It wasn’t the prettiest win of his distinguished career, but former heavyweight king Fabricio Werdum ended UFC Fight Night 121 in Sydney, Australia, with his hand raised for the second time in just 42 days, hammering out a tidy unanimous decision over Polish up-and-comer Marcin Tybura in hopes of earning a second crack at the man who took his title, Stipe Miocic.
The 40-year-old Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 11-4 UFC) couldn’t put his legendary ground game to much use against Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC), instead relying on his muay Thai game to dictate pace and distance for 25 minutes, en route to scores of 50-45 twice and 49-46.
Werdum used his thumping inside and outside low kicks, as well as heavy knees in and out of the clinch to lump his foe up, yet he could never fully deter Tybura. The 32-year-old Pole ate the Brazilian’s heaviest shots over the five rounds and even found his greatest success in the final 10 minutes, sneaking right head kicks onto Werdum’s dome, standing him up on several occasions. Even in Round 4 when the jiu-jitsu wizard put his back on the mat, “Tybur” fended off arm-triangle choke attempts, stood up and got right back to throwing, though he was a step behind the entire way. “All fights in the UFC, not only just in the heavyweight division, but all fights are very hard,” Werdum said after the bout. “Just one punch, one kick, and that's it, man. [Tybura] is a very tough guy. But, I win, I'm on to the next step for the belt again.”
The last six weeks have been unique and truly surreal for Werdum. The former UFC heavyweight champion was 1-2 in his last three bouts entering UFC 216 on Oct. 7, where he was set to face heavy-hitting Derrick Lewis. When Lewis ended up pulling out on fight day due to bulging discs in his back, Werdum instead fought scheduled undercard and thoroughly outmatched Walt Harris, whom he armbarred in 65 seconds. Three days later, Tybura’s originally scheduled opponent, Mark Hunt, was pulled from the main event after the UFC became aware of an editorial the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix champ had written for The Players Voice, entitled “If I Die Fighting, That’s Fine,” in which he admitted to early signs of chronic trauma encephalopathy.
This past Thursday, Werdum was involved in an ugly altercation at the UFC host hotel in Sydney, in which he hurled a boomerang at welterweight firebrand Colby Covington. Covington opted to press charges for common assault and now Werdum has a court date Down Under, set for Dec. 13 in Downing Centre Local Court.
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‘Jessy Jess’ Surprises ‘Rowdy’ Rawlings in Late-Notice UFC Debut
It is worth questioning if Jessica-Rose Clark is a legitimate flyweight, after missing weight by three pounds on Friday. Nonetheless, with just 11 days notice for her UFC debut, “Jessy Jess” took a fitting split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over fellow Australian veteran Bec Rawlings.
Rawlings (7-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC) was originally scheduled to take on Joanne Calderwood in a 115-pound affair before a late injury knocked the Scottish striker out of the fight. Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who was preparing to face Vanessa Porto at Invicta FC 26 on Dec. 8, accepted the contest a week and a half ago. Clark, who also missed weight in her last attempted flyweight bout against Raika Emiko two years ago, failed on the scale but her accurate counterstriking made her more than deserving of the judges’ favor.
“Rowdy Bec” was in Clark’s face early, having her greatest success in the opening round, setting up takedowns behind her winging punches and even threatening with an armbar on the floor. However, even by the end of the opening period, Rawlings was running headlong into one and two-punch counters from Clark, then eating leg kicks on the end of them. In Round 2, Clark even flexed her own grappling game, rocking a rushing Rawlings with a right hand, taking her down and getting a good look at an arm-triangle choke.
Alliance MMA’s Rawlings continued landing in the final round, yet her wild rushes got her countered hard and clean as “Jessy Jess” continued chewing her leg up with low kicks. Rawlings got a late takedown from the clinch, but her adversary powered back to her feet, dinged her with clinch knees, then put her back on the canvas to end the bout. Judge Evan Field gave Rawlings the final round 10-9 and the fight 29-28, while Charlie Keech and Storm Oshyer had it 29-28 for Clark.
Muhammad Earns Biggest Career Win With Scrappy Split Over Means
Up-and-comer Belal Muhammad earned a breakthrough win at 170 pounds, using poised and sharp striking to take a competitive but righteous split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over aggressive, rugged veteran Tim Means.
The southpaw Means (27-9-1, 1 NC MMA, 9-6, 1 NC UFC) sought to impose his smothering, multi-range striking game on the 29-year-old Chicago native, but Muhammad (13-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) remained diligent with his jab from the outside, both leading and countering, then flurrying with combinations of hooks when “The Dirty Bird” got too aggressive. Means turned up the pressure in Round 2, briefly shooting into a guillotine choke that got him full mounted, then taking over with his long left crosses and kicking offense. It was the third and final round that would determine the bout.
In Round 3, “Remember the Name” renewed his steady jab, but began alternating his lead hand into nifty hooks, which opened up bigger punching combinations on Means, increasing in effectiveness as the final minute of the fight wound down. Judges Evan Field and Kevin Manderson gave the last round and the contest to Muhammad, while Charlie Keech awarded the final frame and fight to Means.
Muhammed is now 3-0 in the UFC over the last 11 months, while Means has just one victory in his last four Octagon appearances.
Matthews Gets Judges’ Good Graces in Iffy Split Over Velickovic
Jake Matthews made good his UFC welterweight debut, but he was aided by a panel of sympathetic judges who helped the prized Aussie up-and-comer to a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over Serbia’s Bojan Velickovic.
After two consecutive losses the 23-year-old Matthews (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) was making his return to the welterweight division, where he plied his trade prior to his June 2014 UFC debut. Despite still being a robust 170-pounder, “The Celtic Kid” obviously struggled with the size, strength and defensive wrestling of the massive Velickovic (15-5-1 MMA, 2-3-1 UFC), who shut down his wrestling for the vast majority of the opening 10 minutes, pounding him along the fence while Matthews was glued to his legs in the first round, then nearly guillotining his man and sweeping him into full mount in the second stanza. Both men traded back control in the final five minutes, with Matthews getting the better of things as time ticked down, though it seemed perhaps too little, too late.
Kon Papaionnou, the lone judge who gave “Serbian Steel” the bout, curiously gave the Elevation Fight Team rep Round 3. The initial five minutes was the round that served as the critical swing round; all three judges, including Anthony Dimitriou and Storm Oshyer, gave Matthews the opening frame, despite Velickovic defending five of Matthews’ takedown attempts, standing up from his two successful efforts and outlanding the homeland talent 59 to 6 in total strikes over the first period.
Theodorou Overcomes Kelly in Awkward Middleweight Encounter
In a predictably disjointed clash of middleweight contenders, Elias Theodorou took three curious scores in his unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-28) victory over four-time judo Olympian Daniel Kelly.
Most of the match’s 15 minutes played out in repetitive pattern, as the stalking southpaw Kelly (13-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) backed his man up to the cage and flurried, while Theodorou (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) ducked hazardously low, popping up with body and head kicks. Kelly’s left hand was the cleanest, consistent strike of the contest, yet he absorbed massive volume from the circling Canadian, who surprised him with several snapping head kicks off the counter.
Theodorou, 29, took the most decisive round in the second period, outlanding Kelly 45 to 16 in significant strikes behind his bevy of kicks, but the first and final frames were very competitive and in Round 3, the Aussie even muscled Theodorou to the canvas, took his back and sunk a rear-naked choke briefly before getting shaken out of dominant position. Nonetheless, all three judges gave Theodorou every single round, including Australian judge Charlie Keech, who gave “The Ultimate Fighter: Nations” winner a 10-8 score in Round 2. Over the contest, Theodorou landed 128 total strikes to Kelly’s 54.
Volkanovski Grinds It Out Versys Surprisingly Tough Sub Young
Alexander Volkanovski remained undefeated inside the Octagon in Sydney, but the featherweight prospect’s evening was much more challenging than expected despite earning a seemingly unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27) on the judges’ scorecards over fellow Australian and late replacement Shane Young in a 150-pound catch-weight bout.
Volkanovski (16-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) was originally set to fight Jeremy Kennedy, then Humberto Bandenay, both of whom pulled out due to injury. The 24-year-old Young (11-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) didn’t get the call until just over a week ago, after Universal Reality Combat Championship titlist Drex Zamboanga of the Philippines couldn't take the bout due to visa issues.
“Alexander the Great” tried to impose his gritty wrestle-boxing game from the outset, but Young showed surprisingly stout and improved takedown defence over the first half of the contest and landed crafty counters on his massively favored foe. Over the last seven minutes however, Volkanovski found his groove and a place for his heavy overhand rights, then began producing steadier takedowns and ground-and-pound to clearly win rounds. However, even with his fatigue, Young never folded fully, giving Volkanovski what was easily his toughest of three UFC appearances so far, despite being a late-notice substitution.
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