Last week in Perth was a mixed martial arts extravaganza in the lead up to UFC 221. MMA fans flocked into the Western Australian State from all over the country to watch the much anticipated fights. A flurry of press conferences, open workouts, weigh-ins and obligatory face offs provided a runway to the main event held on Sunday morning at Perth Arena.
The festivities commenced with a collection of media conferences. During question time it became clear that the home favourite, Mark Hunt, can always be relied on to lighten the mood, provide some laughs and share it on social media.
The open workouts with the main card fighters followed on the Friday afternoon at Elizabeth Quay. It was a sunny day and drew a good crowd. Blaydes, Hunt and Rockhold displayed a range of techniques for the crowd. Romero went for something different. Wanting to give a taste of his home country, Cuba, he invited some excited crowd members up onto the stage to dance salsa with him. He proved that being light on your feet as a fighter clearly transfers well into the dance arena.
However, Romero sparked some controversy the following day at the official weigh-ins when he came in over weight. Having enjoyed the process of cutting weight for fights myself – and I use the word ‘enjoyed’ dripping with sarcasm – I felt for him. Particularly as he took the fight at short notice. But the fight went ahead and Romero’s performance did not disappoint.
MMA vs Muay Thai
Sunday was the big day, with the fights kicking off at 7:30am local time. Having recently been in Thailand, where I travelled for Muay Thai training and to attend Thai Fight Bangkok, it was a contrasting scene watching the MMA fights within the Octagon. Although many MMA fighters train Muay Thai for stand up technique, there are some key differences in style.
Many MMA fighters tend not to fully turn their hip when kicking, resulting in more of a flick kick. With Thai-style Muay Thai, turning the hip when kicking is essential to generate full power. Although I’m not a practitioner of MMA, it may be that fully committing to a kick by turning your hip opens you up to the risk of the kick being caught and a take down. Few MMA fighters also seem to use elbows as a weapon. This may also be because entering into close elbow range also risks a take down if the elbow doesn’t land.
My personal favourite fight on the day was UFC newcomer, Israel Adesanya, up against Rob Wilkinson. Adesanya’s impressive stand up display, using a number of Muay Thai techniques, resulted in a second-round TKO win.
Overall, UFC 221 was deemed a success. At the post-fight press conference, UFC Senior Vice President David Shaw expressed that the promotion is keen to return to Australia, however no plans are in the works at this stage.
You can read the full results here.