The UFC began running Fight Night events in 2005, capitalizing on the success of TUF and for the fans’ desire to see more of the TUF products. Time has gone on and the Fight Nights are no longer vehicles of TUF products, becoming light versions of PPV cards. Thus, they typically don’t have the highs and lows of PPV’s. So while I wouldn’t say UFC Vegas 32 was one of the all-time great events in UFC history, it was one of the all-time great Fight Night events in the history of the organizations. There was violent finishes, controversial judging, upsets, comebacks, and no shortage of drama. The main event saw TJ Dillashaw return from a two-and-a-half year absence to take a razor thin decision over Cory Sandhagen. While I’m firmly in the belief that contest deserves to be picked over with great intensity, I also figure there’s going to be plenty of other credible analysts who will pick over it, leaving the rest of the card bereft of analysis. Thus, I’m largely going to leave that undocumented and brush up on the rest of the card with my Unofficial Awards….
Biggest Jump in Stock: I know there is a large swathe of fans that believed the Raulian Paiva-Kyler Phillips fight should have been scored a draw, but there were few who were upset with the judges giving Paiva a win based on his winning the last two rounds in a fight had written him out of as soon as the fight was announced. Moving up a class to bantamweight, Paiva is losing his size advantage he usually possessed at flyweight and he’s still going to be slower than a good chunk of his opponents at 135. It didn’t matter against Phillips. Paiva refused to give up, enduring a heavy barrage in the opening round only to come storming back. It could prove to be the defining moment of his career, but for now, it ups the stock of Paiva exponentially.
Biggest Fall in Stock: It’s one thing to be losing to the likes of Derek Brunson, Omari Akhmedov, and Kelvin Gastelum. Those are established names with a history of success. Even though Nassourdine Imavov looks like he’ll be a longtime mainstay, he doesn’t have the value at this point to justify Ian Heinisch losing to him and falling considerably in stock. Throw in the fact that none of those men had been able to finish Heinisch and Imavov did just that, it wouldn’t be unfair to speculate if Heinisch is already on the downside of his UFC career just under three years into it.
Start Typing a Resume: It really pains me to say this, but this could be the end of the line for Jordan Williams. The diabetic has now lost two in a row, putting in a completely noncompetitive performance against Mickey Gall, a guy who has been a punchline for many MMA fans. If I’m the UFC brass, I give him one more chance at middleweight as his usual aggressive self was nowhere to be seen, perhaps having his energy sucked from the weight cut that I have a hard time believing was easy to complete.
Saved Their Job(s): I was ready to see the Mickey Gall experience come to an end. After all, 5 years after he made his debut, you’d think he’d have made significant strides in his striking. Well, it looks like he finally made the expected strides. Gall landed a HEAVY right hand that sent Williams sprawling. It didn’t get him the finish, but it did get Williams’ respect, allowing Gall to operate more comfortably.
Some may disagree, but Sijara Eubanks needed a win if she wanted to stay employed. Not only was she entering the event coming off two consecutive losses, she was facing an inexperienced short notice opponent who was moving up in weight outside of her natural weight class. Eubanks turned in the most dominant performance of her career, getting Elise Reed out of there in less than a round.
Provided she can continue to make the strawweight limit, it looks like Diana Belbita can be an exciting fixture for a long time. She had been overpowered at flyweight and she still had issues with the physicality of Hannah Goldy at times, but her long frame and constant aggression allowed her to overcome Goldy’s pressure.
Never Seen That Before: It didn’t win the fight for him, but Sandhagen’s flying knee into an inverted triangle was the type of stuff only seen in Hollywood. Sandhagen launched himself upwards and Dillashaw ran underneath him to catch him, only for Sandhagen to wrap his legs around the head and shoulder of Dillashaw. A tap certainly would have made it more dramatic, but it was an incredible sequence regardless of the final result that brought shades of Toby Imada and Jorge Masvidal.
Biggest WOW Moment: There were several moments between Kyler Phillips and Raulian Paiva that had the potential to be the highlight of the night. However, what ultimately had my jaw agape was the fact that both were still standing after all the heavy artillery they threw at one another after the first two rounds. The third round saw both of them throwing everything they had left in their tanks at one another, but it not only didn’t have the same oomph behind them, they weren’t landing at the same rate they did earlier either. I’m not crapping on the last round – I’m not going to crap on two guys who left everything in the cage – but there was a different feel to that round than there was the first two rounds, adding to the amazement of the fact both even made it that far.
Cure for Insomnia: There was no reason to include this category other than to state there weren’t any sleep inducing contests. I wasn’t joking when I said this Fight Night event could have been one of the greatest non-PPV events in the history of the organization.
Best/Worst Referee Moment: I’m sure Phillips might disagree given it cost him a win, but Keith Peterson allowing Paiva to continue fighting ended up giving up giving us the official FOTN. There were many on MMA Twitter calling for the fight to be stopped before the end of the first round. I wasn’t quite on that level myself, but I wouldn’t have complained if it had happened. Peterson went with his gut and we all benefited from it.
Worst Robbery: A strong reminder here is warranted to some fans that it isn’t the fault of Maycee Barber that the judges were unable to conceive of what really happened in the cage, so there’s no need to focus any vitriol in her direction. Barber did win the final round and had a nice moment in the second, but Miranda Maverick controlled the first half of the second round very much in the same fashion as she did for the entirety of the first round and ended the second round on the back of Barber. I don’t even think I’d be able to give Barber the second round if I squinted real hard. Sal D’Amato and Dave Hagen – the judges who scored in favor of Barber – should have to justify their scorecard. Unfortunately, that’s not how this sport works. Something fans often forget, it isn’t just wins and losses that are at play in these instances; Maverick’s out a win bonus too.
Best Callout: Eubanks called out an entire slew of fighters, so I’m not going to count that hers. Dillashaw asked for a title shot, which was reasonable enough, but also expected. Brendan Allen wants another crack at Sean Strickland, but there’s no reason to make that fight any time soon. So even though I’m not the biggest fan of Barber’s callout of Jessica Eye, I’d still say it was the best callout. Eye is on a bad skid, having dropped four of her last five. However, she’s been facing some of the top competition in the division and has been competitive enough in some of those fights that her name still has enough value that it represents a step up in competition for Barber. Given most don’t believe Barber deserved the decision, I would have rather seen a step sideways as Barber needs more time to marinate.
Biggest Impact in New Home: There were five fights featuring combatants making a new weight class their home, including all three winners to open the card… and all three of them looked very impressive. However, it felt like an easy call to go with Eubanks. Julio Arce and Belbita both looked good, but do I see either of them entering the official rankings? Not really. Eubanks was once scheduled to fight for the flyweight title only for her conditioning and nutrition to force her up to bantamweight. Back at 125, I don’t think she’ll be able to get that title shot back, but climbing into the top ten appears to be a very realistic expectation.
Worst Commentator: Personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Daniel Cormier as a color commentator. He gets distracted by stupid tangents that have nothing to do with the fight too often for my tastes and is as bad or worse than Joe Rogan about getting stuck on the intricacies of a single thing about the fight. This event could very well have been his worst performance. First, he essentially called Rob Tatum of Combat Press an idiot for giving Punahele Soriano the first round of his fight with Brendan Allen. Given this is the same card that featured two scores that were hotly contested by the MMA community, choosing to piss on a member of the media for a round that could have gone either way – as the majority of the MMA community agreed – isn’t a good look. However, to be transparent, that sequence did occur before the controversial contests, so admittedly, it isn’t the best comparison. Regardless, he should save critique like that for an obvious robbery. Cormier didn’t help his cause when he talked about clinches against the fence with Dillashaw and Sandhagen contest not being counted as takedowns. I can’t say I’m surprised given Cormier’s decorated wrestling background, but what a takedown is is in the name: it’s when you take an opponent down. Plus, the rules dictate the first criteria to be scored is damage, not positioning, but that was what Cormier chose to focus on.
Deepest Pockets: This award is in jest, but both of the controversial decisions of the night – excluding the main event — went in favor of Team Alpha Male representatives in Paiva and Barber. Hell, even the main event went in favor of a former Team Alpha Male fighter! The gym isn’t making as much noise as it did a few years ago, so maybe Urijah Faber offered a few Benjamins towards the judges to give his gym a bit of a boost? As I said, I’m awarding this in jest, but it’s a very curious fact.