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UFC Fight Night Ottawa: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy - Winners and Losers

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Over the course of five rounds, Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone battered and bruised one another in a war that left all satisfied. The night wasn’t quite so good for everyone else....

It hasn’t been a perfect year for the UFC, but it has been a good one. The formula has been pretty simple. Provide each event with a badass main event with a high probability of delivering the goods and hope the lower portion of the card works out. If it doesn’t, at least the main event should deliver. That’s exactly how UFC Ottawa played out. With only a few notable highlights heading into the main event between Donald Cerrone and Al Iaqunita, the two lightweights delivered the goods, going to battle for five solid rounds. Cerrone reestablished himself as a contender for the lightweight title after a prolonged excursion into welterweight, bludgeoning a game Iaquinta over the last three rounds. If Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum hadn’t set such a high bar a few weeks ago, we’d be talking about this as a FOTY contender, improving the stock of both combatants. Of course, they weren’t the only ones to walk out of Canada in better standing….

Winners

Donald Cerrone: There wasn’t anyone who thought we’d be talking about Donald Cerrone as a title contender again after he dropped his fourth contest in five tries after he fell to Leon Edwards. Fast forward less than a year and that’s exactly what we’re doing, nearly 50 fights into Cerrone’s storied career. Cerrone claims it is his son that is providing him with the motivation to be the best fighter he can be. It’s hard to say he’s wrong. He’s taking heavy shots better than he has in years and has avoided mental mistakes that have occasionally arisen. No longer being the smaller man in the cage has helped too, but wouldn’t cutting additional weight at this stage of his career make him more susceptible to being KO’d. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that Cerrone has done to make himself elite once again, but I hope he continues to do it. This resurgence is one of the better stories the sport has had recently.

Al Iaquinta: It is a bit odd putting Iaquinta here given he lost a fight he was favored to win – and endured a hell of a beating in the process – but the Raging one impressed everyone with his resolve. At no point did he appear to concede, continually stepping into the middle of the Octagon to go toe-to-toe with Cerrone. It isn’t like Iaquinta didn’t find his moments either. He hurt Cerrone pretty badly in the second. Nonetheless, while Iaquinta will take a hit in the standings with the loss, he’s sure to have improved his overall stock. He may not feel like it, but he’s a winner in the eyes of the fans.

Shane Burgos: While some are going to be reluctant to give Burgos full credit for beating Cub Swanson as Swanson has now dropped four in a row, but it isn’t like Swanson looked like he was finished. I’ll admit Swanson wasn’t in peak form, but he looked good enough to win had a few things gone his way. Instead, Burgos had an answer every time Swanson began gaining momentum and pushed a hard enough pace to break the vet by the end. I won’t go so far as to say Burgos is an instant contender, but he’ll prove to be a welcome – and worthy – addition to the rankings.

Merab Dvalishvili: I’ll admit that I’ve been selling the native of Georgia short. His takedowns are no doubt relentless, but I haven’t been crazy about his striking. It still isn’t great, but he’s been shoring it up enough to the point where it’s serviceable at this point. Perhaps it was the threat of his takedown that allowed him to outpoint Brad Katona on the feet, but let’s not take away from Dvalishvili’s improvements.

Walt Harris: This was probably the best performance we’ve seen out of Harris. I can’t decide if it has more to do with Harris’ continued development or if it speaks louder volume about the need for further improvement out of his opponent Sergey Spivak. It’s likely a little out of Column A and a little out of Column B. Regardless, Harris looked great, doing exactly what he was supposed against a green newcomer. I can’t rip him for that.

Macy Chiasson: If you don’t know who Chiasson is yet, you will very soon. The recent TUF winner bulldozed through Sarah Moras, bruising the tough Canadian at every opportunity she had from the top position. Given the power Chiasson possesses, Moras didn’t have much recourse other than to cover up. Chiasson is a scary prospect for all the ladies at bantamweight. I’m sure they’re all hoping Chiasson’s name isn’t the one on the tip of the tongue of either Mick Maynard or Sean Shelby when they get their phone call.

Vince Morales: It wasn’t necessarily a great performance from Morales, but he wanted it more than Aiemann Zahabi and it showed. Zahabi proved to be too passive while Morales continued to throw. Never mind that he wasn’t landing a high percentage of those shots. He landed more simply because he was throwing. Add people wonder why I have a preference for volume strikers….

Nordine Taleb: There was nothing special about Taleb’s performance. He was a much bigger fighter than his opponent, Kyle Prepolec, and picked apart the newcomer. It wasn’t the most exciting, but it was a smart performance and got him back on track after two consecutive losses. Can’t bitch about that.

Matt Sayles: Usually fighters end up losing to learn a valuable lesson. Sayles may have picked up a win in the process of securing a lesson. After dominating Kyle Nelson in the first round, Sayles let up in the second and was nearly finished himself. Whether it was an adrenaline dump or overconfidence, Sayles survived and was able to find the finish in the third. Here’s hoping it does turn into a lesson as opposed to something that happened in his fight.

Cole Smith: I can’t say how good Smith is as I have no clue where Mitch Gagnon stands any more, but there is no doubt he’s a tough SOB. Did you see him escape that guillotine from Gagnon? Somehow, the newcomer survived and even managed to turn the tables before the round was out. There are still many questions for Smith, but it’s hard not to have optimism thus far.

Alexander Hernandez: His loss to Cerrone doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

Israel Adesanya: Adesanya has received a lot of flak for his takedown defense, but he was never slammed by Derek Brunson either. And Elias Theodorou is supposed to be a solid wrestler. Speaking of Theodoroou….

Losers

Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou: These two put on a horrible show. I’m not saying Brunson didn’t have some bright moments. Hell, his slam takedown of Theodorou was badass. However, those few moments from Brunson were scant enough that it doesn’t even come close to covering up the wretched stench the entirety of their fight produced. Theodorou danced around throwing his awkward kicks that couldn’t quash a bug while Brunson largely waited for the opportunities to pounce. Good for Brunson for getting the win, but it came with a price. As for Theodorou, there isn’t any thing positive he can take out of this.

Cub Swanson: It pains me – and many others – to see Swanson slip to this point. He had some good moments in his contest with Burgos. Hell, one judge even thought he took every round, even if everyone else could see that idea was ludicrous. But he can no longer hang with the top ten of the division, much less the elite. Swanson still has a place in the UFC, but he’s transitioning into a role more similar to that of Diego Sanchez: action fights against fighters at a similar stage of their career.

Brad Katona: I’ve never thought SBG Ireland was a great fit for Katona. Seeing him not only get driven to the mat by Dvalishvili, but unable to get back to his feet only solidifies my belief that he needs to shake things up. SBG Ireland has never been known for it’s grappling training. There shouldn’t be any debate about that after this contest. Katona can still win fights without addressing that, but it’ll have to be specific matchups. For now, the sheen is off Katona’s star.

Sergey Spivak: Can anyone remember a single significant bit of offense from the newcomer? Me neither. I suppose getting into the UFC is a step in the right direction, but the opponents there are a step up from the likes of Tony Lopez and Travis Fulton. Well, maybe not Dmitrii Smolyakov, but Spivak needs to sharpen up if he wants to hang around for a long period of time.

Sarah Moras: It’s got to suck when you execute your strategy damn near to perfection to open the contest and it still isn’t enough to even win a round. Then again, that’s more of an indication of how scary Chiasson is more than anything else. The loss represents the third loss in a row for Moras, meaning there is a strong chance this is the last we’ve seen of her in the Octagon. Ouch.

Aiemann Zahabi: This was probably the most disappointing performance of the night in my book. I know Tristar fighters can be subject to bouts of inactivity, but they usually keep a jab out there. Where the hell was… well, anything!? Zahabi didn’t throw anything, much less a jab. I know it won’t happen, but I’d think he might be better off at a different camp than the one his brother runs, if for nothing else just to have a different voice. At this point, the younger brother to Firas is regressing.

Kyle Nelson: I’ll give the Canadian all the credit in the world for making a comeback in the second round. Nelson has heart for days. However, for the second contest in a row, his gas tank betrayed him as he had nothing left on his takedowns in the final round. Sayles stuffed him and easily turned it into an arm-triangle choke, spelling the end for Nelson. The book on him is written now. Unless Nelson changes things up, he’s not going to find much success in the UFC.

Arjan Bhullar: While I do feel he was awarded a terrible decision over Juan Adams, that isn’t the sole reason he’s on the loser’s list. In fact, I was going to place him in the neither category as getting something you don’t deserve hardly makes you a loser. But you make a call out about “neutering” a fighter who has won two of his last eleven fights? I think Andrei Arlovski has already been “neutered.” If he really wants an easy win with name recognition, say you want Greg Hardy. Everyone will get behind you if you do that!

Mitch Gagnon: When you’re coming off a long layoff the way Gagnon was, you can’t ask for much more than an opponent making their UFC debut while coming in on short notice. To Gagnon’s credit, he was game and almost secured a finish, but he couldn’t get the win in favorable circumstances. He may be at the end of the line of his UFC run.

Neither

Andrew Sanchez: Sanchez escaped with the win, but I don’t think it was necessarily the type of performance we were hoping to see out of Sanchez. There were indications in his prior contest against Eryk Perez that he had fixed his cardio issues. He may have pushed through them to get the win, but those issues resurfaced against Marc-Andre Barriault. Some may say I’m being harsh on him, but it’s only because I expected more out of Sanchez. At this rate, he won’t match those expectations.

Marc-Andre Barriault: On the flip side, some may say I’m being soft on Barriault. However, there seemed to be more positives to take out of this for him than Sanchez. For instance, Barriault easily did more damage over the course of the fight. Plus, he did better against the takedowns than anticipated. I did agree with the ultimate decision, so I’m not going to proclaim robbery, but Barriault appears to have a brighter future, if for no other reason than he looks like he could be a fun action fighter.

Kyle Prepolec: As opposed to Sanchez, I’m going easy on Prepolec, largely because I didn’t see much of an avenue for victory for the natural lightweight against the massive Taleb. Prepolec had a few bright moments, but it was a clear loss for him. Nonetheless, he gets his foot in the UFC door and should look better in his next fight at lightweight.

Juan Adams: I usually try to give judges leeway… but they screwed Adams. The Kraken easily outlanded Bhullar through the first two rounds – with harder shots too -- and arguably won the last round. However, it could prove to be a good thing for the youngster. Maybe he’ll start to take his career more seriously. Imagine how much better he could have looked had he not loaded up on Oreo’s and whip cream after weigh-ins….