I’m tempted to call UFC Montevideo the worst card of the year. Not the worst card ever. It wasn’t that bad. Vicente Luque and Mike Perry made sure of that. But the main event between Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche was one of the worst five round contests in recent memory. Given it was the main event, it left a pungent taste in the mouth of viewers, overshadowing the few good things that came from the event. As a result, I’ll admit I overcompensated a bit in the winner’s department as I don’t want to crap too heavily on this card. Yes, it was bad. But it doesn’t mean it was ALL bad.
Vicente Luque: I picked against Luque as I questioned his defense and his ability to hold up against repeated hard shots from Perry. Luque seemed to have the same concerns as he took a much more measured approach centered on limiting the amount of damage he ate. That’s proof of what a special fighter Luque is as he identified a potential concern and mitigated it. Not saying he didn’t eat some heavy shots – it is Mike Perry after all – but Luque’s methodical approach paid off with a decision victory. Aside from picking his shots more carefully, not much was different in Luque’s attack. He mixed in his jab with combinations and low kicks. Luque better be getting a ranked opponent now. There is no excuse not to at this point.
Mike Perry: In a losing effort, we saw the best Mike Perry that we have ever seen. He was measured – for Perry – and showed a more diverse arsenal than he had ever shown. It was almost enough for Perry to pull off the upset as there were some on the Twitterverse who showed surprise when the decision didn’t go in favor of the Platinum one. That doesn’t mean there weren’t holes in his attack, but Perry has been able to shore up some of his holes without losing any of what makes him so damned entertaining. There is plenty to critique about his fighting style and his personality, but no one can deny whether Perry is one of the most entertaining fighters on the planet at this moment.
Eduardo Garagorri: This has almost nothing to do with his performance. Garagorri doesn’t belong on the UFC roster and neither does the man he beat, Humberto Bandenay. They’re performance made that very clear, even if there were some fun moments. However, the native of Uruguay was able to pick up a win in front of his fellow countrymen, becoming the first person from Uruguay to fight in the UFC. It was a special moment for him, one that he’ll treasure for the rest of his life. As for how he’ll fare in his future UFC endeavors, that’s a totally different story….
Volkan Oezdemir: Oezdemir may have been the biggest winner on the night. With his back against the wall after three straight losses, he picked apart a typically durable opponent in Ilir Latifi, using a wide variety of techniques to do so. His jab was on point. Brutal elbows in the clinch. He utilized several jump/step-in knees to the face. Once Latifi began slowing down, he started loading up on the power shots. It was easily the most methodical and technical performance of the former title challenger’s career. If he continues to build on what he did coming into this fight, Oezdemir could very well end up fighting for a title again.
Rodolfo Vieira: It wasn’t the silky smooth entry to the UFC that many expected, but there shouldn’t be any disappointment in Vieira’s debut. He spent most of the contest with Oskar Piechota controlling the Pole on the ground, hunting for submissions. Piechota, no slouch on the ground himself, fought them off early, causing Vieira to slow considerably in the second. Nonetheless, Vieira fought through his fatigue, eventually finding an arm-triangle choke. Knowing he can push on despite being tired is something I’m happy to know and I liked what I saw out of his jab. From what I saw, Vieira looks like he could be the real deal.
Enrique Barzola and Bobby Moffett: Great performance from both fighters. My preferred outcome would have been a draw as I could have realistically seen a 30-27 scorecard in favor of either fighter. Alas, it was the Peruvian who got the nod, no surprise given his South American roots. Nonetheless, it was a hell of a chess match, Barzola struggling with Moffett’s size. Moffett slowing down in the second round. Barzola showing signs of fatigue himself. Moffett gaining a second wind. Barzola showing improved combination punching. Moffett making use of his jab. Both making use of kicks to the body. Hats off to both combatants as neither of them deserved a loss after that performance.
Gilbert Burns: Though I know I’m a small member, I feel it is my obligation as a member of the press to acknowledge when I’m wrong. I was very wrong about Burns’ physicality at welterweight. The Brazilian grappling expert took the brickhouse known as Alexey Kunchenko to the ground on several occasions in the first two rounds and keeping him on the mat. That’s not even mentioning the bright moments Burns had on the feet either. Burns did gas in the final frame, resorting to stalling tactics, but he also took the fight on short notice. Given he ended up pinning a loss on Kunchenko – something nobody else had previously done – Burns deserves a hell of a lot of credit for this performance.
Ciryl Gane: Some may be disappointed Gane didn’t secure a highlight reel KO as many were predicting, but there was nothing disappointing about his performance. Gane easily outclassed Raphael Pessoa on the feet, prompting Gane to trip him up and go to the ground. Once there, Gane showed a little bit of submission, eliciting a tap with an arm-triangle choke. Gane’s performance wasn’t flashy, but I’m more interested in seeing how he does the basics at this point. So far, so good.
Marina Rodriguez: The best thing Rodriguez did in her win over Tecia Torres was make weight. Seriously. The Brazilian was so much bigger than Torres that her size and strength proved to be the biggest advantage she had, stuffing the takedowns and throwing her around in the clinch. That isn’t to say Torres didn’t have a few nice moments or that Rodriguez is without skill. She prepared for her opponent appropriately and cruised her way to a decision. Good on her. I’m just reluctant to elevate her into contender status off this win. Regardless, is was a very good win for Rodriguez.
Rogerio Bontorin: Luck was on the side of Bontorin as he scored a BRUTAL cut above the eye of Raulian Paiva after Paiva induced some nasty swelling below the eye of Bontorin. What sucks is the stoppage came right as the action was starting to take off, but the referee can’t be faulted for taking care to look out for Paiva’s health, nor can Bontorin be faulted. He did what he’s supposed to do. The win gives Bontorin two wins in a very shallow division. Here’s hoping the UFC adds some more bodies in a hurry as I still feel the 27-year old needs to be tested some more. Otherwise, it could be argued he’s already near the top of the division.
Alex da Silva: I was reluctant to put the young Brazilian here as his positional contest with Kazula Vargas was low on the entertainment scale – and da Silva can be a lot of fun – but I also can’t fault someone for taking the surest path to victory. Vargas’ defensive wrestling sucks and da Silva capitalized on it, controlling his opponent over the course of 15 minutes. The win keeps da Silva employed, something that wasn’t guaranteed if he lost. However, he can’t have another contest like this anytime in the near future. The UFC will probably look to cut him at the first opportunity if that proves to be the case.
Veronica Macedo: Though the phrase is typically “third time’s the charm,” it was actually the rarely occurring fourth try that finally got Macedo over the hump. Given she entered the organization about as green as you can get, I was glad to see Macedo getting a fourth opportunity to pick up a win and she succeeded against Polyana Viana. Though I’m more liable to credit Viana for giving away the win than Macedo taking it, Macedo still had to do her part, snatching the Brazilian’s arm from underneath to elicit a tap. Here’s hoping Macedo can build off this as she is still a long way away from contending.
Liz Carmouche: I can’t believe Carmouche is going to be happy with her effort in her loss to Shevchenko. Not that she ended up losing. It happens. It’s that she sat back on her heels, punching and kicking at the air waiting for Shevchenko to walk into something. Remember how she did against Ronda Rousey several years ago? Carmouche took the fight to Rousey and came closest to dethroning the queen prior to her actual dethroning. Why wouldn’t Carmouche take the fight to Shevchenko here? Granted, when she finally attempted takedowns, Shevchenko took her down and controlled her. Nevertheless, Carmouche wasn’t competitive at all and I’m sure she’ll regret not doing more to win the fight.
Humberto Bandenay: The UFC couldn’t have presented Bandenay with a better opportunity to remain on the UFC roster. They pit him against a dude who was only on the roster because the UFC wanted someone from Uruguay on the card for their first card in Uruguay. Not because he legitimately deserved to be there. Despite that, Bandenay couldn’t put together a consistent assault, looking gassed early in the contest. I don’t see Bandenay getting another shot in the UFC, nor do I believe he deserves one.
Ilir Latifi: Aside from throwing Oezdemir to the ground like a small child early on, very little went well for the stout Swede. The HorseLord slowed considerably after the opening minutes, responding to Oezdemir’s constant onslaught with the occasional power shot. Some landed, but even though Latifi possesses ungodly strength, he was too exhausted to have the oomph behind them to accomplish what he hoped. In the end, Latifi turned into a punching bag for Oezdemir.
Oskar Piechota: I knew the UFC had given up on Piechota when I saw they paired him against Vieira, but he had every opportunity to change their mind if he could find a way to upset the BJJ world champion. The problem is, Piechota was on the defensive the entire time, voluntarily. He didn’t want anything to do with Vieira’s ground game and it showed. Piechota didn’t land any notable offense on the feet and resorted to merely surviving on the ground. He was beat even before he stepped in the cage.
Alexey Kunchenko: Kunchenko’s loss to Burns hurts, but not for the reasons many would think. Kunchenko didn’t fight like crap. He was overwhelmed by a better athlete who proved to be stronger than most thought he would be. Kunchenko was caught off-guard by Burns early takedowns as Burns timed them perfectly and Burns’ grappling expertise kept Kunchenko grounded. While Kunchenko stormed back in the final round after Burns petered out, it wasn’t enough and the loss establishes a firm ceiling on Kunchenko’s ceiling. While few, if any, saw Kunchenko working his way into contention, his undefeated record 20 fights into his career – against some solid competition -- created an air of mystique. That mystique is now vanished.
Raphael Pessoa: There were very few people who were of the belief Pessoa was UFC caliber when he was signed to square off with a fellow debutant in Gane. Nobody’s opinion has changed one iota. Pessoa lobbed some reckless bombs that were mostly dodged and the big Brazilian seemed to slow even before the round was up. Then, Pessoa was submitted by a guy known for his striking when it was expected Pessoa would have the advantage on the ground. Nope. I didn’t expect Pessoa to last long on the roster when he was signed. I still don’t.
Tecia Torres: Anyone else feel like Torres shouldn’t be fighting in the strawweight division while watching her get bullied by Rodriguez? Unfortunately for her, the UFC doesn’t have an atomweight division and there are zero whispers of it happening any time soon. Since the UFC started pitting her against top competition – as opposed to the likes of Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger and Juliana Lima – Torres has been bullied and outclassed with regularity. If they want to push her as an elite fighter, open a new division. If they’re content with her being a gatekeeper, they need to drop her level of competition. With the loss to Rodriguez – Torres’ fourth in a row -- I’d officially claim Torres is never going to be a threat to the strawweight title.
Geraldo de Freitas: I saw a few on the Twitterverse complaining de Freitas was robbed. He wasn’t. I’m not saying the fight couldn’t have gone his way, but he didn’t do enough to establish himself the winner. For instance, he had a fair bit of control over Chris Gutierrez in the second round, but what type of damage did he do? I can’t remember anything significant in that round. To de Freitas’ credit, he went for it in the final round, but I’m inclined to believe his inability to score offense when he had the dominant position in the second round cost him.
Kazula Vargas: I had stated there was a reason Vargas had never been in the UFC prior to this late call-up and his loss to da Silva perfectly illustrated that. Though da Silva isn’t a bad wrestler, he isn’t the type of fighter that should be controlling an opponent for the vast majority of the contest. And yet, that’s what he did to Vargas. If the UFC pairs Vargas with someone willing to slug it out, he can be fun. Otherwise, he’s just going to wash out.
Polyana Viana: It’s hard for me to offer any type of excuse to Viana for her armbar loss to Macedo. She was on top looking to improve her position when Macedo snatched her arm, eventually turning over to fully lock it in. While I did like seeing Viana’s coach immediately show her where she went wrong as soon as the contest was over – I’ll bet she never makes that mistake again – it also shows Viana may not be ready for UFC competition. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for her to make her way back – she is only 28 – but I won’t be holding my breath.
Mike Perry’s Nose: Perry’s nose was broken bad enough that it deserves its own spot. I had always considered Brandon Vera’s broken nose at the hands of Thiago Silva to be the worst broken nose in my mind. Perry has officially stolen that title. It’s BRUTAL!
Valentina Shevchenko: I know many of you are going to demand my head for not putting Shevchenko in the loser’s column. I’ve already stated how badly her fight sucked and she deserves just as much blame as Carmouche for that. However, Shevchenko knew damn well she was going to win if it came down to a slow-paced point fight and she did what she needed to do to win. She can only be blamed so much for taking a route she knows leads to victory. When Carmouche did press forward, Shevchenko neutralized her, for which I would place more blame on her than waiting for Carmouche to do… something. Regardless, the victory also illustrates just how dominant Shevchenko is over the women’s flyweight division. We could end up waiting a few years before a serious challenger emerges to threaten her reign.
Raulian Paiva: I don’t want to say Paiva was winning his fight with Bontorin, but he was hanging in there, doing damage and throwing down. Then the ref stopped the fight due to a cut and Paiva ended up with another loss, both of them leaning towards the controversial side. If the UFC looks at Paiva even remotely in the same light I do, he isn’t going anywhere. If they were to run back the fight with Bontorin, I’d pick Paiva again. I’m looking forward to his next contest… and you should too.
Chris Gutierrez: While I scored the fight in favor of Gutierrez, it didn’t feel like he wanted the win very badly. He largely coasted through the contest, picking some well-timed kicks and punches as he retreated to score his points. But he showed little urgency, even when de Freitas was coming at him hard in the final round. While I feel for Gutierrez’s personal situation, I wasn’t impressed with his fight IQ. He lucked out to get a win here, partially due to de Freitas having his own brain farts.
Uruguayan fans: I’m not sure what to make of the fans in the arena. They were dead silent at times, leaving me to wonder if they have a similar reverence for fights as the Asian audience. Then again, there were several fights that were less than enthralling. I’m not sure what to make of them, but found their response worth mentioning.