We all knew a coming down had to happen sooner rather than later. The hope was just that it wouldn’t be so dramatic. There’s no easy way to put it: UFC Vegas 43 wasn’t a good card.
10 of the 11 contests went to decision. And while a fight going to decision doesn’t automatically make it bad, having a change in flavor is key to serving up a multi-course meal. It took nine fights until that change up occurred; by then, the mood for the night was already set.
It didn’t help that the main event between Miesha Tate and Ketlen Vieira went the distance in a very deliberate pace. It wasn’t a bad fight – there were even several flurries that created some excitement – but it wasn’t the fight that was needed to save the mood of the evening. My first instinct wasn’t to call it the worst card of the year, but I also couldn’t come up with another one that really competes for the title.
Establishing what type of event it was, I’ll somewhat reluctantly give a rundown of the best and worst happenings of the evening with my Unofficial Awards....
For an audio recap of the event, click here.
Biggest Jump in Stock:
It’s a clear choice between two fighters, but I’m picking Taila Santos over Sean Brady. Brady’s performance was enough to get him a win over an established talent in Michael Chiesa, but Santos tore through Joanne Wood as though she were wrapping paper. Not only did Santos secure the only finish of the night with a RNC, she also secured a pair of knockdowns. Wood simply couldn’t handle the power Santos was bringing. Just over a year ago, a win over Wood was enough to secure a title shot for Jennifer Maia. It probably won’t be enough for Santos to get a shot at Valentina Shevchenko, but that should give an idea about where Santos will be in the big picture with the win.
Biggest Fall in Stock:
I hate to point to Wood given I picked Santos as the biggest stock gainer, but it can’t be denied she lost more ground than the likes of Tate or Chiesa. The loss was the Syndicate MMA fighter’s third in her last four fights, after she had been scheduled to fight Shevchenko for the title at one point last year. Now, she looks like nothing more than a gatekeeper. Knowing she’s set to turn 36 next month, it looks like Wood is on the backside of her career—unlikely to return to consideration as a title contender. Given all the hype that surrounded Wood when she first entered the UFC, it’s fair to question whether her run could be considered a disappointment.
Start Typing a Resume:
It wouldn’t be crazy to see the UFC keep Sean Soriano around for one more fight, but his 0-5 Octagon record is hard to ignore. I get that record comes across two stints, but his fight with Shayilan Nuerdanbieke appeared to be his most winnable contest to date and Soriano came up short. No longer a youthful prospect, there’s little motivation for the UFC to keep him around when there is a plethora of younger wolves champing at the bit for an opportunity.
To be fair to Sam Hughes, she was called up to the UFC sooner than I would have liked and the matchmakers did her no favors in who they set her against. The latest loss – dropping her to 0-3 in the UFC – was her most winnable, but Luana Pinheiro was considered to be one of the hottest prospects in the division about a year ago. At 29, Hughes is young enough to work her way back into the organization, but the guess here is that doesn’t happen.
Saved Their Job(s):
Given his UFC debut was extremely flat, Nuerdanbieke either needed an entertaining performance or a victory. It wasn’t the most entertaining fight, but it was a win, so the youngster gets to hang around. Given many attribute his win more to the collapse of Soriano than to anything spectacular by Nuerdanbieke, it isn’t all that promising. Regardless, I’m sure he’ll take that over the alternative.
Biggest WOW Moment:
There weren’t many considerations for this spot. Adrian Yanez and Davey Grant had a hell of a fight, but I wouldn’t say it was good enough to say the whole damn fight was a WOW moment. Thus, Santos dropping Wood as quickly as she did has to be the biggest jaw-dropping moment. Wood has always been considered a durable fighter. After all, those two times she was dropped by Santos were the first two times she has officially been dropped in her UFC career. Even if it is within not exactly known for their power punchers, that’s still 14 fights against some of the best women in the world.
It isn’t uncommon to see fighters talking with one another in the cage, and I don’t mean trash talking. If a fighter got caught cleanly, but is still conscious enough to acknowledge they got hit, you’ll regularly see them tell their opponent it was a nice shot. Something like that. There was a bit of a different level to Chiesa telling Brady “Felder wasn’t lying. You are pretty strong,” when Brady had his back against the fence. It prompted a laugh from both competitors, showing the camaraderie between them, even as they were in the midst of causing bodily harm to one another. Joking between combatants in a basketball contest makes sense. It’s a bit hard to conceive at times during an MMA contest. Regardless, I’m happy to see it.
Highest Decision Percentage:
The event didn’t set the record for the most decisions in a single event – UFC 263 had 11 – but with 10 out of 11 going to the judges, it did set the record for the highest percentage of fights that went to the judges’ scorecards. I suppose it serves as a reminder that whatever comes up, must come down. After all, it’s arguable possible the UFC had just experienced it’s three best consecutive event run in terms of action. That isn’t to say it was an all-time bad card, but it was a big comedown.
Worst Trash Talk:
Perhaps the most talked about moment for the event had nothing to do with a fight, or at least within the happenings of a fight. After a hard-fought win, Cody Durden decided he didn’t want anyone to remember his performance in the cage when he stated “I knew he was going to be tough, but I had to send him back to China where he came from,” in reference to his opponent Aori Qileng. Durden attempted to defend himself both in the post-fight news conference as well as on Twitter, but nobody seems willing to buy his claims. Some of his past tweets didn’t help his cause. I don’t want to dig too deep into this issue, as politics seem to dominate the landscape today, but Durden’s statement felt incredibly stupid. Bottom line, Durden has painted himself as a bigot.
In a night full of methodical performances, Pat Sabatini put on the most methodical performance of all. Every round, Sabatini took Tucker Lutz to the ground and controlled him for long stretches, searching for a submission. There was nothing flashy about his victory, centered around a high degree of fundamental wrestling and grappling throughout the contest. This type of performance won’t secure Sabatini any new fans, but it’s the type of dominance that could make him someone opponents will be reluctant to sign on the dotted line to face.
Best New Leaf:
Davey Grant spent six years in the UFC as someone who made periodical appearances without raising much excitement when viewers saw his name on the card. Over the last two years, however, he’s completely turned over a new leaf. From five appearances in those first six years, he’s fought four times in the last 48 months. And while that’s a great uptick in regularity, even better than that is the fact that Grant has walked away with a Performance Bonus in each of those fights. Even if Grant came up on the short end of the stick Saturday night, against the hyped Yanez, Grant pushed him in ways the younger prospect hasn’t yet been pushed in his UFC run.
Anytime, Anyone, Anywhere:
Lupita Godinez broke the modern-day UFC record for least amount of days passed in the span of three fights, doing so in just 42 days. In a sport where many of the participants regularly tout the idea of fighting anyone, anytime, anywhere, that rarely seems to be the case. Thus, Godinez is creating a nice foundation for a fanbase that is willing to be loyal to her for actually living up to that creed, even when it hurt her when she accepted a fight at flyweight last month. Here’s hoping it builds up some credit within the organization too. Uncle Dana tends to give a long leash to his favorites – see Sam Alvey – and I can’t see why Godinez wouldn’t be one of them at this juncture.
Least Interesting Contender:
No disrespect intended to Vieira, but if this win launched her into talks as a potential challenger for Amanda Nunes, she’s one of the least interesting contenders in any division. Tate may be a former champion, but she’s not too far off a four-plus-year retirement. Her last win before that came over Sijara Eubanks, who went 2-4 at bantamweight before returning to flyweight. Prior to that, he most recent win came back in the spring of 2018. She doesn’t have the resume or the style to excite fans, so I don’t see Uncle Dana being excited to put her in a title fight just yet. She may get a title shot regardless, just for a lack of new challengers, but it’d go a long way if Vieira could put together at least one thrilling victory on her way to contention.