UFC 227 was one for the history books on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, as it marked the end of some heated rivalries and perhaps the beginning of others. The prelims served as a showcase for young talent -- the focus of the latest installment of the Geek for Technique series.
Marlon Vera took on Wuliji Buren at 135 pounds. Buren surprisingly controlled most of the first round, but Vera picked up the pace in the second and took home a victory by technical knockout. Late in the middle stanza, Vera trapped Buren against the cage and mixed hooks to the head and body before dropping him with a left hook to the liver.
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship signed a wave of new female talent earlier this year, some names popped up as future title contenders. Fighters like Mackenzie Dern and Molly McCann stole the headlines, but few mentioned one of the better prospects to arrive in years: Weili Zhang. The Chinese strawweight faced Danielle Taylor in her promotional debut and dominated much of the fight with lead-hand strikes. Whether on the lead or the counter, Zhang’s lead hook found a home all night long. Because the much shorter Taylor could not get into striking range and began flailing forward with wild strikes, she was met with a counter lead hook nearly every time. Zhang is already one of the best strikers in the strawweight division and has a legitimate shot at contending for a title in the future.
While many thought Demetrious Johnson was robbed of the flyweight title in the main event, the real robbery took place in the race for the “Performance of the Night” bonus. Alex Perez put together one of the best performances of the year against Jose Torres and still did not walk away with an extra $50,000. Perez landed an incredible 88 strikes in just three minutes and ended the fight with a flurry to the head and body. To put that in perspective, Henry Cejudo landed 80 strikes in his five-round fight with Johnson. Despite not winning the performance bonus, Perez now owns a 3-0 mark in the UFC.
Former World Series of Fighting title contender Sheymon Moraes battled Alliance MMA rep Matt Sayles in a featherweight affair. Moraes clearly wanted to attack the body early and often, as he landed multiple kicks and knees to Sayles’ abdomen throughout the fight. The body shots did a number on Sayles and slowed him down later in the match. Moraes has evened his UFC record at 1-1 and has the necessary skills to cause problems at 145 pounds.
A clash of unnaturally tall bantamweights saw Ricardo Ramos duke it out with Kyung Ho Kang. Despite slowing down and losing the third round, Ramos controlled most of the first 10 minutes with his patient and accurate boxing, along with the occasional spinning attack.
When an opponent stumbles and finds himself trapped against the cage, many fighters grow overzealous looking for the finish. However, Ramos kept his composure and intelligently picked his shots.
Ramos’s feints were on point, as he used them to draw reactions from Kang. The best strike of the fight came in an exchange in the pocket where Ramos landed a beautiful counter lead hook before retreating out. At only 23 years old, Ramos possesses striking skills far above the level he should be at and still has plenty of time to round out his game. Still, the most impressive intangible for Ramos is his size. Standing at 5-foot-9, Ramos is one of the tallest bantamweights in the division, and his size and reach could cause major problems in the 135-pound weight class.
The featured prelim saw Pedro Munhoz collide with Brett Johns at 135 pounds. Munhoz overwhelmed the Welshman from bell to bell and even earned a 30-26 score from one of the judges. Munhoz’s kicks served as his main source of success, and he routinely mixed them from head to toe. Whether it was rear kicks to the calf, front kicks to the body or pendulum kicks to the head, Munhoz landed nearly every kick he threw; Johns had no answers. At one point, Munhoz nearly finished the fight with a front kick to the liver, continuing the MMA trend of the summer by attacking the body.