Greetings, fight fans! The UFC's first foray into the creatively-named "Fight Island" is in the books, and...it just looked like any other ol' UFC event! No beachside octagon, no island-themed regalia or graphical treatments, not even fun beach-themed fight attire for the fighters! All we got is an arena that thankfully had air conditioning this time and looked like an amorphous LED blob from the outside. Thankfully the action on the inside of the blob more or less delivered, albeit not without some controversy from judges and referees; but that's almost to be expected. We have much to cover; so much that I'll mainly just focus on the main card, so let's get down to what the hell happened!
The Main Card
Usman skips out of baptism, grinds out Masvidal instead
UFC Welterweight Championship
Kamaru Usman (c) def. #3 Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)
What happened?: Usman overcame early resistance to assert his will, wearing Masvidal out with superior clinch work and takedowns.
How did that happen?: Unsurprisingly, the early going was Masvidal's time to make things happen, and he showed that there is indeed a notable gulf between the two of them when it comes to striking. He was much quicker, looser, and more effective standing in the opening round, but he was kept honest early when he went to the well with naked low kicks a bit too much and found himself taken down off of one. He managed to pop right back up, but an early takedown only serves to bolster Usman's confidence that he can get a hold of you. Unsurprisingly, Usman did not seek to test the striking incredibly much, knowing how dangerous Masvidal is in that phase. Although I would say that Masvidal is the most dangerous striker he's fought at present, leading up to the fight I thought there was a lot to compare between this fight and another similarly slick, well-rounded striker in Leon Edwards. At the end of the fight those comparisons turned out to be apt, as Usman did struggle slightly with both opponents' stand up and takedown defense early, but his pace and pressure eventually wore on them and allowed him to take total control of both fights. The first round of this fight could arguably have gone to Masvidal; he landed some good shots, and although Usman was able to force the clinch for a decent amount of time, he really wasn't able to do much with it or the lone takedown he landed. It was one of those subjective rounds that call on your preference of damage or control.
The following four rounds were not up for debate. Usman was frequently able to find his way into the clinch and bully Masvidal against the cage, where he didn't do much damage but was able to stay busy with a constant stream of short punches to the body, shoulder strikes, and foot stomps in between his attempts to wrangle the fight to the ground. When he was able to take Masvidal down, he managed to make it count, stifling his guard, staying heavy on top, and landing solid punches and elbows. By the championship rounds Masvidal was noticeably tired, and even the stand up began to work in Usman's favor because he was the much fresher man. The stats tell the story of a grinding fight, with Usman landing a whopping 263 total strikes, but 94 significant strikes. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that short shots in the clinch and on the ground aren't considered significant strikes officially (though there are instances where they do appear to land with heft). So while it wasn't a damaging performance by Usman, it was most certainly a dominant one.
He didn't land many takedowns, but he made them count when he did.
Why tho?: Despite what some may have taken away from his previous title defense over Colby Covington, and regardless of how many striking improvements we see out of him, what we saw tonight was the true essence of Usman's game. A smothering clinch game is really what he's best at, and that will especially be apparent when he has a dangerous striker in front of him. If he's not worried about your striking, as was the case with opponents like Covington, Sergio Moraes, and Demian Maia, he will be much more willing to test out his mettle in the stand up. With that much known, what occurred here was mostly a case of inevitability given the style match up. In my pick 'em breakdown for this fight, I mentioned that there are two main factors to Masvidal's style that would make this fight difficult for him: he's historically pretty easy to back up to the cage, and he's often willing to accept whatever fight his opponent gives him.
This is great for him if his opponent wants to strike; that's what he wants to do too. But despite the fact that Masvidal really doesn't want to wrestle or grapple when he goes out there, if you force those scenarios on him, he'll usually oblige and often to a detriment. He might have beaten Maia if he didn't entertain so many grappling exchanges. He allowed Maia, Nate Diaz, and even Darren Till, who is not a big pressure fighter, to easily walk him back to the fence. Masvidal is one of the most underrated strikers and best boxers in the sport, so there's certainly a method to his madness when he backs himself against the cage when fighting strikers; his confidence in his head movement and adeptness at counters allows him to have success there when his opponents think he's trapped. But against someone looking to get a hold of him, it just makes it easier for them to impose their will, and once they do, Masvidal offers too little urgency to alter the situation for himself. He's certainly turned a new leaf with his newfound confidence in his athleticism and power, but he also still retains a lot of his "young veteran" mentality, where he's comfortable wherever the fight goes, and often becomes too relaxed or even unfocused if his opponent isn't hurting him. When you combine that attitude and those tendencies, with the hyper-focused, perpetually forward-moving style that Usman brings to the table, it's a recipe for a loss most of the time.
Other thoughts?: As mentioned, I felt this was an easy fight to call, not just in terms of picking a winner, but also in terms of predicting how the fight would play out. Many fans were salivating for the affectionately-named "Street Jesus" to "baptize" another victim, but I think at least deep down most people knew it wasn't too likely outside of a hail Mary shot (yes, I fit as many religious references as I could into that sentence). The best chance for Masvidal to win was to be aggressive and take that forward movement away from Usman. Now this is much easier said than done regardless of who the opponent is, but it was even more difficult here considering the fact that Masvidal is not an aggressive fighter. He's been able it well at times by exploding forward with combinations and continuing his attack if they're successful, but those are only moments. What he doesn't do is apply a pressure game and consistently stay in his opponent's face, instead preferring to hang around at range looking for countering opportunities and surprise entries, which is honestly what he's best at.
JUST NOT WHEN YOUR OPPONENT WANTS TO WRESTLE.
And what of the short notice? Much has been made of the fact that Masvidal took this fight on six days' notice, and that thing would probably go differently if he had a full training camp. You might guess my take based on the rest of this segment, but I doubt it. We already knew that Masvidal had been training consistently prior to getting the call, and he was likely staying in shape just in case the opportunity arose. Usman being the champion and Masvidal having been tentatively slated to fight him once before already, there's little doubt he'd been training for Usman prior to getting the call as well. A lack of a training camp or diminished cardio likely made little to no difference, especially since he was fighting in a way that was unsustainable anyway because he put a lot of power into almost every strike he threw. That combined with the amount of pressure and heavy clinch work Usman put out, and Masvidal probably would've gotten tired whether he had six days or six months to prepare, and he still would have displayed those same detrimental qualities he's been displaying for the majority of his career. Hell, Benson Henderson essentially beat him in the clinch in their lightweight contest, again because it's just not that hard to pin him there if you really want to. He'll offer only slight resistance other than grinning to let everyone know your attacks don't hurt. If only the judges cared more about how hurt you're not getting, and less about who's being more effective in the fight.
Next for Usman: Burns and Edwards were always more interesting and viable title contenders in my opinion, and I think it's an opinion that might be shared by many after seeing what happened here. If Burns is unable to be rebooked due to his positive COVID-19 test, Edwards is the next guy in line, and that'd be an interesting rematch considering how improved they both are since their initial showdown. Otherwise, Burns is still the #1 contender for my money.
Next for Masvidal: "Street Jesus" has choices at 170. Grudge matches with former friend and teammate Covington or Edwards (if he isn't slotted in a title fight) make some sense, as does a fight with former teammate Tyron Woodley, who wants to get back in the cage sooner rather than later. He might even qualify for the Conor McGregor sweepstakes, something which I'm sure would have the UFC brass and fans alike salivating. This one's a bit of a personal desire and is unlikely to happen given the rankings, which somewhat laughably have Masvidal ranked at #3, but I'd also be interested in seeing a rematch with Michael Chiesa, who has been surging since moving up to welterweight and is a much better fighter since their first meeting. In terms of actual deserved rankings, I'd argue that Masvidal probably belongs right above Chiesa and the fight makes a lot of sense.
Holloway proves Zoom training is viable, but drops a close, contentious decision
UFC Featherweight Championship
Alexander Volkanovski (c) def. #1 Max Holloway by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
For some reason, Twitter didn't want to post footage of Volkanovski having success.
What happened?: Holloway adjusted well in his effort to regain his featherweight title and made it a much closer fight, but ultimately the judges still sided with the Aussie.
How did that happen?: We go from a fight that I said I called very accurately to one that really threw me for a loop. Contrary to what I thought would happen, this fight did not play out more or less like the first one did. Holloway has been composed, often beyond his years, for pretty much his entire MMA career, but at the start of his fight he showed an even higher level of just being calm and loose. He found success in the first ten minutes of the fight, most notably when he buckled Volkanovski with a straight right and dropped him to a knee with a high kick in the opening round, and when he dropped him to a knee once more with a tight right uppercut to end the second.
Holloway looked sharp in the first ten minutes.
He appeared to be making all the right moves to forge the path to victory, but Volkanovski adeptly increased his urgency and pressure, and essentially out-Holloway'd Holloway to take the final three rounds on two of the judges' scorecards. He not only upped his pressure in the boxing exchanges, but we worked in some wrestling, which ultimately wasn't super effective but helped the narrative that he was just doing more to win in the latter rounds. Even more surprising than Holloway's good start to the fight was the rare sight of him actually looking the more tired party at the tail end. Typically a large part of Holloway's game is to pour it on late, and even in their first fight, it was the championship rounds where he came alive and started evening things out a bit. Here it was Volkanovski who held a better command of the pace, and Holloway actually appeared a bit fatigued and a step behind in exchanges in the final round.
Though Volkanovski did take over in the latter half of the fight, he didn't achieve this by a large margin. In fact, 18 of 27 media outlets and over 60% of fans on MMA Decisions scored the fight for the Hawaiian. UFC President Dana White also expressed his disappointment with the scoring of the fight, and even threatened to not employ the for future events. All in all, it was still a close fight and regardless of who you scored it for there should be a case for either man winning. Above all else, it was an entertaining, highly technical affair between two well-matched combatants.
Why tho?: As mentioned, it was a bit of a surprise that Holloway was able to adjust so well at the onset of the fight. The idea that he'd learn from the last fight and start the next one differently makes a lot of sense in a vacuum, but Holloway tends to just follow the same rubric for his fights regardless. He always starts out slow, and he always picks it up as the fight goes along. That steadfastness only seemed to be strengthened by the fact that due to the pandemic we're dealing with, Holloway essentially didn't have a camp for this fight. He had no access for training partners, and drilled with his coaches over Zoom meetings. If you're a fighter who needs to make adjustments for a rematch, I think most would agree that having actual people present to try those adjustments on is the best way to prepare. In spite of that, solid adjustments were still made. Low kicks were the story of the first fight, as Volkanovski beat up Holloway's lead leg, forcing him to fight much of the contest in the southpaw stance. Holloway is a pretty adept striker from either stance, but a significant part of the meat of his game is his ability to frequently and smoothly switch stances to play with varying up his range, angles, and combinations. Without stance switching, he loses a lot of his unpredictability and some vital tools for covering distance, which he very much needed against an opponent like Volkanovski who frequently scores points at range with those kicks.
To combat this in the rematch, Holloway did several things. For one, he started off a bit more aggressively; this made the range a bit less viable for Volkanovski to land power low kicks. Looking at the statistics, he didn't land as many of them, but he did still land a lot. The difference is that a higher concentration of those low kicks in this fight were quicker, weaker inside low kicks, which he was forced to settle for in instances where Holloway was too close for him to risk loading up on a hard outside leg kick, and also so that he could more quickly throw punches off of his kicks since he was essentially in punching range. Another think Holloway did as he advanced was frequently pick up his lead leg, at times just walking forward and high-stepping toward Volkanovski. We've seen this work for Nate Diaz when closing the distance on an avid low kicker in Anthony Pettis, and it had similar early success here. Lastly, Holloway simply kicked with Volkanovski more. Whether going back to the spinning back kicks he threw more frequently earlier in his UFC tenure, to front and roundhouse kicks to the body, to engaging in low kick battles with Volkanovski, he was not content to just sit back at range and allow his legs to be kicked as much as he did in the first fight, and this time he landed almost double the amount of them that he did in the first fight (31 compared to 17) while throwing over twice as many. Throughout all of that he still made an effort to time Volkanovski's kicks and attempt counters.
Volkanovski in turn adjusted to this by just throwing more punching combinations in close, and slightly fewer low kicks. He wasn't scared off by the success Holloway had in the first two rounds, and if anything seemed emboldened by it. This was the start to him having much better success boxing with Holloway, which I think was pivotal in him winning those late rounds. Round four did see another adjustment from Holloway: he simply started throwing back in combination whenever Volkanovski would start an exchange. It frequently cut off the length of Volkanovski's combinations, and I think a right uppercut-left hook combo that stunned Volkanovski was probably the most significant offensive sequence of the round. He also managed to punish Volkanovski for a late takedown attempt with a volley of short uppercuts in the clinch. However, by the final round Holloway had slowed down and Volkanovski hadn't, and the latter was just able to put a higher pace on the former and outwork him. Ultimately I thought it was a pretty interesting display of two styles just really figuring each other out over time.
Other thoughts?: Even in a losing effort, I can't help but be impressed by Holloway's performance given the conditions of his preparation for the fight. Part of me actually did wonder if the lack of damage taken from sparring, intense training, and even the fact that he didn't really seem to want the rematch might work in his favor because it would just cause him to care less and put less pressure on himself; and it almost looked to be the case. For the record, I did score the fight for Holloway, and despite all the talk of it coming down to the third round, I think the only unequivocal rounds in the fight were the first two rounds for Holloway and the final round for Volkanovski. It might not be a popular opinion but I actually saw the fourth round as being more up for debate than the third, and both rounds could've gone either way in my estimation. I was in no way surprised with the decision just because much like the first fight, Volkanovski is probably the only guy better than Holloway at gaining favor through volume. He puts in a lot of work and is constantly scoring points, and that's why it's so difficult to outstrike him, even if you might land the slightly harder shots. Win or lose, it was a great display by both fighters.
Next for Volkanovski: The most likely contender will probably be the winner of the upcoming Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Yair Rodriguez fight. Otherwise, Chan Sung Jung is as good a choice as any, provided he isn't fighting Brian Ortega next. If that fight happens and he wins it, he definitely deserves the opportunity.
Next for Holloway: It's hard not to feel bad for the man. He was a hair away from regaining his title, and now having lost twice in a row to Volkanovski in title fights, the UFC is unlikely to be in a hurry to give him another shot as long as the belt says in the Aussie's clutches. As such, he also shouldn't fall in the rankings and should be matched accordingly. The loser of the aforementioned Zabit vs Rodriguez fight would do just fine, as would the winner of the Calvin Kattar vs Dan Ige fight coming up in a few days.
Yan outlasts and brutalizes Aldo to capture the vacant bantamweight title
UFC Bantamweight Championship
#3 Petr Yan def. #6 Jose Aldo by TKO via strikes (3:24, R5)
This makes me sad.
What happened?: Yan employed his usual tactics of steadily upping his pace and pressure, eventually breaking down the former featherweight king and handing him a nasty beating that was mercifully stopped in the final round.
How did that happen?: This is another fight that I hit more or less on the money in the pick 'em breakdown. Aldo is still a very formidable fighter; I'd say he's still what you would call elite. However, he's still past his prime on top of now at a division where his speed and reflexes aren't as present anyway. I suspected that Aldo would give Yan some issues early just because Aldo is typically a fast starter, and Yan tends to take his time early figuring out his opponent's tendencies and building data so he can up his pressure and volume later. There was a lot to like about Aldo at the onset, as he showed shades of his old self, bobbing side-to-side, constantly feinting and waiting for reactions to act on. However, Yan brought the fantasy down to earth immediately with a hard 1-2 that showed Aldo's reflexes have indeed suffered a but. A positive to take away is that we did see the return of heavy low kicks from Aldo, and shortly after catching that combination he took Yan off his feet with a powerful kick to his lead leg.
How this didn't receive a FOTN bonus is beyond me. Yan's tenacity and endurance made the difference, but Aldo looked far from washed out there. Unclear what his next move is, but for my money he'd still beat most of the top 10 in a three-round fight. https://t.co/GRqe52brVs— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) July 12, 2020
How I've missed you, youthful, leg kicking Aldo.
The first round was rather measured, but Yan just appeared the quicker, slightly sharper striker. The tide turned when Aldo surprisingly shot a takedown, but was easily reversed and put on his back by Yan, who stood in his guard to land punches. A punishing right hand to the body visibly hurt Aldo and caused him to turtle up, but with little time to go in the round he managed to survive.
Aldo displayed his toughness early; that body shot might have ended a lot of other fighters.
After that harrowing end to the first, Aldo appeared to be recovered in the second round, and it was definitely his best round of the fight. He varied up his attacks nicely, landing some nice punches up top, but also many crackling hooks to the body and hard low kicks, one of which appeared to hurt Yan a bit. Defensively he also looked much better, and his varied assault caused Yan to miss many of his strikes.
Aldo looked like his vintage self in round two.
The tide looked as if it might have been turning in Aldo's favor, but as it turned out Yan was just biding his time, because he turned it up in a big way for the rest of the fight. Aldo was game in round three, but eventually Yan's pace began to wilt him in the latter part of the round. In the penultimate round, Yan began to adjust to Aldo's body punches by anticipating and countering them immediately with crisp punches to the head. When Aldo was clearly tired, Yan began to give chase, mixing up shots to the body and head, and varying up the speed and power of his shots to keep Aldo guessing. It almost appeared to be the end when Aldo posted his leg up while covering up against the cage, and Yan just grabbed it and kicked his other leg out from under him, after which Aldo seemed to just accept his position on the ground. Yan obliged and settled in to land some hard ground and pound until the horn.
No mercy indeed.
The final round became difficult to watch, whether you're an Aldo fan or not. Yan wasted no time stunning Aldo with a 1-2, and then felling him with a right hand. From there he got on top of Aldo and looked to trap him in a crucifix and mount positions while landing heavy shots, but Aldo was able to scramble his way to half guard. From there Yan managed to actually achieve a crucifix while still in half guard, trapping Aldo's leg and arm together, and landing huge elbows and punches. Aldo managed to scramble to his knees and give up his back, and Yan maintained control and continued to land punches. Once he reached under to trap Aldo's arm in the seatbelt position and land thudding hammerfists and knees to the body, it looked like the end was right around the corner, and the referee definitely took a step closer to the action. However, Aldo moved just enough to thwart it. Exhausted and beaten, Aldo then turned to his back and just ate more punishment until the fight was stopped; too late in my opinion. Aldo moved as best he could and stayed tough, but it was clear he didn't really have anything left and was just trying to survive, but wasn't going to mount any kind of comeback. At that point just save the fighter from undue punishment. Yan held a massive 62-to-1 edge in significant strikes that round, and 59 of them were to the head, and on the ground where he had little to no room to move with the shots. He didn't need to take that much punishment.
No Mercy pic.twitter.com/CoI79vRwin— Streetfight Banned-cho (@streetfitebncho) July 12, 2020
As tough as it was to see Aldo take another bad beating, Yan is a bad, bad man.
Why tho?: Much of it was par for the course these days for both fighters. Yan is a relatively slow starter (and I say relatively because he still stays plenty busy throughout) because early on he likes to get reads from his opponents and also draw out some energy so that he can take advantage of them tiring down the stretch when he really ups his volume. Aldo is generally the opposite. He's a fast starter that puts a lot of offense on opponents in the first 10 minutes, and then tends to get tired and a lot less effective. This of course is not constant with Aldo, and does depend on his opponent, but the common thread is that if he's fighting someone that makes him work, he's going to get tired if he doesn't finish them within two rounds. Against opponents that aren't as big a threat to him, he might slow things down, and at that point he doesn't have much issue fighting a moderately-paced, five round fight where he mostly dominates his opponent standing. Yan has never been a fighter who gives opponents much space, so from a style perspective he's poison for Aldo unless a surprise finish is achieved. This all played out pretty clearly in the fight, where Aldo looked good early, got tired, and then Yan made him pay for not getting him out of there when he was fresh.
Other thoughts?: While I don't agree with Dana White's vitriol for the co-main event decision. I stand with him in lambasting Leon Roberts' decision to allow Aldo to take so much punishment. Aldo has lost six of his last eight fights, and four of them by brutal stoppages due to strikes. He was downed in one punch against Conor McGregor, but his two losses to Holloway and this one have been prolonged, bloody beatdowns that are worrying to see. Even his close loss to Marlon Moraes saw him dropped early and despite his vigor and aggression, he didn't look great. This was a fight that never should have been booked in the first place; Aldo didn't deserve a title shot off a loss, and there are other contenders in the division that could have taken the slot. The result just strengthens that argument, and it makes it even harder to determine where Aldo really is in the division.
To me it has shades of BJ Penn's time at welterweight in the UFC. Sure he had surprise title win over Matt Hughes, but that was kind of a fly-by-night operation where he just dipped his toe into the pool, it worked out for him, and then he left the promotion without defending the belt. Credit to him for it and it's a legitimate part of his accolades for sure, but he didn't really make a mark on the division as a whole and Hughes clearly didn't take the fight seriously. Upon returning to the UFC he would fight future welterweight GOAT Georges St. Pierre and lost a close decision that many deemed controversial because he did better than expected. He would still get a title shot off of that loss, a rematch against Hughes where he gassed, was caught in a crucifix, and beaten up until the fight was stopped. Sound familiar? Now as lauded as Penn's career was, his beginnings in the welterweight division made it so that we really never learned how good he actually was there. Due to his initial performances against Hughes and St. Pierre, fans and pundits alike assumed he was the second or third-best welterweight in the world, despite the fact that he never had to make his way through the field to get that distinction.
So of course when he lost the Hughes rematch and was utterly dominated in the St. Pierre rematch, his status never changed because he still only lost to the best. Then we started to see that maybe he never really deserved that status when he fought to a draw that he probably should have lost with Jon Fitch, was overwhelmed and dominated by Nick Diaz, and embarrassed by Rory MacDonald. Many people swore that Penn was the #2 welterweight in the world at one point, but his UFC welterweight record stands at 2-5-1, and both of those wins are over Hughes; one time when he didn't take him seriously, and the other when he was past his prime. I don't want this type of thing happening to Aldo at bantamweight; he should be fighting someone that actually serves to determine where he is in the division.
Next for Yan: Aljamain Sterling. He should have been fighting Yan on this night anyway.
Next for Aldo: As mentioned, he should have a break from the top of the division, and instead fight someone that shows where he belongs. Raphael Assuncao would be a nice scrap that shows where Aldo's skills are, as would the winner of Jimmie Rivera vs Cody Stamann. Even Dominick Cruz would be interesting. Just keep him away from the top five.
Namajunas avenges title loss, but not without some late trouble
#2 Rose Namajunas def. #1 Jessica Andrade by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
What happened?: Namajunas largely built off the success she had in their first tilt, minus the fight-ending slam. Andrade found that overt aggression really is her best quality, but discovered it too late to walk away with the victory.
How did that happen?: Namajunas did what she does best: she stayed outside of Andrade's range as much as she could, and she stuck and moved. She spend a good amount of time throwing combinations at range, and ended them with jabs or low kicks on her way out to disrupt Andrade from closing in on her at the end of exchanges. When Andrade sought to change levels, Namajunas was waiting to flash a knee to discourage her. The second round was a bit better for Andrade because she found much more success hitting the body, which opened Namajunas up to take some hard punches up top. Still, it was Namajunas who got the better of the action and was always there to answer Andrade's offense with counters to the head, no doubt aided by her height and reach advantage. Andrade did start to turn up the pressure and just wade in with strikes toward the end of the round, and it proved to be a strategy that would work for the rest of the fight.
The third round started off competitively, but Andrade was a lot more willing to get inside and let her hands go. It paid off about halfway threw the round when she landed a big overhand right that appeared to rock Namajunas, and immediately followed it up with a high amplitude hip toss. Namajunas immediately worked for an armbar and a triangle before getting to her feet, but Andrade's pressure and thudding strikes carried her to a pretty clear win in the final round. Being a three-round fight, Andrade's late rally wasn't enough, and two of the three judges awarded Namajunas the first two rounds and the decision.
Andrade did solid work late, but it wasn't enough.
Why tho?: There isn't a ton to glean on that is different from their first fight, but there were differences in their approaches. None of it really changed the result at its surface, as ultimately it lead to Namajunas still being able to pick Andrade off at range with quicker combinations, better footwork, and a more dynamic attack, but both fighters showed adjustments. Namajunas' corner could be heard telling her to "stand her ground" against Andrade, no doubt to prevent her allowing herself to be backed into the cage. This had net positive results, as it did keep her away from the fence, and therefore away from being clinched and taken up for that patented crotch lift slam like she did in the first fight, but it did also lead to her getting hit a bit more since she stayed in the pocket longer. It was especially the case in the final round, where he face got pretty busted up from the exchanges.
Andrade also added a new wrinkle to her game: head movement. It took long enough for her to implement it, and she certainly used it like she just discovered it, often making exaggerated side-to-side movements more arbitrarily than in reaction or anticipation to anything Namajunas was doing. It somewhat reminded me of Irene Aldana's superfluous head movement that she's since shored up a bit. Ultimately this hurt her because through the first couple rounds she mostly looked like she was more focused on employing her head movement than landing quality shots. It was good that she started to move her head while she threw; the lack of that was integral to how she lost her title, but she hasn't quite nailed down how to throw effectively in addition to moving her head. It wasn't until round three when she brought back her tried-and-true style of just ducking in with hooks to the body and transitioning to the head that she really started to have success. If she's able to marry the two effectively to be anywhere near as defensively potent as she is offensively potent, then she may have a shot at getting to the top again.
Other thoughts?: It was a rematch that needed to happen, and one that I'm sure Namajunas feels vindicated by. Andrade has some things to figure out, but she's still a major handful for anyone in the division. However, one has to wonder how thing would have turned out if this were the five round fight. Would Andrade have shifted the momentum and taken the remaining two rounds for the win, like Volkanovski did to Holloway? Would Namajunas have approached things differently and not opened herself up to harrowing third round, knowing that she had two more to go? It's an interesting thing to consider.
Next for Namajunas: Reigning champion Weili Zhang is the only fight left, unless they want to put her in a title eliminator with Tatiana Suarez, who has been oft-injured and inactive, so that probably won't be the case.
Next for Andrade: Andrade has run the gamut of the division so it's hard for her not to run into a rematch without sliding down the rankings. Another fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk doesn't seem right at this time, Nina Ansaroff won't be fighting for a while due to pregnancy (which begs the question of why she's still ranked), and she's already convincingly beaten Claudia Gadelha. However, Xioanan Yao is fighting Gadelha next, and whether she wins or loses she could be an option. The winner of Carla Esparza vs Marina Rodriguez would also be a fresh fight for her.
Ribas spoils VanZant's return, makes quick work of her
#14 (Strawweight) Amanda Ribas def. Paige VanZant by submission via arm bar (2:21, R1)
What happened?: Not a lot. Ribas essentially threw VanZant to the ground and submitted her.
How did that happen?: Ribas showed a lot of pressure early, landing a few kicks and a left hook until grabbing the clinch, kneeing VanZant to the body, and then whipping her to the ground with a head-and-arm throw and settling into the scarfhold position. VanZant tried to hook her far leg around Ribas to get her back, but that would've been useless unless she was able to free her head from the scarfhold. As she managed to escape, Ribas stepped over to her back and isolated her arm just as VanZant managed to get to top position, and she was immediately in trouble. Ribas turned and went belly down, and although VanZant tried to hop over Ribas to alleviate the pressure, she had to relent and tap out instead.
Why tho?: Well because Ribas is a much better fighter than VanZant, who has only regressed since leaving Team Alpha Male and being much less active in the cage. She's seemed anything but motivated to fight over the past few years, and that hurts her against opponents who are at or near her level, let alone those above her like Ribas. As Anderson Silva would say, "Is normal."
Other thoughts?: This was clearly a setup fight to get Ribas on the main card and get an impressive win over a notable name. She's shown good ability in the cage and charisma outside of it, so it's not really any wonder the UFC wanted to use VanZant as a stepping stone to get eyes on her. As for VanZant, aside from the seeming lack of motivation, leading into this fight she said she had plans to have yet another arm surgery following the fight, so it's safe to say she didn't come in near 100%. This also might have hastened the tap to the armbar, since it was on the same perpetually injured right arm of hers.
Next for Ribas: A serious opponent. She's derailed the latest pretty-faced hype train in Mackenzie Dern, dominated the fallen, pretty-faced former hype train in VanZant, and a couple of middle of the road strawweights in Randa Markos and Emily Whitmire. Maybe the winner of Michelle Waterson vs Angela Hill if they want to catapult her into the top 10.
Next for VanZant: Dana White expressed after the fight that he'd like to see her explore free agency, and honestly I'd heard opinions that it'd be the right move even before this fight. She's clearly not that invested in fighting, so she should be in a promotion that can accommodate that like One FC, where she has the flexibility to have a fight once a year then and do whatever she wants in the meantime, all while being propped up as a big deal and having a better chance to get wins that back that up. Otherwise I dunno, is Priscilla Cachoeira still around?
Jiri Prochazka def. #7 Volkan Oezdemir by KO via punch (0:49, R2)
I was excited to see Prochazka ply his trade in the UFC, but I felt he was being thrown in the deep end against Oezdemir. At the same time, it's light heavyweight so the pool isn't incredibly deep anyway. Those fears looked pretty confirmed when his loose, unorthodox, devoid of much defense style got him tagged quite a few times by Oezdemir, who looked pretty sharp and showed a much more focused, varied attack in the face of the Czech fighter's pressure. Then Prochazka turned up the heat in round two, landing a straight right and a head kick that wobbled Oezdemir. Prochazka gave chase, and landed a thunderous right hook that put Oezdemir out cold. Prochazka is no stranger to taking shots and landing a big shot to end or change the fight among the chaos, but it's not a recipe for consistent success at this level. The good thing is that he seemed to recognize it, and criticized himself for getting hit too much, so it's at least something that's on his radar. Looking forward to seeing how he fares in the UFC, and while I've seen suggestions to put him against the Thiago Santos vs Glover Teixeira winner, I think that'd put him right in line for a title shot with a win, and I'm not sure about that one. At the same time, there aren't many other choices with Oezdemir being ranked 7th, and it's light heavyweight, so why not?
But regardless of how he does, Prochazka will entertain.
Muslim Salikhov def. Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
According to one judge, this is how Salikhov stole an otherwise close round. Judging is hard.
Statistically this was a very close fight, but watching it live I thought it was relatively clear that Zaleski dos Santos deserved the decision. Judge Lukasz Bosacki, who gave Salikhov all three rounds, should not be allowed to judge. Even if you do award him round two and three, there was no way you could give him the first round if you knew what you were watching. MMA Decisions once again favors the loser here, with a whopping 14 of 16 media outlets and almost 85% of fans siding with the Brazilian. It's a shame that shoddy judges can ruin good fights, as this one had its slow moments, but made up for it with a lot of technical flair.
Makwan Amirkhani def. Danny Henry by submission via anaconda choke (3:15, R1)
Amirkhani essentially did what he wanted to do. He feinted and closed the distance until he got in close enough to drag the fight to the ground. From there he locked in a guillotine, switched the anaconda choke, and it wasn't long before Henry was out cold. Solid win for Mr. Finland, and a nice bounce-back from his disappointing loss to Shane Burgos.
Leonardo Santos def. Roman Bogatov by unanimous decision (29-26, 29-26, 29-26)
Bogatov proved to be more of a challenge than many thought, considering he's mainly a grappler and Santos is the far better grappler on paper, but he proved to be tough and scrappy in a way that Santos found pretty tough to deal with down the stretch. Round two was Santos' biggest, as he hurt Bogatov with a knee in the clinch, teed off on him with right hands and a head kick as Bogatov retreated, and then wobbled him badly along the cage with another right. Bogatov miraculously not only managed to survive, but reverse position and end up on top landing shots on Santos. Round three was where everything went screwy. While it was a clear winning round for Bogatov, three low blows went unpunished by referee Marc Goddard, and clearly sapped some of the will out of Santos. It wasn't until Bogatov decided to go really big with his rule breaking, and take time to line up and land a big clinch knee while Santos was clearly down on one knee, that Goddard finally took action. Thankfully he did the right thing and took two points; not that it mattered since Santos clearly took the first two rounds anyway. It was an odd performance by Bogatov that I'm sure the UFC is none too happy about.
Marcin Tybura def. Maxim Grishin by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Not a very inspiring fight. Basically Tybura used his size to repeatedly push Grishin up against he cage and grind him out in a slow affair. It was basically the main event without any of the speed or activity.
#14 Raulian Paiva def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Another iffy decision, with 16 of 20 media outlets and over 75% of fans favoring Zhumagulov, this one seemed a clear case of Paiva starting off well and dropping the last two rounds. It apparently all came down to round 3 where the judges must have favored Paiva's pressure rather than the fact that Zhumagulov landed more and better strikes. It was a nice debut for the Kazakh fighter; too bad he couldn't be rewarded for it.
Karol Rosa def. Vanessa Melo by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
There wasn't a ton of note about this fight. Rosa has shown to be quite the volume striker, but technically she's nothing to write home about, and she just beat Melo every step of the way. Similar to Andrade when fighting Namajunas later in the night, once Melo decided to just let loose and get more aggressive she began to land much more on her opponent, but it happened too late for her to parlay it into a win.
Davey Grant def. Martin Day by KO via punch (2:38, R3)
The card opened up with a surprise knockout, and it was from the grappler in the fight. The majority of the fight was contested on the feet, and for the most part it was pretty competitive, with Day likely taking the opening round and Grant rallying back to take the second. The third round was pretty back-and-forth until a same-time left hook moment saw Grant's hook land first and knock Day unconscious. One might say it was a great way to finish the day (I'm here all night). A rousing finish for the frequently injured Grant, and though he seems more comfortable on the feet, he needs to watch his defense, as his other hand essentially falls to his waist when he throws hooks.
And that does it for this double wide thiccc version of 'What the hell happened?!' I knew it'd be an undertaking, what with three title fights and a lot of relevant names to talk about, so I was happy to sacrifice a lot of the prelims, which were pretty underdeveloped compared to the main card, even if the fights were interestingly matched up. You won't see me for the next event when Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige class; it's only three days away, and unfortunately I don't have the time to deep dive into midweek cards. Hopefully it'll be enjoyable all the same, and I'll see you all next weekend to tell it like it is. Until then, sado out!