We survived a few cancellations but UFC Vegas 26 is in the books, and outside of one almost predictable heavyweight borefest, this was an alright card. In the main event, Marina Rodriguez made the most of her short notice booking against Michelle Waterson and really just took Michelle apart with an onslaught of punishing offense through the first three rounds. If there were any concerns about her gas tank in a five-rounder I think she answered those questions quite impressively given the circumstances.
With all of that said, Waterson made a late charge by finally getting her wrestling going in round four and keeping Rodriguez on the ground while landing some sharp elbows. In the fifth round a head kick rocked Rodriguez and for some reason either Waterson didn’t notice it or she just really did not realize how hurt Marina was. That was her opportunity to get the finish and instead she pretty much lost the rest of the round and never got another takedown.
I know this matchup was a bit of a downer substitute considering this should’ve been TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen, but it was nevertheless a very good contest to watch and an impressive display by Rodriguez to get what is yet another big win for her in the loaded women’s 115 lbs division. (Yeah I know this was at flyweight but it’s very relevant to 115)
More thoughts below:
- Donald Cerrone is done. Hate to say it but it’s true. Alex Morono is the type of fighter he used to blast out by being more technical and more clinical even if his defense wasn’t there. Well his defense wasn’t there and his chin is gone. Morono blasted him late in the opening round with a right hand and never let up. Fair play to Morono for dominating Cowboy on short notice, and I think I’d rather see Cerrone just retire because the list of UFC fighters at 155 or 170 he could beat right now is now much smaller than the list of those that could beat him.
- Pace, pace, and more pace. Neil Magny may lack serious power but he makes up for it by constantly having offensive attacks and wearing on people in the clinch, and that’s how he beat Geoff Neal to win the unanimous decision. It was a puzzling fight strategy from Neal, who was all too willing to crash into the clinch and he was largely boxing heavy — maybe cognizant of the takedowns from Magny but he stopped almost all of those. Magny is back in the win column whereas Neal’s momentum has stalled with a second straight loss.
- Marcos Rogerio de Lima took Maurice Greene down in all three rounds and just largely spent the fight in top control with not a lot of super damaging offense. The fight was somehow worse than I’d feared and I have to think Greene is getting cut for that completely non-competitive showing. I’m hardly interested in any more ‘Pezao’ fights, either.
- What a battle between Gregor Gillespie and Diego Ferreira! There were too many grappling transitions to count just in round one alone, and it was the Brazilian who had the advantage and hurt Gillespie on the feet and on the ground with a late elbow strike. But Ferreira did miss weight badly for this one and he was the one who faded in this grueling matchup, as the end of round two proved to be Gillespie’s turn to get flattened out back mount. Ferreira was exhausted and effectively gave up as Gillespie beat him up for the ground-and-pound TKO. Thrilling fight and a big win for Gillespie in his first appearance since his loss to Kevin Lee in 2019. Tough one for Ferreira, who’s now dropped two straight high-paced bouts to top-level competition. Ain’t 155 great?
- Middleweight Phil Hawes looked much improved from his last fight — he won vs. Nassourdine Imavov but more or less survived towards the end — and really came on strongly to defeat Kyle Daukaus by unanimous decision. His chin had been an issue before but he withstood a backfist and a flurry of punches from Daukaus in round two, then turned the tables on Kyle and drilled him with a lot of well-placed, energy-sapping body blows. The third round was a beatdown on the ground to improve his UFC mark to 3-0.
- Mike Trizano said he needed to get to work in the third round and boy did he ever go to work against L’udovit Klein. He hurt him early in the round with a right hand and came within seconds of getting a guillotine choke at the horn. With that said... I don’t see how all three judges gave him the fight, let alone the one who had it 30-27. Klein I felt did the better work in rounds one and two off the back foot and with his counters, but the judges saw it differently. Certainly an entertaining scrap but I don’t think the correct hand was raised.
- Jun Yong Park (and his staph infection?) withstood two terrifying shots to the groin and he used his wrestling and ground-and-pound in the final round to lock up an impressive win over prospect Tagon Nchukwi by majority decision. That 28-28 scorecard was unquestionably bad, as Park should’ve won the first and last rounds. The South Korean middleweight is 3-1 inside the Octagon and while he’s not a dangerous finisher, his ground work from the top is nothing to mess with.
- Guyana represent! Carlston Harris made his UFC debut in style against Christian Aguilera. A hard left hook had Aguilera stunned and backing up, then after a right hand Aguilera pretty much panic wrestled into his doom. Harris locked up an anaconda choke and Aguilera went limp and out cold in just under three minutes. What a great victory and it’s a historic moment as he’s the very first Guyanese fighter in UFC history.