Card recap: UFC 245 – Volkanovski halts Blessed Express to become second Aussie champ
ARGUABLY the most stacked UFC fight card of all time gave us three enthralling title fights and a bunch of intriguing matchups between high-level ranked fighters. We take you round-by-round through each Championship bout, as well as covering each decision and fight-ending sequence from top to bottom.
Note: Round-by-round scores are our opinion only, and not indicative of the official scorecards.
FOTN: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
POTN: Petr Yan, Irene Aldana
WELTERWEIGHT | Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington | TKO (Punches) 4:10 Rd 5
Round 1 – 10-9 Covington
Usman tested Covington’s high guard with a kick but slipped as it landed, signalling intentions nonetheless. A stiff jab did the same job, but Covington threw everything into a couple of shots to back Usman’s pressure up momentarily. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ looked a touch more patient on the feet as Colby tried to suck him into a wild pace, using his body kick well. Some good clinch work, constant pressure and greater success as the round went on means Colby draws first blood – but very close.
Round 2 – 10-9 Covington (20-18)
Usman gets the jab going from southpaw, stabbing in with the front kick too. A quick flurry of lefts from Covington got the champ’s attention though, and both men would go on to exchange straight rights as the action heated up. A glancing low blow from Covington stopped the action momentarily, but the action resumed with both fighters having their moments. Another close five minutes.
Round 3 – 10-9 Usman (29-28)
The champ continued to have success going to the body, landing that front kick and a nice knee from the clinch before going upstairs with a huge right hand which may have broken Colby’s jaw. Covington’s pressure and volume is less evident afterwards, with Usman continuing his more refined and patient striking while also hitting the body again. Both fighters land a big left hand each before Colby puts in a nasty eye poke to break up the action, but a perfectly executed round from Usman overall.
Round 4 – 10-9 Covington (39-37)
Covington’s corner asked for more wrestling, but both men come out SWINGING. The jab and body digs of Usman continued to work well as he looked to slow Covington’s output, but the American still managed to land a stiff right hand and uppercut. The swinging went on as both fighters had their moments, with this another very close one to call – could have been 2-2 heading into the fifth and no judge had the same score.
Round 5 – Finish (4:10)
The crowd is hyped as another close round of action ensues, but Usman knows he has to do something dramatic to lock in a win with the judges’ scorecards always unpredictable. A big left from Colby was one of the key moments in a tense few minutes, but the champ dug deep to land the big blows when it mattered and seal the win via stoppage.
Fight-ending sequence: After sitting Covington down with a big right, it took another shot to have Usman follow him down and finish with ground-and-pound from a dominant position – much to the dismay of Covington.
FEATHERWEIGHT | Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway | Decision (Unanimous) 48-47, 48-47, 50-45
Round 1 – 10-9 Volkanovski
Holloway looked to dictate the early pace as Volkanovski got a feel for his opponent’s style before upping the pressure on him. The Aussie’s low kicks and quick combinations disrupted Holloway’s forward movement, while also getting out of the way before the Hawaiian could reply. A very close round, with Volkanovski’s heavier strikes and ability to make Holloway miss the difference.
Round 2 – 10-9 Volkanovski (20-18)
Volkanovski continued to chop at the legs without answer, forcing his opponent into a shift to southpaw. Holloway looked to up the pace late on with much of the round going against him, but was outdone as the Aussie got going.
Round 3 – 10-9 Volkanovski (30-27)
Volkanovski had the answers early, scooting within range and landing some good strikes – including a mean right hook after two minutes. The Aussie even went as far as taunting Holloway with his cardio after some more right hand success, not letting up with his in-and-out game and truly gaining the respect of Holloway. The Hawaiian misses with a couple of spinning attacks, hinting at frustration or the need to try something new.
Round 4 – 10-9 Holloway (39-37)
The Aussie’s corner hinted at some level changes between rounds, but Volkanovski started with another two big right hands. The first takedown attempt was thwarted by Holloway, and he began to have more success in his striking combinations. Holloway looked much more comfortable in the orthodox stance, even landing a big uppercut as he withstood the calf kick onslaught.
Round 5 – 10-9 Holloway (48-47)
Big respect from both fighters to start the round. The leg kicks continue, and Max continues to deal with them as he looks to pressure Volkanovski against the fence. A beautiful Holloway kick to the body gets the crowd’s attention and he continued to press forward. Volkanovski prompts some posturing from the Hawaiian with a heavy elbow and right hand as both guys took it down to the wire.
We had it: 48-47 Volkanovski – Could have even been 4-1 to Volkanovski, but his gameplan execution over the first three rounds got the job done. A war of attrition, but Max upped the pace late-on.
W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes def. Germaine de Randamie | Decision (Unanimous) 49-44, 49-46, 49-45
Round 1 – 10-9 Nunes
Nunes started with a nice overhand right to push de Randamie back, taking up the centre of the octagon before a beautiful takedown entry to take the fight to the ground. de Randamie was tested with a guillotine attempted but popped out easily, pressing Nunes against the fence before being taken down again. Some guard-splitting ground-and-pound was next up, with Nunes ending the round with an arm triangle attempt.
Round 2 – 10-9 de Randamie (19-19)
de Randamie got her jab going early as Nunes threw with intention, reversing control of the centre of the octagon. Momentum of the round shifted as Nunes landed a double-leg, sitting in the guard but being stood up for inactivity. de Randamie took full advantage, landing a nasty question mark kick and flying knee before some nice clinch work. Very even, but the Dutch kickboxer had arguably the better moments.
Round 3 – 10-9 Nunes (29-28)
Just as de Randamie looked to be getting on top in the stand up, Nunes shot in once again for a successful double-leg takedown. Nunes went to work in top position, picking her moments to strike with ground-and-pound and taking back control of the fight but still leaving herself open to an upkick.
Round 4 – 10-9 Nunes (39-37)
Nunes’ grappling strength proved telling with another early takedown, with de Randamie looking unlikely to break free from the smothering pressure. But she did just that and turned the tide, going close to finishing the fight with an arm triangle to armbar, but the champ toughed it out and got back on top to finish.
Round 5 – 10-9 Nunes (49-46)
Deja vu as the champ shuts down de Randamie with another takedown as she throws a kick, wearing the Dutchwoman down from top position but again standing above her guard in range of the upkick. An overall anticlimactic finish but Nunes executed the gameplan perfectly.
We had it: 49-46 Nunes – an easy decision to nominate the winner, with de Randamie only clearly winning the second round. Could have thrown a 10-8 in there in the final round, not that it mattered.
BANTAMWEIGHT | Marlon Moraes def. Jose Aldo | Decision (Split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28
In arguably the closest and most controversial fight of the night, Marlon Moraes notched up a huge decision win over former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. The fabled ‘Magic’ high kick landed early but hardly fazed Aldo, who looked to regain octagon control and cracked back with a right hand. With questions over Moraes’ gas tank, Aldo began to walk his fellow Brazilian down with constant pressure and some nice shots. But Aldo’s cage control and forward pressure were not enough to get the nod, with Moraes’ more impactful shots winning two of the three judges over. The loss might not matter for Aldo, with bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo calling him out post-fight.
We had it: 29-28 Aldo – First round to Marlon, second to Jose. Third round is the opinion splitter, but Aldo’s forcing of the issue and cage control gets him over the line in our eyes.
BANTAMWEIGHT | Petr Yan def. Urijah Faber | KO (Head kick) 0:43 Rd 3
Petr Yan jumped into number one contender status with an attritional win over UFC hall of famer Urijah Faber. In typical style, Yan took up the centre of the octagon and pushed the pace, looking for reads from the ‘Cali Kid’. The Russian began to put combinations together, looking dangerous when breaking from the clinch and backing Faber up while looking unfazed by what came in return. A hard right hand sat Faber down at the end of Round 2, but the American survived and returned fire – only to be put down again with an elbow. As tough as they come, Faber could only last for another 43 seconds in the third as Yan’s power and technique did the job.
Fight-ending sequence: A left high kick on the break only caught Faber with the end of the foot, but it was enough to sit him down again, with Keith Peterson stepping in mercifully before any follow-up strikes.
WELTERWEIGHT | Geoff Neal def. Mike Perry | TKO (Head kick and punches) 1:30 Rd 1
Geoff Neal showed he truly is the real deal with a highlight reel knockout of fan favourite Mike Perry in the first round. Another rising Contender Series alum, Neal took just 1:30 to stop the usually durable Perry after stunning him with a beautiful head kick. Neal’s finishing instincts were on full show as he measured his approach and used those ‘Handz of Steel’ to put Perry away. Adds to the stacked welterweight top end, a scary prospect.
W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Irene Aldana def. Ketlen Vieira | KO (Punches) 4:51 Rd 1
Irene Aldana came up trumps in her bantamweight bout with the higher ranked Ketlen Vieira, earning a performance of the night bonus in the process. It was a battle between Vieira’s power and aggression, and Aldana’s slick boxing technique on the feet, with the Mexican earning her opponent’s respect early on as both fighters threw everything into their shots. Aldana’s hooks spelt the end in the face of Vieira’s recklessness, with a huge left sitting the Brazilian down before an accurate follow-up enforced the stoppage. The next bantamweight contender?
MIDDLEWEIGHT | Omari Akhmedov def. Ian Heinisch | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28
Climbing the middleweight ranks is Omari Akhmedov, who grounded out a win over top 10 opponent Ian Heinisch. Combat sambo specialist Akhmedov came out looking better on the feet, stinging Heinisch early and managing the distance well as his American opponent often came up short. He took the fight to the ground late in the first too with a nice slam, and Akhmedov looked to lock up again in the second with Heinisch having more success with his kicks. Both fights were clipped in the last as Heinisch pushed the pace, with the final two rounds incredibly tight.
WELTERWEIGHT | Matt Brown def. Ben Saunders | KO (Elbow and punches) 4:55 Rd 2
Matt Brown lived up to his ‘Immortal’ moniker in his return to the octagon, brutally KO’ing fellow veteran Ben Saunders at the end of the second round. Having weathered the storm of Saunders’ guard in Round 1, Brown looked fresh in the second and got the better of each stand-up exchange – putting Saunders on the back foot with a big head kick. After some inaction on the ground, Brown ended the bout with some heavy ground and pound as Saunders invited him back into his guard. Classic Brown.
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD:
FEATHERWEIGHT | Chase Hooper def. Daniel Teymur | TKO (Elbows) 4:34 Rd 1
In five words: O’Malley plus Askren equals Hooper.
FLYWEIGHT | Brandon Moreno def. Kai Kara-France | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28
In five words: How good are these flyweights?!
W. FLYWEIGHT | Jessica Eye def. Viviane Araujo | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28
In five words: There’re levels to this game.
MIDDLEWEIGHT | Punahele Soriano def. Oskar Piechota | KO (Punch) 3:17 Rd 1
In five words: Contender Series strikes again, hard.