Fight week #13

UFC 277 featured two heavyweight fights – the tilts that really matter to me – as well as a whole lot of everything else, which I don’t mind as long as there are exciting finishes. And there were finishes galore on the main card. Future light heavyweight champion Magomed Ankalaev announced he was here to stay with a complete beating from the fearsome Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. Versatile Brandon Moreno brightened up the dismal flyweight division by turning off the lights of highly technical forward Kai Kara-France to take a 2-0 lead in their budding rivalry and capture the interim championship in the flyweight category. weight in advance. of a seemingly implausible fourth fight against Deiveson Figueirido (who will hopefully miss weight like he has before, so they have to do it a fifth time). Amanda Nunes didn’t finish Julianna Peña during the reclaim of the women’s bantamweight title, but she badly injured the stubborn and brave Peña, inflicting a deep gash on her forehead in a crimson-stained encounter you don’t see often in women. side of the register.


The pair of heavyweight bouts at UFC 277, however, were straight tea, sister. But I ask: when are they not? They are big meaty men slapping meat and there isn’t much else to say about it, even if I have to fill precious columns of columns, I surely have to.


In the preliminaries, Hamdy El-Said Abdelwahab, 6’2″, 265 pounds, a member of the 2016 Egyptian Olympic team, where he placed 10th in the men’s Greco-Roman 98 kilogram competition, picked up a victory by split decision at 6’6.”, 255-pound Don’Tale Mayes Mayes, a heavy hitter with a judo background that served him no purpose during a UFC career in which he proved vulnerable to takedowns and submissions, showed up in the best shape of his career – the rare heavyweight with visible abdominal muscles, a feat somehow replicated by the bigger Abdelwahab, albeit on a gut fleshy and prominent.


Judging by a 5-0 record built on wins against a list of opponents with losing records, including two separate 0-2 Matthew Strickland knockouts, I expected Abdelwahab to take one on chin against Mayes. After all, he had accepted the fight on just 12 days notice, and the footage of him I could find reminded me of talented Iranian heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler Amir Aliakbari. Aliakbari, who turned to MMA after receiving a lifetime ban for the blatant use of performance-enhancing drugs that caused him to miss the 2012 Olympics, quickly racked up a 5-0 record in Rizin thanks to the usual beatings of has-beens and cans of tomatoes (as well as a dubious split decision over current Bellator heavyweight contender and FedorTeam member Valentin Moldavsky) before getting older, Mirko Cro Cop turned on his black lights in the final of the 2016 Rizin World Grand-Prix. Aliakbari, like Abdelwahab, was densely built and strong, but could not throw or take a punch to save his life.


Against Mayes, Abdelwahab proved me wrong – he went punch for punch with the tallest striker in the first round while mixing in precise takedowns, survived a few hard knocks from Mayes in the second round that could have knocked down Terrible Ted the wrestling bear, and then bounced back in the third round to fight his way to a split decision win that by all rights should have been a unanimous 29-28 affair. Mayes, to his discredit, still hasn’t shown the ability to defend against a half-competent fight, let alone Abdelwahab’s smooth back and forth and intense shoulder pressure. Even the likes of Rodrigo Nascimento and Ciryl Gane, neither of whom are carpet wizards, have had success with Mayes on the court.


Here are two careers at a crossroads: Abdelwahad, Egypt’s first UFC fighter and thus ipso facto this country’s greatest of all time, is on his way to tougher tests, while Mayes will likely have a final chance to justify his place on the list. Mayes remains a gifted albeit frustrating fighter and should have a confidence-building match against a short, stocky brawler like Roque Martinez, whom he handled easily.


Speaking of careers at a crossroads, the main card featured Derrick Lewis, 37, the heavyweight division’s all-time knockout king, against Sergei Pavlovich, 30, a 16-1 prospect. which will forever be associated with easy terrain. -and-pound knockout Alistair Overeem scored in their 2018 encounter. Once again I picked the wrong one, assuming Pavlovich’s suspicious chin-like Mirko Cro Cop, also chinless and knockout-prone, he barely has one strapped to his face – would mean his loss to Lewis, who earned his living for the better part. of a decade picking exactly this kind of fruit at hand.


Instead, Pavlovich – another next-gen heavyweight who keeps himself physically fit and is gifted with a reach over 80″ – riddled Lewis with punches, scoring around 20 significant strikes in time. that it took ‘the nemesis’ to land four, earning a quick save that added the veteran’s scalp to an impressive roster that already includes Shamil Abdurakhimov, Marcelo Golm, Kirill Sidelnikov and Mikhail Moknatkin. Pavlovich isn’t yet a title contender, but with British prospect Tom Aspinall injured and next-game loser Tai Tuivasa-Ciryl Gane likely to drop in the standings, he’s not far off. Pairing him with Curtis Blaydes later in the year would make sense, as the skilled wrestler was denied a declaration victory over Aspinall and likely needs a real test before his own title. If Pavlovich’s wrestling defense isn’t any better than it was when Overeem bludgeoned him from top position, he’ll likely suffer the same fate against Blaydes as compatriot Alexander Volkov – shot down and separated en route to decision loss.


The stoppage was quick, but no faster than Derrick Lewis’ fall from the top. Lewis has gone 2-3 since 2021, stopping Blaydes and then-rising star Chris Daukaus with knockouts but getting stopped by Gane, Tuivasa and now Pavlovich. In the Blaydes and Daukaus fights, Lewis won as he always does, betting that a well-timed big punch could stop his reckless foe. In his three defeats he appeared slow and caught off guard even against Tuivasa, whom he managed to overcome briefly when it became apparent that the stocky Aussie, like ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt before he had the number of the Beast on his back. feet.


Expect Lewis’ immediate future to hold the same. The pet peeve never shows up in good shape, although advertisers like to claim that he looks better than he did in a previous fight or has somehow overcome his fitness issues. persistent backs. On top of that, as heavyweight Shawn Jordan, another Lewis winner,told me months ago, Lewis, although heavy, is not particularly strong for his height. Styles make Lewis fights to a greater extent than true legends of the game, quasi-GOATs such as Georges St-Pierre and current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya who adjust their own approaches to suit their opponents even at the cost of putting a boring fight. Lewis will never be boring, and he could enjoy brief winning streaks well into his 40s if paired with opponents he can trick into eating a big right hand. And you can bet I’ll be watching these fights like I’ve watched all of Lewis’s previous UFC outings, because the nemesis is the undisputed king of “two true outcomes” brawlers: kill or be killed. Even when that or/or leans heavily in favor of “being killed” and a new generation of big boys begin to bone their old ones, those beatings will still be dates.

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