UFC Fight Night 121 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Sydney Fight Card
Enough with the Men at Work lyrics. Time to get down to business in the land down under, where women— STOP, I SAID.
UFC Fight Night 121, which, in case you're not a fan of fine music, happened Saturday in Sydney, Australia, received an extra helping of pain at the hands of the brutal injury fairy. Several fights became less appealing because an original competitor was forced to pull out. And if that wasn't enough, no fewer than four fighters missed weight for the event, thus further dampening enthusiasm.
So, you know, on paper this was not a good card. Still, in the main event we had heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum taking on Pole Marcin Tybura just six weeks after a first-round dismantling of last-second fill-in Walt Harris. As you might imagine, Werdum was a heavy favorite.
Let's see what happened on the 13-fight slate. Just because it looked bad on paper doesn't mean the sparks didn't fly. As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. Here are the real winners and losers from UFC Sydney.
Winner: Fabricio Werdum
Werdum came out victorious in the UFC Fight Night 121 main event. Its lackluster nature was a theme for the evening (more on that momentarily), but he did enough to get the win over a game Tybura.
The two exchanged strikes early, with neither man seizing the advantage but Werdum landing more strikes. His knees from the Thai clinch were the most impactful strikes from either man. Tybura answered with short shots and uppercuts from close range, even landing head kicks, including a massive one in the final round that rocked the former heavyweight champ.
Some sloppy grappling exchanges occurred throughout, with Werdum grabbing the advantage in the fourth round with a takedown and top control. Werdum attempted submissions but couldn't finish any of them off.
The fight went the distance, with Werdum simply staying busier than Tybura and outlanding him throughout.
"I have two belts in my home. I want another one," Werdum told broadcaster Dan Hardy in the cage after the fight.
With boomerang-gate fresh in everyone's mind, Werdum didn't reverse that kind of bad behavior during this fight. He entered the cage to the theme song of Akhmat Fight Club, the promotion run by Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. He also held a choke after the horn in Round 4.
Still, Werdum can exit with a win. Who's next? This probably didn't convince anyone that Werdum deserves a fresh title shot. How about a bout with Alexander Volkov or even Curtis Blaydes? Werdum appears to be slowing down at age 40, but there may be enough in the tank for some interesting scraps.
Loser: People Who Stayed Up
You have to respect every MMA fighter who sets foot in the cage. What you don't have to do is enjoy it.
As previously noted, this card didn't look great on paper, and most of the card delivered on that promise. From its start time at 6:30 pm Eastern to its end around 1 am Eastern, it felt more like a march of tedium than a run of excitement.
Whether it was the snoozy stalemate between Jake Matthews and Bojan Velickovic, the point-fighter-versus-dad-brawler clash between Elias Theodorou and Dan Kelly, or the sloppy flailing lesson that was Alex Chambers versus Nadia Kassem, there was dullery and disappointment all up and down the card. Consider that only three of the fights ended in stoppage, while four went to semi-conclusive split decisions.
Injuries and discordant matchmaking did part of the trick. Even more than that was the simple, unavoidable fact that Australia just doesn't have many good MMA fighters right now. The UFC packs its cards with hometown fighters, and it doesn't work in their favor down under, no matter how terrific the fans are.
None of this is to say there were no good fights. There were. But take it from someone who watched all 13 fights over six-plus hours. The bad moments outnumbered the good.
Winner: Jessica-Rose Clark
Just 11 days ago, UFC brass announced that Jessica-Rose Clark would replace Joanne Calderwood and step in to face countrywoman Bec Rawlings in Saturday's main event.
Clark was not well-known to casual fans before her UFC debut, but she had experience in Invicta FC and other well-regarded shows. She added extra fuel to her profile with popular social media accounts.
Her bout with Rawlings was full of sloppiness and disarray, but Clark landed heavy strikes and combinations down the stretch to earn a split decision.
But she's a winner for more than that.
A year ago she had a very public split from her fiance, fellow fighter Julian Wallace, after Wallace was charged for serious assault against her, along with a series of other vile allegations. He then subsequently fled to the U.S. to avoid further action. Nice guy.
In any case, Wallace is now anonymous again in the world of MMA, while his former fiancee is a UFC winner. It must be difficult to carry on with anything after such a harrowing string of events, much less go on TV and fight in a cage. Not everyone can do that. Good on Ms. Clark today.
Loser: Will Brooks
Will Brooks came into the UFC amid a lot of fanfare. That's expected, given that he was 18-1 at the time and the Bellator lightweight champion to boot.
It hasn't gone according to plan.
Brooks is now 1-3 in the UFC, with those three coming in succession after he lost by guillotine choke to a massive underdog in Nik Lentz.
There was some bad blood here after Lentz left American Top Team, the training home to Brooks and plenty of other luminaries. Brooks, in a way, was dispatched to defend ATT's honor. The ex-champ started slow, changing levels early but unable to accomplish much. His 4" reach advantage moldered as Brooks was tentative in his strikes.
The second round came on and Brooks started to open up. He landed a sharp jab and some swift combinations, letting his reach and fast hands get the better of the smaller Lentz as he danced himself clear of Lentz's counters. But then Brooks went for takedown—and drove himself right into a guillotine. In seconds Lentz had it cinched and Brooks tapped.
The loss itself has to sting, given that three straight defeats is often the point at which the UFC faxes over walking papers. It stings a little more because he wasn't able to stand up for his ATT partners (although they will certainly be sympathetic. And finally, it has to sting both for Brooks and his fans that he can't seem to get it done in the UFC.
He can never seem to close the deal, making errors at critical times. He still has plenty of talent, and at age 31, there's a world of time. But time's running short on this UFC tenure.
Ryan Benoit has met criticism before for a tendency toward inaction. A defensively lacking fighter, Benoit often seems to wait on the opponent to a fault, rather than put himself in harm's way.
That pattern played out again Saturday when he took on Ashkan Mokhtarian in the prelim feature. Mokhtarian seemed content to constantly circle, exacerbating Benoit's hesitant nature and forcing the bout into a stalemate that was punctuated by big pot shots. You got the impression this would either end in a close and unexciting affair or a highlight-reel knockout.
It was the second one.
In the third round, Benoit unleashed and finally found the button, putting Mokhtarian to sleep with a muay thai shin right across the jaw.
"I was saving my kick for the right moment," Benoit told Hardy in the cage after the fight. "I wasn't seeing them open up. ...So I was trying to place my kicks very carefully and trying to be smart about how aggressively I was going to use my weapons."
It may have been frustrating to watch at times, but apparently it's all part of the plan. When the plan works, it's hard to argue with the results.
Winners: Frank Camacho and Damien Brown
A spark of inspiration in a gray sea of tedium.
Frank Camacho missed weight by a full five pounds, coming in at 160 pounds for his lightweight bout. But Damien Brown still took the fight, and we're all better for it.
After a charitably speaking, lackluster Fight Pass slate, Brown and Camacho waged a three-round battle that woke everyone up. Camacho used his power boxing to tenderize Brown's face. His jab and hook-cross combinations were particularly effective.
But Brown hung tough, winning ground exchanges and nearly ending it with a rear-naked choke at the end of the first round. He also held his on the feet, at one point slicing Camacho's face open with a thudding hook kick.
As it came down the stretch, the bout evolved (or devolved, depending on your viewpoint) into a pure brawl. It was shades of Griffin-Bonnar 1, and I don't use that descriptor lightly.
In the end, Camacho had his hand raised after the judges scored a split decision. But this contest was a gem from both men and stood out as the best of the night.
UFC Fight Night 121 Full Card Results
Fabricio Werdum def. Marcin Tybura by unanimous decision
Bec Rawlings def. Jessica Rose-Clark by split decision
Belal Muhammad def. Tim Means by split decision
Jake Matthews def. Bojan Velickovic by split decision
Elias Theodorou def. Dan Kelly by unanimous decision
Alexander Volkanovski def. Shane Young by unanimous decision
Ryan Benoit def. Ashkan Mokhtarian by KO, 2:38, Rd. 3
Nik Lentz def. Will Brooks by submission (guillotine choke), 2:05, Rd. 2
Tai Tuivasa def. Rashad Coulter by KO, 4:35, Rd. 1
Frank Camacho def. Damien Brown by split decision
Nadia Kassem def. Alex Chambers by unanimous decision
Eric Shelton def. Jenel Lausa by unanimous decision
Adam Wieczorek def. Anthony Hamilton by unanimous decision