For a card that seemed to be all about the main event, UFC Vegas 42 delivered.
I’m not sure how many people spent the bulk of their Saturday watching an ESPN+ UFC Fight Night card that was short on familiar names, but those who took the time to do so were rewarded. For those who passed on the live experience, I would implore them to carve out some viewing time to watch the event as soon as they can.
UFC Vegas 42 was chock full of finishes and the main event between former UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway and top contender Yair Rodriguez deserves to be discussed as one of the top fights of 2021.
Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez: Expectations were high for the main event matchup between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez. In my mind, the five-round bout between these two exceeded those lofty expectations. Holloway showed toughness, resilience, patience and poise. Rodriguez reminded us, after two years away, why he is still the No. 3 ranked fighter in the featherweight division.
Neither man should lose any ground in their standing among the 145-pound elite after the showing they put on at the UFC Apex on Saturday night.
After his win, Holloway refused to call for a specific opponent, instead implying that he is the fighter to get called out, not the one who calls others out. And you know what, after all that he has done during his UFC career, it’s hard to argue with him on that point. As for Rodriguez, his name, like Holloway’s, will be in the mouth of the most ambitious UFC 145-pound fighters.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima: Don’t let Herb Dean’s indecision take anything away from what Marcos Rogerio de Lima did on Saturday and what he did was stop Ben Rothwell via strikes. The last man to halt Rothwell via strikes was Cain Velasquez in 2009.
Felicia Spencer: Felicia Spencer put on a clinic on clinch work in her win over Leah Letson. Spencer pressured from the start, forced Letson to carry her weight against the fence and sustained an amount of volume striking that was just overwhelming. The finish came on the ground, but it was Spencer’s relentless work against the fence that set up the stoppage in this matchup.
Khaos Williams: Khaos Williams showed his power in stopping Miguel Baeza in the third round of their welterweight scrap. Williams’ finishing strikes might have been thrown when he was off balance and hampered by calf kicks, but he still packed enough power in his hands to put Baeza down and out.
Song Yadong: Song Yadong moved to 7-1-1 in the UFC on Saturday, scoring a second-round knockout over Julio Arce. The 23-year-old showed incredible speed and finishing instincts in wrapping things up in the second round via a head kick and punches against the fence. The finish was the first for Yadong since 2019.
At just 23, Yadong is a fighter who looks like he could have a bright future at 135 pounds.
Andrea Lee: Andrea Lee used her striking output to put a lot of damage on Cynthia Calvillo. Lee didn’t land at a high percentage, but the output she threw at Calvillo allowed her to control the fight and prevent Calvillo from finding her groove and implementing her game plan.
Calvillo, who took the fight on short notice, was the No. 5 ranked fighter in the official UFC women’s flyweight rankings. With her TKO win, Lee should move up from the No. 12 spot she was in to start the fight.
Cynthia Calvillo: According to the UFC broadcast, Cynthia Calvillo waved off her fight against Andrea Lee after two rounds. We don’t see that enough from fighters and their corners. Calvillo knew she was beaten and elected to not take any additional abuse from her opponent. Some will criticize Calvillo, but those people should be ignored.
Sean Woodson: Sean Woodson is a big featherweight with solid striking skills. On Saturday he used his hands to work the body of Collin Anglin and score an impressive first-round knockout win.
Cortney Casey: Cortney Casey, who has been with the UFC since 2015, did some nice work in ending a two-fight losing skid by outstriking Liana Jojua over the course of their three-round scrap. Casey moved her record to 4-6 since 2016. Next for the veteran is the chance to put two consecutive wins together, something she hasn’t done since she won back-to-back outings in 2016.
Rafael Alves: Rafael Alves showed power, skill and fight IQ in finishing Marc Diakiese in the first round of their lightweight scrap. Alves landed a powerful punch down the middle that rocked Diakiese, he followed that with a flying knee and when Diakiese shot for the takedown, Alves locked up a guillotine to bring the fight to an end. This was a solid win for Alves.
Da Un Jung: Da Un Jung must have some otherworldly power because the man staggered his opponent, Kennedy Nzechukwu, with elbows that were landing to the arms of Nzechukwu, who was doing his best to block those blows. Yes, some of those elbows pierced the guard, but the strikes that backed up Nzechukwu were to the guard. Nasty, nasty power and a solid first-round stoppage win.
Miguel Baeza: Miguel Baeza found success with calf kicks against Khaos Williams, especially in the third round. The downside of Baeza falling in love with those strikes was that he became a bit unfocused on his defense and that allowed Williams to drop Baeza with a nasty right hook.
Marc Diakiese: Marc Diakiese was a 2-1 favorite over Rafael Alves, but ended up on the losing end of the lightweight scrap via first-round submission.
Diakiese began his MMA career on a 12-0 run and got some attention from the UFC brass, but he’s gone from fighting on the UFC 219 PPV card to scrapping on the early prelim of an ESPN+ event over the past four years. Diakiese is 2-5 since July 2017 and he might be on his way out of the UFC.
A release from the UFC could help Diakiese rebuild his confidence. He is still only 28.
Herb Dean: Herb Dean did an atrocious job of “stopping” the Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Ben Rothwell fight. The moment Dean put his hands on the fighters is the moment the fight should have ended. That Dean seemed to want to let the fight continue after that point was an egregious error. Dean made the decision to call the fight, he doesn’t get to rethink that. His indecision was dangerous and that’s something that needs to be looked at and questions. Dean has the health of the fighters in his hands as a referee and he put that at risk on Saturday.
Conor McGregor: I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t winning.
Joel Alvarez: Joel Alvarez pulled off an upset win over Thiago Moises on Saturday and did so most violently. Alvarez used his length to hurt Moises with his striking, but he did most of his damage in close, unloading nasty elbows and crisp punches to the head and body of his opponent in earning the first-round stoppage.
The win gives Alvarez his fourth straight stoppage win in the UFC and third consecutive first-round finish. Moises was the No. 15 ranked fighter in the lightweight division entering this bout.
The blemish on Alvarez’s performance was that he missed weight for this fight by 1.5 pounds. He missed weight in his previous fight by 3.5 pounds and that is why he is listed here and not as a “winner.”