Before every UFC event, I make a double espresso and a cup of green tea. I plop these on my desk, along with a jug of water, before the event starts. I judge how good the card is by how many refills I need of the coffee and tea. As I write this in the aftermath of UFC 273, my coffee cup is still 75 percent full, and the tea hasn’t been touched. Was UFC 273 a great card? UFC 273 was a great card.
With that, here are the winners and losers from a night of fantastic fights.
Alexander Volkanovski: Alexander Volkanovski put on a clinic in getting a win over Chan Sung Jung. He was better in every aspect of the fight. I’m not trying to disrespect Jung by saying this, but UFC 273’s main event played out like a glorified sparring session. That’s all about how high Volkanovski’s skill set and fight IQ are. He had advantages in speed, accuracy and shot selection. His jab was on point, his takedown game was commendable, he never overextended himself and he left few, if any, weak spots for Jung to exploit.
Aljamain Sterling: Aljamain Sterling fought two excellent rounds against Peter Yan, two pretty good rounds and one bad round. If Sterling made any errors during the first three stanzas of the co-main event of UFC 273, they were not noticeable. He struggled in the fourth round and gave away the final five minutes by not setting up his takedown attempts. Where Sterling excelled was the 10 minutes of round two and three where he all but shutdown the offense of his opponent and racked up ground control time while looking for submissions from back control. Sterling stayed with the game plan in this fight and now, whether or not Yan and his fans like it, he can call himself the legit undisputed UFC bantamweight champion and knowing all the hate he received in the past year, expect Sterling to point out that fact often and loudly.
Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev: The bout between Gilbert Burns and Khamzat Chimaev was incredible. If Chimaev wanted a test, he got one. Burns showed Chimaev is human, while Chimaev showed he has heart and will to go along with his deep well of talent. Burns gave Chimaev a hell of a fight. Burns didn’t lose any ground in this fight, but Chimaev gained a lot more with the decision win. The question now becomes, is Chimaev ready for a five-round main event against someone like Colby Covington, because that’s the next logical step for him.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres: The strawweight contest between Mackenzie Dern and Tecia Torres was an exciting and entertaining fight that ended with Dern getting the split-decision nod.
Torres showed a lot of toughness and patience during the second round when she was in danger of being submitted for what felt like the entire five minutes. When it came to the striking exchanges, Torres was faster and more dangerous.
Dern is really coming into her own as a mixed martial artist. The days of her relying strictly on her grappling are gone. She has developed her striking to where it is an effective part of her arsenal. However, I believe Dern would be a more effective — and dangerous fighter — if she used her striking to set up her ground game instead of just to strike with an opponent who is faster and more dangerous on the feet.
Mark Madsen: Mark Madsen moved to 12-0 with a win over Vinc Pichel. Madsen’s striking is improving, but his biggest advantage comes with his wrestling and top game. Madsen is not the most exciting fight on the UFC roster, but he is 3-0 with the promotion and will move up the ladder with his win over Vinc Pichel. Vinc Pichel: Vinc Pichel complained that Mark Madsen was just holding him down, which is ridiculous in an MMA fight.
Ian Garry: Ian Garry has a lot of hype, but the jury should remain out on his upside. At 24, Garry is very much a work in progress. He has talent and skill, but he is not a fully formed fighter, at least not yet. Yes, he got the win on Saturday over Darian Weeks, but he showed a few areas where he needs to progress. First, he allowed Weeks to control the location and distance too much. Second, he left his chin hanging when he threw his strikes. Third, he needs to get better at taking advantage of his height and reach.
The good thing about Garry is that he knows he is not a complete fighter. He is confident and self-aware. Those are two ingredients that go a long way toward success.
Anthony Hernandez vs. Josh Fremd: The middleweight bout between Anthony Hernandez and Josh Fremd was phenomenal. Hernandez seemed to think an all-out attack would cause his late replacement opponent to wilt. It did not, and that made the contest a memorable one. Hernandez never stopped pursuing takedowns, positional improvements and submissions. Meanwhile, Fremd never quit and when he found an opening, he turned the fight in his favor for a short while. Hernandez, a former LFA middleweight champ, has two wins in a row and this one showed a level of cardio and aggression that might give his future opponents pause.
Raquel Pennington: Raquel Pennington picked up a big win at UFC 273 by outclassing Aspen Ladd on the feet. Pennington, who took the fight on short notice, got Ladd to fight a striking battle for more than two rounds and that allowed her to showcase her skills in that department to get the win. Pennington fought a very smart 15 minutes. She is now on a four-fight winning streak.
Mike Malott: Mike Malott was my pick for the fighter to watch at UFC 273 and he more than lived up to that billing. A coach with Team Alpha Male. Malott is a smart technical striker with a lot of different techniques and he is an underrated jiu-jitsu player. With his impressive knockout win over Mickey Gall, Malott moved to 8-1-1 with all eight of his wins coming via first-round stoppage.
Malott is a fighter to watch in the welterweight division.
Aleksei Oleinik: Aleksei Oleinik went out and did Aleksei Oleinik things and earned another submission win over Jared Vanderaa. The scarf hold submission victory gives Oleinik two of the seven UFC finishes via that technique.
Piera Rodriguez: Piera Rodriguez did not have a great first round against Kay Hansen. Rodriguez allowed Hansen to dictate the fight on the feet in the early going of the contest. However, once Rodriguez used her wrestling and ground game, she seemed to gain confidence and became more aggressive, and that allowed her to take over the fight. Once things clicked for Rodriguez, she showed some solid clinch abilities as well. This was Rodriguez’s UFC debut and she got the win. It was a good learning experience for her and it will be interesting to see where the 29-year-old goes next. The win moved her record to 8-0.
Julio Arce: Julio Arce fought off his back foot for most of his 15-minute contest opposite Daniel Santos and he did with a great deal of technical skills. It was those abilities that allowed Arce to outwork and outclass Daniel Santos.
Arce did a great job with his jab and mixed up his striking techniques and targets with ease and his ability to counter the power punches of his opponent was a massive difference maker.
The one issue with Arce in this contest came before the fight when Arce missed weight.
Mike Malott: Mike Malott encouraged fighters to go to his Instagram and donate to the GoFundMe that was established to help the daughter of his Team Alpha Male cohort, Joey Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s 15-year-old daughter is fighting Stage 3 Lymphoma. Malott said his $10,000 show pay is going to the GoFundMe.
Herb Dean: Herb Dean had a great stoppage in the main event.
Chan Sung Jung: Chan Sung Jung deserves props for doing the Korean Zombie thing against Alexander Volkanovski, but he was outclassed and overmatched in this contest.
Petr Yan: Petr Yan lost his opportunity to regain the UFC bantamweight title over the 10 minutes of the second and third round. Yan spent most of that time producing no offense and trying to prevent Aljamain Sterling from sinking in a rear-naked choke.
Vinc Pichel: Vinc Pichel complained that Mark Madsen was just holding him down, which is ridiculous in an MMA fight.
Aspen Ladd: Aspen Ladd fought Raquel Pennington’s fight for over two rounds and that was one of the big reasons Ladd dropped the decision. Had Ladd used her grappling before the third stanza, she might have had a better chance to win. That’s something she and her team need to address.
Mickey Gall: Mickey Gall has now lost two UFC fights in a row for the first time in his UFC career. He has not won two in a row since he went 3-0 in his first three UFC fights. He defeated Mike Jackson, CM Punk and Sage Northcutt in those contests. Outside of Mike Jackson, none of the fighters Gall has wins over under the UFC banner remain with the promotion.
Kay Hansen: Kay Hansen is a talented fighter, but the UFC is no place to learn on the job and that is what she is trying to do. I said it after her last loss and I’ll say it again, Hansen would be better off dropping a level and getting experience and confidence outside the UFC. She doesn’t turn 23 until August.
Daniel Santos: Daniel Santos made his UFC debut on the UFC 273 curtain jerker. He was extremely aggressive throughout the fight and pushed forward for most of the 15 minute contest. Santos seemed more focused on throwing single power punches rather than mixing things up. HIs opponent, Julio Arce, simply outclassed in the striking department. This was Santos’ first bout since December 2019. Santos needs to develop a lot more wrinkles to his game if he wants to succeed in the UFC.
UFC: UFC is still paying fighters $10,000 show to start per Mike Malott.
Joe Rogan: During the Vinc Pichel vs. Mark Madsen fight, UFC commentator Joe Rogan opined that standups should not happen if a fighter is being held down by their opponent. The problem with that opinion is that it goes against the scoring criteria in MMA, which states that effective grappling is, “Successful execution of takedowns, submission attempts, reversals and the achievement of advantageous positions that produce immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute to the end of the match...”
Holding down an opponent without looking for submissions, positional advances or landing ground strikes is not effective grappling.