UFC 281 gave us everything we wanted from a pay-per-view event. The middleweight headliner was so intense, and the strawweight co-headliner was entertaining.
The preliminary portion of the card saw Carlos Ulberg get City Kickboxing its first win of the night with a stunning first-round KO of Nicolae Negumereanu. ‘Black Jag’ refused to be goaded into an all-out brawl with Negumereanu, obliterating his lead leg with quick kicks before finding a home for a left hook that sent his opponent to the canvas. A few more punches on the ground followed and it was over. Montel Jackson defeated Julio Arce by unanimous decision. ‘Quik’ controlled Arce in the clinch and avoided most of his punches throughout three rounds.
Mike Trizano gave us a ‘Round of the Year’ against Choi Seung-Woo! Out of all the madness, we got a double knockdown (!) and one hell of a finish, courtesy of a left hook (and follow-up punches) from Trizano. Great win for the ‘Wolf,’ who completed his UFC contract on quite a high note. Karolina Kowalkiewicz extended her win streak to two, outworking Silvana Gómez Juárez for a unanimous decision. For some reason, there was a bit of controversy regarding the judges’ scorecards, as they were seemingly changed (?) before Bruce Buffer read them. Nonetheless, the judges got it right, and Kowalkiewicz was declared the winner.
Moving on, Matt Frevola starched Ottman Azaitar in the first round of their fight. The ‘Steamrolla’ waited a year for the ‘Bulldozer,’ and as it turned out, he was worth the wait. Frevola connected with two short right hands before he came over the top with a left hook, dropping Azaitar immediately.
Andre Petroski dominated Wellington Turman on the ground for his fourth consecutive win. The former Ultimate Fighter competitor told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan he was unhappy with his performance because he wanted a finish, but a win is a win. Petroski had two names in mind for his next appearance: Bo Nickal or Gerald Meerschaert. Erin Blanchfield turned in a flawless performance against Molly McCann, getting the ‘Meatball’ to the ground and snatching up an arm for the first-round kimura. WOW! ‘Cold-Blooded’ should see herself in the top ten of the division by next week. Ryan Spann slept Dominick Reyes in devastating fashion. A jab from ‘Superman’ was all he needed, and the ‘Dominator’ went out in 80 seconds. That was a scary KO! Renato Moicano returned to the win column with a first-round rear-naked choke of Brad Riddell. The Brazilian looked great on the feet, but he looked even better once the fight went to the ground. He secured the submission, and Riddell was forced to tap.
The main portion of the card began with Dan Hooker staving off the leg lock attempts of Claudio Puelles and punishing his midsection with kicks for the second-round TKO. Get the ‘Hangman’ on UFC 284, please!
Chris Gutierrez sent Frankie Edgar into retirement with one of the most vicious flying knees you will ever see. That was the biggest win of his professional career thus far. And as for the former UFC champion, enjoy retirement and thank you for the memories!
To the surprise of no one, Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler delivered a ‘Fight of the Night’ candidate. The ‘Diamond’ hurt Chandler, then ‘Iron hurt Poirier. This. Was. WILD! In the end, the former UFC interim lightweight champion turned the tide and secured a third-round rear-naked choke.
Zhang Weili became a two-time champion after she submitted Carla Esparza. ‘Magnum’ pressured the ‘Cookie Monster’ early and was comfortable going to the ground with her, which ultimately paid off for the new UFC strawweight champion.
Alex Pereira was down on the judges’ scorecards and needed a finish against Israel Adesanya — and he got one! After the ‘Last Stylebender’ had his way with ‘Po Atan’ for most of the fight until the fifth and final round. The Brazilian caught Adesanya with a right hand and had him in a world of trouble! From there, he swarmed the former UFC middleweight champion and referee Marc Goddard had no choice but to step in and stop it. AND NEW!
Performance of the Night: Alex Pereira and Zhang Weili
Fight of the Night: Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Carlos Ulberg def. Nicolae Negumereanu by KO (punches) at 3:44 of Round 1
Mike Trizano def. Choi Seung-Woo by TKO (punches) at 4:51 of Round 1
Matt Frevola def. Ottman Azaitar by KO (punches) at 2:30 of Round 1
Erin Blanchfield def. Molly McCann by submission (kimura) at 3:27 of Round 1
Ryan Spann def. Dominick Reyes by KO (punches) at 1:20 of Round 1
Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles by TKO (body kick) at 4:06 of Round 2
Chris Gutierrez def. Frankie Edgar by KO (flying knee ) at 2:01 of Round 1
Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:00 of Round 3
Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:05 of Round 2
Alex Pereira def. Israel Adesanya by TKO (punches) at 2:01 of Round 5
Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Silvana Gómez Juárez by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Andre Petroski def. Wellington Turman by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)