There isn’t much about UFC Rio Rancho that is memorable. Well, at least memorable in a good way. Outside of the main event, with Jan Blachowicz knocking out Corey Anderson about three minutes in, every other contest that was on the main card was disappointing in one way or another. The event saw two DQ’s on one card for the first time in UFC history. Aside from Blachowicz’s KO, which very well might launch him into a title shot, the two DQ’s will be the legacy of this event. Perhaps that’s not so bad given the legacy of UFC 247 is terrible judging…
Jan Blachowicz: It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was expecting Blachowicz to wash out of the UFC, having dropped four of his last five. Since that point, the Pole has reeled off seven wins in his last eight appearances, a loss to recent title challenger Thiago Santos being the only blemish. In that time, he has avenged two losses, defeated a former UFC champion, and a former Strikeforce champion. Yeah, Blachowicz has done enough to warrant a shot at Jon Jones. There wasn’t too much to analyze from his KO of Anderson. Blachowicz has proven to be effective in close quarters and Anderson didn’t respect his power. He paid the price and now Blachowicz has as strong of a case as anyone to get a shot at gold.
Montana De la Rosa: I’ll be the first to admit, De la Rosa’s contest with Mara Romero Borella was on the boring side. Nonetheless, I would have been ecstatic with her performance if I was her coach. De la Rosa shut down Borella with her suffocating grappling and even secured a knockdown in the final round. Her wrestling looked better than ever and even if the standup still looked awkward, I can’t argue with the results as she did secure that knockdown. It wasn’t the flashy finish she needed to get into title contention talks, but it was a performance that indicates progress.
Lando Vannata: One of the least entertaining contests of his career, it may also be the most encouraging of Vannata’s career. Despite the lack of a finish or the typical flash that punctuates his performances, Vannata used slick head movement and footwork to outmaneuver a game Yancy Medeiros. From a critical point of view, it was exactly what analysts and critics have been wanting out of him. From an entertainment perspective, it was very blah. Regardless, winning offers more job security than anything else and Vannata badly needed a win.
Daniel Rodriguez: Watching film on Rodriguez, I was thinking his combination of durability and pressure would be problematic for a worn Tim Means. Then I foolishly dismissed the possibility of an upset because, well, it was Tim Means. My mistake. Rodriguez ate everything Means threw at him with glee before finding a powerful left at the buzzer of the opening round. Means wasn’t the same after that while Rodriguez’s confidence grew. It may have been a submission victory for Rodriguez, but it was set up 100% by the beating he delivered on the feet. If Rodriguez can build on this win – and he should have the resources to do so after scoring a performance bonus — he’ll be a scary addition to a deep division.
John Dodson: It seems weird to say Dodson picked up his first finish in nearly four years. When Dodson was in his prime, he was about the only guarantee to get a finish in the flyweight division. Though there had to be some apprehension given how the first two rounds went against Nathaniel Wood, Dodson blew the door open with a violent collision that saw him remain standing. The win established Dodson isn’t completely washed. Even more important, he showed some joy in the cage for the first time in years. If he can maintain that, perhaps Dodson can have a late career run.
Scott Holtzman: There was nothing easy about it, but Hot Sauce was able to dig deep and secure a decision victory over tough veteran Jim Miller, not to mention an extra $50K. Holtzman came out of the gate slow, but found his footing near the end of the first and had just a bit more in the gas tank to outlast his opponent. Before anyone wants to call Holtzman a prospect, keep in mind he’s just a month younger than Miller. Regardless, Holtzman does have fewer miles on his body and continues to show improvement. At this point, he’s an established action fighter in the middle of the division.
Devin Clark: My initial instinct wasn’t to put Clark in the winner’s column. He won every round convincingly to take an easy decision over Townsend, but that wasn’t enough. As physically dominant as he was over Townsend, I expected either a finish or a bloody mauling. Instead, Clark was content to do just enough from top position to cruise to a decision. It’s not a bad strategy, but it doesn’t do anything to up his profile. However, Clark did report a possible broken foot that occurred in the opening round, so giving him some leeway seemed appropriate. Still, I’ll be expecting more in future performances.
Merab Dvalishvili: Following his controversial loss to Ricky Simon, there was reason to believe the Serro-Longo product wouldn’t be long for the UFC. Three consecutive wins later and he might very well be breaking into the official UFC rankings. Dvalishvili does NOT know how to stop. With his endless gas tank and constant attempts to get the fight to the mat, the native Georgian frustrated Casey Kenney to no end, taking Kenney out of the fight mentally before the first round was over. Given he’s nothing special as an athlete, it’s been a lot of fun to see Dvalishvili exceed expectations.
Raulian Paiva: While all his defensive flaws were on display, it was nonetheless a promising performance from the young Brazilian. Paiva utilized a LOT of jabs and low kicks, bloodying up the face of Mark De la Rosa before getting a stunning KO late in the second round. Securing the win ensures Paiva maintains his spot on the roster.
Referees: As a society, we only tend to highlight things when they don’t do their job. Perhaps we should spend more time highlighting when they do well. I’ll question how many times a fighter is allowed to kick someone in the groin before being penalized – two shots to the groin of John Dodson saw zero repercussions – but everything else was golden. No late stoppages. No early stoppages. No horsing around with making fighters go back to action after illegal knees.
Corey Anderson: I get that Anderson still felt disrespected after being passed over for a shot at Jones for Dominick Reyes. I get that he felt he needed an impactful finish to jump over Reyes in the pecking order. Still, I don’t understand why he didn’t attempt at least one takedown in the opening three minutes when that’s what lead to him beating Blachowicz the first time they met. The loss snaps a four-fight win streak and derails any chance of Anderson being in title conversations for another year at the very least, though it’s more likely a couple years.
Diego Sanchez: While “What the hell?” is a common phrase uttered in regards to Sanchez, it rarely had to do with his performance in the cage. Well, that day came as Sanchez looked like he’d never been in an MMA fight for most of his contest. Sure, he got the win at the end of the day by suffering an illegal knee from Michel Pereira. But that was NOT Diego Sanchez that I saw fighting in the cage. Who the hell was walking around in Sanchez’s skin?
For the record, I do believe Sanchez punked out of the fight in order to pick up his win bonus. Do I blame him? Hell no! If you give me the option of getting double pay to quit or potentially getting my ass kicked for another two minutes with a very slim chance of getting a win bonus, you better believe I’m claiming I can’t see. Be honest, wouldn’t you do the same? Still, Sanchez’s reputation is going to take a hit, making him a bigger loser on the night despite the extra money to make him feel better.
Michel Pereira: The dude known for crazy antics actually puts together a logical game plan… and finds a way to lose a fight he was well on his way to winning. In some ways, this was the most Michel Pereira thing ever. I can’t help but feel for the flashy Brazilian, but he also committed an egregious error. Given it had happened earlier roughly an hour earlier in the evening, he has no excuse for kneeing a downed Sanchez. I’m not worried about him getting cut, but he’s going to have to either secure a win or deliver on putting together a performance full of shenanigans that gets people talking.
Mara Romero Borella: Borella needed to go all out in the final round after falling behind two rounds. Instead, she was paralyzed by De la Rosa’s earlier takedowns. That allowed De la Rosa to get the better of her on the feet and Borella was knocked to the mat. Now on a two-fight skid, Borella appears to be moving in reverse as she started her UFC career with a bang and has slowly degenerated into a timid performance against De la Rosa. I don’t what, but something needs to change with her.
Kazula Vargas: I know MMA can be confusing given the lack of unity in the unified rules. However, knees to a downed opponent is something all sets of rules have in there. Vargas nailed Brok Weaver with one of the most blatantly illegal knees in recent memory. It was bad enough Vargas didn’t even try to argue as he knew it was illegal. I’m sure he was caught in the heat of the moment, but he’s going to have a poor reputation from now on.
Rogerio Bontorin: I saw many people picking the Brazilian to upset former title challenger Ray Borg prior to the event. Sure, Borg hadn’t looked like his prime self since his loss to Demetrious Johnson, but Bontorin hasn’t ever proven he can stop a wrestling machine. Well… it turns out he can’t. Borg did what he wanted to Bontorin after the opening minutes, taking all the drama out of the contest. About the only positive thing that can be said of Bontorin is that he made weight.
Yancy Medeiros: There may not have a performance I was more frustrated by on the evening. The changes Medeiros made over the course of the contest were so miniscule that he continued to get outpointed in the third round the same way he was in the first round. Despite having a decent BJJ game, Medeiros rarely – if ever – attempts to take the fight to the mat. Given he was clearly outpointed on the feet, this would have been an ideal contest to try something different. Maybe it would have even opened up his striking. Instead, Medeiros continued his efforts to swing and miss.
Tim Means: I knew Means wasn’t what he once was. That’s been clear for a couple of years now. But I still thought Means had enough to turn away newcomers entering the organization without much hype. To be fair, Rodriguez proved to be better than advertised. Regardless, seeing Means get bullied after a career of being the bully is an indication he’ll want to call it a career very soon. Maybe even before he steps into the cage again….
Nathaniel Wood: My opinion of Wood hasn’t changed one bit. He proved he’s perfectly capable of beating someone the caliber of Dodson. He just didn’t do it as Dodson scored a TKO. Some may offer argument the stoppage came too quick – I did initially – but after seeing the replay, I’d say it was justified. Even though he’s coming out on the short end of the stick in a fight he very well may have been winning, Wood shouldn’t be discouraged with his abilities. Just the outcome….
Dequan Townsend: With his always calm demeanor and lack of urgency in the cage, Townsend comes across as just happy to be there. Taking his first UFC contest on short notice at light heavyweight made sense as it was a foot in the door. Doing so here against Devin Clark was illogical. Townsend was physically overwhelmed and couldn’t get back to his feet after Clark grounded him in every round. I hate questioning a fighter’s motives, but based strictly on appearances, Townsend just wanted the extra paycheck.
Casey Kenney: When you’re known for being gritty, it’s a shock to the system when you run up against someone who is grittier. Kenney had a look of frustration super-glued to his face after the first round as Dvalishvili took him down time after time as Kenney’s gas tank faded. It’s likely the altitude of New Mexico played a part of that, but I’d attribute Dvalishvili shaking his confidence early as another reason for his poor performance. Kenney’s young enough this could be a big learning experience, but for now, it’s probably the worst night of his professional career.
Mark De la Rosa: His spot secure in UFC history as part of the first husband-wife duo to fight in the organization, there is a strong possibility we’ve seen the last of De la Rosa in the organization. It isn’t so much that he was KO’d by Paiva, a fighter who lack a UFC win coming into the evening. It’s that it represented the third loss in a row. Even in a division that needs bodies in the worst way, that’s probably enough to give De la Rosa a pink slip.
John Dodson’s groin: For some reason, Dodson’s groin has a target on it. Every time he steps in the cage, he gets hit right in the cup… hard. Even worse, it seems to happen on multiple occasions too. If I’m Dodson, I’m celebrating the next time I get through a fight without taking a shot to the balls more than I am celebrating a victory.
Brok Weaver: I’m sure he’ll enjoy the extra money that comes with a win bonus, but it was obvious to everyone Weaver was anything but proud of his DQ win over Vargas. It was said he offered Vargas a chance to run it back as soon as possible, but he’s going to have to get the UFC to sign off on that. Regardless, a classy move from Weaver after a disappointing victory. Plus, it’s not like Weaver was winning up to that point. He was clearly down on scorecards.
Ray Borg: Off the bat, let me say that Borg looked like a million bucks. He absolutely dominated Bontorin after feeling him out for the first two minutes, preventing the Brazilian from scoring any significant offense from that point. Nothing he did in the cage made him anything other than a winner. However, for the fourth time in his UFC career, he missed weight. Credit to Borg for admitting he has no excuse, but he can’t be considered a title challenger unless he proves he can make the flyweight limit without issues. In fact… why isn’t anyone pushing for him to go to bantamweight? Hell, one of those weight misses was at 135. Borg is getting a lot of leeway from both the UFC brass and the public.
Jim Miller: Miller has endured so much punishment over the years, it blows my mind he can still remain competitive in a 15-minute knock down, drag ‘em out affair. Holtzman may be the least impressive name to hand Miller a loss, but there’s no reason to be down on Miller. He was competitive, leaving open the possibility to take the fight with a flurry of punches in the final round. It didn’t come, but Miller proved he is still more than just a gatekeeper for the lower levels of the lightweight division. Plus, he made an extra $50K. That alone should ensure he isn’t a loser.
Macy Chiasson: I was looking for improvements in Chiasson’s performance following her loss to Lina Lansberg. I can’t say with positivity that I saw any. Chiasson should have dominated Shanna Young from the get-go, having massive edges in size, strength, and preparation as Young took the contest on about a week’s notice. And yet, Chiasson didn’t look any better in her wrestling, nor did she look comfortable striking outside of the clinch. To Chiasson’s credit, she did secure a well-earned 30-26 decision, but I have high expectations for her and she didn’t live up to them.
Shanna Young: I wasn’t aware of anyone who was giving Young a realistic chance at winning, but Young fought like she didn’t expect to lose. Well… she did early on, rocking Chiasson with several hard shots and buckling her knees. However, Young’s lack of time to prepare caught up to her, allowing Chiasson to take her down with ease in the last half of the contest. Regardless, Young showed a lot of grit and heart, indicating she may be able to make some noise when she has a full camp and can fight someone her own size at flyweight.