Preview by Ryan Frederick
Welcome to our live coverage of UFC on ESPN 6: Reyes vs. Weidman from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, available on ESPN2.
For the first time since January 2018 for UFC 220, the Octagon heads back to Boston with a main event featuring a former champion looking to make a splash in a new weight class as well as a heated co-main event.
Undefeated light heavyweight Dominick Reyes looks to continue his surge as he welcomes former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman to the 205-pound division in the night's headliner. Reyes looks to make it twelve straight wins to start his career while Weidman wants to get his name into the mix for Jon Jones' next challenger as he looks to bounce back from a loss to Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza last November.
In the co-main event, featherweights Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens will pick up where they left off after their main event fight last month in Mexico City was stopped in 15 seconds due to an accidental eye poke from Rodriguez on Stephens. The two had a heated confrontation at the host hotel after the fight, and the bad blood will continue Friday night.
Also on the main card is the next fight for former NFL player Greg Hardy as he welcomes Ben Solosi to the UFC, Joe Lauzon returns after an 18-month layoff in his hometown against the debuting Jonathan Pearce, and top women's flyweight contender Maycee Barber looks to remain undefeated as she takes on the fast-rising Gillian Robertson.
Follow along with our live coverage of the event beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern with preliminary action all the way through the main card.
ESPN 2 PRELIMS
Hey, everyone. I'm Josh Nason, longtime contributing editor and podcaster for the website carrying you through tonight's UFC Boston coverage like a doctor delivering a baby. I also should note that tonight marks five years since I've been married and my wife was cool with me coming to see sweaty men and women try to hurt each other. I'd say I picked the right one.
I'm also coming off a three day trip to Pat Laprade country for my day job and may be ingesting caffiene at a breakneck pace in a few hours.
Tonight's coverage is going to be a bit different than traditional play by play. You can get there at 100 other websites so you don't need that here. Interwoven with the action will be some historical stuff and thoughts from the UFC's near-decade run in Boston, the somewhat adopted hometown of Dana White. I'll give you the flavor and what happened, but think of this more like Bill Simmons than punchkicktakedownholyshithesdead type recaps. Ok? Ok.
Also, hit me up on Twitter at anytime for questions, your thoughts, or a happy anniversary, goddammit.
As of 6 PM, it's a bit light in here attendance-wise with probably a few thousand hardcores. I'm not sure how the ticket sales went but typically this has been a strong UFC market since UFC 118 way back in August 2010. However, this is a Friday night show which they haven't done here before without a strong local presence. With no Red Sox postseason run in October and a decent weather night, they should do just fine.
For those keeping track, there's not a ton of media stars here tonight other than myself. Past JNPO guest Jeff Wagenheim of ESPN is front and center and MMA Junkie's John Morgan is here as well. Neither ESPN's Ariel Helwani or "Handsome" Brett Okamoto is here. I also haven't seen Chuck Mindenhall, but he's usually a late comer due to the autographs he has to sign.
> Tanner Boser (17-5-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Daniel Spitz (6-3, 1-3 UFC) by u/d (30-27x3)
Boser (a Canadian) is making his UFC debut against Not Mark Spitz who wants to even his UFC record at 2-2. Boser has shades of an in-shape, young Roy Nelson but I'm mainly saying that due to his mullet hairstyle. Both guys are small for heavyweights.
The first round was kind of dull punctuated by some idiots who were trying to get themselves over by chanting "We want Costa" and "We want Randy" and saying such innovative things like "My grandmother could fight tougher than you." I gave this to Boser for landing more leg kicks and being the more aggressive of the two. Spitz had a cold start. Overall, both of these guys didn't impress that much.
I also gave the second to Boser. Spitz is getting in range, but isn't throwing any combos and can't get off the starting block. The inside of his left knee looks he's been stung by 100 bees due to the leg kicks. Spitz is also the taller of the two, but isn't using his jab nor leg kicks. Weird game plan so far. By the way, they showed his knee on the big screens which got the crowd cringing.
The 3rd round wasn't anything to write home about, so I won't do so here. I scored the fight 30-27 Boser. You can fast forward through this one on your DVR.
> Arnold Allen (13-3, 1-0 UFC) def. Kevin Holland (16-5, 3-2 UFC) by second round submission (3:38)
Holland did a flip inside the cage and Allen said in the pre-fight interview that he didn't want this to be boring. This is Allen's UFC debut and I don't remember anything about past Holland fights but this is his fifth Octagon appearance.
Great first round! Holland took control halfway through the round and opened up a cut on Allen's forehead for some juice. He was working for an RNC but Allen was game and eventually worked for his own RNC and an armbar attempt at the end of the round. I gave this 10-9 to Holland, but this was a lot of fun and the fans woke up.
In the second, Allen kept throwing up submissions from the bottom (armbars, triangles), THE DEFINITION of being active from your back. Holland slowed down a bit and Allen took advantage, eventually locking in another tight RNC for the tap midway through the second when Holland gave him his back. If you like young prospect fights, check this one out.
Allen got some promo time and asked for a $50,000 bonus for a standing wheelchair for his brother, a paralyzed military vet. Even being close to the cage, you can't really hear the promos. Why is that?
Memory Lane: At the first UFC show here in 2010, the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan was in attendance as this was when the U was desperately trying to appear to mainstream columnists and media folks to help normalize the sport. He was game and stayed for a quite a while, but his column wasn't as kind. He was polite, but he wasn't a fan and hasn't been back since.
> Sean Brady (11-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Court McGee (19-9, 8-8 UFC) by u/d (30-27 x2, 29-28)
It's our third UFC debut of the night and the crowd oooohed when the title card came up. Brady's from Philly, so it has to be the last name, right? (He's got a big cheering section here, so he travels well.)
On the flip side, I wonder how much longer the UFC will keep McGee around with a loss. He has a great backstory, but there's a lot of fighters with great backstories. At 34 and not having won two in a row since 2013, I dunno.
In Boston, we're used to loud "Brady! Brady!" chants, but not for a Philly guy. For his newfound fandom, Brady got kicked accidentally in the nuts and it made me wish that fighters would taunt fans a bit more while they're waiting for things to, let's say, clear up. McGree isn't that guy, but you get it. Following his recovery, Brany dropped McGree with a left and started to light him up a bit. He looks super comfortable on his feet. McGee hasn't been finished since April 2016 for what that's worth. 10-9 BRADY BRADY BRADY
Brady slowed a bit in the second, but was still faster than McGee who did land a few good shots. If Brady wins, this is a great litmus test to pass in a 16-fight UFC veteran. 10-9 BRADY BRADY BRADY
As we begin the third, McGee is also suffering from bee stings of the left leg. I gave this to McGee (almost typed Bauer) as Murphy survived but was never in real danger. Again, good test for your first time out. Brady could be one to watch on the early prelims in 2020.
> Randy Costa (5-1, 0-1 UFC) def. Boston Salmon (6-3, 0-2 UFC) by first round TKO (2:15)
Finally, the fans behind us get to see their local guy Costa...against a guy who has the first name Boston. WEIRD. To help the occassion, Salmon came out to the Halloween theme music which kinda worked. People love Costa so this could get LauzonLoud with a finish. What's that mean? I'll tell you after the fight.
Costa earned his big pop, sending Salmon to another loss with a first round TKO finish. Both guys were throwing early and landing, but Costa kept getting the best of it and started hurting Salmon with hard rights. Salmon relented and fell on his ass and Herb Dean called the fight. On the LauzonLoud scale, that got a 7.5. Costa had a picture of his late friend Devin Currier which you can read about here. That was a fun moment for the local kid from Taunton, MA.
Memory Lane: Alright, so the LauzonLoud scale comes from the aforementioned UFC 118 when Lauzon fought Gabe Ruediger and submitted him in two minutes. To say the crowd popped for the Brockton, MA, native is an understatement and remains one of the loudest cheers I've ever heard at any sporting event. (Shoutout to friend of the site Martin Foster for the reminder.) With a few more locals left to do, that means a few more opportunities to bring out the LauzonLoud meter.
> Sean Woodson (7-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Kyle Bochniak (8-4, 2-5 UFC) by u/d (30-26, 30-27x2)
The last time UFC was here was last January for UFC 220, aka The Night Stipe Temporarily Took Francis Ngannou's Soul. As part of that, three locals and three teammates (Rob Font, Kyle Bochniak, Calvin Kattar) won all thier fights in about a 90-minute stretch which was a fun series of moments. Bochniak has lost both of his fights since then, so he needs a win here against yet another UFC virgin in Woodson.
Woodson is about as lean and lanky as they come and doesn't give a f*ck that this is Bochniak's hometown. He's in there talking shit and throwing some fun looking knees. Bochniak seems content to wrestle and grapple for the most part though and won the round 10-9.
Woodson opened up the second using his reach advantage with his arms and legs and Bochniak can't seem to take him down. But, Bochniak's pressure isn't giving Woodson any space to do much. Woodson is also taking deep breaths, but is still trying to figure out some combos. This was a hard round to score, but I'll give it to Bochniak. I'm really curious what Woodson will look like in a year as there's something here, but this feels just a little over his head.
Bochniak landed a few punches to liven up the crowd in the third. He ate a big knee from Woodson and stuck his tongue out. He wasn't scared of Woodson's power at all and was walking him down with his arms down. I'd give the edge to Bochniak in another close round 10-9. Again, I want to see what Woodson looks like in another 12-18 months.
Jesus, I got this completely 100% wrong. I need to watch this again as one judge gave a 10-8 to Woodson, so apparently my contacts weren't working. As the kids say, LOL.
The crowd has filled in quite a bit, but it won't be sold out as there's a lot of upper bowl seats on the sides that are empty. Fun fact: the Garden recently changed all their seats from the classic Bruins gold to dark blue and the new ones are apparently noticeably smaller than their predecessors.
> Molly McCann (10-2, 3-1 UFC) def. Diana Belbita (13-5, 0-1 UFC) by u/d (30-26 x 3)
One thing I wish the UFC would do away with for the in-arena experience: the focus on the eyes.
Good first round. McCann landed a nice right hand and a spinning back fist, but Belbita was game and in McCann's face the whole time. McCann landed a takedown and was working hard to close the round 10-9.
in the second, McCann kept working for a head and arm choke against the fence and the ref docked Belbita for (I guess) holding onto the fence? Similar to the NFL, they should be mic'd up so the live crowd can actually understand what's going on. McCann got mean in this one, brutalizing an increasingly overhwlemed Belbita on the mat, landing in heavy leather and elbows. At one point, she was fully mounted on Belbita's neck and looked to be going for the stoppage. 10-8 McCann bordering on a 10-7.
McCann did just enough to win the third 10-9. Nothing of note. 30-26 scorecard for me, but I could see 30-25.
Memory Lane: Back before this ESPN deal happened, UFC held their first-ever FS1 event (on the network launch day, no less) here in Boston on a Sunday night headlined by Chael Sonnen submitting Shogun Rua, Travis Browne knocking out Alistair Overeem in the first round, and a young Conor McGregor defeating a younger Max Holloway on the sixth fight of the night. McGregor got a top guy entrance though and was a focus of promotions during fight week.
> Charles Rosa (12-3, 3-3 UFC) def. Manny Bermudez (14-2, 3-2 UFC) by submission (2:46)
Featherweights* (Bermudez missed weight by 2 pounds)
Both guys are local, but Rosa is the one fans are into. He's got a crazy story and has been out of action for I believe two+ years due to a scary sounding muscular atrophy issue. At 33, that's tough to lose two years in your prime. He's looking to go a perfect 3-0 in the building.
This was one of those finishes where no one knew what happened. Rosa and Bermudez were up against the cage for most of the first round with Rosa throwing up submissions from the bottom while Bermudez was trying to land punches. Rosa was able to get in an armbar that Bermudez had to verbally tap to. The ref called the fight and the fans were confused for a few seconds before they realized what happened.
It appeared the prelims were going to run long, but that submission allowed them to end right at 9 PM. Amazing how that happens.
ESPN2 MAIN CARD
I say this every time out, but the Baba O'Reilly highlight reel is among the best sports highlight package videos ever made. Also, no big surprise, but Greg Hardy was booed when shown on the opening video package.
> Darren Stewart (11-4 1 NC, 4-4 1 NC UFC) def. Deron Winn (6-1, 1-1 UFC) by split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Middleweights* (Winn missed weight by 2.5 pounds)
Winn is the Lawlor killer, having bested our Le Champion in his return to MMA for Oscar de la Hoya's failed MMA promotion. He missed weight by nearly three pounds, so the EMPIRE~! will count that as revenge unitl Winn makes his MLW debut.
This was a lot of Winn wrestling negating Stewart's attempts at striking for a 10-9 Winn round. The crowd is being polite, but if this keeps going, the boos will come.
In the second, Stewart caught Winn charging in with a low knee where you could the pop of the cup. Ouch. Stewart did a better job fending off Winn through most of the round and landing some strikes, but Winn is relentless at smothering and getting in for takedowns. Still, I gave this to Stewart 10-9.
Winn looked tired opening up the third, allowing Stewart to pick him apart while taking minimal damage on the outside. Then, Stewart surprisingly went for a takedown of his own and Winn couldn't defend. There's also a screeching Winn fan behind me yelling unintelligible commands, so if you see someone on press row with bleeding ears, that's me. Winn did hear her command of "ONE MORE TAKEDOWN" and did just that. Even with him being gassed, I think Winn did enough to take the third 10-9 but could see a split here.
I feel obligated to tell you The Schmoe has sat down in front of me on press row. Also, women's strawweight champion Weili Zhang is here in the building if you missed her on your TV set.
> Maycee Barber (#12, 8-0, 3-0 UFC) def. Gillian Robertson (#15, 7-4, 4-2 UFC) by first round TKO (3:04)
This should be a lot of fun: two rising UFC prospects that could fight again a few more times in their career before its over. Also, Dana White randomly went into the crowd to either meet someone or take pictures.
This one didn't last long. Simply put, Barber started lighting up Robertson on the feet with lefts and rights. Robertson wasn't doing much in the way of defending so the ref made the mercy call without any fight from Robertson.
Also simply put, Barber has the potential to be the UFC breakthrough women's star they desperately want. Post-fight, she called out Paige VanZant which the crowd liked. (I had to read this on Twitter, because you can't hear what is being said. I don't think I'm that deaf, but I'm being made to feel like I am.)
I can confirm Jack Encarnacao is in the building.
> Joe Lauzon (28-15, 15-12 UFC) def. Jonathan Pearce (9-4, 0-1 UFC) by first round TKO (1:33)
You ready to get LauzonLoud? The last local guy on the show got a hero's welcome and if he wins, my ears may start to bleed again.
Lauzon hurt Pearce with a right hand and body locked him down, securing a reverse half nelson of sorts that Pearce couldn't defend. Herb Dean had an easy choice after Lauzon landed right hand after right hand after right hand. Imagine for your first fight that you get to take on Lauzon in this atmosphere. Pearce took one for the UFC team tonight. Lauzon was emotional after the win and rightfully so. He went into this with three straight losses and will look for his first two-fight winning streak since 2013-14.
On the LauzonLoud meter, I gave that a solid 8. Had the upper deck been full, that would have come close to '10.
Memory Lane: Of the six shows in Boston's UFC history, I have only missed one: McGregor vs. Siver (January 2015). It was a Sunday and the Patriots were playing in the AFC title game at the same time of the show and it was also freezing rain outside. That was also the show where McGregor jumped out of the cage to confront Jose Aldo and Donald Cerrone fought Benson Henderson on super short notice, filling in for Eddie Alvarez. There's part of me that has always regretted not coming to that show.
> Greg Hardy (6-1, 3-1 UFC) def. Ben Sosoli (7-3 1 NC, 0-1 UFC) by u/d (29-28)
No big surprise, but Hardy was roundly booed. He's facing an Australian making his UFC debut that is giving up a ton of reach and height. I don't know about you, but this feels like a squash match about to happen.
Early on, Hardy showed patience in having leg kicks set up punches despite fans booing the action. Sosoli was having difficulty getting anything going as Hardy was simply quicker. The fans really started hating this when Hardy was clowning around at the end of the first. 10-9 Hardy.
Fans really started getting on this in the second round as Sosoli made virtually no progress outside a few punches that didn't have any effect. Meanwhile, Hardy was content to play defense and land hard body kicks and a few good punches. He needs the cage time, but the fans don't want to hear it. Sosoli looks overmatched. 10-9 Hardy
So, Hardy used his inhaler between rounds which is illegal. I didn't see it, but it's all over Twitter. Apparently no one caught it, so we'll see what happens there. The fans also were chanting "f*ck Greg Hardy" so there's that. The third round was very bad and not something you expect to see this late in the card quality-wise. Sosoli did land a few good punches and Hardy didn't really do anything. 10-9 Sosoli
No post-fight interview for Hardy probably because they wanted to avoid the question about the inhalder. I will assume this gets overturned if Sosoli appeals which he should.
Man, what a signing.
> Yair Rodriguez (#7, 12-2 1 NC, 8-1 1 NC UFC) def. Jeremy Stephens (#8, 28-17 1 NC, 15-16 1 NC UFC) by u/d (29-28 x3)
Stephens came out to Childish Gambino's 'This is America'. Well done. If you're new here, this is a make-up from the Mexico City main event that got shut down after 15 seconds after Rodriguez accidentally eyepoked Stephens. We'll see what the strategy is here with both guys given this is a possible 15 minutes instead of a possible 25. Boston didn't care for Rodriguez much, lustily booing him. Villain!
This was a very competitive first round that Rodriguez edged out. He's super fast and was constantly pushing the pace with spinning elbow attempts and a lot of kicks. Stephens is up for it, but he's having a hard time keeping up. R10-9 Yair.
Round 2 was crazy. Yair hit a liver kick and went on the offensive, beating Stephens like a drum and nearly finishing him. Stephens kept playing defense and eventually worked his way back up and the fans lost their minds. He grounded Yair, but didn't land anything that damaging. Rodriguez won the round 10-9 but what a round it was.
Stephens refused to touch gloves to open the third. These guys are into it!
Sadly, the third round couldn't match the second. Rodriguez had to defend ground and pound from Stephens who was being willed by the fans to finish him. It's a shame we couldn't see this play out over five rounds. 10-9 Stephens
Stephens is right up there with Daniel Cormier, McGregor, and Randy Couture as the most popular UFC Boston fighters that aren't from here. Fans didn't like the decision but that was to be expected. #FightForever
> Dominick Reyes (#4, 12-0, 6-0 UFC) def. Chris Weidman (#8 MW, 14-5, 10-5 UFC) by first round TKO (1:43)
No one seems to know anything on the Hardy situation with this inhaler. His agent says he was cleared to use it and it appears USADA approves of it. However, Marc Ratner said it was illegal. This sport's rules are very complicated sometimes.
Anyway, this one is compelling for all the reasons you would expect. Weidman hasn't exactly won a lot over the last few years and has been knocked out cold a few times in those losses. Reyes is looking to take the jump to official title contender status and an impressive win here would help do that...if Jon Jones is interested.
Reyes dropped Weidman with a right hand and that was basically it. He landed a few extra right handed hammer fists that knocked Weidman cold and that was that. Yikes.
This has to be it for Weidman after being on the opposite end of another lights out performance. For Reyes, a first round finish over a name like Weidman, even at this stage, is something to build off. He called out Jones after the fact. Weidman didn't retire and said he'll come back better. We'll see.
And with that, my six hour watch has ended. Thanks for reading!