UFC Nashville didn’t produce any seismic shifts in the landscape of the UFC. Despite that, there was still some moments that will be difficult to get out of our memories. Did you catch the elbow Mike Perry landed on Jake Ellenberger? Or Al Iaquinta laying out Diego Sanchez? More often than not, those are the type of memories that stick with us more than title changes or number one contender contests. Even if there aren’t any major changes from the event, there are changes nonetheless. And we’re going to take a look at them.
Here’s my thoughts on the UFC Nashville, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.
- Expectations/Result: Despite it being a close contest according to the oddsmakers, Schnell gained the favor of most pundits due to his size, upside, and submission advantages. Schnell did bring his grappling skills into play. He came very close to submitting Sandoval with about a minute to go in the round as he sunk in a standing guillotine choke that required Sandoval to slam him twice before finally escaping. Once he finally did, Sandoval had a great position in which to land hammerfists, forearms, and elbows, which put Schnell to sleep.
- Sandoval: I’ve often ripped on Sandoval for his tendency to brawl. He didn’t do so at all this time. Instead, he initiated a clinch time and again, landing a lot of knees to the gut and legs, landing far more clean shots than Schnell in the process. He did get too aggressive when Schnell sunk in the guillotine and he needs to feel lucky he was able to escape as Schnell had that in DEEP. The win gives Sandoval two in a row which is more than many ever expected him to pick up. I think a lot of that can be attributed to Sandoval’s experience advantage over Schnell and Fredy Serrano in his previous contest. I’d like to see what he can do against a non-prospect.
- Schnell: Plain and simple, Schnell has been a disappointment. The loss to Rob Font wasn’t surprising, but the manner in which he was destroyed was brutal. Sandoval was an opponent designed to get Schnell back on track and Schnell couldn’t get it done. Though he came close to getting the sub, his distance management and lack of wrestling indicated Sandoval was the better fighter in the first place. He’d be best served to go back on the regional scene for a few fights before making his way back. At 27, Schnell has the time that he can do that and still have a notable UFC career.
- Expectations/Result: Hard not to see good possibilities in this contest. Barberena typically starts slow, so the thought was that Proctor would have to get an early finish if he was to win, something he’s been able to do before. Not this time. Barberena didn’t need much time to warm up, attacking with leg kicks early before resorting to his fists. Proctor began landing his own punches as the fight began to turn into a brawl. Barberena ended up stunning Proctor with a right hand before swarming with knees and punches, causing Proctor to fall to the ground.
- Barberena: A part of me wants to say that was a textbook performance from Barberena, but I can’t. No, with the finish coming in the first round, it was better than textbook. Barberena has lost fights thanks to his slow starts in the past. If his fast start here proves to be a new trend rather than an aberration, Barberena could end up making his way up the ladder another level. He still has a number of levels to get to before he can be elite, so I’m not proclaiming him a contender by any means. Regardless, I like the improvements Barberena continues to show. Now if he can shore up his wrestling next….
- Proctor: I don’t like Proctor’s chances of finding success at welterweight. He wasn’t particularly big at lightweight and was fortunate to face one of the smaller – and least athletic – welterweights in Barberena. It still wasn’t enough for him to pick up the W. It isn’t even a guarantee that Proctor is going to be kept around as this was his second consecutive loss and third out of his last four appearances. Even though Proctor’s contests are usually pretty entertaining, I’m expecting him to end up on the outside looking in.
- Expectations/Result: I know most people weren’t excited about this contest and I can understand why. Neither Davis or Dandois are very good strikers. However, I saw the possibility of some awesome grappling exchanges. I know I’m in the minority, but I’d say the grappling exchanges were fun at times. Dandois went for the takedown whenever she could, getting it with regularity. Davis was able to stifle Dandois, land some effective strikes off her back, and attempt some submissions of her own in the process. Regardless, Dandois exercised enough control to make an argument that she was winning the ground battle. Regardless, she left her chin out there for Davis to touch up more often as Davis won an ugly standup battle to take a clear decision.
- Davis: Davis has slipped from her heyday. Not by much, but her margin of error was so slight that she can’t conceivably hang with the best of a shallow division. Nonetheless, she’s still good enough to beat the likes of Dandois. Davis’ guard may be the most dangerous in the division as she came close to sinking in an armbar and a triangle choke from her back. Her jab was on point and mixed in enough body shots and leg kicks to keep Dandois guessing. She’s perfect in a gatekeeping role with names like Marion Reneau and Katlyn Chookagian coming to mind for her next opponents.
- Dandois: To quote Dennis Green, Dandois is who I thought she was: a talented grappler, a decent wrestler, and a striker with horrible technique. I wince at the many times Dandois led with her chin, making it easy for Davis to score her offense. Until she improves her striking defense, Dandois isn’t going to be able to beat more than the bottom feeders of the division on a consistent basis. Her grappling will allow her to catch the occasional opponent by surprise, but not very often.
- Expectations/Result: Thought to be the top atomweight in the world by many just a few short years ago, Penne had fallen onto hard times after demoraling losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade. Thus, no one knew what to make of this contest. Taylor gained the early advantage, getting Penne’s timing down early to counter her body kicks. Penne adjusted, landing her kicks and jabs with fewer answers from Taylor over the last two rounds. Nonetheless, Taylor was landing nearly as much and found success in avoiding Penne’s takedown attempts. Though I disagreed with the decision, it was close enough that I couldn’t argue with it.
- Taylor: Taylor is very lucky. She now has three UFC appearances with three very close contests, none of which I believed she emerged as the victor. Nonetheless, she has two wins as the judges have seen things differently than me. Despite my opinion of what her record should be, I acknowledge that she has continually improved. Her timing off the counter has improved significantly. She’s shown a greater inclination to throw leg kicks, a huge necessity for someone her size. Her low center of gravity has made it very difficult for opponents to get under her hips and get her down too. Still, her lack of size is going to limit just how high she can climb.
- Penne: I’m glad to see Penne put on a good showing considering the beatings she took against Jedrzejczyk and Andrade. That proves just how mentally tough Penne really is. Nonetheless, a case for a robbery can’t be made as the fight was too close to give one way or another definitively. Now Penne is looking at three losses in a row without the caveat of being an action fighter. The problem is Penne doesn’t have the physical strength to get her wrestling or judo trips working the same way she did when she was at 105 which negates her excellent grappling skills. Thanks to that, Penne’s next fight will probably be outside the UFC.
- Expectations/Result: Very few were giving McBride a chance as his awkward striking and weak wrestling made him a major underdog. Holtzman battered and bloodied him, showing improved striking in the pocket as he rarely utilized his trademark clinch game. To be fair to McBride, he did show improved standup, landing a fair share of strikes. However, they didn’t have the same zip to them that Holtzman had as it never felt like he hurt Holtzman. The judges had little trouble figuring this one out.
- Holtzman: First, the positives. Holtzman did an excellent job mixing his strikes. He was going to the body, finishing his combinations to the head, and landing a high volume of hard leg kicks. That gives Holtzman all the ingredients to be one of the better action fighters at lightweight. However, I don’t like the fact he was unable to finish McBride after McBride left his chin out there to be touched up time and time again. Holtzman needs to be finishing the likes of McBride if he wants to be known as more than an action fighter. While I’m not the type to say that’s a horrible fate, I don’t see him becoming more than that.
- McBride: I ripped on McBride heavily in my preview last week, but I’ll give McBride credit: he looked much improved. His striking didn’t appear to have any mustard behind it, but he was landing at a higher clip than I would have ever guessed. I was surprised to see him get a few takedowns too. However, much like his last contest, McBride’s toughness was on display more than anything else. He was hobbled early by Holtzman’s leg kicks and survived a hell of a groin strike early. Never a good sign when that’s the best thing to be said about a fighter. Don’t expect him to be back.
- Expectations/Result: One of the harder contests on the card to predict, I went with Ortiz’s experience to be the difference-maker. I appeared to be right for the first half of the 15-minute time limit. Ortiz grinding Moreno against the fence and on the ground over that time, giving Moreno a lesson in clinch fighting. He didn’t give Moreno much space, but once he finally did, Moreno capitalized and landed a beautiful head kick that sent Ortiz to the ground head first. Somehow, Ortiz was still alert enough to get up briefly only for Moreno to get his back. Though it took some time, Moreno finally got the rear-naked choke in to pick up the victory.
- Moreno: I’ve been reluctant to jump on the Moreno bandwagon… and I still am despite this impressive victory. Moreno was completely outclassed before landing the head kick, a sweep in the first round being the only thing I can think of that went in his favor to that point. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty that went well for him. Moreno’s confidence is impressive as hell as he had almost nothing going for him before that. That would have demoralized most fighters. He was also the first one to finish Ortiz, a hell of an accomplishment. But he still has a lot to learn. I’m praying the UFC doesn’t throw him into the deep end quite yet as he is still only 23-years old.
- Ortiz: Anybody else feel like this loss slams the door on Ortiz’s chances of being a potential title contender? I love how Ortiz is willing to fight anyone, but he continues to lose to every opponent he faces with even a semi-recognizable name. That doesn’t mean Ortiz isn’t improving. He dominated the vast majority of the fight before a brief slip in his defenses cost him. It could even be argued that he is the best clinch fighter in the division sans Demetrious Johnson. But this loss…. I fear Ortiz will be stuck with the title of perennial gatekeeper much in the same manner as Gleison Tibau. Normally I don’t think that is a bad fate, but Ortiz’s talent level indicates he could be more than that.
- Expectations/Result: Alvey had shown signs of improving his all-around game while Leites had shown signs of decline. Thus, Alvey was the popular pick. Instead, Leites looked much more motivated than he had in his previous contest while Alvey regressed back to his inactive self who relied too much on waiting for the counter. That allowed Leites to pick apart Alvey’s legs with kicks, resulting in Alvey wincing noticeably. Alvey picked up the pace in the final round, only for Leites to become the counter striker. Overall, it wasn’t a contest worth remembering.
- Leites: I’m not going to rip on Leites even if the bout wasn’t engaging at all. He had lost three of his previous four and was likely to be cut if he were to fall short here. He fought a smart fight where he stayed out of the pocket to prevent Alvey from landing his big right hand which allowed him to go home with the victory. You can’t blame the guy for wanting to keep his job. What does concern me is his regression as a wrestler. He telegraphed every level change, making it easy for Alvey to stuff his attempts with ease. Leites grappling talents will go to waste unless he finds a way to get the fight to the ground. He hasn’t been able to do that recently.
- Alvey: Alvey really is about as likeable as a fighter gets, but he’s also about as frustrating to watch as they get too. You know he can land that big right to produce a highlight reel KO. Unfortunately, he’s also just as capable of being in a plodding contest in which nothing happens. He had made progress recently to be more active, prodding more with a jab and tossing out leg kicks. I know he was hurt early by the leg kicks, so I’ll attribute his poor performance to that. Here’s hoping he can revert back to his recent form as this iteration of him isn’t going to find much success.
Mike Perry defeated Jake Ellenberger via KO at 1:04 of RD2
- Expectations/Result: Though most agreed that Perry would likely walk out with the win, Ellenberger has surprised before, such as in his win over Matt Brown. The one thing everyone agreed on: this fight wasn’t going to go the distance. Ellenberger opened the contest with a powerful double-leg takedown, but couldn’t maintain control for very long. The fight stayed on the feet from there with Perry stalking Ellenberger for the rest of the round. The action picked up in a hurry in the second, Perry dropping Ellenberger early with a left hook. Ellenberger got back to his feet and the brawl ensued. As the fists were flying, Perry scored a devastating elbow that had Ellenberger out before he hit the ground.
- Perry: I still have my concerns about Perry, but liked the progress I saw out of him here. Resorting to throwing leg kicks as he stalked Ellenberger was what I noticed the most as he didn’t do that in his loss to Alan Jouban. After the first takedown, he blocked every subsequent attempt by Ellenberger to get the fight to the ground. Then again, Perry has always displayed good takedown defense. Though he is tough as nails, I’d rather not see Perry rely so heavily upon that as chins are bound to erode over time. Ellenberger himself was once thought to have an iron-clad chin. It hasn’t been that way for a while now. I have to mention that elbow though as it was perfectly timed and placed, perhaps the best short elbow strike I’ve ever seen. Opponents are going to be more reluctant than ever to trade bombs with Perry after that.
- Ellenberger: The UFC has given him a long leash as he has now dropped seven of his last nine contests. To be fair, Ellenberger hasn’t faced a single cupcake in that span with his loss to Perry perhaps being the worst loss out of them all. But you still have to wonder when the UFC will say enough is enough. Ellenberger showed enough to convince me he can still win fights. He was methodical with his jab and body kicks while his opening takedown was a thing of beauty. He just can’t be engaging in the firefights he used to thrive in. Seeing as how he doesn’t have a cheap contract, I’m sure he’s finally at the end of the line of his UFC career.
Stevie Ray defeated Joe Lauzon via majority decision
- Expectations/Result: Lauzon fights have never been difficult to predict. Either he overwhelms his opponent early with a swarm of punches and submission attempts or they survive only for him to fade down the stretch. This was no different. Lauzon was the aggressor early, nailing Ray with everything he had until Ray was bloodied and battered. Despite that, Ray was still there, escaping the submission attempts and coming back for more. Lauzon had little to offer the final two rounds, scoring a couple of takedowns to limit Ray’s offense, but was largely there for Ray to hit otherwise. It was amazing Lauzon was able to survive to the final bell as Ray returned Lauzon’s earlier favor and threw everything he had at the veteran before settling for a decision victory.
- Ray: Though Ray’s inability to stifle Lauzon’s early offense is disconcerting, his ability to not only survive, but come back with his own brutal brand of offense is encouraging. I liked his ability to read the situation too. Even though Lauzon had top control for a good chunk of both the second and third round, Ray was active enough from the bottom with his strikes. That eliminated any potential debate in the second round as it very well could have gone in favor of Lauzon without Ray’s activity from the bottom. What does concern me is Ray’s inability to stop Lauzon’s takedowns despite Lauzon being utterly exhausted. I do recall him stuffing two, but he should have been able to remain standing after the first round. Ray’s takedown defense will prevent him from ever joining the elite at 155.
- Lauzon: My opinion on Lauzon remains unchanged: one of the best fighters in game for the first five minutes of every contest. After that, he’s almost always just fighting for survival. Lauzon’s early flurries have picked him up bonus after bonus despite not being a top-flight athlete, so I’m not going to rip on that strategy. He has been in the UFC for over ten years after all. He’s got to be doing something right. How much longer he’ll be around is up for debate. He did look fantastic in the opening round, so I could see him hanging around for another two, maybe even three years. He’s no longer going to be able to hang with the top 15, but he still has a solid role as THE action-fighting gatekeeper.
- Expectations/Result: I had such high hopes for this contest going in. Wineland, as one of the most active strikers at bantamweight, against the lightning-quick Dodson? How could it be boring? It was… very boring. Dodson stayed just outside of Wineland’s range, picking his spots wisely to jump into range and do his damage against the taller Wineland. The song remained the same for all 15 minutes as Dodson never showed any urgency to finish off the longtime vet, coasting to an easy decision.
- Dodson: Dodson did what he needed to do to win. The appearances of both fighters afterwards made it difficult to argue with the strategy as Wineland was bloodied up while Dodson had nary a scratch on him. But the game plan can be argued. Dodson wants to be in title contention at bantamweight. While a win obviously does more for him moving in that direction than a loss, the UFC brass has proven willing to reward those who put on entertaining scraps or add to their highlight reel. Dodson didn’t do that. So my bet would be he’ll get a contest against a lower ranked opponent like Iuri Alcantara rather than someone ahead of him such as Bryan Caraway. Dodson is still improving, but one has to wonder when his speed and quickness will begin to fade.
- Wineland: It’s a real bummer to see a warrior like Wineland so frustrated with the how the fight played out. Dodson was right when he claimed Wineland came to fight. Wineland just couldn’t find his opponent often enough to turn it into the fight he wanted. While most of that can be attributed to Dodson’s speed and quickness, it is fair to question whether Wineland’s own speed can be questioned. Was he unable to connect since his speed isn’t what it once was? Or was his timing simply off? All it takes is a fraction of a difference in either category. Wineland didn’t look as lethargic as he did against Bryan Caraway a few years ago, so I think he still has a few competitive contests in him… so long as they aren’t against top flight competition.
- Expectations/Result: All anybody knew about this contest – much like the Perry-Ellenberger contest -- is that it wasn’t going the distance. Hell, there was a strong chance it wasn’t even going to leave the first round. While it did do that, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. De Lima landed kick after kick to the legs and body of Saint Preux in the opening frame as the Tennessee native had little to offer in return outside of a brief flurry. Saint Preux turned things around in the second frame, scoring a takedown and landing some heavy elbows. De Lima then tied up Saint Preux’s head to prevent further damage, leading to the Von Flue choke to grant Saint Preux the win.
- Saint Preux: Saint Preux looked to be in much better shape than he has in recent contests. That alone appeared to be the difference between another loss for Saint Preux and emerging with this victory. But I still don’t like the majority of what I’m seeing from him. He was too content to let de Lima do his thing in the opening frame. Perhaps he was simply allowing de Lima to expend energy to make it easy to floor the Brazilian later in the fight, but that was a very risky strategy if that was the case. Considering Saint Preux is a big fish in a little pond where he trains, I’d still love to see him make a move to a bigger camp, though I doubt we will ever see that.
- De Lima: This performance exemplifies de Lima. He looked more disciplined in the first round than I can remember in any of his other UFC contests. He never forced the issue, landing clean kicks in the process and keeping Saint Preux on his heels. As soon as Saint Preux offered some offense, de Lima panicked. Instead of tying up Saint Preux’s arms, he went for the ill-advised headlock and tapped rather than simply let go of the head. Has the man never been trained in BJJ? De Lima has the talent to be a mainstay in the top ten, but he’ll never get there with his current mental makeup.
Al Iaquinta defeated Diego Sanchez via KO at 1:38 of RD1
- Expectations/Result: Sure, Iaquinta had been away from the sport for two years. But all the reports had been that he stayed active in his gym during that time. So everyone was picking him to lay waste to the longtime veteran. It happened, just not quite in the manner we expected. Iaquinta ate an early groin strike, then proceeded to obliterate Sanchez. Putting him down with a right hand, Sanchez bounced back up in trademark form, mean-mugging all the while. Iaquinta didn’t relent, landed another hard right to floor Sanchez again, adding one more for good measure to put Sanchez out cold.
- Iaquinta: Nobody has debated Iaquinta’s talent. He’s long been known as one of the harder hitters in the lightweight division and this performance is a perfect example of that. Knowing he had every athletic advantage on the weathered Sanchez, Iaquinta didn’t toy with him at all and produced one of the more emphatic KO’s of the year. Given his reaction towards the UFC after the event – something along the lines of “f—k off” – it’s very difficult to predict what the future holds for Iaquinta. He’s got the tools to hang with the best, but his poor relationship with the brass looks like it will limit how far he can climb. Let’s hope they can make peace long enough for Iaquinta to get a fight against someone who isn’t long past their prime.
- Sanchez: This is why fans and pundits have been calling for Sanchez to call it quits for the last several years. He’s taken an ungodly amount of punishment over his career, leaving most of us baffled that he had never suffered a legit KO up until just last year. This marked his second KO loss in the last three contests, both occurring in the first round. The other fight was against a submission specialist in Marcin Held. Even in that fight, Sanchez was losing the standup battle. If Sanchez insists on continuing his career, the UFC needs to protect him by putting him against fighters he can not only be competitive with, but aren’t going to smoke him on the feet. His chin – and brain – can’t stand up to the punishment anymore.
- Expectations/Result: Anyone who knows anything about Lobov knows he didn’t deserve to be headlining a card. It would be one thing if he was stepping in on short notice as an injury replacement, but that wasn’t the case. Thus, he was expected to get creamed by the violence machine that is Swanson. If you were to say that’s what Swanson did to Lobov, you’d be considered an optimist. Swanson did earn an easy decision to score, but he arguably dropped the first round before getting his bearings to take the last four rounds. Swanson landed a high number of strikes, but he also allowed himself to take a lot of damage in the process. It made for a better-than-expected main event from an entertainment perspective, but it could also be termed a disappointing performance from Swanson.
- Swanson: What caught my attention more than anything was Swanson calling for a title shot after the contest. With all due respect to how great Swanson is – he is pretty damn great – nobody should ever get a title shot off of a win over Lobov. And Swanson didn’t even finish him. Not for lack of trying. Swanson landed some heavy shots and did so creatively, landing a couple of spinning backfists and elbows. However, Lobov also landed a lot of his own offense as Swanson had little regard for Lobov’s attack even though standing and trading in the pocket is where Lobov is at his best. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Swanson never made an attempt to take the fight to the ground. Even though Swanson walked out the winner, it should still be taken as a lesson why fighters should never take an opponent lightly, no matter how much they’re expected to run over them. Seeing as how I view Swanson’s chances of getting a title shot off of this win as highly unlikely, either Ricardo Lamas or Chan Sung Jung would appear to make the most sense.
- Lobov: Lobov has become more than just a brawler, better controlling distance so that he doesn’t eat as much damage as he looks for the counter. However, his short arms will forever keep him from avoiding most of the damage opponents throw at him. Nonetheless, he deserves credit for making himself a credible UFC fighter, something that couldn’t be declared about him as of last year. At one point, I declared him as the fighter least deserving of a UFC roster spot. I’ll gladly eat my words at this point. I hope that he doesn’t get any more main event slots barring any massive improvements that nobody sees coming. He’s a middling fighter in a deep division on the UFC roster. That’s more than what most professional fighters can claim, so there is no shame in that. But to pretend he’s an elite fighter is an insult to those who have proven themselves far more than he has.
Well, those are my thoughts. Until next time...