UFC Vegas 42 offered a delectable offering of violence, nine of the eleven contests ending before the final bell, eight of those nine via KO/TKO. However, one of those two contests that went the distance was one of the best fights of the year as Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez lived up to the lofty expectations that were heaped upon them. I say that knowing full well the likely FOTY occurred last week, thus we’ve been spoiled in our recent offerings. Most of the focus has been on what Holloway does next. Does he fight Conor McGregor? Maybe get another crack at Alexander Volkanovski’s belt? Or is it now-or-never for him to fight the Korean Zombie? Despite what Dana White says, those things will be discussed plenty – rightfully so – but there were plenty of other happenings at the event worthy of discussion. Thus, I’m here to touch on those lesser talked about things with my Unofficial Awards.
For the winners and losers of the event, click here.
Biggest Jump in Stock: Even though I thought having Cynthia Calvillo as far head of Andrea Lee in the rankings as she was had to be considered a farce, it doesn’t take away how awesome Lee looked in dismantling her. Lee ignored taking the fight to the mat and focused on drowning Calvillo in sheer volume. It worked, probably even better than Lee expected. It resulted in a broken orbital for Calvillo, leading to Calvillo’s corner calling a stop to things between the second and third. After a series of close losses, Lee finally delivered a breakthrough win. Don’t be surprised if she ends up in a prime position on the next card she fights on.
Biggest Fall in Stock: A few years ago, Marc Diakiese was thought to be one of the hottest up-and-coming commodities at lightweight. Following his loss to Rafael Alves – putting him at 2-5 in his last seven — Diakiese appears to be an afterthought. That isn’t to say Diakiese’s talents were overstated, but he has struggled to make best use of his physical gifts. I’m not sure if the UFC is going to release him quite yet – he is still just 28 – but the idea of him being a future contender at this point is laughable.
Start Typing a Resume: There’s a part of me that would like to see Collin Anglin stick around as he has been given some tough opponents, but when you’ve dropped your first two contests by being finished before the halfway mark, it isn’t looking good for his prospects. Anglin is young enough in his MMA career that it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have him get a bit more seasoning on the regional scene and see him return to the organization. Or perhaps end up in Bellator....
It doesn’t take too much investigating to recognize Liana Jojua has the physical tools to be a longtime mainstay. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to figure out how to meld them all together. Thus, even though she may possess one of the better ground games in the division, she finds herself likely looking on the outside in, sporting a 1-3 UFC record.
Saved Their Job(s): Cortney Casey’s willingness to throw down might have given her another chance had she come up short against Jojua, but there was no guarantee of it. In one of her most disciplined showings, Casey utilized a very technical approach to outpoint Jojua comfortably. There’s still concerns about Casey’s takedown defense – Jojua probably could have won if she had pursued that route more aggressively – but she got the fight she needed to look good.
Given how badly he missed weight in his first scheduled UFC contest, Alves was almost surely to be cut if he lost his sophomore effort. Instead, the Brazilian showed an excellent read on the situation, blitzing Diakiese with a sequence of attacks and finding a guillotine. Provided he doesn’t try to go back to featherweight, Alves will have every opportunity to hang around and produce those type of highlight reel moments.
Biggest WOW Moment: When a card features 8 KO/TKO’s, you know there is going to be some stiff competition here. Without context, I’d probably go with Joel Alvarez completely bullying Thiago Moises against the cage with elbows. However, Alvarez missed weight for the second consecutive fight, labeling him an actual welterweight masquerading at lightweight at this juncture. Thus, I’ll go with Khaos Williams starching Miguel Baeza in the midst of a firefight. Earlier this year, Baeza engaged in a knock-down, drag ‘em out brawl with Santiago Ponzinibbio, a notoriously hard hitter. Seeing him get put away in the manner Williams did was quite jaw-dropping.
Patience is a Virtue: I feared Calvillo was jumping back into action too quickly for her own good. It had been less than 50 days since Jessica Andrade bullied her from pillar to post and Calvillo stunk of desperation jumping back into the cage against Lee so quickly to erase the memory of her loss to Andrade. Unfortunately for Calvillo, she has dug herself an even deeper hole, calling the fight between the second and third rounds. What’s even worse, Calvillo was the slight favorite, meaning this should have been a very winnable contest for her. At least in the loss to Andrade, Calvillo had the excuse that no one expected her to win. Jumping back into the cage too quickly after a bad loss rarely turns out well, this being a prime example. Hopefully, Calvillo – and other fighters paying attention – can learn from this and realize being patient in processing a loss can be for the best.
Where’s the Offense? I’d love to know what the strategy was for Kennedy Nzechukwu was heading into his fight with Da Un Jung. To me, it looked like seeing how close he could creep to Jung before Jung threw something at him. Wash, rinse, repeat. The statistics indicate he did throw some punches back, though it was hard to remember any of them. That continued strategy left me wondering if he recognized how much bigger he was than Jung. Probing with a jab would have been more effective than allowing Jung to touch up his high guard time and again. Hell, throwing any meaningful semblance of offense would have been wise.
Most Memorable Referee Call: There’s been a lot of discussion about Herb Dean’s stoppage of the Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Ben Rothwell fight. Rothwell was rocked on several occasions, but was still standing before shooting for a desperation takedown. The problem was, Dean interpreted it as Rothwell collapsing underneath the barrage of punches from de Lima, prompting Dean to step in and stop the fight even though Rothwell was attempting to defend himself by taking the fight to the mat. However, as the takedown began to reveal itself, Dean showed hesitancy, pulling back as he started to break them up. By then, it was too late and the contest needed to be stopped. I don’t want to crap too much on Dean as it was a bad situation for him, but when you’re at the level of the UFC, you need to be the best in the business. Dean has always been on the inconsistent side, but it feels like there have been far more downs than ups for him as of late. Even Uncle Dana has voiced his opinion on Dean’s less-than-stellar moments.
Do What You Do Best: The stock of Felicia Spencer had never been lower than it was after her loss to Norma Dumont. The former Invicta featherweight champion opted to stand and trade for the entirety of the contest, having no official takedowns on her record for the fight despite her grappling clearly being her biggest strength. It appears her coaches noticed as well as Spencer wasted no time looking to smother and take Leah Letson to the mat. I get when a fighter further develops a skill set outside of their wheelhouse, it’s like a band wanting to play their new music on tour. The problem is, that new music isn’t what sold them millions of records; it’s the old stuff people want to hear. For fighters, it’s your base that brought them to the dance, brought them success. Spencer got the message and snapped a two-fight losing streak.
Something Missing.... There is no doubt Holloway and Rodriguez had one of the best fights of the year. However, I get the feeling it would have been more awesome if it had something that has been missing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: fans. The week prior at UFC 268 kind of emphasizes it. The contest between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler was an instant classic. However, seeing how they fed off the energy of the fans, it makes me wonder if it would have had the same vibe had the fans not been there. On that same token, I wonder how much better Holloway and Rodriguez could have been if they had been able to absorb the crowd energy. The APEX Center has allowed the UFC to continue to hold events and allow fighters to receive paychecks in the process, so I don’t want to rip on how the situation has worked out. However, I’m anxious for every card to take place in front of a live audience.