Photo Credit: sherdog.com
Tony Johnson Grapples his way to a TKO
The first round was a surprising exercise for both men. Raphael Butler, coming in heavily touted as a boxer and striker, closed the distance to grapple. And wherein Tony Johnson was grateful for the takedown, he was unable to push beyond some advantageous positioning. Johnson pinned the striker against the cage and was on the verge of being broken up when he threw a wayward knee that struck Butler in the cup. Unfortunately, that was the best strike of the first round. Johnson further squandered back control and showed a kind of wild inclination to throw toe-to-toe.
The second round was a clinic in wrestling and control. Johnson’s strategy seems to be body positioning and to close the distance at all costs. Butler, with heavy hands but a kind of lethargic pace, seems intent on finding his range and throwing. But Johnson continually changed levels, often following a weak pawing jab, to take the space away and work a clinch. There were some shots landed in the scrambles, and Butler looked to be breathing hard as the bell rang.
In the last minute of the third round, the fight came to an end. The official decision is TKO for Tony Johnson, but the true stoppage of the fight is due to Raphael Butler’s utter lack of grappling ability. Johnson came in with a game plan that many wrestlers have employed against better strikers: close distance, change levels, and get body control. Butler’s jab and boxing ability should have leant him the ability to work around Johnson, keeping distance and utilizing the sprawl and brawl. But every time he looked to set up a series of strikes, or even find the range, Johnson was on top of him. Kudos to Johnson for a plan well-executed, but with five hundred pounds of experienced fighters the hope is for something more explosive.
Johnson by referee stoppage, 3rd round.
Pitbull shows, drops couture with a left
Patricky Freire knocked out Ryan Couture in the very first round with an overhand left that Couture never saw. This fight ended quickly, and getting an accurate gauge on what necessarily went wrong with a first round knockout is always hard. But there were some habits of both fighters, as well as one horrible game plan, that led to Couture face planting into canvas.
Patricky Freire came into this fight as a notoriously hot and cold striker. Beyond showing up for one fight and sleep walking through the next, “Pitbull” was often streaky intrafight. He would dominate a round, Eddie Alvarez can attest, before utterly falling apart for no apparent reason. But wherein his streakiness has, at times, hampered his rise within the division, the moments when he could control his explosiveness and excellent kickboxing were incredible to watch. His right hand that broke Couture’s nose, and the beginning of the end, was snap quick. And the flat left hook that ended the fight was perfectly timed and executed.
Ryan Couture, contrary to how this fight ended, was an incredibly consistent fighter. He would show a willingness to bang early before transitioning, either by force or by opportunity, into grappling where he excels. His last four fights have all gone to ground and been ended in the exact same manner: rear naked choke. The man is consistent and a very gifted grappler. Which makes his decision to stand and throw with Pitbull astonishing in its own right. But even more bewildering was his continued willingness to throw after eating a right hand that broke his nose. Couture isn’t a bad striker, however sluggish his punches were in comparison to Freire, but he does lack certain foundations of good striking. Head movement, especially in the exchange, was all but lacking. He would bob like Sugar Ray at range, but the moment he stepped in, he target locked and set his jaw. Furthermore, he has a grappler’s tendency to flinch in combination. This is the reaction induced by jabs and straights that caused Couture to bring his hands together in front of his face. Apt for blocking another hammering right hand from Freire, but blinding him to any kind of hook. A mistake capitalized upon by Pitbull in the very first round.
Patricky Freire by KO, 1st round.
a year in the making, a minute in the finish
Over a year in the making. Questions about the head-butt, and analysis of each of the two rounds before the doctor stoppage. The weight of the future of the Welterweight division on Chris Honeycutt’s undefeated shoulders. And Paul Bradley knock him out in the first minute of the first round.
The Freire/Couture bout seemed as though a talented striker came up against a more amateurish opponent and capitalized on bad habits, but this fight was much more in the vein of a helluva punch thrown in search that found the button. Taking nothing away from Bradley, both men were circling and finding the range early. Honeycutt was slightly erratic and Bradley, a notoriously slow starter, seemed to be dialed in after the long awaited rematch. Bradley after originally tagging Honeycutt and putting him down, but not out, showed a viciousness in diving atop him and raining strikes that is rare from a more stoic wrestler. And credit where it is due, Honeycutt survived several bombs before landing on his back. His chin may not have withstood the barrage, but he showed a great deal of heart in the ten seconds where he tried to survive.
Bradley by an even faster KO than Pitbull, 1st round.
Semtex blows up, stuns no one
If anything this fight was destined to end the way that it did, if not sooner than anticipated: Paul Daley knocked out Andy Uhrich in the very first round. This was one of the hard positions that being an up-and-coming professional fighter can lead to; taking a fight on short notice, fighting a vastly superior opponent, and still Uhrich came out gamey. He threw some leg kicks early, Daley plodding forward looking like the Terminator waiting to strike. Without any real snap, Uhrich worked his hands high, trying to get a visual on Semtex’s dangerous fists. A lackluster takedown attempt that Daley threw off against the cage, and Uhrich had exhausted his resources. Semtex started to walk with purpose, drop feinting with his left hand (with obvious deference paid by Uhrich). Unfortunately, in dodging the left hand Uhrich was setting up the right that came lightning quick. Daley didn’t even chase the man to mat, the fight was over on contact.
One note in closing: Daley vs. Koshcheck, if the post-fight jawing was any indication, will be an out and out war.
Daley by Knockout. 1st round.