Photo Credit: @mmathrwdwnrprt on Twitter
*This was originally posted on May 28, 2022*
There may not have been any UFC this weekend, but UFC Fight Pass and Unified MMA blessed us with an exceptional night of Canadian MMA and no less than THREE title fights. The night was headlined by the veteran striker Ryan Ford who grabbed the Super Welterweight bout after dismantling the cocky, young Robert Hale. Before that, we saw Chris Larsen get an EASY TKO win over the last-minute addition Grayson Wells to grab the Heavyweight belt. Finally, we also saw the Brawl of the Night between Maged Hammo and Neal Anderson for the Featherweight title where, once again, Maged beat Anderson with an incredible comeback TKO. If that wasn’t enough, Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz made his return, hoping to beat Eli Aronov so he could get back to the Contender Series or the UFC. Sadly for him, the undefeated wrestler absolutely dominated him to jump past him for a shot at the UFC. All of the bouts from the main card of Unified MMA 45 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES. As a special bonus, the fourth episode of The Ultimate Fighter Season 30: Peña vs. Nunes (as seen on UFC Fight Pass) is also covered below.
Harley King def. Izzudeen Atmeh by TKO in the 1st Round
Atmeh tried to set the pace early, walking into King but was quickly met with adversity after getting clipped and pushed into the fence. After a minute of back and forth striking, King hit Izzudeen with a HUGE shot, but let him up again, likely realizing he had the edge on the feet. A few seconds later, King threw out another BIG one, dropping Atmeh again, this time jumping on him with the ground and pound until the ref jumped in and stopped it.
Jett Grande def. Colton Boxell by Unanimous Decision
Boxell made the first move, trying to bring the fight to the ground, but was outwrestled and found himself on the bottom. The next couple of minutes were pretty uneventful with Boxell just grabbing Grande, trying to get the ref to stand the fight up, but Grande easily locked up the round with all of that control time. Trying to use his size as an advantage, Boxell ran at Grande with some combos but was lit up by a couple of BIG shots and dragged down to the ground once again. From there we saw a clear second round of smothering wrestling from Grande to find himself up 2-0. Just like the first two rounds, Grande opened up the round by landing some more BIG shots and dragging the fight to the ground once again. After another complete round spent on top, regardless of what the analysts were saying during the fight, Grande clearly locked up the win 30-27 on my cards. The judges all agreed, scoring it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Grande.
Mac Laursen def. Phil Engeroff by Submission in the 2nd Round
Neither man was looking to feel things out; both men jumped straight in with huge kicks and combos. They were both doing well, but thanks to Laursen’s size, he was the one landing early, stumbling Engeroff a few times in the first couple of minutes. Finally, those strikes were too much for Phil; he got dropped and Laursen took advantage, jumping on top of him. Engeroff had a fairly deep guillotine from the bottom, but Mac slipped out of it and moved back to the feet where he ended up dragging the fight to the ground again. With the confidence from winning the opening round, Laursen walked forward and got the striking going right away. After getting backed up into the fence though, Engeroff switched it up and got some decent clinchwork going. It took a while for Laursen to get out of the clinch, but he ended up escaping and taking down Engeroff again. It was looking like Laursen was just going to ride out the rest of the round on top, but, after a mistake from Engeroff, Mac took his back and locked in a QUICK rear-naked choke.
Eli Aronov def. Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz by Submission in the 2nd Round
Aronov came out HOT but whiffed on all of his strikes early. From there though he got his wrestling going, pinning Mariusz to the fence and taking him down. Mariusz was doing well to get up and get out of bad positions, but Aronov, being such an accomplished wrestler, kept pinning him along the fence and grabbing some control time on the cards. Thanks to all that wrestling, clinchwork and ground and pound, Aronov was CLEARLY up after the opening round, maybe even grabbing a 10-8. Mariusz wasted no time in the 2nd Round, walking right up to Eli and SMOKING him with a big one, dropping him to the canvas. Unfortunately, that victory was short-lived as he was reversed after jumping on Aronov. Mariusz managed to get up again but was quickly dragged to the floor once again. It looked as though Eli was going to smother him for another round, but just as it was closing out, he fought for a submission and forced Ksiazkiewicz to tap. Considering the fact that Ksiazkiewicz was likely going to get a 2nd shot at the UFC, it seems VERY likely that we’ll see Aronov get a shot soon instead.
Fight #5 (Featherweight Title Fight)
Maged Hammo def. Neal Anderson by TKO in the 4th Round
The strategy for both men was clear; Anderson, using his size and length, was trying to get his striking going while Hammo was trying to get in close to use his wrestling. The entire opening round was completely dead even; both guys started to let loose some combos and both landed some decent shots. If I had to pick one, I’d have probably gone with Hammo thanks to his extra activity and his kicks. The 2nd Round was a different story as Hammo was really struggling with Anderson’s length. Hammo did land a couple more kicks and a couple of bigger strikes, but the majority of the round seemed to be controlled by Anderson. The 3rd Round was another dead even round with both men landing some combos. Just like the opening round, it’s tough to say who grabbed it on the cards, but I may have leaned towards Anderson thanks to a slightly bigger moment near the end of the round. Finally, after 3 rounds of tight striking, one man had a HUGE moment. Anderson landed a BOMB, dropped Hammo on his back and jumped on top of him. Amazingly, Hammo reversed him and got the dominant position. Then, out of absolutely NOWHERE, Hammo landed a BOMB and followed it up with a quick combo to drop Anderson on his back, forcing the ref to stop it.
Co-Main Event (Heavyweight Title Fight)
Chris Larsen def. Grayson Wells by TKO in the 1st Round
Before the fight ever even really started, it was already over! Wells wanted to get some offence going but was quickly met with some HUGE shots from Larsen. Wells dropped to the ground and Larsen just let loose some EXPLOSIVE, THUNDEROUS ground and pound to end the fight in the first 30 seconds.
Main Event (Super Welterweight Title Fight)
Ryan Ford def. Robert Hale by TKO in the 1st Round
Hale made the first move, landing a crisp shot early. From there though, Ford started to catch up, landing a couple of big shots himself, stumbling Hale TWICE early in the opening round. The boxing skills of Ford were clearly on a different level, but Hale was doing fairly well. Sadly for Hale, that was short-lived as Ford SMOKED him with some good ones, had him running around the entire cage and dropped him to the ground with some more combos. From there it seemed inevitable that Ford was going to finish the fight. He jumped on top of Hale and never let him recover, letting loose the ground and pound, forcing the ref to step in and end the fight.
KO of the Night: Ryan Ford
Sub. of the Night: Eli Aronov
Brawl of the Night: Maged Hammo vs. Neal Anderson
Most Valuable Fighter
He’s only a few fights into his MMA career and jumped into a HUGE fight against one of the top Canadian prospects, Ksiazkiewicz, who’s already competed on Dana White’s Contender Series and was likely going to make a return on DWCS with a win in this fight. Instead, this still undefeated wrestler finished Mariusz in the 2nd Round after dominating him in the first. There’s absolutely no doubt that he’ll be getting a shot at the UFC VERY soon.
I already gave Ford this bonus last year after he came back after a 7-year layoff from MMA only to dismantle his opponent. Still, at the age of 40, he did it again and grabbed himself a title while shutting up an EXTREMELY cocky young fighter. With the athleticism and standup skills that he possesses, I have a feeling he’ll be holding onto that belt for a while.
Other Fight News
TUF 30: Episode 4 Recap
For the milestone 30th season of the Ultimate Fighter, we’re going to see coaches Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes lead teams of heavyweights and flyweight women to find the next UFC superstars. Last episode we saw the hotly anticipated heavyweight matchup between Mohammed Usman (Team Peña) and Mitchell Sipe (Team Nunes). After taunting Kamaru Usman’s brother all week long and throughout the fight, Sipe lost the decision after the ‘sudden victory’ 3rd Round. Moving back to the ladies once again, this episode turned its attention to Chantel Coates (Team Peña) and Brogan Walker (Team Nunes).
As mentioned in the last episode, Coates (Team Peña) revealed that due to her recent bout of COVID and a miscarriage, she’s struggling with her weight, sitting at 150 pounds. Before the week even begins, Coach Peña comes to the house and weighs Coates at 155 pounds! After some discussion, the coaches didn’t think it would be safe for her to continue, but let her take the night to make a decision. Even though she made it down to 148 overnight, the coaches just couldn’t let her continue for the sake of her safety. It’s tough to see a promising fighter leave like that, but hopefully, we’ll see her return to the Contender Series or somewhere in the future. It was then revealed that, during practice, Walker (Team Nunes) injured her knee and needed to leave practice to get it checked out. Thankfully, the doctor said she only had a mild injury and could continue training and fighting.
As a last-minute replacement for Coates, an alternate that Peña knew from the regional scene, Laura Gallardo, came in to take her spot. Funny enough, it was revealed that Laura had won a split decision over one of her new teammates Helen Peralta (which Peralta said was “bullsh*t”). It seemed as though she was going to walk in and simply replace Coates in her matchup with Walker, but Nunes had other plans. It was still Nunes’ turn to make the matchup, so instead of putting the slightly injured Walker in to fight Gallardo, she asked the team if anyone wanted to step up and take the fight. With GREAT enthusiasm, Kathryn Paprocki jumped in and took the quick matchup.
Gallardo may have been a late replacement, but she looked so good that she could’ve easily made the opening lineup in the first place. Her game plan was clear: get in close, be scrappy and use your wrestling. Paprocki had a unique story to tell; she’s been dealing with a stutter since she was a child. She’s also a mother from Colorado that owns her own MMA gym. Thanks to all that gym time, she trains for around 4 hours every day, usually with her husband. To avoid the wrestling game plan of Gallardo, Paprocki’s plan was to make a wild standup brawl.
The fight opened just as Gallardo planned with a quick clinch along the fence, leading to a short takedown to the canvas. Paprocki got up nice and quick but was still getting pinned along the fence. Even when she managed to get off the fence, Kathryn couldn’t really get a whole lot of offence going because Gallardo, although shorter, had the reach advantage. Throughout the rest of the round, it was mostly Laura grabbing control time with clinches and takedowns with a couple of decent combos thrown in from Paprocki. Both women opened the 2nd Round with some decent striking, but the momentum was quickly stolen by another takedown from Gallardo. Unlike the previous attempts, Gallardo managed to hold her down on the canvas for almost the entire round, smothering Kathryn with her overwhelming wrestling. After 2 rounds of dominant control, Dana and Forrest had seen enough, giving Gallardo the spot in the semi-finals.
It’s sad to see an excited, positive and motivated fighter like Paprocki get eliminated early, but Gallardo is the most impressive flyweight that we’ve seen yet in my opinion; she’s well-rounded, confident and is a VERY good wrestler. After grabbing ANOTHER win, it was coach Peña’s turn to choose the heavyweight matchup. In an interesting move, she chose to pair up the number 1 pick of the season, Eduardo Perez (Team Nunes), with the LAST pick of the season in Bobby Maximus (Team Peña). Maximus may be known to the OG fans of TUF thanks to his appearance all the way back on season TWO of TUF. It’ll be interesting to see how the number 1 pick will handle the experience and ground game of the veteran Maximus next week.