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UFC Vegas 55: Holm vs. Vieira - Winners and Losers

The real winners and losers of UFC Vegas 55

Ketlen Vieira and Holly Holm reacting to the judges’ decision
Ketlen Vieira and Holly Holm reacting to the judges’ decision
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

It’s been a while since we’ve had a controversially scored main event, so I suppose we were due for one at UFC Vegas 55. Ketlen Vieira took a razor thin split decision over former champion Holly Holm, much to the chagrin of the MMA Twitterverse.

It’s hard to know what Holm could have done differently. She spent long periods of time in control against the cage and had a sizeable advantage in terms of pure volume. Vieira did land the harder strikes, producing the more memorable moments in the fight, but most feel like there wasn’t enough between the spaces for her to get the job done. Hell, even Andre Pederneiras, Vieira’s coach, didn’t think she did enough based on the ass-chewing he delivered between the fourth and fifth rounds. Obviously, two judges saw otherwise.

For the rest of the winners and losers at UFC Vegas 55, read on....

Winners

Ketlen Vieira: I know there are a lot of people out there who disagree with the decision, but whining on the internet is going to do the same thing as screaming into the wind: nothing. Vieira was awarded the decision by the judges, leaving her very likely to get a title shot in the near future. Plus, even if you disagreed with the decision – for full disclosure, I had Holm winning four rounds – Vieira was competitive in most of the rounds. The bottom line: Vieira has significantly stepped up her game since her KO loss to Irene Aldana. She’s a better striker and much better conditioned. Question how effective she’ll be fighting for the title, but there were many who didn’t think she’d even get to this point.

Michel Pereira: Fight IQ and heart were the two questions everyone had about Pereira after he dropped two fights in a row. Pereira addressed the questions about his IQ in his previous four contests, but had yet to really have a true gut check. Santiago Ponzinibbio gave him that gut check, storming back from a flat first round to arguably take the last two rounds. The third round in particular proved to be intense as both men were forced to bite down on their mouthpiece and throw down. Neither man backed down and Pereira earned the nod in the eyes of the judges. Now on a five-fight win streak, it’ll be a surprise if Pereira doesn’t enter the official rankings this week.

Chidi Njokuani: I don’t think there were many people two years ago who figured Njokuani would be sitting here with two first round KO’s in the UFC after he washed out of Bellator. Whatever it is that changed for Njokuani, he should keep it up. I’m not predicting a run up the middleweight rankings, but he’s positioning himself to be an action-fighting favorite of the brass. That tends to land fighters more prominent positions on the card than their win-loss records tend to indicate, in addition to larger paychecks. Hell of a career turnaround for the younger Njokuani brother.

Joseph Holmes: I’m not ready to jump on the Holmes bandwagon, but there’s no doubt the Glory MMA product looked like a million bucks disposing of Alen Amadovski. Of course, that’s how anyone should look if they’re UFC caliber against Amadovski, but there was no guarantee Holmes deserved to be in the UFC entering the event. I’m still not sure he deserves to be. Regardless, effective striking led to a submission, putting on a nice all-around performance.

Jailton Almeida: Anything short of pure dominance from the Brazilian would have been seen as a disappointment. He didn’t disappoint. Almeida immediately set about to wresting the much larger Parker Porter to the mat and methodically dominated from there before securing a modified RNC. For those who remember the rise of Johnny Walker a few years ago, I’d say Almeida’s performance here was more impressive than any of Walker’s sudden wins during his ascension. Almeida showed he can dominate an opponent for an extended period of time as opposed to requiring an instant finish. Almeida is the best prospect 205 currently has.

Uros Medic: While Medic still hasn’t proven he can go 15 minutes effectively – something everyone will continue to hammer him on until he does it – he did prove he can be effective outside the first round. The native of Serbia fought a patient fight, flicking out all sorts of volume as he picked apart a veteran Omar Morales before hurting him in the second. Once Medic smelled blood, he didn’t let up. It’s impressive to see someone with his talent show new maturity and still find an explosive finish.

Jonathan Martinez: While fans would rather see a flying knee finish or a spinning attack – things in which Martinez has proven adept at – the ability to control the pace and where a fight takes place for almost the entirety of the contest is more impressive. Martinez did just that against Vince Morales, chewing up the leg of the boxer, limiting Morales’ ability to do what he does best in the pocket. It gives Martinez his third consecutive win and while he might be stretching in asking for Frankie Edgar, I don’t completely hate the callout.

Chase Hooper: Well, well, well, Hooper looked like he was a UFC caliber fighter. Take what you will of what I mean by that given it was Hooper’s third UFC win, but it didn’t look like he was sneaking out of the event with a submission out of nowhere for the win. Instead, the 22-year-old showed vastly improved hands and a more polished scrambling game. I still don’t buy the UFC narrative that he’s a future star, but he finally looks like he doesn’t have to be hand fed opponents to pick up a win.

Sam Hughes: I get that Hughes’ win over Elise Reed was lacking in terms of excitement, but there’s no denying it was a picture-perfect performance for Hughes given her skill set. Phenomenally conditioned, Hughes work with Fortis MMA has brought out her wrestling, allowing Hughes to break Reed both mentally and physically. I still don’t have a solid feel for Hughes’ ceiling, but she looks like she’s going to be around a while after a rough start to her UFC career.

Losers

Holly Holm: There’s a lot to take here. Holm fought well enough to win. In fact, as I’ve already established, she fought well enough that many people believe she did win. In the end, the record will say she didn’t. Here’s where it gets painful. Din Thomas noted Holm looked like she had lost at least a half of a step. She was getting caught on several of her attempts to retreat, which was likely the difference in her winning and losing. Perhaps she was simply rusty coming off a 19-month absence, but she’s also 40-years-old. I think it’s more likely age is catching up to her. Holm is still likely to get a few more high-profile fights due to a lack of depth in the division, but it’s hard to see her working back to a title fight.

Dusko Todorovic: It wasn’t that long ago Todorovic was seen by many as one of the top prospects of the middleweight division. Now, he’s hoping and praying the brass isn’t preparing a pink slip for him. It turns out his athleticism was a bit overhyped and his poor defense exposed his questionable chin. At 28, it isn’t too late for Todorovic to turn things around, but I get the feeling he’ll need to do that outside the organization.

Polyana Viana: Viana should have beaten Tabatha Ricci. Viana was active off her back and showed some notable improvements in her standup. The problem is she was too willing to give up the takedowns. Plus, even with the improvements on the feet, she didn’t throw out her jab enough. If she had been more consistent with that, perhaps it would have given Ricci more reason to hesitate before closing the distance. Ricci was certainly game, but Viana gave that fight away more than Ricci taking it.

Alen Amedovski: He lost to Holmes in just 64 seconds... and that was a huge improvement from his 14 second loss in his previous appearance. Bottom line: Amedovski has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he shouldn’t be in the organization.

Omar Morales: Morales was supposed to be the mature striker in his contest with Medic. Instead, he was the one launching haymakers in hopes of finding the finish. While some fighters either have a sixth sense for when to throw bombs or enough of an athletic advantage to get away with that, Morales has never been that fighter. Now that he’s dropped three of his last four at the age of 36, it’s hard to see his next fight happening in the UFC.

Vince Morales: The thought was Morales was turning the corner. Maybe that thought was premature. It wasn’t just that Morales lost to Martinez. It was that he was neutralized in much the same way Martinez’s teammate, Chris Gutierrez, did a couple years ago. In other words, it looks like Morales received some favorable matchups heading into this contest as opposed to really addressing what plagues him. There’s still winnable fights for Morales, but it’s safe to say he is what he is.

Elise Reed: There was a lot to like about Reed when she entered the UFC. However, in her two losses, she’s been overwhelmed physically in both of her UFC losses. To be fair, her debut came at flyweight, but being manhandled by Hughes indicates Reed may even be too small at strawweight to find extended success.

Neither

Santiago Ponzinibbio: I really didn’t want to put Ponzinibbio here. His performance was a winning performance, but Pereira also put on a winning performance and only one can walk out with an official victory. Plus, Ponzinibbio NEEDED the win in the worst way. He’s not in any danger of being cut by any means, but Ponzinibbio wants to continue fighting high-profile opposition; this man isn’t interested in the Sean O’Malley plan. The loss likely prevents him from competing against a ranked opponent in his next contest. There are a lot of fun options for him sitting just outside the rankings – Khaos Williams, Niko Price, Randy Brown, Kevin Holland, Daniel Rodriguez – so I guess the high probability of bonus money coming his way in the future is a nice consolation prize.

Tabatha Ricci: Given the lukewarm reception observers had for her fight with Viana, it doesn’t sound like anyone is anxious to see Ricci step into the cage again. The pint-sized strawweight did get the win, but she struggled with the length of Viana, barely edging out the win. Much like Reed, it feels like Ricci’s ceiling is going to be severely limited by her size. The difference is Ricci walked out with the win.

Eryk Anders and Jun Yung Park: I’m not trying to crap on these guys. They fought a grueling fight that could have gone either way. However, the fight was so close that it’s hard to say definitively for sure one guy took it over the other. And while the fight was undoubtedly grueling, they didn’t provide anything that made observers think any better of them. The result will keep them running in place – better than falling backwards – but I don’t see a notable jump in competition coming for either.

Parker Porter: This may be surprising for many given it’s hard to point to anything positive in Porter’s performance against Almeida, but this was expected. Porter was basically being given a free pass in this fight. If he won, he upends one of the UFC’s best prospects. If he loses, it was completely expected. It also paints a dark picture of the heavyweight division given Porter entered on a three-fight win streak, but we all knew that was a wasteland.