The main event of UFC Vegas 42 between Max Hollway and Yair Rodriguez was advertised as a potential FOTY. While those are some lofty expectations, Holloway and Rodriguez lived up to them. It goes without saying, there was plenty of violence. There was momentum swings. There was spinning shit. There was flying attacks. There were up-elbows. There were submission attempts. Hell, there was even wrestling – and I mean good wrestling – – something neither man is known for. I think I even saw a kitchen sink in the cage at one point.
Even though no one can debate whether or not both men left everything in the cage, what was obvious was the greater control Holloway was able to take the deeper the fight went. Rodriguez’s ability to land the big shot out of nowhere at any point kept everyone on the edge of their seats – if they weren’t already standing – and landed a few shots that looked like they could have ended things. Instead, the iron-chinned Holloway never went away. Holloway didn’t come close to breaking his UFC record for significant strikes in a fight, but he was nonetheless persistent in his swarming offense. I never thought we’d see Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski fight for a third time after Volkanovski beat him in their first two fights, but I think Holloway has absolutely forced it upon the UFC brass with a clear, but competitive, decision win.
Rodriguez saw his stock go up in the loss. Some debated whether he deserved to be discussed as one of the featherweight elite heading into the contest, but there’s no doubt about it at this point. The proud Mexican absolutely is one of the elite. While he isn’t going to be challenging Volkanovski for the title, he may be one win away from getting a crack at the big gold belt, regardless of whether it is Holloway or Volkanovski holding the belt. If nothing else, I can’t wait to see him fight Brian Ortega next....
As for the rest of the action-packed card – only two of the eleven fights went the distance – keep reading....
- Marcos Rogerio de Lima emptied his gas tank in a hurry... and it paid off for him handsomely. The hard-hitting Brazilian rattled Ben Rothwell early and never took his foot off the gas from that point. Most of the punches he threw at a hurt Rothwell didn’t land, but the ones that did had major impact. Only through an act of God did Rothwell remain standing before Herb Dean called the fight.
- There’s something to be said about staying with the girl you brought to the dance. At least I think that’s how the phrase goes.... Whatever the phrase is, it made all the difference for Felicia Spencer, returning to her grappling roots and smothering Leah Letson for the entirety of the fight. Even if she didn’t get the takedown, Spencer kept Letson pressed against the fence. Letson was game and had a few moments of success, but Spencer did what she did best and it resulted in a late stoppage.
- If you ever want to know why punching combinations are so valued in MMA, watch Khaos Williams KO of Miguel Baeza. On a four-punch combo – that wasn’t even very technical – only the third punch landed clean... but it put down the durable Baeza out for the count. The contest had been competitive up to that point, leaving open the possibility of the fight going either way on the judges’ scorecards. Williams opted to take it out of their hands.
- If the hype around you is beginning to wane, take a note from Yadong Song on how to get the excitement back. After an opening round that was on the tentative side for both fighters, the volume was turned up in the second, Song’s power proving greater than Julio Arce’s as he hurt the American with his powerful hooks. Though some may debate the authenticity of his age, Song is only listed as 23. It would be foolish to think we’ve seen the best out of the Chinese representative.
- While Thiago Moises may have been the most contentious member in the official UFC lightweight rankings, there’s no doubt the expectation was the Brazilian was going to walk through the lanky Joel Alvarez. Instead, the Spaniard made excellent use his length on the feet, throwing kicks, and bullying Moises in the clinch. However, this was also the second consecutive fight Alvarez has missed weight. Call me a buzzkill, but his future is at welterweight... and he might struggle against bigger opposition. Only time will tell....
- It took a while, but Andrea Lee finally put on the type of performance her fans were expecting out of her when she joined the UFC a few years ago. Light on her feet with her jab staying in the face of Cynthia Calvillo for the entirety of the fight, Lee didn’t even bother to look for her wrestling, something she has done too frequently in recent bouts. Perhaps with this win in her recent memory, she can remember where her bread is buttered.
- I don’t know how long Sean Woodson will be able to make featherweight, but he’s going to be a problem so long as he can comfortably make the weight. Woodson used his length better than he previously has, laying the punishment on hard and thick, getting a game Colin Anglin out of there even before the end of the first round.
- When you let Cortney Casey stand and trade, she’s pretty damned good. Liana Jojua should have known that, but didn’t do nearly enough to put Casey on her back, allowing the former soccer player to pick apart the native of Georgia. The win keeps Casey off the chopping block, but the loss for Jojua probably puts her on it.
- Is Rafael Alves better than we all thought he was, or is Marc Diakiese not as good as we all thought? That’ll have to be answered further down the road, but Alves proved he’s as dangerous as anyone in the early stages of a fight, using a jab to hurt Diakiese, followed by a flying knee which stumbled Diakiese, before grabbing a guillotine for the win.
- I don’t know who told Kennedy Nzechukwu that wading forward with his guard up was a good strategy, but the big man learned the hard way it isn’t. Da Un Jung found ways to get past Nzechukwu’s high guard, rocking him with an elbow before finishing the job with a swarm of punches. Without a loss in five UFC appearances, Jung may get a ranked opponent in his next appearance.