What the hell happened at UFC Fight Night Sacramento?!

After suffering through yet another week of no home cable or internet (FUUU Comcast!) and again having to go out of my way just to watch this event, I was pretty sure a recap article wasn't on the horizon for this trek to Sacramento, CA that was anything but anticipated. Of course I had to force myself to do it anyway after what we just witnessed at this card. Unlike last week's entry, I wasn't inspired to pump out an article because of how good this card was, but rather because it was so controversial, with instances of both bad judging and refereeing. Through it all we got some decent fights and nice finishes, but without the gaffs across the card this would've been a recap I'd have opted to forgo. With that said, let's talk about what the hell happened!

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The Main Card

De Randamie scores quick TKO, while Herb Dean reverts to type

#1 Germaine De Randamie def. #4 Aspen Ladd by TKO via punch (0:16, R1)

Since UFC's Twitter insists on not providing footage...

Welcome back, Herb! No sooner was I reminded that we'd actually gone a good amount of time without an egregious refereeing mistake from Dean that he breaks his streak of solid refereeing with a pretty bad stoppage here in the main event. The fight lasted only 16 seconds, but in that time De Randamie already managed to get a reaction out of Ladd with her jab. After flicking a couple out, she showed another and timed a very nice counter straight right as Ladd attempted to parry the jab and come back with a left hook that landed right on her jaw and spun her around to land on all fours. From there De Randamie switched up for a followup left uppercut while Ladd was down but Dean was already rushing in to stop the fight. The uppercut rolled Ladd to her back where she attempted to tie up the legs of De Randamie. Upon replay it appeared the uppercut didn't even land flush.

I was not a fan of this stoppage at all. Ladd definitely took a hard shot and went down from it, but was with it enough to break her fall with her hands and stay fairly upright. Dean ran in to finish the fight before De Randamie even began to throw the uppercut, which as mentioned didn't appear to land with any consequence. Ladd was visibly confused and frustrated at the stoppage, but most importantly she seemed perfectly fine and not wobbly at all. It stands to reason that she wasn't even hurt all that badly at any point. Maybe Dean saw something in her eyes we couldn't when she sat on all fours that told him she was really out of the fight. I don't know, but as many times as I look at it, it just looks like a premature stoppage to me, and judging from how "with it" Ladd seemed when the fight was stopped, I don't even know if I can muster up the "But she was in bad shape and likely would have been finished anyway" disclaimer here.

I would give Dean more leeway here because while Ladd didn't go out from the punch, she also sat there for a beat without moving to defend herself while facing away from De Randamie; but he literally started moving in for the stoppage as soon as Ladd hit the ground. Even if she had popped right back up he would've been in the midst of running in. But hey, refereeing is hard. Harder than a lot of people give it credit for. It's easier to watch something on a screen and pontificate about what you would've done, but it's not necessarily the same when you're in there. However, a bad stoppage is a bad stoppage. I've seen people defending it, but I can't think of one instance where a referee rushed in to stop a fight after the first meaningful strike landed unless the fighter was unconscious or went down particularly hard; neither of those describes Ladd, and she deserved the opportunity to at least make an attempt to fight out of that position.

While this main event wasn't much to write home about on paper, it's unfortunate that it had to go down this way, but refereeing blunders aside, props to De Randamie for a well-timed counter that capitalized on Ladd's general lack of head movement. One would think she's up for a title shot next, or at least a title eliminator (is Ketlen Vieira even alive?). If I were Ladd I'd push for a rematch, but otherwise I'd give her the winner or loser of Irene Aldana vs Raquel Pennington; whichever makes the most sense based on how that fight plays out.

Faber makes short work of Simon in hometown return to MMA

Urijah Faber def. #15 Ricky Simon by KO via strikes (0:46, R1)

Faber's back too! The co-main event was another abbreviated affair, though a bit more happened in this one and the stoppage wasn't so bad (it wasn't great either). Simon started out aggressively with an inside leg kick and a counter left hook that stunned and backed up "The California Kid," and he barely missed a knee as he pressured to follow up. With his back against the cage, Faber feinted slightly and moved his head off the center line to his left while launching and overhand right to Simon's temple that took away his equilibrium and caused him to faceplant on the mat. He popped up to his knees before rolling to his back and attempting to elevate Faber with his legs, but Faber floated over to side control and landed punches on a supine Simon until the fight was stopped.

I wasn't a huge fan of this stoppage either, but it was much more warranted than in the main event. Referee Mike Beltran stepped in after Faber landed a couple hammerfists on the ground, but it looked like Simon was still struggling to improve his position and might not have been given enough time. However, I will provide the disclaimer that Simon likely wouldn't have survived had it been allowed to go longer, especially with Faber historically having some of the best finishing instinct in the lighter weight divisions.

It looks like to some extent Faber's still got it. Simon was a solid comeback opponent to determine if he had fallen off further or could still handle himself against good, younger fighters at bantamweight. While I'm happy for him getting this victory, I can't help but get a sour taste in my mouth as it gave him the opportunity to respond to reigning flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo's recent call out of him, when he was thought to be retired. It sounds like a fight the UFC might actually pursue, and I don't want in the least. Faber doesn't particularly deserve yet another title shot, and I just see little to no way he even competes with Cejudo, let alone beats him. I'd rather see him take on someone like Cody Stamann or Rob Font, though I've seen the winner of Raphael Assuncao vs Cory Sandhagen suggested. As for Simon, John Dodson could be a good fit for him.

Emmett continues to climb the featherweight ranks with impressive TKO over Bektic

#9 Josh Emmett def. #12 Mirsad Bektic by TKO via strikes (4:25, R1)

Emmett has been one of those fighters whose ability I can definitely recognize, but for whatever reason I found hard to really get behind. As a result I frequently flub picking his fights, and this was no exception. Make no mistake, I was more than aware that he had a good chance of winning this fight, what with the power in his hands and Bektic having shown that his chin isn't bulletproof. The only shocking thing about this fight for me was that Bektic just looked somewhat bad overall. He was aggressive and threw a lot of feints, but he often swung wide in exchanges with huge right hands and made the same entries to close the distance. His aggression didn't really pay dividends as he failed to land much despite his high volume. Emmett on the other hand looked for counters and picked his shots much better, catching Bektic coming in on more than one occasion with punches to the head and body. The punch that got the ball rolling was a jab that put Bektic on his butt, and from there Emmett smelled blood. Bektic tried to grab a single leg to survive, but was met with hammerfists until he turtled, Emmett moved to his back, and relentlessly landed punches as the referee looked on. An uppercut under the armpit that clearly hurt Bektic badly prompted the stoppage in an impressive performance for Emmett.

Nice to see something other than a come-from-behind power shot win the day for Emmett.

What can we say about Emmett? His combination of power punching, stout takedown defense, and opportunistic counters have been serving him quite well in the UFC, and he only seems to be getting better. I'd really like to see him either take on hard-hitting counterstriker like Chan Sung Jung or an unorthodox distance striker like Yair Rodriguez. I think either matchup will provide a good challenge for him. With a litany of injuries and a couple disappointing losses, it's looking like the prospect shine is dimming a bit on Bektic. He has the tools on paper, but defense and durability have to be a concern for him going forward. I expect him to fall back on his wrestling a bit more in his next bout, and Chris Gruetzemacher would make for an interesting but very winnable fight.

Roberson nearly sabotages himself, but escapes with a decision victory

Karl Roberson def. Wellington Turman by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

This was not Roberson's finest performance when it came to fight IQ, and it arguably should've cost him the fight. I did think it was close and not in the realm of a robbery, but Turman very well may have done enough to get the nod. Where Roberson did himself a disservice was in constantly tying up with Turman, where he would promptly be taken down and forced to onto the defensive. In the first round Roberson did well to avoid bad positions and end up on top landing ground and pound, but it was clear who the more seasoned grappler was. In round two Roberson had success on the feet and was clearly the better of the two there, landing sharp jabs and right hand counters. Then he clinched again, which allowed Turman to work his way to the back and take him down again and look for a rear-naked choke. Roberson was again able to reverse and spin into Turman's guard before the end of the round.

In the final round Roberson again had a bit of success on the feet, but once they clinched he was immediately reversed and had his back taken before Turman got the fight to the ground and achieved full mount. Roberson then turned over and was caught in a tight rear-naked choke, but to his credit he managed to scramble his way out of it, though he ended up mounted once more. He managed to make it to his knees but Turman again hopped on his back and looked for the choke. Late in the round, Roberson yet again exploded to turn into Turman's guard, and landed two huge punches on the ground after easily avoiding an armbar.

Iffy fight IQ aside, Roberson did acquit himself fairly well against a much better grappler on paper, and he ended every round in a favorable position after being taken down. Turman was very active on the ground, but it seemed his offense just didn't resonate as much with the judges. He generally performed well though, so he shouldn't have much to hang his head about.

Vettori batters Ferreira with pressure and a trusty 1-2

Marvin Vettori def. Cezar Ferreira by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

The most standout thing about this fight was just how incapable Ferreira was at avoiding or finding any answer for 1-2 combinations from an opposite stance opponent. Especially in the latter half of the fight, Vettori landed them at will. He was aggressive throughout, and Ferreira really seemed to have a difficult time settling in and dealing with the pressure. He had some solid moments of offense and landed some good shots, but Vettori mostly ate them and kept coming forward. Wrestling was an area where I imagined Ferreira might have an advantage, but it turned out to be the opposite, with Vettori being the one landing well-timed takedowns while Ferreira struggled mightily on his own thwarted takedown attempts. In the final round Ferreira had slowed down and his nose was busted up, and that's when he really became a magnet for 1-2s. He spent the latter portion of the fight repeatedly being stunned by combinations and offering little in return.

Surprisingly, what did turn out to be reliable for Ferreira was his chin, which stood up to a good deal of punishment. Once known for having a pretty fragile chin, it appears he can stand up to a bit more these days, or at least his defense has improved to the point that he doesn't take big shots as flush as he used to. I expect him to continue being a solid mid-tier fighter at 185 lbs. Vettori is starting to develop into a pretty solid fighter as his technique and strategy are slowly catching up to his physical tools. He's the man who gave current interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya an good fight, and it doesn't look like he's finished just yet.

Prelim Thoughts

John Allan def. Mike Rodriguez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

This one wasn't particularly compelling, but like Roberson vs Turman much of it was defined by the better striker struggling to keep the fight at range against a better grappler, at times even by their own doing. Rodriguez started out every round serviceably using his range with jabs and front kicks, but eventually he'd always find his way into the clinch, and every time he did Allan would almost immediately reverse position and take control. Rodriguez had some decent offense on the feet, but Allan began to have success there as well as Rodriguez tired, and his inability to stay upright at key moments likely cost him the fight.

Andre Fili def. Sheymon Moraes by KO via strikes (3:07, R1)

This one was a bit of a surprise to me, and continues Moraes' string of tough luck in the UFC, which is unfortunate because he has so much natural ability. Both men looked quick and sharp to start, with Moraes landing hard low kicks and Fili countering deftly up top. Suddenly Fili countered a body kick with a beautiful straight right-right high kick combo that wobbled Moraes and sent him stumbling back toward the cage. Fili kept patient and pressured him back to the cage with feints, and when Moraes tried to come off the cage with a left hook-overhand right combo, Fili tagged him flush with a tight right hook that dropped him. Moraes tried to grab a leg to recover but was forced to his back, where Fili passed over his legs and landed hammerfists that appeared to put him out briefly as the referee stepped in. Great win for Fili, who has finally started to show a bit of consistency in the cage after an up-and-down first few years of his UFC career. I'd like to see him take on Shane Burgos next.

Slick combination from Fili for the finish.

Juliana Pena def. Nicco Montano by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

She had to struggle though...

It was a good night for returns, as Juliana Pena also made hers after nearly 900 days away from the octagon. Montano herself also returned after nearly a year and a half away following her flyweight title win over Roxanne Modafferi in her UFC debut (we won't get into her dubious title reign here). Similarly to Pena's career-defining win over Cat Zingano, Montano did not make it easy on her. Montano looked considerably stronger in the clinch, and the opening round really swung in her favor when Pena attempted an outside trip takedown only to be reversed, allowing Montano to land right into side control. The fight would remain on the ground for the remainder of a dominant Montano round. The second round began similarly, with Pena walking into the clinch and Montano immediately reversing her against the cage before dragging Pena to the ground with a body lock takedown. This time Pena got to her feet quickly, grabbed a front headlock, and snapped Montano down before rolling her to her side and looking for a D'Arce. From there she would land hard elbows, cutting Montano open over her left eye and maintaining top control. Montano frequently looked to stand up with a single leg, but Pena deftly responded by wrapping up her neck with a guillotine to get her to release it.

In the final round Pena opened up more on the feet with Montano clearly slowing down. Before long she found herself on the bottom again after a botched trip takedown, but this time she got to her feet quickly and began landing shots on the feet. Montano tried to get her wrestling going in the latter part of the round, but Pena was the fresher woman and had an answer for everything she did, including rolling through a final takedown with a guillotine shortly before the final horn. With that, Pena is right back in the mix and I'd like to see her fight Yana Kunitskaya for a shot to firmly get back into the top 10. For Montano it only makes sense to me for her to fight Sijara Eubanks; they were scheduled to fight for the inaugural flyweight title, both have become infamous for weight cutting woes, and they both fell short in their UFC bantamweight debuts.

Ryan Hall def. #15 Darren Elkins by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

It's always interesting to see a fighter like Hall experience continued success in the UFC. His striking is loose and at times ugly and sloppy  (okay, most times), and it's essentially just a way to transition into the ground game, where few can match him. Obviously every opponent he fights is aware of how dangerous he is on the ground, so it can lead to fights like this one where we get a protracted kickboxing match in which the threat of Hall's ground game breeds success if only because his opponents don't want to commit themselves into a submission loss. Hall is unorthodox as they come; he's constantly spinning and turning his back to his opponent and inexplicably drops to the ground following kicks to invite grappling exchanges. He also throws out more Imanari rolls than Masakazu Imanari himself. However, in doing all this he manages to be considerably more effective than his opponent because his unpredictable style renders them hesitant to fully engage. This is how he managed to drop Elkins in both the first and the second rounds with a wheel kick and a left hand, respectively.

Was anyone else thinking of this the entire fight?

In the final round Elkins really started to open up, likely realizing he needed a finish, but Hall's proclivity for fading or even flat out running away from exchanges kept him from landing too cleanly. It was the closest of the three rounds, but not enough to change Elkins' fate. He's now dropped three-straight after a seeming career renaissance of six victories in a row, so a lot will depend on his next fight. It's tough to figure out where Hall fits into the division. He's not particularly active, and while he does a fine job against the competition given to him, it's a bit tough to imagine his game working as well against higher-ranked fighters. Maybe he and Arnold Allen can square off, so we can see how he fares against a more technical striker with solid footwork.

Jonathan Martinez def. Pingyuan Liu by KO via knee strike (3:54, R3)

Until the finish, this fight was mostly a lot of flash and not much substance. Both men moved a lot and threw a lot of strikes, but many times they weren't even in range when throwing. There were a few exchanges of consequence, but for the most part neither man landed too considerably.

Such as this bit of offense from Liu.

One thing Martinez did show was the intention to time Liu coming in with knees; he tried it several times in every round, and with a little more than a minute left it paid off. Liu frequently ducked his head after throwing punches, and following jab he ducked right into a step-in knee up the middle that put him out cold. The extra shot on the ground was completely unneeded. Martinez was likely on his way to a decision win anyway, but it was nice to see him go for the finish anyway.

Brianna Van Buren def. #10 Livinha Souza by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

When I heard Van Buren had been signed to the UFC I was a bit excited; she'd made me a fan in Invicta Fighting Championship with her tireless, pressure-heavy style and nice mix of quick hands and relentless wrestling. When I saw she was slated to face Souza I thought it was a tough matchup, but a pretty winnable one that could immediately bump her up to top 10. She passed that test with flying colors. She pushed forward from start to finish and just overwhelmed Souza for the entire fight. Once she got into her rhythm on the feet, she practically chased Souza down with punches, teeing off on her against the cage. Souza seemed visibly thrown off by the aggression, often doing nothing but covering up, and sometimes not even doing that and just taking punches. Once Souza landed a takedown and found that Van Buren was immediately equipped to deal with her when she locked in an omoplata and used it to stand, it appeared a lot of wind left her sails and she was just mentally out of the fight. It was a very impressive debut for Van Buren against another former Invicta strawweight champion who came into the UFC with some hype. Let's see if she can do a better job of living up to it than Souza has thus far. Van Buren took this fight on about a month's notice to fill in for an injured Cynthia Calvillo, and depending on the timetable for Calvillo's return I think that fight makes sense for Van Buren.

Benito Lopez def. Vince Morales by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

The curtain jerker started us off with a good ol' case of crap judging! Lopez has been very fortunate in his UFC tenure; he's officially 2-1 and those two wins came by way of unanimous decisions that he really didn't deserve, the first being against Albert Morales. Maybe the judges don't like guys named Morales? They couldn't even agree on which rounds they thought Lopez won. Regardless, in this fight he started out well, controlling the fight with kicks while avoiding most counters. However, the tide turned late in the opening round when Morales dropped Lopez with a big overhand right and arguably stole the round.

Not that it made a difference, but this was when Morales turned the fight around.

The next two rounds were essentially Lopez kicking the legs and getting punched in the face for it. Particularly in the third round, Morales really started to figure out how to get inside and ate up Lopez's body and head with quick punching combinations. Lopez did land some hard low kicks over the course of the fight, but you really have to ask yourself how those weigh compared to hard, flush punches to the head. The overall stats are somewhat close with Morales having the edge in significant strikes 64-to-54, but a deeper look really tells the story. Lopez threw a ton of low kicks, outlanding Morales 39-to-9, while Morales held the edge in head strikes 46-to-6. I think either way you look at it, that looks favorable for Morales, especially with now much Lopez was backed up with combinations. It reeked of home cooking, and in fact all 11 media outlets on  MMA Decisions scored the fight for Morales. While I'm sure it was nice for Lopez to get the win in front of so many of his supporters, Morales was robbed of a second-straight UFC win.

That's all we have for UFC Fight Night Sacramento! The train's not stopping anytime soon as we have a relentless schedule of cards coming, the next being UFC on ESPN 4 where Rafael dos Anjos and Leon Edwards square off in San Antonio, Texas. I'll see you all then for another edition of 'What the hell happened?!' Sado, out!

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