The crowd was lively from the first fight of the night to the last at UFC Fight Night 50 at Foxwoods Casino on Friday night. The UFC loaded the card with hard-hitting heavyweights and some entertaining submission grapplers, and each fight on the main card delivered high quantities of violence. Aside from losing Oliveira vs. Lentz due to Oliveira’s illness throughout his weight cut, the show went off without a hitch.
This was a show that the UFC needed to hit out of the park, for a multitude of reasons. One of which was that Scott Coker was running a Bellator event featuring several former UFC fighters just eight miles down the road at Mohegan Sun.
Both shows were on cable television, going head-to-head for the same audience. The UFC couldn’t risk letting its biggest (yet still very far away) competitor look remotely like it was gaining any traction.
UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman was cageside for Fight Night 50, and no doubt he was paying a lot of attention to the outcome of the main event. Souza handed Mousasi his first submission loss in eight years when he sunk in a deep guillotine that made Mousasi tap instantly.
The recent UFC cards have garnered a lot of criticism due to their lack of skilled and relevant fighters, but everything that was missing from some of them was on display in full force on Friday night. The UFC needed an event that would really remind MMA fans why it was that they watched the sport to begin with.
The smaller cage led to big finishes. Six out of the nine bouts at Fight Night 50 didn’t see the judges’ scorecards. Lightweights Joe Lauzon and Michael Chiesa put on the Fight of the Night, and main event winner Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza snapped up a $50,000 performance bonus for his third-round guillotine-choke submission over Gegard Mousasi.
Here are some of the brighter spots from my viewpoint of UFC Fight Night 50.
Lauzon Sets Lightweight Finish Record
Joe Lauzon got a deafening crowd reaction when he walked to the cage for the opening bout of the main card against Michael Chiesa. The upper mezzanine was a sea of red Lauzon shirts, with everyone standing in solidarity to support their local hero. Every pass, takedown attempt and reversal by him sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Both guys brought it, and for as long as it went on, it was a back-and-forth affair. Lauzon gained some momentum in the second round, and as he attacked Chiesa with a knee to the forehead, Chiesa was cut right above the eye, and the blood flowed immediately.
The cut over Chiesa’s right eye looked like Joe Riggs’ self-inflicted bullet wound (NSFW, graphic footage). It was nasty, and it was right on his eyebrow, so when Herb Dean caught a glimpse of that he timed out the action and had the doctor come in and take a peek. The fight was waved off to the dismay of a very game Chiesa, but Lauzon took home his 10th finish in the lightweight division, passing BJ Penn (nine) and setting the record.
Taking home the Fight of the Night bonus gave Lauzon another UFC record. He was previously tied with Anderson Silva at 12 post-fight bonus awards, and Fight Night 50 marked his 13th—not a terrible night for Lauzon.
Two Heavyweight KOs; Two Very Different Celebrations
Nothing is worse in fights than lumbering heavyweights gassing out against the fence while trying to outmuscle each other for 15 minutes. Luckily, we didn’t have to travel down that rabbit hole on Friday at Foxwoods, as the two main card heavyweight fights both ended quickly and decisively.
Matt Mitrione broke a five-fight winning streak for Derrick Lewis when he cracked him with a short right hook and poured on a few more big shots. Lewis was on the ground before the fight was called off after just 41 seconds.
Mitrione didn’t appreciate being called out by name by Lewis for the fight and stood over the unconscious fighter, bragging and taunting him as he regained his faculties.
In the co-main event of the evening, Alistair Overeem suffered another knockout loss, this time at the hands of “Big” Ben Rothwell. Rothwell caught Overeem with a grazing hook that dazed the new addition to Team Jackson-Winkeljohn midway through the first round, and Rothwell ran in and put The Reem away with a flurry of additional punches.
Afterward, while Alistair was still down on the canvas, Rothwell busted out an eccentric two-step bouncing dance-move thingy that was actually pretty amazing.
In the case of Mitrione, his win over Lewis showed that he is no longer the heavy-handed newcomer to the sport who needs to get a few more fights under his belt; he has become somewhat of a savvy veteran of the Octagon.
He derailed the Lewis hype train and said at the post-fight press conference that whomever the UFC gives him next is who he deserves. I’d say he deserves someone with a number next to his name.
For Rothwell, he just notched his most impressive and most high-profile victory to date. He seems to have a new approach to fighting since his third-round destruction of Brandon Vera. Rothwell’s post-fight speech was one for the ages, saying we’ve witnessed the most powerful force in the universe.
He proved to himself that he can make a run for the title, but he still needs to prove it to the rest of us. He also could use a fight with someone within the Top 15. We now have two things to look forward to when Rothwell fights: his knockout power and wicked dance game.
Jacare Makes Case for a Title Shot
Mousasi walks out to every fight with a sort of slumping, listless look to him. When Bruce Buffer is reaching the highest decibel levels possible while announcing his name, Mousasi usually just nods and remains planted right where he is, with no enthusiasm whatsoever.
After this fight, though, Mousasi actually acknowledged having less "fighting spirit" due to fighting so often and his fight getting rescheduled. He was on the defensive throughout the entirety of the bout and tapped to a guillotine in the third round.
With the win, Jacare moves to 4-0 in the UFC and has won seven straight. He avenged his 2008 loss from Dream 8 and has earned a shot at the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort.
Though UFC President Dana White said post-fight that Souza will probably have to fight again, he would be most likely be favored against anyone in the 185-pound division. Plus, Belfort is undergoing very stringent drug testing for his UFC 181 bout against Weidman; should an issue arise, Jacare could be kept as a backup.
With all the fight changing that we’ve had to endure over the past few months, keeping someone on standby doesn’t seem like the worst possible idea.
All in all, UFC Fight Night 50 more than delivered. Even the fights that went to a decision had the crowd engaged. We received yet another reminder that Alistair Overeem was either overhyped or isn't the same fighter he once was.
Jacare Souza used his top-level grappling to slide his way into title contention, and Joe Lauzon electrified in front of his friends and family yet again, earning a few distinctions along the way. UFC Fight Night 50 was a shining example of what MMA and shows put on by the UFC can achieve and what fans deserve.