Not every UFC champion has the spotlight on them from the beginning of their UFC run. In fact, it rarely happens. Even if they happen to be a hyped prospect, there’s usually a maturation process before they have their moment that finally gets everyone’s notice. For instance, Johny Hendricks was considered an also-ran by many before he blasted Jon Fitch away in 2011 when Fitch appeared to be the eternal #1 contender at that point. A more recent example is Alexander Volkanovski bringing an end to Chad Mendes’ UFC career. Erin Blanchfield had that moment when she disposed of Jessica Andrade in a manner far easier than even her most ardent supporters expected.
There wasn’t an aspect in which Blanchfield got the better of Andrade. It wasn’t a surprise Blanchfield proved to be a more adept grappler. But getting the better of Andrade in the striking? That was a shock. Only 23, Blanchfield has everything set up to potentially be the most dominant women’s fighter in MMA history. That’s a lofty goal, but you’d better believe Blanchfield is aiming for that. I’m not going to go so far as to predict that quite yet – she hasn’t even won a title yet — but I sure as hell won’t eliminate that as a possibility.
For a different perspective of the event, click here.
Biggest Jump in Stock: It’s obvious Blanchfield takes this spot. There hasn’t been a woman on the roster who opted to trade with Andrade in the pocket and got the better end of things over an extended period of time. Valentina Shevchenko opted to take her to the mat. Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk fought on the outside. Weili Zhang disposed of her quickly, but an argument could be made Andrade just got caught. Blanchfield spent over a round largely striking in the pocket with the former strawweight champion and winning more exchanges. Based on that, she may have a case as the most badass woman on the roster. She called out the winner of Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso. It’s hard to believe she won’t get it.
Biggest Fall in Stock: The obvious choice would be William Knight given his absolutely atrocious performance, but I prefer not putting the cut list candidates here. Then again, no one who I’d expect to remain on the roster is going to take a serious tumble. Not even Andrade. Keep in mind, strawweight is her best division, not flyweight. So... who to pick if I’m not going to pick someone I expect to be cut? Well, I guess it would have to be Andrade. It should be noted it isn’t much of a drop given all that we discovered is she isn’t indestructible in the pocket. Perhaps it will make Andrade more liable to make a single weight class her home. It doesn’t help her cause to challenge Weili for the title if she’s losing fights, even at a different weight class.
Best Newcomer: Three debutants walked out of the event with their hand held high, but only one of them secured a victory free of any sort of controversy. Clayton Carpenter dismantled Juancamillo Ronderos with little effort, subbing the native of Colombia within the opening round. Carpenter is a prospect many have had their eye on for a while. If this performance is any indication, they’ve had great reason to be watching him. It could be argued he had the easiest level of competition as compared to Nazim Sadykhov and Jamal Pogues — the other two debutants who secured wins – but I also believe he has the highest ceiling.
Saved their Job(s): I’m not so sure Marcin Prachnio saved his job so much as Knight did everything in his power to ensure Prachnio kept his job. I don’t want to take anything away from Pachnio as he did what he’s supposed to do to secure a decision over Knight, but it really was an all-time stinker of a performance from Knight. I’ll get to that a bit further down the road.
Fortunately for AJ Fletcher, the UFC recognized Fletcher had a pair of tough opponents in his first two fights in the organization. Fletcher did the organization a solid by stepping up on short notice to face newcomer Themba Gorimbo. He then did himself a solid by securing a guillotine in the second round. Fletcher will always be limited by his size – despite what he says – but he looks like he has the skillset to be around for a long time. After all, he’s only 26.
Jamall Emmers also saved his job, but I’ll address his performance further down.
Start Typing a Resume: Jordan Wright may be maturing in his performances – he has shown patience in his last couple of appearances – but he’s getting worse as a fighter. He’s not a great athlete, but he can unload a flurry of offense in a hurry and overwhelm his opponents. Unfortunately, Wright couldn’t pull the trigger, allowing Zac Pauga to control him against the cage for long stretches. Wright showed a decent gas tank for the first time, no coincidence given he moved up to 205. However, it looks like the move it coming too late for him.
Knight turned in an all-time stinker of a performance. He gave no indication he wanted to fight, allowing Prachnio to piece him up with kicks. Knight never bothered to at least attempt a bull rush or anything resembling an active offense. Given his freak athleticism, it’s not hard to see why the UFC has been intrigued by his potential. However, his fight IQ appears to be regressing. Time to cut the losses and let him continue his bodybuilding career.
I figured the UFC would give Lina Lansberg her walking papers after her last loss. It was her third loss in a row and she is already 40. Nevertheless, the UFC brought her back once more and she dropped a lopsided contest to Mayra Bueno Silva. I suppose the UFC needs bodies at women’s bantamweight and there is a shortage of them. But Lansberg no longer seems capable of delivering a decent fight to anyone other than the bottom feeders of the division. If I’m them, I’d rather fish for younger bodies who may develop into something better down the road.
For Ovince Saint Preux, it isn’t so much that he lost to Philipe Lins. It’s how he lost. Lins isn’t the heaviest hitter, but OSP was hurt from the first clean punch Lins landed. OSP never recovered as Lins wisely laid on the punishment thick after that. OSP’s durability has long been one of his hallmarks. His durability is clearly fading at this point and he has struggled with his output in the last couple of fights. Given his lengthy service, I could see the UFC giving him one more opportunity. However, given the unceremonious way in which they dumped Demian Maia – another longtime soldier who was more accomplished than OSP – I anticipate the UFC would rather get the jump on OSP.
I’m of the opinion the UFC would be doing Juancamilo Ronderos a favor by cutting him loose given he only has six fights under his belt, including two in the UFC. I admit he has some raw skills that could be developed, but it would be better for him to do so outside of the bright UFC lights. Turn him loose, let him get three or four more fights under his belt and see where he is at that point. However, I admit there’s no guarantee Ronderos gets a pink slip, but I think that would be the best option for him.
Biggest WOW Moment: Even though the main card really dragged down all the energy of the card, there were some fun spots on the prelims. Evan Elder’s cut was pretty damn gnarly. Fletcher’s club and sub was sweet. Even Phillipe Lins’ blitz of OSP was worth mentioning. There’s a part of me that feels bad about this given the idea of the article is to highlight the parts of the card that don’t have as bright of a light on them... and I keep having to come back to Blanchfield. But given the circumstances, I can’t deny Blanchfield subbing Andrade with the ease in which she did was the moment in the card that really made me say WOW! However, at that moment, a lot of people recognized that Blanchfield could be on the road to becoming an all-time great. That’s a moment well deserving of a wow.
Most Improved Fight IQ: I never had any doubt Jamall Emmers had the talent to beat the debuting Khusein Askhabov. Despite that, I picked against him as his fight IQ has often been left lacking. Despite being a significantly better athlete than Pat Sabatini, he opts to get into a leglock battle with the submission specialist? It was a winnable fight for Emmers and he gave Sabatini the fight he wanted. As a result, it’s hard for me to believe he would be able to reverse that stigma after getting a decade into his career. Well, a single fight is hardly enough to eliminate a reputation, but he has to start somewhere. Emmers expertly used his length to pick apart Askhabov from the outside while being ready to fight off the Russian’s takedown attempts. It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was pretty damn close. It’s too bad it’s coming when Emmers is nearing the end of the road as he’s 33.
Potential Career Turning Point: Alexander Hernandez made everyone aware of his talent in his UFC debut. The list of fighter who have hung an L on Beneil Dariush is short, but he’s one of them. Given the paths each have taken since that point, everyone has come to believe it was a fluke. Hernandez has proven to be a front-runner since that point. If he can’t jump ahead of his opponent, he’s incapable of swinging the momentum into his favor. Against Jim Miller, Hernandez fell behind early. For the first time, he didn’t wilt. Hernandez continued to press forward to swing the momentum into his favor as the weathered Miller began to fade. However, Miller caught a second wind and found a way to get Hernandez’s back in the final minute, coming thisclose to finding a RNC. Hernandez fought out of it to hang on for the win, proving he is capable of rising to the occasion when the going gets tough. Given I always want to see the best from every fighter, here’s hoping this proves to be a fulcrum as opposed to a career highlight.
Best Performance in a Loss: For the record, Miller could fit here too. However, this wasn’t a career defining performance for Miller in the same way it was for Evan Elder. All Elder had to do was hold on for a round and victory was almost assured. In his sophomore UFC appearance – and his first at his natural weight class of lightweight – Elder exceeded the expectations most had for him. It was expected he’d wilt under the wrestling and power of Sadykhov. Instead, Elder stayed in his face and outvolumed the more hyped newcomer. All three judges gave Elder the first two rounds. Elder didn’t tap. He didn’t get his lights turned out either. What happened was Sadykhov sliced open a cut just above the eyelid of Elder. It was difficult to see when it first happened, but no one questioned the stoppage when they got a good look at it.
Bonus Numbers: To no one’s surprise, Blanchfield picked up one of the $50K Performance Bonuses. One might be a surprise is it was her first one after five appearances. The other Bonuses were picked up by Bueno Silva (her third) and Elder and Sadykhov each securing their first in the FOTN. Some thought Miller and Hernandez would have been a better choice for FOTN, which would have added to the 13 Bonuses Miller already has, easily the most on the card. In terms of droughts, Lansberg extended her streak to 11 UFC contests without a Bonus, which goes back to her debut in September 2016.