The Five Count: Top Storylines from UFC Fight Night 64 Fallout

Mirko Cro CopJay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from the UFC’s first ever fight card in Poland; UFC Fight Night 64. #1 Cro Cop’s Stunner– After a KO loss to Roy Nelson in November 2011, many thought that Mirko “Cro Cop” Flipovic would no longer appear in a major mixed martial arts (MMA) organization again. With the UFC’s first visit to Poland, they wanted a big name in the region to headline the inaugural card and with Cro Cop coming off two straight wins in Japan, the UFC decided to re-sign him for this card. Cro Cop was given a matchup with Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga for his return. The two fighters had fought previously in 2007 where Gonzaga scored a head kick knockout of the Croatian legend, so this rematch was a big revenge spot. In heavyweight MMA, strange things tend to happen. For the first two rounds, Cro Cop barely attempted a strike. The one head kick attempted was missed and allowed Gonzaga to score a takedown where he was able to open a cut on the Croatian. In a fight seemingly dominated by Gonzaga, Cro Cop was able to turn the fight around in the third round. Cro Cop hurt the Brazilian and was able to get the fight to the ground where he landed vicious elbows. Once Gonzaga was cut open, he essentially turtled up forcing the referee to stop the fight. It was a huge revenge win for a fighter who hadn’t been seen in the UFC in over three years. Cro Cop is a popular fighter and gives the UFC another opportunity to put the Pride legend in a noticeable spot on a fight card. While he is definitely flawed, he has the killer instinct that makes him dangerous in the heavyweight division. #2 New Blood at Strawweight – While the women’s fights scheduled at Fight Night 64 didn’t have a lot of people talking beforehand, the results of each of the two matchups definitely has produced some intrigue in the winners. On the preliminary card, Moldovan Alexandra Albu fought Polish fighter Izabela Badurek. Despite being the smaller fighter in the cage, Albu showed to be a pretty good technical striker with solid boxing and good movement. Badurek is one of the biggest strawweights in the division and had trouble taking Albu to the mat. When she was able to force the takedown, Albu was able to fish for the guillotine on the way to the mat and secure the submission for the win. In a division with very few finishers, Albu stands out. In a more shocking development, strawweight title contender Joanne Calderwood faced newcomer Maryna Moroz. Calderwood was a massive favorite heading into this fight (-550) and many believed that a win would catapult her into a title bout. Instead, the fight played out much differently. Moroz was surprisingly competitive on the feet and even backed Calderwood up in an early exchange. At first chance, Moroz pulled guard and immediately began working for an arm bar. After a couple attempts to counter, Calderwood was forced to tap in what was the biggest upset in the history of the women’s strawweight division. This is the second time Calderwood has succumbed to a submission (first was a Kimura to Rosa Namajunas). For Moroz, it’s a huge victory against a name opponent and she will get fast-tracked with this win. For Calderwood, it raises legitimate question marks about her ability to defend submissions. Many thought she had one of the highest ceilings in the division, but based on her fights in the TUF House and afterwards, she’s shown to be a good technical striker, but very hittable with suspect submission defense. #3 Best of Rest at Light Heavyweight – The light heavyweight division is pretty easy to breakdown. After champion Jon Jones, there is a quartet of fighters after him: Daniel Cormier, Rashad Evans, Alexander Gustafsson, and Anthony Johnson. That top five is as clear a top five as any division currently in the UFC. It’s beyond the top five that is a real hodgepodge. In a murky 5-15 of the division, new contenders and opportunities are continually being developed. In Fight Night 64’s co-main event, Polish fighter Jan Blachowicz took on England’s Jimi Manuwa in a matchup of two of Europe’s best light heavyweights. It was an important fight for both as a win for either guy would push them significantly up the light heavyweight list and into the top 10. Both physically have the tools to compete at that level, but the need for a noteworthy win was imperative for both guys. Unfortunately, the fight became a stalemate. The majority of the 15-minute contest took place against the cage. While Manuwa did enough to get his hand raised, the lack of a decisive moment in the fight does not bode well for either fighter getting a big opponent in their next contest. #4 Getting Noticed – Before his matchup with Seth Baczynski on Saturday night, Leon “Rocky” Edwards was simply just another fighter on the preliminary card. In a fight card filled with inexperienced athletes, getting noticed is the key to getting that initial push in the UFC promotion. It’s hard to beat an opponent in less than ten seconds, but that is what Edwards did. A quick straight shot dropped Baczynski and forced the referee to step in. It’s one of those kind of victories that makes everyone notice. It also got Edwards to earn a $50,000 bonus and really improves the standard of life for a young fighter. Expect Edwards to get a main card fight at the Scotland event this summer. #5  The Case for Fight Pass – It’s been just over a year since the UFC introduced Fight Pass. The platform began as a great resource for MMA fans as an archive of fights from the UFC. Over time, the UFC has enhanced that library with fights from Affliction, Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, etc. It has also added exclusive interviews, segments, and documentaries. However, what will continue to drive the platform is live event content. The Fight Night 64 event was the first event of 2015 to be exclusively offered on Fight Pass in the United States. One thing that really stood out was the pace of the card. Typically, we see fights on average every 30 minutes during a card. For example, during a two hour telecast there are four fights. The preliminary portion of the Fight Pass card saw eight fights occur in a span of three hours and fifteen minutes for an average of one fight every 24 minutes. While that six minute difference may not feel like much, it reduces the amount of time between fights significantly. If a fight goes the distance combined with an interview after each contest, there is almost no gap between fights. By reducing the time between fights, the show flows better and fans enjoy an improved product. I hope the UFC begins to employ this strategy on their Fox telecasts. I understand the need for commercials, but less studio time and more time cage side would be a great addition. Hopefully, the UFC can experiment using the Fight Pass platform to create a better overall product.

Written by Jay Primetown

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