Early on Friday the UFC put on an entertaining card from Abu Dhabi which certainly made Zuffa and their partners at Flash Entertainment happier than their last trip to the Emirates almost exactly four years ago. While the name power was nowhere near the level of that event, the action surpassed it despite only being an eight-fight card. In the main event the result may not have been shocking, but it was a little bit sad. Roy Nelson earned his seventh UFC victory and seventh knockout inside the octagon. A series of overhand rights felled ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira at 3:37 of the first round, and this was the first time ever that the former UFC and Pride champion has ever lost two consecutive fights in his MMA career.
Nelson proved that at 37 years old he’s still an extremely dangerous fighter in the heavyweight division, but will still struggle with longer fighters who can move to avoid his dangerous right. The natural bout for Nelson seems to be a matchup with fellow heavy hitter Mark Hunt. In contrast, Nogueira – also 37 – seems as though he doesn’t have much left to offer in his MMA career, but that’s the same narrative we’ve been hearing about the legend for more than five years now. The co-main event of the evening featured a pair of long-tenured veterans who put on a pretty fun show for the fans. Clay Guida almost ended things early with a big right hand, but Tatsuya Kawajiri survived that initial onslaught and threatened with kimura attempts throughout the fight. Guida was able to avoid those submissions and control the majority of the grappling exchanges en route to a unanimous decision victory. Although Dan Hardy repeatedly called for a bout with Chan Sung Jung, I would prefer to see Guida take on Dennis Bermudez in his next outing, as I believe their styles would create a dynamic bout. Although the bout was interrupted for a lengthy break due to a low blow in the second round, Ryan LaFlare and John Howard put on one of the more enjoyable bouts of the evening, especially for those who enjoy the scrambling aspect of MMA. LaFlare ended up on top after most of those scrambles, but Howard did the better work on the feet, hurting the New Yorker on a couple occasions and picking up a round on all the judges’ scorecards. LaFlare moves to 11-0 in his MMA career and 4-0 in the UFC, but is likely to face more criticism for being yet to garner a stoppage inside the Octagon. Normally Joe Silva likes to follow a winners vs. winners matchmaking policy, but veterans Rick Story or Josh Koscheck would make an ideal step up for LaFlare at this point. Opening up the main card of UFC Abu Dhabi Ramsey Nijem blew Beneil Dariush out in the first round with a surprising onslaught of violence that we hadn’t previously seen from the Palestinian fighter. After dropping his foe with a left hook, Nijem looked for the stoppage with a power guillotine, but decided to use ground and pound to finish the bout instead. At a +235 (bet $100 to win $235) closing price on 5Dimes Sportsbook, Nijem was the largest underdog on the card to cash. A fun bout for Nijem in his next outing would be with Yui Chul Nam, as both employ straight forward styles, but lack great defensive acumen in their games. The highlight of the undercard in Abu Dhabi had to be the continued resurgence of Thales Leites, who finished Trevor Smith with strikes in just 45 seconds for his first TKO via strikes in his 27-fight MMA career. Leites was cut from the UFC too early in his first stint with the organization, and has looked phenomenal since returning. All of the middleweights around the same standing as Leites are booked for upcoming matches, but an appropriate step up for the Brazilian would be the winner of Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin, which takes place about a month from now. Fans won’t have to wait long for the next UFC event, as ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Nations’ Finale takes place on this coming Wednesday, and UFC on Fox 11 goes just three days later. As always, MMA OddsBreaker will have you covered for all of the odds and analysis you need for both events.