Monday, August 15, 2022

6 Positives & 3 Negatives From UFC Long Island

On Saturday, the MMA leader hit the road again after a couple of back-to-back Las Vegas-held events with UFC Long Island.

Throwing down in New York were elite fighters across multiple divisions, including bantamweight, welterweight, strawweight, and flyweight. But it was action in the 145-pound division that took center stage, with top-five featherweights Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez headlining the 12-fight card.

While “T-City” targeted a rebound after falling short of the title last September, “El Pantera” was looking to mark himself as the next challenger for reigning king Alexander Volkanovski. With that main event, as well as names like Shane Burgos, Li Jingliang, Miesha Tate, and Jack Shore all in action, many were pointing to UFC Long Island as a card worthy of entering the fight night of the year conversation.

So, did the card join the likes of UFC London and UFC Austin in that discussion? Let’s find out with the positives and negatives from UFC Long Island.

Negative – Shore & Simón Shortchanged

This one’s a puzzler. The UFC’s logic in the placement of the matchup between ranked bantamweights Jack Shore and Ricky Simón was seemingly to promote the prelims. But I just don’t get it.

Those who attempt to defend card placement always claim that it’s simply to spread the good fights and get viewers tuning in from the start. But if the goal isn’t to stack the best fights on the main card, then the UFC is re-writing a combat sports standard — and not told the fighters or fans.

The idea that a matchup like this, which was a hardcore fan’s paradise, would draw in more casual fans from the start is flawed. The goal initially appeared to surround showcasing “Tank” to a new audience on ABC on the main card, which Shore thought was the reasoning behind his London absence.

Burying the clash on the prelims, not even at the top of the slate, was ludicrous. I don’t understand how anyone can pretend that sticking ranked contenders, one of whom was 16-0 beforehand, on the prelims isn’t a big deal, especially when both were down to fight in front of Shore’s home crowd next week.

From the fact that arenas slowly fill up during the prelims and the general fan reaction to this bantamweight clash being there to Shore’s own confusion and disappointment at the decision, it’s clear how the fighters and fans perceive a prelim placement compared to a main card spot.

Whatever the reason for it, it was clearly a negative in the mind of the fighters and fans.

Positive – One & Done

While the first two bouts at UFC Long Island were by no means dull, they didn’t provide action that’ll be remembered for long. The third fight, however, certainly did.

Heading into UFC Long Island, Dustin Jacoby was riding an eight-fight undefeated streak and was yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon since a two-fight stint a decade ago. That didn’t change on Saturday. Instead, fellow in-form light heavyweight Da-un Jung lost his UFC ‘O’.

At 4-0-1 in the promotion at the age of just 28, and having knocked out Kennedy Nzechukwu last time out, most eyes were on the South Korean. But they watched on as he was viciously knocked out inside the very first round, with a straight right sending him crashing to the ground.

While Jacoby’s form since 2020 had established his name in the division, his latest triumph certainly made a statement, and should lead to a big name next time out — perhaps even a ranked one.

Negative – Defeat Via Fatigue?

The featherweight contest between Herbert Burns and Bill Algeo went from 100-0 real quick. Within the space of a round, we had the Brazilian looking to force a tight triangle choke, a miraculous escape from the American, and some impactful ground-and-pound once Algeo had secured a dominant position.

But by the end of five minutes, Burns could barely get back to his feet and clearly wanted out in his corner. After brother Gilbert’s best persuasive efforts, “The Blaze” came back out for the second. Following a brief second wind — by brief, I mean three or four seconds — Burns was on his back once again. After being called to his feet, the 34-year-old looked like he’d just gone five rounds with the champ, leaving Keith Peterson with no choice but to wave the fight off.

Now, Burns did release a video with a knee brace on, so perhaps criticism of his gas tank isn’t wholly fair. But it’s hard to see that the defeat was because of that, at least not solely. Both at the end of the first round and the stoppage-causing standup, Burns didn’t look like a man struggling to stand due to a knee injury. He could barely even lift his midsection off the canvas.

Similarly, there didn’t appear to be any specific struggle with his leg on the stool. In fact, he was battling to keep his whole body up long enough to sit down. That, coupled with the fact he came out for the second round quicker and bouncier after the short rest, appeared to show that, injury or not, Burns had gassed more than any featherweight has in a long time.

While credit goes to Algeo for the win, the way this fight played out and ended after an exciting opening few minutes was a negative.

Positive – Simón Says… Submission

Whatever the result in the fight between Shore and Simón, it was almost certainly going to be a positive. Either an undefeated prospect would take a step closer to contention, or an in-form underdog would stake their claim for a push up the rankings by taking an ‘O’.

In the end, the latter occurred, with the American blemishing the Welshman’s record for the very first time courtesy of a second-round submission. After rocking Shore on the feet, Simón smelt blood. When “Tank” evaded his ground-and-pound and turned, the Oregon native locked in an arm-triangle choke for the tap.

With the win, Simón moved to 20-3 as a professional and extended his win streak to five. He’s certainly earned a big name next, which could perhaps come alongside a chance for redemption against Rob Font. Although, given his post-fight interview, Simón looks to be targeting a certain “Sugar” show.

Positive – A Grueling War Sets The Stage

While the two featherweight bouts on the UFC Long Island main card were expected to deliver wars (we went 50/50 in that regard), the women’s flyweight clash that opened proceedings hadn’t been pointed to in the same light.

And though it wasn’t necessarily fast and furious, everything that Lauren Murphy and Miesha Tate threw was done so with bad intentions, and with the kind of delivery that caused cuts, bruises, and enough blood to turn Tate’s white over-shirt somewhat crimson.

While “Lucky” ate her fair share of right hands and brutal elbows, she certainly got the better of most exchanges, potentially even causing some fractures on the face of “Cupcake.” After three rounds, Murphy left the Octagon with a rebound victory in the bag, something that was good to see after a difficult defeat to Valentina Shevchenko last time out.

Another defeat for Tate and her failed attempt to break into contention as a possible fresh challenger for “Bullet” was a shame, but the entertaining display she played a part in was still a positive for viewers.

Positive – To The Surprise Of Nobody

The maths for this featherweight matchup was fairly obvious. Shane Burgos, who isn’t in duds, + Charles Jourdain, who isn’t in duds, = well, no dud.

While perhaps not the all-out striking war some had hoped for, the addition of grappling exchanges and Burgos’ submission attempts, which ultimately proved crucial in the decision, added an extra layer to an onion filled with vicious striking exchanges, tight cranks, and crowd-pleasing moments.

In the end, “Hurricane” took home a majority decision on the scorecards after edging a tight first round in the eyes of two of the judges, although Mike Bell’s 28-28 verdict could have thrown a spanner in the works had another judge seen things differently.

While Burgos made it back-to-back wins and cemented his place in the rankings, Jourdain certainly didn’t lower his stock in defeat. In fact, given his third-round display, it’s a shame to see him leave empty handed in terms of a place in the top 15. Nevertheless, the Canadian only enhanced his reputation as a fan favorite.

Positive – A Comeback For The Ages

Holy sh*t.

The spot on a card after a banger like Burgos vs. Jourdain is often a tough place to be, with the crowd settling down into a restful state following a massive period of excitement. But the fans in attendance didn’t have the chance to do so at UFC Long Island.

That was because flyweight contenders Matt Schnell and Sumudaerji put on one of the greatest two-and-a-half-minute periods in MMA history. Early in the second frame, “Danger” seemed as good as done. Three or four times in a row, he was rocked by some brutal elbows inside the clinch. Despite being visibly hurt, he kept pushing forward and kept getting tagged, with referee Jacob Montalvo looking seconds away from stepping in.

What happened next appeared about as far from the script as Daniel Cormier’s perception of the scoring criteria was from the actual thing (pre-seminar).

After turning the tide on the feet, Schnell got his own back with elbows on the ground, pummeling Sumdaerji and busting him open. Once again, the ref was left moments away from stepping in when the tables turned again, this time with “The Tibetan Eagle” reversing position.

Of course, the twists weren’t done there. Wasting no time on his back, Schnell locked in a triangle choke that rendered his Chinese foe unconscious. The post-fight aftermath gave us a truly memorable aesthetic as a lifeless Sumudaerji, battered and bloody, draped over the victor’s leg.

What a war, what a fight, what a moment.

Positive – Sportsmanship

While it wasn’t the barnburner that the other main card fights proved to be, the women’s strawweight co-main event between Amanda Lemos and Michelle Waterson-Gomez did have a noteworthy ending.

In the second round, the Brazilian hopped on a tight guillotine. After a brief struggle, things came to a bizarre end, with Lemos releasing the choke and appearing to signal something. As it turns out, on the side opposite of the broadcast view and the referee’s angle, “Karate Hottie” had tapped.

Credit here goes to both woman. While Lemos deserves praise for letting the guillotine go once she felt the tap, Waterson-Gomez also showed her class by respecting her decision to submit, when perhaps some others would have tried pulling a fast one.

Negative – Anticlimactic

Whether you see this as a freak injury or as a result of a Yair Rodriguez submission attempt, the UFC Long Island main event didn’t end how anyone would have hoped.

After a fantastic card, the highly anticipated headliner between Rodriguez and Brian Ortega looked destined to secure the event’s place in the fight night of the year discussion. And while it started in that sense and was quickly picking up pace, it came to a sudden halt on the ground when “T-City” dislocated his right shoulder.

At the time, Ortega appeared close to escaping from an armbar attempt. It was seemingly his efforts to free the limb that resulted in the injury. It’s hard to deny that the finish falls within a certain grey area. Did the injury happen during a submission attempt sequence? Yes. Was the injury as a result of Rodriguez’s efforts to thwart the arm? From the angle we saw, it didn’t seem like it.

Either way, the fact that it wasn’t a convincing and conclusive finish is a disappointment, especially given what was at stake. The only winner was Josh Emmett, whose claim to a title shot just got stronger having earned his position through an entertaining five-round clash with Calvin Kattar.

What were your positives and negatives from UFC Long Island?

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