Rob Font made a messy situation even more muddled when he scored a dominant win over Cody Garbrandt in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 27 fight card.
UFC bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling is on the mend from surgery and is expected to face ex-titleholder Petr Yan when he’s ready to get back into the octagon. In July, ex-champion T.J. Dillashaw returns from a USADA suspension to face the surging Cory Sandhagen. Following his win over Garbrandt, Font’s name will ring out with those other contenders. That’s a mess, but it’s a splendid type of disorder. The type of chaos that ensures the top of the bantamweight division is going to be extremely competitive for a while.
If there were questions about who should get the next shot at the strawweight title, former 115-pound queen Carla Esparza seemed to answer those inquiries in the evening’s co-main event. Esparza beat Yan Xiaonan bloody and scored her first finish since she won the inaugural title by submitting current champ Rose Namajunas in 2014.
UFC Vegas 27 took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, the entire fight card streamed on ESPN+.
Read on for the winners and losers from the event.
Rob Font: Every once in a while an MMA competitor fights behind a jab so well, one sits and ponders, “why is this so rare?” Saturday was one of those nights. Rob Font, who has some of the best boxing in the UFC’s bantamweight used his length and jab to keep Cody Garbrandt backing up for most of the final three rounds of their UFC Vegas 27 main event.
Font seemed to know that Garbrandt would fade after the first two rounds. He upped his output in the final three rounds and whenever he could, he unloaded combinations.
Font dominated the contest, and in doing so he made the top of the 135-pound division even more interesting than it was.
Carla Esparza: Carla Esparza picked a great time to make a statement. The former strawweight champion watched the woman she defeated to get that title in 2014, Rose Namajunas, win the belt for a second time last month. On Saturday, with a potential rematch against Namajunas on the line, Esparza scored her first stoppage win since she submitted Namajunas. Esparza positively ran through Yan Xiaonan in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 27. Esparza’s wrestling set up ground strikes that bloodied Xiaonan in the first stanza. The ex-champ scored another takedown in the second round and transitioned to a crucifix before she unloaded more ground strikes, which Brough the ref in for the TKO stoppage. With the win, Esparza has five straight victories, which is the longest winning streak of her UFC career.
Ben Rothwell: Ben Rothwell was patient and calm in his bout against Chris Barnett. The veteran got the win he was expected to earn in this matchup giving him a bounce back from his October loss to Marcin Tybura.
Court McGee: Court McGee is one of those guys who fans often forget about until fight night. That’s not meant to be an insult. He’s one of the UFC’s lunchpail guys, someone who goes out there and puts in a workmanlike performance inside the octagon. McGee’s fights are nothing fancy, but there’s a reason the promotion has kept McGee around since 2010. He entered UFC Vegas 27 on a 1-5 run. He ended a three-fight losing skid with a dominant performance over Claudio Silva.
Bruno Gustavo da Silva: Bruno Gustavo da Silva started his UFC career with a 0-2-0-1 record. Something obviously changed between his October 2020 los and his first fight of 2021. In that contest, which took place in March, Da Silva scored a TKO win over JP Buys. On Saturday, it took him all of 60 seconds to put away Victor Rodriguez via strikes. It was an impressive win for Da Silva.
Josh Culibao: Josh Culibao opened his UFC career with a loss and a draw. On Saturday, he scored his first promotional victory. Culibao defeated Shayilan Nuerdanbieke behind an impressive striking game. He used his jab and low leg kick effectively to take the decision win.
David Dvorak: David Dvorak had to make some late adjustments when he got a last-minute replacement in Juancamilo Ronderos. Dvorak had no problem in dispatching Ronderos, submitting him via a one-armed rear-naked choke. With the submission win, Dvorak remains undefeated since 2012. Hopefully we’ll get to see Dvorak, who is a top-15 ranked flyweight, face a ranked opponent in his next outing.
Damir Ismagulov: Damir Ismagulov fought for the first time since 2019 at UFC Vegas 27. The bout was also the 30-year-old fighters first contest in North America. Ismagulov had a solid first two rounds. He had a brief moment of concern in the opening seconds of the scrap when Rafael Alves scored an early knockdown and a submission attempt, but he remained calm and dominated the rest of the round with some nasty and compact body strikes. Ismagulov also carried the second round with his striking before giving the third stanza to Alves. A solid, but unspectacular victory for Ismagulov, but the victory allowed him to get 15 minutes of octagon time in and hopefully we’ll see more of him in the lightweight division.
Court McGee’s neighbor: After his win, Court McGee gave a shot out to his neighbor. McGee said the woman who lives across the street from him, who is a 70-year-old widow, told him to go out and be “The Crusher” for the time he is in the octagon. McGee said that inspired him before UFC Vegas 27.
Cody Garbrandt: Cody Garbrandt returned from a long layoff because os injuries and a serious case of COVID-19 on Saturday and things didn’t go his way. He did his best to defend against the boxing of Rob Font, but outside of three takedowns in the first two rounds and some heavy strikes spread throughout the 25-minute contest, Garbrandt had little to offer Font. Garbrandt is mired in a 1-4 run after starting his career at 11-0.
Yan Xiaonan: It can’t be put any simpler than this, Yan Xiaonan had nothing for the wrestling and ground strikes of Carla Esparza. She got bludgeoned.
Felicia Spencer: Felicia Spencer has not had an easy UFC run. The former Invicta FC featherweight champ had losses against Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes ahead of Saturday’s matchup against Norma Dumont. Spencer added another loss to her UFC run when she fell to Dumont via decision.
Fans might get a good idea about the future of the women’s 145-pound division in the UFC if the promotion releases Spencer after her loss to Dumont.
Bill Algeo: Bill Algeo might have gotten away with the hands down around the waist approach outside of the UFC — however he has non-UFC losses to Shane Burgos and Jared Gordon, so maybe not — but after his loss to Ricardo Ramos at UFC Vegas 27, Algeo is 1-2 in the UFC. Algeo needs to up his defense or develop knockout power if he plans to stick around with the promotion. It’s probably easier to work on defense.
Edmen Shahbazyan: I felt the matchup Edmen Shahbazyan had at UFC Vegas 27 was high risk and intermediate reward. We knew Shahbazyan had the striking advantage and after the first round it looked as if he was going to pull off the upset victory when he stopped Jack Hermansson’s takedowns at distance.
Shahbazyan’s luck run out in the final 10 minutes when Hermansson removed the distance between the two and put Shahbazyan on the mat.
After starting his career 1t 11-0, Shahbazyan, who is still just 23, has now lost two fights in a row and his opponents in those bouts took him down seven times. It’s clear Shahbazyan needs to work on his wrestling defense and his work from his back. Shahbazyan might need to look outside his team for help. Shahbazyan’s next fight will be the most important of his career.
Chris Barnett: Chris Barnett has been slugging it out as a pro since 2009, so it was nice to see the 5’9” heavyweight get a late call up for UFC Vegas 27. Unfortunately for Barnett, he had little to offer Ben Rothwell and his six-fight winning streak ended with a second-round tapout.
Claudio Silva: If a fighter is going to face Court McGee, they better spend a lot of time doing roadwork and making sure their cardio is up to snuff. Claudio Silva did not do that.
Shayilan Nuerdanbieke: Shayilan Nuerdanbieke made his UFC debut on Saturday in a losing effort to Josh Culibao. If there was one takeaway from Nuerdanbieke’s first UFC outing, it was that he needs to become more well-rounded and less reliant on his wrestling.
Rafael Alves: Rafael Alves made his UFC debut on Saturday and although he lost a decision to Damir Ismagulov he showed some promise. He was extremely athletic and showcased good cardio, but his physical capabilities far outweighed his MMA skills. Alves is 30 so I don’t know if he’ll ever put everything together to succeed, but he’ll be fun to watch for as long as he hangs around the UFC.
UFC and Nevada State Athletic Commission: It’s a fact that Cody Garbrandt endured a particularly brutal case of COVID-19 that left him with long-term effects of COVID-19 including blood clots, pneumonia, and mental fog.
In the lead up to the fight, I asked both the UFC and the Nevada State Athletic Commission if it was doing any additional testing to ensure that Garbrandt was healthy enough to fight. Neither the UFC nor NSAC replied to my inquiry. I didn’t even warrant a “no comment.”
We don’t know the long-term effects COVID-19 will have on athletes, one would think an organization that is quick to promote how it goes above and beyond for safety would show that it does so.
UFC Europe: A verified Twitter account for the UFC celebrated a fighter begging for money from UFC president Dana White. That goes to show the low pay of UFC fighters is not a bug. It’s a feature built into the business. Unseemly would be a good way to describe the tweet.
Jared Vanderaa: Jared Vanderaa scored his first UFC win on Saturday with a solid mix of striking techniques and targets. It was mostly what we have come to expect from a battle between two very large heavyweights.
Norma Dumont: Norma Dumont is seven fights into her MMA career. She scored her second UFC win on Saturday when she topped Felicia Spencer by decision. After the win, Dumont said she wants to move to 135 and I think that’s the right move for her. After all, the next fight for her at 145 might be Amanda Nunes and Dumont is not ready for that.
Ricardo Ramos: Ricardo Ramos bounced back from a July 2020 knockout loss to Lerone Murphy with a decision win over Bill Algeo on Saturday. Ramos has some skills, but he tends to get sloppy and run out of gas. He did both against Algeo, but he had more tools than Algeo and that’s what earned him the win. Ramos needs to work on pace and cardio, but 18 fights into his career, what we see is probably what we’re going to get from Ramos.