In what was the most anticipated scrap on the UFC Vegas 14 fight card, former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and Paul Felder went the full five rounds in an entertaining and memorable matchup.
Dos Anjos returned to lightweight for the first time since a November 2016 loss to Tony Ferguson. Felder took the fight earlier this week, despite having a lot of weight to cut and not training in an MMA gym for months.
Dos Anjos came out on top, but Felder never backed down and gave everything he had in the split-decision loss. The win should put dos Anjos back in the top-10 of the 155-pound division. Despite the loss, Felder should remain in the top-10.
Read on for the real winners and losers of UFC Vegas 14.
Paul Felder and Rafael dos Anjos: This was one of those fights where everyone came away a winner — the fighters, the fans and the UFC. Yes, Felder will have a loss on his record, but the sacrifices he made to face dos Anjos on short notice and the way he performed should more than make up for the fact he was on the wrong end of the scorecards.
Dos Anjos did an excellent job mixing up his striking targets and timing his takedowns. He was especially effective with his left hand and body kicks. As always, Felder’s toughness and tenacity showed through. It also didn’t hurt that his striking was fast and powerful throughout the contest.
This contest earned “Fight of the Night,” but more important than that, it displayed what these two competitors are all about. If there’s a tough test to be had, Felder and dos Anjos won’t back down from that challenge. Dos Anjos did not wilt when his original opponent was forced to withdraw from the bout and Felder did not hesitate to accept the fight when the UFC asked him to step in on short notice. Both fighters should be praised and rewarded for what they did tonight and how they performed.
It is going to be interesting to see what the UFC does with Felder and dos Anjos going forward.
Felder made it clear in his post-fight interview that he’s back in the mix and dos Anjos called for the fight he missed out on a few years ago against Conor McGregor.
Khaos Williams: Before Williams faced Abdul Razak Alhassan social media was full of comments about the level of violence about to commence. The only violence came thanks to a horrifyingly hard right hand that left Alhassan out cold and stiff on the octagon floor. The official end time of the finish was 30 seconds. With two fights in the UFC, Williams has two knockouts in a total of 57 seconds. Williams has landed 15 significant strikes in those bouts.
Sean Strickland: After two years out of the octagon, Sean Strickland is now 2-0 in the past two weeks. He beat up Jack Marshman on October 31 for a unanimous-decision win. On Saturday, Strickland decked Brendan Allen in the second round via strikes.
Many of Strickland’s strikes looked like arm punches, but Allen’s face told a different tale by the time the stoppage came. After the fight, Strickland said he’d go back and review his performance and probably not like what he sees. That sounded like a man who is always going to be unsatisfied with his performances, but also someone who never wants to rest on his laurels. That attitude seems to work well for Strickland.
Kay Hansen vs. Cory McKenna: I suspect we will see these two matched up a few more times over the coming years. Both strawweights are 21 years old and they put on a spirited fight to close out the prelims of UFC Vegas 14. These two were fairly evenly matched, but McKenna had a slight edge in aggression and striking. Both women have a long time to develop more well-rounded skill sets through coaching, experience and reps. If they continue to progress, the future looks pretty bright for Hansen and McKenna.
There was some back and forth regarding the results of this bout — McKenna won a unanimous decision — but it felt like the appreciation for what the fighters did in the cage outweighed any disagreement over the scoring.
Kanako Murata: Murata dominated Randa Markos in her UFC debut. She racked up four takedowns and eight minutes of control time on her way to the unanimous decision win. The former Invicta FC strawweight champion made her ground control time count as she landed some nice ground strikes — especially her elbows. The victory stretched her winning streak to eight straight and she should get a tougher opponent in her next outing.
Alex Morono: Morono got back in the win column on Saturday by exploiting the differences of his young and developing opponent, Rhys McKee. Morono used pace, experience and output to touch up McKee on the feet. A solid performance.
Abdul Razak Alhassan: When your opponent has his hand raised and finishes his post-fight interview before you leave the octagon, you’ve had a dreadful night. That’s how things went for Alhassan after Khaos Williams knocked him cold in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 14. Alhassan is now on a two-fight losing skid.
Brendan Allen: Allen’s seven-fight winning streak ended on Saturday when Sean Strickland knocked him out in the second round. The loss was the first knockout setback of Allen’s 19-fight career. Allen’s lack of head movement really cost him in this fight. However, at 24, Allen should look at this setback as a teachable moment and change up his striking in his next outing to avoid a similar outcome in his next outing.
Randa Markos: Markos took the fight against Kanako Murata on short notice and she struggled throughout the 15 minute contest, spending a lot of time getting backed into the fence and then taken down and dominated on the ground. The loss dropped Markos’ record to 1-4 since July 2019.
Geraldo de Freitas: If de Freitas had better takedown defense, there is a good chance he would have scored a win over Tony Gravely. He was the better striker, the more active fighter on the mat, albeit from his back, and the fighter with better cardio. Gravely went 7-17 in takedowns and that made all the difference in this matchup.
Rhys McKee: McKee is now 0-2 in the UFC, but the 25-year-old made some adjustments during his decision loss to Alex Morono and the was a good sign for McKee’s development. The UFC should give him at least one more shot at getting in the win column based on those improvements.
Ashley Yoder vs. Miranda Granger: In what was a pretty uneventful bout until the final few seconds, Yoder got the win, ending a two-fight losing skid. As Trevor Wittman noted on the broadcast, neither fighter seemed to be fighting to win. That changed in the last seconds of the third round when Yoder secured a rear-naked choke that was close to securing her a submission. Had Yoder been more aggressive, perhaps she would have earned the tap.
Tony Gravely: Gravely had a wrestling and strength advantage over Geraldo de Freitas and he relied heavily on his takedowns on his way to a split decision victory. It was those takedowns and over seven minutes of control that probably scored him the win. Gravely did tire toward the end of the fight and ate some solid strikes before the final horn. A decent performance from Gravely, but not a great all-around 15 minutes as he showed gaps in his offense.
Don’Tale Mayes vs. Roque Martinez: The opening fight of the evening was not the best. Mayes had huge physical advantages over Martinez, but he did not use those enough. Martinez did some damage when he worked in close, but he too often worked for takedowns instead of using his punches. This fight was an example of low fight IQ from both competitors. If there was a positive to take away from each man it was the jumping knees of Mayes and the toughness of Martinez.