UFC Fight Night 99 may have lacked major star power inside the UFC Octagon on Saturday evening, but for the Belfast, Northern Ireland crowd that mattered very little.
The UFC were back in town for the first time since 2007 and a thirteen-fight strong card produced several highlights and talking points to send the fans home happy.
Taking in the action last evening from Octagonside was the new UFC double weight world champion Conor McGregor who sat front row and center to watch his teammates Artem Lobov and Charlie Ward.
Gegard Mousasi def. Uriah Hall via TKO (punches), Round 1, 4:37
A rematch between two top-15 middleweights headlined UFC Fight Night 99 as the Dutchman Gegard Mousasi faced the American Uriah Hall.
Having witnessed over five hours of exciting action already in the evening the pressure was on Hall and Mousasi to step up and produce and that they did.
The opening round was a tentative affair as Mousasi cautiously plodded forward narrowly evading several or Hall’s vicious looking spinning kicks. The Dutchman rocked back the head of Hall with several jabs, but Hall responded with his own leg kicks that reddened the inside leg of Mousasi.
Midway through the round, Mousasi pressured Hall back against the cage and in a split second he looked for the takedown wrapping both arms around the waist of the American. Mousasi proceeded to take him man down and from there he established wrist control of Hall’s free arms and proceeded to lay in heavy ground and pound.
With Hall unable to improve his position trapped against the cage and Mousasi pummeling away, the referee Marc Goddard called an end to the fight with four minutes and thirty-seven seconds on the clock.
Mousasi had his revenge in double quick time.
Stevie Ray def. Ross Pearson via split decision (27-30, 30-27, 30-27)
The co-main event was a ‘Battle of Britain’ as Scotland’s Steven Ray took on Englishman Ross Pearson.
After nice receptions for both, the action got underway and it was slow start as both men moved around out of range looking for an opening. After a few minutes of probing, both men began to land shots, though the most important action came when Ray caught a body kick from Pearson and proceeded to slam him to the mat. From there Ray landed a bit of ground and pound, but the round ended before any significant damage could be dealt.
The second round began with Pearson again looking to attack the body of Ray. The Scotsman replied by pushing Pearson up against the fence looking for a takedown, but it didn’t take long before the Englishman wriggled free and the fight once again took the centre of the Octagon.
By the middle of round two Pearson’s line of attack was becoming obvious as he repeatedly targeted the midsection of the Scot. Ray blocked most his shots and snuck in a few counters to probably nick the round.
The final five minutes saw Pearson start to mix it up a little more as he added to leg strikes in between the hooks he continued to send to the body. Ray looked for a body kick himself but his leg was caught and Pearson replied with a knee that partially landed.
Late in the third, Pearson was in the groove and Ray was struggling to land at range. Pearson again ripped Ray to the body with a hook and then a knee as Ray replied with leg kicks to the inside leg.
After a close fight, the arena held their breath as the split decision was ruled in favour of the Scotsman 27-30, 30-27, 30-27.
Alexander Volkov def. Timothy Johnson via split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
Alexander Volkov and Timothy Johnson had the unenviable position of coming after the Artem Lobov and Conor McGregor party, but the action quickly got the fans back invested in the fights.
Both men came out the blocks fast and traded huge strikes in the pocket looking for an early finish. Johnson arguably landed the best shot of the first five minutes with a devastating upper cut, but the Russian fought back well landed some big rangy strikes from distance.
In round two both men refused to back down and they continued to stand toe-to-toe exchanging big heavy hands and kicks. Johnson at one point attempted a takedown but to avail as Volkov defended it well and established enough distance to land a few prodding kicks yet again.
The final round saw both men continue to relentlessly push forward and try to box their way into range. The action slowed a little as the two began to fatigue, but the blows were still as heavy hitting as both men looked for opening.
After a tough, gritty fifteen minutes the judges awarded the contest via a split decision to Volkov, 29-28, 27-30, 29-28 on the cards.
Artem Lobov def. Teruto Ishihara via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
The UFC Fight Night 99 main card kicked off with Artem Lobov taking on the flamboyant Japanese fighter Teruto Ishihara and the crowd were into this fight from the get go.
With his teammate Conor McGregor cheering on from Octagonside, Lobov started well and landed a few big right hands on Ishihara who was doing his best to stay elusive on the outside.
The atmosphere in the arena was electric between rounds one and two as the crowd rose to the tune of “stand up for the boys in green”as the fighters took their respite. Round two opened in similar style to the last with Lobov landing his right seemingly every time he threw it. Lobov continued to score with big winging hooks repeatedly, but the Japanese man just ate them in zombie-like fashion.
Round two ended with a big flurry from Lobov and the crowd going crazy, but there was still another five minutes left the Irishman had already throw a significant amount of volume.
Those thinking Lobov would take his foot off the gas ended up being sorely mistaken. The Russian-born Irishman continued to pour forward and Ishihara continued to eat strikes.
Just when the fight looked in the bag Lobov was dropped by a massive left hook. The referee nearly dove in to call the fight, but Lobov somehow managed to catch him in his guard. After managing to stall his man for a minute both fighters were back on their feet and both looked exhausted.
Despite his fatigue and earlier brain scrambling, Lobov pushed his man up against the fence and landed a huge slam before laying on some big ground and pound until the final klaxon sounded.
At the end of the fight, Conor McGregor scaled Octagon and proceeded to celebrate with his friend as the fans went wild.
Jack Marshman def. Magnus Cedenblad via TKO (ground and pound), Round 2, 3:32
Following just hours after the first, the second ever Welshman to fight in the UFC took to the Octagon in Belfast when Jack Marshman faced Magnus Cedenblad in the preliminary bout headliner.
The Welshman got the better of the earlier exchanges and briefly dropped the Swede with a left hand that clipped him.
Cedenblad recovered well though and took Marshman down as he rushed in to capitalize. The rest of the round saw the Swede land some heavy elbows and he cut Marshman just above the eye to bloody him.
Round two was a totally different story. Having endured a hard-wearing opening five minutes, Marshman began to open up on his striking and the Welshman finished the fight in unforgettable fashion as he landed a right-left-right combination to send the giant Swede down to the mat.
From there, Marshman poured on the ground and pound and the fight was finished at the three minute and thirty-two second mark of round 2.
It was a fantastic performance by Marshman who asked the onlooking two-weight world champion Conor McGregor whether his performance was worth a $50,000 bonus—the Irishman seemingly approved of his suggestion.
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Ali Bagautinov via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Two of the fastest flyweights in the world were in action in Belfast as the Japanese superstar Kyoji Horiguchi faced the Russian Ali Bagautinov.
In a competitive round one, both men fought hard for position up against the fence and both landed takedowns without ever really working into an offensive position.
The second round Bagautinov took some hard shots and was backed up against the fence, but the Japanese failed to secure the takedown as the Russian defended well. In the final minute of the round Horiguchi finally got his man down but was unable to advance into a position to finish the fight.
Both fighters came out swinging in the third though it was Bagautinov who really needed to search for the finish with the majority cageside presuming he was down by two rounds.
After weathering an opening flurry from Bagautinov, Horiguchi regained controlled and was able to coast to a 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 victory.
Kevin Lee def. Magomed Mustafaev via technical submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2, 4:31
Kevin Lee and Magomed Mustafaev needed no warming up. These two went at it from the opening bell with Mustafaev knees, spinning-back fists and Lee takedowns telling the story of the first round.
Lee again asserted dominance with the takedowns in round two, but every time he went for the finish the Russian managed to scramble free and back to his feet. Eventually after his third takedown of the round, Lee took the Russian’s back again and this time sunk in the rear-naked choke for the victory.
To his credit, Mustafaev fought bravely and lost consciousness before he tapped. Speaking on the microphone afterward, Lee wasn’t in the mood to pander to the Irish fans and said he’d put McGregor on his back right now if he dared step inside the Octagon.
Amanda Cooper def. Anna Elmose via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
The strawweights were in action in Belfast and if anyone thought these two weren’t hard hitters their opinions would’ve quickly been changed.
The fight was mainly fought on the feet where both women were pretty evenly matched. Elmose dropped Cooper in the first round as the crowd gasped, but the American hung on and managed to see the round our without that much difficulty despite a cut on the side of her head.
Round two was pretty even as both women secured takedowns and traded heavy blows. Cooper attempted an armbar in the final few seconds around but heard the buzzer go before being able to fully apply it.
It was even heading into round three and after being dropped in the first round it was Cooper that put on the foot on the gas and dominated the standup. The American used her quick jabs and even landed a few sidekicks to the head as Elmose faded. The victory was cemented when Cooper landed a takedown with 30-seconds to go.
Both women embraced at the end and the judges deservedly handed the ‘W’ to the American on all three scorecards.
Justin Ledet def. Mark Godbeer via submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1, 2:16
It’s not unusual for a heavyweight fight between two guys famed for their standup to be done in one round, but rarely does it end via submission.
The fight barely lasted two minutes as Godbeer opened well using leg kicks to keep the range. Ledet eventually closed the distance and hit a takedown to take the Brit down to the mat.
A scramble for position then ensued and with Godbeer looking for a leg lock, Ledet took his back and sunk in a deep rear-naked choke. The former BAMMA champion had no choice but to tap and give the American yet another first round victory.
Zak Cummings def Andrei Yakovlev via submission (armbar), Round 2, 4:02
Not many fans had Cummings versus Yakovlev down as a fight of the night candidate and until the finish it was a highly uneventful affair.
After chasing the Russian around the Octagon for the best part of nine minutes, a failed takedown led to Cummings securing a crucifix. From there he isolated the arm and got the tap with a slick kimura in what was a nice finish for a fight that lacked action.
Marion Reneau def. Milana Dudieva via TKO (ground and pound), Round 3, 3:03
The first women’s action of the night was in the bantamweight division as Milana Dudieva faced Marion Reneau.
The first round saw the fight mostly stay on the feet as both women traded hands and struggled for position when pinned up in the clinch on the fence. In a closely contested contest, Dudieva seemed to have be getting the edge in rounds one and two as she took Reneau down to the mat with slick judo throws.
Midway through round two though Reneau pushed the Russian up against the cage where she then unloaded a barrage of hurtful looking strikes until the end of the round.
In round three, Reneau repeated the tactic of pushing Dudieva up against the fence. This time though she landed a slick trip and landed in full mount. From there she rained down ground and pound onto a hapless Dudieva who was saved by the referee before she took any unnecessary punishment.
Brett Johns def. Kwan Ho Kwak via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Brett Johns became the first Welshman to ever fight in the UFC and he did so against a tough South Korean opponent, Kwan Ho Kwak.
Johns settled into UFC life like duck taking to water and dominated the opening five minutes by putting the Korean on his back four times with hefty takedowns. The second round saw the fight mostly stay on the feet, but Johns seemingly had the advantage there as well and rocked Kwak early with a nasty uppercut.
Kwak tried to start round three quickly, but after weather an early barrage of strikes Johns again went back to his wrestling and it was long before Kwak was on his back. At the end of an exhausting 15-minutes both fighters collapsed on one another as the judges’ were given an easy job scoring the contest to Johns.
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Charlie Ward via TKO, Round 1, 0:53
The night kicked off with Adbdul Razak Alhassan taking out Charlie Ward in under a minute.
Both fighters came out swinging and showed little to no regard to defending any incoming strikes. It became apparent very quickly that Alhassan was the far more technical striker of the two fighters and after narrowly missing a few overhand rights he finally connected sweetly to the jaw of Ward who instantly fell to mat.
The win took Alhassan’s record to 7-0 with all his wins coming by first round knockout. He’s one to keep an eye on.