In what was one of the more tension-filled UFC main events of the year, Xiaonan Yan pulled off an upset win over Mackenzie Dern at UFC Vegas 61. In the process of earning the majority decision nod, the 33-year-old ended a two-fight losing skid and will likely find herself ranked inside the top five of the official UFC strawweight rankings when they get updated.
In the co-main event, Randy Brown took a step up in competition and got a unanimous decision win over Francisco Trinaldo, a veteran competitor who has been with the UFC since 2012, two years before Brown had his first pro fight.
The event began with five of the six preliminary card fights ending before the start of the third round.
Read on for the winners and losers of UFC Vegas 61, which took place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Xiaonan Yan: Xiaonan Yan’s speed, accuracy and ability to mix up her striking targets and techniques helped her to win the rounds where she and Mackenzie Dern spent most of the time on their feet. As for the rounds that were mostly contested on the ground, Yan, who said she is a white belt, was strong enough defensively to prevent the accomplished grappler from securing a fight-ending submission.
If there was one criticism to be lobbied at Yan, who was incredibly well trained and prepared for her matchup opposite Dern, it was her willingness to fight with her back to the cage. Fighting in that manner might have given Dern opportunities to close distance and at least attempt to get the fight to the ground.
Sodiq Yusuff: Sodiq Yusuff deserved a higher-ranked opponent than Don Shainis. However, Yusuff more or less had to take what the UFC offered him if he didn’t want to completely waste the fight camp he put together for his scrapped September contest opposite Giga Chikadze.
Yusuff made short work of the overmatched Shainis. The UFC needs to get Yusuff back in the octagon as soon as possible against an opponent who can offer him a stiffer test.
Mike Davis: Mike Davis did a fantastic job picking up a win over Viacheslav Borshchev via his wrestling and top game on the mat. Davis struggled with the striking of his opponent, but he never got flustered or frustrated when things were not going his way. This bout was a sold win for Davis after a long layoff, his most recent outing ahead of UFC Vegas 61 came in October 2019.
Daniel Santos: I don’t know how Daniel Santos did it, but he pulled off an impressive come-from-behind knockout victory against John Castaneda. Castaneda rocked Santos a few times in the first stanza and scored one legit knockdown, but Santos recovered from those blows. That was bad news for Castaneda, who was sneaking glances at the clock before the end of the first round.
Santos’ approach in the second round was an improvement from his first UFC fight, a loss to Julio Arce. In that bout, Santos concentrated on powerful single strikes rather than potent combinations.
Santos’ style might not lead to a long career, but he’s a fighter to watch.
Joaquim Silva: Joaquim Silva ended a run of two consecutive knockout losses with a KO win of his own at UFC Vegas 61. Silva, who last won a fight in 2018 (he only fought once in 2019 and once in 2021), scored a picture-perfect flying knee knockdown against Jesse Ronson and then finished the fight with (too) many ground strikes.
Silva and his team did a great job in switching to southpaw during this fight. Once they made that adjustment, Silva took over.
Brendan Allen: After Chris Curtis knocked out Brendan Allen in December, Allen got back into the cage in February and put that loss behind him with a submission win over Sam Alvey. He followed that with a June win over Jacob Malkoun. On Saturday, Allen went 3-0 in 2022 with a first-round submission win over Krzysztof Jotko. The 26-year-old Allen has shown progress this year and looks like he is developing into a fighter who might be ready to tangle with a top-15 ranked 185-pounder in his next outing.
Heading into this fight, Jotko had not been submitted since his second UFC bout, which took place in 2014.
Chelsea Chandler: Former Invicta FC fighter Chelsea Chandler had a successful UFC debut, scoring a first-round knockout win over Julija Stoliarenko. Chandler showed good takedown defense, but her powerful striking really stood out about the Stockton-based fighter. It’s hard to get a read of Chandler’s upside right now, but her effective striking alone makes her a fighter to watch.
Guido Cannetti: Wow. Guido Cannetti worked fast. The soon-to-be 43-year-old delivered a well-timed kick to the upper thigh of his 28-year-old opponent, Randy Costa, that knocked Costa off his feet. Cannetti then wasted no time sinking in a rear-naked choke — sans hooks — that brought a swift tap from Costa.
The win gave Cannetti the first winning streak of his UFC career, which began with a loss to Henry Briones in November 2014.
The impressive finish was the first of Cannetti’s UFC run.
Mackenzie Dern: Mackenzie Dern’s striking has improved a great deal over the years and that has led to her becoming less reliant on her ground game and made her a more well-rounded and dangerous fighter. However, her striking defense has not improved and her ability to secure takedowns is abysmal at just nine percent.
Dern has shown an ability to make speedy improvements to her game, but at 29, the clock is ticking. In the post-fight portion of the UFC Vegas 61 broadcast, commentator Michael Chiesa suggested that Dern get herself a wrestling coach. I can’t agree more. If she can add legit takedowns to her arsenal, Dern will only become more of a problem inside the octagon.
John Castaneda: If John Castaneda takes away anything from his loss to Daniel Santos, it should be to not empty his gas tank before the end of the first round.
Jesse Ronson: Jesse Ronson returned from a 20-month USADA suspension in April. With his loss to Joaquim Silva on Saturday, Ronson is 0-2, with two stoppage losses, since his return from that suspension.
Julija Stoliarenko: Whatever momentum Julija Stoliarenko gained from her “Performance of the Night” bonus-winning submission win over Jessica-Rose Clark disappeared on Saturday when Chelsea Chandler scored a knockout victory over her. The loss put Stoliarenko’s UFC record at 1-4.
Randy Costa: Randy Costa’s streak of not going the distance reached 10 fights on Saturday. Unfortunately for Costa, with his submission loss to Guido Cannetti, Costa has now lost his past three UFC outings via stoppage. Costa’s most recent win was a September 2020 knockout of Journey Newson.
UFC: This tweet from the promotion was disrespectful, at best. To say the card was built around a single fighter sent a distinct message to Xiaonan Yan and that message was the UFC does not want you to win.
UFC and NSAC: This was not a great look.
"As you can see here, my leg is all swollen." - Ilir Latifi says he got a staph infection 2 days ago and is fighting with a fever. #UFCVegas61— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) October 1, 2022
UFC and UFC access media: Whatever the reason the UFC banned UFC access media from UFC Vegas 61, the message they should takeaway is that the promotion considers them a useful tool and nothing more.
The UFC was comfortable banning the media from the event because it doesn’t need media on fight night. The UFC uses the access media as unpaid PR. The access media, in the mind of the UFC, is there to promote the fight card and drum up interest in the event. Once the event starts, the UFC does not need the media.
I know the argument can be made that it hurts the fighters not to have media at UFC events — and that’s true — but the UFC is not interested in promoting fighters; it’s only interested in promoting UFC.
Keith Peterson: UFC commentator Jon Anik needs to stop referring to Keith Peterson as “no nonsense.”The referee allowed a whole lot of nonsense when he did/said nothing when Randy Brown grabbed the fence in the first round of his fight opposite FranciscoTrinaldo in the hope of stopping a takedown, which the fence grab appeared to do.
UFC social media: This felt like an attempt to troll folks. After all, Zuckerberg was attending his own personal UFC card.
Randy Brown: It’s hard for me to throw Randy Brown in the “winner” column because of his fence grab. However, he got an important win over a formidable veteran opponent in Francisco Trinaldo in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 61.