Canada has been a long-suffering market that in recent years has really had to endure what could be considered subpar cards on paper (and turned out to be just fine or not good at all in practice). When the announcement was made that Lewis vs Browne would be moved to this card and would in fact be the main event, it wasn’t very comforting for those that expected something with bigger star power. The least that fans in a market like this can ask for is that there be some fights of higher divisional impact, but Fight Night cards are lower on the totem pole and have a specific set of purposes to fulfill.
So while it wasn’t a card loaded with bigger names, we did see a fair amount of action and some good performances to keep divisions busy and develop talent on the lower-to-mid tier. The best thing about it is that some of these performances are poised to separate some fighters from the rest of the pack, while some others keep things afloat.
On top of that, we got a heavyweight main event that may not be of major consequence for the division itself, but certainly for the participants themselves. And that’s where we kick things off.
Derrick Lewis – It seems like this fight was partially designed to give Lewis another test against a sneaky rangy fighter that can pack some power and won’t try to grapple with him from the outset. What we got was a fighter that was savvy enough to attack Lewis’s legs and punish his midsection repeatedly, slowing him down while being effective at avoiding the big bombs Derrick brings to his fights. Lewis’ susceptibility to leg and body attacks are not a good sign moving forward, but he got the job done here once he was able to close the range and begin his onslaught. Lewis has made some impressive strides since starting in the UFC, but this fight showed a new set of limitations that he’s going to have to address before being able to really contend with the top five of this division. Derrick came in at #8 and beat #9 ranked Browne, and there’s a handful of bouts that are to take place soon between most of the fighters ahead of him. There won’t be much upward mobility here just yet until the rest of the division gets sorted out, but it’ll be great to see who he gets next as they all appear to be very compelling matchups.
Johny Hendricks – Well, he won, right? Hendricks was very vocal about possibly retiring if he lost, and he got a win in a sort of strange fight that had was tactical and showed both fighters respecting each other’s abilities. Hendricks was more than comfortable with making the fight mostly a striking affair, it was enough to win rounds and notch him a win in a division where he doesn’t have to stress out as much about making weight. It should extend his career to a point, but where he goes from here is less clear. Whether or not he can hang with the larger and more dynamic athletes in this new division is another set of riddles for him to solve, so the UFC is likely to be cautious about how they book him from here on in.
Gavin Tucker – Gotta show some love for the newcomer here. Tucker remains undefeated at 10-0 and absolutely superstyled on a hardened UFC veteran in Sam Sicilia in most of the exchanges. As previously noted, winning a UFC debut is great, but doing so in this manner does you a lot of favors. This is only his second decision win, too. Keep your eyes on this one, folks.
Sara McMann – After suffering two straight losses to Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes, McMann has bounced back nicely with three consecutive wins, the last two being with the same submission (arm triangle choke). It’s a shame that it happened against a late replacement since a win over Pennington would almost guarantee her ascent to the top five of that division. Still, she fought a tough grappler and neutralized her, along with being gracious after the win.
Randa Markos – Markos continues to alternate wins and losses, which she’s done since her bout against Kara Kirsh at Provincial Fighting Championships in 2013. She just fought and beat a former champion ranked at #3, so this is pretty impressive on paper. In practice, the striking in this fight was wild in the standup department. Yet the grappling defense Markos showed had some very bright spots reversing positions to end up with crucifix holds and hammering Esparza with hammerfists. Not the prettiest fight, but certainly a bold performance.
Gerald Meerschaert – Man, this guy is crafty. Now 26-8 as a pro and with two consecutive wins in the UFC (both submissions), he’s turned out to be a very pleasant addition to such a chaotic and disorganized division like middleweight. His foot placement on Janes’ hips along with his persistent wrist control combined with a string of submission attempts eventually led to the finish, and he won that fight with basics. Maybe management will take their time in moving him up, but he looks ready to take on the challenges ahead.
Paul Felder – Felder improves to 5-3 in his UFC run with a nice TKO win, and the way he’s being booked makes sense as he’s been scaled back some while honing and showcasing his skills more with each outing. Solid performance here.
Thiago Santos – Just when I was really down on the guy, he pulls a rabbit like this out of his hat. Great sequence to set up the spinning kick and get a great win over another kickboxer and snap a two-fight losing streak. Both of his recent losses were finishes, but Santos continues to show that he’s a lethal striker with a ton of resilience. This fight should set him back on track, and there’s probably no rush to have him fight top ten guys again soon.
Aiemann Zahabi gets a nice UFC debut fight against a very game opponent that didn’t stop coming at him no matter what. His record remains perfect at 7-0, and this is his first decision win. Santiago Ponzinibbio wins his fourth fight in a row against another fighter that is notoriously tough to finish. His work at ATT has paid off tremendously and continues to show signs of growth. Elias Theodorou was in an ugly fight that got him his second consecutive win and placing him at 5-1 in the UFC overall, as middleweight continues to be weird.
Travis Browne – Ouch. I’ve reached a point where I’m personally not sure Browne should even be fighting anymore. Browne had Lewis in trouble pretty early attacking Lewis in a manner that proved to be smart and effective, and kept him on his back foot for most of the fight. Lewis’ cardio looked like it would be a problem after being sapped after those really good body kicks, but it Browne’s cardio appeared to have fared worse. He seemed to have sealed his fate when he tried taking Lewis down and ended up under him instead, because things never really got that much better for him from there. He took a lot of punishment standing, got clipped and dropped, then brutalized off his back. That’s three losses in a row, with his last win being the very controversial bout against Matt Mitrione in January of last year. With an overall UFC record of 9-6 (with one draw against Cheick Kongo in 2010), his recent slide has been rough to watch. He hit his ceiling hard and really faded after facing some in the upper echelon of the division in the fights against Fabricio Werdum (twice), Cain Velasquez and the very rough beating against Andrei Arlovski. Perhaps he can find his footing against someone outside of the top ten but within the top 15 (maybe Oliynyk or Omielanczuk, or perhaps a Struve rematch?), but his days as a top ten heavyweight seem to be definitively over.
Hector Lombard – Lombard may very well get cut after this. He had difficulty cutting the weight to get to 170, came back to 185 and can’t find a way to win. This is his third straight loss, and the fight prior to that was the win over Burkman that was overturned after failing a drug test. It’s a shame considering how much raw talent and athleticism he brings, but he hasn’t found a way to make things click on a consistent basis in his UFC run. He might get another shot with everything the UFC has invested in him thus far, but don’t bet on it.
Sam Sicilia – Looks like the end of the road in his UFC run for Sicilia. This was his third straight loss and his overall UFC record stands at 5-7, with five of those losses being finishes. He’s been a tough fighter, a very good athlete and solid grappler, but this unfortunately won’t be enough to stick around.
Alessandro Ricci – This fight puts him at 0-2 in his UFC run. While I would personally like to see him get another shot, we’ve seen how management can be rather unforgiving in these circumstances. He may not stick around.
Carla Esparza – She held her own and had some good moments in the fight, but her stock takes a hit when you consider she came in ranked at #3 and a former champion and lost to a fighter not even in the top 10. Then again, this was a split decision. This isn’t anything she can’t bounce back from, and perhaps it was just a bad stylistic matchup.
Gina Mazany – Nobody should be too hard on Mazany – she came in as a replacement to take on an Olympic silver medalist, and did what she could. Unfortunately for her, she got submitted rather quickly and had also missed weight. She’s probably not getting cut (and it wouldn’t be fair if she did, really), and this is only her first professional loss. Again – management doesn’t show much benevolence towards situations like these. Her stock takes a hit based on these factors.
Reginaldo Vieira may get cut as he’s now 1-2 in his UFC stint. Not much else to add there.
Cezar Ferreira has a three-fight win streak snapped, but this shouldn’t affect him greatly as he’s looked good in those last three wins and is 7-4 in the UFC. Jack Marshman now sits at 1-1 in the organization, and had a rough loss despite being in competitive fight. Ryan Janes loses his first fight since 2009 and is also 1-1 in the UFC. Nordine Taleb had a tough outing and remains at 4-2 in the UFC against a surging and solid talent. No major consequences here.
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