Magomed Ankalaev is widely viewed as a future champion in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Prior to tonight, he’d never participated in a main event and been forced to fight a five round bout. Tonight, he put all questions about whether or not he held the conditioning to go five rounds to bed. Tonight’s edition of Fight Night from the Apex Center featured exciting finishes mixed in with grueling tests of endurance that went the distance. There’s a lot to unpack here. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Santos vs. Ankalaev
Thiago Santos is a heavy hitter and one of the most dangerous men in the light heavyweight division. Magomed Ankalaev is seen as a rising prospect who is on the short list of contenders worthy of a title shot. Both men came into the octagon with a great deal of respect for the other’s reputation. In round one, they were both hesitant to engage in offense, opting for a defensive minded strategy. In the second interval, the action picked up, with Santos sending Ankalaev to the mat with an overhand right late in the round.
Rounds three and four were fairly even affairs; the most significant moment of either round occurred when Ankalaev was able to slam Santos to the mat with just seconds to go in round four. He followed that up with a nice barrage of elbows, affectively establishing that the momentum was on his side. In round five, Santos was completely out of gas. He was clearly fatigued and Ankalaev took full advantage. He dominated the round through grappling and octagon control time. He was awarded a unanimous decision victory for his efforts.
In the post fight interview, Ankalaev called out reigning light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira through a translator. He made it very clear that his desire is to fight for the championship of the division during his very next outing. After tonight’s performance, it’s hard to argue against that.Embed from Getty Images
Moraes vs. Yadong
Bantamweight fighter Song Yadong provided the most emphatic statement of the evening when he faced Marlon Moraes tonight. Right after the opening bell, Yadong landed a big overhand right that sent Moraes to the mat. A few seconds later, Yadong pieced together a beautiful right cross, left hook, right uppercut combination that immediately turned out the lights on Moraes’ night. It was a fast knockout, but definitely worth watching nonetheless.Embed from Getty Images
Yusuff vs. Caceres
Featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff implemented an intelligent strategy on his way to a unanimous decision victory over Alex Caceres. Going into the fight, Caceres had amassed a five fight win streak largely due to his illusiveness and impressive mobility. Yusuff wisely used a barrage of calf kicks to slow down Caceres and decrease his mobility. Once Caceres had been slowed due to the attack on his legs, it weakened his defenses and allowed Yusuff to land scoring blows through strikes. At no point was either fighter in danger of being stopped, but this was a nice technically sound victory for Yusuff’s camp to build on.
Rountree vs. Roberson
Khalil Rountree and Karl Roberson are two of the most heavy handed men in the light heavyweight division. In round one, both men were cautious, clearly out of respect for the other man’s power. In round two, Rountree threw caution to the wind. He landed an overhand right that sent Roberson to the mat. Next, he wisely capitalized on the moment by pouncing on Roberson and pummeling him with a ground and pound attack. The most vicious part of the barrage came in the form of a kick to the ribs that looked so forceful it might have cracked Roberson’s rib cage. Referee Herb Dean had no choice but to step in and stop the fight. This was a very impressive outing for Khalil Rountree. He is definitely a fighter to keep an eye on in the light heavyweight division.
Dober vs. McKinney
Lightweight prospect Terrance McKinney accepted this fight against veteran performer Drew Dober on just two week’s notice. Early on, it looked as if the short preparation time would have little to no affect on McKinney. McKinney came out of his corner at full speed and sent Dober to the mat with a striking combination that could have potentially ended the fight. However, Dober is a battle tested veteran and he put his experience on full display tonight. He weathered McKinney’s storm and then mounted an attack of his own. Ultimately, Dober landed a huge overhand right that sent McKinney sprawling. He then pounced on his opponent and continued striking him until the referee stopped the fight. It was one of the most dramatic turn arounds in a single round that I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of watching combat sports.
Pereira vs. Silva
Middleweight prospects Alex Pereira and Bruno Silva participated in a seesaw battle that ultimately went the distance. Although Silva landed a couple of takedowns in the first two rounds, it was ultimately Pereira’s higher activity level that won over the judges. The two fighters were fairly even in significant strikes, however, Pereira stayed on the offensive while Silva looked content to let the fight come to him. Pereira also made better use of his kicking attack, which is surprising considering Silva is a former world champion kickboxer. Ultimately, Silva looked fatigued by the end of round three while Pereira was still looking for scoring opportunities. It was a well deserved victory for Pereira.
Tonight, Magomed Ankalaev looked worthy of a title shot against Glover Teixeira. Considering the fact that Teixeira is 42-years-old and Ankalaev is only 29, it is hard to imagine the belt not changing hands if the two of them climb into the octagon together. The light heavyweight division is very competitive; there are a few names that come to mind when I think of the best challengers in the division. However, after tonight it’s hard not to put Magomed Ankalaev at the top of that list.
Next week, the UFC heads to London England. The fights will be held at the World Famous O2 Arena. The main event of the evening will feature heavyweight sluggers Alexander Volkov and Tom Aspinall in a fight that will most likely end with a dramatic knockout. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World In Sport!