MAFB: UFC Fight Night 179 Moraes vs Sandhagen
The kicker dun got kicked. While we never got to see if Sandhagen has worked on his ground game, we can at least confirm his striking and mental are back. Racing out of his corner, Sandhagen dived into the deep end and traded with Moraes early. A masterful game plan, Sandhagen took away Moraes’ most effective work during the first two rounds by setting an uncomfortably fast pace and not allowing the patient kickboxer to settle. Seemingly one step ahead of him throughout the bout, Sandhagen weaved away from Moraes’ power striking and was able to utilise his long reach to punish him with counters. Sensing the lulls in Moraes’ output, Sandhagen pressed into the pocket and landed spiteful shots with more sting than previously seen. Moraes never looked comfortable, in part due to the sneaky body kicks that Sandhagen flashed at the end of combinations. Mentally drained, Sandhagen ended the wavering Moraes with a spinning kick that ended up the lesser highlight reel on the night! (We’ll get onto Kasanganay and Buckley a little later on).
Boy what a night of fights, with only a couple stinkers that otherwise marred a night of fine entertainment. Tagir Ulanebkov smeshed his way to an uncomfortable victory over the energetic Bruno Silva (why did you stop the leg kicks, bruh?). Tony Kelley and Ilia Topuria provided exciting submission threats off their back and top respectively. Giga Chikadze and Edson Barboza laid down mature striking clinics but were shadowed by the ridiculous number of quick finishes. Mentally sound Tom Breese, chubby checker Chris Daukaus, Scouse sweetheart Tom Aspinall, Springboks Dricus Du Plessis and of course, big(-ish) bad Joaquin Buckley. All five men swiftly delivered first-class tickets to the underworld directly to their opponents, free of charge. That isn’t to say all of the fights were blowouts, but the finishes themselves were definitive.
Joaquin Buckley vs Impa Kasanganay (Buckley def. Kasanganay /// KO (Jumping spinning back kick) Round 2 2:03)
Ok. So even your grandma has probably sent you a link or gif of this knockout by now. Just about everyone under the sun has witnessed Buckley’s majestical jumping spinning back kick and the cross-eyed falling corpse of Kasanganay. But there was more to this fight than just the unbelievably aesthetic knockout. Kasanganay and Buckley duked it out in a striking chess match that was starting to really heat up by the second round.
Buckley is an aggressive fighter who likes to establish his power early in contests to gain the respect of his opponent. With (now) seven finishes to his name, Buckley sits down on his shots hard and aims to keep his opponent shelled up to mask his own defensive frailties. Although possessing decent footwork to enter and exit the pocket rather swiftly, Buckley’s head remains set on the centre line. As a result, Kasanganay had begun to time his own powerful counter straight shots by the end of the first round. Likewise, Kasanganay employed a probing front kick which pushed back Buckley at the mid-rift, keeping his power at bay and chipping his gas tank.
During Buckley’s last fight against Kevin Holland, he had started to decline hard after the first round. It now appears that any cardio issues are to be blamed on the short-notice nature of the fight. Buckley looked sharp even by the mid-point of this firefight with Kasanganay. Boxing-heavy feints and head movement, Buckley remained on the front foot and kept Kasanganay biting on every fake. Despite the ending, Buckley-Kasanaganay was a very close fight. The action was evenly balanced between the heartier, volume work of Buckley and the more significant, sniping shots of Kasanganay. Unfortunately, a finish as damning as it was, means that Kasanganay will be reduced to merciless memes for the rest of his career.
The future for both men:
Impa Kasanganay: Only his ninth professional MMA fight in two years, the Buckley fight represents Kasanganay’s only loss. The emphatic brain-rattling KO endured may hamper Kasanganay and his mental in a way that cannot be predicted until he next enters the octagon. It takes a brave man to be willing to engage in firefights after being slept in such a manner. If Kasanganay is to return healthy and well, he represents a fantastic heavy-handed prospect with insane athletic talent. A gimme fight would be John Phillips, a sterner test would be Jack Marshman. Yes… I am going full Welsh.
Joaquin Buckley: Bouncing back after his stoppage loss to Kevin Holland, Buckley grabbed the ‘opportunity’ offered by Dana and made the most of it. To gather a larger casual audience, Buckley would be best served an easier fight than an immediate path straight into the rankings. He is only twenty-six after all. A Markus Perez or Anthony Hernandez fight would suffice.
Edson Barboza vs Makwan Amirkhani (Barboza def. Amirkhani /// Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 30-27, 30-26)
Strange scorecards aside, this was a one-sided beatdown by the Brazilian. The gameplan on how to best the incredible kicking game of Barboza has been out for all to see for the best part of a decade now. In the centre of the octagon, Barboza will reign supreme as he can comfortably set a range to throw his ludicrously fast kicks. There is little point in trying to counter Barboza, as the speed differential far favours the Brazilian despite his age and wear and tear. Instead, by pressuring Barboza into the cage (punishing his sloppy footwork/awareness), you reduce Barboza to just his boxing. That isn’t to say that Barboza doesn’t possess crisp hands, but by removing the killer blow of his kicks, you are effectively fighting with a handicap. Why then, did the grappler, Amirkhani, decide to engage in a long-range kickboxing affair?
Light in terms of volume, Barboza was perhaps a little gun-shy fearing a takedown from his Finnish opponent. Amirkhani landed occasionally with a nice straight, and a jab that has never really been seen before. Barboza, however, changed up his tree chopping to targeting the body. No-one can question the heart of Amirkhani after he sustained a brutal beating to the breadbasket. With his attention shifted to protecting his body, Barboza was able to land heavy punches to the chin and drop Amirkhani on numerous occasions. A desperate takedown in the third was successful for Amirkhani, but he was unable to apply any significant ground or pound or submission attempts. Having lost his last three in dubious fashion (Ige/Felder split decisions, eye-poked by Gaethje), Barboza has firmly re-established himself as a threat once again.
The future for both men:
Edson Barboza: Barboza has had an absolute killer’s row of a resume for the past three years, and proved against Amirkhani that he is still able to test opponents around the rankings. Josh Emmett would be a banger of a fight with the juicy boy’s dominant top game perhaps being stuffed by the strong TDD of Barboza.
Makwan Amirkhani: It is a shame that Amirkhani is hampered by a terrible gas tank, as it means he will never be able to rise through the rankings. Perhaps time to knock a veteran off the roster like Nik Lentz?
1 – Completely Amateur (Regional Can)
5 – Average calibre (Feeder League Elite)
10– Prodigious (GOAT)
N/A – Categories that weren’t touched upon during the fight
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Prospect Watch: Ilia Topuria
Veteran Schooling: Edson Barboza
Biggest Surprise: Cory Sandhagen
Fight of the Night: Youssef Zalal vs Ilia Topuria
Finish of the Night: Hmmmmm… (obviously Buckley)
Take-away comments: Not bad for a cheeky little fight night card.