UFC made its return to Australia on Saturday night with a Fight Night show that saw Fabricio Werdum defeat Marcin Tybura by unanimous decision in the main event.
Werdum was a replacement on the Sydney card when Mark Hunt was removed after he admitted to having trouble sleeping and slurring his speech due, in part, to his years as a mixed martial artist.
Both Werdum and Tybura entered the heavyweight matchup with momentum. Werdum defeated Walt Harris by submission Oct. 7 at UFC 216. Tybura came into Fight Night 121 with three straight wins, including a unanimous decision over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.
Here are full results from the UFC Fight Night 121 main card:
- Heavyweight: Fabricio Werdum def. Marcin Tybura via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)
- Women's Catchweight: Jessica Rose-Clark def. Bec Rawlings via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Welterweight: Belal Muhammad def. Tim Means via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Welterweight: Jake Matthews def. Bojan Velickovic via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Middleweight: Elias Theodorou def. Dan Kelly via unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-26)
- Featherweight: Alexander Volkanovski def. Shane Young via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Tybura had big expectations coming into the fight. The Polish heavyweight made it known he was going to ask for a shot at UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic with a win over Werdum.
It seemed like a reasonable plan. Tybura would have had four straight wins, including one over Werdum, who's ranked as the UFC's No. 2 heavyweight.
The problem, which was apparent from the opening bell, is Tybura wasn't in Werdum's class as a fighter. The UFC relayed some of Werdum's superiority:
Getting a little heated. @FabricioWerdum ends round two with a strong offensive sequence. #UFCSydney https://t.co/MNdR9q6eax2017-11-19 06:05:49
Bloody Elbow was enamored with the way Werdum's Muay Thai style disoriented Tybura:
Bloody Elbow @BloodyElbow
Muay Thai Werdum is kinda wrecking Tybura with slow pressure. #UFCSydney2017-11-19 06:08:54
Werdum's striking was on-point, constantly leaving Tybura off balance and unable to move in for attacks. He took control in the fourth round, dragging Tybura to the ground and holding top control for more than one minute.
Tybura battled back in the fifth, landing a hard kick to the side of Werdum's head that left him wobbly for a moment. It was going to take a finish for Tybura to get a win, given how dominant Werdum was in the first four rounds.
Werdum made it through that fifth round to earn the unanimous decision. The 40-year-old could make a claim for a title shot against Miocic after his bounce-back showing. He did lose to the UFC heavyweight champion in their last meeting at UFC 198 in May 2016, though.
Since Miocic lacks an opponent for his next fight, whenever that ends up being, UFC President Dana White has plenty to think about as he determines how to handle the heavyweight championship.
The co-main event became a story during the weigh-ins because Jessica Rose-Clark was one of four fighters on the card who missed weight, along with Ryan Benoit, Frank Camacho and Nadia Kassem. She tipped the scales at 128 pounds, three pounds over the flyweight limit, though it didn't help that she took the fight on 11 days' notice after Joanne Calderwood pulled out of the bout with an injury.
Her opponent, Bec Rawlings, is still trying to make a name for herself. She had just a 7-6 record heading into Saturday, a mark that included two straight losses in her previous pair of fights.
Rawlings was also making her flyweight debut after her own issues with making the 115-pound strawweight limit against Tecia Torres in February when she lost via unanimous decision.
Because of her move up in weight, Rawlings noted before Saturday that she was feeling much better about this fight than she had in the past.
"Last week, I felt awesome—I had so much energy," Rawlings told MMAjunkie's Matt Erickson and John Morgan. "I was like, 'This doesn't feel right. Something feels wrong.' My coach was like, 'Yeah, you're in good shape, and you're healthy.' It's an amazing feeling that I can just focus on open workouts, focus on the media and my fight, and not have to worry about a stupid weight cut.”
After the two women spent the bulk of the first two rounds jockeying for position on the ground, Rawlings and Rose-Clark traded a flurry of punches in the final frame to try making an impression on the judges:
GOING AT EACH OTHER! LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT! #UFCSydney https://t.co/h8vFdfSdfB2017-11-19 05:35:37
Rose-Clark did have a better all-around game plan, getting in a solid kick to Rawlings' midsection in the second round and working the ground game with heavy forearms and elbows.
With Rawlings still getting used to fighting at a new weight, she is going up against naturally bigger and stronger fighters than she had in the past. It worked to her disadvantage against Rose-Clark, though the experience is one she can learn from.
Given how little time Rose-Clark had to prepare for her UFC debut, this was about as perfect a showing as she could have had and will buy her even bigger opportunities in the future.