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UFC: Dos Anjos vs Ferguson - Winners and Losers

Victor Rodriguez looks at the biggest winners and losers from Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night event.

UFC 181 - Ferguson v Trujillo Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

One of the things the UFC does best when it comes to international cards is build an event that is clearly catered to local/regional fans, but still ends with fantastic and memorable performances in competitive and divisionally relevant main events. Not just top-heavy cards where the only real anchor is the main event, but cards that keep things moving along in each weight class with the possibility for major shifts towards the top end.

Despite how useless it is to complain about the length and pacing of the broadcast, this one is probably worth noting for how dreadfully long it really felt. The reality of having more MMA on television with a network partner inevitably was going to lead to this. Still, it’s worth mentioning because the agonizing stretching of the event can easily sour an event and overshadow viewer appreciation for fights they just saw as the event trudges on.

  • Winners

Tony Ferguson - Undoubtedly the biggest winner of the night, Ferguson now rides an amazing nine-fight win streak and a win over a former UFC champion. Barring some sort of earth-shattering finish next week, it’s very possible that Ferguson gets the next lightweight title shot ahead of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson used his range, leg kicks, movement and pressure to chip away at dos Anjos and win a relatively close but clear decision. Very few fighters have blossomed the way Tony has since being on The Ultimate Fighter, which makes him must-watch MMA. Depending on the events due to unfold next week, he could be knocking on the door of a very well-deserved opportunity to fight for the belt.

Ricardo Lamas - Lamas improves to 17-5, submitting a very respected and feared grappler and with a size disadvantage. Lamas’s ability to survive submission attempts and attacks on the ground in round 1 was more than admirable, but his quick reflexes and positional awareness helped him nab a submission against a man mostly talked about like a boogeyman on the ground. He’s been alternating wins and losses since defeating Dennis Bermudez in 2014, but still looks like he’s improving if only slightly in each outing.

Diego Sanchez - Diego Sanchez still winning decisions in late 2016 is a thing that is happening. Sanchez used his top control, striking and veteran savvy to stay clear of submission threats and pushed the pace that made him dreadful to fight against in the past. Where he goes from here is a tough call, but he’s still got what it takes to fight and perform well against opponents outside of the top 10-15. It was also fun to see him finally get a win in Mexico.

Erik Perez - Goyito is always fun to watch when it comes to grappling, but this performance had some real added bonuses. Erik showed much more of his top control and how mean he can be with his shot selection, punishing Arantes by flattening him on his back, pinning his head to the mat to isolate the arm and attack the body relentlessly. He remained active and kept Arantes guessing on the ground, and even had some good looks while standing. This makes it three straight wins for Perez after his submission loss to Bryan Caraway in mid-2014.

Alexa Grasso - Prior to the arrival of Yair Rodriguez, I really thought Alexa Grasso and Irene Aldana would be the young Mexican star talents they’d been searching for. It took some time, but Grasso showed that she belongs in the UFC. Her fight against Clark was a pretty tough affair, but she was able to do damage, counter the work against the cage and beat an established veteran that’s stronger than she looks. Still undefeated at 9-0, 2-3 good wins could easily land her in the top 3 or with a title shot in a small but talent-packed division.

Joe Soto - The former Bellator champ went from three straight losses to two consecutive submission wins in less than five months. The beauty of the submission was how crafty the setup was, and how Soto secured the position to ensure that Beltran couldn’t get out. Now Soto continues to work his way back up the ladder with a bit of confidence and a quick solid win against a very tough opponent.

Beneil Dariush - Since losing via submission to Michael Chiesa in April, Dariush netted himself a KO win over James Vick and a win here against a very tough Rashid Magomedov. It wasn’t a barnburner, but a very smart and tactical fight where both fighters were cautious and kept testing each other through all phases of the fight. Dariush ends up handing Magomedov his first UFC loss and racks up his second straight in his third fight this year. Previously ranked at #9, this should give him a nice bump. How high up he moves is going to depend how the rest of the division shakes out in the next few events.

Enrique Barzola - Altitude training paid off for Barzola, as the Peruvian spent over a month at altitude to outwork Avila with his wrestling, timing and counter strikes to get his second UFC win. Enrique rebounds nicely from his last fight, a decision loss to Kyle Bochniak at UFC on Fox 21. In fact, all three of his losses are by decision. He came prepared to take on an opponent mostly described as a Diaz-lite variant, and looked pretty good doing so.

Martin Bravo landed a beautiful body shot to crumple his opponent to win the Ultimate Fighter contract and loot, While Max Griffin brutalized Erick Montano in the opening minute. Sam Alvey had something of a frustrating bout against Alex Nicholson, but got a nice decision win despite not following up on some of his shots. Alvey improves to three wins in a row in an increasingly strange middleweight division. Even though I ran down the shoddier side of Douglas Silva de Andrade’s record on Twitter this week (half of his opponents shouldn’t even be in MMA), he made a major statement with his TKO finish of a possibly indestructible Enrique Briones. A win that pretty grants you some favors, especially in a division like 135 where it can be hard to stand out for guys on the lower end. Finally, Marco Reyes continues to put on exciting performances in a split decision win against Jason Novelli. Reyes takes a lot of damage, but gives it as well as he takes it. Another interesting note is that this is his first decision win of his career, as all other wins have been KO/TKOs or submissions.

  • Losers

Rafael dos Anjos - I still believe that lightweight is the most talent-rich and deepest division (although welterweight is close, but that’s another conversation entirely), which is why a loss even at the very top can set you back in a pretty big way. Rafael went from suffocating Anthony Pettis with pressure and superbly timed shots as well as ground control, to obliterating Cowboy Cerrone in a title defense. Since then, he’s had two straight losses where his flaws and defensive lapses have been laid bare and exploited. Granted, one was to the current champion and another to a man that could very well beat the champion. It still sets RDA back significantly. He did well in some moments when it came to closing the distance and defending against Ferguson’s wrestling game. He still was slowed due to a lack of leg kick defense and an inability to deal with Ferguson’s odd movement and timing.While I still see him as a top ten talent, he does appear to be in decline. He’s been in the game for 12 years at this point, and unless we see some new wrinkles in his next outing, he might not have what it takes to hold the belt again.

Charles Oliveira - Hoo, boy. OK, so due to altitude (or so his team says) Oliveira misses weight by a full weight class. Then he has a competitive outing against Ricardo Lamas for the first round, gets careless for a moment and loses his second straight fight - with both losses being guillotine chokes. Now, he’s not in danger of being cut or anything. But in another division where the talent is continually being shuffled, his stock takes a very big hit right here. He’s currently 9-7 with 1NC in his overall UFC career, yet the most frustrating thing is the fact that this all happens as he seemed like he was just hitting his stride. Maybe he might need to move up to lightweight at this point to relieve some of the problems with cutting weight, but it still won’t fix his flaws as a fighter.

Alex Nicholson - Alvey was tentative in committing to combinations, but Nicholson still took most of the damage and seemed flustered when he couldn’t make things work against an opponent that has limited movement. He now drops to 1-2 in the UFC, and despite being cleared of a domestic violence situation by UFC-appointed investigators may be too much of a PR headache for the new regime to keep around. He may get another chance, but don’t be too surprise if he gets cut after this performance.

Chris Avila - Nope. He’s getting cut. I remember when hearing he was signed to the UFC and wondering if he was too green, and it turns out he is. Zane Simon and I talked about him way back when he was set to fight at WSOF 16: Palhares vs Fitch, and we weren’t blown away then but saw a lot of promise. Avila still doesn’t utilize his frame or stance like the Diaz brothers he tries to emulate, barely defends against leg kicks, doesn’t deal well against wrestling takedown attempts and isn’t as active off his back. That and the fact that his big swings were slow and repeatedly missed the mark, and you have a recipe for a fighter that doesn’t win rounds often. He’s now 0-2 in the UFC, 5-4 overall and most likely getting cut. He’s got room to improve and is also only 23 years old, so time will tell if he makes it back to the UFC eventually.

Erick Montano - Montano won his UFC debut against Enrique Marin last November, but has since been finished twice. Welterweight is getting a bit crowded as is, so it seems very possible that he gets cut. Now, he and his brother Dodger are pretty popular in Mexico - it still may not be enough to keep him around. Don’t bank on him staying.

Jason Novelli might get cut at 0-2, but he gave his opponent a tough bout and might be given another chance. Enrique Briones is the kind of action fighter that the UFC likes to give chances to, so despite dropping to 1-2, he might also be spared from the chopping block due to being part of an exciting fight. Felipe Arantes had two consecutive wins prior to this fight, and was unable to keep up in this fight. Arantes has been fighting since 2008 and is 5-4 in the UFC with 1 draw, but doesn’t look like he’s going to be moving up by much from here on in.

  • Neither

Marcin Held - Coming over from Bellator with some heavy expectations to fight a grizzled vet with a wrestling base at altitude is a big ask of a young fighter. Losing a debut doesn’t mean you get cut, however. He has a ton of potential and his spot is safe. Same goes for Marco Beltran who is now 3-1in the UFC. No danger there. Heather Jo Clark drops to 2-2 in the UFC, losing to a newcomer that was one of the absolute best in that weight class outside of the UFC. That means there isn’t much movement up or down the ladder for her with this loss. Same goes for Rashid Magomedov who ends up with his first UFC loss. Finally, Claudio Puelles put forth a valiant effort. He loses his debut, but still made it to the finals of the Ultimate Fighter and is only 20 years old with a lot of promise. He won’t be going anywhere.

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