The UFC put on a rare afternoon event in North America on Saturday, even though some of the fights were prime time quality. UFC Fight Night 63 showcased a pair of top five featherweights in the main event, and saw two talented lightweight strikers put forth an entertaining — albeit controversial — bout in the co-main event slot. Chad Mendes moved his MMA record to 17 and Jose Aldo, with a first round TKO of former title challenger Ricardo Lamas. In under three minutes, Mendes did what Aldo was unable to across 25, using a big right hand to the top of Lamas’ head to set up the finish. Rarely do we see fighters hit where Lamas got hit that end up so thoroughly discombobulated, but that shows the impressive power Mendes continues to showcase in his strikes. He followed up with a series of measured strikes from distance, in the clinch, and on the ground to put Lamas away.
The two-time title challenger may want to avenge his losses to Jose Aldo, but he should be hoping that a new champion walks out of UFC 189. If Aldo beats Conor McGregor in July, Mendes’ third bout with the long-time champ will likely remain on the backburner, while someone like Frankie Edgar will step into his place. However, should the brash Irishman dethrone the champion, Mendes will likely be first in line to challenge him (barring an immediate rematch for Aldo). Mendes and McGregor have already traded some verbal jabs, so that would be an easy fight to market. In the co-main event, Al Iaquinta picked up a split decision victory over Jorge Masvidal after being hurt badly in the opening round. The crowd did not agree with the decision, and Iaquinta let his feelings to them be known in his post-fight interview, most of which had to be censored. The actual fight was quite intriguing, as Masvidal used his length to keep Iaquinta on the end of his punches for most of the 15 minutes. Iaquinta used his forward movement and harder punches to sway the judges however, scoring two rounds on a pair of judges cards to take the decision.
There are some winnable fights for Iaquinta in the top 10 at lightweight, but Masvidal showed that he can struggle at times with a technical striker. Iaquinta prefers to move forward in his fights, so a bout against another pressure fighter like Michael Johnson would be very interesting to see, and could even determine a lightweight title challenger, as both men would be on five fight winning streaks. Michael Chiesa picked up his fifth UFC win, earning a unanimous decision over Mitch Clarke primarily due to his superior takedown abilties. Chiesa used a variety of trips and throws to get Clarke to the mat, and managed to score back control on multiple occasions — a talent he is extremely adept at. Clarke was game and put on a good performance in the third round, but it was too little, too late for the Canadian. The lightweight division is always full of options, so Chiesa’s next bout depends on how the UFC wants to treat him. They could match him up with Leonardo Santos if they want to give him a winnable bout. Adriano Martins could provide a a true test of Chiesa’s grappling, while Ross Pearson could do the same on the feet. If they just want to go with a fun fight, a rematch of his bout with Joe Lauzon would certainly suffice. There is no shortage of options for the former TUF winner, that’s for sure. Another TUF winner who looked impressive on Saturday’s main card was Julianna Pena. The first female TUF champion returned from one of the worst knee injuries in MMA history to dominate Milana Dudieva and score a first round TKO with ground-and-pound. This seemed like matchmaking designed to ease Pena back into active competition, and it did just that, as Dudieva didn’t pose much of a threat to her anywhere. With the state of the women’s bantamweight division, Pena could face another UFN 63 winner, and former title challenger, Liz Carmouche to really get herself into contention in short order. She is one of the more well-known female fighters given her time on TUF, so it’s hard to see the UFC taking the slow route with her, even though her game still needs some serious refinement.
Clay Guida looked exactly like you would expect Clay Guida to look in his unanimous decision victory over Robbie Peralta. He scored six takedowns, controlled the majority of the fight from top position, and threatened with a couple of low risk submissions. Guida has been around the top 10 in his two UFC divisions for so long that it seems well-established that he won’t be a title contender, but at the same time he’s a danger to anyone in the division. I’d prefer he faces an up-and-comer in the division, but given current availabilities a match against Thiago Tavares could be interesting. Opening up the main card was a former top 10 featherweight who moved back up the lightweight division, and looked impressive in doing so. Dustin Poirier used his cleaner striking technique to sting Diego Ferreira with multiple straight punches, dropping the Brazilian on a couple of occasions. Even more impressive may have been Poirier’s improved defense, which saw him use good head movement to put him in countering position several times. A bout against Ross Pearson for his second UFC lightweight appearance would be another extremely entertaining Poirier fight.
The next UFC card will also be a matinee for North American fans, as the Octagon heads to Poland for the first time ever. UFC Fight Night 64 already has full betting lines released at 5Dimes Sportsbook, and MMAOddsBreaker.com will have full analysis of the card throughout the coming week.