UFC on ESPN 16 was the epitome of how vanilla a fight card could get. Following two weeks of outstanding fights, this event seemed to be more of an airtime filler. On paper, the event contained only four ranked fighters, who made up two of the card’s 11 fights. The main card began on ESPNews, as college football was still airing on the network’s main channels. One of the more noticeable aspects of the UFC broadcast was that ESPN filled up the timeslot with as many commercials as possible. Prior to the main event, all fighter walkouts and corner advice between rounds were absent from the broadcast in favor of commercials.
In a crowd-less sports environment, it is now more important than ever that announcers provide some of the missing reactions and enthusiasm for us viewers. Unfortunately, the commentary for this event was a bit anemic and the UFC commentators sounded like they were ready to go to bed. For what it’s worth, the main event did not begin until close to 9 in the morning local time. I feel a bit sorry for these professional athletes having to perform at a peak level at such an insane hour. The remaining three UFC cards in Abu Dhabi have earlier start times.
The main card began with two fights that were large mismatches. Both ended with second round stoppages after one-sided affairs. In the first fight of the night with ranked fighters, former champ Germaine de Randamie and Julianna Pena put on a back-and-forth fight that was very entertaining. Germaine’s striking was sharp and too much for Pena in the first. In the last few seconds of the first round, Pena was able to take de Randamie down and carried this momentum into the second round, where she secured a takedown much earlier. Going into the final round, the fight was likely tied on the scorecards. Germaine started the round strong, but midway through, Pena was able to secure a takedown. Unfortunately for Pena, de Randamie was able to lock in a tight guillotine choke during the takedown, and moments later, Pena was asleep.
In the next fight, the co-main slot was inadequately filled by two heavyweight fighters with losing records in the UFC and zero name recognition. The fight was fairly entertaining through the first two rounds, but in the final stanza, the two fighters clinched against the cage while the referee begged for action. In a somewhat comical display, the referee decided to transform his role into more of a boxing official’s. He began separating the fighters every 15 or so seconds, at which point they would immediately re-enter the clinch.
The main event featured former champ Holly Holm against Irene Aldana. Oddsmakers had listed the fight as near even, and Holm did everything she could to prove them wrong. Holm looked near perfect and won every round. Fight stats show she landed a career high number of strikes and she almost doubled her UFC career takedowns landed with five — one in each round. On Twitter, fans expressed some of their disappointment with the event as a whole, and if UFC was looking for a new title challenger in Aldana, then they are likely a bit disappointed as well.