As the title says, these aren’t official awards by any means. But, it serves as a fun way to give a rundown of the cards that just took place. Most of the categories should show up every time, but I leave room for exceptions and even adding to them when the situation calls for it.
Though there were several moments worth highlighting – and I believe I have them all covered – Max Holloway’s dominant performance over a game Calvin Kattar will be talked about for ages. The former featherweight kingpin set a record for strikes thrown and landed in a UFC contest and had plenty of energy left to jump around post-fight.
Biggest Jump in Stock: Holloway is the obvious and correct choice as the former champion violently forced his way into the conversation as a P4P best. I didn’t think there would be any chance he could force his way into a third fight with Alex Volkanovski, but he very well may have done that, provided the champ successfully defends against Brian Ortega. However, I can’t just leave the improved stock at Holloway alone.
Austin Lingo had a strong case – in part because his debut was underwhelming and he redeemed himself against Jacob Kilburn – and Alessio Di Chirico’s highlight head kick did wonders for the Italian. But Punahele Soriano eliminated a fellow undefeated prospect with a series of knockdowns in the first round to open the UFC’s return to network television. The Hawaiian now has two first round finishes in two UFC contests. Expect the UFC hype train to get behind him.
Biggest Fall in Stock: Santiago Ponzinibbio already experienced a decline in stock simply due to inactivity, but Li Jingliang was thought to be a step back from what Ponzinibbio had previously been beating. He’s unlikely to get anywhere near the title picture again unless he can string together another long streak. Currently 34, he’d be well out of his prime by the time he’d be back in his previous position.
Biggest Beatdown: Was there any doubt Holloway’s masterpiece against Kattar would take this? Holloway’s performance was historically good, laying the volume on Kattar for all five rounds. It’s amazing Kattar was even able to stand by the end of that.
Best Newcomer: Injuries and illness devastated the card enough that Joselyn Edwards was the only debutant, but it was certainly an impressive showing, getting the win over Yana Wu. She has fought at 125 in the past and took this bantamweight contest on short notice. Don’t be surprised if she starts plying her trade at flyweight.
Start Typing a Resume: While dropping five of her last six is a terrible look – bringing her overall UFC record to 3-6 – Sarah Moras probably put the final stamp on her pink slip by turning in an atrocious performance from an entertaining standpoint. Losing to Vanessa Melo – who didn’t have a UFC win in three previous attempts – makes it look even worse. The only thing that might save her is the shallow nature of women’s bantamweight, but after seven years on the roster, I think it might be time to see if there are other options out there.
Saved Their Jobs: We got opposite ends of the spectrum here. Melo did so in the most boring way possible with a boring decision over Moras. Di Chirico did so with an explosive KO when it looked like the UFC was trying to set up his opponent, Joaquin Buckley, for big things. While anyone would rather do so in the fashion of Di Chirico, I’m sure Melo’s just happy to remain employed.
Biggest WOW Moment: All the hype was behind Buckley, but Di Chirico made the most of being on a big stage when he put Joaquin Buckley to sleep with a single kick. It’ll take an unprecedented run for him to top that as he’s already given the UFC a tough front runner for KOotY to top just a single event into the new year. Kattar remaining standing in the midst of Holloway’s onslaught in the fourth also had me saying “WOW!!!” out loud.
Cure for Insomnia: While it takes two to tango and Melo deserves some of the blame, I’d say Moras is more responsible as Melo always lets her opponent dictate the pace. Moras was content to circle around the cage and throw punches that don’t land while keyupping nonstop. I found myself wondering what else was on by the end of the fight.
Never Seen That Before: Holloway taking his attention away from his opponent to yell at the commentary team – multiple times – was surreal. That he didn’t pay the price for taking his eye of the ball – even dodging a punch as he did so – shows what type of level he’s on. I believe what he was telling the booth was he’s the best boxer in the UFC. Hard to argue against that.
Best Callout: Unless I’m sorely mistaken, I don’t think anyone made a callout. What the hell?
Best/Worst Referee Call: Given it would have put a kibosh on Holloway’s striking record, some may disagree with me that Herb Dean should have stepped in during Holloway’s beatdown in the fourth round. Kattar could barely stand and was firing punches purely out of instinct as opposed to intelligently defending himself. Referees are supposed to protect fighters from themselves. Dean didn’t do that and Kattar endured over a round’s worth more punishment.
Blast From the Past: I’m convinced I would have enjoyed what Carlos Condit and Matt Brown would have had to offer in 2013 more than what they put together here, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable scrap. In a back-and-forth contest that took place more on the mat than on the feet, Condit took every round in the judges eyes, though it was far closer than what the scorecards would indicate.
Will Never Be the Same: I obviously don’t know what the future holds, but the beating Kattar took is the type that changes career trajectories. Think Rory MacDonald after his second meeting with Robbie Lawler. David Louiseau after Rich Franklin was done with him. Those are just off the top of my head. Kattar writes his own destiny, but history isn’t on his side after going through something like that.
Biggest Nothingburger: The announcement on Khabib was that: Khabib still hasn’t made up his mind. We needed an announcement for that?