Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
It was a jam-packed Saturday for TV sports.
Two top-three college football teams on one network. A Game 7 for a trip to the World Series on another. And warming up in the combat sports bullpen, only the most-anticipated boxing match of 2020.
Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 miles away from any of them, the UFC was back on Fight Island.
And while the names turning up in the United Arab Emirates this time around didn’t quite rival those that’ll be working the UFC 254 side of the street next weekend, they nonetheless put on an eventful show for the enthusiastic fans who decided to tune in to the ESPN+ broadcast.
Eventful for a lot of reasons, but you’ll get no hints here—beyond our saying that anyone who spent a long time in front of the refrigerator, or elsewhere, missed a lot.
Suffice to say 11 fights yield a lot of winners and losers of all shapes and sizes.
Read through to see what happened or to simply to decide whether your list jibes with ours.
Winner: New and Improved
NEW AND IMPROVED.
@BrianTCity’s time away has brought back a 2.0 version 👏
[ #InAbuDhabi | @VisitAbuDhabi ] https://t.co/5nyMcdwCKB
It was almost 700 days since his last fight and nearly 1,000 days since his last win.
But Brian Ortega looked so good after a layoff that it might be five years before he returns again.
A TKO loser to then-featherweight champ Max Holloway the last time he entered the Octagon, a leaner, sharper and all-around much-improved Ortega turned in the best spotlight performance of his career in a clear unanimous decision defeat of “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in Saturday’s main event.
All three scorecards gave a 50-45 shutout to Ortega, who entered the cage as the No. 2 contender at 145 pounds compared to Jung’s arrival as the division’s fourth-ranked challenger.
B/R agreed with the scoring and also gave all five rounds to Ortega, who improved to 15-1 in a decade-long pro career and looked completely healed from myriad health problems as well.
“All my homies that rolled with me after the last one, I love you,” Ortega said. “For all those who counted me out, learn how to count mother f—–s.”
The 29-year-old landed 117 strikes to Jung’s 66, dropped him with a spinning right elbow in the second round and consistently produced offense while keeping his man out of sorts with effective movement and intermittent takedown attempts.
“We’re really seeing Brian Ortega take on the second stages of his career,” ESPN+ analyst Dan Hardy said. “They went back into the laboratory and they stripped away at him, they changed him, they improved him. This sort of fight makes me excited to get him a shot with the champion.”
That champion, Alexander Volkanovski, has earned two wins over Holloway since Ortega’s failed title shot and was commenting on the fight in real time via Twitter. Ortega was told before the fight that a win would earn him the next shot at Volkanovski.
“Everyone thought I took some time off, but I had some surgeries and got back to work,” he said. “I had to get better at everything. We’re gonna find out if I’m ready (for Volkanovski). You don’t grow in a comfort zone. Yeah, we’re ready.”
Loser: Ignoring the Body
SHE’S COMING FOR THE BELT 🏆
🇧🇷 @JessicaMMAPro stops the No. 1 contender in ONE ROUND.
[ Main event next on #ESPNPlus ] https://t.co/WTpWE2lSlD
Don’t think body shots are really a thing on the highest level?
Katlyn Chookagian would beg to differ.
The No. 1 flyweight contender had Jessica Andrade up against the fence and was about to deliver a hard knee when her opponent turned the tables with an old-school counterattack.
Andrade landed first with a right hook to Chookagian’s midsection, sending her reeling and spinning backward across the mat with a sickening grimace on her face. Andrade quickly pursued and leapt in with three more body shots—a precise left, right, left combination—that finished Chookagian off inside of a round.
The stricken fighter fell to her hands and knees and was rescued by referee Max Grishin at 4:55.
“When you fight with happiness, there’s only one result you can have,” Andrade said. “Now I’m No. 1 and I’d love to get a title shot with Valentina (Shevchenko).”
She became the first woman to win fights in three UFC weight classes and said the focus on the body was an intentional strategy hatched due to Chookagian’s pre-fight weight cut.
“We trained that back in the locker room,” Andrade said. “My master was saying ‘Go to the body, she’s lost a lot of weight.’”
Winner: Hearing from the Boss
“That was a good one, kid!”
@CruteJim had to make a quick trip to ‘The Boss’ after that one. #UFCFightIsland6 https://t.co/eVswCoWfeR
When Dana White himself gives you kudos, you’ve done your job.
That’s precisely the circumstance Australian light heavyweight Jimmy Crute found himself in after a devastating first-round KO of Lithuanian prospect Modestas Bukauskas.
“Nice job right there,” the UFC president said from cage-side, moments after the fight was stopped in 121 seconds. “That was a good one, kid.”
That’s an understatement, Dana.
Crute countered a Bukauskas charge with a perfectly timed overhand right, instantly dropping the 6’3”, 205-pounder to the mat in a heap. Bukauskas was met with a sweeping right hook as he started to rise and was driven back to the fence by a left hand as Crute pounced.
“I went to walk off,” Crute said, “and then I had to keep going.”
One more brutal right hand to a prone and defenseless foe followed, prompting an intervention from referee Anders Ohlsson at 2:01.
Bukauskas had started the fight with lateral movement as Crute pursued with leg kicks, eventually rendering his man slightly more stationary on the way to the final sequence.
“I went back to the game plan,” Crute said, “The game plan was to chop his leg up and not let him move.”
Winner: Toughing it Out
On a bad leg 🤭
@TheJamesKrause halts Silva’s win streak with just weeks notice
[ Action continues on #ESPNPlus https://t.co/qjz910JWo6
This just in, James Krause is an old-school badass.
The celebrated cornerman shook off his trainer cape and stepped into the cage as a fighter again on Saturday’s main show, handing streaking Brazilian welterweight Claudio Silva his first loss since 2007 with a unanimous decision shutout—after taking the bout on just 12 days’ notice.
“Last time (in February) I needed a day to go to middleweight,” he said. “So I figured why not make it 12 to go to welterweight.”
And to hear Krause tell it, he did two-thirds of it with a “torn up” left knee.
The Missouri native told his team that he’d injured the knee after taking an inside leg kick from Silva in the first round, but he bit down on the mouthpiece, moved as well as he could on the gimpy wheel and still outfought his foe on the feet across 15 minutes.
Krause finished with an 80-68 edge in strikes and was quicker and sharper with his fists throughout.
Silva lumbered toward the cage and climbed to the top with arms aloft in an apparent celebration at the final horn, but he nodded and clapped softly when the decision was announced.
“He got me with a good kick, an inside low kick in the first round, and I knew (the knee) was messed up,” he said. “Normally I’d like to push the pace a little harder. But it is what it is.”
Loser: Accepting a Gift
“It was your fight.”
@Guram_DZE with an amazing showing of respect & honesty post-fight.
[ #InAbuDhabi | @VisitAbuDhabi ] https://t.co/D6sZv003WU
Everyone knew the preliminary feature bout would be memorable.
After all, it was a matchup of two heralded UFC newcomers, one of whom was unbeaten as a pro and another who’d been prepping for a main-stage opportunity since his days in elementary school.
But if you suggest you saw what transpired after the bout between Mateusz Gamrot and Guram Kutateladze coming, we’re going to have to call bulls—t.
The nip-and-tuck three-rounder at lightweight featured 112 landed strikes, five takedowns and a knockdown between the two fighters, before a split decision on the scorecards—complete with a trio of reed-thin 29-28 tabulations—went to Kutateladze.
Problem was the winner wanted no part of a celebration.
“I’m an honest man. It wasn’t my fight. I’m sorry to say but it wasn’t my fight,” Kutateladze told a stunned Daniel Cormier in mid-cage, before turning to Gamrot as he exited and saying “You are a warrior brother, thank you so much. I told you it was your fight.”
Gamrot was indeed superior in the statistical breakdown, connecting on 69 of the aforementioned strikes, producing all of the takedowns and running up better than three minutes of control time.
He was never able to sustain the violence, however, and Cormier suggested midway through the fight that Kutateladze, who trains with summertime phenom Khamzat Chimaev, was in control.
The Pole fared better in the third round, prompting a reversal from Cormier by the end of the bout.
“This Mateusz Gamrot is a guy that I like to watch fight,” he said. “Dude can wrestle.”
For the record, B/R gave all three rounds to Gamrot, scoring it 3-0.
Don’t blame us, Guram.
Winner: The “Other” Nurmagomedov
CLOCKED IN. CLOCKED OUT.
🇷🇺 Said Nurmagomedov needs seconds to finish the job.
[ Tune in on #ESPNPlus https://t.co/1GqPj6IAo9
For the record, Said Nurmagomedov is not on the level of the Nurmagomedov who’ll fight next week.
But in terms of impressive performances, he’s a tough act for the lightweight champion to follow.
Stepping into the Octagon for the fourth time, the 28-year-old bantamweight—who’s no relation to Khabib—showed fight-defining one-shot power, rattling foe Mark Striegl with a fall-away left hook and following up with enough punishment to get a stop after just 51 seconds of Round 1.
“I got him with a left hook and then he wanted to go to my legs and wrestle,” Nurmagomedov said. “I just kept punching him until he fell and then I knocked him out.”
Indeed, the decisive sequence began as Striegl, a UFC newcomer, charged forward and prompted the Russian to step back off balance as he launched a looping left hand.
The shot clipped Striegl along the right side of his head and dropped him to knees. He rose quickly, but Nurmagomedov sensed the opening as Striegl went for a takedown and drove him back to the canvas, where he landed another dozen shots before referee Lukasz Bosacki stepped in.
“I’m ready for top 10, top 15, I’m going to show much more,” Nurmagomedov said. “I’m just going to go home to spend time with my family and then eat.”
UFC Fight Night 180 Full Card Results
Brian Ortega def. Chan Sung Jung by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
Jéssica Andrade def. Katlyn Chookagian by TKO, 4:55, Round 1
Jimmy Crute def. Modestas Bukauskas by KO, 2:01, Round 1
James Krause def. Cláudio Silva by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jonathan Martinez def. Thomas Almeida by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Guram Kutateladze def. Mateusz Gamrot by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Gillian Robertson def. Poliana Botelho by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Jun Yong Park def. John Phillips by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-25)
Fares Ziam def. Jamie Mullarkey by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Maxim Grishin def. Gadzhimurad Antigulov by TKO, 4:58, Round 2
Said Nurmagomedov def. Mark Striegl by KO, 0:51, Round 1
UFC Fight Night 180 Bonuses
Got it done in 1️⃣.
💵 @JessicaMMAPro & @CruteJim secure tonight’s bonuses.
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Fight of the Night
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Guram Kutateladze
Performances of the Night
Jimmy Crute, Jessica Andrade
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