UFC rolled into Tampa, Florida last night with a fight card that seemed to be held together with duct tape following late fighter withdrawals, replacements and fight cancellations. Despite this, what was left of the card certainly didn’t disappoint.
Five weeks out, UFC Tampa was a highly anticipated 13 fight card, headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s return against top contender Tony Ferguson. Shogun Rua was set to take on ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans in the co-main event, and UFC legends Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson squaring off, relegating Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres to the opening fight on the main card.
When Shogun pulled out of his co-main event slot with Rashad it started a series of injuries and controversies leading to the card being chopped and changed more than ever before, so close to a UFC event.
Glover Teixeira stepped in to face Rashad, Tony Ferguson got injured 12 days out, Darrell Horcher stepped in to make his UFC debut against Nurmagomedov, Evans and Teixeira was bumped to the Main Event, Machida and Hendo was bumped to co-main event, Machida got popped for a banned substance, with the fight being pulled completely.
Namajunas and Torres was bumped to co-main event, Swanson and Dias was bumped to the Main Card, Makhachev popped for banned substance, his fight with Drew Dober was scrapped also and so we finally had our 11 fight card as it happened just 24 hours before the event.
The night started with Omari Akhmedov, one of a long line of fighters coming out of Dagestan, Russia taking on Brazilian Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos at Welterweight. A war ensued with some great submission attempts and strikes landed before Zaleski finished Akhmedov with a barrage of strikes and vicious knees midway through the second round. The fight was awarded fight of the night. In the next fight, Cezar Ferreira out pointed Oluwale Bamgbose to earn a unanimous decision.
The feature fight on the Fight Pass Prelims saw John Dodson’s return to Bantamweight as he took on Manvel Gamburyan. The fight lasted a mere 47 seconds as Dodson came out like a hare and landed a straight left early that stunned Gamburyan. He followed the left up with a series of 17 strikes landed in just 7 seconds. His hand speed sent terrifying waves through the Bantamweight division.
The FOX Prelims began with Michael Graves upsetting ‘Looking for a Fight’ star Randy Brown by submission in the second round, Ponzinibbio spoiling Court McGee’s celebrations with a first round TKO, and Raquel Pennington earning arguably the biggest win of her career so far as she got the unanimous decision victory over Bethe Correia.
In the FOX Prelims feature fight, Michael Chiesa took on Beneil Dariush in a Lightweight affair between two fighters climbing the rankings at speed. After a relatively slow first round, Chiesa wasn’t hanging about in the second getting a quick takedown. He transitioned to take Dariush’s back and sink in the rear naked choke. Chiesa called out Tony Ferguson after the fight, a fight that would certainly be an entertaining matchup.
The main event opened with Cub Swanson v Hacran Dias.
Dias started the fight stronger and took the first round but not a whole lot happened. Swanson responded well and completely dominated the second round as he twice dropped the Brazilian. Looking close to being finished, Dias somehow got back to his feet on both occasions.
With one round a piece it was Dias who started the third round stronger until he got poked in the eye midway through the round. Shortly after the resumption, Swanson drops Dias again and pours on some ground and pound. In a lacklustre ending to the fight, Dias just laid on his back with Swanson standing over him. Swanson won by unanimous decision.
Up next was the highly anticipated return of the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov. In somewhat of a mismatch, ‘The Eagle’ man-handled his opponent Darrell Horcher before finishing the fight in the second via TKO. Khabib held up Horcher’s hand after the fight in appreciation of Horcher taking the fight on just 11 days notice.
It was time for the strawweight ladies to take centre stage as Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres squared off in a rematch of their 2013 bout. Both fighters seemed to have a very similar approach and cancelled each other out for large portions of the fight. Torres did land a devastating left hand in the first round, but Namajunas recovered quickly and took the fight by unanimous decision, ending Torres’ undefeated record.
As the main event drew close, Dominick Cruz emphasised how Rashad Evans will be a better fighter in his second bout back from injury but he didn’t get a chance to show it as Glover Teixeira pressed from the outset and eventually landed a crushing left hand that all but ended the fight. He followed it up with a right that sent the lights out. Teixeira proceeded to call out Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson who was in attendance, putting a smile on Rumble’s face.
Wins for Namajunas and Nurmagomedov have likely jumped them to the top of the queue in their respective divisions, and wins for Dodson, Chiesa and Teixeira have certainly added their names into the mix also.