Greetings, fight fans! UFC 255 is in the books, and while it may not have been the most stacked offering despite two title fights, the card ended up delivering some solid action that saw both champions retain their spots on top of their respective divisions. Valentina Shevchenko had to work a bit harder than many thought she would against Jennifer Maia, while Deiveson Figueiredo dazzled again in doing the exact opposite to turn away Alex Perez. But without further ado, let's get down to what the hell happened!
The Main Card
It wasn't without controversy, but Figueiredo makes short work of Perez in his first flyweight title defense
Deiveson Figueiredo def. #4 Alex Perez by submission via guillotine choke (1:57, R1) to retain the UFC Flyweight Championship
What happened?: Perez was game early as the two men traded hard body kicks and a few punches up top, but after Perez's attempt to wrestle led to him defending a slick leglock attempt that was quickly followed by an even slicker spin into a guillotine when Perez tried to scramble out and get his back. It looked as if Perez would slip his head out of the choke, but Figueiredo continued squeezing, and eventually he had to relent and tap out.
How did that happen?: After a short-but-competitive striking battle on the feet where Perez was actually getting the slight better of the action with his dangerous kicking game, things got complicated once Perez decided to shoot a single leg takedown in hopes of getting the fight to the ground. Figueiredo managed to stay upright for the initial shot (aided by a couple unfortunate fence grabs), and Perez decided to switch up his grip and elevate Figueiredo's leg, most likely so he could trip the balancing leg out from under him and put him on his back. Figueiredo got out ahead of this by dropping down for a rather snazzy scissor sweep into a leglock attempt that almost looked reminiscent of Ryo Chonan's flying scissor heel hook that he tapped Anderson Silva with. Perez was keen to it and spun around with the lock, then landed a hammerfist to loosen the hold while attempting establish top control most likely via side mount. Before he could secure position, Figueiredo spun around backwards and actually gave up his back, but while Perez tried to lock his body down he just continued spinning through right into an arm-in guillotine choke. From there he kicked out Perez's balancing leg and elevated it to tip his balance forward so he fell deeper into the choke. It was some pretty high level stuff for such a sudden transition. Perez looked on track to pulling his head out, and attempted to elevate Figueiredo, but with both of them fresh and dry, the squeeze was too much for him to withstand, and he surrendered at 1:57 of the first round.
Other thoughts: Perez is a very talented fighter, but I felt like this was a "pick your poison" type of fight for him. Figueiredo has clearly shown to be a very dangerous fighter on the feet, and because of that it's been easy to forget that he's an elite level grappler, even after what he did to Joseph Benavidez in his last fight. Perez quickly searching for the takedown was both a smart thing to do in order to get the wrestling into the head of Figueiredo, and inadvisable because the champion is just the better fighter on the ground. Unfortunately it appeared his decision to wrestle might have been influenced by an eye poke he suffered moments earlier, which is a shame because he was doing well in the brief stand up portion of the fight.
Ultimately, it was difficult to see Perez winning this fight though, because it was one of the few situations where I think MMA math actually sort of works. It wasn't incredibly long ago that Perez was completely trounced by Benavidez, a man Figueiredo brutally finished twice. He has made some improvements since, but it's not like I would comfortably favor Perez over Benavidez if they were to rematch; if I'd even favor him at all. Plain and simple, he's a fighter who is slower, less powerful and athletic, and more hittable than Figueiredo on the feet, and while he does have better wrestling and can take advantage of the champion's imperfect takedown defense, once the fight hits the ground he's at a marked grappling disadvantage. It was a lose-lose, and he lost in the phase he might have thought he'd have the best chance of winning in.
What is even more impressive about Figueiredo is that it wasn't like Perez went to the ground and made any grave mistake that got him submitted. He defended the leglock well, struck to free himself, and made the right moves to get on top and potentially get Figueiredo's back, but the way he scrambled into the guillotine was just something most fighters would've been unlikely to see coming. It was just some really slick stuff from the champion that further cemented the fact that he's not just arguably the most dangerous flyweight on the feet, but one of the most dangerous on the ground as well. After the fight he seemed supremely confident and borderline cocky in his abilities and his future as a champion going forward (although we can typically take Wallid Ismail's translations with a large grain of salt), and after his last several performances it's not hard to see why.
Next for Figueiredo: Despite the fact that the UFC actually considered shutting down the division, there are actually some choices for "Deus de Guerra.." The #1 ranked Brandon Moreno's impressive win earlier in the night may have punched his ticket to a title shot, and we also can't forget that Perez was a replacement for former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, who was set to challenge for the title in his flyweight debut before a series of unfortunate events that included a torn bicep, a positive COVID-19 test, and a laundry list of other ailments booted him from the fight. Garbrandt says he'll be ready in March, and although Moreno rightfully deserves the shot and probably should have been booked to fight for the title instead of Garbrandt in the first place, it's easy to see the UFC passing him up once again in favor of their more established commodity. Aside from them, there's also been plenty of talk about coaxing former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo out of retirement since he never lost the title. I personally think Moreno is the right fight to make, but all three of these would be great.
UPDATE: As of this writing, the UFC is working on Figueiredo vs Moreno for UFC 256.
Next for Perez: It was a bit too much, too soon for Perez. but his stock probably won't fall much from this loss. I'd give him the winner of the upcoming Alexandre Pantoja vs Manel Kape fight, or perhaps Brandon Royval, who lost to Moreno earlier in the event.
Maia makes it interesting, but Shevchenko logs another clear-cut title defense
Valentina Shevchenko def. #3 Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) to retain the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship
What happened?: A surprising amount of wrestling, grappling, and clinch work led to a fight where the challenger proved pretty competitive in stretches. Shevchenko struck for takedowns in every round but the final one, and frequently engaged in the clinch, where Maia often looked to be the physically stronger of the two. Ultimately however, she was still able to clearly get the better of he action on the feet, and was far more successful in her wrestling and top control efforts, culminating in a win that maybe wasn't as dominant as many thought it would be, but was fairly dominant nonetheless.
How did that happen?: It was a solid example of why styles make fights. Although the commentary team was both surprised and puzzled that Shevchenko insisted on often striking into and inviting clinch situations, this was not something at all unfamiliar in her style. She's landed at least one takedown in all but one of her UFC fights (her rematch with Amanda Nunes), and has outwrestled women who on paper were better wrestlers than her. As mentioned, Maia is a pretty strong fighter, and the clinch is an area where she's consistently effective in fights; it might even be where she's best. So when Shevchenko sought out the clinch to work her takedowns, Maia was more equipped to handle her than most before her. The opening round saw Shevchenko quickly clinch up and throw Maia to the ground, where she would remain on top for the rest of the round throwing conservative punches in the guard.
Maia's best work came in the second round, where she was able to take advantage of a bad takedown attempt from Shevchenko and turn it into a takedown of her own. From there she mostly stayed heavy on top and stifled Shevchenko's guard game, maintaining control for nearly the entire round.
As fleeting as it was Maia enjoyed more success against he champ than anyone else in the division.
After that, Maia would have success in spurts, but Shevchenko largely began to run away with the fight. She started to find her range on the feet, landing snapping jabs, quick 1-2s, and left hands over the top that eventually marked and bloodied Maia's face. To her credit, Maia landed several left hook counters as Shevchenko would off to her right after throwing her straight left, as well as some nice right hands. Still, she was expectedly outgunned on the feet for most of the bout, and couldn't get anything going from the clinch or on from the bottom whenever she was taken down. Toward the end of the fight she did start to have some success by just turning up the pressure and throwing back, which made for some fun exchanges such as one right near the end of the fight where Shevchenko lands a spinning backfist, only to be countered by a solid right hand from Maia, which in turn was countered by a straight left hand from the champion. It was definitely a more competitive and gutsy performance than we're used to from Shevchenko's other victims, but still proved to be just another display of why she rules the division with an iron fist.
Despite her insistence on clinching, Shevchenko has plenty of success standing.
Other thoughts: There were plenty of picks for Shevchenko to put Maia away in this fight, but while that wouldn't have surprised me, I definitely saw this one going the distance. She's perpetually under the radar, but Maia is a good fighter who is exceptionally tough. Over her career she's shown a lot of durability on the feet and a level of jiu jitsu that would at least allow her to nullify a lot of what Shevchenko brought to the table. I think it was right to consider her a massive underdog in the fight, but it's not for lack of toughness or an inability to hang tough with the champ for 25 minutes. Maia simply isn't really a finisher (as good as Joanna Calderwood is, submitting her isn't a huge feather to put in your cap), and I saw no real chance of her winning the better of five rounds against Shevchenko. She performed about as well as could be hoped, which I guess is some sort of consolation.
Next for Shevchenko: Dana White has been floating the idea around that the trilogy fight with Amanda Nunes makes sense, and while I wouldn't scoff much at that, Jessica Andrade makes the most sense in the division.
Next for Maia: Maia's got a couple of options right underneath her that she could take on next. Cynthia Calvillo, who lost to Katlyn Chookagian a few fights prior might be the best bet, but she could also fight the winner of Jessica Eye vs Joanne Calderwood, or Lauren Murphy, who is in need of a top five win after her bout with Calvillo fell through and she beat an unranked debutante in Liliya Shakirova instead.
Silky-smooth striking carries Means to a rousing win over Perry
Tim Means def. Mike Perry by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
What happened?: An early takedown and some surprisingly potent grappling made for an impressive start from Perry, but over time Means' far superior technique on the feet seemed to cut him off at almost every turn. Quick jabs and long, straight left hands tagged Perry to the head and body repeatedly, and while he was able to land some solid punches himself, the final two rounds easily belonged to "The Dirty Bird."
How did that happen?: This was superior technique triumphing over superior power. The difference in the way they struck was palpable, as Perry loaded up and leapt into much of what he threw, while Means effortlessly flicked out punches and kicks with little tell. When the two styles met, Means was just able to beat him to the punch more often than not because he could react to Perry's head and/or hands dipping in anticipation to throw his shots, and just toss out quick punches to disrupt him before he could get his attacks out. As mentioned, Perry started the fight out with a surprising bit of aptitude on the ground after muscling Means to the canvas. When Means went to elevate him off with butterfly hooks, Perry slickly transitioned to his back and rolled him over. From there he hunted for the rear-naked choke, and nearly got it on two separate occasions before Means was able to turn into his guard and the two made it to their feet. From there it was essentially all Means, as he landed jabs at will and a couple hard straight lefts, but Perry's grappling control and the two near submission attempts got him the round on two of the judges' scorecards.
Welcome to the UFC, ADCC Perry.
For the most part, rounds two and three saw Means repeatedly popping Perry with straight punches to the head and body, throwing knees up the middle to discourage him from changing levels, and landing sneaky elbows when they were in close. Perry was able to land here and there, including a couple right hands that definitely stunned Means a bit, but overall he could never find any extended success due to Means' volume and accuracy consistently stopping him in his tracks. Means did engage him in a few brawls in the final stanza, and Perry did manage to land some good shots in those exchanges, but Means was always keen not to keep those going for too long and break them up with movement or changing levels for a takedown attempt of his own. For as solid as Perry looked on the ground, he couldn't get the fight back there once Means was hip to his wrestling, and Means clearly had a vast advantage in the striking department.
Though Perry certainly had moments.
Other thoughts: Other than Perry's sudden grappling ability, there was nothing really surprising about this one. We all knew coming in that Means was far and away the better striker, as he's one of the smoother strikers in the division, and once he gets going it's a real treat to see just how clean and effortless his technique is. The only thing that let Perry into the fight was the same thing that got Means finished by Niko Price: his durability has waned a bit to the point that a "big dumb puncher" type can potentially put him away. As nice as his technique is, Means loves to strike in the pocket and it's hard not to rely at least little on your durability there. He tends to like to roll with punches and fire back, and that's an inherently dangerous game to play. It worked out well for him here, but he also notably kept the fight at a bit more of a favorable range for himself the majority of the time, which was very intelligent. He knew Perry was going to telegraph most of his shots, so he stood just far out enough to read Perry's tells and react accordingly at a range he could land at.
As for Perry, as much as he can appear to be the affable town fool at times, it's hard not to be glad he lost after not only missing weight horribly for this fight, but clearly not taking the weight cut seriously at all by posting videos to social media of him enjoying things like big hamburgers just days out from the fight, and fully acknowledging that the weight cut was going to be rough because of it. Add that to his insistence on not employing an actual corner to coach him during his fights because nobody can "tell him nothing," and it just seems like he doesn't care about anything anymore. I'm not sure what kind of defiant message he's trying to spread here, but in the end he just looks unprofessional and unlikable. Means on the other hand picked up a good win, and kept it professional even after revealing that Perry sent him messages essentially showing that he wasn't taking the fight seriously in his preparation. If Perry is trying to get himself cut and potentially ruin his MMA career, he's on the right path.
Next for Means: He's in a bit of an odd place since most of the fighters around him rankings-wise are coming off losses or are matched against higher-ranked opponents already, but I think Jake Matthews would be an interesting style match up considering Matthews' newfound focus on his striking. He could also fight the winner of next month's Jingliang Li vs Dwight Grant fight.
Next for Perry: It's been long desired by fans for obvious reasons, and the time might be now to book Perry vs Niko Price. It would be absolute bananas while it lasted. Otherwise Randy Brown would also work.
Chookagian cruises past a lackadaisical Calvillo
#2 Katlyn Chookagian def. #4 Cynthia Calvillo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
What happened?: Calvillo couldn't seem to get past her sizable height and reach disadvantage, and really did little to adjust to it other than just continue trying to land the same straight right-left hook combination that would occasionally work throughout the fight, leaving Chookagian to keep her mostly at range and collect an easy decision victory.
How did that happen?: Though the strike totals are surprisingly close, the story of the fight was mostly Chookagian taking the center position, keeping Calvillo at range, and picking her apart with jabs and long straight right hands. Calvillo would throw out the odd half-hearted level change or reach to catch a low kick and think about attempting a takedown, but for the most part she just sought to strike, which was the opposite path anyone breaking down this fight would've advised she take. Because of that it became a bit of what's become somewhat typical of both fighters: for Chookagian it was a ranged kickboxing battle where she used her reach to stay out of danger and score points at distance, and for Calvillo it was a ranged kickboxing battle that she became too comfortable in to realize that she wasn't winning it until it was too late. Calvillo did see more success in the third round landing some solid punches in the latter half of the round, and while it was actually enough to argue that she edged out the round, she pretty clearly lost the first two rounds.
Other thoughts: Calvillo has become a pretty frustrating fighter for me to watch for most of her UFC bouts. She made her bones earlier on as a hyperactive wrestler and scrambler with a great ability to get to an opponent's back, and over time that slowly diminished in favor of a striking game, no doubt bolstered by her decision win over Calderwood where she held her own against a much more decorated striker. Since then she didn't abandon her wrestling completely, but she would inexplicably choose to strike for long periods against fighters she likely would've had a much easier time wrestling and grappling with, even after having success wrestling earlier in the fight.
I thought her lack of attention to her wrestling would cause her to kickbox with Jessica Eye and lose a decision, but she rediscovered her wrestling and won a clear decision on the strength of it. So after regaining some confidence that she actually would go to her wrestling when she needed to, I thought she'd take the same approach against Chookagian and not get caught up in a dull striking match. Of course that didn't happen, and she instead decided to strike with one of the trickier strikers to deal with in the division other than the champion. She lost unsurprisingly, and I definitely get a bit of that "young veteran" vibe out of Calvillo, where she tends to get caught up in striking battles that she's not winning because she doesn't feel any real sense of urgency if her opponent isn't hurting her with anything. In retrospect, Chookagian's style is kinda perfect to lure Calvillo into sleepwalking her way to a decision loss.
Next for Chookagian: She's still in a weird spot being that fighter who loses to no one but top fighters, and she's fought her way through a lot of the top 10 so she can't really go anywhere but down in terms of her opponents' rankings. Lauren Murphy has been talking a lot about getting a title shot. She doesn't deserve it right now, but a win over Chookagian would probaly cement her status as a contender.
Next for Calvillo: She was originally slated to face Murphy before being forced out of the fight, and she got a bigger step up in competition instead that it turns out she wasn't ready for. Maia is ranked right below Chookagian so she could take that fight. Otherwise the only other fight that you could really go rankings-wise with is the winner of Roxanne Modafferi vs Viviane Araujo.
Craig outgrapples "Shogun" and pounds him out
#15 Paul Craig def. #14 Mauricio Rua by TKO via strikes (3:36, R2)
What happened?: In another sad outing for Rua, Craig opted to take a different approach than he did in their first bout, this time sticking more to his roots and working takedowns and jiu jitsu, which clearly took their toll on Rua's stamina. Eventually Rua would make the mistake of giving up his back to stand one too many times, leading to Craig getting back mount, flattening him out, and pounding away until Rua actually tapped out to prompt the referee to intervene.
How did that happen?: Whereas the first fight was characterized by Craig getting the better of Rua on the feet before being dragged to the ground and stifled to a split draw, this time Craig decided to take the ground game into his own hands initiate the wrestling himself. Craig scored a double leg takedown early in the fight, where Rua was able to look for a half guard sweep (his go-to), and instead used his underhook to get back to his feet. Craig held onto the front headlock and tried to threaten with a D'arce choke, which he used to get Rua back into half guard. After Rua made it back to his feet again, Craig once again shot behind a right hand to take him down against the cage. Rua gave up his back and went to all fours to stand, and Craig tried to jump onto his back but was reversed in the process. Craig managed to escape out the back and nearly take his back again, but Rua remained on top and landed a couple shots for good measure before the end of the round.
In the second round they spent a little more time on the feet early, and the few punches Rua did land did have some power on them, but once again Craig was able to trip him to the mat after a single leg attempt. This time when Rua gave up his back Craig jumped on with both hooks in, but Rua was able to remove one of the hooks and turn around into the guard. Craig was able to get to his feet and shoot again quickly, this time grinding Rua against the cage before getting another single leg, which prompted Rua to once again give up his back. This time Craig started laying in punches and managed to get both hooks in before flattening Rua out and teeing off from back mount. With nowhere to go, Rua relented and tapped, forcing the stoppage.
Other thoughts: As many know at this point, I'm a huge Rua fan, so this was hard for me to watch, as has much of his UFC career, to be honest. As great as it is that he's had a pretty respectable run in the light heavyweight division over he past several years, that doesn't distract from the fact that he is far, far past his prime and his recent run is more an indictment on the division if anything. The Rua of even a few years ago I would have much more confidently picked beat Craig, but here he just looked slow and honestly over it. Once Craig made it clear he was going to wrestle and grapple, Rua looked like he really didn't want to be there, and you could see the motivation and energy leave him on every shot and every takedown. I wouldn't insinuate that he gave up and just let the fight go, but once he was in a bad spot he didn't really seem to have much desire or energy to really fight out of it. I have absolutely nothing against fighters tapping to strikes; if you can opt out of a fight during a submission, I see no reason you can't do the same thing if you feel like you're taking too much punishment and the referee isn't stopping the fight.
However, I think that in addition to the fact that he really didn't have any recourse for turning the fight around, and having taken enough damage to the head that it's in his best interest not to take unnecessary shots, to me it looked like Rua also just didn't want to be there anymore engaging in a grapping contest, which is something you do see out of aging strikers when they encounter these style match ups. In addition to that, apparently he suffered a nasty elbow injury on the first takedown, so that probably contributed to it as well. As a Rua fan it was sad to see, as are all his losses. As for Craig, the win doesn't really prove much, but he did look solid out there. He'll continue to be a threat with his grappling, and his striking does look to be coming along a bit.
Next for Craig: I think the winner of Ryann Spann vs Misha Cirkunov might be the right move for him, if not a rematch with Jim Crute.
Next for Rua: I know this is said almost every time he fights, but retirement wouldn't be the worst option, especially after the way he lost. If he continues, there aren't many match ups that aren't dangerous for him. Ion Cutelaba, Michal Oleksiejczuk, and Alonzo Menifield all make sense, but none make me feel too good as a Rua fan! I say put him in there with Gadzhimurad Antigulov and hopefully he can manage a win and retire.
#1 Brandon Moreno def. #6 Brandon Royval by TKO via strikes (4:59, R1)
This had potential Fight of the Night written all over it, and while it ended more quickly and oddly than anticipated, the first round was definitely shaping up to contend for that distinction. They didn't waste any time feeling each other out, trading in the pocket early until Moreno broke up the action with a quick takedown. Royval was quickly able to kick him off and stand up to resume the frenetic pace on the feet. While it was a spinning back elbow that helped him pave his path to victory against Kai Kara-France, he wasn't as fortunate with the same technique here, as Moreno was crowded the move when advancing into the clinch, and Royval essentially just gave up the rear waist lock because of the spin, leading to an easy takedown.
Moreno quickly went to work with some painful-looking face crank attempts that looked on the verge of forcing a tap, but to Royval's credit he gritted through them and hand fought effectively. As Royval attempted to scramble to an improved position, there were actually ample opportunities from there for Moreno to look for a twister submission, but he either didn't see it or wasn't interested in going for the low-percentage maneuver. Royval managed to create enough space to go for a leglock, but Moreno was able to stifle it, and in the ensuing scramble Royval grimaced and appeared to injure himself. With Royval squirming on the bottom, Moreno smelled blood and unleashed a torrent of hammerfists. It was a bit of an odd moment because Royval was moving and squirming, but not really defending himself too well from the shots, appearing to grab Moreno's free wrist instead. The fight was stopped with one second left, and Royval's immediate expressions of agony confirmed that he was indeed injured.
We'd quickly find out that his shoulder separated during the scramble, and the squirming he was doing on bottom was actually him attempting to reset it; he wasn't grabbing Moreno's wrist, he was grabbing his own in order to pop his shoulder back into place. Pretty wild stuff. Luckily for him, relief wasn't far away as his coach managed to give his shoulder a quick reset.
GOOD AS NEW.
Joaquin Buckley def. Jordan Wright by KO via strikes (0:18, R2)
Viral knockout author Buckley looked to add to his highlight reel with a quick turnaround against Wright, and while it was of course nowhere near as flashy as his two-touch spin kick knockout of Impa Kasanganay, he did manage a pretty violent knockout. Buckley was wild and aggressive from the onset, throwing big power shots often and showing little regard for his opponent's striking. His speed and power advantage made for a dominant first round where Wright mostly stuck to kicking his body since he had very little luck landing up top. The round culminated in Buckley backing Wright into the cage and teeing off with shots until he dropped him with seconds left on the clock. Wright managed to survive, but he was hurt badly, and pretty clearly wasn't all there when the next round started.
Buckley was all over him from start to finish.
Buckley wasted no time putting an end to his compromised opponent in round two, immediately landing big left hands as Wright tried to circle away, before corralling him with a right hook that led him right into a crushing left left hook that crumpled him against the cage, and another right that caught him on the way down for good measure.
It was an impressive knockout, but far from unexpected, as Wright is the much slower man and historically has pretty poor striking defense. Buckley also looked pretty sloppy and overcommitted to his punches at times, which he'll need to shore up because you know the UFC will probably give him a nice bump in competition sooner rather than later. After the fight, he called out James Krause, though he refused to say his name, for a fight on Fight Island in January. If Krause is up for the trip back up to 185 lbs, I say book it. Krause has been talking nonstop trash about Buckley since his last win due to an incident that apparently got Buckley kicked out of Krause's gym, so they might as well let them settle it in the octagon.
Buckley vs He Who Must Not Be Named, book it!
#15 Antonina Shevchenko def. Ariane Lipski by TKO via strikes (4:33, R2)
The older sister of Valentina, Antonina showed some major new wrinkles in her game against former KSW strawweight queen Lipski. The story on her UFC tenure so far is that she's a high level striker and is good in the clinch like her sister, but lacks the well-roundedness that has aided Valentina in her rise to the top. As a result she's been victimized by dedicated wrestling approaches, where her takedown defense suffered and she had little recourse once she was put on her back. Here she figured that if she couldn't beat 'em, she might as well join 'em with a dominant display of wrestling and top control that eventually led to a TKO stoppage of the "Queen of Violence." After taking her down with a head and arm throw in the first round, Lipski sought to sneak out the backdoor and take Shevchenko's back, but she was keen to turn into her and step into half guard, and exercise some heavy top control before the horn.
In the second round Lipski began to land well at distance, and Shevchenko wasted no time clinching up and trying to throw her to the mat once more. Lipski managed to avoid being thrown, but in a scramble she ended up on the bottom once again. From there Shevchenko controlled her well until in a move similar to what would happen in Craig vs Rua later in the night, Lipski rolled to her belly and gave up her back, and Shevchenko just stepped over into back mount and fired away with punches until the referee had no choice but to stop the fight. It was good to see Shevchenko still improving her game, and it can only make her more dangerous down the stretch; though it'd be interesting if she became too successful, as her sister is the champion of her division. As for Lipski, the result is disappointing, but despite her exciting and successful run in KSW, her lack of process in fights was always going to work against her in the UFC. It works for her when she's in there with similarly structureless opponents that she can just crash into, but a good gameplan can take her out of the fight and force her into a fighting a losing battle.
Nicolas Dalby def. Daniel Rodriguez by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
These are two fighters who I can't seem to predict correctly, so it's no surprise that Dalby scored the upset here. In fact, I thought him being a 2-to-1 underdog was definitely a stretch considering how durable and tricky to fight he generally is. Here he appeared to befuddle Rodriguez for most of the bout with his karate style; the American had a tough time dealing with his frequent low kicks from range and his in-and-out punching combinations, and spent a lot of the time sort of following him around and fighting at his pace. What's crazy is that it was mostly working for him, but I guess the visuals just favored Dalby. All told, Rodriguez outlanded him in every round, and overall held an 83-to-50 advantage in significant strikes. Rodriguez's most palpable moments of success came when he pressured Dalby and got aggressive, but those moments were a bit too few and far between, and so in the end it looked like a back-and-forth fight where Dalby controlled the range most of the time and had more significant moments. It was one of those weird fights where because of the way things played out, the stats belied what you perceived the fight to be.
Alan Jouban def. Jared Gooden by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
It had been over a year-and-a-half since we'd seen Jouban in the cage, and he looks to have rounded out his game a bit in that span. That isn't to say it wasn't well-rounded before, but in this fight he really seemed to find a better balance between throwing volume and still fighting a relatively smart fight, where as before his performances tended to either be brawls or overly-measured kickboxing contests. His check right hook found its mark frequently throughout the entire fight when Gooden closed the distance, and he used a dynamic range of strikes to keep Gooden at the end of his range for a lot of the bout. The fight actually began to pick up more in the second round when Jouban appeared to tire. Oddly enough, in spite of his fatigue he actually threw more and was more accurate in the second half of the fight, but Gooden also had slightly more success than he previously did, leading to some nice back-and-forth exchanges. At the end of the fight, Jouban latched onto a guillotine, and upon learning there were 15 seconds left in the fight, he put everything into the squeeze and nearly got the tap, which was a pretty great way to end the fight (lots of near-submissions in this event). Overall, Gooden performed decently and was impressively composed the entire fight, but it was very clear who got the better of the action. With Jouban pushing 40, it's good to see him still evolving his game and putting on solid performances.
That's how you end a round. LET'S GO!
Kyle Daukaus def. Dustin Stoltzfus by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
This was a fight between two potent grapplers, but Daukaus' massive height and reach advantage seemed to make quite the difference here in the striking as well as the clinch and grappling exchanges. Stoltzfus repeatedly tried to drag the fight to the ground, but found himself having to shoot from too far out to navigate the range, and more often than not he failed to control the clinch situations and ended up being taken down himself. On the bottom he couldn't mount much effective offense against his fellow grappler. Daukaus really started to run away with the fight in the third round, where he repeatedly landed long, straight punches to a tired Stoltzfus, and nearly submitted him with a D'arce choke after stuffing a desperate takedown attempt. It wasn't the way Stoltzfus wanted to start his UFC run after an impressive performance on Dana White's Contender Series, but it was a nice bounce-back win for Daukaus.
Sasha Palatnikov def. Louis Cosce by TKO via strikes (2:27, R3)
The night started out with a rousing battle between two UFC newcomers that pretty much exhibited the archetype of the quick-finishing Contender Series alum who falls apart when they can't achieve that quick finish. After Palatnikov surprisingly initiated the wrestling with an early takedown, he ended up worse for it as Cosce stood up and wrapped up a single leg instead. Palatnikov tried to roll through it, but Cosce just followed him to the ground and rifled off hard punches that rocked Palatnikov as he got to his feet. Once Palatnikov did make it upright, he wasn't there for long, as his attempts to strike with Cosce while still rocked got him dropped and fighting to survive. Cosce's all-offense approach once he smelled blood actually let Palatnikov back into the fight and allowed him to land some pretty solid shots in the ensuing exchanges, and before long it was clear that Cosce, who had finished most of his previous pro fights in less than a minute and all of them in the first round, was not physically fit to hang with an opponent who could survive his onslaught (shocker, I know).
From there, Palatnikov recovered well and was the much fresher guy, and just started to beat Cosce up over the course of the fight. A low blow to Palatnikov in the second round did give Cosce enough of a reprieve to get a bit of a second wind and have a burst of successful offense upon the restart, but he got the worst of the action overall. By the final round, Cosce resorted to lazy takedown just to get a breather, and after eating a big right hand he was forced him to shoot a panic takedown that Palatnikov sprawled and fired away with left and right hooks as Cosce turtled and covered up waiting for the stoppage. It was a very fun fight and gutsy performance from both men, and hopefully Cosce learned a valuable lesson about conserving his cardio a bit in the process.
This was a crazy one.
And that's all I have to say for UFC 255! The card was enjoyable, and it's always nice to see two highly regarded champions do work. Next up on deck is UFC on ESPN 18, which is headlined by an earth-shaker of a main event between heavyweight Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis, which definitely has some contendership implications and great UFC Fight Bets. Until then, sado out!