first_imgAfter losing his first bout after being in the house to another up-and-comer worth watching, Josh Barnett protégé, Victor Henry, Phillips got back into the win column on Friday night with a first-round stoppage win at LFA 59.The bantamweight prospect is only 23 and gets rave reviews from his head coach John Crouch, who isn’t someone who is quick to blow up fighters who don’t have the goods. Getting bounced from TUF by the eventual winner and losing to Henry are the kind of valuable learning experiences that every young fighter needs to go through and it looks like Phillips has emerged better for it.Don’t be surprised if he’s fighting in the UFC before the year is out. Every week, we’ll release a new MMA mix tape entitled “The Remix” that looks back at not only the biggest stories of the last seven days, but some of the ones that aren’t getting enough attention too, with some weekly awards and a prospect to watch going forward added in for good measure.Moraes makes a compelling case for a bantamweight title shotHeading into Saturday’s UFC event in Fortaleza, Brazil, flyweight champ Henry Cejudo was the clubhouse leader for the next bantamweight title shot, having dusted reigning champ T.J. Dillashaw in 32 seconds just a few weeks earlier when the ambitious former TUF finalist ventured down in weight, searching for a second championship belt to add to his wardrobe. Although the weekend’s main event pairing of Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes were viewed as the top contenders in the division and both could already make a solid case for having earned a title shot, the consensus opinion was that no matter what happened, the winner was probably going to get passed over in favor of Cejudo because a second “Champion vs. Champion” fight and another opportunity to potentially crown a fourth “Double Champ” would be too lucrative for the UFC to pass up.Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearBut Moraes gave everyone a reason to reconsider that approach on Saturday night, stinging Assuncao midway through the opening round and putting him away seconds later by diving on a guillotine choke and securing the tap.It was only the sixth time in his entire career that Assuncao had lost and just the second time he’d been finished; the first since he was choked out by Urijah Faber all the way back at WEC 46. Since moving to bantamweight more than seven years ago, only Dillashaw had bested Assuncao and although he looked good doing it, the reigning champ never clearly hurt the veteran Brazilian en route to sweeping the scorecards at UFC 200.Since dropping a debated split decision to Assuncao in his promotional debut, Moraes has won four straight, the last three by first-round stoppage. He’s in a scary rhythm right now and has the look of someone who is destined to wear UFC gold, which helps his cause for getting the next title shot ahead of the flyweight champion.So too does the fact that Cejudo, who was in attendance on Saturday, told reporters that he’d like to return in July or August, which would mean that after a year where the bantamweight belt was defended only once (in an unnecessary rematch), the UFC would be forced to keep the belt on the shelf until the summer if they wanted to preserve a second title fight between Dillashaw and Cejudo.With a hectic schedule to manage and pay-per-view events that need headliners and co-main events, it’s difficult to see how the promotion would benefit from having both champions on the sidelines for the next six or seven months, especially with dangerous, deserving contender like Moraes at the ready.Good Times, Great Times and Almost Bad TimesSeeing Demian Maia snap his three-fight losing skid by doing what he does was a nice little moment in the middle of Saturday’s main card, except if you were Lyman Good.The quiet professional dove on a single leg, attached himself to Good and stayed connected to him for the rest of the fight, climbing his way onto the New Yorker’s back, coiling around him like a snake and eventually squeezing out a rear-naked choke victory eight ticks beyond the midway point of the opening round. It was vintage Maia and a reminder that despite his age (41) and recent struggles, he’s still a dangerous threat in the welterweight division.The same goes for Charles Oliveira, the once mercurial Brazilian who seems to have finally harnessed the potential that made him such an intriguing prospect when he arrived in the UFC nine years ago.While there were still some awkward moments — a couple eye pokes, a time out call, getting dropped while calling his opponent in — the 29-year-old wrapped up his fourth straight victory, fifth win in six starts since returning to lightweight and added to his record for the most submission wins in UFC history.Watching Jose Aldo walk to the cage to a raucous ovation and then roast Renato Moicano before racing out of the cage and celebrating in the crowd was tremendous. “The King of Rio” stung his countryman and then went in for the kill, handing Moicano the second loss of his career while authoring the kind of performance that harkened back to his lengthy reign atop the featherweight division.While the Johnny Walker’s 15-second stoppage victory over Justin Ledet — and the breakdancing routine that followed — had everyone buzzing about the Brazilian light heavyweight’s potential, his efforts were almost for naught.In the midst of the finishing sequence, which started with a hook kick and a spinning back fist, Walker tried to punt Ledet’s head into the seventh row at Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste and had he connected, the 26-year-old’s brilliant sophomore effort would have resulted in a disqualification loss.Thankfully he missed and was forced to finish the former heavyweight the old fashion way — by punching him in the head two or three times while he was face-down on the canvas.Let’s Talk About That PacingSaturday’s 13-fight card kicked off at 2 p.m. PT and wrapped just before 8 p.m. on the West Coast.Thanks to a combination of streaming, stoppages and staying away from “throwing it back to the studio,” the first full broadcast on ESPN+ took less than six hours and earned rave reviews from the fight-watching public.It was glorious and refreshing change from years upon years of events dragging out into the early morning hours on the East Coast and making it impossible to do anything else on a Saturday evening if you’re in the Pacific time zone.While it’s highly unlikely that every card is going to be helped along by eight stoppages — four in the first round the key change that should be a permanent fixture of all streaming cards in the future is the mid-afternoon start time.Because these events aren’t beholden to time slots, the UFC and ESPN can start them several hours earlier than pay-per-view events or the quartet of fight cards scheduled to air on “The World Wide Leader” and they absolutely should.There are going to be weekends where the old pacing returns and the main event won’t hit the cage until after midnight on the East Coast, but for everything else, the UFC should be following the same script as Saturday night and getting things underway early.Sitting through a seven-hour event once a month isn’t the end of the world when the others hum along nicely and end at a reasonable hour.Fight of the Weekend: Marlon Moraes vs. Raphael Assuncao at UFC FortalezaIf there is a way to take everything about this fight, bottle it up, synthesize it and then shake it out over all future crucial matchups, the UFC should really consider doing so because this bout was a collection of everything you want in a clash between top contenders.People were buzzing about this fight from the time it was announced and it took on even greater significance and more intrigue after Cejudo wiped out Dillashaw a couple weeks back in Brooklyn. There was no trash talk, no pushing and shoving at weigh-ins or anything like that — just two professionals desperate to finally secure a shot at the title, even though both knew a victory didn’t guarantee them anything.Though it wasn’t as tense as the opening moments of the heavyweight title clash between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou last January in Boston, there was an “edge of your seat” feeling to this one as you waited to see who would pull the trigger first and how things would shake out.And then Moraes connected, followed up and finished, avenging his only loss in the last seven years, cementing himself as the top contender in the bantamweight division and closing out the show by telling Dillashaw that he wasn’t sure the champion deserved to share the cage with him after his poor showing against Cejudo.From start to finish, this one was damn near perfect.Submission of the Weekend: Markus Perez submits Anthony Hernandez (anaconda choke) at UFC FortalezaI owe Perez an apology.After he stung Hernandez with a kick to the body right out of the chute to start the second and looked to grapple, I tweeted the following: “I hurt him to the body. Now is the time to wrestle!”#UFCFortaleza— E. Spencer Kyte (@spencerkyte) February 3, 2019  Not long after, “Maluko” locked up a slick anaconda choke to secure the second UFC victory of his career.This was the most balanced performance Perez has had in his four UFC starts. While he’s always going to be a little reckless and a tad bit cocky, he wasn’t throwing far too many spinning attack like he did against Andrew Sanchez and he showed better defensive awareness whenever “Fluffy” came forward.If he continues to stay within himself and play to his strengths, the former LFA champ could emerge as an entertaining action fighter in the middle of the middleweight division.Knockout of the Weekend: Johnny Walker knocks out Justin Ledet at UFC FortalezaWhile it was real close to being a great performance turned sour, Walker’s performance on Saturday night is the obvious choice here because how often do you see a six-foot-five light heavyweight throw a hook kick, yet alone follow it up with a spinning back fist that lands flush?Walker is a living, breathing, dancing, fighting electrical current who competes with a scary calmness and menacing intent and so far, it has resulted in a pair of jaw-dropping stoppages and all the seats on the Johnny Walker bandwagon getting grabbed up in a hurry.Eventually he’ll get thrown in there with someone who is going to push him and not get put to sleep in the first exchange, but for now, Walker has been a welcomed blast of energy in a division that always needs new blood and quickly established himself as everyone’s new favorite fighter. Prospect to Watch after this Weekend: Kyler PhillipsA member of the team at The MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, Phillips was part of the cast on Season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter, having been selected second overall by Stipe Miocic. Unfortunately for the talented youngster, he got matched up with Brad Katona in the opening round, lost and wasn’t invited back for the finale.last_img