Last night the UFC hit the TD Garden in Boston for UFC Fight Night 26, which was headlined by a fight between former PRIDE and UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and former number one contender Chael Sonnen. Also on the stacked main card was a bout between former K-1 and Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem and Team Jackson’s Travis “Hapa” Browne. The UFC was desperate for an impressive night of action on their debut on the new network, and they delivered. Here are the Highs and Lows for UFC Fight Night 26 on Fox Sports 1:
In the Facebook Preliminary portion of the night, The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 runner up Ramsey Nijem faced fellow TUF alum James Vick in a battle in the lightweight division. From the bell, Nijem was looking to initiate the grappling game, which he thought would be his opponent's Achilles' heel; unfortunately for him, it wasn’t. Vick managed to lock in a power guillotine inside the first minute.
Next up for Vick should be a matchup with a fellow striker, perhaps KJ Noons. Unfortunately for Nijem, I believe he’s on the chopping block, and could easily find himself out of the promotion.
The UFC is stacked full with natural athletes, and there is no one on the roster with the physical attributes of Ovince St. Preux, a man blessed with God - given strength and speed. He showed it on Saturday night when he faced Cody Donovan. Donovan came out aggressive early, and both he and OSP tried to implement their striking games, Donovan eventually abandoned his striking game to take the fight to the ground, where on paper he is much stronger. Unfortunately, fights aren’t fought on paper. After a great takedown from Donovan, OSP exploded into top position and landed some brutal ground and pound, forcing the referee to stop the fight.
Next up for Ovince St. Preux should be a rematch against Gian Villante, who he controversially defeated earlier this year.
In the first fight ever on Fox Sports 1, Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Brandao faced Daniel Pineda in a great back-and-forth fight. The first round was all Brandao, rocking Pineda on numerous occasions and landing some vicious flying knees, but by the end of the round, fatigue began to set in.
In the second, Pineda came out and took it to Brandao, and after getting taken down, he managed to sweep Brandao into mount, and landed some brutal ground and pound, easily winning the round 10-9.
Entering the third, both fighters were clearly tired, but they at least brought the fight to each other. Brandao did enough by securing a few takedowns in the final round to earn himself a win in a very exciting fight.
Prior to Saturday night there was lots of talk about Conor McGregor and how great of a prospect he is, and he duly delivered in the cage. But the best prospect who appeared on the card was Michael McDonald, who at 22 is probably the best young fighter in MMA right now. McDonald faced Brad Pickett, who is pound-for-pound the toughest man in Britain, and McDonald looked amazing, landing heavy and often in the first, and nearly putting his opponent away. In the second, Pickett got a takedown but failed to stay active on the ground, as McDonald stayed busy and active off his back, before locking in a beautiful triangle choke.
What separates McDonald from the masses is his mentality. I spent a car journey with him prior his title fight in London, and was truly impressed with how articulate and intelligent he was. Also, two days away from title fight, and he was as calm as could be. This guy is going to be a champion; mark my words.