This was largely a forgotten card. Three different main events were either canceled or fizzled before Jack Hermansson stepped in on short notice to face the legendary Jacare Souza. The problem is, most people were saying “Jack who?” Five rounds later and the Swede forced his way into the conversation of the middleweight elite, downing the expert grappler in decisive and entertaining fashion. Who in the hell saw this coming a month ago?
It isn’t like that was the only awesome fight either. Mike Perry and Alex Oliveira had a dance off – no joke – before going to battle. Cory Sandhagen and John Lineker put on a show of ridiculously violent proportions. Those performances were impressive enough that I completely forgot about how good Angela Hill and Jodie Esquibel was until reviewing the card at the end of the night. If you didn’t enjoy this card, you aren’t a fan of this sport.
Jack Hermansson: One month ago, Hermansson was about to face David Branch. Now, he not only owns a victory over Branch, but one over one of the all-time greats at middleweight in Jacare. I’ve been a fan of Hermansson’s for quite a while, but I didn’t see this type of ascension coming. Perhaps the most impressive part was how close he came to being the first to sub the BJJ master, catching Jacare in a guillotine in the first round. He may not have finished it, but it took a superhuman effort from Jacare to escape it. Seeing Hermansson’s progression has me thinking other fighters might want to get a hold of Hermansson’s coaches as they are doing a fantastic job of guiding him.
Mike Perry: Whether you like Perry or not – and I know plenty of people turned off by him – his fights are always a lot of fun. His victory over Alex Oliveira was a perfect case study of why. There were some delightfully weird moments – how the hell did Perry fly back 15 feet after slamming Oliveira – and some brutally violent moments. In the end, it was Perry’s consistency that proved the difference, hurting Oliveira on several occasions. Perry is adding little by little to his arsenal too. Despite being thrown in the deep end too soon, he’s on the right track.
Glover Teixeira: Someway, somehow, Teixeira continues to find ways to win. I expected his recent propensity to get hurt to cost him. Well, he got hurt early when Ion Cutelaba landed a brutal spinning backfist… so I wasn’t completely wrong. Where I was wrong was whether he’d recover as he did that, waited for Cutelaba to gas, get the youngster to the ground and sub him. Teixeira is nothing more than a gatekeeper now, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of at this point in Teixeira’s career.
Cory Sandhagen: Normally, I place the fighters that put on an absolutely blistering performance together. I had to give Sandhagen his own column though as he put on a very gutty performance to score the upset. His response to the booing crowd only made it even better, showing great humility. Yes, the kid took some heavy punishment from Lineker, but everyone who fights him does. Sandhagen fought a near-perfect fight, taking the decision and launching himself into the top ten of the bantamweight division
John Lineker: I don’t care that Lineker lost. He fought the fight we all expected him to and we all love him for it. In fact, I scored the fight in his favor and I wasn’t the only one in the MMA community to do so. He landed the heavier bombs and came close to ending the contest in the closing seconds with a guillotine. The lasting image of the fight proved to be the blood gushing from Sandhagen as Lineker squeezed as tight as he could. I wonder if the mini brickhouse would have been able to save the flyweight division if he could have consistently made the weight….
Roosevelt Roberts: I’m sure some were expecting Roberts to put on a showcase performance as opponent Thomas Gifford wasn’t seen in high regard. Nonetheless, the workmanlike performance from Roberts was the type of showing that was missing from his resume. The youngster demonstrated perfect use of the post-fight interview too, calling out Matt Frevola. The kid is on the right track.
Takashi Sato: Far from a flawless performance, Sato nonetheless walked out with the type of violent finish that helps establish newcomers as they make their debut. Add in the lack of success of fighters from Asian descent in the UFC over the last few years and it makes Sato’s brutal finish of Ben Saunders seem that much more impressive. I do worry how Sato will fair against someone with a decent chin, but he should savor this win for now.
Carla Esparza: It wasn’t a dominant victory over the debuting Virna Jandiroba, nor was it particularly entertaining. Despite those drawbacks, it was a smart performance and a badly needed victory. The former champion relied on her wrestling to control the tricky Jandiroba from the top for long stretches, a strategy she has struggled to espouse for the last few years.
Gilbert Burns: Burns had me nervous in the first round when he spent a good chunk of time trading fisticuffs with newcomer Mike Davis. Yes, Burns is a hard hitter, but that was the only place Davis stood a chance to win. Burns allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief as he completely dominated the second round, getting Davis down early and keeping him there until he found the sub. Expect Burns to get a nice step up in competition next.
Jim Miller: Those of us who have followed the sport for a while find it hard to root against Miller. Never the most physically gifted fighter, Miller has persevered to own the record for most UFC appearances. Wanting his kids to have an opportunity to see their dad do his thing, he secured a dominant victory over Jason Gonzalez with his family watching. No disrespect to Gonzalez, but there wasn’t a person disappointed in that outcome… except for Gonzalez of course.
Angela Hill: I don’t want to put too much stock in Hill’s win over Jodie Esquibel as Esquibel just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to find success in the UFC, but Hill looked good. Real good. She timed her counters well as Esquibel moved forward, bloodying up her smaller opponent. Here’s hoping this performance can carry over into her next appearance.
Dhiego Lima: Aside from the final 10 seconds, Lima executed the perfect game plan to turn away durable vet Court McGee. Lima claimed he worked hard on his takedown defense and it showed, preventing McGee from landing a single takedown. Some may say McGee is simply shot – I’m in that camp – but let’s give Lima some credit here. He looks good.
David Branch: That loss to Hermansson doesn’t look so bad now….
Nick Baldwin... and Me: We took different routes to get there, but we ended up at 9-4 on the staff picks to lead the way for Bloody Elbow. Keeping in mind there were several upsets on this card – no one picked either Hermansson or Sandhagen to win. Then again, I don’t think anyone else is keeping track, meaning no one really gives a crap. Eh, whatever.
Jacare Souza: This has less to do with Jacare’s performance – it was good, even if he wasn’t in peak form – and more to do with where the loss puts Jacare. Promised a title shot if he beat Hermansson – I didn’t believe it would happen, but that’s a different story – Jacare blew it and in all likelihood, just saw his last opportunity to fight for UFC gold go by the wayside as Jacare turns 40 at the end of the year. The Brazilian legend can still serve as a tough gatekeeper if he so desires… but is he willing to accept that role?
Dmitrii Smoliakov: I saw people on Twitter saying Smoliakov has to be the worst fighter on the UFC roster. I can’t disagree with that. He threw a total of three strikes. THREE!!! What the hell? Did the UFC give him a side bonus to throw the fight? Brutal performance that was inexcusable.
Alex Oliveira: I’ll admit Oliveira’s contest with Perry was a lot of fun. I’ll admit Oliveira gave it his all. However, this was also a contest Oliveira should have won. The Brazilian exhausted himself early, leaving him in survival mode for the final round. Given Perry’s ridiculous durability, Oliveira should have known better than to go gangbusters in attempting to finish him. Instead, Oliveira looked like he wasn’t taking the contest serious.
Ion Cutelaba: I understand aggression is the keystone to making Cutelaba what he is, but he needs to rein it in a bit if he hopes to work his way up the ladder. After he hurt Teixeira, Cutelaba went nuts looking for the finish, nearly screwing himself over with an illegal knee that didn’t land. Later, Cutelaba threw a kick at a downed Teixeira that didn’t land either. In the end, the aggression did cost him as he had no energy to fight off Teixeira’s assault. Cutelaba is still young enough for us to believe he could make those tweeks, but there is no guarantee of it either.
Ben Saunders: The first round was a clear indication Saunders’ skills haven’t faded much, if at all. He kept his foot on the gas, dominating the newcomer Sato to take an early lead. However, Sato finally found Saunders’ chin and it was the beginning of the end for the Bloody Elbow favorite. He just can’t take the punishment he once could, getting finished for the fifth time in his last six contests. I said finished, not just losing. One can’t help but wonder about Saunders long term help if he continues to fight and lose like this.
Augusto Sakai and Andrei Arlovski: Arlovski was robbed. Sakai was flat, showing zero urgency until the end of the contest – when it should have been way too late – and allowed an Arlovksi that has been hesitant to engage to easily outwork him. Nonetheless, two of the three judges saw fit to gift him a decision victory over the former champion, leaving Arlovski having lost nine of his last eleven and a strong candidate to end up outside of the organization. Even worse for Arlovski, the contest was too boring that it’s unlikely anyone will stand up for the longtime vet. Everyone loses here.
Mike Davis: Davis did flash the standup skills that had me pointing out this contest on the prelims for the fans, but his questionable ground fame came to light as well. Granted, getting subbed by Bruns isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but I expected a bit more out of him. Then again, I had higher expectations than most.
Jason Gonzalez: Given most forgot Gonzalez was still in the organization – he last fought in 2017 prior to this event – he needed a win in the worst way. He couldn’t even give an over-the-hill Jim Miller a competitive contest. It’ll be shocking to see Gonzalez back in a UFC cage.
Court McGee: As a human being, you won’t find anyone finer than McGee. As a fighter though, he appears to be toast. His wrestling game has become ineffective and his activity level has dropped exponentially since being finished by Santiago Ponzinibbio. In other words, his confidence is gone.
Cyril Asker: That win over Smoliakov looks even less impressive now….
Virna Jandiroba: Given Jandiroba’s lack of traditional wrestling, many questioned how she would do on the grandest stage against a noted wrestler. Turns out Jandiroba can hold her own. Sure, she didn’t get the win, but Jandiroba put on a feisty performance that saw her secure her own takedowns with trips and throws. Keeping in mind Jandiroba took the contest on short notice, it was that much more impressive. If nothing else, Jandiroba proved she can compete at this level.
Greg Hardy: I’m not taking into account anything that occurred outside of this event. In other words, even though many of you would say Hardy is an auto-include in the loser’s category, I’m keeping it strictly about his performance in the cage. However, given how miserable Hardy’s opponent looked – Smolyakov – I can’t give Hardy much credit in securing his first UFC win. Thus, he’s here. Nothing more to be said.
Thomas Gifford: I don’t have high expectations for Gifford. He’s a tough try-hard who is going to struggle to find wins at this level. Nonetheless, he never quit despite eating some shots that made me audibly ooh and ahh. The UFC brought him in to push Roberts over the course of 15 minutes and Gifford did just that. No shame in his performance.
Jodie Esquibel: I stated that Esquibel isn’t a very good fighter. While I maintain that, Esquibel brings it every single time. She had her moments, briefly dropping Hill in the third. It’s Esquibel’s third UFC loss in as many tries, indicating she may be at the end of the line. However, given Esquibel’s efforts every time out, I wouldn’t be opposed to her receiving a fourth opportunity.