UFC Fight Night 45 Recap: Revel Goes Out In Style

The last time the UFC hosted a card at the Revel Hotel and Casino it was memorable for the wrong reasons. Last night the UFC returned to the venue — which will prove to be the last MMA card held in the confines — and gave it a card that will be remembered as one of the most action-packed over the past few years. The eleven bout docket saw one early ‘fight of the year’ candidate, nine finishes, and the only two fights to go the distance were both entertaining. Two of the most impressive of the finishes were in the main event, as Donald Cerrone (24-6, 1 NC) became the first fighter to stop Jim Miller (24-5, 1 NC) with strikes, and had to do it twice. Before the official finish came from a devastating right head kick that had Miller falling over in slow motion, Cerrone hurt him with a body kick that was incorrectly ruled a low blow. Miller was competitive early in the bout, but as many expected, Cerrone took over by the second round and found the finish.

Cerrone once again finds himself on the verge of title contention, and with all of the fighters ranked above him in the division currently scheduled for bouts except one, it only makes sense that he get matched up with Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Russian has already stated that he’s willing to take the fight, and Cerrone has never been one to pass up a fight — or a paycheck. As for Miller, he’ll continue to be a gatekeeper in the lightweight division who falters when he steps up in competition. If Miller’s recent matchmaking holds true, we can expect him to face someone like Mairbek Taisumov in his next bout. The co-main event featured another lightweight bout, as Edson Barboza (14-2) rebounded from his loss to Cerrone last time out with a body kick stoppage of Evan Dunham (14-6), who has now lost three straight and four of his last five. Being a southpaw, Dunham didn’t have to worry about Barboza’s leg kicks as much as most opponents, but the Brazilian changed his target area effectively. The result was a right body kick which crossed Dunham’s entire body and grazed his liver. The shot was enough to drop Dunham and the follow up punches forced the ref to step in. Depending on the severity of Michael Johnson’s injury, a bout between him and Barboza could produce some absolute fireworks.

Unsurprisingly, Rick Story (17-8) rolled against Leonardo Mafra (11-2), picking up a second round arm-triangle. The Brazilian was simply overwhelmed by Story’s technique, size and strength on the mat. Mafra seemed to resign himself to defeat after Story took him down in the second round, as he offered no resistance to the submission. Story doesn’t have the most impressive record of late, but he could be on as much as a five-fight win streak if judging had been a bit more favorable towards him. With that being the case, he should get a solid opponent in his next outing and Ryan LaFlare is a fighter in need of a step up in competition. After getting hurt in the first round against Justin Salas (12-6) and having a knot the size of his head on the side of his head, Joe Proctor (10-2) came back to earn himself a second-round TKO victory. It was a solid performance by Proctor to overcome a bit of adversity, but it’s hard to take too much from this bout. Proctor still has some defensive liabilities, and it’s not like he was facing a top notch striker in Salas, so the former TUF contestant still needs a good deal of work. A bout against Kevin Lee would go a long way towards proving one of them belongs in the UFC long-term, and Lee’s wrestling would test that part of Proctor’s game a bit more than Salas was able to. Unquestionably the fight of the night — and one of the most entertaining scraps of the year — was the flyweight bout between John Lineker (24-7) and Alptekin Ozkilic (9-3). Lineker showed a level of cardio that we had not seen from him before, which coupled with his tremendous punching power makes for a very intriguing challenge for anyone at 125lbs. The Brazilian was able to shrug off the majority of Ozkilic’s takedowns and scrambled up quickly from the ones that were landed. When opponents can’t get — and keep — Lineker down viewers get some truly spectacular offense. The best body puncher in MMA, bar none, Lineker now seems to have his weight in order and has the ability to go hard for three rounds, as evidenced by his finish of Ozkilic with just nine seconds remaining. The fact that the Turk lasted that long with the hellacious body blows he was eating is worthy of praise in its own right, but Ozkilic wasn’t just a punching bag in there as he tagged Lineker often in the bout as well.

Many were calling for the UFC to scrap the recently announced title bout with Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso in favor of a Johnson/Lineker match. Others would prefer Lineker to take Cariaso’s spot against Kyoji Horiguchi in what would certainly be a thrilling affair. Personally, I’d like to see Lineker and Horiguchi take separate paths to the title, and Lineker fighting in another six weeks against Johnson may not be realistic. Given those two factors, Lineker should get a somewhat recognizable name that he can use to build his stature even more. While the winner of Brad Pickett and Ian McCall would certainly qualify, the flyweight division needs as many contenders as it can get right now (if Cariaso getting a title shot didn’t tell you that already), so Lineker fighting and beating Scott Jorgensen would be ideal. Kicking off the main card was a featherweight bout which was very entertaining, but had the unfortunate distinction of immediately being overshadowed by Lineker/Ozkilic. Lucas Martins (15-1) was dominant in the first round against Alex White (10-1) and then looked like he was spent as his output decreased dramatically in round two. The Brazilian found some reserve energy in the third round however, as he landed a counter right hand that had White — like Jim Miller later in the night — out on his feet and falling to the ground in slow motion. As the UFC’s broadcast pointed out, he became one of just a handful of fighters to win bouts in three different weight classes in the UFC (however they neglected to mention Vitor Belfort in that group). Martins has become quite accustomed to putting on exciting fights, and I think the UFC could give him a very willing dance partner if they matched him up with Kevin Souza. Leslie Smith (7-5-1) and Aljamain Sterling (10-0) both put on excellent performances on the undercard as well, while Claudia Gadelha (12-0) was dominant in the first ever UFC women’s strawweight bout solidifying herself as a real contender for whoever emerges from The Ultimate Fighter 20 with the belt. If UFC Fight Night 45 didn’t quench your thirst for violence you may be a sadist, but you’re also in luck, as in just two more days the Octagon heads over to Dublin, Ireland for UFC Fight Night 46 featuring Conor McGregor and Diego Brandao in the main event. MMAOddsBreaker.com will have complete coverage of the event as usual, so keep it locked.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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