The MMA Plug: UFC Florida Recap

May 16, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Alistair Overeem (red gloves) and Walt Harris (blue gloves) greet each other after their fight during UFC on ESPN at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the beginning of March when major sporting organizations ceased operations due to Coronavirus concerns, fans have been starving for content to consume. Well, the UFC made it their mission to be the first sport to come back, and they delivered in a massive fashion. Last Saturday evening, the UFC wrapped up three events inside of eight days down in Jacksonville, Fla.

Now, it is worth keeping an eye on all of the people involved throughout the week, but it is also important to note that out of thousands of administered COVID-19 tests and antibody tests, only three produced positive results. 

This is especially something of importance in the MMA world since the subject has created a line in the sand mentality with some media members using every opportunity to find the tiniest flaws in the UFC’s safety plan and criticizing their peers for taking part in the event. Bloody Elbow’s Trent Reinsmith even suggested a staged work stoppage.

On the other hand, the ever-present and highly reputable John Morgan of MMA Junkie used his voice on multiple platforms to speak on behalf of the procedures and the steps the UFC took to try and keep things as safe as possible.

Saturday night’s card was packed with action and filled with emotion from fight to fight. There were undoubtedly some questionable decisions from the judges as two fighters who scored knockdowns in close fights went on to lose decisions, which begs the question: is now the time to experiment with judging formats? 

In the main event, Elevation Fight Team’s Alistair Overeem showed why he is still a contender in the heavyweight division. “The Demolition Man” weathered a storm of strikes in the early first round from Walt Harris. Harris had Overeem on the brink of being finished, but Overeem showed referee Dan Miragliotta enough defense to keep it moving. He not only survived the attack, but was then able to reverse positions and thrive at the end of the round. 

Overeem never panicked. Even while bloodied and busted open, Overeem controlled his breathing and waited for his opponent to burn out. He showed the poise that you would come to expect of a 65-fight pro-veteran.  

Harris deserves credit just for making the walk after grieving the loss of his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard. However, in the preview piece for this card, we forecasted a potential adrenaline dump. Whether or not Harris’ huge belly-deep breaths were because of him entering the cage with a head full of steam and throwing punches at one hundred percent right away was an adrenaline dump, or general burnout is something we will never know. 

The second round TKO has Overeem likely back in the mix of top-five opponents, and the now 40-year-old hopes to make a last ride on the quest for UFC gold.

Finally, can we please put some respect on Angela Hill’s name? “Overkill” came into the contest unranked and duked it out until the very end with #6 Claudia Gadelha. Hill has steadily been improving fight after fight, and she’s begun to take on a Cowboy Cerrone-esque fight schedule (seven fights in 14 months). 

Gadelha won the first round, but Hill smashed Gadelha in the face in the second, sending her crashing to the canvas and scoring the fight’s lone knockdown. Hill appeared to outwork Gadelha in the third round with the strike count registering 43-34 in that final frame. However, Hill was visibly shocked when the split decision did not go her way. Verdict, a popular MMA fan pick ‘em site, had more than seventy percent of participating fans score the fight in favor of Hill.

The feature fight was a razor-thin contest in the featherweight division. Dan “50k” Ige edged out a split decision victory over longtime lightweight staple Edson Barboza. This fight could have gone either way. It is important to note that Barboza scored the lone knockdown of the fight, and for the first time at 145 lbs., Barboza looked sharp. 

Many thought that Ige would use his superior grappling to neutralize the striking threats presented by Barboza, but what they did not account for was Ige’s Hawaiian nature willingness to just flat out scrap. Ige’s volume and pressure actually saw him outstrike Barboza on the stat sheet, which are also likely factors on the two cards that gave him the win.

A potential matchup with #12 Arnold Allen may be in line next for Ige.

Krzysztof Jotko earned the Unanimous Decision over Eryk Anders in a middleweight bout. Jotko was able to fend off the relentless pressure from Anders and outpoint him on the feet to win.

The first fight of the main card has fight fans believing that Song Yadong is the luckiest fighter in the UFC right now. Marlon “Chito” Vera had Yadong’s back at one point and also had two takedowns. To give credit where it is due, Yadong did flash a strong jab throughout the contest. If we take a look at body language, Yadong appeared to be surprised when he was announced the winner on all three cards.

Now, in taking a look at the prelims, a lot of things pointed out in the preview proved to be accurate assessments.

  • One of them being the main event between Miguel Baeza and Matt Brown. Matt Brown fought a Matt Brown fight — he went out there to kill or be killed. The 39-year-old vet had a strong first round with a high volume of output, only to get caught in the fire early in the second by the undefeated Baeza.
  • Kevin Holland made quick work of Anthony Hernandez with a first-round TKO.
  • Giga Chikadze showed off his technical kickboxing skills against UFC newcomer Irwin Rivera.
  • Nate Landwehr and Darren Elkins put on a slugfest that resembled a Carrie film, and as predicted, “The Damage” took a lot of damage on the way to losing on the cards.
  • Cortney Casey announced her flyweight presence with authority as she scored the screaming submission via armbar in the first round.
  • In the curtain puller, Rodrigo Nascimento choked out fellow heavyweight Don’Tale Mayes.

-Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303

Be sure to check out The MMA Plug on Twitter and Instagram throughout the night for live event updates and information about what is going on in the fight game.

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