I want to point out that UFC 215, as a whole, was a really entertaining event. It’s just unfortunate for the province of Alberta that the two main events they’ve managed are Renan Barao’s workmanlike win over Urijah Faber, and Amanda Nunes’ narrow, debatable split decision over Valentina Shevchenko. Yes, Nunes was able to go the full five rounds, and it sure helped that this was fought at such a mild pace with little grappling, so we were treated to a lot of counterstriking, feints, not a lot of eye-opening, jaw-dropping shots scoring, and the type of tactics that can make a crowd like Edmonton’s quite impatient.
Truth be told, some of my attention was on the HBO boxing tripleheader (go here for the result of Sor Rungvisai-Chocolatito II), so I genuinely have no solid opinion as to who won the fight. I suppose 48-47 either way is defensible, but I’d probably lean slightly towards giving Shevchenko the nod for the better landed strikes, particularly in rounds 2 and 4. Nunes did have a lot of success with her low kicks and body kicks, but her vaunted boxing game was largely held in check. Shevchenko essentially got the ideal fight she wanted but she’s also the type of fighter whose style is a pain in the ass for judges to score in close fights like this. She has every right to be upset about the outcome. I’ll probably rewatch this fight at some point but it definitely won’t be any time soon.
More thoughts on tonight’s card:
- The post-Rousey era of women’s bantamweight continues to be a mess. I don’t think that was a strategically good performance from Nunes and it’s probably the worst possible way to fight after the high-profile Tate and Rousey wins. Fans who were upset over her pulling out of UFC 213 were probably just as angry that the Shevchenko bout wasn’t scintillating stuff. How do you book Nunes now? Holly Holm? Raquel Pennington? A Cat Zingano rematch even though Zingano hasn’t won since beating Nunes the first time? I don’t know.
- Dana White was not at the event, and it looks as if that was going to be the case even if Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg had not been canceled.
- Good lord, when Neil Magny loses, he gets blown out. It looks like the MMA equivalent of Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech. Rafael dos Anjos kicked Magny off balance and just owned him on the mat, as Demian Maia did two years ago. While Maia subbed Magny with a rear-naked choke, RDA opted for the arm-triangle. Welterweight doesn’t have many actual viable title challengers, so they might as well do dos Anjos vs. Tyron Woodley next. I don’t really think there are demonstrably better alternatives right now.
- Henry Cejudo couldn’t have looked any sharper. He destroyed Wilson Reis and that is being kind to Wilson. That was simply superb striking from the former Olympic gold medalist, who finished Reis with a stupidly quick and accurate right hand and then some brutal follow-up punches. He’s still young and improving, and in the close loss to Benavidez and tonight’s showing vs. Reis, Cejudo has shown that he’s almost certainly going to be challenging for a UFC title again. I’m not saying it’s happening right away, but he is unquestionably an elite talent.
- I was a fool to pick against Ilir Latifi, the almighty Swedish god who won a decision over Tyson Pedro by completing 100% of his takedown attempts and doing some good damage with his ground strikes. Pedro had some nice moments with body kicks and calf kicks, he showed some creative striking, but that took a lot of energy out of him, and hopefully he learns from this and moves on.
- Gilbert Melendez may have changed weight classes, but he didn’t change his refusal to check leg kicks. Instead of getting torn apart by Edson Barboza, the former Strikeforce champion got beaten up by Jeremy Stephens, who postponed his wedding to go kick some ass. Somehow, Melendez went the distance, but he was hobbled from the opening round and was overmatched almost from start to finish. Stephens looked fantastic but it’s also sad to see Melendez look like an old, declined fighter. I don’t know if he’ll stay in the UFC now that he’s 1-5.
- Ketlen Vieira is now a definite top-10 fighter at women’s bantamweight after her surprise arm-triangle win over Sara McMann, who had Vieira in full mount and in some trouble in round 1, but the turning point seemed to be Vieira reversing the Olympic silver medalist and ending that round with a leglock attempt. We learned that McMann is still as awful as ever from her back, and while the door is open for Vieira to be a title challenger at some point, it’s surely slammed shut for good if you’re the soon-to-be 37-year-old McMann.
- Sarah Moras did terrible things to Ashlee Evans-Smith’s arm and picked up a fast submission win in her first fight since July 2015. In the post-fight interview, Joe Rogan told Moras that Evans-Smith might have dislocated her elbow, and Moras said, “I hope so.” Dayum.
- Rick Glenn beat the absolute sh-t out of Gavin Tucker, and somehow this went the distance. It never should have. It should’ve been stopped in between rounds 2 and 3. It should’ve been stopped during the extended mauling Glenn was dishing out on an exhausted, battered, and nearly defenseless Tucker. Referee Kyle Cardinal threatened to stop it and didn’t, I guess because Tucker was plausibly alive. Tucker’s wholly irresponsible corner didn’t stop it and in fact ludicrously told him an otherwise lopsided fight was a round apiece. Judge Sean Gerke inexplicably GAVE Tucker round 1 despite getting knocked down and hurt, and then proceeded not to give Glenn at 10-8 for round 2. I am extremely pissed off about the incompetence surrounding this fight. Tim Hague died under the watch of Edmonton’s commission just three months ago, and then a fight like this happens? Disgraceful from the ref, the corner (and as I wrote on Twitter, drop the win bonus so that it’s not financially damaging for corners to stop fights), and less so the comically inept 29-27 judge. I should be praising Glenn for a sensational showing against a hot prospect, but the whole of round 3 was infuriating.
- Alex White looked really sharp in his TKO win over Mitch Clarke, who announced his retirement in the post-fight interview. Clarke is as tough as they come and a great personality in the sport. He’s the last man to defeat Al Iaquinta and also had a hell of a battle with Michael Chiesa. I wish him the best in retirement, as he was fun to watch and a good personality in this sport.
- Canadian Olympic wrestler Arjan Bhullar got himself in the UFC win column in his debut by holding off Brazil’s Luis Henrique da Silva to take a 29-28 unanimous decision. Bhullar nearly finished Henrique in round 2 with a thumping right hand, but Henrique survived and came on strong late, just not enough for him to at least get a draw. Bhullar is the first fighter of Indian descent in UFC history, and there were plenty of supporters for him at the arena.
- There wasn’t much action in the preliminary card opener between Kajan Johnson and Adriano Martins, but the two best moments were both knockdowns. Martins dropped Johnson with a left at the end of round 1, but Johnson put Martins to sleep at the start of round 3. A right hand behind the ear gave Johnson the upset win in his first fight since 2015. (And no, Kajan didn’t bring up any fighters union stuff in his post-fight interview)