I have to admit, I was out line when I said there was no need to schedule Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker for five rounds. How was I to know they’d show each other plenty of respect!? It was far from the wham-bam, thank-you-m’am contest we all expected, much to the chagrin of the viewing audience. If this version of Johnny Walker is what we get moving forward, I know a large swathe of fans will never forgive Walker’s head trainer, John Kavanaugh, for taming the wild man....
To be fair to Kavanaugh, Walker did have the most mature performance of his career, coming thisclose to upending a former title challenger in Santos. The problem is, the thing that made Walker a special talent was his creativity and willingness to pull the trigger. There was no sign of that from the lanky Brazilian. If Walker and Kavanaugh can acknowledge this version of Walker is far from a finished product, there’s still hope. Otherwise, Walker might want to consider a camp change... again.
As for Santos, the win snaps a three-fight losing streak, those losses all coming against the top of the division. The win proves he’s still a relevant gatekeeper to the top five, but an elite fighter? I would have to say no. He outpointed a fighter who was hesitant to pull the trigger with a history of being finished. Granted, Santos did land some heavy shots that Walker was able to withstand, but the win doesn’t do anything to advance him, at least not in my eyes. Then again, if a fighter isn’t fighting someone ahead of them in the rankings, often times there is nothing wrong with settling for remaining in their spot.
As for the rest of the card....
For video clips of the best highlights of the evening, click here.
- Leave it to Kevin Holland to be involved in one of the weirdest sequences in recent memory. Holland was KO’d by an accidental head butt from Kyle Daukaus. However, Holland popped up and continued fighting as soon as he hit the mat. Dan Miragliotta allowed the fight to continue, resulting in Kyle Daukaus getting a RNC. Credit to Miragliotta, as he reviewed the situation and declared the fight a NC. Look for this to be run back as it appeared Holland and Daukaus agreed to a rematch before the decision was announced.
- It may have taken until the third round for Niko Price and Alex Oliveira to deliver on the craziness everyone expected out of them, but we all got what we wanted: a back-and-forth slugfest. Price was the one to emerge victorious, but it was the best version of Oliveira we’ve seen in years. Even if it wasn’t enough for the win, it was a promising performance from the Brazilian and a great win for Price to get back on track.
- The less said about the snoozer between Misha Cirkunov and Krzysztof Jotko, the better. Cirkunov carved off too much of his muscle mass to be the bully he was hoping to be at middleweight, allowing Jotko to stifle most of his takedown attempts and outwork the Canadian ever so slightly. Don’t be surprised if Cirkunov makes his middleweight stint and one-and-done.
- Alexander Hernandez has been getting a lot of criticism from the MMA community given he hasn’t been able to live up to the promise shown in his UFC debut KO of Beneil Dariush. Well, Mike Breeden may not be Beneil Dariush, but he doesn’t appear to be a bum either and Hernandez bowled over him with just as much authority. If Hernandez can balance his confidence and aggression as well as he did against Breeden, he can live up to his earlier promise.
- Jared Gordon has always been an underdog. It takes an underdog mentality to come back from the type of first round he had against Joe Solecki, being thoroughly dominated on the mat by the skilled grappler. Gordon slowly turned the momentum in his direction starting in the second round. Not that Solecki went out quietly, but Gordon convinced two of the three judges to give him the W. Now if he can convince Paddy Pimblett to fight him....
- Is there anyone out there who didn’t know Antonina Shevchenko isn’t on the level of her sister? Casey O’Neill made sure to hammer that point home, consistently pressuring the lanky striker and forcing the fight to the mat. O’Neill eventually got to the mount and rained down elbows and punches that ended the fight, adding further fuel to those who claim she’s soon to be a contender at women’s flyweight.
- In a weird way, it was appropriate the UFC pit Bethe Correia against the rising Karol Rosa in her retirement fight. After all, Correia’s career was all about overcoming long odds. Well, the odds were too long this time. Rosa’s superior athleticism and size allowed her to easily outwork Correia over all three rounds. Rosa picks up some cage time and experience while Correia rides off into the sunset.
- If you wanna know why so many MMA pundits believe body shots are one of the most underutilized weapons in the sport, watch what Jamie Mullarkey did to Devonte Smith. After a back-and-forth first round, Mullarkey’s sustained pressure paid off with a series of body shots that opened up some shots to the head as well. It’s hard to believe Mullarkey will become a contender, but every one of his UFC fights has been fire. At 27, he’s going to be around a long time.
- It’s rare when a fighter ends up completely airborne when they get KO’d. Well, Gaetano Pirello is unfortunate to add his name to the airborne list as Douglas Andrade timed his left hook counter perfectly, sending the kicking Pirello into the air. For someone who had a reputation as a KO artist, Andrade was lacking that highlight reel moment in the UFC. That’s no longer the case.
- While it’s fair to debate the stoppage, it can’t be debated that Stephanie Egger was cruising to a comfortable win over the scrappy Shana Young. Egger utilized her size and grappling pedigree to get Young to the mat and keep her there, delivering some vicious elbows that convinced Mark Smith to jump in, perhaps prematurely. Regardless, the difference for Egger here in her sophomore effort and her debut was night and day.
- It took him a round to shake off the ring rust – even though Johnny Eduardo had the longer layoff – but Alejandro Perez eventually fell into a groove and disposed of his 43-year old opponent. In fact, Perez’s scarf hold armlock is the first I can remember in the UFC. I could be wrong, but there’s no denying it’s rarely seen.