There is always going to be controversial decisions. Hell, it’s been well over a decade and I can still find people who will argue over Machida-Shogun I or Penn-Edgar I. I doubt Ketlen Vieira’s debatable win over Holly Holm at UFC Vegas 55 will have the staying power of those contests, but it could end up being the most argued decision of the year as things sit. Personally, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a robbery, though I did disagree with the decision. Regardless, it gave UFC Vegas 55 a strong talking point for a card that was expected to fade into the background in a hurry. While I will certainly touch on that, there were other talking points worth noting from the event, which we’ll get to with my Unofficial Awards…
Biggest Jump in Stock: Sometimes, it is strictly the result that matters as opposed to how the job got done. That’s exactly the case for Vieira. There is going to be a fair amount of debate over the next couple of weeks about whether she actually deserved the W the judges gave her, but none of that is going to change the outcome: Vieira picked up her second consecutive win over a former champion. Sure, neither Holm nor Miesha Tate appeared to be at the top of their game when Vieira beat them. That doesn’t take away from the fact the UFC was propping both of them up as the A-side against Vieira in hopes of them becoming challengers for the title. Vieira upended both and she should be rewarded as such. I can’t guarantee she’ll get a title shot next as I could see a trilogy if Nunes regains the belt. Nevertheless, outside of Nunes and Pena, no one has a better angle on the title than Vieira.
Biggest Fall in Stock: No one took a massive tumble down the ranks. There were several fighters who were in danger of losing their roster spot – and are likely to do so – but their stock was already low if they were at that point. So even though he picked up a well-deserved $50K bonus, I’ll go with Santiago Ponzinibbio. It has less to do with the Argentinian not being able to fight competitively with the upper quarter of the division – he obviously can – but that he can’t consistently get the W any more against those brushing up against the official rankings. It isn’t a huge drop from where he previously had been, but it is a very noticeable drop. Throw in that it was his third loss in his last four fights and he’s the most logical choice in a see that is lacking in obvious choices. Some may point to Holm for this spot, but given so many believe she deserved the win, it somewhat negates the obvious drop in her performance.
Start Typing a Resume: To give an idea of where Dusko Todorovic was in the eyes of the UFC organization, he was on the B-side of a fight with a Bellator washout. Not that Chidi Njokuani hasn’t rehabilitated himself, but Todorovic was considered to be one of the top middleweight prospects in the organization not that long ago. Todorovic had some moments that could be pointed to as progress, but he was ultimately KO’d in the first round, leaving him with three losses in his last four contests.
Given the long layoff – it’s been 32 months since we last saw him – it’s a bit of a surprise the UFC brought Alen Amedovski back at all. Seeing as how he just barely lasted past a minute, it’s safe to say they won’t do so again. He simply doesn’t have the physical tools to get away with his one-dimensional approach.
Unless you’ve built up a hell of a cache in your time on the UFC roster – much like Jim Miller and/or Clay Guida – you’re not going to maintain a roster spot if you’ve lost three of your last four at the age of 36 in the lightweight division. Omar Morales looks like he could still be competitive, but the results aren’t there and his age makes it hard to believe immediate improvements are on the horizon. Being KO’d for the first time in his career can’t help either. Given the depth of the division, it would be wiser for the UFC to give his spot to a younger fighter who may or may not develop into a star.
I’ve been a bit surprised the UFC has held onto Felipe Colares as long as they have. He didn’t enter with a lot of hype and hasn’t been involved in any real barnburners. Now that he’s sitting at 2-4, it seems unlikely the UFC is going to bring him back. Bellator would appear to be a good fit for him, but I shouldn’t pretend to know where he could end up.
Saved Their Job(s): This section turned out to be harder than expected to fill out. The likes of Chase Hooper and Uros Medic were the names that came to mind, but do I really believe the UFC was going to cut either one of them loose with a loss? In the case of Hooper, absolutely not. In the case of Medic, it depends on how bad his loss was. Clearly, we aren’t going to find out given both won, but there’s no doubt they hadn’t been meeting the expectations the organization had for them entering this event. I suppose Joseph Holmes could have been included here too, but his release could have been less notable then either Hooper’s or Medic’s release if it were to happen. To be fair, Holmes did have a fantastic performance.
Biggest WOW Moment: There’s absolutely no doubt this goes to the elbow Chidi Njokuani delivered to the head of Todorovic to put the Serbian fighter away. The round was coming to an end and everyone was expecting the round to come to a close as the two wrestled for control in the clinch. Njokuani’s elbow was placed perfectly upside the head of Todorovic to give the former Bellator standout his second consecutive first round KO.
Best Camp Change: Sam Hughes opened her UFC career 0-3. I won’t say it’s a rarity when fighters get a fourth opportunity after that type of start, but fighters find themselves on the chopping block more often than not after losing their first three contests. Hughes changed camps to Fortis MMA and has proceeded to pick up two wins in the process. It isn’t just that she has won those fights, she has fought with a purpose, showing a clear strategy in each contest, something that wasn’t always apparent in her first three UFC fights. Securing a late finish over Elise Reed was just icing on the cake.
Best Mental Turnaround: Rumor has it, Njokuani was miserable in his final days in Bellator. At the very least, he made some vague allusions to feeling that way in past interviews and it translated into his performance in the cage. Now, Njokuani appears to be a far better state of mind. He’s on a four-fight win streak with the last two coming in the UFC. This recent run has eliminated the debate whether Njokuani’s decline was mental or physical as he looks to be at his physical best. Given the insane amount of weight he used to cut to make 170, it was a valid concern given he was still only 30 when he exited Bellator. Now, he’s a poster child for what a good frame of mind can do for a fighter.
Worst Fight IQ: Most of the advantages went to Polyana Viana in her contest with Tabatha Ricci. She was taller by a significant margin, had more experience, and a better BJJ pedigree. The one thing that was a major question mark was her fight IQ. Viana had proven to content to fight off her back in the past and the concern was she would do so once again against Ricci. That was the only reason anyone would pick against her. Well, it proved to be a valid reason. Even though Viana had quite a bit of success in the standup, she conceded takedowns to easily and made little to no effort to get back to her feet when on her back. I acknowledge Viana landed some good strikes off her back, most notably several kicks to the legs of Ricci when Ricci stood above her. But did that negate the long periods of control and strikes Ricci landed from the top. Given Viana came out the loser, obviously not. It’s nice to have a dangerous guard, but it’s foolish to rely on it.
Most Dominant Performance: It isn’t going to get a lot of smoke given it was expected that Jailton Almeida would plow through Parker Porter. But it is definitely noteworthy as Almeida was moving up to heavyweight in order to take down the much larger Porter. Perhaps most surprising was the ease in which Almeida took Porter down. Almeida held him down for the rest of the round before finding the finish, suffering nary a scratch in the process. His fight with Porter might have taken place at heavyweight, but it was a hell of a statement to make for the rest of the light heavyweight division.
Coming of Age: There always seems to be a fair amount of hate towards Hooper. It isn’t his fault. Getting a fight on DWCS at the tender age of 18 was a hell of an achievement. He won the fight to prove he was at least worthy of a look at the time. While the UFC did wait another year before they signed him, it was obvious to everyone that he was going to have to be spoon fed opponents much in the same way Sage Northcutt was in his much-maligned UFC run. He needed more seasoning on the regional scene. It doesn’t look like that will be the case anymore. It isn’t that Colares is a world-beater, but Hooper looked like he was a level above him after some competitive moments. I still don’t see Hooper becoming a contender, but he finally looks like he deserves his spot on the roster.