For a card that a lot of fans (and media) didn’t have very high expectations for, this was actually a fine Fight Night card with some very good performances. It was also helped by the fact that it was a Sunday daytime card for US viewers, which takes the sting out of watching a longer broadcast.
The best thing that this card had was that it accomplished its purpose of having meat and potatoes fights to continue sorting out divisional relevance, only with fun finishes. Even some of the bouts that ended in a decision had some great moments. This all led to an event that even purists can be content with, seeing as we got more than just a little bit of everything on this card. We even got some truly fascinating upsets for good measure.
To top things off, the UFC got one of its most treasured and marketable stars put on a thrilling performance and get a monster finish in front of of his hometown. This could not have gone any better for Gustafsson or UFC management in the end.
With the amount of unranked fighters and winners coming off losses, the “neither“ section will be more packed than usual. There weren’t too many people affected by setbacks when you look at the big picture. Still not a bad way to avoid annoying relatives on a holiday weekend.
Alexander Gustafsson - The Mauler came back full of malice and determination for this one. Given the chaotic state of the light heavyweight division, this win absolutely has to net Gustafsson a title shot, barring some sort of injury. While Jimi Manuwa recently notched a sensational knockout of his own, it was against a lower ranked opponent with less impressive recent victories. Gustafsson has the momentum, the name and a performance like this to cement his case. What’s more, he’s been the poster boy for most of the recent European endeavors with the crowd was going wild with any small amount of success he had in this fight. There’s no doubt it would do better business across the board and could be seen as having a better chance at either Cormier or Jones. UFC management rolled the dice on this fight and won big, and he even got engaged after the fight. It’s good to be that guy right now.
Volkan Oezdemir - Wait, this was the guy that impressed the UFC? Oezdemir’s record is full of knockouts and TKOs, mostly from his time on the Brazilian circuit and a handful of fights in Denmark. His UFC debut against Ovince St Preux didn’t really turn many heads, but this fight was a definitive statement that he deserves to be in the UFC. Prior to this fight, he was ranked at #5. Taking out a (deservedly) much-heralded talent in Misha Cirkunov is a massive accomplishment, but we really need to see what the UFC decides to do with him now.
Peter Sobotta - Now at 4-1 in the UFC, this is the performance that really separates Sobotta from the rest of the pack at 170. Another win similar to this could eventually lead to a ranked opponent, and the way he put Ben Saunders on roller skates was more than impressive. The part that really deserves attention is how composed he remained on the ground with Saunders’ attempts at controlling, setting up submissions and using his patented elbow strikes off his back. Perhaps it was just a good and convenient stylistic matchup, but it seems far more likely that Sobotta is hitting his stride here.
Jack Hermansson - Man, this guy was pumped. From the weigh-ins to the fight itself, Hermansson was electric, and clearly wanted to make the best of this performance. This win gives him a nice bounce back from his last fight, a losing effort against Cezar Ferreira last November. He’s now 2-1 in his UFC run while being in the iffiest division at middleweight. This may pay off in getting a more high-profile matchup.
Bojan Velickovic - That was a brutal finish, and showed a great deal of composure. It’s exactly the kind of statement you want to make in a fight when you’re at the stage of your career that Veličković is at. He should also be getting a bigger step up for his next outing.
Damir Hadzovic - Speaking of composure, this was another tremendous display of will and determination. Hadzovic was getting superstyled on in the grappling department and caught Marcin Held slipping. This puts him at 1-1 in the UFC and 11-3 overall, and shows he’s the kind of fighter that’s never really out of it.
Pedro Munhoz - After having two Performance of the Night awards in 2016, Munhoz continues to evolve and improve in his fights, showing a more complete game and being more patient with his opportunities to counter his opponents. Nullifying Stasiak’s submission game is impressive, and keeping him on his toes is as well. He currently has a three-fight win streak.
Joaquim Silva - Despite not winning TUF Brazil, Silva continues to prove he’s a UFC-caliber fighter, even if he took some lumps in the process. That was a strange but very entertaining fight he just had against Madadi as he quietly is on a 3-0 UFC run while remaining undefeated as a professional.
Darren Till continued to use his crafty striking arsenal and notched a good win over Jessin Ayari. Till appeared somewhat hesitant for some stretches of the fight, but he’s still undefeated and now has two UFC wins and a draw. Trevor Smith wrestled and controlled while punishing Chris Camozzi, negating the opportunity for Camozzi to use his striking. This makes the possibility of a third fight against Jacare somewhat difficult. Omari Akhmedov had another gutsy and strong performance against Abdul Razak Alhassan to kick off a two-fight win streak. Nordine Taleb made the best of an injury replacement situation by beating Oliver Enkamp to make his UFC record 5-2 and 13-4 overall.
Glover Teixeira - I’m not going to say that Teixeira is done as a fighter, because that would be premature and just dumb. But we can safely his place in the landscape at 205 has moved. The true elite of this division in recent years have been Daniel Cormier, Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira. Yet with this loss, it seems clear to me that Glover is out of that conversation. He’s a capable and talented fighter that couldn’t seem to break into the top four spots for long when Jones fought more consistently and Rumble Johnson was still in the UFC. Can we confidently say he’d have a better chance against Gustafsson in a rematch? Or that it would be more competitive, especially considering Glover’s age and fight mileage? I’ve loved watching him fight for years, but this might be the loss that relegates him to the unofficial gatekeeper status for good. He was consistently flustered any time Alex disengaged by running to re-center, and was visibly tired from it as well. He didn’t seem to have any ability to adapt to the circumstances of the fight, but still gave it his all until his body quit. He’ll undoubtedly stay in the top ten, but it’s little consolation considering what that looks like outside of Jimi Manuwa being at #3.
Misha Cirkunov - The Teixeira loss upsets some of the balance within the top five, but Cirkunov getting finished like this adds more of the strange to the rest of this mess of a division. Had this been a decision loss, he’d probably be in the “neither“ section. Even in the state of light heavyweight right now, I’m not sure where this puts him. It’s still only his first UFC loss, but it’s a rough one that we can only hope he learns from.
Marcin Held - I really had high expectations for Held upon his signing, but it’s a shame that he’s had such a rough go of it as of late. Decision losses to Sanchez and Lauzon were nothing to be ashamed of, but losing a fight like this when he was en route to a sure decision victory or possibly a submission later is brutal. His UFC run has not been a fair representation of him as a fighter, and I worry he may not get another chance here. Then again, he could be an asset for the European market and has enough grappling notoriety elsewhere for a case to be made to keep him. I’m really hoping for the latter.
Chris Camozzi - This is Camozzi’s third consecutive loss, and it seems his skillset is declining as well. He’s struggled against wrestlers in the past, but now it looks like he’s just stuck. He’s more than likely getting his walking papers again.
Alex Nicholson - While he had a tremendous finish against Devin Clark, Nicholson is also almost guaranteed to be cut. 1-3 in his UFC run, and he had no answers on the ground, plus he also looked a bit slower. That’s a bad sign for any fighter, even one under the age of 30.
Reza Madadi - It’s impressive how Madadi really has that strange and rare determination that makes his nickname so apt. His standing in the UFC is now 3-4, stemming way back from before he got arrested. But even looking at those numbers, they don’t tell the whole story. He had a very close split decision loss against Cristiano Marcello and an insane performance tonight in another close split decision against Joaquim Silva. Yes, he still lost, but in a close bout and a fun fight like that? Maybe his sport will be safe. I suspect his performances and popularity will lead to him sticking around.
Nico Musoke - Musoke was winning that fight until he wasn’t. That’s the fight game. Seeing that he’s been a durable veteran that gives anyone fits and now has a UFC record of 3-3, he could probably be fine. For now.
Ben Saunders - Yes, he got dropped and finished. For a fighter that is currently unranked, he’s still 4-2 in his UFC run. His spot is safe.
Oliver Enkamp - Coming in as a replacement in your mid-20s and losing to a solid veteran like Taleb? It is what it is. The kid will get another shot to acquit himself and showcase his skills even more.
Abdul Razak Alhassan - When your UFC debut is a big KO or TKO but you lose your next fight in a tough and gritty split decision, you’re still OK sitting at 1-1. Especially when you consider this is Alhassan’s first professional loss overall. See you in a few months, Abdul.
Jessin Ayari - Yet another fighter that ends up at 1-1 after this fight. He didn’t have too many answers to Till’s game, but still managed to hang tough. He’ll be good.