UFC Fight Night 26: Grading the UFC's First Event on Fox Sports 1
Two years into its seven-year deal with with Fox, the UFC has relaunched with a flagship event on the newly launched Fox Sports 1, and rebranded itself as Fight Night—a series which had come to hiatus at the end of its deal with Spike.
The event, now centre stage in Fox’s dedicated sports programming, provided a thrilling showpiece in a way that the brief, inaugural event, UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos, failed to deliver.
The card itself had everything the first card didn’t. A range of strong fights, together with plenty of drama and charismatic personalities made this a compelling event.
There were five finishes during the televised card, each more dramatic than the other. Steven Siver’s quick 59-second KO in the second fight of the night was topped an hour later with Matt Brown taking just 29 seconds to end Mike Pyle’s late career run at welterweight.
Michael McDonald’s sublime triangle choke of slugger Brad Prickett was only bettered by Chael Sonnen’s first round guillotine of Shogun Rua at the top of the fight card. Jiu Jitsu black belt Rua hasn’t been finished since Jon Jones, the light heavyweight champion took three rounds to get the TKO.
Finally, there was the heart breaking KO of Alistair Overeem at the co-main event. The Dutch fighter is a divisive figure in this sport, but has worked hard to get back in the title picture after an embarrassing KO loss to Antonio Silva.
His second KO loss, in a fight he was crushing, happened inside the first round and has put question marks over his future.
Fox Sports 1 was also a great showcase for new talent. Connor McGregor proved himself worthy of all the hype by toying with a very game Max Holloway for three rounds. The fact that the Irish fighter is heartbroken over not finishing his opponent, demonstrates why he’s developed such a huge fan following—on display with the abundance of green in the Boston stadium.
Michael McDonald too, proved his case as the hottest 22-year-old in the UFC, taking Pickett out on the feet then finishing him on the ground. His first win since a title loss to Renan Barão in 2013, the youngster showed experience and composure in getting his shared “Submission of the Night” bonus.
Finally, Michael Johnson joined the list of men in the promotion coming of age, as he took apart Joe Lauzon for three rounds. This is the most confident and explosive we’ve seen the lightweight, and, after two losses, puts him back in the win column and back on the radar.
The “Chael Show” marches on after Fight Night 26. After all the talk and showmanship, Sonnen proved that he’s a fighter at the top of his game and smothered a man five years his junior, before finishing him with a guillotine choke.
That’s certainly thrown a grenade in the middleweight and light heavyweight division. Sonnen has now beaten two men in the top five at 185 pounds and a former top 5 at 205. And, as UFC president Dana White habitually reminds us, has only been beaten by world champions in his last five fights.
Sonnen, ever the promoter, has already lined up another opponent in Wanderlei Silva—a fight that could also happen at two weight classes.
Finally, the heavyweight division has also thrown up intrigue. Overeem, who came into the UFC with considerable hype, has had a disastrous career in the promotion.
To be fair, this is the best we’ve seen him since his debut against Brock Lesnar, when he took only one round to TKO the former champion. And he almost finished Travis Browne in the first round too. Unfortunately. Browne’s front kick to Overeem’s glass jaw has left him with two straight losses and further away from a title fight he’s been in years.
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