I understand where people get angry with the UFC. They don’t share their profits with the athletes in a manner equivalent to other large sports organizations. They don’t have all the best fighters in the world either as many would like to claim. However, there isn’t an MMA organization out there that puts out quality cards on a consistent basis the way the UFC does. UFC Austin is a great example of how good a card the UFC can be. What’s most impressive is it was a Fight Night card, not a PPV, where the best fights are typically reserved. UFC Austin delivered some fantastic action. There were nine finishes, eight of those KO/TKO’s, and six of those in the first round.
The main event between Calvin Kattar and Josh Emmett. didn’t deliver a finish. In fact, compared to many of the other contests, it was a slow burn. Nevertheless, it was a very good nip and tuck contest that could have gone either way, depending on what the judges valued. Emmett got the nod on two of the three judges’ cards on the basis of his power. However, there was a LOT to talk about from the event — so much that I’m not going to be able to touch on all of it — and I’ll hit on the important points in my Unofficial Awards.
Biggest Jump in Stock: There were a lot of categories that I had a hard time figuring out. This was by far the one that I had the hardest with. Emmett barely eeked by Kattar, so his win isn’t that convincing, even if it does put him next in line for the title. Kevin Holland looked like a million bucks, but the outcome wasn’t unexpected. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of candidates. I ultimately chose Adrian Yanez despite him doing what was expected of him: brutalize Tony Kelley. It was the mean streak Yanez showed in his demolishing of Kelley. In order for Yanez to compete against the top levels, it was unknown if he had the right attitude. It’s obvious now. Going from beating on Kelley to a ranked opponent is a huge step, but no one seems to be batting an eye. That’s a hell of a jump.
Biggest Fall in Stock: Perhaps I’m overestimating where his stock was coming into the event given he only had one previous UFC contest, but Albert Duraev looked like he was going to be a stud coming off his dominant performance on DWCS. Sure, his UFC debut didn’t produce the fireworks expected of him, but many were willing to forgive him and say it was debut jitters. At this event, he had a favorable opponent in Joaquin Buckley, someone who struggles to stop takedowns. Wrestling was supposed to be Duraev’s strength. Instead, the Russian struggled to take Buckley down, couldn’t keep him down when he succeeded, and was absolutely pieced up on the feet. There was a belief among some that Duraev would likely enter the official rankings at some point. That seems like a pipe dream at this point.
Best Newcomer: This spot was earned by default as Natalia Silva was the only newcomer on the card. However, it’s hard to believe anyone else would have been able to take the title from her if there were five other newcomers. There wasn’t an area in which Silva didn’t dominate Jasmine Jasudavicius. Striking, wrestling, the minimal amount of grappling that was in the fight... everywhere. It was a credit to Jasudavicius even made it to the final bell. I don’t think anyone looked at Silva as an uber-prospect walking into the event. Everyone was thinking that even before the end of her fight.
Start Typing a Resume: The UFC signed a bunch of bodies when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. Some proved they were worth the signing, others quickly washed out. Danny Chavez was somewhere in the middle. He won his debut before being competitive in his next two contests. His fight with Ricardo Ramos was make-or-break. It took just over a minute for it to be break, being on the receiving end of a highlight reel KO. At 35, he’s either as good as he’s going to be or already past his peak. It’s hard to see the UFC keeping him around.
When the UFC signed Gloria de Paula off DWCS, I didn’t like the signing. With only seven professional fights under her belt, she looked extremely green, not ready for the big show. Now that she has registered a 1-3 record, I’d say that my assessment was correct. De Paula has enough talent to work with, but she should have received more time to polish herself up and develop a more natural feel for fighting. I’d like to see the UFC cut her loose, keep track of her progress, and see where she is at in a year or two.
Saved Their Job(s): Most were in agreement that Maria Oliveira was in the UFC due to being a training partner of Jessica Andrade. I would still say that’s the case, but credit to Oliveira for digging deep to outwork the cleaner striking of de Paula. However, it may have been her wrestling that solidified the final round for her, securing a pair of takedowns with the round still very much up in the air.
It wasn’t a matter of whether Cody Stamann was a UFC caliber fighter. It was a matter of whether the UFC appreciated his blue-collar fashions as he hasn’t come close to sniffing a Performance Bonus in his UFC tenure. That all changed when he put away and sent Wineland into retirement in less than a minute. While no one denies that this isn’t the same Wineland who fought for the interim title back in 2013, Stamann did what he was supposed to do and put himself back on solid footing.
Biggest WOW Moment: There was some stiff competition for this spot. Despite that, I didn’t overthink it, going with Ricardo Ramos delivering the second spinning back elbow finish of his UFC career. Given the rarity of the move – I believe I heard on the broadcast it was the fifth such finish in the UFC – that’s no small feat. It wasn’t out of luck either. The smoothness in which Ramos delivered the elbow to Chavez was illustrative of Ramos practicing the move with great frequency. Perhaps he’s looking to make it his signature move, much in the way the Von Flue choke has been renamed the Von Preux in honor of Ovince Saint Preux. That wouldn’t be a bad legacy.
Biggest Beatdown: This is a very difficult spot to pick. Phil Hawes did a number on Deron Winn before the referee finally stepped in. The same could be said of what Gregory Rodrigues did to Julian Marquez. It was brutal. I also wouldn’t discount Adrian Yanez beating on Tony Kelley or Silva’s decimation of Jasudavicius. Ultimately, I’ll go with Hawes picking apart Winn as it was the fight that went the longest from when it could have reasonably been stopped. There was a moment when Silva was pounding out Jasudavicius in the second round that could have prompted a stoppage, but Jasudavicius recovered enough from there that there wasn’t another moment like that
2nd Best Fight Night of the Year: UFC Austin was absolutely fantastic. With a high amount of finishes – most of them in the first round – the crowd was never taken out of the action happening in the cage. I would love to say it was the best Fight Night of the year, but UFC London is still fresh in my mind. Nevertheless, I’m of the opinion UFC London is the greatest Fight Night in the history of the UFC. Coming in second – where I would currently rate UFC Austin – isn’t a bad deal in the least.
Best Callout: It was another night short on callouts. I get the feeling that no matter how much I complain. Sure, Adrian Yanez called out a couple of fighters who had previously called him out before. And of course, there’s Josh Emmett asking for his title shot. But I prefer to award this to someone with a single name or a callout that isn’t too obvious, such as Emmett’s title shot request. Thus, I’m going with Kevin Holland making a request for Sean Brady to throwdown with him after submitting Tim Means. I have some doubts about it happening given Brady is far ahead of Holland in the official rankings and without a loss on his record, it makes little to no sense for him to be fighting backwards. Then again, it’s been seven months since Brady last fought and he doesn’t have a fight scheduled. He needs to be fighting to maintain his momentum. And while Holland isn’t officially ranked – and probably won’t be after the rankings come out later this week – he does have enough name value that Brady could go for it. In other words, it’s a request that could prove to be worthwhile for Holland.
Least Controversial Decision: Despite the overabundance of finishes on the card, the amount of controversial decisions on the card was notably high. In fact, there was only one decision that was obvious, Silva’s utter decimation of Jasudavicius. Every other contest was a split decision that reasonably could have gone either way. The other fights were the main event between Emmett and Kattar, Damir Ismagulov edging Guram Kutateladze, and Oliveira victory over de Paula. What might be the most ironic thing about it is every official victor except Silva was in the minority amongst the media scorecards on MMA Decisions. Not that anyone is going to declare robbery for any of the contests, but it is an interesting note.
Minor Theme of the Night: All the finishes were clearly the theme of the night, but there was a less covered theme to many of those finishes. There were several fighters who have been notoriously difficult to put away throughout their careers who were put down. Kyle Daukaus had never been stopped with strikes before in his career before Roman Dolidze provided the honors. Neither had Kelley, Marquez, Chavez, or Winn. Court McGee had been stopped with strikes once before, but Jeremiah Wells had the pleasure of putting him to sleep over the course of over 20 UFC contests. Given the reputations of durability for those fighters, no one was predicting the amount of finishes that occurred.