UFC Fight Night took place over 7,000 miles above sea level in Mexico City, Mexico. This elevation brought some fighters in several weeks early to prepare endurance techniques for the event. The total number of fights was 13, but 5 would carve themselves onto the main card.
Mexican fighter Martin “Toro” Bravo, went head to head with American fighter Steven “Ocho” Peterson. Their weight, size and height were just about evenly matched and both entered the octagon with their eyes locked on the other. Round 1 was clearly won by the Mexican as the crowd chanted, “Mexico, Mexico, Mexico!” Bravo had more take downs and knockdowns, but the tide shifted in round 2. Just as the American “Ocho,” looked like he was breathing heavily and slowing down, he countered Bravos’ spinning back fist with one of his own. Bravo’s chin was clocked and he was immediately knocked down unconscious. It took a minute for the Mexican fighter to stand back on his feet, as the referee raised the American’s hand while Bravo was still sitting on a stool being evaluated.
And then the women would go the distance. Irene Aldana 31, out of Mexico had a 3.5 reach advantage and a 3 inch height advantage over her opponent out of Brazil, Vanessa Melo. Melo and Aldana stepped into the octagon with different energy. Aldana was quick, precise and had a target on Melo’s chin. Melo on the other hand was lethargic, swung wildly and showed hardly any variety in her technique. Still, we must give credit to Melo for enduring 15 minutes worth of punishment, and give credit to her cinder block chin. The fight went 3 long rounds before the judges decided unanimously on the winner: Irene Aldana.
Moreno, Moreno, Moreno. The third fight on the main card was a war between flyweights. Brandon Moreno representing Mexico challenged the undefeated Russian, Askar Askarov. Unlike the two previous fights, this battle was about grappling, take downs and submissions. The Russian held a 10-0 record before tonight (3 wins by knock out and 7 by submission). His objective was clear; get Moreno on the ground and choke him out. But the young Mexican fighter would not let the champ walk away with a win so easily. Askarov preferred grappling and wrestling, while Moreno preferred boxing on his feet and using combinations to make his opponent unsteady. This fight was ugly, it was nasty and these men fought to kill. The judges had a difficult decision to make. In the end, it would be ruled a draw. Rematch?
Right before the main event, two more women went pound for pound. American fighter Carla Esparaza, (ranked 8th) went in as the underdog in Vegas. The odds were against her, but the Mexican fans could not rule her out. The favorite, Mexican fighter Alexa Grasso, (ranked 9th) came out swinging and swinging fast. She boxed early and then was taken down by Esparaza’s brutal tackle. On the ground, the fight was about even as both women traded positions, grabbing and holding each other in any way possible. In round 2, they continued trading jabs and Grasso stood back awkwardly. After the round, doctors evaluated her suspected ankle injury to determine whether she was fit to continue or not. Round 3 began and the women had nothing else to lose. In a deadly attempt at an arm bar, Grasso had the American covered, but miraculously she was able to maneuver her way out of what would have been a devastating result. The warriors struck on until the final seconds of round 3, when it momentarily seemed that Grasso would get the knock out. That chance shattered and was left in the judges hands. It was 2-1 in favor of the American and underdog: Carla Esparaza. The boo’s were so loud in Mexico, it was difficult to hear her post-fight interview.
And there was one… fight left. But it was not a fight at all. The main event was a flop. Jeremy Stevens fighting out of the United States faced off against Mexican native, Yair Rodriguez. Both men put in months of training in high altitudes to prepare for the fight, but would not have the opportunity to do so. The bell rang and within 15 seconds the fight was paused. Rodriguez came in swinging and opened his fist to claw the American in his eye. Stevens instantly covered his face and the referee paused the fight to allow him time to recover. He was given five minutes, in which time octagon-side doctors evaluated the fighter but his eye would not open. With one eye, he was ruled unfit to continue and the fight was ruled no contest. The Mexican crowd grew hostile within seconds and began throwing bottles and liquids into the Octagon. At first, it seemed the Mexican fighter misunderstood the decision and started his celebration. But one the realization set in, he became aggressive towards everyone in the ring. Rodriguez was so angry he almost swung on the commentator who walked in for the post-fight interview. He mentioned afterwards that it was not his intention to scratch Stevens and he apologized to the Mexican crowd.