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UFC Gdansk: Winners and Losers

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A look at the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Till in Gdansk, Poland.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Gdansk-Kowalkiewicz vs Esquibel Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

I didn’t have very high expectations for UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Till, and truth be told, I don’t think this was a particularly great event even after watching it. The last three main card fights lifted UFC Gdansk from mostly forgettable to about a 6.5/10, and that’s largely thanks to the impressive and hugely important win by Darren Till over Donald Cerrone. You also have to love the atmosphere of European-based events, especially when they’re getting behind their local fighters. Okay, sometimes they literally get fights postponed, but let’s not let that negative outweigh the positives.

Victor Rodriguez is unavailable this weekend, so for the first time in eons, I’m piloting Winners and Losers. If you see me omitting fighters from this list, that’s on purpose, because not every fight(er) is worth a write-up. I just hope I’m doing this correctly...

Winners

Darren Till

Time for me to get on the Darren Till bandwagon. I was still a little apprehensive giving his occasional lapses in the Bojan Velickovic fight, but he was dialed in against Cerrone and showed the finishing instincts that were lacking in his previous two wins. Not only did Till win in fine fashion, he cut a great promo by calling out Mike Perry (who was at the event), and just has the feel of a potential star for the UFC. When I say “star” I’m not necessarily talking PPV buys, but if he can be a big name just within the UK market, that’s a major success in itself. I believe we’ll see Till shoot for loftier goals, though.

The welterweight division

Welterweight is going through a little bit of a rough transitional period. The influx of younger talent is slowly starting to populate the top-15, and Till dominating Cerrone is another example of that. It’s a lot more beneficial to see 24-year-old Till asserting himself as a future title challenger than 34-year-old Cerrone holding the fort. We will see guys like Demian Maia, Robbie Lawler (whether you want to admit it or not), and Carlos Condit fazed out of the top of the division, and the replacements appear to be Till, Kamaru Usman, Mike Perry, Colby Covington, etc.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

With all due respect to Jodie Esquibel, who is extremely tough, she was kinda booked as a showcase opponent for Kowalkiewicz to get a dominant win in front of her home fans. I see nothing wrong with this. Karolina fought Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha back-to-back, lost them both, but she’s still an elite strawweight, so getting back on track with a win against an established Invicta FC veteran is perfectly fine. Well done by Kowalkiewicz and I look forward to her taking on better competition again.

Jan Blachowicz

Back against the wall after a 1-4 record in his last 5, Blachowicz did bad things to Devin Clark’s body, then even worse things to Clark’s neck. It’s the rare standing choke with no hooks in, and Clark tapped quickly. Huge win for Blachowicz, who could’ve very easily been cut had he lost.

Marcin Held

He didn’t have a great showing against Nasrat Haqparast, who acquitted himself quite well and knocked Held down in the second frame, but merely winning is a major sigh of relief. It would’ve been stunning to see Held have an official UFC record of 0-4. I still don’t really see Held as a contender at 155, and his cardio is just woeful in a division where the top fighters fight at ridiculous paces.

Brian Kelleher

After getting into some early trouble with the spinning back kicks to the body thrown by Damian Stasiak, Long Island’s Kelleher regained his composure and looked outstanding in rounds two and three, and he became the first man to stop Stasiak in an MMA contest. Kelleher’s striking was on point, particularly those knees against the damaged nose of Stasiak, and he used his hands to put an exhausted and hurt Stasiak away in the closing minutes. Keep an eye out on the former ROC champion as a potential top-15 fighter at bantamweight.

Marc Goddard

For telling Conor McGregor off during the Fili-Lobov fight. I consider him the best referee in the business, and he was well within his rights to make sure McGregor shut up, because he’s not an official cornerman, and cornermen also tend not to do laps around the cage shouting instructions.

Andre Fili

Keeping with his win-loss-win-loss pattern that has defined his entire UFC career, Fili shut out Artem Lobov on the scorecards (although I personally gave Artem round 2), and nearly knocked out Lobov with a head kick in round 1. When things were a little bit shaky on the feet in round 3, Fili turned to his wrestling to clinch victory. One thing that is certain with Fili is that he is consistently inconsistent, but he fought well on Saturday against Lobov, who’s not as bad as he used to be/is made out to be.

Oskar Piechota and Aspen Ladd

Both fighters won their respective debuts, with Piechota showing off some slick grappling skills against Jonathan Wilson, and Ladd TKOing Lina Lansberg with screaming ground-and-pound in round 2. Ladd listened to her corner when they told her to wrestle instead of willingly clinch with the Muay Thai specialist, and she obliged. You have to love seeing that from a young, promising fighter such as Ladd.

Josh Emmett

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a UFC fighter record four knockdowns in a single round before, but Emmett did just that against Felipe Arantes. Emmett did go the distance and win a wide decision, but that’s largely due to him not having great finishing abilities. He still took apart Arantes in a way no one else has, so that’s a nice feather in his cap.

Losers

Donald Cerrone

I don’t think Cerrone is shot to pieces or anything like that, but this is the first time he’s ever lost to an unranked opponent/someone who didn’t enter the fight as a consensus WEC or UFC title contender. He has lost three straight, including two by stoppage, and this shut the door on any last-ditch title run at 170. Cerrone will keep fighting, he’ll keep entertaining, but he’s firmly hit the point in his career where you suspect he’ll be fed to prospects a lot more than he’ll be booked against top-10 guys.

Devin Clark

I picked Clark because I figured he’d have the gas tank and enough skills to outlast Jan Blahowicz’s best stuff in the first round. Clark pretty much was a bull in a china shop in there, and he paid the price for it in the form of getting choked senseless while still on his feet. The good news is that Clark is just 27 and has only been in pro MMA since 2013, so it’s fair to say he’s still “raw,” and hopefully he learns from this.

Jonathan Wilson

He is not cut out for the UFC whatsoever, and his tepid performance against Oskar Piechota is surely the end of his time with the promotion. In fact, he’s the only fighter out of everyone who lost on Saturday who’s not likely to get another UFC fight.

Sam Alvey and Ramazan Emeev

This was comfortably the worst fight of the night. Alvey, presumably due to the unsuccessful weight cut on short notice, was very listless and even more plodding than he normally is. His “action fighter” reputation needs to go away, because even under more normal circumstances, this is exactly how many of his fights look. With that said, newcomer Emeev was just as responsible for the ugliness of that bout, and it was a disappointing effort considering his performances in M-1 Challenge.

That Polish translator

I don’t claim to be fluent in Polish, but the young Rick Moranis-looking guy who translates Polish fighters seems to relay roughly 3.7% of what those fighters actually say. Evidently I wasn’t the only person who thought this on Twitter yesterday.

Conor McGregor

His good buddy and training partner Artem Lobov took an L, and he also took an L by having Marc Goddard scold him while he was screaming instructions at Lobov. Last but not least, when talking to Lobov backstage, the UFC lightweight champion used a gay slur in apparent reference to Andre Fili, and we probably wouldn’t have ever known if the UFC didn’t follow him around and tweet out the video. You may be annoyed that every major MMA site has turned this into a story, and I’m sure McGregor himself will say “people are so touchy on words,” but it’s a story nevertheless when someone of his stature, who is a public supporter of gay rights, is caught calling someone a “f-ggot” in a public setting with television cameras rolling literally behind and in front of him. It’s not like you can spin that into a positive, and this comes right on the heels of Fabricio Werdum’s idiocy at a UFC 216 media event.