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UFC Vegas 41: Costa vs. Vettori - Winners and Losers

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The real winners and losers from UFC Vegas 41

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Marvin Vettori after his UFC Vegas 41 win over Paulo Costa.
Marvin Vettori after his UFC Vegas 41 win over Paulo Costa.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Marvin Vettori had himself a good week.

Vettori could have walked away from the UFC Vegas 41 main event when his opponent, Paulo Costa, wanted to move the scheduled middleweight fight to 195 pounds. He didn’t. Vettori could have then said “no thanks” when the discussion moved to 205 pounds. He didn’t. He accepted the fight, focused on the task at hand and walked away with a hard fought victory over Costa.

UFC president Dana White was effusive in his praise of Vettori and how professionally he handled everything that happened before fight night. Vettori deserved every bit of that flattery.

Vettori might have been the big winner at UFC Vegas 41, but he was not the only person to walk away deserving commendation, read on for the winners and losers from the fight card, which took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas and streamed on ESPN+.

Winners:

Marvin Vettori: Expect Marvin Vettori to move up the middleweight rankings with his unanimous decision win over Paulo Costa. Vettori shook off the fight week distractions and delivered an impressive performance in handing Costa a loss in the middleweight turned light heavyweight main event. Vettori showed an iron chin and an iron will in this fight. He took Costa’s heavy shots to the head, body and legs and returned better than he got.

Vettori was impressive in every way in this contest. He showed great counters, a solid jab, high output and great recovery skills to go along with some nice defensive movement.

One thing that can’t be overlooked is that Vettori just turned 28, and he is still improving as a fighter. Expect him to be at the top of the middleweight division for a while.

Rick Glenn: Rick Glenn lost the first two rounds of his bout opposite Grant Dawson, but the 32-year-old came out in the third round and gave Dawson a rough go. If Glenn had more time, he might have been able to finish his depleted opponent. Glenn, who was the biggest underdog on the main card, delivered an impressive final five minutes and earned himself a draw.

Alex Caceres vs. Seung Woo Choi: Alex Caceres and Seung Woo Choi looked like they were enjoying themselves in the early going of their featherweight bout. Caceres stopped enjoying things when Choi dropped him with a dart of a right counter after Caceres landed a kick. After that strike landed, Caceres found himself in deep water. Choi might have been on his way to a finish, but he landed an illegal knee that paused the action.

Choi was the faster, more powerful and seemingly more accurate striker, but Caceres showed his veteran skills when he slickly took the back of his opponent and earned himself a submission win in the second stanza.

The way Caceres took Choi’s back was incredibly impressive. More impressive? That Caceres is now on a five-fight winning streak, the longest of his UFC career, which began in 2011.

As for Choi, he saw his three-fight winning streak come to a close, but the 28-year-old is not a fighter who should be dismissed. He has impressive striking skills, he just needs to become a more well-rounded fighter and perhaps more aware fighter.

This was an enjoyable featherweight scrap.

Nicolae Negumereanu: Nicolae Negumereanu scored a big knockout win over Ike Villanueva, but there were questions if illegal blows to the back of the head were the reason for the stoppage and that took some of the shine off his victory.

Jun Yong Park vs. Gregory Rodrigues: Defense and technique were largely afterthoughts in this middleweight fight and damn, this one was an ugly, but fun, slugfest. This was the type of fight the UFC and its fans love at the top of a prelim card.

David Onama: David Onama took a fight against Mason Jones on incredibly short notice — and while he was on vacation — and he gave the heavily favored Jones fits throughout the lightweight scrap. Onama showed a lot of power and striking ability, but he struggled to stop the takedowns of his opponent.

Judging by my social media feed, Onama’s next fight is going to be one circled in red with “must watch” written next to it. Onama is only 27 and if he can build on his decision loss to Jones, he is going to be someone to watch.

Jai Herbert: I don’t know who Jai Herbert angered, but the former Cage Warriors champion had two tough matchups in his first two UFC fights. Herbert lost those contests to Francisco Trinaldo and Renato Moicano, but he put himself in the win column with an impressive knockout victory over Khama Worthy. The stoppage showed why many were high on Herbert when he joined the UFC. This will be a big win for the 33-year-old to build from.

Jeff Molina: The 24-year-old Jeff Molina put on an excellent performance in getting his first knockout win under the UFC banner. Molina showed veteran poise in dealing with the submission game of his opponent, Daniel da Silva. Molina also made Da Silva pay on the mat, employing a heavy ground striking game whenever he found an opening in the defense of his opponent.

In the early going of the second round, Molina landed a perfectly timed counter that sent Da Silva to the mat, where he finished things with ground strikes. Molina is not yet ranked in the flyweight division. His performance at UFC Vegas 41 will put him on the radar of many fans.

Randa Markos: Randa Markos ended a four-fight losing skid on Saturday and she did so via her tenacity and fight IQ. Markos fought through some rough spots in the first round and she was able to put that round behind her and take advantage of the fading cardio of her opponent to get the win. Markos showed good awareness in ramping up her striking game as Livinha Souza slowed in the final 10 minutes of the contest.

Jonathan Martinez: Jonathan Martinez picked up a nice win against former LFA bantamweight champion Zviad Lazishvili in the opening bout of the UFC Vegas 41 fight card. Martinez’s ability to fight off the first early takedown attempts of Lazishvili and how he controlled the pace, space and location of the fight with his varied kicking game was impressive. Martinez was the smoother striker of the two. The one correction that Martinez could make is to get his hands up when he is kicking. He was open for counters when he was establishing his kick game, but other than that, a very strong performance from Martinez in handing Lazishvili his first career loss.

Jason Herzog: Jason Herzog did a superb job pausing the Alex Caceres vs. Seung Woo Choi fight as soon as the illegal knee landed and taking a point from Choi. Herzog made the right call, and he did so with confidence and without pause. If Herzog is not the best ref working in MMA today, he is at least in the discussion.

Also, Herzog did an excellent job in taking a point from Paulo Costa for the eye poke in the main event.

UFC and Dana White: UFC president Dana White said Paulo Costa is no longer a middleweight. That’s the right move.

Losers:

Grant Dawson: Grant Dawson is a good fighter, he is a dominant fighter, but the problem with Dawson is he is a control first fight. Another problem with Dawson was how he finished this fight. Rick Glenn dominated the third round of this matchup, a fight that saw Dawson as an enormous favorite. Dawson wants to earn a spot in the rankings. The 27-year-old took a step back on Saturday.

Khama Worthy: Khama Worthy dropped his third straight fight with a knockout loss to Jai Herbert. Worthy was on a seven-fight winning streak from March 2018 through June 2020, but he’s been knocked out in the first round in his three most recent outings. With that, the 35-year-old might not be long for the UFC.

Livinha Souza: Livinha Souza did not have the cardio to take her three full rounds against Randa Markos. With the loss, the former Invicta FC champ has lost two in a row for the first time in her MMA career.

Zviad Lazishvili: Zviad Lazishvili, a former LFA bantamweight champ, stepped in to face Jonathan Martinez on very short notice, so it’s hard to gauge him as a complete fighter on the strength of this performance. Lazishvili didn’t seem to have the energy to focus on his wrestling skills in this fight. One thing that was noticeable was how he did not use striking to provide openings for his takedowns against the fence. That’s something he’ll need to develop if he wants to find success in the UFC. Lazishvili looked dejected in the bout’s aftermath, which he lost via decision. Lazishvili should get another chance in the UFC. Hopefully he’ll get a full camp for that one.

Michael Bisping: David Onama, a guy who took the fight while on vacation, pushed Mason Jones to the limit. Despite that, Bisping tried to sell Jones as a future champ. Jones is not a bad fighter, but I’d like to hear the reasons Bisping feels that way, especially after UFC Vegas 41.

UFC: C’mon now, the intro video package for the main card started with, “In the middleweight divison …”

UFC and Nevada State Athletic Commission: In the early moments of the main card broadcast, UFC broadcaster Megan Olivi said Paulo Costa checked in at a reported 219 pounds for his scheduled middleweight fight against Marvin Vettori. If that is true, the UFC and Nevada State Athletic Commission need to be grilled why the fight wasn’t moved to a catchweight the minute Costa checked in over 30 pounds heavy for a 185-pound bout. Dana White recently bragged about the UFC’s health and safety protocol, with that White needs to explain why this fight was not moved to a catchweight until midweek and by all appearances at the request of Costa.

Paulo Costa: Paulo Costa ruined an important middleweight main event by coming in heavy. That he did so with belligerence and without regret only makes it more unprofessional and shameful.

Neither:

Paulo Costa: The questions that Paulo Costa brought with him into the octagon were answered during the 25 minutes he spent inside the octagon with Marvin Vettori. No, we don’t know why Costa came in heavy, but we know he was ready to fight. Costa did a nice job working the legs and body of Vettori and had he landed more of his head kicks more solidly, he might have walked away with the victory.

If you remove all the drama that Costa brought with him this week, his performance against Vettori was very good. Had there been no drama, Costa would have been a winner on this card.

Jessica-Rose Clark: Jessica-Rose Clark earned herself a decision win over Joselyne Edwards in her first fight in over a year. Clark did a nice job in racking up takedowns and control time, but she generated little offense while she was in control of her opponent. Perhaps Clark needed this fight to get comfortable inside the octagon after a long time off, but she’ll need to improve on this performance in her next outing if she wants to move up the women’s bantamweight rankings.

Mason Jones: Mason Jones is not a bad fighter, but he allowed an opponent who came in on short notice to give him enormous problems on Saturday. Jones was the biggest favorite on the prelims and the UFC commentary team pumped his tires throughout his fight against David Onama a bit too much. Jones’ striking defense was not very good, but his ability to get takedowns when he was in trouble was impressive, and that might have saved him from taking a loss against Onama.

I don’t see the future champ in Jones that Michael Bisping sees, but he picked up a win here and he showed some decent skills, but he really needs to improve his striking defense if he wants to contend at the upper levels of the lightweight division.