Vinc Pichel

UFC Auckland Prelims Results: Vinc Pichel Unleashes Hell on Beatdown Brown

John Moraga, Zak Ottow, and Luke Jumeau Triumph By Decision


Vinc Pichel looked quick and powerful in his return to the Octagon following a 3 year layoff, and the Californian certainly got Damien Brown’s attention with a strong right hand 30 seconds into their UFC Auckland featured preliminary contest. Brown patiently picked his spots early as he let Pichel burn off his initial adrenaline burst. Once he started feeling comfortable and pulled the trigger, “Beatdown” kept the flurries coming as he forced the American on his back foot throughout the middle portion of the round but Pichel finally landed a big shot with a first crushing uppercut just over three minutes in. Then about 30 seconds later “From Hell” sealed the deal with a nasty counter uppercut that knocked his man cold 3:30 in!  What a comeback performance from Vinc Pichel (10-1), who loudly reminded the camera that ring rust isn’t real. After a showing like that, who’s going to argue with the man?


Luke Jumeau (11-3) vs. Dominique Steele (14-8), 170 lbs

After ripping off a six fight winning streak over the last three years, Luke “The Jedi” Jumeau debuted in the UFC in front of his hometown New Zealand crowd with a bout against pigtailed American Dom Steele. After a minute or so of finding range, Steele tossed out the first big strike of the fight with a spinning back fist that caught Jumeau in the chest. The Australian fired back with a short combination moments later, before eating a big punch from Steele as he retreated straight backward. Although both men threw hard when they did through this one was reduced to a staring contest at times in the second half of the round. After a big swing and a miss from Jumeau, Steele locked his hands around the Kiwi’s waist pulled the fight to the ground with one minute to go. Steele rode the time out with some decent ground and pound that may have sealed him the round – personally I saw it at as a razor thin 10-9 card for Dom Steele.

Steele pressured his man to start round two, but he caught a couple of accurate right hands that dropped him to a knee about a minute into the frame. Yet Jumeau couldn’t keep his man down, and the two returned to the clinch. Neither man was able to gain much traction in close, nor did much happen in the kickboxing sequences after the brief knockdown early in the round. This was a grueling but clear 10-9 for Luke Jumeau for damage inflicted, and so I had this one 19-19 going into the third.

The American’s corner encouraged him to really commit to the takedown in round 3, and after landing a solid body kick he again worked to the clinch. Just like the last round, neither man could really do anything with the clinch position and the ref restarted in the center with three minutes to go. As Steele charged in Jumeau found his chin with a counter, and the Aussie smelled blood and started drilling Steele with a series of crosses that planted him on the ground briefly. But Steele kept persevering and  managed to grind his way to the end of the fight.

Four fights, four decisions so far on this UFC Auckland event – good thing the New Zealanders in attendance seem to be into the show despite the lack of finishes.  The crowd’s spirits were further buoyed when all three judges saw this one 29-28 for debuting Kiwi Luke Jumeau (12-3), who earned himself another test on an upcoming eastern hemisphere regional card.  Meanwhile that’s probably the end of the UFC line for Dominique Steele (14-9), who is now 1-4 in the UFC with three consecutive decision losses to Jumeau, Court McGee, and Danny Roberts.


#11 John Moraga (16-6) vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-1), 125 lbs

Prior to Australian Top Team’s Ashkan Mokhtarian Octagon debut opposite former world title contender John Moraga, the tattoo-covered Aussie amassed a sparkling, finish-filled record during a six year professional career. But good luck picking any of Mokhtarian’s previous opponents out of a police lineup. On the other hand Moraga has suffered plenty of setbacks in recent years, but those losses came to world class foes Sergio Pettis, Matheus Nicolau, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and Demetrious Johnson. Moraga put the slight underdog in danger about a minute in with a full-bore guillotine try, without successful results. But the effort seemed to sap some energy from Mokhtarian, and Moraga had little trouble wrestling his man down to an advantageous position. Mokhtarian had the chops to get out of an RNC attempt from back mount, but he couldn’t avoid taking some nasty elbows to the skull from the contender as the first round clicked down. Under the liberal scoring rules we’ve seen under 2017 rules commissions like New Zealand, this very well could have gone down as a 10-8 round in favor of John Moraga – but it’s right on the 10-9/10-8 borderline.

Mokhtarian enjoyed his first serious success at the start of the second as he briefly dropped Moraga to a knee with a leg kick in the opening minute. The Aussie’s educated feet continued to serve as a solid weapon and rangekeeper, but a lazy spinning kick 1:45 in gave Moraga the opportunity to land a crushing right hand and a follow-up leaping knee to the jaw. As Moktarian slowed the American continued to sharpen, and just under three minutes into the round a flush left hand send the Australian wobbling back toward the cage. Moraga scored the very easy takedown with about two minutes to work and took advantage of the opportunity with sharp elbows from side control. Mokhtarian’s scrambling efforts proved fruitless, and Moraga used the ensuing opening to pass to mount before throwing up an armbar as the round two clock ticked to zero. If the first round wasn’t a 10-8 then this one definitely was, and Ashkan Mokhtarian entered the third round of his first UFC fight in desperate need of a finish.

The third round started off much like the second, as Moraga got double underhooks and threw the Aussie to the mat. Mokhtarian started working for a submission, but that only allowed Moraga to drop several power punches before nearly finishing things with an armbar 90 seconds in. Mokhtarian continued to show grit and strong submission defense as he fought off a guillotine, but he had very little to offer beyond will to survive as Moraga battered him with strikes from the mount for the last 90 seconds off the frame before another failed armbar attempt to cap the round.

In his UFC debut 31 year old Ashkhan Mokhtarian (13-2) showed serious toughness, but he was thoroughly outclassed by John Moraga (17-6) on this night and paid the price by absorbing a full 15 minute beating. The judges saw the contest 30-25, 30-27, 30-27 in favor of Moraga, who remains an absolute beast of a puzzle to solve for anyone who isn’t a legit top 15 talent.


Zak Ottow (14-4) vs. Kiichi Kunimoto (18-6-2), 170 lbs

Both of these welterweight warriors entered off of a loss after achieving early UFC success, with Ottow dropping a split decision to Brazil’s Sergio Moraes while Kunimoto fell by submission to Neil Magny. The pair traded leg kicks throughout the first 90 seconds of this contest before the two started seriously trading hands. Ottow took the middle of the cage and was the more offensive fighter, while Kunimoto patiently retreated and tried to counter. Clinch #1 occurred at the midway point of the contest, with neither man doing much from the position before they reset center-cage. Ottow finally landed a big punch at the 3:00 mark and followed it up with an accurate left-right combo over the next few seconds. Kunimoto was slightly rocked and sought the single leg, but “The Barbarian” used a whizzer to neutralize his takedown efforts and force things back to the clinch. The first round concluded with Zak Ottow likely up 10-9 thanks to the salvo of violent punches that he tagged Kunimoto with before the former pro skate boarder held him against the fence late.

The two men resumed their mano-a-mano leg kick contest in the opening minute of round two, though Ottow looked very comfortable throwing ill-intentioned overhand rights in the pocket. At the 90 second mark Kunimoto achieved his first grappling success with a trip off a caught kick. Kiichi only held the position for about 60 seconds before Ottow used butterfly hooks to kick his opponent up and reverse position. Ottow kept tight pressure and manage to take the back and sink both hooks with 1:45 left. But Kiichi spun through to guard a minute later and managed to land the hardest ground strike of this very close round. There was very little between these fighters in the second, though I’d tend toward Ottow for a 20-18 scorecard after two.

Kunimoto shot in with perfect timing 30 seconds into the third round and managed to bloody Ottow with some decent strikes from guard, but Ottow did a good job retaining guard and keeping the Japanese veteran from approaching a finish. After being grounded for three minutes, Ottow desperately tried to scramble to the feet but found himself ensnared by Kunimoto’s tricky back mount. But the American battled his way back to his feet and ended this incredibly close contest throwing body strikes from clinch range.

29-28 Ottow, 29-28 Kunimoto, and 29-28 Ottow were the scorecards that gave Zak Ottow (15-4) a second UFC win in three fights, all of which have gone to split decision. The local Aussie crowd expressed displeasure as they seemed to think that Kiichi Kunimoto (18-7-2) did enough to win, but this was much too close a fight for either man to complain about the outcome.

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