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UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Burns - Winners and Losers

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Here are the real winners and losers of UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Burns.

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Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The main event of UFC on ESPN 9 may have represented a changing of the guard. Former longtime welterweight champion Tyron Woodley endured his second five-round domination in a row, this time to Gilbert Burns. Given the non-competitive nature of the contest, the debate is whether Burns is that good or if Woodley is that deteriorated. Clearly, that question can’t be answered until one or both have fought again. That doesn’t mean we won’t be debating that question up until that time because that’s what sports fans do.

Winners

Gilbert Burns: Even if time proves that Woodley is deteriorated, credit needs to go to Burns for his outstanding performance. Right out of the gate, Burns put Woodley on his heels, nearly finishing the former champion less than a minute into the contest. Woodley never threatened Burns, an impressive feat given Woodley has been one of the most dangerous one-punch artists in welterweight history. Burns even took Woodley to the mat with his wrestling. The performance was impressive enough that Burns called out his own teammate, Kamaru Usman, in hopes of a getting a shot at the title. No one is batting an eye at that request. I’m not sure if that happens, but no one was predicting Burns would be talked about in terms of the title a year ago. It’s an understatement to say he’s flying high.

Billy Quarantillo: Going into his contest with Spike Carlyle, Quarantillo was being overlooked by most fans. Given Carlyle’s explosive debut, it’s understandable. Then again, it’s not like Quarantillo didn’t have a hell of a debut himself. Regardless, Quarantillo survived a hell of an early onslaught from Carlyle, even adding a bit of his own offense with submission attempts at every opportunity. As Carlyle slowed – blowing his wad after an aggressive start – Quarantillo began to take control and secured the win in the process. Yeah, Quarantillo is starting the attention he deserves.

Spike Carlyle: Yes, it was a losing effort for Carlyle. However, it genuinely could have gone either way and Carlyle’s refusal to tap when it looked like Quanrantillo had him dead to rights on multiple occasions added to the mystique that still surrounds the Alpha Ginger. However, the biggest thing working in Carlyle’s favor is his over-the-top personality. He says outrageous things, but he also goes out and does outrageous things. Question his fight IQ, but his toughness and ability to market himself can’t be. Carlyle has an X-factor many would kill to have.

Roosevelt Roberts: Given the obvious physical talents possessed by Roberts, his composure has been what I’ve paid the most attention to in his recent contests. The lanky lightweight wasn’t lacking for composure in the least, never wavering in his attack, even when Brok Weaver was able to lead the dance at various times. Those times were fleeting as Roberts never felt like he was in trouble, attempting various submissions before finding a RNC. The youngster is starting to live up to the hype Uncle Dana heaped upon him a while ago.

Mackenzie Dern: One of the most scrutinized prospects to ever enter the UFC, Dern finally turned in the type of performance people expected out of her. First of all, she made weight, something that has been an issue in the past. Her performance in the cage was a sign of progression on every level. Yes, she was getting pieced up on the feet by Hannah Cifers, but her defense was far more efficient than it was in the past and she took a creative route to get the fight to the mat. Cifers was thisclose to getting the contest back to the feet, but she stood over Dern, allowing the BJJ guru to grab Cifers’ leg to secure the first women’s leg lock finish in the UFC’s history.

Katlyn Chookagian: Wow. Let me say that again with the proper emphasis. WOW! A clear-cut, dominating performance has been missing on Chookagian’s resume since she entered the UFC. It’s a big part of the reason few cared when she got her title shot againt Valentina Shevchenko. Well, she’s got one on her resume now, grounding and controlling Valentina’s sister, Antonina, for most of the first two rounds and a good chunk of the third. Reminder that Chookagian isn’t known for her ground game either. Chookagian isn’t likely to get another title shot any time soon, but it’ll take performances like she had here if it’s going to happen.

Daniel Rodriguez: For those who are disappointed Rodriguez couldn’t secure a finish, you need to be smacked. Rodriguez put together a composed performance, effectively countering Gabriel Green with jab after jab with the occasional power punch for good measure. Even as Rodriguez slowed a bit, he was efficient with his energy levels to keep his volume at or beyond the levels of Green. Rather than add another highlight reel, Rodriguez proved he can go 15 solid minutes.

Jamahal Hill: Many were hesitant to classify Hill as a prospect to watch coming into the night. At 29, he got into the sport late. I think his age needs to be a secondary factor at this point. He terrorized Klidson Abreu with punches and knees, knocking down the tough Brazilian twice before securing the finish. He’s got a big, athletic frame with power that’s showing itself more all the time.

Brandon Royval: I don’t know if I should credit Royval for escaping the numerous poor positions Tim Elliott put him in or if I should dock Elliott for losing them. Regardless, it was one of the best scraps of the year as far as I’m concerned, Elliott constantly looking for submissions while Royval constantly escaped them. Elliott, one of the larger flyweights in the business, began to slow down, allowing Royval to catch the longtime vet in an arm-triangle choke for a successful debut. Royval’s opportunistic nature could make him the potential star flyweight could use.

Casey Kenney: The commentary booth couldn’t stop focusing on the body work of Louis Smolka, all the while ignoring Kenney mixing up his strikes both the body and head. Kenney’s diversity of his striking paid off as he landed a heavy hook that hurt Smolka before finishing the tough Hawaiian with a one-armed guillotine. Kenney is as scrappy as they come and just as tough. He’s going to be around a while.

Chris Gutierrez: Gutierrez didn’t walk into this contest with the reputation of a devastating low kicker, but he sure as hell earned that rep the way he chopped down Vince Morales to open the card. After Gutierrez weakened the base of Morales, he was able to pick him apart with ease, showing a highly intelligent approach. Gutierrez isn’t a great athlete, but if he can continue to fight as intelligently as he did against Morales, he’ll develop into a tough overachiever with a spot on the roster for a long time.

Losers

Tyron Woodley: Woodley is mentally broken. Whether it was Usman who broke him when he took the title from him who did it or Burns who broke him, he’s broken. He’s always been reluctant to pull the trigger, but he was even more reluctant than normal. Even worse, it may not be all mental. The few times Woodley did throw, Burns saw it coming. Given Woodley has been known for his quick-twitch quickness, that’s a terrible sign. Given he’s coming off a 15-month layoff, I don’t think a layoff would be the way to go to get his head right. It’s impossible to predict where Woodley goes from here.

Blagoy Ivanov: It’s very possible Ivanov lost the fight due to Jason Herzog not properly penalizing Augusto Sakai for a blatant fence grab to stop a takedown in the third… but it wasn’t the best performance in the first place. Ivanov struggled to properly respond to the low kicks from Sakai and only completed a single takedown. Ivanov didn’t have a problem keeping Sakai on the mat once he got him there, indicating he may have wanted to make a greater effort to go to the ground. Regardless, even if it was a close fight, no one is going to make an effort to defend Ivanov’s performance. He’s going to have a hard time getting a high profile fight any time soon.

Brok Weaver: Weaver’s UFC career hasn’t gotten off to a good start. First, his debut might have seen him win, but it was a DQ win that saw him get his ass handed to him. For his sophomore effort against Roberts, Weaver missed weight, then proceeded to lose. Did I mention he had a dog fighting controversy earlier this week? Even if the dog fighting thing appears to be a misunderstanding, it was negative press, something the UFC isn’t interested in. Weaver is a tough SOB, but he’s also got limited upside. Combine that with the shenanigans, Weaver is probably on a short leash.

Hannah Cifers: Cifers started out on fire, taking the fight right to Dern. However, it was a single mistake that led to her downfall as she let Dern get a hold of her leg and that was it. Cifers has developed a bit of a cult fan base due to her shyness and no-nonsense approach, but she’s going to have to step it up if she wants to maintain her employment with the organization as this was her second consecutive loss. Given Cifers is small for the smallest division the organization has, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Then again, it has been for her entire career….

Antonina Shevchenko: So… Shevchenko made it to the final bell. That’s about all the positive that can be said as she was dominated for the entirety of her contest with Chookagian. I wasn’t under any illusions that Antonina was anywhere as good as her sister, but I thought she could be competitive with Chookagian. Nope. Beatdowns like that can have long-term mental effects. It’ll be interesting to see how Antonina comes back.

Klidson Abreu: Abreu owns a skill set that would work well in just about any other division other than light heavyweight. Unfortunately, he’s a light heavyweight. The grappling expert never came close to getting the fight to the mat and his technical improvements on the feet never came to light as Hill just out-athleted him for the entirety of the fight… all two minutes of it. Abreu doesn’t appear to be long for the organization.

Tim Elliott: I’ve enjoyed Elliott from the first time I watched a Tim Elliott fight. He’s nonstop energy, toughness, and scrambles. However, he’s also slowed a bit over recent years, likely a combination of age – he’s now 33 – and years of difficult weight cuts. The biggest reason Royval was able to find his submission is Elliott ran out of gas. Elliott is still as good as he ever was for five minutes. He just can’t do it for fifteen any more.

Louis Smolka: I hate putting Smolka here. The commentary team wasn’t far off as they poured heaps of praise on him, but his attack focused almost solely on attacking the body of Kenney. Kenney didn’t have a difficult time figuring it out, allowing Kenney to find the opening he needed. I’m not ready to give up on Smolka – even if his UFC debut came all the way back in 2014 – but time might be running out for him.

Vince Morales: I’ve been up and down on Morales about as much as anyone. He may be the lowest he’s been in my book. Not to take anything away from the performance of Gutierrez, but Morales didn’t do much to force Gutierrez to alter his approach. No takedown attempts. No going for broke. It’s almost like he didn’t realize his base was destroyed even after he stumbled multiple times. He’s now 1-3 in the UFC, plus a loss on DWCS.

Jason Herzog: I still maintain Herzog is one of the better wrestlers in the business, but he cost Ivanov a potential win when all he issued was a warning for Sakai’s blatant fence grab. I’ve heard the argument that referees don’t like to influence the outcome of the fight, which is why they don’t take points. Newsflash: not taking away points influences fights just as much. That’s a referee’s job.

Neither

Augusto Sakai: To be fair to Sakai, Ivanov is a tough guy to look good against. Neither Junior dos Santos nor Derrick Lewis looked that great in disposing of the durable Bulgarian. But Sakai needed a better performance if this was to be the breakthrough performance this could have been for him. A definitive win could have made Sakai look like a potential title contender in the near-future. As it is, Sakai’s ceiling doesn’t look to be much higher than where he’s at. That can be rectified in his next performance, but I’m judging what he did against Ivanov and Sakai didn’t do much impressing.

Gabriel Green: I wanted to put Green in the winner’s category as he took the contest with Rodriguez on Tuesday and made every single round close. However, he was unable to pull out the win, something I feel he could have done if he made an adjustment or two. Regardless, fighting his first fight in 21 months at a weight class above his natural class with less than a week’s notice? Yeah, Green’s performance was impressive, even if it ultimately wasn’t enough.