UFC Vegas 30 has come and gone, proving to be a satisfying block of entertainment for fight junkies. The main event saw Ciryl Gane remain undefeated, comfortably outpointing Alexander Volkov behind the strength of his jab and slick footwork. Whether it was enough to get him a shot at the belt can be debated – my guess is Uncle Dana wants to see more of a blood and guts style from him – but that was clearly the biggest storyline out of the event. Of course, like with any card, there are other lesser-known storylines that were advanced, so let’s touch on those with my Unofficial Awards.
Biggest Jump in Stock: It usually is somewhat difficult to figure out who most benefitted most immediately from any event, but this one felt pretty clear to me. Though no one doubted the talent of Timur Valiev, he never had the breakthrough performance many expected of him. As it never came, it was no longer expected… until Valiev was able to outpoint Raoni Barcelos. There can be a debate over whether Valiev rightfully won – I scored it for Barcelos – but his toughness and ability to dig deep can’t be questioned. Plus, even if he hadn’t won, being able to hang with Barcelos would have been an impressive statement on its own. Valiev is asking for a ranked opponent, something I wouldn’t oppose, but I get the feeling it isn’t going to happen.
Biggest Fall in Stock: Ovince Saint Preux’s stock had already fallen dramatically from a few years ago, but it continued its rapid descent as he did next to nothing against Tanner Boser. OSP had frequently been able to capitalize on a single big attack when he was at his peak. It is harder for him to rely on that same fight style now that he’s older and less explosive. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to know how to fight any other way and it saw him eating a lot of damage at the hands of Boser before the fight came to an end. OSP isn’t going to be cut, but he appears to be on borrowed time.
Best Newcomer: The only newcomer was Jeremiah Wells, but the compact welterweight made the most of his opportunity. Though he looked great in the opening round against Warlley Alves, there was concern he might have burned himself out as Alves seemed to be turning the tide at the end of the first round. All it took was one big right hook early in the second to firmly put Wells back in control. Well, it actually gave him the win, but y’all get where I’m coming from.
Start Typing a Resume: In his first contest back from an extended suspension, Michel Prazeres didn’t look so hot. Of course, the contest appeared to be out of a classic Pride sideshow contest as Shavkat Rakhmonov was far taller than Prazeres, but that doesn’t mean it was an unwinnable fight for the Brazilian… at least on paper it didn’t appear to be. Even with the loss, Prazeres owns a 10-4 UFC record, but he’s also on a two-fight losing streak at the age of 39. Add that his fights have never been aesthetically pleasing and there wouldn’t be any surprise if the UFC let him loose.
Given he’s more than willing to engage in a fan friendly style, it’s possible Ike Villanueva could retain his employment in the UFC. He’s an experienced body who could give a prospect cage time and just enough of a challenge that it isn’t a cakewalk to get past him. But it could also be argued there are plenty of other candidates who could do that job and may be able to develop into something more. While Villanueva isn’t riding consecutive losses, his 1-3 UFC record is porous in addition to lacking upside.
It was well publicized that Justin Jaynes bet his entire purse on himself. That he was fighting for his job was well publicized too. Unfortunately, the bookie keeps Jaynes paycheck and he’ll be looking to fight in another organization. What really stings about Jaynes’ loss to Charles Rosa is he might have held on to both his paycheck and job if he had avoided a late takedown when he was piecing up Rosa on the feet. There’s a good chance Jaynes will be wondering what-if with regards to that takedown for the rest of his life.
I’m not so sure Yancy Medeiros is going to be cut despite coming up short for the fourth time in a row. While no one is arguing he deserved the win over Damir Hadzovic, Medeiros looked better than he has in years, coming thisclose to securing a RNC win in the closing seconds of a fight that was well deserving of $50K. That’s the type of performance Uncle Dana loves and Medeiros has been a favorite of the brass for a while, so he could stick around. Regardless, he might want to have a fresh resume handy.
Saved Their Job(s): It might come as a surprise given the amount of those who look like they could be cut loose, but there aren’t a whole lot that appear to have saved their jobs. Some would argue Marcin Prachnio belongs in the category and the argument is understandable. He was entering the event on a win, but it was his only win in four previous tries, meaning a loss to Villanueva would have dropped him to 1-4 in the UFC. While I don’t think Prachnio would have been released, it’s only fair I put him here.
I’ve been up and down on Hadzovic. After his win over Medeiros, I’ve never been higher on him. He mixed explosive bursts of strikes with well-timed takedowns, taking the fight to Medeiros on multiple levels. He did slow as Medeiros refused to be finished, but it’s hard to believe most wouldn’t have been put away at some point as Hadzovic laid the punishment on thick.
I’ll give Boser an honorable mention as he entered the fight on a two-fight losing streak, but I think he would have been brought back unless he came out looking absolutely flat. The UFC did extend his contract before the event after all.
Cure for Insomnia: As a whole, there wasn’t a bad fight. However, the first round between Kennedy Nzechukwu and Danilo Marquis, though unique, was pretty damned boring. No disrespect to Marquis being able to ride the back of Nzechukwu from the opening seconds of the fight until the end of the first round, but there wasn’t a lot going on during that time. The final two rounds were vastly different from the first round to salvage the entirety of the fight, but I can pass on ever watching the first round again.
Never Seen That Before: While there wasn’t a lot going on between Nzechukwu and Marquis in their opening round, I can’t remember the last time I saw a light heavyweight – or heavyweight for that matter – backpack their opposition for more than a minute, much less for an entire round. Demian Maia did so to Jon Fitch, as did Diego Sanchez to John Alessio, but those are significantly smaller masses of human. Granted, Nzechukwu deserves some credit for enduring Marquis riding his back that long.
Best WOW Moment: There were a number of impressive finishes on the card – Wells’ KO of Alves probably being the most impressive – but the moment that had me sitting up the most wasn’t a finish. It was when Raoni Barcelos connected with an uppercut that seemed it should have decapitated Valiev that had me immediately sitting up. That Valiev was still conscious only added to the moment as there were few who were watching that believed the fight wouldn’t be over upon the initial viewing of the intense blow. Feel free to disagree, but I found it to be the most dramatic moment of the night.
Best/Worst Referee Call: Many were quick to jump all over Jason Herzog when he didn’t penalize Tanner Boser for grabbing the fence to climb to his feet. However, upon viewing the replay, it appeared Boser didn’t grab the fence to get back to a vertical position. He did use the fence, but in a wall-walking way that is perfectly legal. Props to Herzog for being willing to take some initial heat before cooler heads prevailed. Kudos to Herzog for trusting in what he saw. OSP has stated he intends to appeal to have the result overturned, but it’s hard to believe he’ll succeed.
(Author’s note: In an effort to keep my ideas as original as possible, I try to avoid other articles and podcasts until I’ve posted my Unofficial Awards piece. As a result, I missed that OSP was appealing Herzog touching him when he initially believed Boser was grabbing the fence. I was in error and accept full responsibility for my ignorance and have to admit that was a poor piece of officiating from Herzog. However, I also feel it is important for me to own my mistakes and rather than edit the piece so that it never existed, I’ll leave it up with my error in full view)
Theme of the Night: Not only did all three submissions recorded on the event come by way of RNC, the opening contest came thisclose to ending with one as Hadzovic was able to hold onto long enough for the final bell to ring to signal the end of the fight. Plus, what type of submission would Marquis be looking for if he was riding the back of Nzechuwu? Yep, an RNC. While I understand RNC’s are one of the most common submissions, it’s rare to have that many fights end in that manner.
Unofficial Win: If there is one thing most MMA fans could change about the sport, a majority of them would find a way to eliminate eye pokes. A perfect example of why that would be at the top of the list was the end of the bout between Andre Fili and Daniel Pineda. Putting on the most complete performance of his career, Fili had what seemed to be a surefire win snatched from him when an inadvertent eye poke to Pineda put an end to the action. Pineda did everything in his power to convince the referee to let the contest continue, but it was clear Pineda couldn’t see out of the eye. Not enough time had elapsed to allow for a truncated decision, so it was declared a no contest, leaving Fili without a win bonus that felt inevitable right before the poke occurred. Those with long memories will view it as a win for Fili, but that doesn’t do him any good in the now.
Ultimate Gatekeeper: MMA is a weird sport that frequently has the script change at the drop of a hat. However, the script has Volkov playing high level gatekeeper for the next little while. I would say it’s safe to label him as an elite heavyweight, but he’s at the bottom rung of elite heavyweights with losses to the others that populate that tier such as Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, and now Gane. The problem is that he also appears to be firmly ahead of those who are looking to further climb the ladder in Marcin Tybura and Chris Daukaus, thus why I’m willing call Volkov elite, or at the very least, in a tier by himself. Of course, there’s a reason the fights take place – so we can discover where the participants stand — but Volkov is holding steady for a while.