The expected take out of the the UFC Vegas 34 main event between Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum if Cannonier was to emerge victorious was that he is well deserving of a title shot. Instead, everyone walked out of the contest marveling at the chin of Gastelum. Not that everyone wasn’t already aware of the durability of Gastelum, but the contest was nip and tuck enough over the entirety of the five rounds that it came down to a heavy shot from Cannonier that would have slept any normal human being being the definitive moment of the fight... and may have swung the fight in the favor of Cannonier.
Whether Cannonier ends up getting a title shot after this is up in the air. It wasn’t a definitive win and he didn’t get the KO many were predicting. Plus, Robert Whittaker is still the prohibitive favorite of the MMA community to be the next to challenge Israel Adesanya. The UFC didn’t officially announce this was a potential title eliminator, so they left themselves some wiggle room.
Despite having dropped his fifth fight in his last six appearances, Gastelum shouldn’t be in danger of losing his roster spot. He delivered a better than expected performance in they eyes of most and hasn’t been given any easy fights in that skid. However, it should officially eliminate him from fighting any of the middleweight elite for several years at this point as he has consistently been losing to them. Don’t be surprised if his next opponent is unranked.
As for the rest of the card....
- It wasn’t the performance Madsen needed to get fast-tracked to a title shot as he hopes, but he squeaked out a win over a game Clay Guida. Guida appeared to be more active, but as with most of his performances, there was a lot of empty calories to his action. Madsen’s jab was the one weapon that allowed him to separate himself in the eyes of the judges.
- You’d never think Parker Porter’s plan would regularly to be to outlast his opposition if you were to look at the portly heavyweight, but he’s done that twice in a row now, this time against Chase Sherman. Both men threw a lot of heavy volume, but Sherman began to wilt about halfway through the second, leading to Porter running away with the decision down the stretch.
- It may take awhile for everyone to learn to pronounce his name correctly, but it would be wise to at least familiarize yourselves with the name Saidyokub Kakhramonov. While the newcomer missed weight, he also flew halfway around the world with less than a week’s notice to choke out Trevin Jones with 21 seconds left on the clock with a standing guillotine. The fight itself had long stretches of inactivity, but Kakhramonov pulled it out in the end.
- Austin Hubbard proved he was gritty, but not quite as gritty as Vinc Pichel. Despite being 38-years old, Pichel looked better than ever, pushing a hard pace while landing a mix of heavy punches and low kicks that hurt Hubbard on several occasions. It wasn’t enough to make Hubbard go away – it may have been Hubbard’s best performance too – but it was enough to get a unanimous decision from the judges.
- I’ll never understand the continued disrespect the UFC shows the flyweight division, putting the title eliminator between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval as the main card opener. Nonetheless, they lived up to the high expectations, going at an insane pace. Right as it looked like Pantoja was going to fade under Royval’s intense pressure, the Brazilian found a takedown, looked down the wiggly Royval, and secured a RNC to secure a chance at Brandon Moreno’s belt.
- Was it the foot injury or the fatigue that doomed Luis Saldana? Regardless, Austin Lingo definitively proved he isn’t a one-round fighter, going the distance for a win for the second time in a row after falling behind the scorecards due to Saldana’s kicking arsenal early. Saldana couldn’t keep it up and Lingo’s busier approach proved to be the difference.
- Perhaps Brian Kelleher was cowed by the Bonus worthy performances that came before him as he went off his usual script by going for a dominant three-round performance as opposed to the usual sudden ending. Nonetheless, he didn’t allow Domingo Pilarte to have any serious momentum, turning in a clear decision, followed by a colorful callout of Sean O’Malley.
- Height and reach advantages don’t mean anything when you don’t do anything with it. Josiane Nunes ate up the distance between herself and Bea Malecki as Malecki continued to back herself against the fence and dropping her hands. Nunes found a HEAVY overhand left that spelled an early end to the evening.
- You want to know how powerful William Knight is? The stout light heavyweight put Fabio Cherant out with a punch thatt was a technical mess from a coaching perspective. And yet, it got the job done in the first round. If the Knightmare can continue to put things together – and he still has a way to go – he could be a serious problem despite his lack of height.
- Ignacio Bahamondes put on an impressive performance against Roosevelt Roberts for nearly 15 minutes. Few are going to remember it. That’s because Bahamondes capped it with a KOoTY candidate, sleeping Roberts with a spinning wheel kick to the face with five seconds left on the clock. Can you say $50K?
- Ramiz Brahimaj wasted zero time taking the fight where he had a definitive advantage: the mat. No one doubts the toughness of Sasha Palatnikov as he refused to tap, going to sleep from Brahimaj’s RNC to give the Fortis MMA product his first UFC win.