Two middleweight competitors on four-fight winning streaks headlined the UFC Vegas 33 fight card. In one corner was Sean Strickland, a man who might just love his job a little too much. In the other corner was Uriah Hall, who has sometime come across as reluctant to rain down violence on his opponents. It was Strickland who moved his winning streak to five straight when he claimed a unanimous decision win over Hall in the five-round bout.
In the co-main event, Cheyanne Buys earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus for a well-timed head kick knockout victory over Gloria de Paula.
The fight card, which once had as many as 15 bouts scheduled, went on with 10 fights on Saturday night.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 33, which took place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Sean Strickland: Sean Strickland continued his winning ways on Saturday when he earned a clear unanimous decision win over Uriah Hall. Strickland used his volume striking, he landed 221 of 472 attempted strikes to get the victory. Fighting behind his jab, Strickland won his fifth straight fight in the UFC and fourth in a row at middleweight.
I don’t know how high the ceiling is for Strickland, who fought in his first main event at UFC Vegas 33, but he earned a shot to take the next step up the ladder with his win over Hall. This was an excellent victory for Strickland and gave him and his team an idea on what they need to work on to better prepare for his next five-round scrap.
Cheyanne Buys: Cheyanne Buys scored an impressive knockout over Gloria de Paula with a perfectly timed head kick while De Paula was getting back to her feet. It was quite a different outcome after she dropped her UFC debut to Montserrat Ruiz in March. The question now becomes, which fight represents the true Cheyanne Buys?
Jared Gooden: Jared Gooden came out for his fight against Niklas Stolze looking to end things quickly. He did that with a powerful and perfectly placed straight right hand. The bout lasted all of 68 seconds and ended a two-fight losing skid for Gooden.
Melsik Baghdasaryan: Melsik Baghdasaryan, who moved from kickboxing to full time MMA in 2019, moved his MMA record since that time to 6-0 — he has a 2014 MMA loss — and he used his kickboxing skills to earn that victory. Baghdasaryan took advantage of a defensive lapse of his opponent, Collin Anglin, when he landed a perfectly placed head kick over the right hand of Anglin.
Baghdasaryan showed power and speed in his striking and did and excellent job of mixing up his targets and techniques. At 29, Baghdasaryan kickboxing background gives him a good base to grow on in the UFC featherweight division.
Jason Witt: Jason Witt seemed as if he did not want to mess with the striking of Bryan Barberena during their welterweight scrap. In the first round, Witt did everything he could to stay out of Barberena’s range and pick up takedowns when he could. In the second round, Witt realized he could take the strike Barberena threw his way, so he was a little less worried about that striking. That approach paid off as he scored a knockdown while still using his wrestling in the second stanza. Things got a little sloppy from both fighters in the third stanza as both fighters faded, but Witt got the win.
Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Rafa Garcia: This was a fun fight. Rafa Garcia had a lot of success early when he could fully extend on his strikes, but when Chris Gruetzemacher walked forward and kept Garcia from landing with power, the fight turned.
Gruetzemacher was effective in keeping Garcia from landing with power, while showing he needed little space to land effective strikes of his own. He did a lot of damage with short strikes in close, while mixing up his targets. He was especially good at landing to the body.
As for Garcia, he did an excellent job of absorbing what Gruetzemacher offered even when he was badly hurt and bloodied. This was a strong fight to end the prelims.
Jinh Yu Frey: Jinh Yu Frey has her first UFC winning streak after a decision win over Ashley Yoder. Frey’s striking was the difference in this fight. She was more confident, more effective, more powerful and more successful on her feet. Sometimes Frey had Yoder looking like she wanted to be somewhere else during the fight. When Yoder found success with her striking, Frey turned the tables and put the fight back where she wanted it to be. A solid performance from the 36-year-old Frey.
Zarrukh Adashev: Zarrukh Adashev was on a two-fight losing skid entering his matchup opposite Ryan Benoit. Adashev, who only had six pro fights before Saturday night, used a leg kick heavy attack to slow Benoit early. He was very effective in doing just that. However, Benoit still had power, and he dropped Adashev late in the first round with strikes. After that, Adashev fought a bit more cautiously, but still attacked enough to get the win. At 29 and still growing as a fighter, this bout was a good learning experience for Adashev and he’s someone to keep an eye on at flyweight.
Philip Rowe: Philip Rowe had a huge reach advantage over Orion Cosce in this welterweight bout, however, he did not get to use that reach during the first five minutes of the contest. Rowe fared much better during the second stanza when he controlled the distance at which the fight took place. Rowe was effective and powerful from distance with his striking, but where he did incredible damage is when he controlled Cosce’s head and landed devastating knees up the middle. Outside of a slow start and missing weight, Rowe’s striking when he controlled range and location was impressive.
MMA fans: The UFC event ended in time for MMA fans (or writers who were covering the event) who favor the UFC, enough time to catch the co-main event and main event of the Bellator 263 fight card.
Sean Strickland: UFC commentator Paul Felder was quick to pull the plug on Sean Strickland’s post-fight interview after Strickland said without the UFC, he’d “Probably be cooking meth in a trailer or in prison.”
Uriah Hall: When Uriah Hall was competing on “The Ultimate Fighter,” hopes were high that he would turn into a future champion. That never came close to happening. Every time Hall had some momentum, something would happen to derail him on his way to the top. From the outside looking in, it seemed that Hall was the one doing that derailing. He seemed to struggle with his job as a giver of violence. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not too sure. If it is true, it’s not something we haven’t heard from other fighters. Nick and Nate Diaz have both said they don’t enjoy the fighting aspect of their jobs all that much, but that has never seemed to prevent them from doing the job to the best of their abilities once they are in a fight. The same can’t be said of Hall. He sometimes struggles inside the octagon. Saturday night was another example of those struggles.
Collin Anglin: I don’t know if the fighters inside the UFC Apex can hear the UFC commentators, but if Collin Anglin heard Paul Felder express concern about where he was carrying his right hand in the first round of his fight opposite Melsik Baghdasaryan, he did nothing about it. That low defensive right hand allowed Baghdasaryan to land a head kick that brought this featherweight bout to an end. That Felder picked up on this error in the early moments of the fight showed a lack of fight IQ from Anglin, who faced a former kickboxer in Baghdasaryan.
Bryan Barberena: Bryan Barberena had Jason Witt’s respect early in their main card matchup, but once Witt scored a knockdown, that respect went out the window and Witt mixed up his striking to go along with the wrestling he used in the first stanza. That gave Barberena more of a chance to win the fight, but his lack of takedown defense was the likely difference maker in this contest. Yes, the fight was a fun one, but it was mostly a sloppy kind of fun as both competitors ran low on gas in the third stanza.
Ashley Yoder: Ashley Yoder fell to 1-4 in her past five outings with a loss to Jinh Yu Frey. Yoder’s confidence seemed to wane at points during this fight. That might be something she needs to work on in the future.
Ryan Benoit: Ryan Benoit was on a two-fight losing skid ahead of his matchup against Zarrukh Adashev and 1-3 in his past four trips to the octagon. He struggled early with Adashev’s leg kicks, but he still scored a knockdown late in the first round. After that Benoit did not fight like someone with a fight or his UFC career on the line. When he landed flush, he didn’t attack. Instead, he pointed at his opponent and talked. While that might have appealed to some fans, it had no effect on the judges. Benoit lost the fight by decision and he could soon find himself looking for a new promotion.
Orion Cosce: Orion Cosce showed he is effective in close and that he has some good takedown skills. However, what we will hear most about Cosce is his toughness and if you’ve been around MMA long enough, you know it’s never a good sign when the talk turns to toughness. Cosce absorbed a ton of damage, especially via knees, before the referee waved off his fight opposite Philip Rowe.
UFC: One fight that was cancelled on fight day was the matchup between Niklas Stolze and Jared Gooden. The initial report, via TSN, was that COVID-19 protocol caused the cancellation. Not long after that, the fight was back on the card after clearance from a doctor. Which leads me to ask what protocol was broken and how did the doctor clear the fighters to compete? For a promotion who tells us it is health and safety first, the UFC is one of the least transparent organizations in sports when it comes to openness with its health and safety programs.
Nicco Montano: The UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion, Nicco Montano, weighed in on Friday at 143 pounds for her bantamweight contest opposite Wu Yanan. With Montano coming in seven pounds over the 136-pound limit for a non-title fight, the bout was cancelled.
Montano has only fought once since she won — and was later stripped — of the title and that took place in 2019. Montano has a long list of cancelled fights on her resume.
UFC: It impressed to see that the UFC was enforcing the Clark County mask mandate, but that turned to disappointment when I saw UFC matchmaker fill in for Dana White by sitting cageside without wearing a mask. Will the Nevada State Athletic Commission or the county address this issue? I’ll try to get an answer.