Winnipeg fans in the MTS Centre witnessed a mixed bag of performances from beloved UFC veterans on Saturday night, as main eventers Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson waged a careful war while heavyweights Pat Barry and Roy Nelson were outshined by up-and-comers Shawn Jordan and Pat Barry, respectively.
Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson
After disappointing losses in their last outings, former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and former Strikeforce and PRIDE champion Dan Henderson clashed in a return for glory in the main event of UFC 161. It was a back-and-forth, measured bout but Evans’ conditioning and aggression edged out Henderson’s ever-present power for a split decision victory.
Evans and “Hendo” started out at a safe distance, crouched and pawing to establish their range. Evans moved more quickly in and out, reaching in with left jabs that backed up Henderson. “Suga” went for the first takedown and did more during the exchanges before and after the foiled attempt, but then a jab from Hendo dropped Evans late in the first. Evans survived and continued his pursuit from an even greater distance.
Evans got the takedown in the second, then controlled Henderson from behind and against the cage. On the break, the two exchanged furiously, with Hendo lobbing a knee to Evans’s head from the clinch before being stalled against the fence again. Evans tried twice more for takedowns, giving Henderson the close quarters he wanted for elbows and clinchwork. But Henderson slowed significantly as the clock ticked on lurching forward with predictable combos as Evans stayed sharp and agile.
An early exchange in the third brought the best from Evans, as he wobbled and purused Hendo with a series of rights before backing away. He remained the aggressor for the duration of the bout with both strikes and takedown attempts, hurting Hendo twice more with rights and controlling him on the cage.
Evans’ win was 29-28 twice and 28-29, enough to give him his first win in his last three, tie Jon Jones’ record for the most wins in light heavyweight history, and improve his record to 23-3-1; Henderson drops to 29-10.
Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic
What started as a fast-moving heavyweight boxing match devolved into a one-sided striking and cardio clinic over three rounds, as Stipe Miocic ended Roy Nelson’s ascent toward the ranks of the title contenders.
The men moved quickly from the get-go, Miocic tossing off a takedown attempt and landing a solid straight; Nelson changing levels and lobbing overhand rights. Miocic scored with two right hands as Nelson moved toward him, then tried for his own takedown. Miocic dodged and weaved, landing with increasing frequency throughout his combinations and taking Nelson’s back twice during the round. Miocic. A left hand backed Nelson up as Miocic unloaded against the fence, and while Nelson’s chin held up, his cardio did not fare so well. Miocic’s constant movement forced the fight to cover every inch of the Octagon, and the first five minutes left Nelson looking battered and winded, hunched over with his hands on his knees for breath.
Nelson was less mobile in the second, his hands down by his side, as the two traded right hands of varying provenance. It was another left that popped Nelson back against the cage for more punishment that ended with a short elbow on the break. Long lefts, a right knee and leg kicks were next for Nelson, as Miocic circled and picked his shots. Nelson mustered up energy for one uppercut that moved Miocic backward, but Miocic paid it back with another combination and a takedown attempt to keep Nelson on the move.
Hooks, uppercuts and straights from Miocic found Nelson’s head, in the third as Nelson swung his right hand with increasing desperation. When Nelson did come close, Miocic simply jogged away to safety. Miocic got Nelson down with just over two minutes left, then let him up and bullied him against the cage.
Miocic’s victory came via scores of 30-27 and boosted his record to 10-1, with his only loss coming to Stefan Struve last September. Nelson, on the other hand, falls to 20-8, drops his first fight in four outings and breaks the dubious UFC record of having absorbed the most strikes of any heavyweight without being knocked out.
See the post-fight interview with Stipe Miocic.
Ryan Jimmo vs. Igor Pokrajac
Albertan Ryan Jimmo made it six out of seven for the Canadians on the card with a unanimous decision win over Igor Pokrajac in a plodding light heavyweight standoff.
Slugger Ryan Jimmo came forward repeatedly to brawl, only to be met by Pokrajac and forced into a clinch on the cage before being separated by the referee. This happened three times in the first round before the men finally made space and traded kicks. In the final minute, Jimmo landed a couple of shots in the center, and Pokrajac wobbled Jimmo with a clean counter as he rushed things back to the wall.
Round two was a different story with Jimmo dropping Pokrajac with a right hand and following up with shots on the mat. Pokrajac survived, but Jimmo ended up in his guard, continuing the ground-and-pound with elbows and fists for the bulk of the round. Pokrajac briefly turned an upkick into a triangle attempt, but Jimmo remained on top and in control.
Jimmo got things to the ground again early in the third, though this time Pokrajac was more composed and worked for submissions. Jimmo stayed on top with ground-and-pound, although Pokrajac had a tight guillotine from the bottom for a short time. Back on the feet, the last minute consisted of Jimmo pushing Pokrajac up against the fence as Pokrajac, the ref and the crowd all begged for action.
Jimmo’s scores of 30-27 earned him the win, but he still apologized for his performance during his Octagon post-fight interview. His record now stands at 18-2, while Pokrajac’s slides to 25-10 (1 NC).
See the post-fight interview with Ryan Jimmo.
Alexis Davis vs. Rosi Sexton
Canada’s first women’s UFC bout was also the first women’s UFC bout to go to the judges’ scorecards, with Canadian-born Alexis Davis outworking Manchester, England’s Rosi Sexton en route to a unanimous decision.
The bantamweights engaged early, and Davis quickly got a clinch and dragged the action to the cage. Sexton powered out of the clinch and made space, then returned to the center. She dove for a takedown, but Davis slipped, wound up on Sexton’s back and then locked in a triangle choke. Sexton defended for a while by stacking Davis against the fence and eventually punching through before Davis relocked the triangle for the duration of the round.
Davis rushed the clinch again, but Sexton did well with close uppercuts before eating some shots from Davis. Sexton got the takedown this time and started in side control, but Davis reversed to top in Sexton’s full guard. Both women punched from this position, with Davis having the power and gravity advantage. Davis soon wore done Sexton who tried to roll away, giving up her back in the process. Davis tried for a neck crank with Sexton beneath her, then flattened out Sexton from back mount and threw Donkey Kong punches as Sexton covered and willed the round to end.
Sexton sprawled when Davis shot in the third, but Davis soon dragged her down and took her back with the body triangle of the night. Sexton turned her way into guard, continuing to get shots through to the body and head whenever an opening existed. Sexton managed to turn her way into top position briefly and threaten with her own armbar, but Davis soon reversed and the round finished the same way it had already passed, with Davis attempting to ground-and-pound from guard and Sexton defending with shots of her own.
Judges gave things to the BJJ black belt with scores of 29-28 twice and 29-27. Davis rises to a record of 14-5; Sexton, a 35-year-old pioneer of women’s MMA, departs 13-3.
See the post-fight interview with Alexis Davis.
Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan
Heavyweights woke up the crowd – as they so often do – in the main card’s first fight, with Shawn Jordan needing less than a minute to finish his friend, fan favorite Pat Barry.
Both men crouched low and circled, with Barry finally launching one of his deadly leg kicks. Jordan, a slow starter in the past, answered by surging forward with two big uppercuts that rocked Barry. He followed Barry to the cage with more and, as Barry crumpled to the mat, lobbed nonstop left hooks to Barry’s head until the referee waved it off.
The official time was 59 seconds for Jordan, whose UFC wins have now all come via TKO. His overall record is 15-4, while Barry slips to 8-6, having alternated wins and losses in the his last five.
See the post-fight interview with Shawn Jordan.