Crooke’s Cage: UFC 287 takeaways

By Aidan Crooke, Staff Writer, Sports

In the UFC’s return to Miami for the first time since 2003, we saw narratives dominate the card as Alex Pereira looked to defend his title against Israel Adesanya and put the rivalry away once and for all. Raul Rosas Jr. came in with a lot of momentum ready to take on the bantamweight division, and Massachusetts’ own Rob Font was prepared to face down rising talent Adrian Yanez. In a night full of upsets, drama, and redemption, here’s what happened last Saturday in Miami.

1: This hype train is out of service

Rosas Jr. came into his fight with Christian Rodriguez as the betting favorite on only his second appearance. Rodriguez, however, fought Rosas with the caliber of an 18-year veteran, and quite frankly, I can’t be too mad at the result either way. Rosas Jr. put his heart and soul into this fight by looking for a rear-naked choke on Rodriguez while the latter was standing. It takes major guts to do that. Unfortunately, Rosas tired himself out and all Rodriguez needed to do was wait until he was out of gas to put him down on the scorecards. A straightforward win for Rodriguez, but UFC fans may lose a hype train in the process. 

Aidan’s Score: 30-27 Rodriguez—that’s just veteran pacing in action.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars– Rodriguez won that decision but in a somewhat boring fashion. Wish it was more of a stand-up fight than it was grappling.

2: The Argentine Dagger gets Trailblazed

Kevin Holland and Santiago Ponzinibbio put on a show. Unfortunately, Holland dominated most of it. When you’re the taller fighter, you have the advantage to move and attack however you want. Moreover, Ponzinibbio only tried to take matters to the canvas once—which was odd seeing as both fighters are black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. So what are we missing here? Both fighters kept a good pace but it was evident from Holland’s countered takedown at the end of Round 1—which nearly ended the fight early—that Holland is the better fighter. 

Aidan’s Score: 20-18 Holland

Rating: 3/5 stars, the only redeeming factor of this fight was the knockout.

3: Big night for the Boston metro area

Quick fact: Rob Font hails from Leominster and is billed out of Woburn, Mass. Font gained a stellar knockout win over rising star Adrian Yanez in the first round, and if the UFC had hidden the timer graphic throughout the entire round, those watching would’ve thought two rounds had already passed. Font mounted a quick one-minute comeback by checking Yanez’s chin with a clinch uppercut before exchanging jabs and hooks and putting Yanez down with a right hook. This fight did require a ground-and-pound finish, but you can pretty much consider that one hook to Yanez as the end of the fight. 

With this win, Font will likely move into the top five of a loaded bantamweight division—given number one contender Merab Dvashvili was challenged by Cory Sandhagen two weeks ago in Houston. Font could face Sean O’Malley or another top-five contender before the year is out with a title shot on the line.

Aidan’s Score: Not Necessary (Finish in Round 1)

Rating: 3/5 stars- good knockout to set the table for Masvidal/Burns, but nothing too special. 

4: The BMF passes the torch to “Durinho”

This fight deserved to be the co-main event. Masvidal and Burns had a standout fight, completely even on the feet, but had one small issue—Burns loves to take fights to the ground and wrestle, and Masvidal paid the price for it. Yes, it slowed the match down, but who doesn’t love a good pickup slam? This fight had shades of all types of bouts that Masvidal had been in throughout his career, especially that flying knee to open things—sound familiar? But Burns was just the better fighter against a scrappy but aging Masvidal. Burns, who is the No. 5 contender in the welterweight division, has called for a title shot against the 170-pound king Leon Edwards, and we may see another showdown in London before the year’s out—and UFC President Dana White’s already calling for it. Masvidal has announced his retirement and will put the gloves down where he picked them up for the first time. Congratulations on a stellar career, Jorge Masvidal.

Aidan’s Score: 30-27 Burns

Rating: 4/5 stars

5: Adesanya makes it 3-1 with a side of redemption

Let’s be honest here—I didn’t bet on Adesanya winning this, and there was certainly an air of doubt over if he could do it. Rewind the tape seven years back to the days when Adesanya and Pereira first faced off in Glory of Heroes, a kickboxing promotion in China. Pereira would get two wins, one by decision and one by knockout. Yet last November in Madison Square Garden, the narrative was simple—Adesanya is one of the best middleweights of all time, and he can wrestle! Pereira’s not a match for him! And then we got to Round 5 with Adesanya’s back against the wall, and certainly, we thought we’d get the champ knocking out his challenger. Once again, Adesanya got put out in the Mecca of sports entertainment and lost his belt as a result.

One of the biggest issues Adesanya faced at the end of his first championship run was that he slacked off. Instead of fighting to go home early, Adesanya would take every second of the 25 minutes allotted for his defenses to hopefully get a win by the judges. Pereira broke that, and Adesanya would finally meet sweet redemption by becoming the first middleweight to win the belt twice, and it was virtually the same setup as how it ended in New York—Adesanya against the cage, but instead of giving way to Pereira, he countered with a right hook that put Pereira out immediately. Three arrows, bow snapped, new champ. That’s the Adesanya we’ve been looking for and we want to continue to see, but we will not get a trilogy out of this rivalry. Shame.

Aidan’s Score: 10-9 Adesanya (finish in R2)

Rating: 4/5 stars–it had the potential to be a war, but ended too early. Still an excellent fight.