Most of the feelings towards UFC Vegas 38 from viewers weren’t too glowing. The main event, which was expected to be a rather short-lived slugfest between between Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker, ended up going the distance as neither wanted to commit to leaving their chins out in the open. Not that I blame them, but since when have either been reluctant to do that? The co-main event had an unsatisfying result. The other fight on the card everyone expected to be fireworks waited until the final round to ignite. I get where viewers are unhappy with the end result of the card. But they’re also forgetting how well the prelims went, delivering several awesome finishes that are rarely seen. I fully understand the end of the card is what receives the bulk of the attention, but to say the whole card is crap is unfair. Here’s my unique breakdown of the entirety of the card....
Biggest Jump in Stock: It was really hard to figure out this spot. Santos outpointed a known finisher who wasn’t looking for the finish, so it didn’t feel right to point to him. Price had a nice win, but it wasn’t the type of win that’s going to push him up a whole lot. As weird as it sounds — I never would have predicted this going into the event – but Alexander Hernandez feels like the right pick. He looked fantastic in disposing of Mike Breeden, exhibiting the confidence and aggression that has been missing from him since his loss to Donald Cerrone. He still has to get a win over an established UFC talent – Breeden was making his UFC debut – but Hernandez gave every indication that he still has the star power he first indicated he possessed when he trucked through Beneil Dariush.
Biggest Fall in Stock: Some might call for Walker to be in this spot as he looked nothing like the wild man that captured the hearts of MMA fans, but I’m not ready to give up on Walker finding a balance between a more mature style and his aggressive tendencies. Thus, I’ll say Misha Cirkunov goes here. He fell to Krzysztof Jotko, proving unable to bully the Pole to the mat. Given the whole idea of Cirkunov moving down to middleweight was so he could be a bigger bully, the move feels like an abject failure. A few years ago, it felt like he was the best hope for a new contender at 205 when the division was desperate for relevant new blood. Now, it feels like a matter of time before he loses his roster spot.
Start Typing a Resume: Speaking of losing his roster spot, now could be the time Cirkunov gets cut. Since 2017, he’s gone 2-5 and is currently riding a two-fight losing streak. It isn’t to say Cirkunov is worse than several other middleweight and/or light heavyweights, but the UFC doesn’t seem particularly inclined to give him any softballs given the difficulties they had in getting him to put pen to paper several years ago when they were negotiating a new contract. He’s the least likely member of this list to go bye-bye, but it can’t be discounted.
I’m not positive Gaetano Pirrello is going to be released either – he has a style Uncle Dana appreciates – but he dropped his debut in a non-competitive manner and got blasted early before he could get going. All the DWCS additions in recent weeks doesn’t help his cause. Personally, I’d like to see him get one more opportunity, but the UFC doesn’t listen to the likes of me.
Shanna Young is in a similar situation to Pirrello. She also dropped her UFC debut in an established talent and got blasted in her sophomore effort. There’s a severe shortage of bodies at women’s bantamweight, which could give her a leg up. After all, the UFC did give Vanessa Melo four opportunities and Young appears to offer more promise than Melo did.
Last, but not least, I feel confident in predicting this is the last we’ve seen of Johnny Eduardo. The 43-year old made his MMA debut all the way back in 1996 — 25 years ago. Given all the mileage on his body, Eduardo still looks good. But he’s also dropped three in a row and it’s hard to believe he can make any improvements at this point as his physical abilities only have one direction in which they can go.
Saved Their Job(s): Stephanie Egger had a poor UFC debut about a year ago. It was bad enough that many were thinking she’d wash out in short order. If she had a similar performance this time around against Young, it seemed likely Egger would be shown the door. Instead, Egger looked like a legit UFC talent, getting the fight to the mat and showing a ground-and-pound that no one thought she possessed. If she can continue to improve, Egger could break into the official rankings.
Two years after his last appearance, many forgot Alejandro Perez was even on the roster. If he were to drop his third consecutive fight, who would have missed him if he were to be cut? Instead of that, Perez overcome a slow start to dispose of Eduardo. At 32, it’s possible we’re about to see the best version of Perez.
Never Seen That Before: Speaking of Perez, the manner in which he finished his fight was done in a manner I can’t recall seeing at the highest of levels. I’ve seen the concept of a scarf hold armlock demonstrated, but performed successfully in a fight? Nope. Eduardo gassed, allowing Perez to lock in Eduardo’s arm between his legs and Perez extended with his hips to complete the technique. I wouldn’t rule out ever seeing it again, but it’s going to be a while before we see it replicated.
Biggest WOW Moment: I saw many people comparing Douglas Andrade’s KO of Gaetano Pirrello to Fedor Emelianenko’s legendary finish of Andrei Arlovski, but I’d say it was more reminiscent of Nate Marquardt’s underrated disposal of Demian Maia. Either way, Andrade sent Pirrello airborne andlooked like a million bucks in landing his counter left hook.
Cure for Insomnia: Many people will point to the main event, but I had a harder time enjoying the contest between Cirkunov and Jotko. Most of the contest was fought in the clinch with Jotko fighting off Cirkunov’s attempted takedowns. When they did opt to strike with some distance between themselves, both were tentative given their chins being notoriously weak. The reputations of Santos and Walker at least had me on the edge of my seat that something might happen. I’m sure I’d feel different on a second watch, but a fight is best judged on it’s first watch. Thus, CIrkunov and Jotko get this unwanted award.
Worst Referee Call: There were so many funky referee calls last week, I opted to skip over it. This week, there was one great call and one bad call. In the Egger-Young fight, Mark Smith jumped in very quickly after Egger landed an elbow that saw Young cover her face. However, Young didn’t just cover her face; she pushed Egger away at the hips with her legs as she turned. It felt like an intelligent form of defense to me as opposed to just shelling up. I do believe Egger was on her way to a win, but there was still a round and a half for Young to change the tide. I’m not a fan of that stoppage in the least.
Best Referee Call: Credit to Dan Miragliotta, as there was some real potential for disaster with the outcome of the Kevin Holland-Kyle Daukaus contest. In the heat of the contest, an inadvertent clash of heads put Holland out cold for a split second. Given his jaw collided with the top of Daukaus’ head, it isn’t a surprise Dauakaus made out better in the exchange. Had things stopped there, Miragliotta indicated he would have stopped the fight and declare it a no contest. However, Holland came to once he hit the mat and Miragliotta allowed the fight to continue. Holland was still dazed, resulting in Daukaus finding a RNC. Rather than declare Kaukaus the winner, there was a long review, with the fight ultimately being declared a no contest. Fortunately, it looks like Holland and Daukaus have already agreed to run the fight back. It’s hard to believe we’ll get a less satisfactory result the second time around.
Off Into the Sunset.... Rather than including Bethe Correia in the resume typing column, I figure it’s more appropriate to mention her in this manner. After all, win or lose, it was to be Correia’s final fight. She requested one more fight following her loss to Pannie Kianzad last year and the UFC acquiesced after it was originally reported Correia was released. After all, Correia provided Ronda Rousey with one of her more memorable rivalries. For all the crap the UFC pulls, it should be acknowledged when they do something decent and even though they didn’t do Correia any favors in matching her against Karol Rosa, they did follow through. Even though she lost a one-sided contest, it was clear Correia was touched to experience the fight experience one last time and we should all wish her well in her future endeavors.
Something Needs to Change: Unfortunately, Aspen Ladd didn’t make it to her fight with Macy Chiasson after a scary weigh-in that left Ladd shaking in her dehydrated state on the scale. It was very reminiscent of her weigh-in in Sacramento, resulting in her being KO’d in 16 seconds. Ladd cannot continue to have these episodes throughout her career and not do long term damage to her body. Something needs to change. Either she needs to begin plying her trade at featherweight – in which she’d be able to get a title shot in a hurry – or she needs to alter her diet and/or weight cutting methods. I’m not in her camp, so I can’t say specifically what needs to be done, but the status quo cannot remain.
Best Callout: After squeaking by Joe Solecki by the skin of this teeth – and giving himself three consecutive wins in the process – Jared Gordon made an ideal callout in Paddy Pimblett. Pimblett has garned a lot of hype from his Cage Warriors days and had a successful UFC debut in disposing of Luigi Vendramini. Should the fight come together, Pimblett’s raised status puts an additional spotlight on Gordon that could prove beneficial enough in contract negotiations should Gordon win. Plus, Pimblett’s fight tend to be quite entertaining, upping the possibility of a Performance Bonus for Gordon. Gordon even makes sense for Pimblett as he’s a reasonable step up on a winning streak. It was the perfect callout.
Flipping the Script: Devonte Smith was supposed to be the hard-hitting prospect, the one with a bright future. Instead, it was Jamie Mullarkey unloaded a barrage of strikes against the cage that eventually crumpled Smith. The expectation was that Mullarkey would win a battle of attrition if he were to end up the victor, but he ended up outslugging the hard-hitting athlete. At the end of the event, despite Smith clearly being the better pure athlete, it was Mullarkey that everyone was talking about as a youngster to keep an eye on.
Unfinished Business: There has been a lot of criticism leveled at John Kavanaugh for Walker’s performance. I get it. He turned one of the most explosive and entertaining members of the roster into a tentative point fighter. However, Walker’s lanky frame is also ideal to be an effective point fighter if he can get comfortable operating from a distance with the occasional, well-timed explosion to keep his opponents honest. Walker would have served himself well to throw out the occasional high-risk strike that he became so known for. While Walker’s performance against Santos was disheartening in many ways, it looks like he’s in the midst of a transition of styles. Those transformations don’t happen overnight. Thus, I’m willing to give Walker and Kavanaugh a pass... for now.