Stop me if you've heard this one. Heavyweight gets poked in the eye, ref fails to see it, heavyweight's opponent sneaks in a quick uppercut, heavyweight gets a moment to collect self, captures his opponent's arm into a double wrist lock, sweeps, works to mount and secures the finish via rear naked choke.
While this sort of thing sounds like the perfect storm of events for just about anyone else in the division, it kinda sounds like a normal day at the office for the flag-bearer of catch wrestling, the Warmaster Josh Barnett.
Despite a flurry of attacks from a game Andrei Arlovski, Barnett's savvy catch wrestling and clinch work helped him secure a victory. However, the two former UFC heavyweight champs did not disappoint in their three round encounter. The proceedings came to an end when Barnett secured a rear naked choke toward the end of the third round, in which an exhausted Arlovski didn't look like he was going to defend all that much.
In the post-fight interview, commentator Dan Hardy asked Barnett about the unintentional eye poke, as well as the specific catch wrestling strategy Barnett was able to implement in the cage. The always-entertaining Barnett not only responded with his usual mix of swagger and playfulness, he also was super complimentary of his opponent (a theme that would continue later int he post-event press conference)
Earlier in the night, Alexander Gustafsson picked up an impressive decision victory over Jan Blachowicz. Of course, it wasn't entirely smooth sailing for Gustafsson either.
Gustafsson (or, as I like to call him, Gus Gus) showed some vulnerability to Blachowicz right hand several times throughout the first couple minutes of the fight. Blachowicz was able to stagger the former light heavyweight championship contender on a couple occasions, until Gus Gus was able to find his rhythm, opting to work from inside of Blachowicz's closed guard.
Blachowicz, to his credit, was definitely shooting up on multiple occasions to secure an arm bar, but Gus Gus' strategy proved to be enough the handily grant him the decision by the fight's end.
But in a fight night filled with relatively quiet outcomes and finishes, the biggest talk of the evening came compliments of Ryan Bader's right knee.
We've seen some definite improvements in Bader's game over the past few years. And prior to a huge KO from one Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Bader was putting together a nice string of wins on his fight resume. But tonight he made a huge statement on his record when he knocked the living hell out of Illir Latifi.
It was the kind of performance that solidified his #5 standings in the light heavyweight category, and one that definitely prompted a great discussion in the post-event press conference in a fight between him and Gustafsson.
Of course, it's far too early to assume that might be where the UFC may want to head with this.
The rest of the Fight Pass-exclusive telecast went as such (according to me on Twitter):
That'll do it for this recap. Should you want to see a pretty uneventful post-presser, you can do so below. Thanks for reading, folks!