Month: February 2018

UFC 221 wasn’t a card that likely drew a lot of eyeballs on pay-per-view, but for those who did watch the event, it offered some thrilling moments. It’s often hard to predict which MMA events will stand out the most. Some fights like Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje are pretty much can’t-miss ventures, but MMA in general delivers more surprises when it comes to action than other sports. Jake Matthews’ perseverance against Jingliang Li and Tyson Pedro’s deft submission of Saparbek Safarov were highlights on Saturday in Perth, Australia, but arguably the biggest thrills came from three destructive knockout finishes.

Israel Adesanya generated buzz ahead of his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut because of his glossy record: all wins, all knockouts. UFC 221 was a nice teaser of the promise he offers. Adesanya acknowledged himself it wasn’t his most impressive performance, but you could still see all the tools: the speed, movement and precision in his striking. It was also hard to miss the way Rob Wilkinson reacted to his strikes, as even Adesanya’s jabs landed emphatically. By the end, Wilkinson’s face was a mess and he was just covering up to protect himself from Adesanya’s barrage of offense.

If it was a bad night for Wilkinson, it was an even worse night for Cyril Asker, who was tasked with taking on young knockout artist and beer shoe enthusiast Tai Tuivasa. Like Adesanya, Tuivasa has knocked out every opponent of his MMA career. Unlike Adesanya, it has never taken him longer than a single round. That power was on display against Asker, as Tuivasa delivered incredible damage to the Frenchman’s face in very short time. It was the sort of performance that fans love from heavyweight fighters.

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Much has been written about Luke Rockhold’s decision to train with Hard Knocks 365 in Florida rather than at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in California where he has been based for most of his career.

The decision was scrutinized because Volkan Oezdemir, his AKA teammate light heavyweight and champion Daniel Cormier’s opponent at UFC 220, also trained at Hard Knocks 365.

“I think that he’s looking for something a little bit different right now and I think as his brothers, we have to really respect and applaud him for that,” Cormier told the Sammy and the Punk show during an interview prior to UFC 220, indicating he was okay with Rockhold’s decision.

To those who felt Rockhold was being disloyal to his AKA teammates, he puts the blame on a narrative created by Conor McGregor. During The Ultimate Fighter season 22, McGregor accused T.J. Dillashaw, a coach on Team Faber, of turning his back on his camp, Team Alpha Male.

“Back in the day, people were jumping and changing training camps and doing what they needed to do to build upon their repertoire and their game and now one stupid Conor McGregor comment has driven everybody into this disloyalty, ‘snake in the grass’ bull[expletive],” Rockhold told The TSN MMA Show. “It’s just stupid. People need to wake up and learn.”

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