Roy Nelson, Clay Guida capture big wins at UFC Abu Dhabi
The first time the UFC visited Abu Dhabi, it featured a historic title upset by Frankie Edgar as well as a memorably bizarre performance from Anderson Silva. Friday’s return to the United Arab Emirates’ capital city didn’t produce anything nearly as momentous, although time may eventually remember it as the last stand of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
The legendary heavyweight was one of the building blocks of the PRIDE organization, and has for years been a factor in the UFC as well, but recent days have not been nearly as kind to the Brazilian.
Nogueira is nearing 38 years old. So, too, was his UFC Fight Night opponent, Roy Nelson, but the difference between the two seemed a chasm on this night. Nelson wobbled Nogueira early and patiently stalked him around the cage, eventually blasting him with a one-shot knockout that sent the Brazilian legend stiff.
"The thing about Big Nog, you can’t just jump right on him," said Nelson (20-9). "I think I’m the only one who finished him, stopped him cold. Everyone else won by TKO. He recovers pretty fast even when he’s out. So I knew I either had to put him out by choking him or knock him out."
It was a scary, unsettling sight for the du Arena crowd of 7,963 as Nogueira lay prone for several minutes while being attended to by the cageside physicians. He eventually walked off under his own power.
Going forward, the question will be whether that was his last time in the octagon. Dating back to 2008, Nogueira is just 3-5, and after going hist first 37 bouts without being finished, he’s been stopped by either strikes or submission in all of those five defeats. Further, due mostly to injury, Nogueira (34-9-1, 1 no contest) has been able to fight only once in each of the last three years. Despite the relative inactivity and sporadic recent success, the heavyweight great still stood at No. 11 in the most recent rankings. His reputation precedes him, as Nelson explained when asked to rate where the finish ranked on his personal list of KO’s.
"They all rank up there the same, but anytime you can beat up a legend it makes it that much better," he said.
Clay Guida nearly matched the same feat as Nelson but had to settle for a dominant decision win. Guida had entered the fight nearing must-win territory, but the high-pressure situation seemed to have no effect on "the Carpenter."
Instead, Guida did some of his best work in years, overpowering Japanese star Tatsuya Kawajiri in a unanimous decision.
All three judges scored it 30-27 for Guida, who had most of the fight’s memorable moments, including a first-round knockdown on an overhand right that set the tone of the match.
"I dont know [if I was close to a KO]," he said. "I’ve never tasted a knockout before. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next one."
Guida (31-14) also had several high-altitude slams among his five successful takedowns en route to the win, which he used to call out a soon-to-be-returning featherweight.
"The UFC is protecting this leprechaun," he said. "Conor McGregor, I don’t call anyobody out. After your injury, once you’re healed up. You want to fight a real man? There ain’t no gold at the end of this rainbow. Just that chest hair sandwich with a mullet and a caveman at the end of it."
The win snapped Kawajiri’s six-fight win streak, as he fell to 33-8-2.
Ryan LaFlare defeats John Howard
Ryan LaFlare’s unbeaten tear continues. The New York welterweight is now 11-0 after out-working his way past veteran John Howard in a unanimous decision win.
LaFlare showed a diverse offensive attack, targeting the body with kicks and doing good work with takedowns and ground strikes en route to the win. Howard had a couple of good moments, rattling LaFlare with a left hook early in the second round, but he was never able to sustain any momentum. Midway through the second, Howard also took a low blow that had him writhing in agony and seemed to affect him for the remainder of the bout.
LaFlare’s win made him 11-0 while Howard is 22-9.
Nijem smashes Dariush
From the time he heard he’d be fighting in the Middle East, Ramsey Nijem was filled with excitement about competing there. And when he arrived, Nijem, a Palestinian, was an underdog by the odds. The emotional homecoming was enough to put him over the top. The lightweight put on a savage performance, finishing Beneil Dariush on strikes at 4:20 of the first round.
The beginning of the end came when Nijem (9-4) caught his opponent with a left hook that wobbled him. He then unleashed a swarm of strikes that had Dariush struggling to stay in the fight. He took a hail of damage but despite his best efforts to defend, Nijem’s barrage was just too much, forcing ref Neil Hall to step in.
The loss was the first of Dariush’s pro career. He’s now 7-1.
Headbutt leads to no contest in Bedford-Yahya
When is a knockout not a knockout? When a headbutt plays a role in the finishing sequence. Johnny Bedford learned that shortly after celebrating what he believed to be a first-round finish of Rani Yahya in the event opener. However, a quick look at the replay screens made it clear that a clash of heads between bantamweights was the blow that put Yahya on his back, and as a result, the bout was ruled a no contest.
Bedford was furious at the ruling, calling it "ridiculous" and challenging Yahya to fight immediately. The two were quickly separated, and a rematch seems a logical step.
In other preliminary card action, middleweight Thales Leites knocked out Trevor Smith in 45 seconds, heavyweight Jared Rosholt earned a unanimous decision over Daniel Omielanczuk, and Jim Alers edged Alan Omer in a split decision during featherweight action.