While the United States was focused on the return of college football, the UFC streamed a Fight Night event from Hamburg on Fight Pass in the middle of the day. The European start time provided a rare-mid day event.
The main event was a heavyweight showdown between two veterans in the sport, Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski. The two had somehow managed to make it this far into their careers without previously crossing paths. Barnett spent earlier days in his career competing in Japan and Pride, while Arlovski stayed state side.
But all that came to an end Sunday night as the two duked it out in a war. Both fighters were knocked down in the first 30 seconds and both fighters recovered to keep the fight going. Eventually Barnett was able to sink in a rear naked choke in the third round to end the fight, though both fighters looked to be out of gas in the first round after a hectic start to the bout.
Most importantly, there was a wonderful display of sportsmanship afterwards. Barnett remained by Arlovski’s side in the immediate aftermath to check on him, and refused to start his post-fight interview without Arlovski by his side, putting things on hold as he tracked Arlovski down.
Earlier at Fight Night 93, Alexander Gustafsson defeated Jan Błachowicz by unanimous decision in dominating fashion to get a much-needed win. Light heavyweight Ryan Bader scored a crucial knockout win to bounce back from a loss to Anthony Johnson earlier this year.
But all-in-all it was a slow and lethargic event. Only three of the fights didn’t go to a decision, and out of the eight that did reach the score cards, one was ruled a draw.
Stars of the Night
1. Ryan Bader – Bader looked like he was having some trouble early on, but then a dramatic knee ended Ilir Latifi’s night giving Bader the big win.
2. Josh Barnett – An absolute war of attrition came to an end with a rear naked choke, the first submission victory over Andrei Arlovski in his career.
3. Alexander Gustafsson – Had his back against the wall, but grinded out a win on the scorecards against Jan Błachowicz.
1. Alexander Gustafsson isn’t done yet
Gustafsson hasn’t won in the UFC since 2014, and has just two wins since 2013. He was 1–3 coming into this fight, and desperately needed a win. Not because he was in danger of being released by the UFC, but to get his confidence back and remain relevant.
And he got the win over an outmatched Jan Błachowicz. It wasn’t flashy, but it was dominant. And all of a sudden Gustafsson’s name is back in the mix amongst Jon Jones, Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier at the top of the division and on the cusp of another title shot. Ideally, let Cormier and Johnson fight and then slate Gustafsson to fight Jones on the same card. Not only does that protect the UFC in case of injury, but it puts two intriguing light heavyweight rematches on the same card with positioning atop the division on the line.
2. Heavyweights can be fun
The heavyweight division is sometimes unentertaining. Older fighters, not a whole lot of new blood and less talent than some of the other divisions in the UFC. But Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski put on a show. Both got dropped in the opening 30 seconds of the fight, both fighters recovered and the momentum in the fight swung back and forth. Barnett reversed an Arlovski takedown in mid-air to get the mount, for example.
3. Early watch times are appreciated
The fight aired earlier than normal because it was being held in Europe and was adjusted to local times. The UFC doesn’t plan to do that with pay-per-view events, like UFC 204, which is being held in Manchester, England. The start time for the main event will be well past midnight local time to cater to the American market, which on one hand makes sense. On the other, it is rough for the local crowd.
But daytime events can be fun for American sports fans as well. We will watch day games in other sports, why not MMA in the United States?
Highlight of the Night
There is only one highlight that can be featured here, and it is Ryan Bader’s knee that knocked out Ilir Latifi.
Next weekend is UFC 203 in Cleveland. The heavyweight main events roll on with champion Stipe Miocic defending his belt against Alistair Overeem in his homecoming bout. The co-main event is another heavyweight showdown between former champion Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne.
The card might be most notable for the debut of WWE superstar CM Punk, who takes on Mickey Gall. It ends nearly two years of waiting to see how Punk performs in his MMA debut. Fox Sports 1 has been airing a reality show chronicling Punk’s journey to his debut.