Expect some movement in the welterweight rankings following the main event of UFC on ESPN 9. Gilbert Burns, who spent five years as a UFC lightweight, earned his fourth straight win as a welterweight with a one-sided unanimous decision win over former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley at the top of the card. Burns was the No. 6 ranked UFC 170-pounder heading into his matchup with the No. 1 ranked Woodley. Don’t be surprised if Burns surges up the rankings and finds himself in a title fight.
Burns, who had been known as a grappler for most of his UFC run, has developed into a very well-rounded fighter. He used his aggressive and fearless striking to hurt Woodley early, dropping him and opening a huge cut over Woodley’s left eye in the first round. Burns was in control of the contest from the time referee Herb Dean signaled the start of the contest.
If there were questions about Burns’ status a legit threat to the welterweight title, he answered those questions in emphatic fashion against Woodley. He pushed the pace, controlled the octagon, dominated on the feet and on the ground and even when he had the win within his grasp he kept pressuring Woodley, a dangerous prospect against a fighter who always has the power to end things with a single strike. What made the victory a bit more impressive is that this fight was the first five-round fight of Burns’ UFC career.
After the lopsided victory, Burns asked for the opportunity to face his teammate, current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, in his next bout. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get that fight after his performance against Woodley.
More thoughts below:
- The heavyweight co-main event between Blagoy Ivanov and Augusto Sakai wasn’t a fast-paced affair and Ivanov was slowed further by the heavy leg kicks Sakai landed throughout the first two rounds. Those leg kicks allowed Sakai to open up with his hands as the fight wore on. Sakai was more dynamic with his striking in the third stanza, as he used a full arsenal of strikes while Ivanov mostly concentrated on using his hands. The highlight of this matchup might have been when Daniel Cormier shouted about a fence grab by Sakai during the third stanza before quickly lowering his voice to a whisper. Sakai won the fight via split decision.
- Going into the 150-pound catchweight bout, between Spike Carlyle and Billy Quarantillo, the UFC commentators described Carlyle as a one-round fighter, meaning things could get dicey for him if the fight went past the first round. That turned out to be true. Carlyle pushed the pace for the first round, but faded late in the second round when Quarantillo finished in control while looking for submissions. Quarantillo controlled the third stanza as Carlyle just looked to get the fight to the horn hoping to get a decision win, but Quarantillo’s aggression, cardio, submission attempts and striking carried the day as he earned a unanimous decision victory.
- Roosevelt Roberts and Brok Weaver faced off in a catchweight bout after Weaver came in over the lightweight limit. The extra weight did not do him any favors. Roberts’ striking was crisp and fast and one more than one occasion he snapped Weaver’s head back with powerful straight punches. Weaver did his best to neutralize that striking by forcing Roberts into a clinch against the fence, but he could not keep him there for long.
Roberts scored a takedown in the second round. With 2:20 left in the stanza, Roberts slipped into mount and worked a choke when Weaver gave up his back. Weaver fought off that choke, but Roberts teed off with powerful ground strikes. Those blows led to a rear naked choke that ended the fight at the 3:26 mark of the second round. The UFC has been giving Roberts a quiet push since his UFC debut, that push could become more obvious soon as he is an exciting and charismatic fighter who seems to have a decent upside.
- Hannah Cifers might have been the biggest underdog on the fight card, but she made it clear that she was not going to leave the octagon without giving Mackenzie Dern a fight. Cifers was aggressive in the early going of the strawweight contest, but Dern, a grappling ace, stayed focused. When Dern found an opening, she grabbed a kneebar and forced a tap from Cifers 2:36 into the first round. With the victory, Dern got back in the win column following her first loss, a unanimous decision setback to Amanda Ribas.
With the kneebar victory, Dern became the first woman in UFC history to score a leg lock submission, so, she’s got that going for her, which is nice.
- Katlyn Chookagian bounced back from her February TKO loss to women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko by dominating the champ’s sister, Antonina Shevchenko, in a one-sided contest at the top of the prelims. The former title challenger spent most of the first two rounds in top control on the mat, looking for submissions and racking up a lopsided number of strikes. The majority of the the last round was spent on the feet, but Chookagian got a third takedown late in the last round. She wrapped things up by unloading a flurry of strikes from mount. Chookagian won the contest with three 30-25 scores.
- The welterweight matchup between Daniel Rodriguez and Gabriel Green started off slowly with Rodriguez doing a nice job using his right jab to set up his striking. Things heated up in the second round when Green upped his pressure and output. Rodriguez remained calm, countered well and landed with more accuracy. Green again pressured in the third stanza, but Rodriguez took what Green offered and bloodied the face of his opponent with crisp strikes.
This was a fun fight and even though Green lost by decision, he never backed down or took his foot off the gas pedal in the final 10 minutes of the bout, which was impressive considering he accepted the fight earlier this week and had not competed since August 2018.
- It didn’t take Jamahal Hill long to get things going in his light heavyweight matchup against Klidson Abreu. Hill dropped Abreu with punches within the first minute. Perhaps unwilling to tangle with Abreu on the mat, he backed off and allowed his opponent to get back to his feet. Not long after that, Hill landed a right hook that allowed him to close distance and land a knee to Abreu’s body. The knee strike sent Abreu to the mat. After a few ground strikes, referee Herb Dean waved things off at the 1:51 mark of the first round. The victory kept Hill’s record perfect at 8-0.
- Tim Elliott used a fast-paced an unorthodox attack in the early going of his flyweight bout against Brandon Royval, but Royval matched that pace in what was an entertaining first five minutes. The fight went to the mat early in the second round, but Royval, who had top position, couldn’t make anything happen on the ground before Elliott reversed. The fight went back to the ground following a brief striking exchange. After some scrambling on the mat, Royval sank in an arm triangle choke that brought a quick tap from Elliott. Royval’s performance was pretty good for a fighter making his UFC debut, but he seemed bummed out about it in his post-fight interview.
- Casey Kenney used some fantastic counter combos to touch up Louis Smolka in the early going of their bantamweight matchup. When Kenney was not countering, he employed low kicks to slow his opponent. Meanwhile, Smolka racked up a significant number of body punches. A big counter right staggered Smolka as he backed Kenney to the fence. The powerful hook resulted in a takedown attempt from Smolka. Kenney fought off the takedown attempt and found Smolka’s neck with a one-arm guillotine choke that brought a quick tap from Smolka. The submission, which came at the 3:03 mark of the first stanza, was Kenney’s first stoppage victory under the UFC banner.
- Chris Gutierrez did a superb job chewing up the lead leg of Vince Morales during the first five minutes of the opening fight. The only answer Morales had for the nasty calf kicks was to switch stances. That did not work out so well, as Gutierrez simply tore that leg up as well. By the middle of the second round of the featherweight contest, Gutierrez had a smile on his face as he continued to unload — and land — leg kick after leg kick. As the fight rolled on, it was just a matter of how much abuse Jason Herzog would allow Morales to absorb before he waved things off. Herzog saw enough at the 4:27 mark of Round 2. The stoppage was the 10th leg kick TKO win in UFC history. An excellent performance by Gutierrez.