UFC Lincoln proved to be a good night of fights. There were nine finishes out of the thirteen contests, including a couple of KO of the Year candidates. The submissions that cropped up were pretty damn nifty too. One fighter ended his losing ways with a knockout, while another gave up the ghost of his MMA career. For the most part, it was clear cut who had a good night and who had a bad night, though there were some exceptions (as always).
So, who were the night’s winners and losers?
Justin Gaethje: Based on the first minute of so of the fight, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the native of Colorado. James Vick was picking him apart with his length while Gaethje struggled to close the distance. Once he did though, it was all she wrote as a HUGE right hand that sent Vick head first into the canvas. The good news for Vick is he didn’t feel the fall as he was out cold. The bad news is that, well… he was out cold.
Gaethje is still sitting on the outside looking in on the title situation. Then again, he may not even care as his goal is to make as much money as possible before he calls it a career. He’s doing a pretty damn good job of that too as he took home a cool $50K for this KO. That’s five bonuses in four UFC contests. He’s making vintage Joe Lauzon look like a chump. If Gaethje doesn’t care who the UFC lines him up against, I don’t either. I just want to see him do his thing as it’s always fun as hell.
Michael Johnson: I was reluctant to put Johnson here as Johnson is capable of more. However, Johnson put a halt to his 1-5 skid. How can he be anything but a winner? Johnson made sure not to deplete his gas tank as he did against Darren Elkins and Gaethje, ensuring he had enough energy to finish strong. Combine that with his accurate striking with some low kicks to supplement his volume and Johnson put himself back on track. He still has a lot to do to get back to the stature of where he was after he KO’d Dustin Poirier, but everyone has to start somewhere.
Cortney Casey: The difference between Casey and Angela Hill: Casey got the nod from the judges. Each round was close enough that it was hard to say definitively who deserved the nod. Hill landed a bit more volume overall, though it appeared Casey had a little bit more ‘oomph’ in her shots. It was a much-needed win for Casey who had lost two consecutive contests. In the process, it kept alive her streak of split decisions, bringing it to three.
Bryan Barberena: For someone without a lot of power, athleticism, or wrestling, Barberena is pretty damn good. Granted, we shouldn’t put too much stock in him finishing off the ghost of Jake Ellenberger. Nonetheless, Barberena shouldn’t have his opponent held against him when he did exactly what he’s supposed to do: get him out of the cage as quickly as possible. Barberena did just that.
Deiveson Figueiredo: It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve had a flyweight prospect make good on their promise. The last one who did so: current champion Henry Cejudo. Figueiredo is on his way. Against a resurgent John Moraga, Figueiredo did something else no one else could do: stop Moraga with strikes without a doctor intervening. It’s one thing to stop Joseph Morales as Figueiredo did in his previous appearance. It’s another to stop Moraga. Figueiredo appears to be legit.
James Krause: If there was going to be a KO in Krause’s contest with Warlley Alves, I don’t think many were expecting Krause to be the one standing vertical. He’s never been known for his power and was now moving up a weight class, partially negating his reach advantage. Maybe we shouldn’t have underestimated Krause’s ability to innovate as his step-in knee caught everyone by surprise, most especially Alves. I’m still worried about how he’ll do when he faces a welterweight with some wrestling, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Cory Sandhagen: Can someone tell me how in the hell Sandhagen didn’t tap out to Alcantara’s early arm submissions? From an armbar to a shoulder crank, Alcantara tried everything to submit the youngster. Instead, it only served to piss him off. Sandhagen delivered some BRUTAL punches and elbows which should have had the referee stepping in long before he did. Sandhagen still has a lot of kinks to iron out, but the kid has a bright future.
Andrew Sanchez: There wasn’t any aspect where Sanchez really stood out. It was just a solid, measured, all-around performance. While it may not be sexy, it was the type of performance Sanchez needed as he drained himself in his previous contests by moving away from his bread-and-butter. Nice rebound for the former TUF winner.
Mickey Gall: Stupid callout aside, Gall looked awesome. He had no problem getting Sullivan to the ground and wasted no time sinking in his signature RNC. There was a lot of questions about whether he deserved to be in the UFC when he was signed to feast upon the stardom of CM Punk. He may not have been at the time, but he’s worthy of his roster spot now.
Drew Dober: It wasn’t the exciting slobber knocker he put on with Frank Camacho, but Dober did enough to earn a victory in his home state. The first half of the fight saw him beat down Jon Tuck with his kickboxing before switching gears and delivering some GnP from the top position over the last half. It wasn’t an earth shattering showing, but doing so in front of fans and family puts him in the winner’s column.
Rani Yahya: Possibly the most underappreciated fighter on the roster, Yahya needed a flashy finish to put a bee under the bonnet of the UFC brass. Mission accomplished. He needed all of 91 seconds to submit Luke Sanders with a heel hook. That makes seven wins in his last eight appearances. Under normal circumstances, that would get someone a ranked opponent. Here’s hoping Yahya can catch that break.
James Vick: This was the opportunity Vick had continually called for. He said fighters in the top ten were avoiding him. Gaethje didn’t. In fact, Gaethje took him out in a big hurry. Given it took Gaethje more time to take out most of his opponents in his time in the WSOF – Richard Patishnock being the lone exception – Vick calling out Gaethje for putting away cupcakes during his time outside the UFC makes Vick look that much worse. That’s the trouble with trash talk: you have to back it up. To Vick’s credit, he rebounded quickly in his first professional loss. I see no reason why he won’t after his second.
John Moraga: Well, it was fun while it lasted. Moraga’s career revitalization came to a crashing halt when Figueiredo knocked him silly. I’m not saying his career is over. He was performing well until he was blasted. Moraga was unlikely to climb any higher even if he did get past Figueiredo as he has always struggled to put forth a consistent offensive output. At least this was entertaining, indicating he can still put on a show.
Tim Williams: Williams outperformed expectations. Let’s get that straight. However, he was also on the receiving end of one of the more brutal KO’s in recent memory. Seriously, did you see his head bouncing off the canvas after Anders connected with that kick? That was hard to watch. Williams may have bought himself another appearance with his performance, though I’m not sure if it was worth it.
Warlley Alves: Remember when many thought Alves was going to become a contender? There was some credence to that as he is the only person to hand Colby Covington a loss. Somewhere along the lines, Alves went off the tracks and he can’t put together a consist performance against a decent opponent. Granted, nobody saw Krause’s knee coming. Regardless, Alves’ physical skills dictated he should have been dominating Krause. Anyone who hadn’t given up on Alves prior to this fight probably has now.
Iuri Alcantara: I was reluctant to put Alcantara here as he showed he can still surprise with his early takedown and submission attempt. Then I remembered the brutal beating he endured and felt I had no choice but to move him here. Those type of beatings tend to shorten careers. At 38 with a lot of tread on the tires, that loss may have put an end to Alcantara’s career as a viable UFC fighter.
Markus Perez: It isn’t that Perez looked terrible or pissed away the opportunity to win by fighting stupid. He just needed this win as he isn’t likely to get a more winnable fight against a name as recognizable as Sanchez… he was a TUF winner after all. It feels like Perez will be nothing more than a low level gatekkeper.
George Sullivan: Four losses in his last five appearances – including three in a row – coupled with zero name value screams Sullivan has reached the end of the line. Word was that he had slimmed down so he didn’t completely drain himself in the process of cutting weight. He didn’t get a chance to show it as that didn’t do anything to solve his wrestling. I hope he finds success wherever he ends up.
Kalindra Faria: How sad is it when this was clearly Faria’s best performance in the UFC… and she still ends up submitted in the first round. Even worse, she was submitted despite having the top position when she allowed Joanne Calderwood to secure a triangle. It isn’t like Calderwood is known for her grappling abilities either. While the Brazilian is better than her 0-3 UFC record, results matter. They just haven’t been there.
Jon Tuck: Tuck’s performance wasn’t horrible by his standards, but that’s the problem. Even though he fought a good fight – again, by his standards – it wasn’t enough for him to beat Dober. Not that I was ever on the Tuck wagon, but I get the feeling there isn’t anyone left on it.
Luke Sanders: It doesn’t seem that long ago when Sanders was a bright prospect in the shark tank that is the bantamweight division. Now, he looks like he’s merely chum for those sharks, dropping his third fight in his last four appearances. Some might say he’s young enough in his career that he could turn things around. I’m sure those people are unaware that Sanders is already 32. I’m sure I’m not the only one closing the book on Sanders.
Andre Fili: Fili fought a smart contest against Johnson. He scored some good takedowns, exercised some top control, and used his length to some effect. He just didn’t do enough to counter Johnson’s fast hands. Even if he came out on the losing end, Fili’s progress over the last couple years is promising. He isn’t just a brawler any more and he times his takedowns much better than he used to. Plus, he’s still fun to watch. Fili may not become the contender some believe he would develop into upon his UFC entry, but he has become a solid action-fighting gatekeeper.
Angela Hill: Much like Fili, I can’t fault Hill for not walking away with the victory. She pushed a hard pace, threw a lot of volume, and threatened with a submission at one point. It was a damn good performance. The problem is Casey’s performance was just as good. Hill is making progress as a fighter, showing a deeper gas tank down the stretch than she had in her previous contests. Hill isn’t ever going to be a contender, but it’s clear she’s a top notch action fighter and a solid gatekeeper.
Jake Ellenberger: There is nothing positive about finishing your career 2-9 as Ellenberger did. Even worse, he was finished in seven of those contests. However, Ellenberger was classy in defeat and called it a career in front of friends and family. It does appear Ellenberger may have left the sport a little bit late, though he does seem to have a good support system around him. Hard to call him a loser under those circumstances. Best of luck to him in all his future endeavors.
Eryk Anders: I’ll be the first to admit that his head kick KO of Williams was spectacular. In fact, it’s one of my favorites for 2018. Outside of that, his performance felt underwhelming. A far superior athlete to Williams, Anders should have blown out the ground specialist on the feet. Instead, he let him hang around until the final moments. To start, Anders might want to develop a jab. Just saying….
Joanne Calderwood: I know there are a lot who are upset with Calderwood’s placement here, but she was dominated for a solid four-and-a-half minutes before finding the triangle choke that gave Calderwood her first submission victory. I agree with the sentiment that flyweight is the proper home for her. However, that’s the only positive to come out of the contest. I’m not ready to pass full judgement on what Calderwood can do at flyweight just yet.
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