One thing that I have never liked about the UFC is how it more or less forces fighters to accept short-notice fights. I know there is no statement from the promotion that a fighter has to accept a short notice bout, but if you’re a fighter who is ranked No. 13 in the middleweight division and the UFC calls you to face the No. 4 ranked 185-pounder in a main event, the implication is that you should take that fight, even if you were preparing for a three-round fight.
That’s the position Marvin Vettori found himself in on Saturday when he stepped in to fight Jack Hermansson in the main event of UFC Vegas 16.
The UFC calls this kind of thing an opportunity and I guess one could see it that way if they squint real hard and don’t consider what’s fair.
Fair or not, Vettori made the most of his “opportunity” and scored a unanimous decision win in his first UFC main event and first five-round fight of his career. The victory, which earned Vettori and Hermansson “Fight of the Night” honors, should rocket the Italian fighter up the rankings. If Vettori gets his way, he’ll face Paulo Costa in his next outing.
Below is a look at the winners and losers from UFC VEGAS 16: ‘HERMANSSON VS VETTORI’
Marvin Vettori: Vettori took a bad situation and made the most of it. He stepped in on short notice to face a much higher ranked opponent who had been preparing for a main event bout on Saturday and won the contest by unanimous decision. Vettori controlled the majority of his fight against Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 16, losing just the third round on the scorecards.
After the win, Vettori said he was not happy with the victory and added that he thought he could have performed better. I don’t know if that is true, but what it tells me is that Vettori holds himself to a high standard and he thinks he can get better in his next outing. That’s a good sign. The 27-year-old Vettori has high expectations and it doesn’t seem as if he is someone will settle for anything less than reaching the top of the UFC middleweight division.
We don’t know who Vettori will fight next, but I expect to see a more confident fighter and more well-prepared fighter in that contest.
Jamahal Hill: Hill made the most of his co-main event appearance at UFC Vegas 16. He struggled a bit in dealing with the low kicks of his opponent, Ovince Saint Preux. He also had some problems in finding his target when he went after the head of Saint Preux in open space. However, when he backed Saint Preux to the cage, Hill looked great. He was aggressive and mixed up his strikes and punished the former interim light heavyweight title challenger with a flurry of strikes to score a TKO win. Hill is now 2-0 in the UFC and 8-0 overall. Hill drew some praise from former UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones after his win. It won’t be a surprise if Hill takes Saint Preux’s spot in the rankings next week.
Gabriel Benitez: Benitez sent a message to Justin Jaynes early in theor lightweight matchup. That message was he was going to be aggressive with his kicks and combos, especially kicks to the back leg.
Benitez’s kicks allowed him to set up some powerful uppercuts as well, but it was his timing and awareness that earned him a first-round stoppage win. When the shorter Jaynes stepped in and threw a right, Benitez timed the strike and threw a knee. That knee landed flush to the body of his opponent and left Jaynes crumpled on the mat.
The brutal knockout ended a two-fight losing skid for Benitez.
Jordan Leavitt: Well, there’s not much to say about Leavitt’s KO of Matt Wiman, but “wow!” Leavitt, slipped under a punch from Wiman and secured a deep double leg. Before he dropped Wiman to the mat, Leavitt’s coaches told him to bring Wiman to the side of the cage where they could coach him. Leavitt listened, but he needed no coaching as Leavitt positioned his arm in such a way that it drove the side of Wiman’s head to the mat. The impact of the blow put Wiman out on impact. The entire bout lasted 22 seconds. An impressive UFC debut for the 25-year-old.
Louis Smolka: Smolka had some rough moments in the early going of his bantamweight matchup against Jose Alberto Quinonez. A less experienced fighter might have wilted under the pressure of Quinonez, but Smolka, who competed in his 15th UFC fight on Saturday, weathered that early storm.
In the second round, Smolka took the fight to the mat and just overwhelmed Quinonez. Once he had control on the ground, Smolka never gave Quinonez a moment to get his wits or escape his strikes and that earned Smolka a TKO win. Smolka is 8-6 dating back to 2015 and all of those wins have come by stoppage.
Ilia Topuria: Topuria moved to 2-0 in the UFC and 10-0 overall with an impressive first-round knockout of Damon Jackson. The 23-year-old Topuria is a featherweight to watch. His striking in this bout was incredible. He used hard and accurate body strikes in the early going to set up his head strikes. Topuria also used his speed top move in and out of range, which was essential since he gave up height and reach to Jackson. Topuria is confident and looks like has the tools to keep moving up the ranks of the 145-pound weight class. Fight fans should keep an eye on this young man.
Jake Collier: The former RFA middleweight champion went 2-2 as a 185-pounder in the UFC before he moved up to light heavyweight. After a 1-1 run there, he moved up to heavyweight. On Saturday, Collier got his first win at heavyweight with a decision win over Gian Villante.
Collier’s striking looked very good. He mixed up his techniques and targets well, but used his jab, which snapped Villante’s head back frequently, as a solid starting point for his attacks. Collier used knees, body shots, elbows, kicks and even some spinning techniques to keep Villante guessing. A nice win to build on for Collier at heavyweight.
Jack Hermansson: Marvin Vettori is going to get a lot of credit for stepping in on short notice to face Hermansson in a five-round fight. Vettori deserves that credit, but let’s not forget that Vettori was the third opponent the UFC gave Hermansson for Saturday’s fight card. Hermansson went from Darren Till to Kevin Holland and then to Vettori. That fact should not get overlooked when Hermansson receives his next booking.
It’s doubtful that a win over Vettori would have set up Hermansson for a title shot with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya expected to challenge for the light heavyweight crown in his next outing, but a victory would have kept him in the mix. With the division in stasis because of that potential matchup, it’s hard to know what is going to happen to Hermansson after his loss to Vettori. Whatever happens, I don’t expect Hermansson to get an easy fight in his next bout.
Ovince Saint Preux: Saint Preux has become a gatekeeper for the light heavyweight division. I don’t think that term is a sign of disrespect. To me, a gatekeeper is a fighter who has been around a long while and has a pretty successful career and is someone who keeps other fighters from sneaking into the rankings without a big test. Unfortunately for Saint Preux, the UFC seems to be replacing gatekeepers who don’t have a path back to a title fight with younger and cheaper fighters. After his TKO loss to Jamahal Hill, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Saint Preux leave the promotion.
Justin Jaynes: Jaynes had problems from the start of his matchup against Gabriel Benitez. He was at a height and reach disadvantage and struggled to land strikes while Benitez scored with kicks and uppercuts. Jaynes had to force his way in to land and that was his undoing as he overextended himself and that left his body wide open for the knee that ended the contest. Jaynes might need to change his approach when he has a height and/or reach disadvantage.
John Allan: Allan lost a decision to Roman Dolidze. Allen showed some aggression on the feet, but he spent too long on the mat just playing defense. If Allen is comfortable on the ground, he needs to be more aggressive from his half guard and work toward submissions. He might have been able to do this against Dolidze, who was not particularly aggressive when he was in top position on the mat.
Matt Wiman: Wiman went 0-2 on his attempted strikes and was knocked cold via slam from Jordan Leavitt. The knockout was nasty and left Wiman out for an uncomfortable amount of time. Since he returned to action in 2019 after a five-year break, Wiman is 0-3 with two knockout setbacks.
Jose Alberto Quinonez: Quinonez started his bantamweight fight against Louis Smolka like a house on fire. He was very aggressive and showed no fear of his more experienced opponent. He displayed excellent movement that resulted in Smolka falling behind in the first round. However, that early aggression might have cost Quinonez. When Smolka took the fight to the mat in the second round, Quinonez had little to offer and he found himself on the wrong side of a TKO.
Damon Jackson: Jackson scored an impressive “Performance of the Night” bonus in his UFC debut with a submission win over Mirsad Bektic. That fight took place in September. On Saturday, Ilia Topuria overwhelmed Jackson before he knocked him out in the first round. Jackson had nothing for Topuria. Jackson’s low landing rate, suspect defense and lack of movement left him overwhelmed and eventually slumped against the fence. It was not a good performance from the former LFA featherweight title challenger.
Gian Villante: I don’t know what to make of Villante these days. A member of the UFC since 2013, Villante has been a game, if not terribly talented fighter throughout his career. On Saturday he lost a decision to Jake Collier to put him on the three-fight losing skid of his career. I can’t help but feel that Villante, who moved up to heavyweight earlier this year, is playing out the string. It almost feels like he knows his UFC career is coming to an end, but as long as he can pull down decent money fighting, he’s going to do so. It’ll be interesting to see if Villante gets another UFC fight.
Roman Dolidze: Dolidze entered his matchup against John Allan with a 7-0 record with seven finishes. That run seemed to give Dolidze an overabundance of confidence. Now that he is in the UFC he needs to lose some of that confidence before his next fight. Perhaps going the distance with Allen — and winning a decision — will help him realize that he can’t try to force things, which he did by going after ill-advised heel hooks. I look forward to Dolidze’s next fight to see if he shows a higher fight IQ.