UFC on Fox 23

Fraught with title implications throughout the card, UFC on Fox 23 didn’t disappoint to bring a great show. From tactical submissions to quick, and often surprising, knockouts the high-level talent showcased their skills and the underdogs fought with everything they had until the final bell.

Below is a fight by fight recap of the event.

Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Jeremy Kimball (Light Heavyweight)

Newcomer Jeremy Kimball accepted this fight on two weeks notice after John Phillips, also making his UFC debut, pulled out citing injury. At weigh-ins, de Lima came in overweight by a substantial margin (3.5 pounds) and resulted in his being fined 20% of his purse.

The start of the fight saw the two fighters feeling each other out, single jabs being traded back and forth. Within the first minute, de Lima threw a leg kick which Kimball caught and countered with an overhand right.

After a few flurries of strong, technical strikes, Kimball ducked a left hook from de Lima, slipping in the process. De Lima capitalized on the slip and began raining down heavy rights to the temple of Kimball. Four rights and no response from Kimball later, the fight was stopped and de Lima was declared the victor.

Official decision: de Lima def. Kimball via TKO (punches) at 2:27 of Round 1

Eric Spicely vs. Alessio Di Chirico (Middleweight)

With both fighters coming off impressive wins and looking to raise their stock in the middleweight division, this fight promised to be an exciting matchup.

After a brief period of finding their range, the fighters quickly exchanged punches followed by Spicely attempting a single-leg takedown. Though he was unable to completely capture the leg, he was able to push Chirico against the fence and work for position. After pummeling for underhooks, Spicely attempted a trip but was reversed by Chirico on the way down.

In full guard, Spicely stayed busy and pushed Chirico’s left hand between his legs working for a triangle choke. After several adjustments, Spicely was able to push Chirico’s head down and secure the tap.

During the post-fight interview, Spicely called out Australian veteran Dan Kelly.

Official decision: Spicely via submission (triangle) at 2:14 of Round 1

Henrique da Silvia vs. Jordan Johnson (Light Heavyweight)

The absence of Jon Jones has created a vacuum of sorts in the Light Heavyweight division, with both up and comers and veterans looking to fill the void. In the case of Johnson and da Silva, a win would mean serious consideration as a contender within the division. With all this on the line, it promised to be a fast paced fight and it did not disappoint.

A slow starter, the fight suddenly accelerated in pace as Johnson looked to da Silva down time and time again. Due to his wrestling background, it seemed Johnson could take da Silva down at will for a majority of the fight.

Striking has always been the weak point of most wrestlers skill-set in the octagon, however, Johnson has obviously worked to combine his All-American Wrestling with his new-found striking ability. He was able to put together punch and kick combinations, then use those combos to set up the take down. The third round was almost entirely Johnson’s due to his superior wrestling ability.

No slouch on the ground, da Silva worked from his back most of the second and third rounds, striking and attempting submissions when the opportunities presented themselves. It was simply not enough, however, as Johnson pulled out a unanimous decision after almost nine minutes of top control.

Official decision: Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27 all judges)

Bobby Nash vs. Li Jingliang (Welterweight)

With tremendous knock-out power, both fighters looked forward to standing most of the fight and testing each other’s striking ability. From start to finish, this was a high-paced fight and the action didn’t stop until the end.

Flurries of combinations were exchanged for most of the first round, Nash attempting to push the pace and catch Jingliang with a solid strike. Nash was able to catch Jiangliang with a hook near the end of the round, dropping the Chinese fighter. Nash quickly took his back and attempted to secure the win with a rear-naked choke. Jiangliang expertly fought the top hand and was able to finish the round without sustaining too much damage.

Picking up where they left off, the second round started as fast as the first had ended, Nash getting the better of the exchanges. As the round progressed, the exchanges became more about the knockout, leaving both fighters open. Nash took advantage of an opening and tried to take Jiangliang down, but the latter countered and was able to defend against the takedown.

On the break, Jiangliang was able to land a left hook and overhand right on Nash’s temple, dropping him to the canvas. After a couple insurance blows, the fight was called and Jiangliang got his hand raised.

Official decision: Li by KO (punches) at 4:45 of Round 2

Raphael Assuncao vs. Aljamain Sterling (Bantamweight)

If there was one fight on this card that didn’t live up to its potential, it’s this one. Both fighters came in expecting a stand-up war and had great respect for the striking game of the other. In fact, both fighters had too much respect for the other’s striking skills as the entire 15-minute fight saw very little action.

At the end of the fight, the judges felt Assuncao had the better of the few exchanges and ultimately gave him the win, though most would agree almost everyone who participated/watched that fight lost.

Official decision: Assuncao via Split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Nate Marquardt vs. Sam Alvey (Middleweight)

Coming off a four fight win streak, Sam Alvey looked to progress his career against long-time veteran Nate Marquardt in what promised to be a compelling battle with title contender implications. The cast member of The Ulitmate Fighter: Carwing vs. Nelson was coached and trained with none other than Nate Marquardt for a good portion of his early career. Both with explosive power, this fight was hyped to be a fast paced fight.

Though more eventful than the previous fight, the two Middleweights gave each other too much respect in regards to their striking ability and knockout power. Though several strikes were exchanged throughout the fight, it never reached the top-speed most fans were expecting and hoping for.

After three rounds of minimal action, all three judges called the fight for Sam Alvey.

Official decision: Sam Alvey via unanimous decision (29-28 by all judges)

Alex Caceres vs. Jason Knight (Featherweight)

Always an exciting fight when Alex Caceres steps in the cage, this fight didn’t disappoint and set the tone for the rest of the main card.

From beginning to end, both fighters stepped on the gas and didn’t let off until the very end, with everything from quick, sharp exchanges to takedowns and submission attempts. The first round saw Caceres pushing the pace, landing leg kicks at will and countering well. Knight landed his fair share of counters.

Near the end of the round, Knight pushed forward and was able to secure a double leg and take Caceres’ back. With ten seconds left, Knight attempted a lazy rear naked choke which Caceres defended as the round ended, with Knight in the dominant position.

Round 2 saw action right away as both fighters exchanged kicks in the middle of the cage, as momentum swayed back and forth. After several good flurries of action, Knight again secured a take down and took Caceres’ back. With plenty of time to work, Knight secured a body lock and softened his opponent with big shots from the top. Eventually, Caceres was unable to defend the choke and Knight got the top near the end of the round.

During the post fight interview, Knight called out fellow welterweight Doo Ho Choi. Knight earned a Performance of the Night bonus

Official decision: Knight via RNC at 4:21 of Round 2

Andrei Arlovski vs. Francis Ngannou (Heavyweight)

Deemed a crossroads fight by Joe Rogan, both fighters considered this bout the most important of their careers. For Arlovski, a loss could mean the beginning of the end while a win could re-energize his final run for the Heavyweight title. Likewise, Ngannou could solidify himself as a top contender for the strap with an impressive performance against the UFC Hall of Famer.

After a short time finding each other’s range, Arlovski attempts to push the pace with a combination ending in an overhand right. Just before his right could land however, Ngannou landed a right hook right on Arlovski’s chin, which knocks out Arlovski cold.

An impressive win against an impressive opponent, Ngannou showed he’s a force to be reckoned with in the ever-changing Heavyweight decision. Ngannou earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts.

Official decision: Ngannou via KO (punches) at 1:32 of Round 1

Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal (Welterweight)

Easily a Main Event, Cerrone vs. Masvidal is a dream fight for MMA practitioners around the world. Both love to strike and both have very good ground games, making it a showcase of exemplary MMA.

The fight started as everyone expected, a few exchanges to find each other’s range before accelerating into an all-out war. After the first minute, it was non-stop action, Cerrone seeming to slightly edge out Masvidal. In the last ten seconds of the round, Masvidal was able to land several right hands, one of which dropped Cerrone along the fence. Saved by the bell, Cerrone never fully recovered.

Trying to take advantage of Cerrone’s instability, Masvidal pushed the pace, landing jab after jab before finally knocking him down with an overhand right. Though able to get back to his feet, Cerrone failed to defend himself to Herb Dean’s standards and was out on his feet.

This upset propels Masvidal up the welterweight rankings while stalling Cerrone’s run on the Welterweight title. Masvidal earned a Performance of the Night bonus.

Official decision: Masvidal via TKO at 1:00 of Round 2

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena (Women’s Bantamweight)

The classic striker vs. wrestler matchup, the winner of this fight is guaranteed a shot at the current Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. A world-class kickboxer in Valentina Shevchenko, the former TUF competitor had her work cut out for her despite substantial striking credentials herself. The fight promised to be high paced and, most likely, over quickly.

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The fight itself did not disappoint with Pena pushing the pace, quickly taking the center of the cage and clinching with Shevchenko. Trying to negate the powerful strikes of the lanky Shevchenko, Pena attempted to keep the fight close and use her grappling and clinch skills.

Despite her efforts, Pena was time and again reversed and taken down by Shevchenko along the cage, though minimal damage was done. Pena was active, though ineffective, from her back, throwing several strikes and attempting submissions. Near the end of the round, Pena attempted an arm-bar and turned it into a sweep, ending the round on top. Despite this, Shevchenko did enough to win the round.

Knowing she needed to do more, Pena again pushed the pace and tried to keep the fight close against the fence. After several back and forth takedown attempts, Pena was able to secure a double leg and keep Shevchenko on the ground. Disrupting Pena’s rhythm, Shevchenko was able to land several strikes from her back, opening up an arm-bar attempt. Despite Pena’s efforts to escape, Shevchenko was able to elicit the tap and win the fight.

After the fight, Nunes joined Shevchenko in the cage where the two faced off and exchanged words. Shevchenko earned a Performance of the Night bonus.

Official decision: Shevchenko via submission (armbar) at 4:30 of round 2