Best Matches Seen February 2018
CMLL 5/12/17, Mexican National Welterweight Title Match: Rey Cometa vs. Soberano Jr. 16:32+ [? & 0:50 & 15:42]. The problem with CMLL the last few years is they don't have a lot of exciting, up and coming wrestlers. I know luchadores wrestle forever, but the high flying style is made for guys in their 20's, and with Sombra & Mascara Dorada wasting away in Chainsaw Vinnie's morgue, a disporportionally small portion of CMLL's giant roster is under 30, which leads to a lot of stagnation. Cavarnario, Dragon Lee, Angel del Oro, Star Jr, & Titan are some of the other younger wrestlers to watch, but probably the most exciting of the lot is the 23-year-old (at the time of the match) son of Euforia, Soberano. Soberano is a twig, but man, this guy is some hell of an athlete. He's always flipping & spinning gracefully, entering & exiting without touching the ropes unless he needs them to trampoline higher, but what's most impressive about him is whatever move he does, he just has a way of making it look better than just about anyone else that uses it. Soberano hasn't been pushed to the level of excitement he's generated in the ring so far, but that began to change last month when he won La Copa Junior Tournament, which surprisingly (though logically) propelled him to this first title challenge tonight. This wasn't the traditional showcase for Soberano though, as the opponent was one of the premier fliers of the previous generation rather than a rudo base. Cometa has been one of the best luchadores for the last decade, and pretty much always delivers in big matches, and this was no exception. Neither wrestler tried to change into the catcher, which was great, they just did what they do well, pouring on more and more of it to make the match the amazing aerial spectacle it deserved to be. They essentially did a 1 fall match, as Cometa won the brief first fall with his Spanish fly, but unfortunately that's all we saw due to a problem with the livestream, and Soberano evened it 50 seconds later with his guillotine moonsault. What they did consistently in this "1 fall match" was top each other. This wasn't a match where each guy had their run, they matched each other, they made the athletic counters to extend the sequences, but mostly they just did one crazy athletic move after another. You know a match like this is a good place when you need to use your second hand to keep track of the dives. Sure, they could have ordered things better, saved the most amazing stuff for later, but so much of their stuff is so good it's hard to judge & hardly matters, I mean, is Soberano's no touch backflip to the floor better than his torneo? In the end, it wasn't Tirantes missing fouls that got most people into lucha, it was this sort of high flying ballet whether it was Rey Misterio Jr vs. Juventud Guerrera or Psicosis or Sombra vs. Volador Jr. We wanted spectacle, and tonight we got it consistently from start to finish. What I loved about this match is as over the top as it was moves wise, it wasn't overdone otherwise. There weren't all the false grasps for drama, the phony bawling & contorting to prove they were totally dead for 2 seconds before they did the next flip. They just did their thing, and let it take your breath away on its own until it finally came time to wind the match down, at which point the change was actually effective. There were times when the match could have ended, Cometa came close with another Spanish fly, even the mighty Canadian destroyer, but we knew that without them having a fake seizure. And you know what, Soberano collapsing after his swandive missile kick & dragging trying to get his second wind to ascend the ropes for his next amazing move genuinely worked because they picked a reasonable time to run out of steam rather than crying wolf 1000 times. When Cometa cut Soberano off & hit his Spanish fly off the top, I was sure this was going to be the finish, and a great finish at that, until he hurt himself landing & was a little slow to cover. Sure, this was contrived, but it worked because they made one excuse rather than concocting 75. Some people won't like Soberano proceeding to just straight up kick out of the Canadian destroyer (especially again), but if it's not going to be the finish, I'd still rather see that than any of the alternatives. What I didn't like was the transition from the Cometa should win spot to Soberano finishing him off simply being Soberano ducking a lariat & going back on offense. Sure, the fire drive Soberano hit after that was the nastiest tombstone piledriver variation I can remember because he jumps into a seated position rather than going forward onto his knees with the opponents hair still dangling inches off the canvas like the Underfaker, but with the hundred flying moves they'd done already, a crash landing would have worked so much better. In any case, the piledriver was so impressive it was a straight up should have killed Cometa dead move. Following it up with Soberano beating Cometa with his own Canadian destroyer to take the title surely sounded at least as impressive on paper, but this was the one place where they didn't pull off the bump right, it just looked too much like a back body drop/sunset flip combo since Cometa didn't generate enough momentum with his backflip. I've mostly talked about Soberano here, but that's because everyone knows how spectacular Cometa is & how hard he works in big matches. Cometa was Cometa & he was awesome. Soberano was the question mark, and he answered the call magnificently, pretty much showing himself to be a more graceful & spectacular version of the guy whose title he took. This may not be the most well rounded match, but it's a great example of it sometimes being better to do what you do well rather than trying to be something you're not. ****1/4
UFC Fight Night 126 2/18/18: Lucie Pudilova vs. Sarah Moras 3R. Interesting & entertaining striker vs. grappler bout between two works in progress. Pudilova is tough, super tough, and if she can bang for 3 rounds, she's probably going to hurt you and/or win. Pudilova really has no ground offense other than striking from the top, but she's got a really good jab & a big right straight to throw behind it when she wants to . Moras is the more skilled fighter, and she has the ability to make Pudilova uncomfortable with her ground game, but she also has a couple glaring holes that prevented her from being able to fight more consistently from the advantage. Moras has a nice first step on her takedown, but she just kinds of stops because she doesn't keep moving her feet, instead she dives and when she lands on her knees she loses all her forward momentum then just concedes to dropping into guard. She has the athleticism to have one of the better takedowns in the division, but she'd only hit 3 of 19 takedowns in the UFC coming into the match. While 2 of 5 tonight was much better, she could have made this a grappling match with better technique, and she wasn't losing this fight if she was on top because she had all the options & Pudilova had few to no answers. Moras started fast landing a left high kick and dragging Pudilova down from a waistlock. Pudilova was just trying to tie Moras up, which allowed Moras to land some big elbows then throw punches when her wrists were free. Just as I was thinking Moras might get a 10-8 round here given it was totally 1 way traffic throughout, Jacob Montalvo suddenly stands them up. Short of Dan Mirogliotta blantantly cheating for Kimbo Slice against James Thompson in the shady EliteXC days, this may have been the most ludicrous, completely uncalled for standup I have ever seen. This wasn't Brock Lesnar throwing a strike every 15 seconds just to appease the ref, Moras had landed roughly 40 ground strikes in 3 minutes, some of which were pretty impressive, and was looking to advance position because her goal was the submission. Montalvo wasn't warning Moras or anything either, he just, I don't know. I can't even begin to explain this decision which totally favored Pudilova, who was getting her ass kicked because she didn't have an answer on the ground. Once Pudilova was back in her territory, she immediately started blasting Moras with 1-2 combos, bloodying her nose within seconds then dropping her with another big right straight to the nose. Moras had an armbar then triangle then armbar attempt when Pudilova tried to follow her to the ground to pound her out, but Pudilova finished the round with big flurry once her standing resulted in Moras being way too far down the arm to have an leverage against the elbow. Thanks to the clown in black, a potential 10-8 round for Moras turned into a potential 10-9 round for Pudilova. Moras fell into her bad habits right away in the 2nd, doing her dive & flop takedown and then making her bed & lying in it with with her submission attempts rather than either chaining attempts or transitioning out of them. Pudilova slammed her way out of an armbar attempt, but Moras just laid there on her side holding Pudilova's wrist even though that was all she had left as Pudilova's elbow was bent normally and really only the wrist was still leg scissored. Moras eventually turned to her knees & tried for a takedown, momentarily, before just dropping to her back again to restart the sequence. Pudilova had an easier time getting her strikes in because Moras was working for submissions from an open guard rather than just closing up & hoping the ref would, well, be Jacob Montalvo. Pudilova got side mount after finally escaping Moras' inverted triangle that was never going anywhere & decided to just let Moras up so she could land some better strikes on her feet. Within 30 seconds, Pudilova knocked Moras down for the 2nd time with a right straight. Pudilova pretty much just kept doing damage with the same combo, but she was longer, had better footwork, & was winning behind the jab because Moras didn't move her head or have an offensive answer, so Pudilova could just pick her spots to follow with the big right. Moras kept coming straight forward but not really attacking in the 3rd, finally shooting a double & managing to transition into a single because Pudilova didn't sprawl. Within 15 seconds, as Moras had just failed to step over Pudilova's left leg to pass guard, Montalvo warned them to stay busy. Moras managed to pass around the other side with 10 seconds left, but Pudilova swept her before she could secure position & got 1 big punch in. That was a pretty fitting ending, as the difference here was Pudilova made the most of the opportunities she had. The argument could have been made for Moras because she was generally making the fight even from her back, but Pudilova would do something big the moment she regained the offensive. She had a lot more power, and kept landing cleanly all fight. I agree with Pudilova winning the fight 29-28, but I can't even guess which round one judge scored 10-8 for Pudilova given one of the better aspects of the fight was that both were always a threat, and it was a back & forth fight where they had their moments in each round. Good match.
GLORY 50 2/16/18: Omar Moreno vs. Casey Greene 4R. One of the best comebacks I've seen in kickboxing. Greene dropped Moreno in the 1st, and though the fight wasn't exactly a walkover because Moreno had more volume and was doing good work with his kicks, Greene was the power puncher & was running away with it on the scorecards, up 20-17 after 2 rounds, mostly due to a big right hand knockdown & the adjustments he made after that. Moreno was doing a good job of mixing his kicks early, but tried to close the distance after his front kick late in the 1st & just got leveled by an overhand right. This knockdown took away a round that would have been Moreno's, Moreno still landing 1 more strike despite Greene's strong push in the final 30 seconds that saw him coming forward & landing another big right. Greene made some good adjustments in the 2nd, waiting to block Moreno's kick then closing the distance & working him over with his punches. Greene has a muay thai background having trained under Ramon Dekkers brother Carlo, and was so far superior on the inside Moreno would usually just try to defend the inside combo, and then step back or circle out to reestablish distance & throw a kick. Greene was increasly just bullying Moreno in the 2nd, keeping the fight in his domain most of the time, & taking advantage. Moreno got one good punch in at the end of the round, but for the most part this was a much more consistent round for Greene than the 1st. Greene continued to pressure for the 1st half of the 3rd, but started to run out of gas. Moreno was doing a little better with the left kick and knee than he had since the early portion, but was generally showing no signs of doing anything miraculous. I'm pretty sure that if Greene just kept coming forward for the last 90 seconds he would have won 30-26, but once he stopped moving his feet, Moreno was able to step in & throw a punch then surprise Greene with a left high kick that sent Greene stumbling, perhaps only staying up because he was able to use his hand on the canvas to regain balance. Greene was really looking weary now, and Moreno proved to be an effective puncher when he could set his own distance & pace. Greene was still firing back, but was a stationary target with ever slowing strikes, and Moreno was just picking him apart now. Moreno stepped in with a knee to the chin, a nice left straight, then a right uppercut that wobbled Greene, prompting a standing 8 count with just 15 seconds left. I really hate standing 8 counts because for the most part they either punish the fighter who is about to win by giving the opponent time to recover or screw over the guy who isn't as badly hurt as the ref might think by giving the opponent an extra point for a knockdown even though they were healthy enough to stay on their feet. In this case, the 8 count essentially ran the clock out on Moreno, as there were only 5 seconds left when the bout restarted. Moreno made his last desperate push, stepping in with a front kick to the face that resulted in one of the craziest I've standing 8 counts I've ever seen, as ref Josh Stewart first ruled that it was a push but then looked at Greene and decided he was too woozy to finish the final second. In this case, what essentially happened is Stewart probably saved Greene from getting finished with the 1st standing 8 count then, in turn, cost him the fight with the 2nd because it would have ended before Moreno got to throw another strike, but now Moreno got an extra point, with the 10-7 round evening the fight at 27-27 and forcing an extra round. The most hilarious thing is there are actually no standing 8 counts allowed under GLORY rules, the exception being the ropes keep you from getting knocked down, which wasn't the case. Despite Stewart's ineptness, it was a totally amazing, perhaps once in a lifetime occurance seeing a guy make up 2 points in the last 15 seconds to force an extra round! Now that Moreno had forced the sudden victory round, you figured he'd win the fight because he had a lot more left in the tank. Greene came out looking fresher than I expected, but that vanished quickly when Moreno beat him to the right hook 30 seconds in. Greene's head wasn't moving anymore and he had no bounce in his step. For that matter, he pretty much just walked straight forward or backwards, so Moreno's connect percentage, particularly on his punches, was ever increasing. Greene managed to will himself forward in the last minute, but couldn't land anything major to swing things back in his favor and was ultimately outstruck 35 to 15 in the decider. There will surely be a number of better fights this year purely for the action, but this is a one of a kind, storybook fight. Very good match.
RIZIN Grand Prix 2017 Opening Round 7/30/17, Bantamweight Tournament 1st Round: Takafumi Otsuka vs. Anthony Birchak 3R. The opening minute exemplifies why this is a fight Birchak should be able to win. Birchak just has so many more options and can keep pressuring the opponent. while Otsuka has a powerful right hand, which he got in once early, but he's only finished 3 of his 38 fights by KO/TKO, so it's not pleasant but you can take it & still win. Granted, some of Birchak's options may not be the most viable, but right away he used his standup combos to hit the single leg, and when he couldn't pass guard with his punches, he slapped on a standing achilles' tendon hold, not trying to drop down & finish but just waiting for the moment to toss Otsuka's legs aside & try to pass. Otsuka wasn't buying it & tried to sit up & get back to his feet only to be greated by a big knee, though Otsuka was able to just absorb it & get back to his feet, trying for his own takedown out of the clinch. Birchak kept being deceptive with his striking combos, mixing it up & changing levels until he was able to hit the double leg, but as usual Otsuka didn't take much damage on the ground and wound up getting an armbar attempt late. Birchak would win the round if it was the US, but 1st round top position with a couple of punches isn't that meaningful under a real scoring system. Otsuka dramatically turned the wrestling in his favor in the 2nd round with 4 brief takedowns, just maintaining the clinch & although Birchak could get up, Otsuka would just put him right back down. Birchak outlanded Otsuka, but his roundhouse kicks without any hip torque & short knees in the clinch were mainly just annoying whereas Otsuka's full power punches mainly mised, but the 2 he landed made an impression. Birchak always fights 3 hard rounds, but the way Otsuka was able to control him with the clinch game was a surprise, and the difference in the fight. It had definitely sapped some of Birchak's energy, and his striking game didn't have as much zip on it in the 3rd. The more Otsuka saw he was wearing Birchak down, the more he glued himself to Birchak, and when Birchak would slip free, Otsuka would have his opportunity to bomb a couple big right hands, grabbing Birchak again once he connected. The 1st round was definitely the best because Birchak was dynamic & opportunistic with his attack, whereas Otsuka had more success with his in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, so he could keep doing the same things because while Birchak had momentary answers, he lacked the adjustment that could break Otsuka's clinch/takedown or clinch/punch/clinch patterns. Again, this was one of those Rizin fights that was pretty entertaining the first time because it was a rare competitive match amidst a bunch of mismatches that result in quick finishes, but it doesn't look as good on the 2nd viewing because the pattern became repetitive since Birchak was unable to break it. Given Otsuka won the last 2 rounds, I was surprised that he only won via split decision. Good match.
RIZIN Grand Prix 2017 Final Round 12/31/17: Yusuke Yachi vs. Takanori Gomi 2:36 R1. I'm rarely excited about matches under 5 minutes in any sport, but this was one of the most insanely violent MMA matches I've ever seen. Yachi came out with a flying high kick, and caution was never restored, they just threw flurries of insane, angry bombs until the finish. Gomi has been one of the most exciting fighters in the history of MMA, and this was certainly no exception. While he hasn't looked like he had much left in the tank since his 3 fight stretch from 11/10/12-4/26/14 where he beat Mac Danzig & Isaac Vallie-Flagg in Fight of the Nights & lost another excellent match in one of the most ridiculous decisions in MMA history to, of course, one of the 3 thieves (Sanchez, Bisping, & Rampage), hilariously enough in Saitama rather than in the Southwest where most of Sanchez's robberies have occurred, Gomi is never in a boring fight even when he gets bombed out quickly. Yachi had Gomi under so much pressure with big knees from the thai clinch & high kicks that Gomi was immediately put into survival mode, and even if Gomi appears to be finished as a high level competitive fighter, if there's one thing Gomi still knows how to do, it's swing for the fences. Gomi weathered the early barrage & wobbled Yachi with a right hook counter to Yachi's charging left straight, unleashed an insane barrage of short right body hooks after Yachi tried to tie him up. Gomi was just going to town as Yachi dropped to the ground & kept failing to tie him up, even throwing in one of the nasties, most blatantly illegal headbutts the sport has ever seen to no admonishment when Yachi finally managed to wrap both his wrists up, which broke the clasp & allowed Gomi to posture up & bomb more right hands. Somehow, amidst this onslaught, Yachi managed to keep his cool, trying to bait Gomi into getting triangled. Gomi is the veteran who should know better, but he just got so carried away trying to pound Yachi out, and frankly, a barrage of this magnitude would often garner the stoppage even though Yachi was defending himself. Anyway, Gomi eventually punched himself out bashing Yachi so fiercely, and then Yachi was able to get the triangle in deeper and deeper, especially since Gomi, who again should know better, tried to punch his way out instead of defending the submission then going back to pummelling Yachi when he was safe. By the time did the low percentage, desperation stand up & slam the opponent, he was already in big trouble, and Yachi tightened the choke after the impact failed to break it, quickly getting the submission over the exhausted Gomi. For pure excitement, this is probably the best match Rizin has produced. You just never see guys fight with such blatant disregard for percentages & their own safety. Good match.
UFC 221 2/11/18: Jake Matthews vs. Li Jingliang 3R. Matthews is making big improvements in his striking game, and although the conventional wisdom is he'd just use his grappling advantage to beat The Leech, he was more than happy to instead display his standup power. Jingliang is a good candidate for such a showcase because although he has a big right hand, he's always way too content to try to walk through the opponent's shots to swing wildly on the inside. That was not likely to work against Matthews the way he's increased his power, and it didn't take long before Leech got dropped with a left hook counter trying to force his own offense, just walking in then winging hooks on the inside. Matthews quickly mounted, and just threw left after left as Leech had no defense beyond hugging Matthews around the midsection. Matthews took Leech's back, but Leech was partly able to defend the rear naked choke because hapless referee Mark Simpson was allowing him to get away with holding Matthews glove, & only addressed the issue because Matthews complained, though Leech would still go back to briefly holding the gloves anyway as an "answer" to Matthews latest adjustment. Matthews ate an uppercut counter to his own right hand early in the 2nd, but his punch did more damage & led right into an easy takedown. Matthews rolled right into a guillotine, but couldn't quite roll through into mount because Leech hooked his right leg, so Jake had to settle for the guard in order to get some leverage. Leech had no clue how to defend or already sensed the ref was useless, take your pick, so he immediately brought both hands up & pushed off on Matthews face, digging his fingers into Matthews eye socket to the point he drew blood. This might be a valid defense in the gladiator arena, but in a world where the loser is going home to their family at the end of the night rather than getting eaten by a lion, this is indefensible & has to be a straight up DQ. I know the referees always try to leave screwing up the result to the judges, but their primary job is protecting the fighters, and when one has brought dishonor to themselves & sent what's supposed to be a sport back to the barbarism of the dark ages then they deserve to lose. Handicapping your opponent cannot be tolerated as a valid answer, and it's safe to say Jingliang would have lost on his own momentarily because he's obviously not very well trained had he not instead chosen to disgrace himself. The match continued because Simpson did nothing beyond pat Jingliang on the wrist a few times, that's right, no point deduction no restart in the same position minus the fingers in the eyes, thus forcing Matthews to instead relinquish his submission because to not do so was a much surer path to losing an eye than buying a Red Rider. Sure, the match wound up going on to become fight of the night because it wasn't stopped when it should have been, so yeah, the audience benefitted, but that also means Jingliang leeched an extra $50k for his disreputable tactics. Matthews should get Jingliang & Simpson's money for this fight, but even that's in no way worth risking your vision for. Now that he'd weasled his way into top control, Jingliang had his best offense so far hammering away until Matthews initiated a scramble to get back to his feet. Matthews was now even more willing to stand & bang with Leech, but between allowing his anger to get the better of him & not knowing which of the 3 blurry Leeches to swing at, he was missing wild haymakers rather than displaying the more thoughtful & technical striking we saw earlier, which played right into Leech's hands. Leech just kept pressing forward & throwing short hooks the rest of the fight, with Matthews doing little beyond trying to dodge them. Jingliang wasn't as explosive in the 3rd, but didn't let that stop him from continuing to walk Matthews down all round. Matthews started to look better midway through the 3rd, probably because he was beginning to be able to see again, and finally got more aggressive, coming forward & dropping Leech with a big overhand right. Matthews went right into side mount, but was reversed as he tried to take Jingliang's back & ate a series of punches. Matthews landed a flying knee late, but Jingliang saw it coming & landed his own 1-2 combo. The 1st half of the fight was all Matthews, post gouge it was probably a slight advantage to Leech apart from the knockdown that won Matthews a close 3rd round. Overall, this was a crazy fight, for good and bad reasons, with a lot of action but not much discipline or even technique on Jingliang's part. Matthews won a unanimous decision 29-28, 30-26, 30-26. Good match.
IKF MASS DESTRUCTION 5/14/99, IKF Heavyweight International Rules Title Decision Match: Stan the Man Longinidis vs. Rick Roufus 9R. At the time, this was a super fight between two of the best kickboxers of the decade, both in their mid 30's. Stan came in at a claimed 48-6-3 and Roufus as 50-5, and on paper had edges because he'd fought his whole career at heavyweight (despite only being 215 or so pounds) & his career had been under real kickboxing rules with his signature win being a :15 second TKO title victory over Dennis Alexio on 12/6/92 where Stan handed the champ his 2nd loss (after Don Wilson) breaking his lead leg with the 1st low kick of the fight. Meanwhile, being from America, Roufus had often fought under the corny no low kicks rules that we saw earlier in the night when he wasn't fighting internationally, and he'd also been a light heavyweight most of his career (though by this point he's actually the bigger of the two). Stats & pedigree always take a back seat to health though, and Stan was coming off a complete knee reconstruction, and was no longer the same fighter, retiring in '00 (though he fought a few times after that) whereas Roufus had his 1st MMA bout at 41 in 2008 & fought in the Final 16 of the K-1 WGP at 46 in 2012. Roufus got off to as slow start because he was standing in front of Stan too much & was throwing singles shots, which allowed Stan to close the distance, getting inside Roufus strike & landing his own counter punch. In the 1st 2 rounds, Stan was coming forward & either chopping at the lead leg or attacking with punches, it didn't necessarily matter whether he led or countered because Roufus was in range & wasn't keeping him on the defensive. Once Roufus got into his rather unique jogging karate style, it it was difficult for Stan to find his target consistently because Roufus didn't care about fighting any kind of a consistent, percentage style. Roufus would just use his movement if Stan attacked, not looking to counter, so Stan was rarely able to land anything but the low kick. Roufus was very offensive for a fighter using a karate stance though, essentially staying out of range then coming forward really quickly with a long distance closing strike that was either a a wild feast or famine strike that would probably miss but might end the fight if it didn't or a roundhouse kick or hook to start a lengthy combos that was hard to counter because he was through the pocket to the inside quickly & threw 3 or 4 shots all to different areas that you couldn't just ignore. The big difference here was the speed advantage for Roufus, he was just the more dynamic athlete, and he was also the rangier fighter. Early on Stan was able to beat on Roufus' lead leg, and although this was the one consistent area of his game, he was never able to slow him down. As the fight progressed, Roufus instead got looser & more daring, happy to be the showman with his high kicks & spinning techniques, but also slowing Stan down by tenderizing his leg. The fight could have been 2 rounds a piece going into the 5th, but Roufus distanced himself with his daring, mising a 1-2 then a right hook & a fake left straight that turned out to a left high kick that caught Stan totally off guard for the knockdown. Roufus was now willing to exchange on the inside with Stan, using several effective uppercuts as he poured it on, but although Stan didn't have his legs back, he had a few effective combos as well, making this the best round of the fight. Stan came back reasonably in the 6th, but Roufus landed more low kicks than Stan did, and was also able to follow a left low kick with a high kick. Southpaw Roufus had mainly been using the outside kick to the back leg, but increasingly worked the inside kick to the front leg, trying to get Stan thinking low but not knowing low where so he could instead land a spinning middle kick, high kick, or lead uppercut. More and more, Roufus seemed to just be having fun out there, picking the opposition apart by keeping him standing there guessing. Early in the 9th, Roufus hurt Stan following the left low kick with the left high kick, and spent most of the round beating on him against the ropes, bobbling his head repeatedly with nasty uppercuts. Stan's legs were gone, and he was just surviving on heart & willpower. I thought Stan wasn't moving because of the punishment, but he was hobbling once the round ended, and couldn't come out for the 10th due to a broken bone in his right foot. Good match.
W-1 9/2/17, WRESTLE-1 Title Match: Shotaro Ashino vs. Jiro "Ikemen" Kuroshio 36:07. It's awesome seeing two wrestlers in their mid 20's having an epic world title match at a midsized arena (albeit less than half full). As with the DDT 4/29/17 Konosuke Takeshita vs. Tetsuya Endo broadway, the match was way too long for them, but it was fantastic seeing them try something so far out of the box. The previous longest W1 title match was Masayuki Kono taking the title from Daiki Inaba at 22:14 on 11/2/16, and Ashino's previous 4 title matches averaged about 19 1/2 minutes, so while something in this range would likely have been a more reasonable length for tonight's match, you have to give them credit for even trying something 50% longer. This was a fun main event that you really wanted to love between wrestlers who most likely haven't reached their peak & actually could be a lot better in a few years. I'm no expert on either wrestler, but I felt like the issue here was how to meld their styles into something that would work, especially over such a lengthy title match. Ashino seems more a solid old school power wrestler, with "Master of Suplex" printed on his tights in suitable Metallica font, playing off the great title track of their next to last relevant CD. He's the source of Kuroshio's self destruction early & often, including a sweet gutwrench suplex off the apron & an avalanche style German, with Kuroshio being an awesome bumping machine for him, but Ashino's style doesn't really want a high pace, whereas Kuroshio is a transposed luchador who wants kinetic motion & tends to fall into playing with his suit jacket during the deadtime. Ashino dominated with his methodical style, and while he did a pretty good job both with his own offense & of carrying the match, Kuroshio clearly isn't the ideal opponent for this pace a match. The individual segments were all good, but much of the match had a disjointed feel because they weren't flowing from one sequence to the next & it tended to drag between the suplexes & flying moves. The final third was considerably better in all regards, and not really because they upped the quality of the moves, but rather because they decreased the time between them which made everything fall into place. Asahi injured Kuroshio's knee in their 1/8/17 match, putting him out for almost 5 months & forcing him to vacate the GAORA TV Title. Asahi is a Muto trainee, and immediately went after the knee with all his old school contortions that have no real world application. Though this would have been a logical story, luckily it was just something they put out early & went back to once in a while because Ashino wants to win with the ankle lock anyway. Kuroshio is a Tajiri trainee, and the match got interesting when they started doing lucha, with Ashino getting to the apron before Kuroshio could get his dive off & trying to German suplex Kuroshio to the floor, but getting headscissored off instead. Ashino isn't going to do this style all night, but did well in all the bits they incorporated. The most spectacular spot was actually early on when Kuroshio hit an amazing moonsault off the balcony. It took way too long to setup given Ashino wasn't actually hurt, but what was cool about it is Ashino climbed up the wall then did a quasi high-wire walk across the railing. Kuroshio tried rolling & kicking his way out of the ankle hold, but Ashino recorded his 4th successful defense when Kuroshio finally succumbed. ***1/2
W5 35 6/18/16: Vlad Tuinov vs. Milan Pales 4R. This was Tuinov's 3rd fight in 2 weeks despite already having an injured right hand, which is just insane. Normally he's well conditioned, though he's an explosive fighter with a lot of speed & flexibility that is fast enough to regularly mix jumping & spinning strikes into his arsenal without getting punished for it, so he's always going to be strongest in the 1st round. Tuinov is normally a pressure fighter, but Pales was walking him down from the outset. Early on, Tuinov had enough power on his punches to hold Pales off, and did a good job of landing counter punches to the body. When Pales started to expect the body, Tuinov instead floored him with a high kick. Unfortunately for Tuinov, there was only 25 seconds left by the time the fight restarted, and although Tuinov pushed hard for the finish, he couldn't quite get it done. Tuinov started the 2nd energetic, but 30 seconds in he jumped into a front kick that caught him low, and he was never remotely the same fighter. Pales attacked much more aggressively & consistently with his punches after this because Tuinov no longer had the power or explosiveness to keep him off. Tuinov's biggest weakness is he doesn't really have a defensive style to fall back on, so he's either relying on volume or standing in front of the opponent, and the rest of this fight saw too much of the later. You could see he was wincing in his corner after the round, though it looked like that was the hand injury, and just wasn't having fun out there anymore. Pales confidence began to grow, and he just fought smarter, picking his shots & not exposing himself because the opponent wasn't really threatening him. Tuinov had the cushion of the knockdown, but Pales straights kept getting through in the 3rd, mousing Tuinov under the left eye, and Tuinov was unable to muster the health or energy to stop the rot. Once it went to the extra round, you felt Tuinov's chances were minimal because if he couldn't muster anything late in the 3rd to get himself out of the ring, chances are he just didn't have it in him tonight. Pales didn't help Tuinov out, maintaining his conditioning and pressure. Though Pales wasn't as active in the 4th, he was still stalking & threatening, and he picked his spots well, landing the bigger punches and a lot more of them. I can't credit Pales too much because he broke the opponent with an illegal blow, even if definitely accidental, but he did a great job of seizing his opportunity & consistently pressing & building upon his advantage. Good match.
UFC Fight Night 125 2/3/18: Thiago Santos vs. Anthony Smith R2 1:03. An out of control brawl where Smith would even run after Santos throwing punches. It didn't last long, not surprisingly, but there was some great, explosive action. Santos used a powerful, and much more under control kicking game, relying on his big left kicks particularly to the liver, but showing a lot of diversity to keep Smith off balance. As soon as Smith learned to expect the left kick, Santos caught him off guard with a right spinning hook kick then cracked him with a left high kick that wound up being more of a knee, but Smith just ate it & took him down into mount. Santos quickly swept & began digging right hands into Smith's ribs. After Smith got up & chased Santos down again, they landed simultaneous elbows with Smith going down but Santos getting cut around the eye. Smith's corner told him to throw straight punches down the middle rather than this wild loopy stuff, and he seemed to be adjusting using the jab to set up the right straight, but Santos dropped him with a liver kick & threw a flurry of left hands standing over Smith. Smith managed to wrap around Santos left leg & try to will a single, but Santos just clubbed him with hammerfists until Mark Goddard stopped it. Good match.