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UFC Vegas 38: Santos vs. Walker - Winners and Losers

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The real winners and losers from UFC Vegas 38

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Thiago Santos defeated Johnny Walker in the UFC Vegas 38 main event.
Thiago Santos defeated Johnny Walker in the UFC Vegas 38 main event.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

That preliminary card fighters claimed all four of the UFC Vegas 38 fight card bonuses should tell you something about how the key card went on Saturday night.

In the main event, Thiago Santos ended a three-fight losing skid with a decision win over Johnny Walker, but the fight didn’t answer many questions. In fact, I think it created some new questions. The first of those is what happens with Santos? He fought out his UFC deal on Saturday night, but his victory didn’t show the UFC brass he will once again become a title threat. With that, his future with the organization seems to be up in the air.

As for Johnny Walker, the move to SBG Ireland turned him into a different fighter, but judging from social media in the fight’s aftermath, the jury seems to be out on if that change was good or bad.

In the co-main event the decision to rule the fight between Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus a no contest, seems to have been the right call. However, the way it played out was less than clear and the Daukaus team is likely to have some questions as to what went on in making that ruling.

The most informative moment of the main card might have come after Alexander Hernandez knocked out Mike Breeden.

I discuss the above and more below. Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 38, which took place at UFC Apex and streamed on ESPN+.

Winners:

Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus: The outcome of the Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus was unsatisfying, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give props to both fighters. Holland was knocked out by the accidental clash of heads, but he came too quickly and did his best to stay in the fight. That’s commendable and and remarkable when you can see his eyes roll back into his head before he hit the mat. As for Daukaus, he did what he was supposed to do in this contest, which is fight until the referee stops the fight .

Niko Price: Niko Price ended a three-fight winless stretch on Saturday with a decision win on Saturday. Price, who was 0-2-1 dating back to May 2020, got his first win since he knocked out James Vick in 2019 with a decision nod over Charles Oliveira. Price did a good job in finishing this fight strong and that could have been the difference in how the scores played out.

Alexander Hernandez: I don’t want to pour cold water on Alexander Hernandez’s win, but I think it’s only fair to review the circumstances of the win. Mike Breeden stepped in to face Hernandez on incredibly short notice. Breeden missed weight by 2.5 pounds. This was Breeden’s first UFC fight.

Hernandez was supposed to win this fight, and he did. The maturity Hernandez showed in his post-fight interview impressed me. Early in his UFC run, Hernandez was brash and cocky. He seemed to lose some of that attitude while learning that things can be difficult in the UFC. That’s a positive. Hernandez is a talented fighter and at 29, I think he can still develop into something special. The ability to fail and rebound will prove very helpful to Hernandez and his UFC career.

Joe Solecki vs. Jared Gordon: This was a fun lightweight scrap. Joe Solecki impressed with his technical ability and his patience, while Jared Gordon was the more gritty and tenacious of the two. It was Gordon’s determination and striking that carried him to victory. Gordon then made the smart move of calling out Paddy Pimblett after his win.

Solecki should look at this fight as a learning experience and use it to grow on and make some subtle changes in his approach. He might have lost the matchup, but I still think he has a high ceiling.

Again, a really good lightweight matchup and a good job by the UFC matchmakers with this one.

Casey O’Neill: Casey O’Neill did not look great on her feet. She walked forward with her hands down and chin exposed, but she had an immense advantage on the ground and that’s where she outworked and put a beating on Antonina Shevchenko. At just 23, O’Neill is now 8-0 and still developing. With the lack of depth in the UFC women’s flyweight division, O’Neill could find herself matched up against a ranked opponent in her next outing. I don’t know if she’s ready for that, but a fight like that could show O’Neill what she needs to work on to move into the rankings.

Karol Rosa: Karol Rosa was a huge favorite, and she dominated her fight against Bethe Correia. She used an incredibly diverse arsenal of striking techniques to tune up the former UFC title challenger and extend her overall winning streak to five straight victories and her UFC run to three wins in a row. The 26-year-old started the fight as the No. 15 ranked fighter in the women’s 135-pound division. I don’t know if the win over Correia will move her up the rankings, but it should get her a ranked opponent in her next outing, which she said she hopes will take place in February.

Jamie Mullarkey: Jamie Mullarkey had a rocky start to his fight against Devonte Smith, but once he found his groove, he took over the contest and just laid into Smith. Mullarkey lost his first two UFC fights by decision, but he is now on a two-fight winning streak. Both of his UFC wins have come via knockout. Mullarkey is not a threat in the UFC lightweight division at this moment, but he’s a fighter on the rise, and someone to keep an eye on.

Douglas Silva de Andrade: Douglas Silva de Andrade could not have timed the left hook that ended his fight against Gaetano Pirrello. Pirrello threw a kick and, during the brief wind up of that strike, Silva de Andrade drove a left into Pirello’s chin that knocked him out. The knockout was his 20th KO in 27 career wins.

Stephanie Egger: Stephanie Egger looked good in securing a stoppage win over Shanna Young. She used her strength in the clinch to score takedowns and dominate the fight on the mat with solid ground control and heavy ground strikes. It was those ground blows that earned her the TKO win. The win was the first UFC victory for Egger.

Prelim fighters: All four fight-night bonuses went to prelim card fighters. I don’t think that’s unprecedented, but I know it’s not common.

Losers:

Bethe Correia: Bethe Correia’s UFC career ended with a whimper. Correia, who once fought for the UFC bantamweight title, failed to make weight for the fight and then lost a clean sweep on the scorecards.

Shanna Young: Shanna Young looked pretty good on her feet, but she allowed herself to get mixed up in the clinch and she had no business fighting in close with Stephanie Egger. Young, who did not get a Contender Series contract, but got an opportunity after a win in Invicta, needs a lot of work. With a 0-2 UFC record, she might get the chance to do that work in another promotion.

Mark Smith and NSAC: Referee Mark Smith was awful quick with the stoppage in the Shanna Young vs. Stephanie Egger fight. The stoppage should be explained by the referee or the commission, but that’s not likely to happen.

UFC: The commentary team focused on the fact that Shanna Young has to take her 10-month-old child to training because she “doesn’t have help” was another incident where the UFC used the fact that it doesn’t pay its athletes a “cute” aside. A professional UFC athlete should be able to afford childcare.

UFC and NSAC: According to Aspen Ladd her fight against Macy Chiasson was not scratched by the UFC nor the NSAC. If that is true, the UFC and NSAC, and more specifically, the doctors involved, should answer as to why the would allow Ladd to fight after what they saw on the scale?

Daniel Cormier and Brendan Fitzgerald: Can someone please tell UFC commentators Daniel Cormier and Brendan Fitzgerald that the number of significant strikes thrown and landed has nothing to do with scoring? If Cormier and Fitzgerald want to know why the judges don’t get that information, it’s because strikes thrown and landed don’t come into play in the scoring criteria.

UFC: When a former UFC light heavyweight title challenger announces, “Hey Dana (White), Mick (Maynard), let’s renew my contract please. It’s my last fight, let’s renew and give me a little bit more money, please,” after his win — like Thiago Santos did — that’s a sign UFC is not paying it’s fighters well.

UFC fighters: The “show/win” pay structure in UFC has always been an excuse for the UFC to cheat the fighters out of some pay. The spotlight should once again be put on the way the UFC doles out pay in the aftermath of the no contest ruling in the Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus contest.

NSAC: Two members of the UFC team, Sean Shelby and Marc Ratner seemed to be involved in the discussion as to how the NSAC officials should rule on the outcome of the Kevin Holland vs . Kyle Daukaus fight. Neither of those men should have been near that discussion. That decision should have 100 percent been up to the NSAC officials working the event. That the UFC could be looked at as having an influence on that decision — even if it did not — is not a good visual. If I’m a member of Kyle Daukaus’ team, I’d want a full explanation and accounting of why the UFC was anywhere near the decision to call the fight a no contest.

Neither:

NSAC: Instant replay came into play during the co-main event and from reading the rules regarding instant replay in Nevada it appears the right call was made in ruling the fight a no contest.

What the outcome of the Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus fight did was provide the Nevada Athletic Commission with a blueprint to follow in how to write much clearer rules about what to do when instant replay reveals a foul led to a finishing sequence in a fight.

Will that happen? I hope so, but I’m not sure and that is why this one lands under the heading of “neither.”

Thiago Santos: I’m not sure where Thiago Santos goes after his win over Johnny Walker. Yes, he won, but I don’t know if the UFC saw enough of the 37-year-old to warrant signing him to a new deal. As Walker said after the fight, this win was the last fight on his UFC contract. Santos is 1-3 in his past four and I don’t think the UFC will consider him any closer to a title shot than it did before he defeated the No. 10 ranked fighter in the UFC light heavyweight division. With how this fight played out, I’m unsure the UFC will extend a deal to Santos.

Johnny Walker: I’m trying to wrap my head around the SBG Ireland version of Johnny Walker. On one hand, I can appreciate the work the team at the gym did with him. They made him a smarter, more technical and better fighter. With the proper handling, the new approach we saw in the Thiago Santos fight could pay dividends with a few tweaks and adjustments.

On the flip side, I think a lot of fans would have rather seen the “old” version of Johnny Walker. The one who threw caution to the wind and just went into the octagon and looked to get his work done quickly and recklessly.

If Walker is your average MMA fighter, he will know what social media said about his performance against Santos. If he takes the criticism to heart, Walker might decide to leave SBG and go back to his more unhinged style.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Walker deals with the loss and outcry about his approach to the Santos matchup.

Misha Cirkunov: The move to middleweight didn’t work out for Misha Cirkunov as he dropped a decision to Krzysztof Jotko, but he went the three round distance for the first time in over five years, so that was a positive for Cirkunov. If the 34-year-old can make some adjustments now that he knows he has the gas tank to compete at middleweight, he might find some success in that weight class.

Cirkunov opened his MMA career on a 13-2 run, but he’s gone 2-5 since 2017.