Thursday, November 8, 2018

View From The Hawk's Nest: UFC 230

View from The Hawk’s Nest
An event review from a fan's perspective
By Matthew “MMAHAWK” Hawkins

UFC 230

All photos by Matthew Hawkins

For the first time in UFC history held an event on November 3rd. While this doesn’t mean much to most of you, for me it marked the first event ever to fall on my birthday. My 40th birthday no less! On top of all that, the octagon was going to be set up in New York City under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden (MSG) which made this a must see event for me. That also meant moving the Hawk’s Nest across country for my 48th live UFC event, UFC 230.

Fight week would begin with the UFC 232 press conference. It was held at MSG in the smaller Hulu theatre. The two highly anticipated bouts for the end of the year show, Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson and Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes, would take center stage. For those that have never attended a UFC presser it consists of around 30 minutes of media questions for the fighters and Dana White. On this night the vast majority of the questions were aimed at Jones, essentially asking how he’s looking ahead to a rematch against his toughest opponent to date, Alexander Gustafsson. In my opinion, I found Jon to be more loose and funny than in the past. He took constant vocal jabs at Alexander and joked about many of his past screwups outside the cage. Cyborg and Nunes also have some back and forth with Cyborg mocking previous Nunes fight cancellations. She recommended Amanda have her sinus issues cleared before the weigh-ins this time. On another note, Dana was asked about newly acquired talent Ben Askren from the ONE organization in a “trade” for all time great Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Dana didn’t want to talk about it and in return, the pro-Askren crowd gave him some loud boos for his lack of interest in the topic. Upon conclusion, the fighters faced off which was highlighted by Jones shoving Gustafsson while Dana scrambled to help gain back control.

                                                                                                     UFC 232 press conference fighters square off

Following the press event, the stage was cleared to set up for the ceremonial UFC 230 weigh-ins. While this is strictly a show for the fans now, it’s still a fun addition to the fight week experience. During this, the fighters step on a scale while Joe Rogan announces their official weights taken earlier in the day. The fighters then face off to help build the excitement and anticipation for the following night's action. On this night there was not much out of the ordinary that unfolded. While occasionally we get a scuffle during these face off’s, a bit of bad blood between Derek Brunson and Israel Adesanya was the only bit of drama during this one. The highlight was the loud boos that Sijara Eubanks received after missing weight (yet again) for her fight Roxanne Modafferi. She had spent the last month on social media claiming she’d make the weight and that her haters should shut their mouths. However, that certainly would not be the case with the New York crowd as they opened those mouths and let her hear it. Finally, the UFC 230 main event fighters, Daniel Cormier and Derek Lewis, faced off and it was time to look ahead 24 hours for some potential wild action.

                                                                                                                                   UFC 230 weigh ins

It’s now Saturday, November 3rd, 2018. I was a forty-year-old man and it was time for some great MMA action. While I’ve been blessed to make this trip twice in the past for UFC 205 and Bellator NYC, there is definitely something special about walking into the Garden. There’s been much sporting history in the country’s largest city that you definitely take notice upon entering this institution of combat sports. Well, it could be that or the multiple hour tailgating prior at the bar connected to the arena. Either way, the octagon was set up and it was time to begin the show!

The early prelims would give us some great back and forth action. In the second bout of the evening, Shane Burgos would survive being dropped with a punch very early on against Kurt Holobaugh. Despite this adversity, Burgos would transition on the ground into a straight armbar submission as his opponent was forced to tap out to the delight of the NY crowd. Keeping the crowd going was a tremendous battle between Lando Vannata and Matt Frevola. The two would stand in front of each other for all three rounds before the judges would come to the conclusion of a draw. Great fight all around that neither fighter deserved to lose. The following fight would end up being the beatdown of the event. Former Bellator champion and local fan favorite Lyman Good would make short work of the always game submission ace Ben Saunders. After putting Saunders down on his back, Good put on a violent end to the bout, knocking out his opponent with some ground strikes. The always large contingent of Tiger Schulmann MMA representatives exploded into roars of victory heard throughout the arena.

                                                                                          Good Celebrates while Moraes, Vannata,and Rinaldi do their thing in the octagon 

The event was moving along and fans were looking forward to to the main card but we still had a few fun prelims to finish. Now it was time for the bloodbath of the night as Julio Arce and Sheymon Moraes went toe to toe covered in blood for a large portion of the bout. After three action-packed round, the judges awarded Moraes a well-earned win. Sijara Eubanks would follow with her second career victory over women’s MMA pioneer Roxanne Modafferi, in a fairly uneventful three round decision. Eubanks certainly has talent and a potential career in the world of fighting but needs to get her weight under control if she’s to be taken seriously by any real fans of the sport. The final preliminary bout of the card would feature two featherweights, jiu-jitsu wiz Jordan Rinaldi versus all-around warrior Jason Knight. The fight turned out to be a bit of a surprise, well, at least to me. Coming in, I figured that Knight’s ground skills would help neutralize what Rinaldi had to offer with his BJJ and from there the separation in striking skills would become the deciding factor. Well, we didn’t get much of a chance to see striking as Rinaldi took the fight into his world on the mat and never let up. He controlled the fight from start to finish. When it was all said and done he’d sink in a rear naked choke and secure the biggest win of his career.

So far so good as the prelims came to an end. The fights up until this point had been entertaining and included a little bit of every aspect that the sport has to offer. The fans were treated to the Baba O’Riley UFC in-arena intro and it was time for some important fights at the top of their divisions. The main card kicked off with a fight between the undefeated phenom Israel Adesanya vs. longtime MMA fighter Derek Brunson. Most people thought that Brunson’s straightforward style would be exactly what Adesanya, the violent kickboxer, would want. In this case, those predictions turned out to be spot on as he battered his opponent all over the cage before the referee stepped in to stop the fight. The future star improved to 15-0 in MMA and is now looking for a top 5 foe in the middleweight division.

                                                                                                        Cannonier, Roberson, & Adesanya all win at UFC 230

Three more middleweight bouts would follow the opener. First Karl Roberson would clash with Jack Marshman. The fight, a late main card add with all the chaos leading into this event, would end in a dominant decision victory for Roberson after 3 rounds. The fight next up would turn out to be the upset of the evening. Local favorite and former simultaneous light heavyweight and middleweight World Series of Fighting (now the PFL) champion, #7 ranked David Branch would face-off with late replacement Jared Cannonier. The 3 to 1 favorite Branch came out strong getting ahold of the underdog and taking his back for a slight moment. Branch would continue attempting to get his larger opponent to the mat but with every attempt, they became less likely. Cannonier would eventually drop his opponent with a punch and followed him to the canvas. From there some strikes would be all he’d need to get the TKO finish and the biggest win of his career. Coming off a 1-3 run at light heavyweight against some very stiff competition. The drop down to middleweight seems to be exactly what Cannonier needed for a possible career rejuvenation.

It was now time for the co-main event of the night and a war between two of my all-time favorite fighters. Former UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman returned back to Madison Square Garden to face former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Early on in the fight, Weidman controlled the octagon with some crisp boxing. He seemed to be landing his jab with high efficiency eventually busting up the face of Jacare a bit. The second round was fairly similar to the first but Souza began to land some heavy shots of his own. Weidman who tends to fade in the latter minutes of his fights seemed to possibly be heading down that path once again. Unfortunately, for the “All American” that would be the case. The veteran Souza smelled some blood and went in for the kill. After beating out his opponent for a few moments Jacare landed a massive punch that sent Weidman hard to the mat. In a moment of confusion Jacare starred down referee Dan Miragliotta as an obviously damaged Weidman hung to his opponent's ankle. Finally, after a few moments, the referee did the right thing and waved the fight off as Jacare wins by KO and moves back into title contention. It was a confrontation I’d been looking forward to for years and it lived completely up to expectations. This was easily the fight of the night.

                                                                                                                    Jacare appeals to referee to stop the fight 

It was now main event time! The headliner would feature the first double champion in UFC history attempting to defend both of his belts. Daniel Cormier came into this fight as the UFC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight champion. Coming off of his knockout victory over former champion Stipe Miocic in July, most figured DC would wait until early 2019 for a possible mega-fight with Brock Lesnar. However, with the NY show needing a marquee name to top the bill, he stepped up. Like Cormier, his opponent Derek Lewis was also taking advantage of an opening to headline coming off of a Hail Mary KO Victory over Alexander Volkov only 4 weeks prior. The “Black Beast” took advantage of his surge in popularity and made his attempt at getting gold by beating a competing legend of the sport.

                                                                                                        Main event fighters Cormier and Lewis face off

The arena rocked as both participants made their way to the cage. While Cormier was a huge favorite in the fight, there was always the feeling that the unexpected can happen. If any heavyweight has a chance to win the title with one punch, that heavyweight would be Derek Lewis. Unfortunately for him he was fighting one of the most accomplished and smartest fighters in the history of the sport. Shortly after referee Herb Dean gave the fighters their instructions, reality struck the challenger. DC quickly secured a single leg takedown and proceeded to punch an extremely outgunned challenger on the ground. Through pure strength, Lewis was able to get to his feet and survive the first round but it didn’t look promising for him going forward.

The second round saw a glimpse of hope for Lewis as he partially landed a punch and a knee but he was back on the mat before he could mount any other standing offense. From there Cormier took the back and managed to secure both hooks as he worked for the RNC finish. While Lewis had fought in him it was simply to much and he was forced to submit minutes into the second round. The “Champ-Champ” was still the “Champ-Champ” and he moved himself up on the list of one of the greatest fighters of all time. Among fighters that competed in UFC/Pride/WEC/Strikeforce his unbeaten streak of 12 closely sits behind the legend Fedor Emelianenko’s 16. While DC says he only has a couple fights left in the tank, you have to wonder if closing in on Fedor’s record keeps him interested and in the game.

The return to New York and Madison Square Garden was a great way to celebrate my 40th birthday. From great food to great fights, the entire week was worth the time and effort to make it happen. Hopefully, the MMA gods will continue to give me the opportunity to attend and closely follow the sport I love.

Dana White, how about in 10 years we do my 50th at UFC 400 or so in Hawaii!!

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