UFC Hamburg took place at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany on Sunday, July 22nd. It wasn’t the most star-studded card, but some solid performances were turned in by a handful of intriguing prospects.
Light heavyweight renaissance
Although the 205-pound division’s championship situation is still in limbo, UFC Hamburg represented a big step forward for the rest of the division.
On the preliminary card, two of the division’s brightest prospects — Darko Stosic and Aleksandar Rakic — were victorious in dominant fashion. Both fighters are eager to challenge ranked opponents and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against top-tier talent. The sheer athleticism of both of these guys should be enough to help them break into the division’s top-15, but they definitely have work to do on their technical striking.
The night’s co-main and main-event both featured a similar narrative — the young and hungry up-and-comer vs. the top-10, over-the-hill veteran. In the co-main, we saw #9 ranked Corey Anderson coast to a unanimous decision victory over #3 ranked Glover Teixeira. It is likely that Anderson will find himself in the division’s top-five once the new rankings are released, however, recent losses to Saint Preux, Manuwa and Rua make it hard to view him as a title contender at this moment. Another win for “Overtime” should put him in good standing for a shot at the belt.
Although Glover Teixeira showed that he can still take a punch and hang in there with the division’s rising stars, the same cannot be said for Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. “Shogun” is a legend of the sport, but it’s clear that times have passed him by. After a brutal first-round knockout at the hands of Anthony Smith last night, it would absolutely be in Rua’s best interests to hang ’em up and call it a career. As for Smith, he is one of the division’s hottest commodities at the moment, but his 2-0 record since moving up to the 205-division consists of wins over 38-year-old Rashad Evans and 36-year-old Rua. Both fights ended extremely quickly with two of the year’s most vicious knockouts, but it’s hard to gauge Smith’s ability when he’s fighting guys who are clearly past their athletic primes. Smith’s call-out of Alexander Gustafsson was ambitious but not terrible, however, I’d like to see him face someone like OSP or Jan Blachowicz beforehand.
German stars in the making
Two of the night’s most impressive striking displays were presented by German newcomers Nasrat Haqparast and Abu Azaitar. This was Azaitar’s debut with the promotion and Haqparast’s second UFC fight. Although both guys are new to the UFC, they are clearly at different stages in their careers.
Azaitar is 32 years old and it’s unlikely that we will ever see him challenge for the championship, especially not in the UFC’s stacked welterweight division. Of course, stranger things have happened, but it’s more likely that we will see Azaitar as a guy who emerges as a real fan-favorite due to his aggressive and exciting striking style. He doesn’t hold anything back with his punches and I’m sure this will lead to some entertaining fights down the road.
On the other hand, Haqparast is only 22 years old and training at Firas Zahabi’s Tristar Gym. Although he lost his first UFC fight to Marcin Held, his dominant performance against Marc Diakese last night showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come. The fact that he completely outclassed and picked apart a dangerous striker such as Diakese, bodes well for his future. On the other hand, it could be tough for Haqparast to rely solely on his outstanding boxing ability as he climbs the ranks of the 155-pound division. His grappling ability is still a question mark but I’m sure he will be working hard on that facet of his game.
Manny Bermudez is the real deal
In a night where only three fights ended in finishes, Manny Bermudez’ first-round submission of Davey Grant really stood out. There was a good amount of hype surrounding Bermudez before his UFC debut this past February, however, he has certainly exceeded expectations with two extremely impressive finishes. Although Bermudez’ recent opponents, Albert Morales and Davey Grant, both have losing records in the UFC, don’t be fooled — Morales and Grant are very tough opponents who aren’t easy to finish by any means.
Now 13-0 and only 24 years old, Bermudez is one of the most exciting fighters on the current roster and is quickly making a name for himself as a fighter who you’ll want to tune in for. Bermudez’ penchant for chaining submission attempts together is second to none, but he proved with his knockdown of Davey Grant last night that he has some power in his hands as well.
What are your takeaways from UFC Hamburg?