Another event down, and another set of changes for the UFC when it comes to doing business.
We've expected events on Super Bowl weekend to be PPV affairs, often with bigger names. This year an event was staged in the same city as the Super Bowl but for an FS1 card that seemed more geared towards the more dedicated fans as opposed to the casuals. It still served the purpose all of these Fight Night cards have, and we got the sorting out that an entity as big as the UFC needs to set up their bigger events.
Chan Sung Jung - I've been saying it for years, the Koreans and Filipinos are the top of the food chain when it comes to Asian MMA. For a man that had been away for three years, he at least stayed active and made the most of the time away. He struggled a bit with Bermudez but managed to land that right hand of doom to shut it all down. The amazing thing about this is how he goes from a giant question mark, to making a major impact in a featherweight division that has changed so drastically from when he left it. What this win will mean in terms of his standing in the division is still something to be determined, but what we saw was more than encouraging.
Felice Herrig - the experience and sense of dedication after a long hiatus was very evident in this fight, with a patient and a strong counter game with answers for everything that came her way. Taking on a young phenom with a lot of raw talent and showing a better overall MMA game with refined fundamentals is a great sign, and taking on younger talents has helped her get back on track with two consecutive wins. Not that this will net her a title shot yet, but this and her previous performance bring her back from the slump she had fallen in and made her a better fighter.
James Vick - Another gutsy performance from Vick, where he used his range and his body attacks to poke holes in his opponent's defense and worked his long arms for a submission that's almost tailor made for someone like him. This was fun to watch, and Vick's progression as a fighter has been great to witness. He rebounded beautifully from his loss to Beniel Dariush, and does so by finishing a tremendous athlete that's been known for his toughness.
Jessica Andrade - Another story of big evolution in the sport. This was a surprisingly great performance by Andrade, swarming Angela Hill and keeping the pressure up close to nullify her range game and beat her up right proper. She kept the volume striking going, landed a lot of shots and kept crowding her to keep things where she wanted them. This puts her at three in a row after finishing Jessica Penne via TKO and submitting Joanne Calderwood. With this win she beats a returning fighter that was much improved and should be the rightful challenger for the title. Much respect.
Marcel Fortuna - Winning a UFC debut is good, but doing it this emphatically is big. Knocking out Anthony Hamilton is good enough on paper, but seeing how he put him on roller skates until way after the fight was a massive statement. He looked much sharper on his feet than I thought he would, and extends his win streak to six in a row in the process.
Niko Price - Another major statement for the welterweight, who was very clearly behind until he started turning the tide around the halfway point of the second round. Knocking out someone like Alex Morono that isn't that high on the rankings list may not mean much to a lot of people, but hitting a guy so hard his toes curl up as he slumps does you a ton of favors in a division as crowded and talent-rich as 170. Two in a row in the UFC for Price, whose last fight was a submission win over Brandon Thatch at UFC 207 on December 30th. A quick turnaround paid off, and you should be excited about whatever is next for him.
Khalil Rountree - After two straight losses, Rountree came back with more violence and hit a knee so hard it looked like Jolly got hit with a shotgun blast. This was some very smart fighting, waiting for Jolly's hand to come off the mat to hit that killshot. Despite some ups and downs, he seems to be correcting course here. Interesting to see who he's paired up with next.
Volkan Oezdemir - Maybe not the flashiest performance, but winning a UFC debut against someone that's been around the block and is as tough as Ovince St Preux? That deserves a fair amount of credit. Not sure how successful he can be against be other guys further up in the rankings, but time will tell.
Curtis Blaydes wins his fight, and it's hard to make much of it since it was mostly due to injury. Not to discredit either fighter, but it doesn't do much for your standing, especially when both fighters are unranked.
Chas Skelly gets the brutal submission win that looked like it had a lot of pressure on it to seal the deal against a very strong wrestler and netting him his second consecutive win after beating Maximo Blanco. Ricardo Ramos took on a tough veteran make a decent impression in his debut, while Tecia Torres used her wily movement and use of space to land good shots and earn a decision over Bec Rawlings.
Dennis Bermudez - Bermudez looked like he was making some nice headway in the division, and he doesn't lose much here at first glance. But when you consider he lost to an opponent that was away for over three years and that he gets knocked out for his troubles? That changes things dramatically. While I'm not entirely certain that he's reached his ceiling as a fighter, I'm not sure where he goes next from here in terms of improvements that he can or will make. At 30 years of age and having fought for about seven years now, things are looking a bit hazy here for him.
Ovince St Preux - OSP now drops to three losses in a row, and I'm starting to suspect that a change in camps is now more urgent than ever. His strength and conditioning seem to be amazing where he lives, but he appears to have hit a wall here. Maybe it's just a matter of getting better sparring partners or something, but something has to change for a talent as promising as him.
Abel Trujillo - While he didn't get embarrassed like he did against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Trujillo really had the beginning of the end when he was nailed by that flying knee. His three-win streak was snapped (although one of those was a DQ win over Gleison Tibau), and he ends up being another fighter of which we should be asking if his growth and progression has stalled. A fighter that's 6-3-1 in the UFC and 15-7-1 overall at age 33 has some questions to ask himself if he wants to stay in the game, and it's fair to ask if perhaps it's too late to fix some of the tendencies that have set him back.
Anthony Hamilton - With a UFC record of 3-5 in which his last two fights haven't looked great, it's safe to assume Hamilton is getting cut. As impressive as his wins over Damian Grabowski and Ruan Potts were, they've been heavily overshadowed by his recent loss to Francis Ngannou and knockout losses to Todd Duffee and now to Marcel Fortuna. Sad to see him go, but it's not unreasonable to think he can find success elsewhere.
Daniel Jolly - Second straight knockout loss to end up 0-2 in the UFC. Very likely he gets cut. While the previous loss to Misha Cirkunov is more forgivable in light of how good Cirkunov has looked, it's not looking good here for the Werewolf of Texas.
Angela Hill - Well, that was sort of surprising. Hill got some good shots in, but couldn't keep a consistent offensive game going. She defended the takedowns well for the most part until eventually being taken to the mat, but got the worst of it standing. That was supposed to be where she'd outshine Andrade. Not a good return for Hill, who will have to find a way to deal with fighters like Andrade not giving her breathing room.
Bec Rawlings - Rawlings drops to 2-3 in the UFC, but she might stick around in a smaller division. Also, she didn't look that bad in this recent fight and was clearly winning against Paige VanZant prior to getting hit with that headkick. Still, she missed weight to go on and lose, which might work against her despite her claims that she couldn't make the weight due to medical problems. Personally, I'd like to see her get another shot, but is guaranteed in a situation like hers in today's climate.
Michinori Tanaka - I've loved watching Tanaka fight, but this should be the end of the road for him in the UFC. He also falls to 2-3, and seemed to have run out of offensive options on the feet sometime in the second round. His grappling game is strong, but his striking doesn't seem to have gotten anywhere near where a fighter that's been around as he has could be expected to get it.
Alex Morono - Brutal loss, but he won't suffer too much for it. His first UFC loss puts him at 2-1 in the promotion, but he can bounce back from this. Sad that he loses in front of his hometown crowd, but the fight game is unforgiving. He was doing well until his opponent did better, and these things happen. He'll have a lot of pressure for his next outing to perform and do better.
Chris Gruetzemacher - Even with this loss his UFC record is now 3-2. He loses to a craftier submission fighter, so it doesn't work against him that heavily.
Adam Milstead - Yes, he was outwrestled and controlled for the majority of the fight. He really lost due to the injury and is still standing at 1-1 under the UFC banner. His spot is safe.
Alexa Grasso - After such an impressive run in Invicta, she's now 1-1 in the UFC and lost to a more experienced fighter with a more complete game. She's still growing and improving, but should use this as a learning experience.