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UFC Vegas 50: Santos vs. Ankalaev results and post-fight analysis

Mookie Alexander recaps a largely fantastic night of fights at UFC Vegas 50.

Magomed Ankalaev defeated Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 50.
Magomed Ankalaev defeated Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 50.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

UFC Vegas 50 was a promising looking Fight Night on paper and it brought all of the action and then some. What a terrific card this was, even if the main event wasn’t the most exciting one you’ll ever see.

As expected between two counterstrikers we had a bit of a waiting game between Magomed Ankalaev and Thiago Santos, but there were some exciting moments when they did let their strikes go. It was the former light heavyweight title challenger Santos who put Ankalaev down with a left hand over the top in the dying seconds of round two, which I thought was comfortably Ankalaev’s up until the knockdown. Santos used up a lot of energy going after Ankalaev with big shots (including a flying knee) in the fourth round, and it seemed to tire him out. Curiously Ankalaev didn’t even try to take Santos down until that round, and when he did it was pretty damn easy.

Ankalaev’s counter right hand was landing pretty consistently in between Santos’ often wide and wild attacks, and outside of the knockdown in round two I’d say he got the better of the striking in what was a low output affair. It’s the fight I think many had feared when this was announced; neither is comfortable leading which means spurts of action but a lot of lulls. Nevertheless it’s an eighth consecutive win for the Russian, and he’s on the cusp of a title shot. I believe the excitement levels of an Ankalaev fight are heavily reliant on his opponent, so if he does face the Glover Teixeira-Jiri Prochazka winner next, I think it’ll be fun to watch (especially if it’s Jiri). Otherwise opponents like Santos are not conducive to a lot of entertainment.

Santos, meanwhile, has dropped four of five and it looks as if along with seeing his physical decline following the Jon Jones fight, we’re seeing his decline from the ranks of light heavyweight contenders.

More thoughts below:

Main Card

  • Song Yadong was swinging for the knockout against Marlon Moraes from the opening seconds and that’s what he got. A lethal right uppercut to cap off a four-punch combo sent the former WSOF bantamweight champ sprawling on the mat and totally done. Walkoff KO for the 24-year-old rising star from China, and there’s no doubt that he’s a contender in this wickedly stacked division. For Moraes, he’s lost four in a row and arguably should be on a six-fight losing run if you think Jose Aldo should’ve gotten the nod. His dropoff as an elite-level fighter has been massive and you wonder if he’s going to retire — he took of his gloves in the cage as the decision was read.
  • Featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff snapped Alex Caceres’ five-fight winning streak with a hard-fought unanimous decision win. Yusuff surprisingly went to his wrestling early, then really hammered away at Caceres’ legs with brutal kicks over the final ten minutes of the contest. Caceres cracked Yusuff a few times but didn’t have the power to hurt him, and he couldn’t put him in bad spots when they grappled.
  • Khalil Rountree gave Karl Roberson an ungodly beatdown in just 25 seconds of round 2 action. Rountree floored Roberson with a right hand, got out from a desperation leg lock and then thwacked Karl with a body kick while he was down, and to cap it off he uncorked a final right hand for good measure after he got up. Khalil adds another violent win to his resume and probably sends Roberson out of the UFC on a third straight stoppage loss.
  • Hot damn what a one-round war! Lightweight sensation Terrance McKinney had Drew Dober badly hurt multiple times in the first minute or thereabouts and it looked as if he’d get yet another quick finish on his UFC record. Dober is as tough as they come though, and he weathered the storm and took advantage of McKinney’s rapidly drained gas tank by dropping him with a knee to the body and then clinching the victory with punches on the ground as McKinney was spent. Props to McKinney for taking yet another fight on short notice but there’s always a risk when the early finish doesn’t materialize, and Dober made him pay. Dober called out Bobby Green and... yes. Just yes.
  • Kickboxing star Alex Pereira was in tough against Bruno ‘Blindado’ Silva to kick off the main card, but he showed his striking prowess in the final round and did everything but knock Silva out. His left hook is a thing of beauty and it wobbled Silva badly late in the contest. Silva had his moments against his fellow Brazilian, and even got a couple of takedowns but didn’t do anything with them. Pereira is 2-0 in his UFC career as he angles for a title shot against his former GLORY nemesis Israel Adesanya.

Prelims

  • AJ Fletcher stormed out of the gates and really took the fight to Matthew Semelsberger in a dominant opening round. Unfortunately for Fletcher, this was a three-rounder and he dropped the last two in what was a really entertaining contest and a learning lesson for the UFC newcomer. Semelsberger got timely takedowns and landed some big shots on the ground and on the feet to take the decision.
  • JJ Aldrich outclassed Gillian Robertson and asserted her physical dominance throughout the contest. The Canadian grappler was outgunned standing and struggled with Aldrich’s takedowns, and as a result JJ got a shutout win on the scorecards. That’s three wins in a row for Aldrich, who’s just 29 but has racked up a 7-3 record in her UFC career.
  • Javid Basharat and Trevin Jones had the first decision on the card, and it didn’t look like we’d even see a second round after Basharat hurt Jones to the body with a heavy knee. Jones survived and was competitive for the rest of the bout but Basharat was the deserved winner. It’s a great day for the Basharat family, as his brother won in Spain a little bit before Javid entered the UFC cage for the first time, and Javid didn’t know the result until his fight was over.
  • Damon Jackson outclassed Kamuela Kirk on the feet in the first round and then put Kirk to the sword with his ground game in the second round. Jackson sealed the deal with an arm triangle choke for the fifth of eight finishes on this event. The featherweight veteran called for a top-15 opponent and suggested Edson Barboza.
  • Miranda Maverick’s two-fight losing streak is over after a slick rear-naked choke finish of former LFA women’s flyweight champion Sabina Mazo. That’s consecutive RNC losses for Mazo, who couldn’t deal with Maverick’s takedowns and eventually the last one led to the submission.
  • WHAAAAAAAT?! Cody Brundage was getting tattooed in there against Dalcha Lungiambula and was on the cusp of being TKO’d if not on the receiving end of a 10-8 opening round... then Lungiambula went for a takedown? Brundage jumped on a guillotine and Lungiambula tapped. Like... I can’t comprehend what I saw. What a win for Brundage but what a horrible decision by Lungiambula.
  • Kris Moutinho entered the UFC by taking one hell of a beating but not getting stopped until the final round against Sean O’Malley. Well in his second appearance he got a standing stoppage in the opening round, this time against Guido Cannetti. Moutinho’s total lack of defense was exploited again and Cannetti teed off until the ref stepped in, and looking at Moutinho immediately after the stoppage I’d say the call was a right one. Cannetti ends a three-fight losing streak with his first knockout since 2012.
  • Azamat Murzakanov prevailed in his UFC debut in spectacular fashion! It looked as if the fight was trending in Tafon Nchukwi’s direction, but a flying knee early in round 3 sent Nchukwi to the astral plane. That’s a hell of a win for the still unbeaten Murzakanov, whose overall performance was far from convincing but his finish certainly was.