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UFC on FOX 31: Lee vs. Iaquinta - Winners and Losers

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Al Iaquinta secured one of the more notable upsets of the year when he upended Kevin Lee. But was he the biggest winner from the UFC’s evening in Milwaukee?

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The final UFC on FOX card went out with… I don’t want to say a whimper, but it was closer to that than it was a bang. The UFC didn’t appear to care whether the card did well as they are set to embark on a new era with ESPN. That doesn’t mean everything on the card was miserable. In fact, the action on the card turned out to be pretty solid. Al Iaquinta turned in one of the bigger upsets of the year when he outworked Kevin Lee in the main event and Edson Barboza delivered one of the more brutal beatings of 2018. Who did he deliver that beating too? Well, you might be surprised to know he wasn’t one of the big losers of the night.

Winners

Al Iaquinta: Prior to the win over Lee, Iaquinta’s best win was over Jorge Masvidal… and that was a controversial victory from almost four years ago. So you can be forgiven if you didn’t see Iaquinta pulling out the win over Lee. Perhaps Iaquinta is overshooting his worth when he states he’s got to be fighting the likes of Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson next, but that doesn’t sound like the laughable statement it was prior to this victory. Some may complain that Iaquinta’s performance wasn’t flashy, but that’s a large part of what was impressive about it. It’s harder to pull out a workmanlike performance against an elite talent as opposed to securing a flash KO or submission. Iaquinta is the real deal, even if he never becomes champion.

Edson Barboza: I totally understood why people were questioning Barboza. He was on the receiving end of two brutal drubbings in his last two contests, making one wonder if his confidence was shattered. Nope. Barboza looked more sharp than he ever has on the feet, working over the body of Dan Hooker just as much as the head. And it’s not like Barboza’s kicking game has gone anywhere either. Barboza doesn’t look like he’ll ever fight for the title, but he reminded us with the brutal beating he deliver to Hooker than he’s going to be around for a long time yet.

Rob Font: In terms of name value, Font picked up the biggest win of his career when he dispatched of Sergio Pettis. It is unfortunate that more stock will be put into the loss for Pettis than the win for Font, but it truly was a masterful performance by Font. He recognized he could bully Pettis and did so for the entirety of the contest. Let’s not take anything away from Font for recognizing an advantage and exploiting it. Font appears to still be improving, but he still needs a win against a top ten opponent before that improvement can be considered meaningful.

Charles Oliveira: Oliveira did what he does best: get the fight to the ground and get a submission. The grappling guru added to his record of UFC record of submissions when he sunk in a RNC on Jim Miller, avenging the very first loss of his career. I don’t want to put too much stock into the win as Miller is well past his prime, but Oliveira did what he was supposed to do. Plus, he secured a Performance of the Night bonus. Not too bad for a night’s work.

Joaquim Silva: Not only did Silva get an extra $50K for his contest with Jared Gordon, he finally put his Netto BJJ nickname to good excuse. Sure, Gordon didn’t tap out to the Suloev stretch applied by Silva at the end of the second round, but Gordon wasn’t the same fighter after Silva did a number on Gordon’s hamstring. Silva opened the third by working over Gordon’s body before finishing off Gordon with punches to the head. I questioned his fight IQ after his loss to Vinc Pichel. I’m applauding it here.

Jack Hermansson: I keep forgetting just how dominant Hermansson can be physically. This wasn’t the first performance in which he mauled an opponent, but it is the most notable. Despite knowing Gerald Meerschaert’s bread and butter is his ground game, Hermansson took the fight there, knowing Meerschaert had no chance to outmuscle the Swede. That makes four wins in his last five appearances and a 5-2 UFC record overall. Hermansson has earned a chance at someone in the official UFC rankings.

Dan Ige: It wasn’t the best performance from the Hawaiian, but it was enough to get the job done on the strength of his wrestling. Some may rip on the finishing ability of Ige, but I’m going to give more credit to Jordan Griffin for his resilience in escaping Ige’s multiple submission attempts. Ige also stated he didn’t feel good, which may explain his flat performance. But he… he won an entertaining contest.

Mike Rodriguez: This was the performance I was expecting out of Rodriguez when he made his UFC debut. He was aggressive, throwing hooks and knees and whatever else he could launch at Adam Milstead before a knee to the put the brakes on Milstead’s evening. There are plenty of holes in Rodriguez’s offensive, but he’ll find success in a shallow light heavyweight division if he fights with the confidence he exhibited here.

Juan Adams: It wasn’t the big splash many were expecting out of the big man – or should I say big kid? – but he flashed enough of what has many excited about him before fatigue overwhelmed him. Given it was just his fifth professional fight, I have no qualms with his performance. His jab was sharp, he showed some wrestling, secured a late finish over Chris de la Rocha… he’s coming along.

Losers

Kevin Lee: Lee’s performance, while a letdown, was also the best recent example of why a 165 lb. division should be coming in the near future. Lee was competitive over the first three rounds, landing some hard shots to supplement his wrestling attack, but had nothing left to offer in the final two rounds as the weight cut to 155 takes so much out of him. His lack of combination striking and/or dynamism in his striking was another hole that was exposed. Has Lee reached his ceiling? No. But he also isn’t the championship caliber of fighter his fans have been proclaiming him to be.

Sergio Pettis: In some ways, Pettis was the biggest loser of all. Upon his return to the bantamweight division, Pettis was again exposed as being very small for the division. Pettis never had any sustained success in any aspect of the fight with Font. The simple solution would be to have him return to flyweight… but it looks like the UFC is permanently eliminating the division. Pettis appears destined to become just another face in the bantamweight crowd as opposed to the contender who emerged at flyweight. Ouch.

Jim Miller: I’m as big of a Miller fan as anyone, but this was a terrible performance from the all-time leader in UFC appearances. It isn’t necessarily that he was submitted by Oliveira. It’s that he was submitted so quickly, just 75 seconds into the fight. Miller proved he can still win fights when he methodically picked apart Alex White, but the gap between White and Oliveira is massive. The UFC isn’t using Miller properly at this point.

Zak Ottow and Dwight Grant: I’d rather not say anything about this contest. It was a terrible fight as neither wanted to throw anything. Grant did land more strikes – and the harder strikes – yet the judges chose to award the decision to Ottow. However, the contest was bad enough that no one cares nor do they want to see these two in the cage any time soon.

Bobby Green: Green’s placement in the loser’s column has less to do with his performance and more to do with the result. Green looked good, arguably winning the first two rounds with slick striking and some grappling. However, the judges disagreed, resulting in a 1-4-1 record in his last six appearances. Green’s better than that, but it won’t be a surprise to see him on the cutting room floor if his contract is up.

Gerald Meerschaert: I said in my preview that Meerschaert would put himself in a bad position that would ultimately end up costing him. He put himself on his back when he pulled guard with a guillotine attempt. Hermansson can be submitted, but not like that. Meerschaert acknowledged on social media he looked like crap, so credit to the veteran for being self-aware. Being self-aware doesn’t make up for being on the wrong end of a one-sided beatdown….

Trevor Smith: Nothing notable happened in his contest with mirror image Zak Cummings. In fact, I’m struggling to remember anything of note. However, Smith was the one who walked away with the L. Doing nothing memorable without a victory? Yeah, you’re in the loser’s column.

Adam Milstead: Milstead had stated he’d retire if he didn’t win. Well, he didn’t win and Milstead left his gloves in the cage. I’m kind of bummed since I liked how he looked against Jared Johnson. Whatever he does in the future, I wish him the best of luck as I’ve only heard good things about the guy from those who have interacted with him.

Chris de la Rocha: I usually give a pass to fighters that lose when they’re expected to lose. De la Rocha had an opportunity to capitalize on Adams blowing his wad early. For being unable to capitalize on that chance, I can’t give de la Rocha a pass. It isn’t like the 39-year old has time to grow into a better fighter. He needed to make a move now and couldn’t do it. It kind of sucks since everyone likes an underdog story.

FOX: While the video montage the UFC put together was nice, it didn’t feel like the UFC was trying to hype up the final card on FOX. I can’t remember a single advertisement for the event in advance. I realize it could just be that I don’t watch much TV outside of fighting, but it could also be that the UFC just didn’t care. I’m betting it was more likely the latter.

Neither

Dan Hooker: I’m not going to pretend the beating Hooker endured from Barboza was of epic proportions. It was. It also had me dangerously close to putting Hooker back into the Loser column. However, it also appears as though Hooker picked up more notoriety than he did at any point during his recent four fight winning streak. The loss may have established a hard ceiling on Hooker, but it also established him as one of the toughest SOB’s in the sport.

Drakkar Klose: I didn’t like anything I saw out of Klose over the first two rounds. He was flustered and couldn’t bully Green in the clinch when he was able to close the distance with Green. I’ll admit Klose turned things up when the final round came about, but it wasn’t enough for me to believe he deserved the W. Nonetheless, Klose walked out of the cage with his fourth W in five UFC appearances. Even if his cage performance didn’t really indicate it, that isn’t a bad night.

Jared Gordon: Having reported a torn hamstring along with a knee injury in combination with his loss to Silva would make it a terrible evening in most cases. However, a strong performance in the first two rounds and an extra $50K in his pocket for FOTN doesn’t make the night a complete loss. Gordon’s boxing was cleaner before his suffered his hamstring injury, indicating his trajectory is still headed up. I expect he’ll bounce back strong.

Zak Cummings: Given I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the UFC release Cummings if he came up short, walking out with a nondescript win isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, it also felt like Cummings was doing his best to give the fight away. He did survive, but Cummings fight IQ is something I’m going to question walking away from this contest.

Jordan Griffin: While Griffin’s fight IQ deserves all sorts of criticism, the Milwaukee native deserves credit for bringing the excitement to one of the better fights of the night. Even though he got himself into a number of bad situations, he always found a way to escape and came thisclose to eeking out a decision. Even without the win, Griffin delivered the type of fight Dana White wants out of his fighters. There are far worse ways to start out your UFC career.