What mattered most at UFC on ABC 4 in Charlotte, N.C.? Here are a few post-fight musings …
Commission fails in Mandy Bohm vs. Ji Yeon Kim
A low-level women’s bantamweight prelim between Mandy Bohm and Ji Yeon Kim became a focal point of some bizarre drama when the fight ended in a technical decision following a number of fouls, one of which was fight-ending.
It’s hard to decipher through the silliness of what unfolded. First and foremost, it made me wish once again that knees to the head of a grounded opponent were legal in the sport. It would open up so much offense and lead to many more finishes, but that’s not something that’s going to happen any time soon under the unified rules.
Kim’s (9-6-2 MMA, 3-6 UFC) illegal knee to the head of Bohm (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) in the third round was a foul that stopped the fight from continuing. That’s all well and good, and referee Larry Carter was within his right to take a point. What caused the issue and delay in announcing the result, according to UFC commentator Jon Anik, was that the computerized nature of the scorecards forced everything to be redone. It dragged the situation out a lot longer than it should’ve been, and that’s why it all felt so messy.
I’ve seen many fighters and media criticizing the commission and referee for an alleged blunder, but if you go by the book, it was all essentially done right. It just felt long and dragged out in the context of a live TV production, but as far as things being done right or wrong, the biggest fault is on Kim’s shoulders for her foul that spelled the beginning of the end.
Matt Brown gets his crowning achievement
Matt Brown has long been in pursuit of the UFC knockout record, and he finally got a piece of it when he floored Court McGee in the first round of their welterweight bout to tie Derrick Lewis for most knockouts in company history.
At 42, many have wondered why Brown (24-19 MMA, 17-13 UFC) has chosen to stick around the sport so long, especially when he’s had more negative results than positives in the late stage of his career. The thrill of a moment he got against McGee is likely the only answer, and also because he continues to entrench himself further in the record books with each win.
In addition to having a share of the all-time knockout record (and being the only member of the top five on that list below middleweight), Brown also has a bevy of other records to his name. This would be a glorious moment to cap off his career, but it’s almost impossible to walk away when he knows another knockout could give him sole possession of the record and put him into special territory.
Brown might not have ever reached the heights of a UFC title, but after making his octagon debut in 2008, he is frequently achieving longevity landmarks and elevating his resume.
Ian Machado Garry arrives
There was a lot of skepticism early in his UFC career that Ian Machado Garry wouldn’t be able to live up to the bold claims delivered from his mouth when he stepped in the octagon. He still has a lot of work to do before his ultimate goal of being UFC champion, but a first-round TKO finish of Daniel Rodriguez should open the eyes of any doubters.
Not only did Garry beat Rodriguez, but he did it in spectacular fashion. He landed the head kick he predicted pre-fight would be trouble for his opponent, then proceeded to become the first person to put away the notably durable Rodriguez with strikes. That’s a gigantic feather in his cap, and is going to put Garry on the fast lane to where he wants to be in the welterweight division.
The 26-year-old Irishman has said many times that he wants the slow and steady build to the top. However, his post-fight callout of Neil Magny showed he’s ready to enter the top tier of the weight class. Magny holds the most wins in the history of the UFC’s 170-pound weight class, and even though he’s most likely on the tail end of his career, a win over him is still meaningful.
Magny has made a career out of shutting down fighters in Garry’s position and separating the contenders from the pretends. Now we’ll see which side of the equation Garry lands on.
The end of Anthony Smith?
There’s been a lot of support for Anthony Smith from this neck of the woods over the years. In addition to being a violent and talented fighter, the former UFC title challenger is one of the most genuine and nice people in the sport, and has arguably overachieved in a lot of ways.
Despite that, it’s the purpose of this column to be blunt and honest, and Smith’s loss to Johnny Walker was far from his best work.
Smith (36-18 MMA, 11-8 UFC) could never get out of first gear in his light heavyweight co-main event with Walker. He didn’t move as well or fight with the same tenacity we’ve seen from him in the past. How much of that can be attributed to his leg break against Magomed Ankalaev last summer that required surgery and intensive rehab? How much credit goes to Walker for relentlessly attacking the legs with kicks from the outset of the fight?
There are a lot of potential factors in play, but an argument can be made this is the most telling defeat of Smith’s career in recent years, and I’m confident that he’s completely privy to that.
If there’s one thing Smith is, it’s self-aware. He’s said many times in the past that he is not keen to extend his career beyond its expiration point, which in his mind, is being a viable contender at 205 pounds. At 34 and with the tread of more than 50 professional fights on his tires, maybe that’s what this result represents.
There’s no question Smith is taking all this into consideration. It’s why he took his gloves off in the cage right after the fight (though didn’t retire), and it’s why he issued a statement in the aftermath of the event indicating that he has a lot to mull over.
If Smith’s singular purpose is to compete for UFC gold, then maybe it’s time, because he’s further away than he’s ever been since moving up from middleweight. He doesn’t need to do this. He has a blossoming career as a broadcaster, and co-hosts one of the best podcasts in the sport with Michael Bisping. He has more options at his disposal than most fighters in his position, and now it’s a question of whether he wants to fully invest in that and turn the page from active competition.
Whatever he decides to do, though, we shouldn’t question it, because it will most definitely be carefully thought out and not a decision made in jest.
Jailton Almeida a heavyweight title threat
Jailton Almeida continued to build steam as a heavyweight title contender on the rise when he dominantly dispatched of Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event.
There weren’t a whole lot of surprises in this one. We knew it would be curtains for Rozenstruik if this thing hit the mat, and it didn’t take long for that to happen, and for Almeida (19-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC) to finish the job with a rear-naked choke.
Although Almeida still has a lot of proving to do and some major tests to pass in order to accomplish his goal of being UFC champion by the end of 2024, you can already see that he’s going to be a problem for a lot of people in this weight class.
Elite-level jiu-jitsu is an attribute a lot of heavyweights are sorrowfully missing, and Almeida has that in his back pocket. The challenge as his level of competition increases, though, is whether he can get through the devastating power of his opponents time after time. He’s done a superb job thus far of avoiding damage in the octagon, but that’s not going to continue forever.
It’s a matter of when – and not if – he gets thumped with an enormous blow, and his response to that will be the most telling thing about how far he can go.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ABC 4.