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ALBANY TIMES UNION CENTER HOSTS NY’S SECOND UFC FIGHT NIGHT

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This past Friday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship invaded Albany for UFC Fight Night 102. After the recording-breaking UFC 205 last month from Madison Square Garden, The Times Union Center packed 6,216 fans for the UFC’s second venture into the Empire State since Mixed Martial Arts was legalized in the state earlier in the year.

In the night’s main event, #10 ranked Heavyweight Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis defeated #15 Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO in the 4th round. This improved Lewis’ record to 17-4-1, which includes his current five-fight winning streak. While Lewis came in as a big favorite over the Russian, his victory did not come without overcoming adversity. In all four rounds, Lewis had leg kicks that were caught by Abdurakhumov and led to takedowns. It would be safe to say that if Lewis did not finish his opponent and the bout went to the judges, it is likely that he would have lost the fight.

After his win, Lewis was not impressed by his performance, saying “I expected a better performance out of myself because I wanted a top-10 opponent and after a performance like that I don’t believe that I deserve one. I don’t know if I can learn anything, right now I’m just highly disappointed. I need to take some time off and really think, press the reset button and see where I’m at.” Lewis also jokingly added that this was his “most terriblest(sic) fights of all time.” Despite his harsh criticism of his performance, Lewis now looks to his next fight, which he hopes can be in his hometown of Houston Texas, which the UFC visits on February 4th, the day before Super Bowl LI.

In the co-main event, another heavyweight battle took place, as #12 ranked Francis Ngannou quickly dispatched of veteran Anthony Johnson, submitting him by kimura in the first round. The dominating performance netted Ngannou a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus. What is likely the biggest win of Ngannou’s career, the Frenchman is now 9-1 in his career and 4-0 since joining the UFC. After his fight, Ngannou called out Top 10 heavyweights Travis Brown, Andre Arlovski and Mark as possible opponents for his next fight.

After changing his nickname from ‘Beastin 25/8’, #9 ranked light heavyweight Corey ‘Overtime’ Anderson had perhaps his most dominating fight of his career, defeating Sean O’Connell by 3rd round TKO. The winner of The Ultimate Fighter 19, Anderson improved to 9-2, getting back in the win column after losing to former light heavyweight champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua in his last fight. After his win, he called out fellow light heavyweights Nikita Krylov and Misha Cirkunov, who fought the next night at UFC 206, with Cirkunov coming out victorious.

In a bit of sad news, after the fight was over, O’Connell announced this will be his last fight, as he will be retiring from MMA. O’Connell said of his decision: “Right now this does feel like the end (of my career).” However, it seems like O’Connell would like to stay busy, adding: “Hopefully there will be broadcasting opportunities for me in the future with the UFC, I’d like to pursue that avenue.” O’Connell, who ends his career with a record of 17-9, was known for not just his exciting style which earned him three ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses in his seven UFC fights, but also his hilarious actions during his weigh-ins. His shenanigans with opponents include engaging in an impromptu game of rock, paper, scissors, taking a selfie, and most recently sharing candy canes with Anderson.

The main card opened with New York’s own Gian Villante leaving his hometown crowd happy as he finished Saparbek Safarov in the second round by TKO in what was the ‘Fight of the Night’. Villante, who is from Long Island, has knocked out all but one of his wins in the UFC. Villante, who is #14 in the light heavyweight rankings, was originally scheduled to face #12 Patrick Cummins before he pulled out of the fight with a staph infection. While Villante was transported to the hospital after his fight and was not available for comment, he had stated prior to his fight that with a win, he would like to reschedule the fight with Cummins for UFC 208 in February, the next time the UFC will be in New York.

For the preliminary fights, New York had plenty of fighters representing their home state. Welterweight Randy Brown, who lives in Queens, defeated UFC newcomer Brian Camozzi by TKO in the second round. Monroe’s Shane Burgos was also victorious in his UFC debut after taking a late-notice fight against Tiago Trator, winning by unanimous decision. Middleweight Keith Berish, from Kingston, was the only New Yorker to lose on the night, being defeated by Ryan Janes by unanimous decision. Gerald Meerschart, who was making his UFC debut, received the other Performance of the Night bonus for a first-round submission of Joe Gigliotti.

Before the show kicked off, the UFC dedicated the show to the recently passed Josh Samman. Samman, a middleweight who was scheduled to fight in Albany, died on October 5th after being found unresponsive with a friend in a South Florida apartment. The official cause of death was a probable drug overdose. While they could not confirm exactly for Samman due to him being in a coma prior to his death, his friend, Troy Kirkinburg, died from a combination of cocaine, heroin, Xanax and alcohol.

Justin Berlund is a sports writer for the Albany Student Press.

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