MMA Weekly (9/11-9/18): Michael Johnson Stops Dustin Poirier, Chael Sonnen Signs with Bellator
Unexpected signings, thrilling fights, great bout announcements, and plenty of interesting developments—weeks like these are what make being an MMA fan so incredibly fun.
Let’s recap everything mixed martial arts followers were able to experience this week!
UFC Fight Night 94: Michael Johnson Finishes Dustin Poirier in the First, Derek Brunson Stops Uriah Hall
Overall, UFC Fight Night 94 was a fun event to watch—even if it was somewhat marred by questionable foul calls from referees, an early-ish stoppage, and unnecessary post-fight actions.
In the main event of the evening, Michael Johnson knocked the surging Dustin Poirier out in the very first round. Perhaps because of his incredible streak—and his exciting style—“The Diamond” seemed too content to stand in the pocket and trade with Johnson, who connected with a pair of punches on the feet and others on the mat at just over one and one-half minutes of the opening round.
The quality of this win cannot be understated for Johnson—he just threw his name back into the mix for a shot at the belt. Dustin Poirier is a legitimate, elite, formidable opponent.
In the co-main event, TUF veteran Uriah Hall battled the streaking Derek Brunson. The Jackson-Wink product (although not for this fight) Brunson landed a brutal punch on the chin of Hall, who dramatically fell to the canvas just over ninety seconds into the fight. Despite Brunson’s follow-up punches not really connecting on Uriah, referee Herb Dean called a halt to the action. A protesting Uriah Hall immediately popped to his feet and began angrily walking around the Octagon.
In retrospect, this was a premature stoppage for Dean, but as Brian Stann said, it was essentially impossible to get a good view from his vantage point—and it did look as though Hall was choosing not to defend himself. Truth be told, Herb should be given some slack—it really was a difficult call to make in a few seconds—and Uriah Hall should be happy the fight was stopped when it was, to be frank. Getting cracked that hard in the opening two minutes doesn’t bode well for the remaining thirteen.
In the featured fight of the night, Evan Dunham battled late-replacement Rick Glenn in an exciting affair that was awarded “Fight of the Night” honors and saw Dunham secure the unanimous decision. Glenn was nearly finished in the early going, but rallied back to give Evan a run for his money as the contest progressed. It’s great to see Rick Glenn inside the Octagon.
Before that, Roan Carneiro returned to welterweight against Kenny Robertson in a contest that didn’t quite live up to the hype. Both men struggled to truly impose their will across three rounds, although we did get to see some nice ground work—especially in the form of Robertson’s sweeps. The final result was a split decision victory for Roan Carneiro.
The second main-card bout saw Chris Wade lock horns with Islam Makhachev. A difficult bout for both men, Wade started off strong and probably won the first round due to his ground and pound, and according to the judges, came up short in the remaining two. Makhachev was awarded the decision victory, and the contest was reasonably fun to watch.
Speaking of fun to watch, the main card kicked off with a featherweight tilt between Chas Skelly and Maximo Blanco. Blanco is infamous for throwing ridiculous flying techniques at the start of fights, and he’s had a lot of success because of them. However, Skelly anticipated this offense, and actually connected with a flying technique of his own right after the fight began—a front kick to the body.
The move didn’t land too hard, but its force pushed Blanco down to the ground. Once there, he found a phenomenal anaconda choke to be his undoing just twenty seconds into the match.
As a whole, UFC Fight Night 94 was once again solid, even if its long run time did leave something—a Saturday night—to be desired.
Bellator 161: Cheick Kongo Wins Close Decision Over Tony Johnson, Joe Warren Finds the Finish
All in all, even with a not-so-great headliner, Bellator 161 was a good event, made even better by interviews with the newly signed Chael Sonnen.
I won’t torture you by recapping the main event in detail. Nobody expected it to be fun to watch, and it wasn’t. Tony Johnson tried to wrestle the Frenchman, and found some success, but Kongo’s top pressure and low blow allowed him to do just enough to win the fight in the eyes of the judges.
The co-main event of the evening pitted former Bellator bantamweight champion Joe Warren against the up-and-coming Sirwan Kakai—a younger and definitely legitimate competitor. As was expected, the world-class wrestler Warren imposed a takedown-based gameplan. A close first round saw the Swedish fighter perform well against “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” defending takedowns and landing hard shots. The stanza was certainly competitive.
The middle round is where Warren started to turn the tide, threatening with a submission and landing a gorgeous knee flush on his opponent’s chin. This momentum allowed him to connect hard at the start of the final period, and after that, lock-in the guillotine and win the fight.
Here, Joe Warren proved once again that he has a lot left to give. Frankly, against a fighter like Kakai, who is younger and more experienced, Warren should have lost. It’ll be tough for him to regain the belt, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of riveting contests available for him in the promotion; Joe Warren is one of the more underrated and underappreciated fighters in MMA.
The second main-card fight of the night saw Russian star Anastasia Yankova take on Veta Arteaga in a catchweight contest. The fast-paced bout opened with both women throwing caution to the wind and trading bombs. Although each individual had their punches land, it was Arteaga who connected cleanly, nearly finishing her opponent in the process.
The middle round saw more of the same general style, although it was very competitive. Both women connected with combinations, and by and large, Yankova was the aggressor. The flip side of this was that she left herself susceptible to Arteaga’s quick punches.
The final period was also close, with Anastasia serving as the aggressor and hitting her target with long punches and kicks, and Arteaga finding her range with tight punches down the center. This round too was very competitive, with the edge probably going towards the Russian.
The end result was a split decision in favor of Anastasia Yankova. This one could have easily gone the other way, and although Yankova will emerge as a big star, it’s clear that some technical deficiencies and gaps in her game will need to be patched as she takes on upper-level fighters.
The main card kicked off with an exciting lightweight tilt between Derek Campos and Djamil Chan. Despite his notable wrestling pedigree, “The Stallion” Campos chose not to use his takedowns until the end of the second round and the start of the third. This nearly cost him the contest in the first stanza, when Chan connected with a vicious combination that essentially knocked his opponent out. Only the toughness and quick recovery abilities of Campos saw him through this adversity.
Campos came back strong in the middle round, landing with his own punches and puzzling Chan with forward pressure and a lack of takedowns. The third round was more wrestling-based for Campos, who shot a takedown relatively early—after doing well on the feet—and in the process, won the fight. The final result was a unanimous decision in his favor.
The tenacity and skill of Derek Campos cannot be denied. Still, he’d do well to make use of his full arsenal in future fights, disregarding the entertainment of the fans, to an extent. Realistically, this fight could have easily been his without the near knockout.
Chael Sonnen Signs with Bellator MMA
Bellator MMA unexpectedly signed a fantastic fighter and personality this week: Chael Sonnen.
It was revealed that, following the passing of his USADA drug tests, former UFC middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen had joined the ranks of the number-two MMA promotion, signing a multi-fight, multi-year deal. “The People’s Champion” has voiced interest in making his promotional debut very soon, against the former UFC light heavyweight champion and Bellator light heavyweight title challenger Tito Ortiz.
Whether you love Sonnen or hate him, there’s no denying that this is an incredible opportunity for both him and Bellator. His famous post-fight speeches and trash talking are especially well-suited for Bellator’s live-and-free format (on a popular network in Spike, no less), and his other skills—commentating, podcasting, broadcasting, selling merchandise, etc.—only stand to benefit the promotion. For as fantastic of fighters as Benson Henderson, Josh Thomson, Matt Mitrione, Rory MacDonald, and Tito Ortiz are, this is the most profitable signing Bellator has made to date, by far. Sonnen’s a smart guy with a knack for selling tickets, merchandise, and controversy—integral ingredients in the MMA recipe Bellator has crafted.
Not to mention, of course, that he’s an excellent fighter with a number of appealing match-ups available in his new home: Tito Ortiz, Fedor, Liam McGeary, Rory MacDonald, Phil Davis, Alexander Shlemenko, Kendall Grove, Michael Page, Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, and many, many others.
MMA Fight Announcements
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson at UFC 205 on November 12
Tyron Woodley may be throwing a tantrum over not being matched with GSP or getting his “money fight,” but the fact is St. Pierre isn’t ready to return, and Thompson has put together the most impressive active win streak in the welterweight division. This is an outstanding fight.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Cowboy Cerrone at UFC 205 on November 12
Following Robbie Lawler’s unfortunate withdrawal from UFC 205, the UFC has booked the young and always-game TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum against Cowboy Cerrone. This is a remarkable fight, as both men are plainly elite—Cowboy’s latest surge doesn’t need to be recapped, and Gastelum is coming off of a win over former champion Johny Hendricks, with his last two losses being very, very close, and also being the result of contests opposite Tyron Woodley and Neil Magny.
James Gallagher vs. Kirill Medvedovsky at Bellator 163 on November 10
James Gallagher, the nineteen-year-old SBG Ireland product and protégé of John Kavanagh, is undefeated as a professional and may very well be the next big thing, but his last contest, which was also his promotional debut, proved what many assumed: he needs time to grow inside the cage.
As such, this fight against a skilled competitor in Kirill Medvedovsky makes perfect sense for all parties involved.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jacare Souza 2 at UFC Fight Night 101 on November 27
Luke Rockhold’s contract woes have been worked out, and he’s now scheduled to rematch Jacare Souza, who in their first encounter, lost to Rockhold via unanimous (five-round) decision.
Plain and simple, UFC fans shouldn’t miss this fight: two of the best middleweights in the world locking horns is incredibly exciting, especially when so much has changed since their first contest five years back. The fact that the bout will be aired live and free is also significant.
A.J. McKee vs. Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 166 on December 2
It’s good to see that A.J. McKee is finally getting the step-up in competition he deserves in Emmanuel Sanchez. However, he’ll need to come out in top form to emerge victorious—Sanchez is a well-rounded and tenacious Roufusport member who has already fought some of Bellator’s top competitors—and performed pretty well.
Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Stefan Struve at UFC 204 on October 15
Ruslan Magomedov’s injury prompted the UFC to sign Daniel Omielanczuk as a replacement. Omielanczuk is a legitimate heavyweight who has quietly accumulated a three-fight winning streak, and on such short notice, he’s a pretty impressive fill-in.
Gray Maynard vs. Ryan Hall at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale on December 3
After returning to his winning ways, the former lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard is looking to keep the momentum going against Ryan Hall—a TUF veteran and decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
This contest is appealing because it’s so winnable for each fighter.
Sam Alvey vs. Alex Nicholson at UFC Fight Night 97 on October 15
Making a quick return to the Octagon once again, Sam Alvey will fight fellow KO artist Alex Nicholson in Manilla on October 15. Don’t blink during this one.
Andre Fili vs. Hacran Dias at UFC Fight Night 96 on October 1
Replacing an injured Brian Ortega, Andre Filli—a well-rounded and exciting Team Alpha Male competitor—is literally the best possible athlete to step up against Hacran Dias on such short notice—for the fans and ticket holders, that is. Seriously, last-minute replacements are seldom this skilled.
Erik Perez vs. Felipe Arantes at UFC Fight Night 98 on November 5
Both thrilling competitors, Perez and Arantes should entertain those in attendance and fans watching around the world on November 5. Simply put, they’re two of the most exciting bantamweights signed with the UFC.
This week in MMA was crazy, and the best part is that next week can conceivably be even better. Plus, we’re approaching big shows from the UFC, Bellator, and the WSOF.
See you in seven days for the latest MMA News.