UFC Vegas 25 started slow. Eight of the first nine fight went the distance. The one fight that ended early did so thanks to an illegal kick and a disqualification. Yes, there were a few good performances in that mix. T.J. Brown and Kai Kamaka delivered a good back and forth striking battle. Merab Dvalishvili showed everyone he’s still improving with his win over Cody Stamann. Sean Strickland reminded fans that his striking skills are a problem for the middleweight division. However, the co-main event and main event made the slog worthwhile.
In the co-headliner Giga Chikadze showed those who were questioning why his arrival in the UFC was so hyped when he disposed of Cub Swanson with a nasty liver kick 63 seconds into their featherweight bout. Meanwhile, in the headlining bout, Jiri Prochazka established himself as a light heavyweight contender with a vicious knockout win over former title challenger Dominick Reyes.
Chikadze and Prochazka both won fight-night bonus awards for their performances, but it was Prochazka who was the big winner of the night. With just two UFC fights on his record, the Czech fighter penciled his name in as a potential opponent for the winner of the upcoming fight between UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira.
Everything about Prochazka points to him being a potential star for the UFC. He’s young enough to have a long career with the promotion. His personality is a refreshing throwback to a time when being a martial artist was more important than being a trash talking goon. His appeal seems as if it should be able to cross the nationalistic boundaries that limit some competitors and his style is just weird, awkward and yes, crazy, enough to appeal to almost any type of MMA fan.
Read on for the other winners and losers from UFC Vegas 25.
Jiri Prochazka: Jiri Prochazka looks like he will be a real problem in the 205-pound division. The 28-year-old disposed of two-time light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes with relative ease.
Prochazka’s style shouldn’t work. He keeps his hands low, charges forward, takes shots he shouldn’t and then knocks out his foe. I don’t know how long his approach will last, but I know he is entertaining as all get out and looks like he is on his way to a title fight.
His second-round knockout win over Reyes puts him on a run of 10 consecutive knockout wins, and his approach to the fight game is refreshing. Prochazka lets his actions in the cage speak for him, which is a welcome change these days where a big mouth seems more important than big skills.
I suspect Prochazka has earned himself a substantial UFC fan base after his first two fights with the promotion.
Giga Chikadze: It took Giga Chikadze 63 seconds to finish Cub Swanson. A perfectly placed liver kick dropped Swanson to the mat and a few head strikes Brough the fight to a close. Chikadze was the No. 14 ranked featherweight at the start of this matchup and I expect he will rise when the new rankings are published in the coming week. Chikadze said he wants to face Max Holloway or Calvin Kattar in his next outing. I don’t know if he’ll get that opportunity, but I wouldn’t complain about either of those bookings.
Sean Strickland: After two years off because of a motorcycle accident, Sean Strickland moved to middleweight. Since that move, Strickland has gone 3-0. His third win at 185 came on Saturday when he ended the three-fight winning streak of Krzysztof Jotko. Strickland won the contest thanks to his crisp, compact and effective striking. Strickland might not be the flashiest 185-pounder out there, but he’s tough, confident and keeps winning and that makes him worth watching.
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Cody Stamann: The bantamweight contest between Merab Dvalishvili and Cody Stamann was a fun one, and it was a friendly reminder that Dvalishvili is someone to keep an eye on in the 135-pound division. Dvalishvili was nonstop movement against Stamann. He racked up five takedowns while landing 108 total strikes.
What I really liked about Dvalishvili’s performance in this matchup was how he seamlessly moved from takedown attempts to striking when he could not put Stamann on the mat.
Stamann was a game opponent for Dvalishvili. He did his best, but the pace and wrestling of Dvalishvili was just too much for him on Saturday night.
Kai Kamaka III vs T.J. Brown: The featherweight bout between Kai Kamaka III and T.J. Brown was an entertaining scrap, and it was a close one as well. Brown took the split decision, but both fighters should see their stock rise after this one.
Both men impressed with their striking with Brown switching his stances, using head movement and fighting behind a solid jab. Meanwhile, Kamaka did a solid job of timing his counters. Brown was also aggressive with his jiu jitsu off his back.
One thing I especially liked about this fight was that both men were clearly looking for the finish throughout the entire 15-minute scrap.
Luana Carolina: Luana Carolina had a slow start against Poliana Botelho, however she came out aggressive in the second round and seemed to take control of the fight. She did well in the clinch and showed great patience on the ground, which allowed her to control the third round and get the win.
Loma Lookboonmee: Loma Lookboonmee was the biggest favorite on the card, and she performed well. The 25-year-old was aggressive and confident. She showed good power, nasty ground strikes, and seemed to have a bit of a mean streak in her. She left herself open for the straight punches of her opponent, Sam Hughes, and she struggled when Hughes put her up against the cage. But Lookboonmee is only eight fights into her career and I think she’ll continue to develop.
Andreas Michailidis: I want to be clear; I am judging Andreas Michailidis strictly on what happened during his fight opposite KB Bhullar. If I looked at Michailidis in the big picture, I think he would have landed in the “neither” category. Michailidis had heavy strikes and showed varied techniques and won the fight with ease. He controlled every moment of the contest, but I can’t help wonder what would have happened if he had an opponent who would have countered him or pushed him when he seemed to lose energy as the fight continued.
Dominick Reyes: Dominick Reyes was aggressive to start the main event against Jiri Prochazka, but his opponent was unbothered by his efforts. Even when Reyes seemed to hurt Prochazka, Prochazka shook it off, adjusted and came back stronger. Reyes deserves some credit for staying in the fight as long as he did, but in the end, Prochazka outclassed him.
Krzysztof Jotko: Krzysztof Jotko allowed Sean Strickland to keep him fighting off his back foot for most of their middleweight bout. With that, Jotko could not generate much sustained striking offense.
Randa Markos: Randa Markos was aggressive in her striking, but her pushing forward left her in the position to get thrown around the cage by her judo-based opponent, Luana Pinheiro. Had Markos been able to be aggressive, but keep her distance, it would have been better for her.
Poliana Botelho: Poliana Botelho had a good first round against Luana Carolina, but she could not maintain her advantage. Carolina almost completely controlled Botelho on the mat in the third round.
Sam Hughes: Sam Hughes did a nice job landing straight punches against Loma Lookboonmee and she did well when she closed distance, but she had little to offer her opponent outside of that during their 15-minute contest.
KB Bhullar: KB Bhullar might not be long for the UFC. He lost his first UFC contest via first-round TKO. He lost his second UFC fight in an uninspired manner. Bhullar was far too reserved during his loss to Andreas Michailidis. He didn’t show any aggression during the 15-minute contest and allowed his opponent to dictate everything about the fight.
Luke Sanders: Luke Sanders was 10-0 when he made his UFC debut. A form RFA champ, Sanders scored a “Performance of the Night” bonus in his UFC debut. From there, Sanders has had a tough time. He lost a unanimous decision to Felipe Colares on Saturday to move his UFC record to 3-5. Sanders is a good athlete with good skills, but his cardio is an issue. He seems to start strong and fade quickly. That scenario played out again on Saturday.
DQ vs. NC: I don’t know what can be done, but when a fight ends on a foul, the sport needs to find some way to get some consistency in deciding if the final call will be a no contest or a disqualification.
Paul Felder: I understand commentators can sometimes forget themselves and react like fans, but when an active fighter spouts an immediate opinion that comes across as more fan than professional commentator, well, that’s not good. Paul Felder let emotion get the best of him during the Luana Pinheiro vs. Randa Markos scrap when he said Pinheiro was acting after the illegal kick. Felder should know better. I think he realized his error, but that came after the damage had been done. Let’s call it a learning experience.
Dustin Jacoby: Dustin Jacoby had a bad first round against Ion Cutelaba, but he turned things around in the final 10 minutes, but it was not enough to score a victory. The takeaway for Jacoby, who is a skilled kickboxer, is that he needs to work on takedown defense and to not be forced and held against the cage.
Ion Cutelaba: Ion Cutelaba had a great first round against Dustin Jacoby. He did an excellent job with his takedowns, scoring eight in the first stanza while outstriking Jacoby 45-11. The final 10 minutes of the fight did not go as well for Cutelaba as Jacoby seemed to carry the second and third rounds. If Cutelaba develops better cardio, he could turn into someone to watch. As it stands, any fighter who can get past Cutelaba in the first round has a chance to score a win over the 27-year-old.
Luana Pinheiro: Randa Markos showed the rest of the strawweight division they don’t want to tangle inside the clinch with Luana Pinheiro. Pinheiro’s judo throws are nasty and if she can get a hold of her opponent, they are going for a ride.
Felipe Corales: Felipe Corales defeated Luke Sanders in the opening fight of the night. The former Jungle Fight champion is now 2-2 in the UFC. Corales showed a lot of grit and heart in this contest. That, and stronger cardio, was what won him the fight. Corales showed promise, but he still made some pretty basic mistakes that leave me concerned since he is 12 fights into his pro career. His strikes sometimes put him out of position and allowed him to get tagged with counters. Corales was also on his way to a stoppage in the second round, but he paused his striking assault to glance at the referee and that allowed Sanders to improve his position. That brief break might have cost Corales the stoppage victory. Corales is a good fighter, but he might need a change of camp to reach the next level.