Greetings, fight fans! UFC Vegas 11 was one of the more stacked offerings top-to-bottom we've had in a while, and boy did it deliver! The monster 14 fight card produced 10 finishes, including six in the first round. There wasn't much outside of the main event that had major divisional implications, but there were still plenty of relevant fights and solid pacing, which I felt was helped out fitting a larger-than-usual amount of preliminary fights into the usual three hour prelim time allotment. With so many fights to get through, lets just get right down to what the hell happened!
The Main Card
Woodley rib injury brings an end to a one-sided affair for Covington
#2 Colby Covington def. #5 Tyron Woodley by TKO via injury (1:19, R5)
What happened?: Covington was more measured than usual this time around, but nonetheless his pressure forced Woodley to be on the defensive, where his hesitancy and lack of urgency cost him yet again, leaving him offensively bereft and clearly behind on the scorecards. This time culminated in the saddest occurrence of all the losses on his three-fight skid; a bizarre fifth round rib injury while on his back fighting to a seated position that prompted the referee to stop the fight.
How did that happen?: It really happened the same way we're all too used to seeing these days. If it wasn't clear in his losses to Gilbert Burns or Kamaru Usman, or even his loss to Rory MacDonald from more than six years ago, Woodley is simply allergic to a good pressure game, and a big part of it is because his overall style and tendencies leaves him vulnerable to it. Coming into this fight we got the expected fare of the Woodley that showed up in his previous two fights being a thing of the past, and of course there were a host of changes made in an attempt to drive that point home. Often times splitting his time between Roufusport and ATT Evolution, his American Top Team affiliate in St. Louis, Missouri, Woodley opted this time to take advantage of Covington's recent departure from American Top Team proper by doing his camp there ahead of this fight. Not only did he have access to Covington's old facilities and teammates, but he had access to his most notable training partner in Jorge Masvidal for the all-familiar "I'm training with the person who knows you best!" narrative; one that never really seems to have a huge effect one way or the other. Combined with Woodley's intense dislike for Covington, something he and Masvidal have in common (allegedly), he was ready to come out there a renewed fighter that would meet Covington's aggression with aggression, and let his powerful hands and stout wrestling do the talking.
Except that's really not ever how it goes. Woodley's vulnerability to pressure is pathological; it's ingrained in him and his style. Being mad at his opponent isn't going to suddenly erase that because regardless of emotions, everyone eventually reverts to type in a fight. Actions based on emotion tend to come in bursts, rather than informing your entire process during a fight. Additionally, there's the false comfort taken in training with Masvidal. Sure he and Covington used to be thick as thieves, but it's been quite a while since they trained together, Woodley is a better wrestler than Masvidal anyway, and if the footage of Masvidal and Covington wrestling is any indication, Masvidal probably wouldn't be the best person to help you overcome Covington's wrestling. It was all window dressing that culminated in Woodley coming out more aggressive and leading the dance to start the fight for a chance, but reverting to type after the first big offensive move Covington completed (a well-timed double leg takedown underneath a Woodley right hand). Might I add that Woodley pressured somewhat awkwardly, because he's not a pressure fighter. His offense isn't sharp or focused when he's coming forward because he's crafted an entire game around sitting back and either countering or exploding forward with a big right hand. He isn't, and never really has been very adept and coming forward and putting his opponents on the defensive. As mentioned, as soon as Woodley made it up to his feet after being taken down and separated from Covington, he went right back to staying on the outside and allowing himself to be backed into the cage.
This was mostly the story of the whole fight. Covington walked Woodley down, threw lots of kicks and long punches while Woodley remained hesitant, and sought tie ups anytime they closed the distance on one another, even managing to land a couple impressive takedowns in the fourth and fifth rounds after Woodley was sufficiently worn down. In the fourth round in particular, Covington managed to stay on top for a considerable amount of time, and landed some solid ground and pound, cutting Woodley open with one of several elbows he landed from top position. Woodley meanwhile offered little in return other than holding on and hoping for a stand up in a round that all three judges at cageside scored 10-8 in favor of Covington. After an early takedown in the fifth round, Covington secured position, and as Woodley worked to a seated position he injured his rib, or at least I assume he did, judging by his yelling "My rib, my rib!" just prior to the stoppage. It was an anticlimactic stoppage, but still one that capped off a pretty dominant performance from "Chaos."
Other thoughts: As I mentioned, Covington wasn't quite as aggressive and insistent on heavy pressure as he usually is, and while I think that led to the visual of him not looking quite as impressive as he has in other fights, all in all it was probably a smarter gameplan and had a positive effect on a facet of his game that's historically flawed: his striking defense. His UFC average sits at 55% and has been steadily lowering since he started showcasing his stand up more, but he was able to avoid 60% of Woodley's shots. He himself was able to land 54% of his significant strikes, which is up considerably from his average of 37%. Being more judicious with his striking understandable helped his accuracy, but as such an offense-forward fighter, that thoughtfulness aided his defense as well since he wasn't too busy throwing busy volume to tend to the offense coming back at him. This didn't produce the usual "flash" we've become used to with Covington's high octane performances, but it was most likely just the smartest tactic to employ against Woodley. Intense pressure and volume really isn't needed to back Woodley up and force him into his shell; most good applications of pressure will do that because Woodley is often willing to back himself into the cage either way, usually in preparation for an explosive right hand that doesn't actually come out often enough. With Woodley so willing to give up ground and having such a limited amount of striking tools at his disposal (he pretty much only throws right hands and occasional low kicks), there was simply no reason for Covington to go all out with the pressure and risk actually catching a big right hand. He could dial it back and notch and have a relatively easy time out there.
Regarding the stoppage, I already see the narrative being spun that Covington did what Burns and Usman couldn't (even on the live broadcast), and...just stop. It was a freak injury, and Covington didn't do anything directly to cause it. He really didn't beat Woodley up any worse than Usman or Burns did, and in fact I'd say they both put a bigger beating on him. Covington himself tried to use it as proof that he deserves a rematch with Usman, but with each loss some sheen comes off of a fighter, and I don't think being the third-straight person to beat Woodley jumps you up to a title shot, especially when this match up didn't really make much sense to begin with other than the fact that they don't like each other.
Following the event Dana White expressed interest in seeing Woodley give some thought to retirement, and I can't say I blame him. In the grand scheme of things, losing three consecutive fights to the top of your division isn't necessarily the end of the world, but the manner in which he's been so thoroughly dominated has definitely led to the perception of him just being shot. He was on his way to decisively losing his 15th-straight round before the injury cut it short, and it just doesn't look like he has an answer for the way he succumbs to pressure. I would say he has some soul searching to do to change who he has been inside the cage recently, but this isn't recent. It has taken certain types of fighters to bring it out to the degree we've seen recently, but his aversion to intelligent pressure and distance management goes back almost as long as he's been in the UFC. Even in victories he's had issues with it, and it's really been coming to a head against higher-ranked fighters. It's rough to see, and hopefully he can get it together if he does continue fighting.
It was a solid, even if not spectacular performance from Covington, and that's mostly all I have left to say about him. I don't feel the need to address edge-lord post fight antics and other ramblings in detail, other than to say I'm diametrically opposed to a lot of what he stands for (or maybe pretends to stand for?). I'm all for taking on a persona to rile people up, but I don't think this is the right one given the state of things.
Next for Covington: I seems after he called for the Usman rematch, he tempered himself a bit and is taking aim at former BFF Masvidal, which I think is a bit more appropriate. It might even be the best fight to make if Covington wants to get back to the front of the line for a title shot after Burns. The oft-forgotten contender Leon Edwards could also be a good choice for Covington, if not a better one.
Next for Woodley: If he does continue fighting, and I'm thinking he probably will, his next fight should be focused on rebounding well. The problem is that unless you venture outside of the top 15 there really isn't much there for him that doesn't constitute a rematch against someone he's already beaten. He absolutely shouldn't be fighting anyone riding high on wins, Rafael dos Anjos is moving back down to 155 to fight Islam Makhachev, and even though he's coming off a win, Anthony Pettis might have been a decent choice if the two weren't longtime training partners. That really only leaves us with Nate Diaz, a fight that has been mentioned before. Better yet, Nick Diaz has been heavily rumored to return to fighting, and that's a fight Woodley called for even back when Nick was Strikeforce welterweight champion. Either Diaz brother could be a solid choice for "T-Wood" because although they have the pressure that gives him issues, they historically lack the takedown defense that stops him from using his wrestling when things get heated.
Niko pays the price for eye pokes, settles for majority decision
#14 (Lightweight) Donald Cerrone fought Niko Price to a majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
What happened?: A surprisingly more sharp and diverse Price showed up and largely outworked Cerrone early on, but a duo of eye pokes led to a point deduction that cost him win, as Cerrone was able to get more and more of a handle on the entertaining bout as it wore on. Two judges scored the bout 28-28 and the other 29-27 Cerrone, meaning that without the point deduction we'd be looking at a split decision win for Price.
How did that happen?: The fight played out in somewhat typical Cerrone fashion, and not-so-typical Price fashion. Cerrone being a habitual slow starter who's bound to take some shots early, he did just that; Price tagged him on the feet essentially at will in the early going, landing big right hands and visibly stunning "Cowboy." A few well-placed knees to the body in close seemed to keep Price a little more honest, and Cerrone appeared to wake up a bit midway through the round and land some boxing combinations of his own in addition to working some nice body punching into his arsenal. After already having landed an accidental eye poke earlier in the round and being warned several times by the referee to keep his fingers pointed upward, Price landed yet another late in the round, prompting a point deduction that would prove to be costly.
Round two was another solid one for Price, though interestingly enough he diversified his attack, relying much more heavily on low kicks to keep Cerrone at bay, which was interesting considering one would think Price wanted to welcome Cerrone into a close range brawl. Cerrone started to open up in this round, throwing more volume than previously and landing marginally better quality shots, though he landed about the same number of significant strikes in fairly similar distributions of head, body, and leg attacks. No doubt thrown off by the amount of low kicks Price threw, Cerrone found himself not using the attack nearly as much as he's used to, instead sticking to head and body shots.
The final round was unsurprisingly Cerrone's best, as he found much more success with his boxing combinations and stiff jabs, and actually showed some uncharacteristic head movement as well. Price leaned heavily on low kicks once more, but Cerrone became much more adept at getting in range to land punches, particularly left hands in the form of jabs and the switch-stance straight lefts he's known for throwing. He even managed to quickly drag Price to the ground and hop on his back when Price popped back to his feet, but wasn't able to do much with it before he was shaken off. In the end the significant strike count was dead even, but Cerrone's boxing was superior while Price chopped away at his legs a considerable amount. All judges agreed Cerrone had control of round three, while one judge also awarded him the second, but rather than the story of this fight being Cerrone rallying back too late to get the win, we instead find ourselves with a draw that showed us some good and bad things about both men. Cerrone is still clearly on the downside of his career, but he did still show some skill out there and his durability held up very well against one of the hardest hitters in the division. For Price, he seemed slow down after a very successful early bit of offense, but overall he looked like a much more patient, well-rounded, measured striker out there, and while perhaps a bit more aggression might have netted him that finish he's become accustomed to getting, it also might have saved him from suffering that finish he's also become accustomed to being on the other end of once he fails to put his opponent away initially. It wasn't the result either of them were looking for, but neither came out looking particularly bad.
Other thoughts: Their reactions to the result announcement told very different stories here. While Price seemed to be quite happy with the draw (maybe a bit too happy), Cerrone was clearly very unsatisfied, and seemed a bit incredulous at Price's reaction. He was very candid in his post fight interview about his assessment of the fight and his performance, insisting that this wasn't a draw and that he's lost five-straight fights. It's understandable because he's acutely aware that the point deduction was the only reason he didn't have another L on his record. He's also aware of his mental struggles in the cage, and how much he tries to battle against himself as well as his opponent, to the point that he even distracts himself with introspective back-and-forths while in the midst of a fight, all the while taking damage because he's essentially not giving full attention to his opponent. It was interesting and refreshing to listen to him be so open and honest in critique of his performance and his mindset, as well as seeing him express the drive and desire to figure it out and keep going. I would hope that this leads to a better Cowboy next time we see him out there.
As for Price, he basically treated this draw like a win, which hey...at least it's not a loss, so why should he be bummed? I mean we're talking about the guy who damn near gushed to Vicente Luque about how great their fight was and that Luque was his "greatest foe" after being finished by him for the second time. Price is just a bubbly dude who is incredibly violent and can knock you out in the most ridiculous of ways; can't be mad at that.
Next for Cerrone: Apparently right after the fight he promised Price that they would run it back, and I don't see why not. He wants to take the rest of the year off and shoot for January or February, which is pretty reasonable given how 2020 has treated him (let alone pretty much everyone).
Next for Price: The Cerrone rematch makes sense, but if he wants to stay busy and take another fight this year (and is medically cleared), I'd still love to see he and Mike Perry go at it. If Jingliang Li is able, that'd be a good fight too.
The "Smesh Express" keeps rolling as Chimaev short circuits Meershaert with the first punch of the fight
Khamzat Chimaev def. Gerald Meerschaert by KO via punch (0:17, R1)
What happened?: Mostly covered that one in the headline. Chimaev literally knocked him out with the first punch he threw.
How did that happen?: Well...he started off with a quick front kick to the body, pressured Meerschaert until he was squared up against the cage, then uncorked a laser of a straight right that caught him right on the button that put him down and out in 17 seconds. Meerschaert hardly had a chance to throw a strike, let alone land one. He made it look easy, because it was easy.
Other thoughts: Not that this wasn't the case before the fight, but Chimaev really looks to be something special. The "Khabib 2.0" moniker he has acquired certainly does not seem to be misplaced, as so far he is shown to be an example of an evolution of Khabib Nurmagomedov's fighting style. More than anyone else we've seen, his wrestling and grappling game resembles Khabib's dogged, controlling, shutdown style, and while the techniques they use are pretty common to sambo practitioners, they're both on another level when it comes to implementing them in MMA to both cut off your opponent's offense and still land devastating offense of your own. Once they grab the clinch, it seems like their opponents have no choice but to go for the ride. What's interesting about Chimaev, and perhaps a sign that he really did draw some inspiration from Khabib is that although he's competed in sambo before and clearly has a handle on the style, he comes from a freestyle wrestling background, having wrestled in his native country of Chechnya before immigrating to Sweden at the age of 17 and continuing to wrestle there.
The real difference between the two lies in their striking. I've often described Khabib's striking as "ugly but effective." It's not the prettiest, it's not the smoothest, and it's not the most technically sound, but due in significant part to the great threat of his wrestling and his high level of athleticism, it tends to work well for him. Chimaev's striking is more along the lines of being just plain good. It's not unorthodox or "ugly" like Khabib's; he's quick, he's powerful, he's accurate, and he tends to throw straight shots with solid technique that's ever-improving. Defensively he typically keeps his hands high and moves his head off the center line when throwing. Despite how good his wrestling is, prior to joining the UFC he'd gotten the fight to the ground a decent amount of times just with his striking, if not just just cleanly knocking out his opponent the way he did Meerschaert. Fighting out of Allstars Training Center, he's got quite a good team behind him when it comes to kickboxing, and clearly he already has the wrestling and grappling acumen as it is. I still don't want to get too ahead of myself until we see him in the cage against ranked competition, but he just might be the next big thing, and every bit of the hype may be justified.
Next for Chimaev: It appears to be Demian Maia, which we knew even prior to this fight. Chimaev seems to be content jumping between middleweight and welterweight, and Maia would be just the ranked opponent at welterweight he needs to make a quick case to potentially be in the mix for a title eliminator.
Next for Meerschaert: It's been a rough couple of fights for the Roufusport representative after being knocked out in a combined 1:31, but he's still a pretty entertaining mid-level fighter who should be good enough to stick around so long as his chin just isn't cracked at this point. The loser of Wellington Turman vs Sean Strickland or Markus Perez vs Rodolfo Vieira could be next for him.
Walker puts Spann away with elbows in an insane firefight
#11 Johnny Walker def. #12 Ryan Spann by TKO via strikes (2:43, R1)
What happened?: After an early takedown from Spann, he dropped walker awkwardly with a right hand and after that all hell broke loose, with both men hurting each other until some Travis Browne-style elbows put did Spann in while in search of a takedown against the cage.
How did that happen?: This was a wild one that showed the best and worst of both fighters. Spann smartly sought and landed the takedown early. Walker managed to stand up quickly, but Spann put him back down shortly after; this time with a right hand that brought him down as he threw a kick. Everything seemed to be going Spann's way, as he was landing big shots and transitioned to mount, but he tried to lock in a mounted triangle as Walker attempted to scramble and it allowed him to easily escape back to his feet. Just then, they land simultaneous right hands, but Spann's appears to land harder, with Walker again awkwardly dropping to the canvas. Spann didn't escape completely unscathed, as he rushed in for a takedown on wobbly legs. Walker widened his base against the cage to prevent the takedown, and landed a torrent of hammerfists as Spann pushed to get him to the ground. At one point it looked like Spann was hurt, but he readjusted and pulled Walker's legs out from under him, only for Walker to get back to his feet and land a hellacious elbow to the side of his head as continued to pursue the takedown that immediately put him down. The resulting elbow and hammerfists weren't even necessary; that first one put him out.
Other thoughts: This fight was fantastically entertaining and dumb. Spann has a lot of tools and potential, but his fight IQ tends to make some fights much harder for him than they need to be, in this case even leading to a loss when a more measured ground attack might have kept Walker underneath him after he dropped him the first time. Walker is clearly still very flawed and defensively porous on the feet, but he's just wild and dangerous enough to win anyway. He's always going to be a threat to land a big, random shot and put someone away, but Spann seems to have the better potential if he can get his process in order since he's one of the more well-rounded light heavyweights. Walker will likely continue to win some spectacularly, and lose some disappointingly.
Next for Walker: He's just outside of the top 10 right now, and the two guys ahead of him are Misha Cirkunov and Nikita Krylov, who both constitute rematches that don't make much sense for him right now. I'm honestly not sure how Cirkunov is ranked ahead of him when his only win since losing to Walker was against Jimmy Crute, but whatever. Although he's coming off a loss, Anthony Smith might make the most sense for him at this point in terms of the official rankings. Otherwise, Ovince St. Preux, who probably fell out of the rankings due to his adventure at heavyweight, could also work.
Next for Spann: He could fight the loser of Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba, or whoever doesn't pull out of that fight.
Dern aims to show her striking, slips and submits Markos instead
#15 Mackenzie Dern def. Randa Markos by submission via arm bar (3:44, R1)
What happened?: An early slip on a high kick attempt turned out to be just what Dern needed, as Markos curiously followed her to the ground, found herself ensnared in an armbar, and was forced to tap.
How did that happen?: Dern apparently came into the fight wanting to display some of her striking, and a sign that it still isn't really all there ended up being her ticket to winning. After slipping on a high kick, Markos inexplicably chose to go into her guard, prompting Dern to immediately grab hold of an arm, then walk up for a triangle choke attempt. Markos postures up and goes to a knee to attempt to escape, but Dern holds on tight and goes up with her while hooking her left leg to keep her from standing. Markos tried to loosen the grip with some punches to the body, but Dern switches to an omoplata and sweeps to top position. She battled for mount while exerting heavy shoulder pressure before trapping Markos' right arm under her knee. She then stepped over the opposite arm to lock in the armbar, and though it was immediately tight, Markos proved to be tough and flexible. Not enough of either though, as Dern eventually found the right angle, got the arm under her armpit and cranked to get the tap, as the calm look on Markos' face seemed to show that she anticipated the inevitable.
Other thoughts: I talked about fight IQ in the previous entry, but this definitely took the cake for worst fight IQ of the night. If there was one place you want to avoid against Dern it's the ground, and Markos straight up initiated a grappling battle that she immediately found out she wasn't equipped for. This was actually an interesting fight otherwise, given the fact that Markos seems to be a bit more well-versed on the feet, is generally a solid enough wrestler to keep things standing, and until now had never won or lost two straight in 14 UFC fights (which has to be a record). If she put some focus into keeping the fight standing, there was actually a decent chance she could've won a decision. Instead she jumped at the first chance she got to grapple, which is pretty typical for her, but again, you figure even she would realize going to the ground was a bad idea. At the very least she could have not made the mistake right out of the gate.
Otherwise, Dern looked great and much like Henry Cejudo, might have needed to take that first loss to finally get serious about the sport. Like former flyweight and bantamweight champion, there were many concerns about how seriously they took their MMA training and weight cutting due to multiple times missing weight and generally being able to rely on the talents that got them elite accolades outside of MMA to get them through their fights with few struggles. It got Cejudo all the way to a flyweight title shot before he was quickly and embarrassingly taken out by Demetrious Johnson, while Dern dropped a clear cut decision to rising star Amanda Ribas. Dern not only seemed to be more focused leading up to and in this fight, but her weight troubles may be behind her, as she looked quite a bit leaner and more toned for the fight. She still has a way to go and some proving to do in the division, but she's off to a good start with this win.
Next for Dern: Virna Jandiroba is right above her in the rankings and is coming off a quick armbar win over divisional staple herself, so I see no reason they shouldn't meet next.
Next for Markos: Her win-loss pattern has kept her safe in the UFC for quite a while, but now that she's lost two straight her next fight will be crucial, but she has good choices. Emily Whitmire probably makes the most sense right now, but it's been close to five years since her loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz and she could run that back for a potentially pretty different-looking fight. She could also fight Felice Herrig in an unofficial rematch of her upset submission win on The Ultimate Fighter over six years ago.
Holland survives late Stewart surge to capture split decision
Kevin Holland def. Darren Stewart by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
What happened?: A late takedown and ground and pound got Stewart into the fight late, but Holland's sharper boxing earlier on earned him the first two rounds, and the fight on two judges' scorecards.
How did that happen?: The fight started out pretty chaotic with both men throwing in the pocket with reckless abandon, but it was mostly Holland that got the better of the exchanges before pushing the action up against the fence to slow things down and chip away with punches to the thigh and foot stomps. In round two Holland found a home for some unorthodox offense, such as a standing hammerfist that would've gotten Elias Theodorou's attention. He continued to land long punches at range, including a counter 1-2 that spun Stewart around. Meanwhile, Stewart made good use of push kicks to the knee of Holland and landed a nice takedown shortly before the horn. The final round saw Holland still getting the better of the stand up for the first half of the round, effectively countering an aggressive Stewart moving backward, but a takedown and some solid ground and pound swung the round in his favor.
Stewart ended the fight big, at the beckoning of Holland.
Other thoughts: I was pretty surprised that this turned out to be a split, though I've encountered a couple people who were pretty adamant that Stewart won round two. I'm really not sure how, but I guess there will always be dissenters to every decision that isn't unequivocal and clear beyond a shadow of a doubt. Most of the fight took place at distance and in the clinch, and Holland outstruck him pretty handily in both areas. Stewart had a major advantage in ground offense, but that was all mostly relegated to the latter half of the final round. Seemed like a pretty clear-cut 29-28 Holland card to me, but either way judges do seem to like the way Holland fights.
Git em pic.twitter.com/YvQWh9JxhQ— ShayMyName (@ImShannonTho) September 20, 2020
Actually, after seeing that shot, Stewart definitely won.
Next for Holland: There are lots of options for him. The winner of Brendan Allen vs Ian Heinisch, Krzysztof Jotko vs Mukhmud Muradov, or Marvin Vettori could all work for him.
Next for Stewart: I think Eryk Anders might be the way to go.
#14 David Dvorak def. #13 Jordan Espinosa by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Espinosa went one-on-one with "The Undertaker," and came out of it with a sore leg. Although the odds were close on this one, I thought Espinosa might be a bit of a live dog here. Through his UFC tenure he's shown some very impressive athleticism and speed even for flyweight, and he's been pretty hard to pin down on the feet, and this figured to mostly be a stand up battle. It was, but a game heavily predicated on hard low kicks was enough to disrupt his speedy in-and-out style and open up offense more and more for the Czech fighter as the fight went on. Striking exchanges stayed tight through the first two rounds, but Dvorak's low kicks seemed to be some of the more significant offense during the stretch. In the third round they really paid dividends, as Espinosa's usually frequent stance switching was slowed down, and he was noticeably moving gingerly on his right leg at one point. That not only made him slower and easier to read, but affected his defense as well since he tends to rely on that speed and head movement to avoid shots. It was a great tactical performance from Dvorak in a division that needs some fresh faced contenders.
Damon Jackson def. Mirsad Bektic by submission via guillotine choke (1:21, R3)
It looks like Bektic is really developing a bit of a reputation self destructing when he's ahead. Once largely hailed as the #1 prospect at featherweight, and one of the top prospects in the sport, he appeared to have all the tools on paper, and while a lot of the physical tools are still there, he tends to fall apart mentally and cardio-wise as the fight goes on and his opponent doesn't yield. As is usually the case he looked great early on, taking Jackson down almost at will, avoiding submissions, and consistently being one step ahead of him in the scrambles. Jackson was persistent with his submission attempts though, which proved to pay off in the end. As effective as Bektic was on top, he found himself in several close submissions that he was able to grit through and escape from (incuding a pretty nasty kimura that that proved Bektic is part rubber), and apparently he's only got so much of that in him.
My shoulder hurts just posting this.
Jackson's corner pled with him not to sell out for any submissions unless he was sure he had them locked in, particularly when it came to guillotines he would wrap up to defend takedowns, where pulling guard had left him on the bottom losing the round in the first two rounds. He seemed to eschew his corner's advice in the third round, when he once again held onto a guillotine in defense of a takedown, but this time he must have felt that he had it, because he stuck with it and used it to sweep to top position, tightening his grip until Bektic eventually had no choice but to relent and tap out. Seventh time's a charm! It was a great comeback win for Jackson, who returned to the UFC after nearly five years away from the promotion in which he managed to win the Legacy Fighting Alliance featherweight title. As for Bektic, what do you do with him? He's lost three-straight fights and has shown at this point that he's hit a very clear and hard ceiling in the division. I almost wish Michael Johnson didn't decide to go back to lightweight so we could have them square of to see who implodes first.
Mayra Bueno Silva def. Mara Romero Borella by submission via arm bar (2:29, R1)
This one was quick and to the point. After a short feeling out process on the feet, Borella changed levels and took Silva to the mat, where she suffered an unfortunate but familiar fate. After taking a couple shots on bottom, Silva walked her legs up for a triangle before searching for an armbar. Borella for some reason just hung out calmly in that position, which allowed Silva to adjust her positioning, get her outside leg in front of Borella's head, and tighten the armbar for the quick tap. So quick that it didn't appear the arm was fully extended before Borella conceded defeat. Perhaps that was because she knew it was in and didn't want a repeat of the painful hyper-extension that induced a verbal cry of pain in her previous fight, another armbar loss to Cortney Casey. Either way, after her fourth-straight loss, I have to wonder if her head is still in the game since all of them seemed to feature her just breaking down mentally during the fight. As for Silva, she rebounded quite nicely from the first loss of her career and has proven to be quite dangerous on the ground, so we'll see where she goes from here.
Jessica-Rose Clark def. Sarah Alpar by TKO via strikes (4:21, R3)
It was good to see Clark get back into the win column after building some momentum in the UFC and dropping her previous two fights via clear decisions. She's a decently well-rounded fighter, but takedowns had shown to be a bit of a bane for her, and Alpar was a very stern test of how much she'd improved there on paper. While she gave up a takedown in each of the first two stanzas, Alpar struggled mightily to keep her down, and only served to tire herself out after being thwarted many times and being punished for her attempts. As the fight wore on, Clark became more and more dominant, and it culminated in a third round knee that turned Alpar's nose into a broken faucet as she was dropping to a seated position in the cage that probably should have been the end of the fight. The sequence looked like it might have been the result of an illegal knee, so referee Chris Tognoni (who you might remember from his oft-lambasted performance from last weekend where he allowed Ed Herman to fake a groin shot) paused the action for what he thought was a knee to a downed opponent. The commission looked at the tape and notified him that the knee was in fact legal, and Tognoni allowed the fight to continue, with a clearly compromised Alpar taking a good deal more punishment before he stepped in to officially call the fight.
The move drew the ire of Dana White, who made his way cageside in lieu of the incident. After reflecting on the incident, it just draws even more confusion to the ever-morphing rule set that we have to endure because all commissions won't just accept a single set of rules (which makes it ironic that they're even called "unified rules"). There's been so much back-and-forth over whether instant replay can be used to review a sequence without the fight needing to be declared over that I frequently forget which stance is official. Tognoni halted the fight for what he seemed to think was an illegal knee, but once instant replay was used, shouldn't the fight have been called regardless of whether or not it was legal? Apparently the official ruling on that supports Tognoni, and that he is well within his right to pause the bout in order to consult instant replay, and then resume the bout if he so chooses. Once it was determined to be a legal blow, he asked Alpar if she could continue and she said she could (because of course she; the alternative was losing the fight right then and there), and then reset the action where they left off, which again is correct protocol, so I can't blame him for it. What I do blame him for is allowing Alpar to take so much more punishment after the fact. Although he gave her some much needed but erroneous resting time, she still didn't seem all there, and he could've stopped the fight seconds later when Clark landed another knee to the face that brought her to her knees, and he could've stopped it after that when Clark had her mounted and was dropping punches and elbows. Alpar kept moving and grabbing at her legs, but she was pretty clearly done.
What's your take on Tognoni's call? Blunder or no blunder?
Here's my take on knees like that: in my opinion, if someone drops into a knee and is falling as the knee is coming, you call that legal. Sure, technically it's illegal if you're grounded, but you moved into that strike, the same way judges tend to overlook a shot to the back of the head sometimes if the fighter turns their head into the shot. At that point whether or not she's down is purely arbitrary, and there's no actual difference between eating the shot legally and illegally. The rules should be instituted for fighter safety (yes, I know that's not entirely the case), and one scenario is literally no safer than the other in that instance. Clark shouldn't be expected to pull the knee at the very last moment just because her opponent's butt might touch the canvas a split second before the knee lands, nor does she likely even have the reflexes to do so. If a fighter is clearly down and a knee lands, you step in. If the knee is in transition like that, just let the fight play out. If a finish materializes then you stop the fight, and then you can consult the tape if you feel you need to, and make your ruling from there. Just my two cents.
Darrick Minner def. TJ Laramie by submission via guillotine choke (0:52, R1)
In another big upset, Minner came out aggressive, found a guillotine, and got the tap just 52 seconds into the fight. He walked Laramie down with strikes, forcing the UFC debutante to look for a takedown and leave his head right out there for Minner to wrap up, which is probably the one thing you don't want to do against someone with as many guillotine wins on their record as Minner has.
Randy Costa def. Journey Newson by KO via head kick (0:41, R1)
Another quick finish, this time with a beautiful head kick stoppage. Costa landed a straight right hand early, and didn't need much of a feeling out process because moments later he threw a straight left from the southpaw stance that Newson slipped to his right, leading him right into a followup left high kick that stiffened him up as he teetered into the cage.
Andre Ewell def. Irwin Rivera by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Sharp, quick hands, a diverse striking attack, and stout takedown defense carried Ewell to a clear-cut decision win, though he did meet some resistance in the final five minutes after finally giving up a takedown. Of course it was a split because one judge saw the fight for Ewell, but you know, judges. You have to give it to Rivera though, he has a helluva chin on him to walk through some of the shots Ewell landed.
Tyson Nam def. Jerome Rivera by TKO via strikes (0:34, R2)
Nam continued to prove why he has some of the more dangerous hands at flyweight. He's mostly a one-shot puncher and takes some time to get going since he's essentially just measuring you for a big right hand, so his opponents tend to have success against him early, especially if they throw a good amount of volume and give him a lot of different looks. Rivera followed this gameplan well in the opening round, but by round two Nam got his timing and distance down, and capitalized on Rivera throwing a kick without taking his head off the center line and keeping his hands down by letting go a huge right hand the dropped him hard. After a volley of punches on the ground, the referee had seen enough.
And that does it for UFC Vegas 11! It was a beast of an event, but due to the quick finishes and the overall pacing it actually didn't feel like an especially long event. I definitely don't wish for more of them though, as I would consider this the exception and not the rule. We certainly don't get cards with over 70% finish rates every weekend. Next up we have a big one in UFC 253, where Israel Adesanya and Paul Costa at long last meet for the middleweight title. We also get former title contender Anthony Reyes now fighting for Jon Jones' latest vacant strap against Jan Blachowicz. Should be a good one, but until then, sado out!