Early this morning, the UFC added a 17th country to its global expansion with its debut in the Philippines, a land rich in combat sports history as the home of Manny Pacquiao and the site of The Thrilla in Manila. The card, which was anchored by a featherweight superfight between Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber and bolstered by some of the world’s premiere middleweights, delivered in spades. To the thrill of those in attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena, it had knockouts, submissions, tooth-and-nail wars, and perhaps best of all, the triumphant retirement of a national hero.
Here’s a recap of the action for those who missed it!
The Main Card:
Frankie Edgar Outworks Urijah Faber
In the main event of the evening, two of the most decorated fighters of the lower weight classes mixed it up in an anticipated 145-pound superfight. In one corner was former UFC lightweight champion and number-2 ranked featherweight, Frankie Edgar. In the other, stood former WEC featherweight champion and number-3 ranked bantamweight, Urijah Faber. Though the betting odds suggested that Edgar was fairly likely to come out on top, most expected a back-and-forth battle throughout which both men had their moments.
In the end however, the odds proved fairly accurate. Faber was able to land a few key strikes over the course of the fight, but was soundly out-landed, out-grappled, and outperformed by Edgar overall. The New Jersey native swept the scorecards for a unanimous decision win.
In victory, Edgar moves to a wicked 18-4, with his only losses having been dealt by Jose Aldo, Benson Henderson (twice) and Gray Maynard. With the wind of a four fight win-streak in his sails, he seems to have only two options as a UFC featherweight: a clash with the winner of Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, or a number-one-contender bout with Faber training partner, Chad Mendes.
Faber, on the other hand, has a two-fight streak snapped by the loss. Because the fight was at featherweight however, he doesn’t stand to lose much ground at bantamweight. He remains one of the best 135-pound fighters alive, and can look forward to plenty of exciting matchups until the day he hangs ‘em up for good. To that end, it may finally be time for a clash with fellow top-5 fighter, Raphael Assunção.
Gegard Mousasi Dominates Costas Philippou
The evening’s co-main event featured ranked middleweights Gegard Mousasi and Costas Philippou, who duked it out for continued relevance in their ever-evolving division. To that end, it wasn’t Philippou’s night. The Cyprus-born striker spent the majority of their three round of the encounter on his back, fighting off submissions, and absorbing ground-and-pound with his face.
The unanimous decision win propels Mousasi onto his first 2-fight streak since joining the UFC in April of 2013. The versatile Dutchman now enjoys a strong record of 37-5, and figures to get another big name in his next bout—perhaps Michael Bisping or the loser of Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort’s upcoming belt fight.
Philippou, on the other hand, loses for the third time in four fights, his lone win in that stretch coming against Lorenz Larkin in his last bout. Despite a strong start with the UFC, the 35-year-old’s top-10 days appear to be over.
Mark Muñoz Goes Out with a Win
In the first of Manila’s two middleweight bouts, Filipino-American veteran Mark Muñoz looked to close out his career with a win over the towering Luke Barnatt. He did just that in spades. With a combination of comet-like punches, bulldozer takedowns, and veteran composure, the Filipino Wrecking Machine now drives off into the MMA sunset with a dominant unanimous decision win in the rear-view mirror. He retires with a 14-6 record.
Post fight, Muñoz profusely thanked his family, friends, fans and team, and touched on his urge to be a positive role model.
“I didn't accomplish what I wanted to in the cage,” he said, citing his failure to win gold. “[But] I've been able to help change lives and influence lives in a positive way and guys, that's what I'm here for."
After his rousing speech, which surely drew some tears from a notoriously macho MMA community, Muñoz laid his gloves down in the center of the Octagon in a moment that will not be forgotten. At the end of a long career, he has Donkey Kong punched his way into the UFC history books.
Then there’s Barnatt who, despite taking a lickin’ that thrusts him onto a three-fight skid, showed nothing but class in defeat, hoisting his veteran opponent into the air post-fight. Where “Bigslow” goes from here remains to be seen, but here’s hoping we see him back in the Octagon again soon.
Neil Magny Gets 7th Straight with TKO of Lim
In a bout that many considered a lock for Fight of the Night honors, welterweights Neil Magny and Hyun Gyu Lim duked it out for a spot in the top-15. The first round of their encounter certainly had the makings of a bonus-winner, but in the end, the fun didn’t last quite long enough for such things. Less than two minutes into the second round, Neil Magny began pouring it on, pummelling a sluggish Lim to a hard-fought TKO.
The win is Magny’s 7th in a row, making him the owner of the longest active winning streak in the welterweight division. He now sits at 15-3 overall, and is undoubtedly ready for a top-10 opponent. The vanquished Lim, on the other hand, falls to 13-5, and 2-2 in his last 4. That said, he remains one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster, which will surely keep him around to fight another day.
Nover Scores Sketchy Split over Nam
The second offering of Manila’s main card paired Filipino-American Phillipe Nover, a man Dana White once compared to Anderson Silva, with “The Korean Bulldozer” Yui Chul Nam, who is one of the hottest prospects out of South Korea.
The first round, though hardly reminiscent of an Anderson Silva fight, belonged to Nover. With three successful takedowns, he gave Nam little room to breathe. The second, though close, seemed to belong to the Korean, who recklessly jumped into Nover’s guard and scored with crushing ground-and-pound throughout. The third appeared to be the tiebreaker, and in the end belonged solely to Nam, who enjoyed dominant positions, plenty of ground-and-pound, and a tight, if improperly positioned triangle choke for a good portion of the round.
In the end, however, the judges sided with Nover, evidently scoring round 2 for him. The victory, which marks Nover’s successful UFC comeback after leaving the organization in 2010, is his first ever with the promotion. He now enjoys a 4-fight streak and a record of 11-5. Nam, on the other hand, slides to 18-5, though few will hold this loss against him.
Makashvili Grinds Eddiva Down to Split Decision
In the first bout of UFC Manila’s main card, two fighters with just one loss a piece went to war to avoid a second. In one corner, we had hometown hero and Team Lakay rep, Mark Eddiva. In the other, we had Levan “The Hornet” Makashvili, who stepped up on short notice to replace the injured Alex White.
The story of this one was the pressure of Makashvili, who was relentless in his takedown attempts throughout the bout. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it was a sound strategy considering what little time he had to prepare. After three rounds of dominance that saw him complete 67% of his takedowns, the Georgian was awarded a split decision victory, though a unanimous nod was certainly deserved. The win marks a successful UFC debut and moves him to 10-1 overall.
In defeat, Eddiva stumbles to 1-2 since making his UFC debut back in March of 2014. And while he wasn’t able to score a win for his Filipino fans, at 29, he’s still got time to bounce back.
Jon Tuck Taps Bang in Round 1
In the final bout of UFC Manila’s prelims, Jon “The Super Saiyan” Tuck harnessed his inner Goku with a sound destruction of the hard-hitting Tae Hyun Bang. It was a Kamehameha of a right hook that got the ball rolling, and a deep rear-naked choke that sealed the deal. The fight didn’t see round 2.
The win propels Tuck to 9-2 overall, and 3-2 in his last 5, as he has alternated wins and losses since 2012. At 30 years old, he is no longer a young fighter, but his potential remains undeniable. All signs point to his hitting his stride in the near future, and that’s bad news for his fellow lightweights.
Bang, on the other hand, slides to 17-9 overall, and 4-3 in his last 7, having also alternated wins and losses over the course of his recent bouts. While his power remains undeniable, his hot-and-cold record renders him a bit of a question mark in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Kajan Johnson Outduels Zhang Lipeng
The quartet of Chinese fighters who invaded Manila very nearly made it 4-0 on fight night. Unfortunately for them, Kajan Johnson had other plans. With a diet of takedowns, dominant positions and expert control of range, the Canadian coasted to a clear-cut unanimous decision win over his opponent, Zhang Lipeng.
In victory, Johnson scores his first UFC win, having lost his debut to Tae Hyun Bang. And while it’s difficult to say where the 31-year-old’s ceiling lies, this goes down as one of the most pivotal win of his storied career.
Lipeng, on the other hand, joins Mark Hunt as one of just a few fighters on the UFC roster with a .500 overall record. He now sits at 9-9, and slips to 2-2 in the UFC.
“The Leech” Looks Scary with Knockout of Lima
For all the accomplishments of his older brother Douglas, Dhiego Lima has had a tough run. In Manila, that trend continued as the Brazilian found himself on the wrong end of a Li Jingliang knockout. The defeat is bound to string a little extra, too, as Jingliang is not known for his fight-ending power. This is just the second KO win of the Xinjiang native’s 13-fight career.
In victory, the Leech elevates his overall record to a solid 10-3. More importantly, he puts a tough, split loss to Nordine Taleb behind him and moves forward in the stacked welterweight division. Lima, on the hand, slips 10-4 overall, having lost 3 of his last 4. He may have fought his last fight in the UFC.
Guangyou Flattens Wee in Round 2
The first bout of UFC Manila’s televised prelims featured promising Asian bantamweights Ning Guangyou and Royston Wee, who missed weight by one pound. Leading into the bout, the outcome seemed to hinge on one of two things: the imposition of Guangyou’s big power, or Wee’s ability to get things going on the mat. In the end, the former prevailed in a big way, as China’s Guangyou ripped into Wee for a TKO in the last second of round two.
The victory is Guangyou’s third straight, and moves him in the right direction as a UFC bantamweight. Wee, on the other hand, enters treacherous territory, having missed weight and tasted defeat for the very first time.
Delos Reyes Chokes Sangcha-an in Wild Fight
UFC Manila’s second bout marked the final of the evening’s two flyweight fights. This one paired Roldan Sangcha-an and Jon delos Reyes—two fighters in dire need of their first UFC wins.
If Ticman and Zhikui’s tepid affair lost the flyweight division any fans, this one won them all back. For two and a half rounds, the two fighters swapped missiles on the feet, scrambled like chain lightning on the ground, and didn’t give each other an inch. Then, in the closing moments of round 2, a bloodied delos Reyes came through with a hard-fought rear-naked choke. An immediate contender for both Fight of the Night, and Performance of the Night, the win is the Guamanian’s first in the UFC. In victory, he moves to 8-4 overall, and keeps his 100% finishing rate intact. Sangcha-an, in contrast, falls to 4-2 overall and remains winless in the UFC. After the gusto he showcased in Manila, however, you can bet that he’s not going anywhere.
Aggressive Zhikui Steals Decision from Back-Peddling Ticman
The first bout of UFC Manila brought us action in the flyweight division as Nolan Ticman and Yao Zhikui mixed it up to make good on their sophomore UFC bouts. Throughout the bout, UFC commentators Jon Anik and Brian Stann seemed confident that Ticman, a Kings MMA rep, was doing enough to win. Yet his defensive, back-peddling style turned out to be his downfall, as Zhikui’s forward motion instead stole the judge’s favor. The victory is the Chinese fighter’s first in the UFC, and moves him to 2-2 overall. Ticman, on the other hand, falls to 4-3, and 0-2 in the UFC.
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