UFC 224 PPV: Ongoing Coverage and Highlights

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UFC Women's Bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes UFC 232
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

UFC 224 might have looked iffy on paper, but it surpassed expectations and then some. Stay with us as we recap the night’s action!

Tonight the UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil tonight as Amanda Nunes defends her UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship against Raquel Pennington at UFC 224. Main Card Coverage will begin at 10 p.m. EST – Join us at CagesidePress.com for real-time highlights and live thoughts as the card progresses.

Middleweight Division: #12 Vitor Belfort (23-8) vs. #9 Lyoto Machida (26-13, 1)

Vitor Belfort defeated Nate Marquardt by decision at UFC 210, but prior to that, he hadn’t won a fight since he bested Dan Henderson twice between 2013 and 2015. Belfort was knocked out three times in a row by Kelvin Gastelum, Gegard Mousasi, and Ronaldo Souza in an eleven-month period – that’s a lot of Damage in a short span.

Lyoto Machida’s returned from his mandatory two-year USADA vacation recently and in February, narrowly squeaked by Eryk Anders via Split Decision – and ‘The Dragon’ really didn’t look that great. That’s not to say he couldn’t beat a 41-year-old beaten and battered Vitor Belfort, but the Machida of old wouldn’t take any damage in this fight.

If Machida was ten years younger and Vitor Belfort was on TRT this would be a barn burner.

Which one of these former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions will return to form in Brazil and which man will move closer to their inevitable retirement?

Round 1: Already at the halfway mark of round one and Machida has landed 2 kicks, but no real action other than that.

Vitor follows up with a few combinations of his own after he trapped Machida against the cage late in the round. Slow round 1.

Gillette’s Score: 10-9 Machida.

Vitor’s corner is calling for the clinch in between rounds. Firas is the man in Belfort’s corner.

A promo for UFC 225, Whittaker vs. Romero airs between rounds.

Round 2:

At the 1:00 mark Lyoto Machida catches Vitor Belfort with nearly the same kick that Anderson Silva caught him with back at UFC 126 in 2011. He used a slightly different approach and angle, but the point of impact was nearly identical.

I’d like to say that’s the last we’ve seen of Belfort inside the octagon after a career of accumulated damage – but you don’t exactly know with Belfort if he ever means it when he says he’s hanging up the gloves.

Vitor begins his post-fight interview by congratulating Lyoto Machida and then says life is about a beginning, middle, and end, — and he thinks this is the end.

Belfort does end up leaving his gloves in the cage and continues to thank his friends, family, Tri-Star Gym – and reiterates that now it’s time for him to take care of the Belfort Family.

What a kick!

 

From all of the UFC and all of our fans, thank you @vitorbelfort for a lifetime of memories. #UFC224

Winner: Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort by knockout, Round 2, 1:00

Bantamweight Division: #6 John Lineker (30-8) vs. Brian Kelleher (19-8)

I can’t tell you much about Brian Kelleher, but he’s 31 years old and beat former UFC Bantamweight King Renan Barao back in February. The only blemish in Kelleher’s UFC career to date is a submission loss to Marlon Vera, but he’ll face a difficult test as 27-year-old John Lineker is no cake walk.

Lineker actually beat Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night 119 in October via unanimous decision, so a win here for Kelleher would go a long way here – but the Vegas odds say Lineker is the favorite here at (-250) compared to Kellher’s (+240).

Round 1: Lineker circles around the outside and connects with a few hooks, while maintaining his range and he starts working Kelleher’s legs with kicks.

Lineker eats a shot from Kelleher, but keeps right on trucking.

Kelleher gets dropped by a stiff shot from Lineker just past the two minute mark, but Lineker jumps into guard and Kelleher is able to get back to his feet after a minute.

Lineker repeatedly cracks Kelleher and keeps him wobbled for good measure. There’s still a minute left in the first frame.

Kelleher loads up but misses a spinning kick and Lineker makes him pay with a flurry against the cage. Lineker isn’t neglecting the body in this one.

Gillette’s Score: 10-9 Lineker. Close to a 10-8, but not quite.

Prior to this fight, Lineker boasted a 10:1 knockdown Ratio –that became more impressive after round 1.

Round 2: Lineker’s octagon control is one of the most impressive parts of his game. More of the same from John in the first 2 minutes of this one, but Kelleher’s not out of this fight yet. He’ll occasionally land a few of his own, even though he’s eating many of powerful shots than he’s landing.

Kelleher winces from body shots at the halfway mark of round 2.

Even when Kelleher connects, Lineker walks through the shots and lands harder hooks of his own – to both the body and head.

Gillette’s Score: 10-9 Lineker

Round 3: John Lineker goes for a guillotine, which causes Kelleher to attempt one of his own, both attempts prove unsuccessful and both men reset.

Kelleher’s wearing damage well – but he’s a lot slower than he ewas in the first round, all the while Lineker’s still throwing bombs.

Lineker finds an opening and lands a series of hooks to Kelleher’s jaw and Kelleher sprints away, but Lineker’s right on his heels. He can’t escape. Now he’s trapped against the cage and eating shots before he finally escapes.

Lineker chases him down again and this time Kelleher can’t get away. BANG. Lineker lands a hook against as Kelleher’s eyes roll into the back of his head and he falls to the mat like a rock – straight back. Tiiiiiimber!

Winner: John ‘Hands of Stone’ Lineker via Knockout at 3:43 of Round 3.

Lineker dedicates this victory to a coach of his that passed away during his post-fight interview with Jon Anik. Lineker calls out Dana White and Sean Shelby and says he wants to fight for a title.

Women’s Catchweight Bout: Mackenzie Dern (6-0) vs. Amanda Cooper (3-3)

This fight was supposed to be contested at 115 pounds, but Mackenzie Dern missed weight by 7.4 pounds in a very unprofessional move. It’s not all that uncommon to miss weight, but 7.4 pounds!? She didn’t even try

Mackenzie Dern’s last bout against Ashley Yoder was an ugly fight – it actually got more attention from a Joey Diaz tweet than anything that occurred inside the octagon:

Thankfully Amanda Cooper accepted the fight, and because of that she’ll receive 20% of Dern’s fight purse, with the Brazilian Commission receiving another 10%.

Cooper predicted Dern would have an issue with weight heading into UFC 224, and Dern’s made it no secret that she plans to take time off after this fight.

You can’t really cheer for anybody but Amanda Cooper in this contest.

Round 1:

Slow action early on as Dern looks for strikes that aren’t quite connecting.

Mackenzie Dern caught Cooper with an overhand right and drops her in the opening moments of the fight! Dern jumps into mount and then takes Cooper’s back. Dern sinks in the choke and the fight is over!

Winner: Mackenzie Dern at 2:27 of Round 1.

Dern’s said that she’s going to take a little break from fighting after she fought 4 times in seven months – but added she’ll keep training while she’s away from the octagon.

 

Middleweight Division: #2 Jacare Souza (25-5, 1) vs. #5 Kelvin Gastelum (14-3, 1)

Ronaldo Jacare Souza returned to form by knocking out Derek Brunson in January after getting humbled by the current UFC Middleweight Champ ‘Bobby Knuckles’ back at UFC on Fox 24.

Souza will turn 39 in December.

Kelvin Gastelum has perpetually been at a disadvantage at 185 pounds – but that’s his fault, as he repeatedly missed weight at welterweight and got himself kicked out of the division.

Kelvin ‘Johny Hendricks’ Gastelum lucked into a win over former UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 122 in November after losing to another former UFC Middleweight Champion in Chris Weidman last July.

It’s not that Gastelum couldn’t have beaten Bisping – the win was tainted though because Bisping had just been finished by a returning George St-Pierre just a short while before.

How will Gastelum fare against the former Strikeforce Champion Ronaldo Jacare Souza in Brazil? Can he defeat the #2 ranked Middleweight, or will he need to start dieting and go back down to 170?

Round 1:

Jacare goes for a leg lock and quickly realizes he can’t get it and transitions into a sweep and ends up in side control after a brief struggle.

Jacare gets Gastelum in an armbar and wrenches it a few times before losing it just before the end of the round.

Gillette’s score: 10-9 Jacare Souza.

Round 2:

Gastelum drops Jacare with a right and left hook combo midway through the round! Souza’s in all kind of trouble here.

Souza takes some time to get to his feet once Gastelum decides to stand.

Jacare eventually recovers enough to land a few uppercuts of his own, but Gastelum clearly took the second frame of the fight.

Gillette’s score: 10-9 Gastelum.

Round 3:

Jacare is back in control as he stalks Gastelum and works him back toward the cage. He’s landing singular strikes, but landing.

Gastelum is slowing down, but still occasionally landing shots to the body. Oddly enough, it seems that Jacare is the fresher man – even though he half falls over when he throws hooks at this point in the third.

Jacare is tired, but still throwing. Gastelum’s not throwing as much, even though he’s moving around more. Gastelum finally lands a combination of his own.

Jacare shoots for a takedown in the last 30 seconds and he eventually gets it, but Gastelum just scoots to his feet.

Close fight, but I think Jacare gets the nod here in a close one.

Gillette’s Score: 10-9 Jacare, 29-28 Souza.

Let’s see what the official judges have to say.

Winner: Kelvin Gastelum via Split Decision – Well, it was definitely a close one!

Main Event

(Champion) Amanda Nunes (15-4) vs. #2 Raquel Pennington (9-5)

Remember Amanda Nunes’ historic performance against a returning Ronda Rousey back at UFC 207? Here it is if you need a reminder:

Those hands are dangerous, and the belief is Amanda Nunes could do that to anybody inside the first 2 rounds of any fight – but if it gets into the later rounds her gas tank is always in question.

Can Raquel Pennington defeat Amanda Nunes after a lengthy lay-off? After all, she hasn’t competed since the UFC first ventured into New York at UFC 205 – the same night Conor McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez to become a two-division UFC Champion. That was way back in November, 2016.

To quote Jason Payne, “UFC 224 sees the first meeting of an openly gay champion against an also openly gay title challenger — yet is has been getting little to no promotion. After nearly two years since their purchase of the UFC, it’s safe to say that WME doesn’t know what they’re doing, and it’s time to start acting like it.

UFC 224: Nunes vs Pennington arrives this weekend with little to no buzz. It isn’t exactly the best card, but it’s the card they made, and the promotion should at least do the bare minimum. It’s another example of the company’s inability to promote things that aren’t pretty, white, or blonde. And if they’re already assuming that UFC 224 will perform poorly, why put Mackenzie Dern behind a paywall on an under-performing main card? The smarter move would be to put her on the FS1 prelims where she would have a bigger audience.”

Well, Jason’s not wrong.

This is the first time two openly gay fighters have fought for a UFC Championship and the WWE has put more effort into making Finn Balor an LGBTQ star than the UFC has put promotional effort total into Amanda Nunes – and he’s not even gay!

Round 1:

Amanda Nunes kept Raquel Pennington hostage against the cage with brutal leg kicks, fast punch combinations, and body kicks.

Pennington has absolutely no answer to Amanda Nunes and this will be a 50-45 fight if she keeps it up through five rounds.

Gillette’s Score: 10-9 Nunes.

Round 2:

Pennington is complaining to her corner about something Nunes is doing in between rounds – I didn’t quite catch it, but either way it seems like she’s out of her element on the big stage.

Throughout the first three minutes, it was more of the same as Nunes kept Pennington against the cage with strikes. Pennington was a little bit more mobile this round, but still isn’t having much success.

Pennington attempts a takedown but ends up eating strong knees in the clinch.

Pennington actually ends up getting Nunes’ back against the cage and drags her down. Pennington lands some shots on the ground, but she allows Nunes back to her feet in the final seconds of the round.

The round was a lot closer, but Nunes probably won that frame.

Gillette’s Score: 10-9 Nunes.

Round 3:

Pennington’s corner is pleased with her takedown in that last round.

Pennington finds herself against the cage again about a minute in, but this time she fires a combination of punches at Nunes and retreats. Pennington’s leg is still really red.

Amanda Nunes lands a powerful takedown of her own, and now she’s in side control — now half guard, and working her way towards full mount.

Back to full guard now.

Pennington isn’t eating many shots off of her back. Referee Marc Goddard issues two warnings before eventually standing the ladies back up.

The exchanges are much more even now, even though Nunes is still getting the better of them.

Deep breaths from Raquel Pennington to end the round – both fighters are slowing down heading into the championship rounds.

Gillette’s score: 10-9 Nunes.

Round 4:

Nunes lands an outside trip just after the 2-minute mark, and now she’s in full guard again – let’s see if she can do something with the position this time instead of being stood up.

The women end up back on their feet and Nunes pushes Penning up against the cage and engages in the Thai clinch – BIG knees from Nunes.

Raquel Pennington tells her coach she is done between rounds but her coach is telling her to power through this and ‘believe.’ Ok, Greg Jackson 2.

Her nose looks to be broken.

She’s heading back out there for round 5.

Gillette’s score: 10-9 Nunes.

Round 5:

Her nose is all kinds of busted up – and Jimmy Smith said she’s already absorbed 128 strikes.

Now the blood’s really flowing. Pennington is going to get hurt badly in this round if Nunes keeps landing on the feet. Mercifully, Nunes lands a takedown and lands less powerful shots from full guard.

Nunes starts landing some powerful ground and pound shots now and it’s about to be done.

Pennington’s nose is leaking like a fire hydrant – and she’s just turtling up at this point – now it’s over.

Her corner should have called it, and should be dragged through the mud this coming week – even though Pennington will likely defend them.

Winner: Amanda Nunes via TKO at 2:36 of Round 5.

 

 

 

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