberg. Ladd eventually transitions to full mount and started raining down elbows. Lansberg maneuvered her way out of full mount, but the pressure from Ladd from the top was as advertised. Ladd then just continued to unload punches from the top as Lansberg covered up and the ref stepped in. This was a solid debut from Ladd. The first round was slow for her, but that should be expected in a UFC debut for someone who is 22 years old. Ladd has a bright future, and with that ground game and striking on the mat she could be a big star at 135lbs.
Salim “Grizzly” Touhari (10-2) made his UFC debut against The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 3 winner Warlley Alves (12-2). Alves came right out looking for a takedown, but Touhari was able to stay on his feet partially because he grabbed the fence, which he was warned about. Alves tried to get him to the mat and take his back, but Touhari slipped him off his back. Alves was just keeping Touhari pressed up against the cage but not doing any damage Touhari was able to push him off and we got back to the center of the Octagon. Touhari was staying on the outside and just jumping in with body shots consistently. Alves landed a body kick then a leg kick and then a big knee to the head. Alves then shot in for a takedown, and he partially had Touhari’s back. Touhari was able to battle back to his feet and was then being clinched up against the cage. The fighters had separated and danced around the Octagon as round 1 ended. In round 2 Touhari was trying to find the range to get inside of the longer Alves. Alves landed a big overhand right and Touhari responded in turn. The two then clinched and it was Touhari holding Alves against the cage briefly. Touhari landed a nice body shot by an uppercut that landed. Touhari blocked a big spinning kick and Touhari came back with a nice jab. Alves tried to rush forward and he was missing wildly and ate a knee to the body before clinching. That is where round 2 ended. The 2 hugged to start round 3 and Alves led out with a body kick. Touhari was starting to try and move forward and put the pressure on Alves. Alves blocked a big overhand right. Alves landed low blow kick and we had a stop in the action. Touhari took a lot of time to recover and led right out with a hard kick to the body. In The last few minutes of the third round, the crowd starting going crazy and it was because Conor McGregor made his way Octagon-side. Touhari moved forward and ripped a big left hand. Alves took a late takedown, but Touhari battled back to his feet. The judges scored this one 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28 all for Warlley Alves. Alves looked good in his return against the late replacement fighter. Alves was a lot more composed and dint rush and get himself into trouble. Expect a bigger name across the cage from him in the future.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 Finalist Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov (14-14-1) made his return to the Octagon to take on Team Alpha Male member Andre “Touchy” Fili (17-5). Lobov was continuing to move forward and trying to walk down Fili. Fili was peppering him with shots in response. Fili’s kicks were keeping Lobov at bay and with his jab he was opening up Lobov. Lobov’s face was torn up very early from the damage from Fili. Fili was landing a lot of leg kicks as well. Lobov was just continuing to move forward and landed a nice straight jab. Fili uncorked a huge head kick and Lobov crumpled to the mat. Lobov survived the flurry on the ground and was back up to his feet quickly as the round ended. Fili came right out landing some nice right hands and a hard kick to the body. Lobov was just relentlessly moving forward, but being punished for it. Lobov landed a big overhand right while also eating a counter left hook from Fili. Lobov caught a body kick and dumped Fili, but he got right back up. Fili went for a takedown, but it was stuffed. Lobov was landing more and more while Fili was slowing a bit. Lobov landed a left hook that almost seemed to stumble Fili. That forced a level change and a double leg takedown. AS soon as the fight was on the ground. The referee stopped the fight and sent Conor McGregor away from the outside of the cage. They made it back to their feet and the round came to an end. The second round started with a lot of trading back and forth with Lobov actually finding some serious success. Fili got it to the ground, and Lobov threatened with an ankle lock. Fili escaped and back on the feet Fili secured a takedown. He barely threatened with a head and arm choke, before Lobov got out and back to his feet. Almost immediately Fili dove for another double leg and secured it. Lobov yet again got up and back to his feet. Fili buckled the knee of Lobov with a leg kick. Fili scored yet again with a takedown, and it became the story of the 3rd round. Lobov got back to his feet and we were headed to the judges. They scored it 30-27 across the board for Andre Fili. Fili looked great in this fight he stayed mostly out of danger. Fili is really coming into his own, and incorporating his wrestling to really seal the deal can make a big difference at 145lbs.
Despite missing weight “Smile’N” Sam Alvey (31-10) still made it to the Octagon against the debuting Ramazan “Gorets” Emeev (16-3). Emeev led right out with a straight right hand and then a shot at a takedown, but Alvey was able to battle back to his feet. Emeev was super patient and picking his spots. He ripped a solid right hand that seemed to hurt Alvey, but Alvey regrouped and came back at him. Emeev was following his punches in and hit a right hand to the chin and immediately grabbed for the clinch. Emeev had Alvey on the mat. Alvey got back to his feet and Emeev unloaded. Emeev hit a big combination and it stumbled Alvey for sure and it finished with a big knee. Alvey circled away and was just trying to survive as the round ended. Emeev came right out in round 2 moving forward and went for an early takedown. Alvey got back to his feet and they were back in the center of the Octagon. Alvey had almost no production through 2 minutes outside of a 2-punch combination. Emeev was just moving forward and making Alvey go back towards the fence. Emeev peppered him against the fence, and Alvey grabbed a Thai clinch briefly to slow him down. Emeev continued to move forward went for a takedown and found himself briefly in an arm in standing guillotine from Alvey. Emeev hit a hard body kick and pressed Alvey up against the cage as round 2 ended. The third round was more of the same from the beginning with Emeev moving forward and Alvey having to deal with stuffing takedowns and a heavy clinch game. Emeev was just holding Alvey against the cage and staying out of major danger. This was an absolute snooze fest in the third round. Neither guy wanted to throw bunches while Emeev would occasionally clinch or go for a takedown. Emeev grabbed Alvey’s back in the last 15 seconds and they ended clinched against the cage as the round and fight thankfully ended. The judges stayed busy and scored it 30-27 across the board for Ramazan Emeev. This was a successful debut for Emeev the former M1 Global Middleweight champion. Emeev will be an interesting addition to the UFC in that scary 185lb division.
Damian “Webster” Stasiak (10-5) returned to the Octagon to take on Brian “Boom” Kelleher (18-8) at 135lbs. Stasiak came out quickly and landed a nice low kick. Stasiak was snapping Kelleher’s head back with punches. Stasiak landed a spinning back kick that hurt Kelleher to the body and he started to back up. Stasiak charged forward at him and unloaded and tried to grab for a takedown, but Kelleher survived and stayed on his feet. Kelleher was now on the offensive with the clinch up against the cage. On the break, Kelleher landed a nice elbow. Stasiak tried to go back to the body kick well, but it was blacked. Kelleher was landing, and then stuffed a takedown and found himself with a guillotine chance. Stasiak survived and Kelleher gave it up. Kelleher kept the pressure on him throughout the remainder of the round from the top position. In round 2 Kelleher was moving forward and trying to apply the pressure. Stasiak again went for the spin kick a and it was avoided. Stasiak had to go for a double leg, and he secured it. Kelleher battled back to his feet and in the process opened up Stasiak. There was yet another spinning back kick and this one made a connection on Kelleher. Stasiak went for a single leg, and while he was holding Kelleher up he ate a jumping knee off one foot from Kelleher. Kelleher was able to change the positioning and ended up on Stasiak’s back. Kelleher got in a clinch and hit a huge knee and Stasiak was a bloody mess. Kelleher went for another guillotine, but let it go. Stasiak gave up his back and Kelleher was softening him up to try and search for a guillotine. Stasiak got up and ate some more big shots from Kelleher as the round ended. Kelleher wasted little time in round 3 coming forward and was ripping jabs. Stasiak went for a takedown, but Kelleher was having none of it. Stasiak was not backing down though and returning fire. Kelleher landed another big knee and was winning the grappling exchanges. Stasiak reversed it and had Kelleher’s back for a brief second. Stasiak clinched briefly and then backed off. Kelleher landed a nice takedown and had Stasiak’s back again. They got back to the feet and Stasiak ripped another back kick, but it was blocked. Kelleher was just continuing to move forward and Stasiak who looked exhausted was responding. Kelleher then landed a big right hand and Stasiak went down. Stasiak was clutching Kelleher’s leg but ate 15 straight punches before the referee decided he was not intelligently defending himself and called the matchup. To go into Poland where his opponent hails from and get the finish like that was very impressive for Kelleher. Kelleher showed he can absolutely hang on the feet, and submissions aren’t his only game. He will be interesting to watch moving forward.
Marcin Held (23-7) was another guy desperate to get a victory in the UFC and he matched up with newcomer Nasrat Haqparast (8-2). Haqparast threw a big head kick that just missed and caused him to slip to the mat. Haqparast slipped in a lead left hand that landed clean. Held was willing to stand right there in front and trade and got in a nice right hand. Held was continuing to try and close the distance and get n close. Haqparast hit a big left hand and it appeared to stumble held. Held went for a takedown, by Haqparast was able to stuff the takedown. Held eventually finished the takedown after 45 second. Held was riding on top of him while Haqparast was doing a great job to limit any damage. Haqparast came out and hit Held with a counter left hand that sent him to the mat. He tried to follow him to the mat but thought better of it. When he got back to his there was a wardrobe situation. Haqparast stuffed two straight takedowns and just kept moving forward landing shots on Held. Haqparast found himself in an ankle lock briefly, but he avoided it but Held ended up in side control. Held was holding top position after Haqparast got him back into his guard. Held stayed on top of him for the remainder of the round landing some decent shots, but not a ton of damage. The third round started with an immediate takedown from held. Held went for a heel hook, but Haqparast was able to escape. Held again went for a heel hook, but Haqparast continued to get out of it. Held went for an armbar, but Haqparast was able to escape and scramble back to his feet. Haqparast moved forward and landed a short left hand, and then secured a takedown. Haqparast was throwing caution to the wind as the fight and round came to an end. The judges stayed busy and they scored it 30-27 across the board for Marcin Held. Held showed some serious resolve, but his grappling is what really proved to be the difference.
Kicking off the main card Oskar Piechota (10-0) made the walk versus Jonathan “Jonny Bravo” Wilson (7-3) at 185lbs. These two were really feeling it out early in the center of the cage. They traded leg kicks early. Wilson threw a head kick that was blocked, but it was a slow pace early. Piechota landed a low calf kick and then went for a takedown. In the scramble, Piechota ended up on Wilson’s back and trying to a rear naked choke while essentially being a backpack on Wilson. Piechota pulled the fight to the ground, and just on top of him looking for submissions. Wilson was able to survive as the round came to an end. The second round started and we were back to the slow pace. Wilson threw a low kick, and fell and was forced to block a head kick from Piechota. Wilson was trying to move forward, and find openings. Wilson landed a stiff leg kick but followed it up with nothing. Wilson went for a head kick it was caught and both fighters scrambled to the mat and popped up. Then at almost no time left Piechota landed a big right hand that floored Wilson, but he couldn’t follow up to try and finish as the round ended. Round 3 started very slow again, with Wilson taking his time and Piechota trying to land. Piechota tried to move forward he an uppercut straight right combination. Piechota ate a stiff right hand and Piechota responded with a level change. Piechota was on the mat and looking to take Wilson’s back. Piechota was all over him looking for submissions. He transitioned from a head and arm choke to an armbar to a triangle attempt. Piechota extended his arm right as the horn sounded and the fight ended. Yet another decision for this card and the judges scored this 30-27 across the board for Oskar Piechota and it was a good debut. He showed his ground skills and they were very impressive. He will be interesting going forward as an undefeated prospect.
Returning to fight in front of his home country fans Jan Blachowicz (20-7) took on Devin “Brown Bear” Clark (8-2). The fighters came out and touched gloves. Clark threw a sidekick to the head, and then immediately went for a takedown. Blachowicz was able to stop it and reversed the position in the clinch. Blachowicz kept the fight against the cage until the ref separated the two of them. Clark came in wildly and ate a left hook in response. Clark had a leg kick caught and Blachowicz responded with a body kick. Blachowicz followed up with a digging left hand to the body as well. Blachowicz had him in the clinch. Clark hit a big overhand that stumbled Blachowicz backward, but he survived and hit a big body kick in response along with a left hand. Blachowicz landed another very hard body kick to Clark. He then changed it an ripped a hard head kick that was partially blocked just prior to round 1 ending. Clark came rumbling forward trying to throw heavy kicks to start round 2. Blachowicz came back in response and landed two big body kicks and it caused Clark to react to it. Clark was trying to move forward and Blachowicz landed another body kick. Clark went for a takedown, and it was stuffed and quickly reversed into a takedown for Blachowicz. Blachowicz tried to reposition and they got back to the feet. There was an eye poke from Blachowicz that stopped the action briefly. Clark came rushing in and Blachowicz caught him with a standing rear naked choke and at the weird angle. Clark had no choice but was forced to tap. Blachowicz needed this victory in a bad way and really did a great job against a rising prospect. In a wide-open 205lb weight class this could be the beginning of a run back to the rankings.
In the Co-Main event, Poland’s own Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2 #3 Ranked Women’s Strawweight) went up against Jodie Esquibel (6-3). Kowalkiewicz came out landing the better of the strikes early. Esquibel was trying to land her strikes and threw a spinning back fist to try and get the action moving. Kowalkiewicz was just moving forward and catching Esquibel as she was trying to come in. Esquibel just kept moving around and snuck in a nice left hand right before the horn. Kowalkiewicz was just moving forward. She grabbed the back of Esquibel’s head in a clinch and ripped off three knees to the head. Kowalkiewicz ripped another hard left hand. Kowalkiewicz was pouncing and using the Thai clinch to just load up on knees to Esquibel. Kowalkiewicz was just relentless landing combinations and big knees. Esquibel could only grab on. As soon as they got separated it was more of the same as a striking display from Kowalkiewicz. In a beautiful flurry, Kowalkiewicz scored a trip takedown and transitioned immediately to her back and then an armbar that Esquibel had really defend against as the round ended. The third round started with Kowalkiewicz moving forward again. Esquibel was not backing away as she just kept coming at Kowalkiewicz, but it was getting her in serious trouble. Karolina was landing with a tremendous amount of punches. Every time they got close Esquibel would duck and Karolina would land knees to her chin. The clinch game continued as Karolina just kept moving forward and landing as the round and fight expired. The judges scored this one 30-27 across the board for Karolina Kowalkiewicz. This was an impressive performance from the former title challenger. Getting back in the win column was big, and she could find herself in a top 5 matchup next.
In the Main Event of the evening Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (32-9 1NC #6 Ranked Welterweight) and Darren Till (15-0-1) went head to head in the Welterweight Division. Till came right out and was pushing Cowboy towards the cage and Cowboy dropped down and looked for a takedown. Till stuffed the takedown. Till was starting to land shots through on the feet. Cowboy went for a takedown and got it, but Till battled right back to his feet. Cowboy had Till up against the fence, but Till reversed the position and got free. Till was hands down just sneaking in left hands on the feet. Cerrone ducked down into an uppercut. Till then landed another left hand. Cowboy responded with a body shot that found a home. Till snuck in a left-right combination that buckled Cowboy who snapped back up quickly. Till smelled blood and kept moving forward sneaking an elbow through and then a right-left combination. That combination made Cerrone cover-up and Till just unloaded shots until the referee saved the fallen Cowboy. Darren Till is now for real. If you didn’t know about him before this you do now. He is a talented striker who has the power to finish the fight. This fight gets him not only into the rankings but yet another Top 10 fighter up next. Till then called out Mike “Platinum” Perry (11-1 #15 Ranked Welterweight) who was in the building and ran up to the side of the Octagon.
This was not the most entertaining card and we had a ton of decisions. However, the main event and the Blachowicz submission were huge highlights. Darren Till made his declaration that he is for real, and it was almost like a passing of the torch to the next generation. Till has such a bright future and proved that he can finish fights. Tough loss for Cerrone, who now has dropped 3 straight, but he will be back, but it should only be after some serious time off. The UFC goes to FS1 next weekend with the return of Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (22-7) taking on Derek Brunson (17-5 #7 Ranked Middleweight) in what should be an excellent striking contest. UFC Gdansk may not have had the flashiest fights, but what will come out of the results will be very good for the UFC.