So uh... that happened.
UFC Mexico was realistically top-heavy, with an overwhelming majority of the attention focused on Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens. We got treated to 15 seconds, ending with Stephens’ left eye getting poked. Despite Herb Dean’s best efforts to salvage the fight by giving Stephens time, he could not open his eye, and thus we got a no contest. Rodriguez gave us a weird post-fight interview as he had a wave of emotions going through his mind. Hopefully Stephens’ injury is not super serious, as that’s the main concern before we can even talk about him running it back with Yair.
What else did we get after that? Fans targeted Stephens with “Puto!” chants, then threw garbage in and around the cage when the fight was (rightly) waved off, and continued to throw food and beer at Stephens afterward. That is wholly unacceptable no matter how frustrating it may have been to see their highly anticipated main event end in such disappointing fashion. I wonder how the UFC will address this, because that’s the type of behavior that could justify not going back to Mexico any time soon.
Sigh. Let’s run down the rest of this card:
- Former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza seemed to have the fight in hand against Alexa Grasso, but Grasso charged back with a huge third round that saw her nearly stop Esparza with strikes, then come agonizingly close to submitting (!!!) Carla with an armbar. You could make a strong case for a 10-8 third for Grasso, but only one judge awarded that, so Esparza escapes with a majority decision. That was very much a close shave and I credit Grasso for fighting back... just a little too late, unfortunately. Esparza’s wrestling told the story of the fight through the first ten minutes.
- Flyweights Brandon Moreno and Askar Askarov fought to a highly competitive split draw, although I don’t see how Moreno’s third round was a 10-8, and I can’t see how Askarov took Round 2 when Moreno landed the harder shots and dropped Askarov with a kick. It was a close bout despite my 30-27 Moreno scorecard, as Round 1 was super tight, but I feel like Moreno had the stronger case to get the W based on damage. You had all the scrambles, big shots exchanged, and cool takedowns from both fighters to be thoroughly entertained.
- Women’s bantamweight contender Irene Aldana was a huge favorite against Vanessa Melo, and she justified those wide odds with a terrific boxing-heavy performance to win a lopsided decision. Her body shots were particularly brutal, and Melo was unable to stop the jabs and the 1-2s. I’ll need to see Aldana perform like this against better opposition (Melo was short notice) to determine whether this is the moment she can make her run at a title shot.
- DID YOU SEE THAT SPINNING BACKFIST?! Seriously, go see what Steven Peterson did to Martin Bravo. Do it now. It’s one of the best knockouts of 2019. I thought Bravo was in control but none of it matters when you can wallop someone as cleanly as Peterson did.
- The final prelim saw Mexican bantamweight Jose Alberto Quinonez score an early knockdown and outclass Carlos Huachin for a shutout decision. He mixed up his striking and wrestling well and Huachin never had any decent answers throughout the bout.
- Kyle Nelson stunned the Mexican crowd with a standing stoppage of Marco Polo Reyes. The Canadian featherweight rocked Reyes with an elbow (not the first fight-changing elbow on the card), walloped him with a right hand, and only the fence kept Reyes upright. Great stoppage by Jason Herzog, as Reyes was out on his feet.
- Veteran strawweight Angela Hill is obviously a fan of Bloody Elbow, as she split open newcomer Ariane Carnelossi with a vicious standing elbow in the final round. That cut prompted an immediate stoppage (which was iffy, to be honest), and it’s the first finish of Hill’s UFC career.
- Flyweight contender Sergio Pettis comfortably picked his shots well and avoided Tyson Nam’s power strikes, spoiling Nam’s UFC debut with a shutout decision win. It was not very good to watch.
- Scottish submission specialist Paul Craig got another submission win, but it was his striking that set up the finish. Two big knees put Brazilian light heavyweight Vinicius Moreira to the mat, and the rear-naked choke was inevitable when Craig went for it. Moreira’s days in the UFC are probably over.
- Former UFC women’s bantamweight title challenger Bethe Correia scored the upset win over Sijara Eubanks, overcoming a brutal first round to outstrike Eubanks over the final ten minutes. Eubanks was clearly bothered by Correia’s body shots, and once again her cardio continues to be a liability regardless of weight class.
- On the opening bout on the card, Peruvian featherweight Claudio Puelles exploited Marcos Mariano’s major weakness, which was “MMA,” and won a one-sided unanimous decision. Michael Bisping humored us all by wrongly thinking it was illegal to grab your own shorts, after which he and Brendan Fitzgerald had humorous banter that was way better than the fight itself. At least we now know that Fitzgerald is a jiu-jitsu white belt, and that Bisping was a tad annoyed with the “Grappling wasn’t your specialty” line that preceded it.