Every single event in the UFC furthers along the narrative of company. Some competitors rise to the occasion, others fail spectacularly. Some sustain success for long periods of time, others often find it to be fleeting. Sometimes it is largely inconsequential parts of the narrative, other times it’s some of the central players. Fight Nights tend to focus more on the inconsequential players. Not in this case. UFC Vegas 18 saw several monumental occurrences for the stage, Cory Sandhagen emerging as the central player in a night that had several making worthy cases of taking that honor. I won’t be hitting all narratives in the traditional sense, but you can get a good picture of what happened with these awards.
Biggest Jump in Stock: Imagery can have a hell of an impact on how the viewing audience sees a fighter. Karol Rosa spitting blood as she pounded on Joselyne Edwards is an image I’m having trouble getting out of my mind for all the right reasons. Women’s bantamweight is a shallow division as it is, but she could be facing a top ten opponent next. Not too shabby a year-and-a-half into her UFC career.
Many would make cases for Beneil Dariush and Alexander Volkov too, and with good reason. Both picked up wins over opponents with a higher ranking than them entering the contest in Diego Ferreira and Alistair Overeem respectively. Volkov in particular looked dominant, but some of that has to be attributed to Overeem not showing up. Regardless, they turned plenty of heads.
However, those three only get an honorable mention as Sandhagen has a warrant out for his arrest for the murder of Frankie Edgar. Blasting the legend with a flying knee less than 30 seconds into the contest and putting him out cold had everyone singing Sandhagen’s praises. Had he taken a ho-hum decision, there wouldn’t have been much excitement for him as a potential dance partner for the winner of Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight title. There’s no shortage of excitement now.
Biggest Fall in Stock: There is no doubt Edgar goes here. The former lightweight champion was knocking on the door of a title shot, which would have been a historic title shot in his third division. It doesn’t look like it will come to pass. At 39, Edgar was already an underdog. Now, he’ll have a lot of work to do to get back into the picture, especially if Sandhagen proves capable of putting the gold around his waist. Questions of his durability had already been swirling before this contest. Now, there’s bound to be a tornado of them flying in his face.
An honorable mention has to go to Overeem at the very least. Edgar didn’t get a chance to unwind whereas Overeem looked terrible for the entirety of the contest. Not only are his title hopes dashed, he looked old in the process. He’s looked fragile before, but never old. The only thing saving him is Edgar has looked to be in decline before this point and the ending for Edgar was so sudden. Either way, both looked bad.
Best Newcomer: The only choice was Manel Kape as he was the lone debutant. Though he came up short against Alexandre Pantoja, Kape proved he’s a hell of an addition to a flyweight division that is still building itself back after the UFC came thisclose to killing it a couple of years ago. With a few adjustments, Kape could find his name near the top of the divisional rankings.
Start Typing a Resume: At 0-4, it’s hard to see Martin Day picking up another contest. Timur Valiev took him to the mat and kept him on his back for most of the contest, turning in a completely dominating performance. Jerome Rivera might be another one on the outside looking in as he dropped to 0-3, though he may get some leeway given he fought at featherweight on short notice when he typically fights at 125. Justin Jaynes dropped his third in a row and could be looking for a new employer as well after Devonte Smith blew up his eye. And of course, Michael Johnson found a way to drop another contest it looked like he should have won, dropping him to 3-9 over his last 12. Hard to believe he’ll get another chance at this juncture. It looks like the UFC roster purge will continue.
It should be noted Molly McCann left her gloves in the cage, typically indicative of retirement. However, McCann clarified later she left them there in honor of her father. She may have lost two in a row, but I don’t see the UFC cutting her loose just yet.
Saved Their Job: It was a spirited effort from Youssef Zalal to secure a finish in the last round, but Seung Woo Choi did enough in the first two rounds to ensure he lived to see another day. It was no guarantee he’d be on the cutting room floor with a loss, but no doubt he’d rather not test the UFC brass. The win ensures he won’t.
Biggest WOW Moment: Just about any stoppage that occurs in less than 30 seconds is going to have a certain “wow” factor. Ode Osbourne’s KO of Jerome Rivera was no exception. Using his shoulder to catch most of Rivera’s head kick, he countered with a HARD left immediately after and that was it. Hell of a way to pick up his first UFC win.
Unfortunately for Osbourne, Sandhagen’s flying knee that put Edgar out cold was undeniably THE biggest WOW of the night. Not only was it done in under 30 seconds, he did it to a legend. Not only did he KO a legend, he put him out cold, leaving Edgar to perform the timber routine. Not only that, it earned him a title shot. And – last one, I swear – it is the clear frontrunner for KOoTY at this point.
Cure for Insomnia: I don’t blame Valiev in the least for grinding away at Day after a debut that saw him get caught, but it wasn’t the type of contest you’ll use to introduce a newcomer to the sport of MMA, nor will it give Valiev currency with Uncle Dana. Danilo Marques’ win over Mike Rodriguez had a similar vibe, but Marques at least secured a finish.
Never Seen That Before: Rather than use his time to call out a potential top five opponent, Dariush opted to ask – or was it demand? – the UFC sign Maikel Perez, a 37-year old flyweight with extensive experience in LFA whose only loss in the last three-plus years came to Brandon Moreno. Last time I checked, there is zero shame in losing to the guy who just fought the champ to a draw. I’m usually not a fan of fighters getting a chance based on who they train with, but it’s not like Perez is Charlie Ward getting the rub from Conor McGregor. Regardless, a very unselfish move by Dariush than may not pay any dividends. Whether or not it does, I want a friend like that.
Best Callout: This won’t get a lot of notice, but Ode Osbourne’s callout of Francisco Figueiredo was very perceptive. Osbourne is a long way from competing for the flyweight title – he hasn’t even fought an actual fight in the division – but what better way to get the reigning champion to put an eye on you than to beat his brother? However, I’ll admit it was a night short on callouts, Dariush’s unique callout – if you want to call it a callout – being the only other one.
Best/Worst Referee Call: I know Jaynes was pissed, but credit to Keith Peterson for calling an end to the fight when Jaynes eye ballooned in a cartoonish manner. That mouse looked like it was ready to pop with the slightest amount of pressure. Given it was right below the eye, the eminent danger was too much of a risk. Kudos to Peterson.
Turn Back the Clock: It was a tale of two Clay’s for Clay Guida. He opened his contest looking sharper on the feet than he ever has, landing perfectly placed and timed haymakers that caught Johnson off guard. In the second round, he reverted back to his original form, becoming a wet blanket from which Johnson couldn’t escape. Regardless, it got the longtime veteran a win.
Theme of the Night: There were several contests that saw fighters lose in part, if not fully, due to a singular reason: inactivity. The most notable case was the main event where Volkov land 54 significant strikes whereas Overeem attempted – not landed, attempted – 20. Volkov nearly tripled up the amount of strikes he landed on what Overeem attempted. A sure way to lose a fight is letting your opponent land more than you throw. Kape was another victim as he only attempted 91 to Pantoja’s 149. Same with Zalal, throwing 47 to Choi’s 109. Those weren’t fights where the victor had significantly more control time over their opponent. The loser simply didn’t throw enough meaningful offense.
What the Hell Was That? Right before the conclusion of the Rosa-Edwards fight, there was a very audible noise that sounded like a fart. The fact none of the announcers acknowledged the noise leads even more credence to the idea someone ripped ass on live TV. Many on MMA Twitter seemed to apply blame to Daniel Cormier, but there’s no proof it was him. Whoever let it fly… I applaud you.