A midweek fight with no fans sounds pretty bizarre when you say it out loud. Or maybe it just sounds like Florida to you. Either way the UFC was back on ESPN + live from Jacksonville, Florida with their second of three scheduled Fight Nights in just eight days. While not as star studded as the UFC 249 Card (what could be?) it was still a Main Card with some exciting fights of its own. First up on the Main Card we had the lightweight bout between Michael Johnson and Thiago Moises, which is ironic considering that before Saturday night the last fighter who had defeated Tony Ferguson was none other than Michael Johnson. I'm not the biggest UFC fan but I once knew someone named Thiago who was a snitch so I find myself having to root against him here. Johnson made it clear from the start of the fight that he didn't want to wrestle, he wanted to brawl and use his fast hands to his advantage. For a guy with a wrestling background, Johnson looked more like a polished boxer in the first round, keeping Moises backpedaling and against the fence damn near the whole round through quick, well-placed jabs. And then, as fights go, everything went the exact opposite in the second round as Moises landed an immediate take down that he rolled into an ankle lock causing Johnson to tap out just about thirty seconds into the round.
Our second fight of the night we had the aging legend, 41 year old Andrei Arlovski vs Phillipe Lins in a heavyweight bout. The big men mostly seemed to feel each other out the first round, with Lins showing very impressive hand speed and counter strike ability for a heavy weight fighter. In the second round a missed kick by Lins struck Arlovski in the private parts which is so much more awkward without the fans there. Also without the fans it looked like Arlovski took more of the five minutes than he normally would have. In the third round Lins finally started taking the fight to Arlovski but it wasn't enough as the more experienced fighter prevailed in a unanimous decision. Next up was a bantamweight bout between Ray Borg and Ricky Simon, and yes it is very hard for me to not say Bourque instead of Borg. As expected, this was a highlight of speed and wrestling, with Simon landing two first round take downs and even flexing his guns in response to some of Daniel Cormier's commentary, it is funny to see that the fighters can actually hear what the announcers are saying. Side note: as a boxing purist, Ray Borg throws some very impressive combos.
Ricky Simon controlled the second round with body strikes and wrestling attacks, including landing a third take down with Borg continuing to hold tough and stay in the fight. No disrespect to the fight but by far the most entertaining sequence of the second round was being able to hear an exchange of trash talking where Borg said "come at me kid" and Simon responded with "I'm older than you". Knowing he was down in the fight, Borg pushed the pace in the third round but wound up leaving himself open to yet another take down by Simon, and then another. Simon dominated the wrestling aspect of the fight, landing seven of I believe eleven total takedown attempts, leading to his victory in a split decision. This was followed up by a fight between two young up and coming lightweight fighters Alexander "The Great" Hernandez and Drew Dober. Again, no offense to Dober but doesn't his name sound kind of boring when said next to one like that?
As expected, both fighters came out very aggressive giving us an action packed first round. Late in the second round Dober began to put the fight away with flurries of power punches, Hernandez landed two key takedowns to keep himself alive in the fight but Dober both times was able to get back to his feet and come right at Hernandez even harder with precise and powerful combos before referee Herb Dean stopped the fight. After that was Ovince Saint Preux's heavyweight debut against veteran fighter Ben Rothwell, who I note looks like a member of the Sons of Anarchy. The two big men circled the ring for most of the first round, with Rothwell seemingly stalking his prey waiting for his moment to strike, landing a takedown late in the first round countering a high kick by Saint Preux. The second round was much of the same, with Rothwell seemingly wearing his opponent down with his weight, until Saint Preux landed a big knockdown on a counter punch at the end of the round. The third round Saint Preux was much more aggressive leading to a much more action packed round. Saint Preux did make a hell of a statement at the end, knocking Rothwell down at the final whistle as the big men ended the fight standing toe to toe and just fucking clobbering each other, but it wasn't enough to overcome as he fell in a split decision. Finally it was time for the main event of the night, Glover Texeira facing off with Anthony "Lionheart" Smith, and I instantly became a Smith fan as he came out to French Montana's Return of The Mack.
As the fight starts, major kudos to Bruce Buffer for having so much gusto in an empty arena, it's almost as if he has no idea there aren't any fans there. Smith came out very aggressive, seemingly trying to overwhelm the veteran fighter with his speed. Smith's corner pushed the tempo too much too early and as soon as he slowed down late in the second round Teixeira went on the attack like a shark smelling blood in the water. Halfway through the third round Texeira knocked Smith off balance with a nice punch and then took him down. Smith spent the rest of the third round on the mat with Texeira hammering him in the head. Smith went on the retreat immediately to start the fourth round after Glover landed a strong uppercut. Smith fought hard but had clearly over exerted himself to the point that I'm not sure how the fight wasn't stopped in the fourth round. Smith's corner told him to "sell out" in the final round, somehow not realizing that he had sold out back in the second round. The fight was stopped early in the fifth round too continue Teixeira's win streak, but should never have even lasted that long. His corner should have stopped the fight for him and not have pushed him so much early, very poor management of the fight by his trainers. All in all it was a very entertaining midweek fight with no fans. the UFC will be back live in Jacksonville tomorrow night.