Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card started fast with four submissions. Things slowed for the final six fights as all of those bouts went the three-round distance. Among those contests were the co-main event between Neil Magny and Robbie Lawler and the headlining bout between Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic.
The bouts at the top of the card showed how putting together a solid game plan and sticking to that strategy can pay off with a win. Magny, as expected, did his best to avoid fighting at a distance that would allow Lawler the time and space he needed to throw with the power he has used to end 20 previous opponents. That approach allowed Magny to take the decision win with relative ease.
As for the main event, anyone who expected a striking battle was sorely disappointed. Rakic hurt Smith early with leg kicks, but instead of trying to rack up points with more leg strikes, Rakic spent most of the bout in top control on the mat. That approach prevented Smith from mounting any significant offense during the three-round contest. While it was not the most exciting bout, Rakic earned a unanimous decision win. The one-sided loss dropped Smith to 1-3 over his past four fights and put him on his first losing skid since he dropped three straight outings in 2013.
Below are the winners and losers from the UFC VEGAS 8 fight card.
Aleksandar Rakic: Rakic dominated Anthony Smith, but the performance was not one that is likely to earn Rakic a title shot. UFC president Dana White has never been one to award fighters for fighting what he deems to be a “safe” fight and there’s little doubt that White will file Rakic’s win under that heading as Rakic used ground control to limit Smith’s striking and cruise to a win. Yes, it was a dominant win, but it was in the style of Curtis Blaydes and White is not the biggest fan of how Blaydes wins fights.
Neil Magny: Magny’s game plan was to either work at distance against Robbie Lawler or work incredibly close. The goal was to avoid Lawler’s power. He did that and in the process he smashed Lawler’s nose with a nasty knee and did an outstanding job of using his strength on the ground.
Magny never wavered from his plan and it paid big dividends as he earned his 17th victory in the UFC welterweight division, which put him just two wins behind all-time welterweight wins leader Georges St-Pierre.
Alexa Grasso: Grasso had a successful flyweight debut. The former strawweight’s volume striking carried her to victory. Grasso had brief stretches where she used her movement well on her feet, but it felt like that movement was something she was thinking about and that it was not natural. If Grasso wants to move up the flyweight rankings, she’ll want to work on that movement, but overall, this was a good performance for Grasso’s flyweight debut.
Ricardo Lamas: Lamas was a big favorite over the debuting Bill Algeo, but he had some trouble in the early going with the newcomer. The third round was a different story. Lamas, who has been with the UFC since 2011, opened things up and totally dominated the final five minutes with some impressive striking.
During Lamas’ post-fight interview, the veteran competitor said he is considering retirement. On Saturday, he fought like a man who did not want to go out on a loss.
Bill Algeo: Algeo got a late call to fight Ricardo Lamas and he made the most of the opportunity. Algeo spent most of the first two rounds giving Lamas a lot of trouble. The third round was all Lamas, but Algeo should walk away from this fight with a lot of confidence. It’ll be interesting to see what Algeo brings to the featherweight division.
Impa Kasanganay: My oh my, Kasanganay can throw them bungalows. Kasanganay made an impression in his UFC debut, throwing some heavy hands on his way to a unanimous decision win over Maki Pitolo. Kasanganay showed some smarts during the battle, but he might want to miss up his striking as he went to the head 80 percent of the time.
Alex Caceres: Caceres had his opponent change three times before Saturday, but that did not seem to make much of a difference to him. Caceres went out and had some fun early against Austin Springer. Things got serious after Springer shot for a weak takedown. Caceres easily took the back of his opponent and grabbed a rear-naked choke with enough speed that Springer didn’t have time to fight the technique. A quick and easy win for Caceres, who is now on a three-fight winning streak, hasn’t had that many consecutive wins since he opened his career at 4-0.
Sean Brady: Brady was the biggest favorite on Saturday’s card. The BJJ black belt seemed interested in putting in some reps on the feet in the early going of his fight against Christian Aguilera. Brady handled himself fairly well on his feet, but once he got a taste of Aguilera’s power, he decided that it was wise to take the fight to the mat with a minute left in the first round. Brady didn’t mess around in the second stanza. He took the fight to the ground early and earned an impressive technical submission with a one-armed guillotine choke. The win moved Brady to 13-0 overall and 3-0 in the UFC. He’s ready for a step up in competition.
Polyana Viana: Viana ended a three-fight losing skid with some very slick jiu-jitsu. Viana used elbows from the bottom to isolate the right arm of her opponent, Emily Whitmire and then quickly move to an armbar on the left arm to elicit screams of pain from Whitmire along with a tap. Some very impressive work from Viana. Ten of Viana’s wins have come via first-round stoppage.
Mallory Martin: Martin almost went 0-2 in the UFC when Hannah Cifers dropped her in the first round with a nice right hook, but she came back in the second round to take the fight to the ground early in the second stanza. From there, Martin did a nice job using her strikes to set up a rear-naked choke that brought the quick tap.
Martin was very relaxed and composed in the first round. After her win, Martin said that was one reason Cifers caught her with that hook. Whatever the cause, Martin’s comeback was very impressive and showed some real grit because she was in deep trouble during a large part of the first round.
Anthony Smith: The worry about Smith heading into his matchup against Aleksandar Rakic was that he had not taken enough time to recover from the beating Glover Teixeira gave him in May. Those concerns were unfounded as Saturday’s fight was not the expected striking battle. Instead, Smith ate some heavy leg kicks early and then spent most of the fight trying to get out from under Rakic’s heavy ground game. Smith was largely ineffective over the course of the 15-minute scrap. He landed five significant strikes in the first round, four significant strikes in the second stanza and zero in the final five minutes of the fight. This was far from the bounce back performance Smith had hoped for.
Robbie Lawler: Lawler continues to look for his first win since he defeated Donald Cerrone in 2017. Lawler dropped a decision to Neil Magny for his fourth consecutive defeat. Magny shut Lawler down with a good game plan, but when Lawler had an opening for his striking, he failed to deliver. Lawler is now 1-5 since 2016.
Ji Yeon Kim: Kim had a decent first round, but her accuracy and lack of power strikes hurt her in the second and third stanzas. Kim didn’t look bad, but her inability to use her height and reach advantage against Grasso did her no favors.
Maki Pitolo: Pitolo showed a good chin, but outside of the first round, he was not really in the fight against the debuting Impa Kasanganay. Pitolo has been active, fighting four times in under a year. He might be advised to take some time off and develop his overall MMA game. If not, Pitolo might have a brief run with the UFC.
Austin Springer: Springer took his fight against Alex Caceres on very short notice and not much went his way. He came in overweight and then was quickly submitted. I’m not sure if this performance will earn Springer a second UFC bout.
Christian Aguilera: Aguilera did well on the feet against Sean Brady, but once Brady decided the fight needed to hit the mat, Aguilera did not have much to offer and he was submitted in the second round.
Emily Whitmire: Whitmire had a bad night. She failed on a takedown, ate some elbows and was then quickly submitted by Polyana Viana in their strawweight scrap. Whitmire’s offense amounted to two significant strikes. The loss put her on the first losing skid of her eight-fight career.
Hannah Cifers: We have probably seen the last of Cifers in the UFC. She was the first fighter with the promotion to compete four times in 2020 and she was also the first UFC fighter to go 0-4 in a calendar year. She dropped Mallory Martin in the first round of their matchup, but she couldn’t finish. Martin quickly and easily submitted Cifers in the second stanza.
Alessio Di Chirico and Zak Cummings: When a referee has to warn both fighters that they need to engage more than once, well, that’s a clue that the fight is not a very exciting one. Such was the case in this matchup. The entire fight took place on the feet and the best action came in the closing seconds when Cummings dropped Di Chirico with a nasty head kick. Had there been just a few seconds left on the clock, Cummings likely would have earned a stoppage.
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