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April 17, 2021 | Posted by Robert Winfree
UFC on ESPN 22 Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

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MAIN CARD (ESPN, ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
#1 Robert Whittaker (185.5 lbs.) vs. #8 Kelvin Gastelum (185 lbs.)
Drakkar Klose (156 lbs.) vs. Jeremy Stephens (156 lbs.)
Andrei Arlovski (250.5 lbs.) vs. Chase Sherman (251 lbs.)
Abdul Razak Alhassan (185.5 lbs.) vs. Jacob Malkoun (185.5 lbs.)
Tracy Cortez (126.5 lbs.)* vs. Justine Kish (125.5 lbs.)
Alexander Munoz (155.5 lbs.) vs. Luis Pena (155 lbs.)

PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN, ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
Juan Espino (257 lbs.) vs. Alexandr Romanov (264 lbs.)
Lupita Godinez (116 lbs.) vs. Jessica Penne (116 lbs.)
Bartosz Fabinski (184.5 lbs.) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (185.5 lbs.)
Austin Hubbard (156 lbs.) vs. Dakota Bush (155.5 lbs.)
Anthony Birchak (135.5 lbs.) vs. Tony Gravely (135.5 lbs.)


Hello everyone and welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of UFC on ESPN 22. I’m Robert Winfree and I’ll be your host, relaying all of the action to you just as I see it. Tonight the UFC brings a fairly obviously filler card, but the main event is a very relevant middleweight fight. Former champion Robert Whittaker will be trying to lay claim to a rematch for the belt he used to hold if he can best Kelvin Gastelum. These two were supposed to meet for the title a few years ago but that was postponed due to a Whittaker medical emergency. Beyond that the pickings are a little slim, but not totally absent. Drakkar Klose welcomes Jeremy Stephens back to lightweight, Andrei Arlovski will step in on short notice against Chase Sherman, and on the prelims Austin Hubbard is fighting and he’s usually good for a scrap. Oh, to say nothing of heavyweight submission specialists Juan Espino and Alexandr Romanov squaring off. So let’s all hope for a good event.

UFC on ESPN 22 comes to the world from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. On commentary we have Brendan Fitzgerald, Michael Bisping, and Dominick Cruz. As for the rules Nevada uses most of the new ones, except for the downed fighter definition so you only need one hand on the mat to be considered downed. There’s also the use of instant replay whenever the in cage ref or the replay official wants it, and the fight can be restarted after replay’s use if that’s applicable. Also keep in mind the smaller 25 foot diameter cage for these events.

We open with news that Jeremy Stephens vs. Drakkar Klose being called off due to a Klose injury issue. Well that stinks.

Tony Gravely has gone 1-1 in the UFC but is coming off of that win and is now looking to build his first UFC winning streak. Anthony Birchak started his second UFC stint off last year with a loss, he’s trying to bounce back with a win here which would be his first win in the promotion since 2016. Gravely is a surprisingly heavy favorite at -360 while the +280 comeback on Birchak might be a tempting value bet.

Bantamweight Bout: Anthony Birchak (15-7, 135.5 lbs.) vs. Tony Gravely (20-6, 135.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Birchak is three inches taller but the reach is identical. They touch gloves to get us going. Gravely probing with some kicks early. Both men looking to get after it early but not quite finding much just yet. Birchak lands a couple of calf kicks. A right from Gravely seems to stagger Birchak and they clinch up. Lateral drop from Gravely and he jumps to the back while Birchak is trying to get his feet under him. Some punches from Gravely but Birchak is up though still clinched up. They get free and Gravely drops Birchak with a right and jumps on top of him on the mat but Birchak hits a sweep and gets on top in half guard. Left elbows from Birchak, then he jumps for an arm in guillotine as Gravely sat up for a takedown. Gravely gets free of the choke and lands an elbow. Left from Gravely, then rights as Birchak tries to wall walk. Those are some heavy rights from Gravely, he’s got Birchak in trouble landing them. Birchak fights back up but is still clinched from the back. Birchak is fishing for a double wrist lock to break the grip but gets hit with a mat return and Gravely lands punches then mat returns him a second time as Birchak fights up. Gravely is kind of having his way with things from the ride position along the fence, Birchak fights up and avoids a single leg to separate. Both men swing, and Gravely lands a right hook just as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Gravely

ROUND TWO: Gravely lands a kick to start the round, then punches into a clinch. Both men trade, Birchak lands a good elbow but Gravely drops to his hips and gets him down to his knees. Birchak back up but gets taken down into half guard. Gravely’s offense is relentless, he lands rights as Birchak stands. This time Birchak is able to separate and lands a calf kick. Left hook from Gravely sits Birchak down, a few blows on the mat then prompt the stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Tony Gravely via TKO, punches, at 1:31 of Round 2

Fun little scrap. Mic time for Gravely, he wanted to get back to finishing things after what he felt was a boring outing his last fight. He talks us through the finish, noting predicted the second round TKO. Asked about the calf kicks, he says he didn’t feel them in the moment then thanks his coaches and training partners for all of their work.

Gravely shows a hint of southpaw, moves back to orthodox then times this left hook incredibly well. He gets Birchak square on the jaw, no wind up on the punch, and as Birchak was on one leg throwing an ill advised kick.

Austin Hubbard has traded wins and losses while going 2-3 in the UFC, he’s hoping that pattern will hold long enough for him to rebound from his most recent loss and avoid his first ever losing streak. Dakota Bush took this fight on about a weeks notice but brings a two fight winning streak and a chance to make a good first impression on UFC fans. Hubbard is the -190 favorite to +160 on Bush.

Lightweight Bout: Austin Hubbard (12-5, 156 lbs.) vs. Dakota Bush (8-2, 155.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Bush has two inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Bush lands a jab. Some leg kicks are traded, bit of a right from Bush. Hubbard ducks under a spinning back fist, but Bush is getting the better of things early. They trade calf kicks, then Bush misses a couple of rights. Bush with a right. Body kick from Bush, Hubbard responds with a couple of punches. Hubbard lands a leg kick and a left hook. Again they exchange calf kicks, Bush might have gone a little too hard early and is trying to find his rhythm. On a clash there’s an eye poke to Bush so we’ve got some time. Replay confirms the poke as the doctor comes in to check on Bush. Bush is good to continue and about a minute after the foul we’re back to fighting. Both men miss punches on the restart. Hubbard with an inside leg kick then a left hand. Front kick to the body from Hubbard, then a leg kick. Bush misses an overhand right but he’s still got plenty of heat on his blows. Hubbard lands a calf kick. Bit of a knee from Hubbard, then a knee tap takedown as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Bush but the momentum is with Hubbard

ROUND TWO: Bush opens the second round with a right hand. Hubbard lands a calf kick then a right. Bush wants a takedown, they hit the fence and start fighting for position. Hubbard defends well, then lands a left hook on the break. A lot of forward pressure from Hubbard this round, he’s getting to Bush more regularly now. Hubbard lands a leg kick, then defends a takedown and gets Bush down against the fence. Bush is sitting against the fence, Hubbard mounts the legs and flattens him out. Half guard for Bush but Hubbard lands a few short elbows. Bush is trying to set up a wall walk but Hubbard is keeping him on the mat and lands a right hand. Eventually Bush gets full guard but he’s still taking blows from Hubbard. Hubbard with an elbow and moves to half guard. Bush gets full guard back, this time Hubbard passes more conventionally. Bush almost gets up but Hubbard pushes him over from his knees and gets on top in full mount. Hubbard gets high on the mount, lands an elbow and gets the back looking for a choke as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hubbard, might be a 10-8, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Hubbard back to forward pressure, lands a front kick to the body. Bush tries a spinning back kick aimed high but it’s blocked. They trade jabs, then Hubbard lands a left to the body. In close they swing wide and wild, then Bush looks for a double leg against the fence. Bush slips around to the back and drags things down but Hubbard spins into him and gets on top in half guard. Hubbard is working inside wrist control and lands punches then passes to full mount. Hubbard with some body shots then an elbow. Bush bucks and spins, he gets on top in full guard but Hubbard has a triangle attempt. That choke isn’t that close to being in, and Bush pulls free then gets on top as Hubbard is on his knees but Hubbard spins into him and starts punching the body before getting a takedown against the fence. Half guard for Hubbard, he works elbows to the body and head. Hubbard gets the back in transition, then transitions to full mount and lands a few blows as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hubbard, 29-28 Hubbard overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Austin Hubbard via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

Decent fight, Hubbard ground things out and kept pulling further away the longer the fight went. Mic time for Hubbard, he puts over Bush as tough and says he’s just happy to get the win. He mentions being here to fight as hard as he could and put on a show, but he did want to prove he’s a complete fighter and can grapple if necessary.

Bartosz Fabinski has gone 3-2 in the UFC but has dropped his last two UFC bouts with a Cage Warriors fight against Darren Stewart sandwiched between them, he’s hoping to break this particular skid and get back on the winning side of things. Gerald Meerschaert has gone 2-5 in his last seven fights and most recently KO’d in just 17 seconds by Khamzat Chimaev to put him on a two fight skid, he’s trying to snap this losing streak while avoiding his first three fight losing streak. The odds closed at a pick ’em of -120 for Fabinski and +100 for Meerschaert. I’m not used to seeing pick ’em as a designation for anything other than even odds but alright, I’m no expert on gambling.

Middleweight Bout: Bartosz Fabinski (15-4, 184.5 lbs.) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (31-14, 185.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Meerschaert is an inch taller and has two and a half inches of reach advantage. A left from Meerschaert opens things. Fabiniski pushes forward, both men land punches and they clinch up. They start fighting for position in the clinch, Fabinski with some knees and punches. Meerschaert sneaks in a few body shots. Fabinski spins free, hits a double leg but Meerschaert grabs a guillotine and they roll around a bit and Meerschaert eventually puts Fabinski to sleep.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Gerald Meerschaert via Technical Submission, guillotine choke, at 2:00 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Meerschaert for his work this evening. Mic time for Meerschaert, he references losing his last two fights but the win felt good. He says he expected the takedown from Fabinski and knew he could find that kind of choke. Asked what the rest of the year is looking like, he says his wife is due to give birth any day now so he’s got to learn how to be a dad and hopes to fight again at least once before the end of the year.

Some really nice adjustments along the way from Meerschaert here, the fence is also key as Fabinski can’t pass to the safe side because the fence blocks him off.

Lupita Godinez is undefeated coming into her UFC debut, she’s getting a somewhat notable name and will be trying to make a good first impression. Jessica Penne is on a three fight losing streak and hasn’t fought since April of 2017, she could very easily be fighting for her spot on the roster with this bout. Godinez is your favorite at -280 to a +230 payout on Penne.

Strawweight Bout: Lupita Godinez (5-0, 116 lbs.) vs. Jessica Penne (12-5, 116 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Penne is three inches taller and has a whopping six inches of reach advantage. Penne showing the jab early, both women just kind of circling and looking for an angle. Godinez lands a right in close. Right then a left hook from Godinez, she’s got a decent hook game in close. Penne lands a jab and a front kick before they clinch up. Godinez tries the head and arm throw, Penne threatens to take her back and she wisely bails on that attempt. A second attempt gets a throw but neither woman wants to be on the mat apparently as they just get up and reset. Penne punches into a clinch and lands some knees to the body. Godinez avoids a throw, then punches Penne as she regains her feet. Body kick from Penne, Godinez is letting Penne dictate the fight and it’s going poorly for her. Bit of a right from Godinez. Penne lands a body kick but gets tossed down, though again Godinez declines to follow her to the mat. Godinez lands a right, but tries to transition that head and arm throw and gives up the back. Penne has full back mount, Godinez stands but Penne is in the backpack position. Body triangle now for Penne, she’s hunting for the choke but Godinez is defending so far. They’ll end the round as Penne gets a leg sweep and forces things to the mat again.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Penne

ROUND TWO: Godinez punches into a clinch early, but again Penne jumps for the back, she can’t get it though and winds up just fighting in the clinch. They separate again and start circling. Penne kicks and gets a clinch then spins to the back and looks to drag things down again. Penne is looking for a broomstick/ cheese donkey trip from the back. Godinez tries for a Z-bar without any control, that fully gives up the back and Penne gets a body triangle standing. Penne loses that position as they spin and they wind up clinched again. Godinez pulls free and resets at distance. There’s some blood come from the nose of both women. Both women land jabs, Godinez trips Penne but wont follow her to the mat. Bit of a right from Penne, Godinez lands a couple of punches. Left hook from Godinez but Penne is still coming forward. They wind up clinched again, Penne with a trip but neither gets a secure position and they scramble until Godinez lands in north-south. Penne slips for a leg lock, Godinez gets free and comes up but gets caught on the fence again as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Penne, 20-18 Penne overall

ROUND THREE: They touch gloves for the final round. Penne jabbing and coming forward again, she walks into a Godinez jab. Penne forces a clinch and they hit the fence again. They fight for position in the clinch again. Eventually they break without incident. Godinez jabs the body and lands a right. Penne gets another clinch. There’s a flying triangle attempt from Penne, Godinez tosses her off and separates. Bit of a right from Godinez, then she avoids a takedown attempt. Penne lands a right, then forces a clinch. They fight in the clinch, then break without incident. Another clinch, another flying triangle attempt from Penne. This one gets closer but they’re still standing on the attempt. Penne bails on the choke, they then kill the final seconds in the clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Godinez, 29-28 Penne overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Jessica Penne via split decision (28-29, 29-28 x2)

There’s a real argument for Godinez in the first, so no issues with the split. Penne gets an interview, she doesn’t really have words for this moment before thanking her coaches and team mates for their help during the last few years. She thought she won the decision but you can never feel confident, she’s jut happy to have won and be back fighting. To close she thanks her manager for all of his work and support.

Alexandr Romanov is undefeated including two wins in the UFC, all of his wins have come via some form of stoppage and if he can extend that streak here he could start making his way from prospect towards legitimate contender. Juan Espino is on an eight fight winning streak with two of those coming in the UFC, he’s likewise hoping to separate himself from a pack of prospects at heavyweight and start moving up through the ranks. The odds are close for this one but ultimately lean towards Romanov at -140 while an Espino win pays out at +120.

Heavyweight Bout: Juan Espino (10-1, 257 lbs.) vs. Alexandr Romanov (13-0, 264 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Espino is an inch taller and has a notable five inches of reach advantage over Romanov. Southpaw for Romanov as we start. Both men probing and circling early. Espino lands an inside leg kick. They clinch up, Romanov gets a body lock takedown into half guard. Espino wall walks but Romanov forces him back to a knee with a body lock. Espino wall walks again, this time all the way up and they clinch up. A few knees from Romanov. They push free, then Romanov lands a left and clinches up again. Outside trip from Espino and he lands in side control. Bit of a body shot from Espino while they’re fighting for hand position. Full mount for Espino, Romanov starts fishing for an Ezekiel choke but he’s not even close to getting the arm across the neck. Romanov does use that to scramble and they’re back up with Espino on the back working mat returns. They wind up chest to chest again. Romanov misses a spinning back fist on the break, and Espino lands a counter right as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Espino

ROUND TWO: Romanov misses a few lefts as the round starts, he’s looking a little fatigued. Espino lands an inside leg kick then punches into a clinch and lands a left hook on the break. Both men land punches in close, Romanov forces a clinch and drives Espino the fence. Espino lands a knee, tries to pull a guillotine but loses the grip and Romanov winds up on top in full guard. Bit of an elbow from Romaov, Espino seems content to play guard. Romanov postures up and swings hammer fists that are mostly blocked. Espino rolls to his knees and looks to wall walk with Romanov on his back. Some knees to the thigh from Romanov. Espino fishes for a leg, uses that to come up and drives Romanov into the fence. They’re both pretty gassed at this point. The round ends just as they break a clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Romanov, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Both men are extremely tired. Espino lands a right. They clinch up and Espino gets a takedown, but Romanov is back up though still clinched. Another takedown for Espino, and another wall walk from Romanov. With both men this tired whoever gets on top is going to win. There’s a knee from Espino that strays into the groin of Romanov and we’ve got a time out. The replay confirms the blows was illegal, Romanov looks like he’ll be taking his sweet time. The doctor is in to check on Romanov, he’s still flat on his back two and a half minutes into his penalty period. Romanov has started asking what will happen if he can’t continue. Ultimately Romanov can’t continue, he says he can’t straighten out his legs to stand. We’ll get a technical decision out of this, so score the round as much as it happened then get the results.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Espino, 29-28 Espino overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Alexandr Romanov via Technical Split Decision (28-29, 29-28 x2) at 1:05 of Round 3

I don’t agree with that at all, not sure how Romanov got the first and there’s no reason to give him the third. No interview for Romanov.

Luis Pena has gone 4-3 in the UFC and is coming off of a loss, while he’s shown some bright spots during his time with the UFC he needs to find some consistency and avoid his first ever losing streak in this fight. Alex Munoz suffered his first professional loss in his UFC debut when he lost a decision to Nasrat Haqparast, now he’s trying to bounce back and show more of his skill set along with securing his first win in the Octagon. The odds are with Pena at -155 to +130 on Munoz.

Lightweight Bout: Alexander Munoz (6-1, 155.5 lbs.) vs. Luis Pena (8-3, 155 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Pena is six inches taller with a three inch reach advantage. Southpaw for both men. Munoz falls short on a few punches and starts showing some stance switches. Right to the body from Munoz. Pena lands a jab. Calf kick from Pena but Munoz gets a takedown off of it into butterfly guard. Munoz moves to half guard, but can’t keep Pena down who stands up and they’re start fighting in the clinch. Munoz is on the back of Pena with his waist lock, Pena is able to spin into him. A few punches from Munoz then Pena slips free. Bit of a left from Munoz then a calf kick. Munoz lands a left. Another calf kick from Munoz, those are adding up quickly. More calf kicks from Munoz as he circles. Bit of a knee from Pena, Munoz gets a clinch and drives things into the fence. They break without incident. Pena lands a left. Bit of a left then then right from Munoz. They get close and both men swing and land blows. Munoz wobbles Pena a bit with a right hook. Pena avoids a few hooks. Pena slips away from a left as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Munoz

ROUND TWO: Pena jabbing as the round gets going. Munoz lands a calf kick. Left from Pena stings Munoz but he doesn’t follow up. Munoz is jabbing the body now, and still trying to kick at the leg. Pena barely misses a knee, then eats a calf kick. A right hook from Munoz lands flush, they clinch briefly then Munoz hits a double leg. Pena spins to his knees and starts looking for a reversal but Munoz slips to his back and they fight into the fence standing. Bit of a knee to the body from Pena as they break. Pena lands a stiff jab to counter a calf kick. Both men landing jabs now. Munoz lands another calf kick. Pena lands a jab. Bit of a lunging hook from Munoz and he avoids a head kick. Pena slips punches and lands a one two. A left from Munoz closes the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Munoz but could go either way, 20-18 Munoz overall

ROUND THREE: Pena stalking forward as the round begins. Munoz lands a right to the body. They trade calf kicks. Pena lands another calf kick. Munoz with a one two. Pena lands a hard right jab. Another leg kick from Munoz, Pena with a jumping knee that mostly lands. Munoz is trying to punch in close but Pena is slipping most of his offense at this point. Both men land a few jabs, Pena then with a body kick and right hook. Munoz lands a calf kick. Takedown from Munoz and he gets the back as Pena fights up. There’s nothing in the clinch for Munoz and he separates then lands a calf kick. Both men land punches in close. Pena lands a knee to the body, Munoz gets a clinch off of it though. Pena quickly pushes free and lands a left uppercut. A few more punches from Pena, he’s teeing off now. Clubbing right from Munoz and he clinches up. They hit the fence in the clinch, Pena with some knees then separates. Munoz lands a couple of punches now. Jabs from Pena while circling. Munoz lands a left overhand, that’ll be the last blow that lands of the fight.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Pena, 29-28 Munoz overall but this hinges on the second round scoring

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Luis Pena via split decision (28-29, 29-28 x2)

I don’t agree but like I said, the second was the swing round and could have gone either way. Mic time for Pena, who says he was pretty confident he’d get the decision and didn’t feel Munoz ever did a whole lot of damage to him. He says he was never hurt, then says Munoz came out differently than anticipated which threw him off a bit combined with a 10 month layoff so he got off to a slower start than he wanted.

Tracy Cortez is on an eight fight winning streak including two wins in the UFC, unfortunately she missed weight for this bout and needs a win to help smooth over that gaff. Justine Kish has gone 3-3 in the UFC, she’s coming off of a loss and is trying to bring her UFC record above the .500 mark. Cortez is a significant favorite at -330 to a +260 comeback on Kish.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Tracy Cortez (8-1, 126.5 lbs.) vs. Justine Kish (7-3, 125.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Cortez has an inch and a half of reach advantage. Cortez pressing forward early, Kish circling. Inside leg kick from Kish, bit of a left hook from Cortez. They punch in close, both women land before they clinch up and hit the fence. Kish is after a takedown but Cortez remains upright. Cortez gets a body lock and lands a knee. Inside trip from Cortez and gets the takedown into full guard. Some hard hammer fists from Cortez. More hammer fists from Cortez, Kish is fishing for an armbar but can’t get proper control or hip position. Elbow from Cortez. Cortez is really good about finding places to land blows while Kish seems too complacent working her guard. Cortez passes, nearly gets a mounted crucifix but Kish gets to her knees so Cortez spins to the ride position. They scramble a bit, Cortez is nearly on the back, yeah there it goes and she’s got both hooks in. Kish has good arm control on one arm so she’s not really in danger, but Cortez does get a body triangle. Some punches from Cortez close out the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Cortez

ROUND TWO: Both women come out punching again. Kish lands a right, Cortez returns it. They keep trading, neither woman is light on her feet. Cortez forces a clinch and they hit the fence. Knees from Cortez, then she hits a duck behind and drags Kish to the mat with full back mount. Body triangle for Cortez and she starts landing some rights. They scramble back up, Kish on the back now and lands punches then slips free. Cortez lands a right. Kish lands a leg kick. Both women land rights. Bit of a body kick from Cortez. Cortez lands a left hook after taking a body shot. Kish lands a right. Another right from Kish in close, she’s got the slightly cleaner technique. Kish lands a couple of body kicks. Cortez lands a body kick in return. Cortez lands a left hook. Decent right from Cortez to counter a leg kick. Kish misses a spinning back fist, but lands a couple of leg kicks to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Cortez but could go to Kish, 20-18 Cortez overall

ROUND THREE: They come out and resume doing the clashing with punches bit. Cortez lands a left hook. Kish lands a right. Front kick from Cortez, and Kish replies with a few punches. Cortez forces a clinch and gets an inside trip into full mount. Kish tries to get her guard in play, Cortez slips to the ride position and hammers some rights home. Kish comes up on her knees, Cortez grabs a standing guillotine and drives her into the fence with it before Kish gets free. Cortez lands a body kick. They trade body kicks at distance. Kish lands a right to counter a body kick that off balances Cortez and then she lands a follow up in close. Cortez lands a right of her own. Bit of an uppercut from Cortez. Another body kick from Cortez. They clinch up, but no takedown this time and they break. Kish is coming on strong with a few seconds left. Another right from Kish to counter a body kick, then they miss hooks as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kish, 29-28 Cortez overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Tracy Cortez via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)

That 30-27 seems wrong, Cortez shouldn’t have gotten the last round after getting cracked and dropped especially when Cortez did nothing comparable. Mic time for Cortez, she feels good about her performance and wanted to fight her fight rather than Kish’s. She downplays the knockdown as more of a slip in the third.

Abdul Razak Alhassan has gone 4-3 in the UFC but finds himself on a two fight losing streak and up a weight class after missing the mark at welterweight in both of his last fights. Hopefully with a new lease on life in a new weight class Alhassan is hoping to put a disastrous 2020 behind him and remind everyone that he’s a prospect to take seriously. Jacob Malkoun had his first professional loss in his UFC debut last year, he’s trying to rebound from that defeat and notch that all important first UFC win. Alhassan is a heavy favorite at -300 to a +240 comeback on Malkoun.

Middleweight Bout: Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3, 185.5 lbs.) vs. Jacob Malkoun (4-1, 185.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Alhassan is an inch taller, the reach is even, and Alhassan is a full decade older. They touch gloves to get us going. Malkoun gets a quick single leg and spins Alhaasn down. Alhassan looks to wall walk, Malkoun grabs a front headlock and looks to control him on his knees. Punches from Malkoun, Alhassan back up and lands elbows to the head of Malkoun while they’re clinched. They break without incident. Alhassan avoids a takedown attempt and lands a left hook. Malkoun ducks under a hook, tries another single leg that hits the fence. Malkoun gets a brief takedown, then gets the back and spins Alhassan down but Alhassan wall walks right away. Mat return attempts from Malkoun, he’s content to try and wear down Alhassan with wrestling. Alhassan gets chest to chest but is tripped down into half guard. Malkoun goes to work from the ride position, Alhassan fights to his knees but can’t get up. A few lefts land for Malkoun, he’s not attacking the posting arm though and Alhassan wall walks but gets taken down again. Back up but still clinched. Malkoun keeps getting outside trips and lands in half guard. Alhassan keeps scooting to the fence, Malkoun lands a left as Alhassan stands and gets free. Alhassan goes southpaw now. A few body kicks from Alhassan but he’s flat on his feet. Malkoun avoids a head kick, and they stare away the final seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Malkoun

ROUND TWO: Malkoun lands a jab, Alhassan is orthodox to start this round. Alhassan lands a leg kick, and then gets taken down via a single leg. Malkoun avoids a guillotine attempt and settles into half guard. Some short elbows and punches from Alhassan. Alhassan tries to scramble, gives up a guillotine and Malkoun uses that to move to side control. Short elbows from Malkoun prompt a bad scramble and he grabs a guillotine again and again uses that to roll and retain side control. Knees to the body and short elbows from Malkoun, he’s not doing a ton of damage but he’s thoroughly controlling every aspect of the fight. Alhassan bridges to his knees, Malkoun grabs an anaconda choke and uses that to get side control yet again and land elbows and punches. Every time Alhassan gets to his knees Malkoun uses some kind of front headlock attack to sweep him back down and get a dominant position. Alhassan finally fights to his feet but Malkoun punches into a single leg attempt and they hit the fence. They break without incident. Alhassan goes southpaw again, Malkoun eats a body kick and lands a one two. Malkoun with a right hand and he’s pushing Alhassan to the fence. They clinch up and Malkoun knees the body. They’ll kill the last ten seconds in the clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Malkoun, 20-17 Malkoun overall

ROUND THREE: Malkoun punches going forward, both men land and then they hit the fence. They break and then Malkoun gets a single leg into half guard. Malkoun is trying to set up an arm triangle. Alhassan hip bumps to his knees, Malkoun can’t keep him down and they separate. Malkoun avoids a head kick and lands a right. They clinch up again and hit the fence. A knee from Alhassan lands as they break the clinch. Malkoun lands a left hook and clinches up again. Malkoun slips around to the back standing and works knees to the head before they break. Another single leg attempt from Malkoun hits the fence, and he switches to the other leg then gets Alhassan down into full guard. Some body to head blows from Malkoun. Alhassan scoots to the fence and wall walks but Malkoun is on his back. They separate with less than ten seconds. Alhassan wont find his miracle blow before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Malkoun, 30-26 Malkoun overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Jacob Malkoun via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Once Alhassan couldn’t stop the takedown he was screwed. Not terribly exciting but Malkoun ground out a needed win. Mic time for Malkoun, he says coming back from the knockout in his last fight was hard but his coaches helped him. He says he worked hard on his wrestling for this fight, and just in general.

Oh, great, we’ve got a recorded remote interview with Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega about being the upcoming TUF coaches. Volkanovski toes the company line by saying they’ll have fun, Ortega says he was a teacher before he was a fighter and will show the world a different side of himself. Volkanovski is looking forward to sharing his knowledge with up and coming fighters, and notes he’s a competitive person and wants to win all the way. Ortega good naturedly disagrees with him. Bisping brings up how long TUF has been off the air, Ortega says he and Volkanovski are good choices because they’re respectful but competitive and viewers are going to love it. Both men acknowledge they’ll probably annoy each other, but feels it’s fun and good for their fight eventually. Ortega tells Volkanovski to get used to seeing his face for months, Volkanovski says at least it’s a good looking face. They disagree over who’s the better coach. Ortega reiterates he’s eager to show everyone a different side of himself. They reveal the cast of fighters, no one really stands out either good or bad after a quick look over them.

Andrei Arlovski is a legend and former UFC heavyweight champion with a frankly absurd level of longevity in a sport where the older generations are routinely devoured by the rising class of fighters. Arlovski dropped his last fight and is hoping to avoid another losing streak while pushing back the inevitable talk of retirement that’s dogged him for a few years at this point. Chase Sherman is riding a four fight winning streak including a win his last fight when he returned to the UFC, now he’s got a chance to take out the biggest name he’s faced in the former champion Arlovski. The odds closed at a pick ’em, -115 for Arlovski to -105 for Sherman.

Heavyweight Bout: Andrei Arlovski (30-20 2 NC, 250.5 lbs.) vs. Chase Sherman (15-6, 251 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Sherman has an inch of height and reach, plus he’s 11 years younger than Arlovski. They touch gloves to get us going. Sherman showing the jab early, both men feinting a bit. Some quick hands from Sherman, he lands a few punches. Sherman lands a calf kick. They trade punches in close, both men landed. Arlovski keeps landing a right to the body. Sherman is pushing Arlovski back towards the fence. Sherman lands a left hook. Calf kick from Arlovski, he’s doing some stance switching now as well. They clinch up, then break without incident. Bit of a jab from Arlovski. Sherman lands a right to the body. Bit of a one two from Sherman. Leg kick from Sherman. Arlovski falls short on a few punches. Both men land rights in close. Combination from Sherman lands, he’s got Arlovski hurt and looks to tee off. Arlovski clinches up then breaks without any real incident. They trade one twos to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Sherman

ROUND TWO: They come out and swing early. Jab from Arlovski. Arlovski seems to be finding the target more this round. Sherman lands a leg kick. Body kick from Sherman. They trade jabs a bit, then there’s a glancing left hook from Sherman. Arlovski lands a right to the body. Arlovski lands a right to the head. They keep splitting jabs, but Arlovski is doubling up on them. Bit of a left hook from Sherman. Sherman lands a calf kick. Another right from Arlovski, they’re just kind of taking turns throwing punches now. Short elbow from Sherman as he avoids a clinch. Body shot from Sherman, Arlovski lands a leg kick. They clinch up and hit the fence. An elbow from Arlovski lands as they break the clinch. Arlovski lands a right to the body then a calf kick. Arlovski with a jab and calf kick to close out the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Arlovski, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Arlovski back to the leg kick as the round starts. Sherman with a bit of a left. Sherman lands a leg kick. They trade punches but no one is landing clean. Bit of a left from Sherman. They trade in close, and a knee from Sherman winds up with his foot going into the groin of Arlovski so we’ve got a time out. Arlovski takes about 50 seconds then we’re back and they trade lefts. Sherman coming forward, runs into a right but he’s upping the volume. They trade calf kicks. Right then a left from Sherman. Arlovski lands a glancing left. A hard left lands for Sherman, then he lands a calf kick but eats a counter right. Bit of a right from Arlovski. Both men land in close. They trade rights again. An exchange of lefts, Sherman is still coming forward but he’s not really cutting Arlovski off. Arlovski lands a right then a left to the body. Sherman lands a right to the body. Arlovski circles away the final seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Arlovski but could go either way, 29-28 Arlovski overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

I don’t really have anything good to say about that one, apart from wanting to note how good Arlovski is at grinding a fight down to a pace that favors him and how poor most of the division is at combating that. Arlovski gets an interview, he says he wanted to rebound from losing to Aspinall and got to do so here on short notice. Asked how much longer he’ll be fighting, he says his future is with Dana and Mick but would like a few more years fighting.

Robert Whittaker is a former UFC middleweight champion and in fact has only lost once in the weight class, when Israel Adesanya knocked him out and took his title. Since losing the belt Whittaker has bested Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, if he’s able to add Gastelum to that list he’ll be all but impossible to deny a rematch with Adesanya. Kelvin Gastelum just broke a three fight losing streak when he bested Ian Heinisch, he’s looking to take out the former champion and possibly stake his own claim to a rematch with Adesanya for the belt. The odds are with Whittaker at -260 to a +210 payout on Gastelum.

Middleweight Bout: #1 Robert Whittaker (22-5, 185.5 lbs.) vs. #8 Kelvin Gastelum (16-6 1 NC, 185 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Whittaker is three inches taller and has two inches of reach advantage. Gastelum fighting southpaw per usual for him. Both men come out feinting. Whittaker lands a right. Gastelum lands an inside leg kick. Whittaker lands a left hook as Gastelum was coming forward. Another left hook from Whittaker. They trade rights, Gastelum is the one coming forward but Whittaker seems comfortable punching off of his back foot. Head kick from Whittaker staggers Gastelum, he follows up with a left hook but Gastelum stays upright. Head kick then a left hook from Whittaker, he’s landing very well. Gastelum lands a left in close, but Whittaker gets a body lock takedown into side control. Gastelum gets half guard rather quickly. Whittaker lands a few punches and retains half guard. Elbow from Whittaker, he’s keeping Gastelum pretty flat and pinned. Whittaker is staying busy enough on top, Gastelum is kind of stuck here in open space. Hard left from Whittaker as Gastelum finally explodes up. A Whittaker front kick will be the last landed blow of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Whittaker but a marginal one

ROUND TWO: Whittaker lands a leg kick. Gastelum swings and misses, he’s not got a feel for the range yet. Whittaker avoids a single leg and lands a right hook. Jabs from Whittaker, then a left hook. Gastelum is swinging his left but Whittaker is blocking it easily. Another clinch, another body lock takedown from Whittaker. Whittaker to the back and lands punches as Gastelum gets up and they break. More jabs from Whittaker. Bit of a high kick from Whittaker, then a straight right. Whittaker avoids a punch, Gastelum’s right eye is getting marked up from the jabs. Another right from Whittaker, he’s looking smooth. Stiff jabs from Whittaker, constantly hitting Gastelum as Gastelum tries to enter the pocket. Another head kick from Whittaker then a couple of punches. Whittaker checks an inside leg kick. Bit of a leg kick from Gastelum but he’s struggling to land anything of consequence. Whittaker lands a front kick then a right hook. Another jab sequence from Whittaker, good grief that’s a pretty jab. They clinch up and hit the fence, then Whittaker lands a body kick on the break. Whittaker lands an inside leg kick to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker, 20-17 Whittaker overall

ROUND THREE: Whittaker back to blocking or avoiding the offense of Gastelum. They trade leg kicks. Left hook from Whittaker, Gastelum swings back and lands a glancing left but an inside leg kick follow up goes low. Whittaker doesn’t take almost any time and we’re back to fighting. Head kick from Whittaker, it’s blocked but there’s serious power there. Gastelum gets in close and lands a few punches, he’s avoiding the jab more this round. Whittaker lands a blistering straight right. Left hook from Whittaker in close, then a side kick to the knee. Gastelum misses a blitz attack. Jab from Whittaker. Stiff jab from Whittaker, then he cracks a charging Gastelum. Whittaker avoids a combination and blasts Gastelum with a combination. Whittaker with an inside leg kick, he’s moving well and constantly chopping at Gastelum in some way. They clinch up then break without incident. Another jab from Whittaker. Gastelum lands a jab, but eats a counter one two. Again that chopping inside leg kick from Whittaker, those are adding up. A few rights from Whittaker in close land. Combination from Whittaker staggers Gastelum as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker but borderline 10-8, 30-26 Whittaker overall

ROUND FOUR: Gastelum pushing forward again, but he’s way behind every time they clash. Whittaker lands another inside leg kick. Knee from Whittaker lands to the body. Both men land lefts. That inside leg kick from Whittaker is chewing up Gastelum. Right uppercut from Whittaker. Gastelum with a bit of a left hook in close, then he blocks a high kick. Whittaker lands a left hook in close as well. Gastelum is bleeding from the left ear, not sure what caused that. Whittaker with a jab then high kick, he’s really got Gastelum’s number so far. Gastelum lands a jab. Stiff jab from Whittaker. Whittaker lands a right, and another one that stuns Gastelum. Gastelum ducks under a punch and hits a double leg but Whittaker instantly bounces up and gets free. Another jab from Whittaker. Bit of a left from Gastelum. A couple of inside leg kicks from Whittaker then a left hook to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker, 40-35 Whittaker overall

ROUND FIVE: Whittaker with a head kick, then an inside leg kick to get the round going. Bit of a one two from Whittaker. Gastelum, to his credit, is coming forward looking to engage. They clinch up and hit the fence, then break without an issue. Whittaker still mobile, lands a one two then a body kick. More jabs from Whittaker while circling away. Gastelum lands a body shot, then eats a hard left hook. Bit of a one two from Gastelum. Whittaker side kicks the knee, then a front kick to the face that lands flush. Single leg from Whittaker then he gets half guard and flattens Gastelum off. Things look to be stalling out, and then Whittaker passes and lands punches. Gastelum to his knees, tries to roll through but just gets up with Whittaker on his back. Whittaker with a takedown and he’s got back mount. They scramble and Whittaker winds up on top again, and holds the top position as the clock winds down.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker, 50-44 Whittaker overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Robert Whittaker via unanimous decision (50-45 x3)

Good fight, and great performance from Whittaker who got to show off every one of his skills. Whittaker gets some mic time, he feels on top of the world and puts over Gastelum as one of the best in the world. He says he’d worked on speed because he was supposed to fight Paulo Costa here but was able to put that to good use against Gastelum. Asked if he expected to get those takedowns he jokes about the strength of his body lock, and notes he wrestled more in this camp than ever before and was confident in his ability. Bisping sets him up to call for a title shot, he gives respect to Adesanya but thinks they should cross paths again in a stadium in Australia. He and Bisping share a little love to close.

Well on that note UFC on ESPN 22 comes to a close. Really good fight to close things out, but a bit of a slog at times. We’ll unpack all of this plus look ahead to UFC 261 tomorrow on the 411 Ground and Pound MMA Podcast. I’ll be back here next week for that event, it’s a triple title fight card featuring Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade, Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas, and a rematch between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal. Should be a great card, and I hope you’ll be back for it. Until then thanks for reading, stay safe out there, and keep checking 411mania for all of your pop culture needs.

article topics :

UFC on ESPN, Robert Winfree