When all is said and done, this card will be remembered for its cursed nature. From botched weight cuts to COVID-19 illnesses, no less than 5 contests were canceled within 36 hours of the kickoff of the card. That isn’t even counting the fight cancelled during the event as Trevin Giles fainted on his way out to the cage to meet Kevin Holland. Did I mention there were several cancelled fights in the weeks before the card?
For the action that did make it to the cage, well… it took a little while for the card to warm up, but it delivered in the end. Despite being shown major disrespect on the betting lines – he was the higher ranked fighter going into the fight – Derek Brunson came out a gave a hell of a whooping on upstart youngster Edmen Shahbazyan. The first round was back and forth, both landing heavy shots, but Brunson showed the effect of his work with Henri Hooft the deeper the fight went. His patience allowed him to remain effective as the hard-charging Shahbazyan faded. Though many believe the fight should have ended at the end of the second with Brunson’s brutal GnP, he finished the job early in the third. Given this is the best Brunson we’ve ever seen, it looks like he might finally breakthrough into the top tier of the division.
- In a heartbreaking moment for many fans, Joanne Calderwood risked losing a title shot for a paycheck… and came up short to former Invicta champion, Jennifer Maia. You hate to see a fighter pass on such a golden opportunity, but a fighter has to fight to get paid and JoJo couldn’t wait any longer. No disrespect to Maia as she did what she was supposed to do, slapping on a slick armbar to get JoJo to tap late in the first round – and likely taking JoJo’s title shot in the process – but this situation really sucks. Then again, she isn’t the first person this has happened to and I guarantee she won’t be the last. Bottom line: lots of sympathy to JoJo and much congratulatory praise in the direction of Maia.
- Randy Brown has come a long way from the raw prospect Dana White found when he was Lookin’ for a Fight. Unfortunately, despite a valiant effort, he hasn’t come far enough to overcome the barrage of offense Vicente Luque tends to overwhelm most of his opposition with. Luque targeted Brown’s leg early and it was downhill from there. A late knee in the second round was the beginning of the end for Brown, Luque securing the 11th finish of his UFC career in the process. Methinks Luque shouldn’t settle for anything less than a ranked opponent moving forward.
- After the cancellation of Giles-Holland, the main card was opened by Bobby Green and Lando Vannata looking to settle the score after fighting to a draw three years ago. Picking right where they left off, the two inconsistent competitors put together the most entertaining scrap of the evening, both scoring knockdowns and having other flashy moments. When the dust settled, it was clear Green was the better fighter, securing the win in what looks like a potential career revitalization. A motivated Bobby Green is a badass Bobby Green.
- It was marred by his missing weight – by 4.5 pounds – but Jonathan Martinez looked mighty impressive in his surgical dissection of Frankie Saenz. He knocked down the longtime veteran several times before finishing him off with a brutal knee in the third round. Martinez’s improved takedown defense – key to his win here – could allow him to start making some noise at bantamweight… provided he can make weight.
- Despite showing impressive grappling skills, newcomer Alex Munoz exhausted his supply of groin shots before being penalized. Not that it would have mattered as all three judges scored it 29-27 in favor of Nate Maness, but the low blows were the story of the fight. Maness stalled the vast majority of Munoz’s takedowns, chipping away just enough to take the last to rounds in a fight that fizzled after a solid start.
- The size disparity was obvious between Jamal Emmers and natural bantamweight Vince Cachero in a featherweight contest. Emmers used his reach to land a high volume of straight punches and his bulk in the clinch to brutalize Cachero with knees. Emmers did everything in his power to finish Cachero off, but had to settle for a unanimous decision.
- In the evening’s curtain jerker, Cody Durden (don’t call him Tyler) came out like a man possessed, smothering Chris Gutierrez for the opening frame and secure a 10-8 round from each judge. Unfortunately for the newcomer, he flamed out after that round, allowing Gutierrez to piece him up and even up the scorecards for a unanimous draw. The draw halts Gutierrez’s three fight win streak.