Riley Reflections: UFC Washington

From Lackluster to Lipless

Whenever we get a heavyweight main-event, it’s easy to get excited about the prospect of two meat mountains throwing cinder blocks at one another, but sadly we didn’t get that this week.

Overeem implored the same slow plodding approach he has adopted in his recent fights, keeping a high guard and trying to land a big shot and finish the fight. The Reem managed to land some strikes and bloody up Rozenstruik’s mouth, but never put him in any sort of trouble.

I haven’t watched any of Alistair’s kickboxing fights in some time, but it’s clear much of his defense in them was owed to the bigger gloves. For how careful he is, Overeem always seems to get hit flush with a monster blow at least once every fight and his guard is highly dependent on his gloves absorbing the impact of the death blows.

As per usual, one of them sneaked through, dropped Reem and nearly blew his top lip off his face. It’s clear by now that Alistair isn’t going to get back up to a title shot if he has to keep going through power punchers. Overeem doesn’t put together combos and it allows his opponents to get comfortable and they’re never really pressured. If Overeem is to have success at the high level of the heavyweight division he’s going to need to throw combinations and put his opponents on the back foot. Alistair has a ton of power, but if he intends on turtling up in a defensive shell waiting for that perfect shot it’s going to be a long hard road to the title or even a sniff at the shot.

Now maybe I’m being hard on him, he was winning this fight and it wasn’t that close. Rozenstruik was plodding and he was allowed to tee off on Reem’s arms with little to no effectiveness. Throughout much of the fight Rozenstruik showed that he posses a granite chin, effortlessly eating up all of Overeem flush bombs.

Kudos to Rozenstruik for landing that one punch and ending the fight, but nothing in that fight gives the indication that he is ready for the upper echelon of the division. Rozenstruik had moments in the fight where he was throwing a pile of strikes with Alistair shelled up and he wasn’t able to land anything of any consequence.

For me this fight was a push. Rozenstruik showed us what we already knew, he can dead someone with one shot, and Reem showed us he can control the majority of a fight, but can’t risk making any single mistake. Rozenstruik called out Ngannou, but I have a funny feeling that fight would mimic the Lewis/Ngannou fight in which both guys would plod around and look at one another for three rounds, or, god forbid, 5 rounds.

Co-Main Event

I thought Rodriguez won this fight. She landed the more meaningful strikes and had Calvillo shooting for desperation takedowns and fumbling to try and get clinches. I could be a little hard on Calvillo due to the 4 pounds she missed weight by, but the third round was a 10-8 gift.

Rodriguez showed sharp striking and an ability to deal damage while defending takedowns. Also, while on the ground she wasn’t completely lost and was able to defend herself from taking a ton of damage.

Calvillo took some heavy shots, but never looked beaten. Even when she was hurt. Calvillo still looked for takedowns and offense. Rodriguez claims she could feel the weight difference during the fight, I doubt that, but I do believe Calvillo’s gas tank benefited from the lack luster weight cut.

Main card

Ricky Simon showed a ton of heart and a great chin, but he wasn’t well equipped enough to deal with Rob Font’s rounded skill-set. Font’s jab was fantastic and he fought behind it the majority of the fight. Landing solid combos throughout the fight, even when taken down he used a false guillotine to regain position and get back up.

Simon showed heart and even managed to hurt Font and was able to get in and score takedowns. With some more work on his stand up, more importantly his takedown setup and entries. For someone like Font, who has solid fundamentals and fights behind the jab, simply pushing his way in wasn’t going to get the W for Simon

Ladd looked to be stifled early in the fight as the bigger Kunitskaya pinned her on the fence and worked her over with knees and strikes. Ladd was able to score takedowns and in the first she went ape on Yana. Aspen didn’t seem to show any ill effects or hesitation to engage after her knockout loss to GDR in July.

I did find it odd that in the first round Yana kept her half guard wide open, but Ladd never jumped to side control. i don’t know if this was due to Aspen looking for the turn to get back control or if her situational awareness wasn’t there. For someone who is credited with such a high level of grappling, it seemed weird that she wouldn’t jump to a better position. With that said, Yana has little in the way of recovery once she’s on her back. Locking down guard and over-hooking arms in the guard while staring at the ref for a stand up isn’t a good strategy.

The first two round were close, and Yana had a clear path to victory which was to pin Ladd on the cage and pepper her with knees and other strikes. Aspen took away that opportunity by planting Yana on her ass with a punch and followed up with a bevy of strikes to end the fight. On first watch I thought Aspen looked a bit rushed and that the finish was partly due to Yana lacking the ability to get up from or recover from the strike, but after watching it i was clearly wrong.

Ladd swarmed Yana, but once she realized she wasn’t going to be able to land the strikes from a standing position she let Yana move to her back where Ladd was able to transition around to get better anchors in and land the fight ending blows. I don’t see Ladd being anything of a challenge for Nunes right now, but this was a great bounce back from her last loss.

The Struve/Rothwell fight was what one would expect the fight to be. It was clear Ben was trying to wade in with punches and headhunt the much taller Struve. For the first time in his career, Struve used his reach to keep the power puncher at bay. Landing some great leg kicks and keeping Rothwell off balance by sticking him with straight punches and kicks.

Rothwell landed two kicks to the twig and two bits, which dropped Struve. After the second one, Struve was talked back into fighting by the ref, i will comment on this later, which is a problem in of itself. After the second groin shot, rothwell finally got inside and landed the punches needed to fall the Skyscraper.

The Rest

Bryce Mitchell hit the fabled twister in a fight where he was the underdog. Once Bryce got it down to the floor, Sayles was never able to create any meaningful scrambles. I found the finishing sequence a little funny. The arm was out stretched and Mitchell was looking at it as if he wasn’t sure if it was a bait. Then there was this moment of realization that Sayles had no idea what was going to happen or that his arm was in such a vulnerable position.

Many of the fights on the undercard showed us that in some cases not much has changed from the first UFC. We saw the grapplers own strikers and take them to deep water to drown them. Matt Wiman looked stiff as a board and out of place. Wiman stood up straight and looked as though holding the position was causing him physical pain.

Trevor Miller showed heart throughout their fight, but he was outclassed on the feet. It was only a matter of time before he was put out.

Trap shut

Dan Miragliotta talking Struve back into that fight was horrible. This is a case of the ref trying to be one of the boys and encouraging a guy to continue. Dan stepped over the line with this and it led to Struve being finished shortly after. It isn’t an officials job to give the fighter a pep talk or encourage them to do anything.

In the Wiman fight, the ref came over between rounds and told Matt not to talk to him while he is reffing. Why the fuck not? A guy communicating with the ref during the fight is a good thing. That official takes himself way to serious here in that he didn’t want the fighter talking to him. Hes telling you he’s ok you idiot.

Weight Cutting

Make the weight, just do what the contract says. It’s insulting to the opponent, the promotion, and it’s unprofessional. I’m not saying kill your-self to make the weight, i’m saying fight at a weight that can be hit in a healthy manner. There’s this weird sense of entitlement where fans believe that a fighter should fight no matter what, and fighters are using this.

Joanna tried it before her fight with Waterson and had Rodriguez not taken the fight I would wager my house that a pile of mouth breathers hammering away on keyboards would have targeted her. Look what happened when Nunes pulled out due to a breathing issue, the MMA masses went ballistic.

The fighters owe us nothing, and when the contracted weight isn’t hit or they have something going on which they believe is detrimental to their performance it’s in their own best interests to step away from the fight. They risk everything when they step in there, not only physically, but also financially. These decisions can change the trajectory of their career, so respect the decision even if you don’t like it


It was an odd event with questionable decisions, two draws, and an odd ending to a slow main event. I enjoyed the main myself, while it wasn’t that eventful, I knew what could happen. The top lip of Overeem was obliterated and all the close ups on twitter has been making me sick (thanks fellas).

I am not down for a Rozenstruik/Ngannou fight, but I try to avoid being a matchmaker, so if it happens i’ll watch. Until next time fight fans.

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