There have been many cases where UFC Fight Nights boil down to a single fight. You could argue UFC Vegas 19 was one of those events as Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes may very well have been the only names on the card fans were familiar with. However, even with the main event delivering on it’s significant promise, the bit players showed up in spades. The prelims only saw a single fight go to decision, none of those finishes coming later than the second round. It was almost as if everyone was actively trying to one up the previous contest in the early portions of the card. Thus, you’ll see a lot of names that don’t tend to jump out at casual viewers on these awards, but you’ll get a pretty good idea of how the evening played out.
Biggest Jump in Stock: Of all the people on this card, Darrick Minner is probably the last person I expected to put here. He has always won by first round submission and everyone expected nothing less if he were to come out ahead of Charles Rosa. Instead, Minner put on the most complete performance of his career. Not only did he dominate Rosa on the mat – controlling him for nearly the entirety of the contest – he knocked down Rosa. Minner has never been known for his power. I don’t know how high Minner can climb, but he went from an attraction to someone who has the potential to make some serious noise.
Biggest Fall in Stock: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Aleksei Oleinik’s romp into the top ten of the heavyweight division after a 20+ year career. It’s been comical – in a good way — in many ways. It looks like he’s reached the end of the line at the age of 43. He had nothing for Chris Daukaus, spending most of the contest covering up from the youngsters onslaught, not even making it past the two minute mark. I anticipate he’ll get another fight, but this loss was incredibly telling of how much he has left in the tank, especially given he was in the main event of his previous showing.
Best Newcomer: There was originally five scheduled debutants for this card. A cancelled bout dwindled the number to three and of those, Casey O’Neill was the only one to walk out with her hand raised. She pushed an insane pace, jumping all over Shana Dobson and never letting up. She’s still inexperienced, but the Scot has the determination and physical skills to be a player in short manner.
Start Typing a Resume: The UFC seems to have a soft spot for Shana Dobson, but it’s hard to justify her hanging around after dropping her fourth contest in her last five appearances, especially given she hasn’t exactly faced any world beaters in that run. Nonetheless, given that soft spot, Dobson may be able to hold off on searching for a new job. Another one who may be looking for different employment is Eddie Wineland. He has also dropped four of his last five, but he’s also an 18-year veteran who is coming to the close of an illustrious career. Given someone like John Castaneda – hardly known for his power – was able to put him away, it’s an indication his time has come.
Saved Their Job: It’s hard to believe Aiemann Zahabi would have been brought back had he dropped his third fight in a row. Instead, he landed a picture-perfect cross on the jaw of a debuting Drako Rodriguez and extended his UFC career. Plus, he got an extra $50K for the performance. Imagine how different things could have been with a loss….
Biggest WOW Moment: You have to feel for the like of Zahabi, Julian Erosa, and Castaneda. All produced solid KO’s that very well could have taken this spot. Of course, Lewis had to ruin that for those lesser-known commodities by putting Blaydes out cold with a single uppercut. He followed it up with a couple more punches, but they weren’t needed. Blaydes was out like a baby. Perhaps it loses the effect given Lewis has several KO’s that induce the jaw to drop, but that speaks just as loudly of what an impressive behemoth Lewis is that he seems to make these moments almost seem routine.
Cure for Insomnia: Lots of lay-and-prey was the name of the game for Ketlen Vieira and Yana Kunitskaya. Vieira was the dominant fighter in the first and most of the third. Kunitskaya controlled the second and provided the only real excitement in the closing seconds of the fight when she reversed position on Vieira and rained down heavy punches and elbows. Of course, by that point, most people were already asleep. Then again, given the lack of a clear contender for Amanda Nunes’ bantamweight title, the stakes were high and neither wanted to be the one to make a mistake.
Never Seen That Before: I appreciate Keith Shillan for pointing out on Twitter that Royce Gracie came out and forfeited his fight against Harold Howard all the way back at UFC 3, but Gracie at least made it out to the cage. Jamall Emmers couldn’t even do that, having word sent back spasms were flaring up in the extreme and he couldn’t fight as his opponent, Chas Skelly, was in the cage and ready to go. Though visibly upset – rightfully so – Skelly was classy towards Emmers, wishing him no ill will. Hopefully Emmers recovers and we can see both in the cage soon enough.
Best Callout: There weren’t any great callouts. There was a terrible callout by Phil Hawes who wanted to step in for either Chris Weidman or Uriah Hall if one of them has to pull out for whatever reason, but he’s not ready for that level of competition. Derrick Lewis said he wanted Alistair Overeem, but with Overeem coming off a one-sided loss to Alexander Volkov, that doesn’t make any sense. Probably the best callout belonged to Tom Aspinall saying he wanted the winner of Daukaus and Oleinik, I suppose Aspinall and Daukaus makes some sense, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for either. I guess no one really deserves notoriety of their callout….
Best/Worst Referee Call: There wasn’t anything that was egregiously bad, but there were several candidates. Some would give their vote to Mark Smith appearing to stop the Erosa-Landwehr contest prematurely. Some may say Jason Herzog jumped in too early to pull Casteneda off Wineland. However, I was of the opinion that Chris Tognoni letting Jared Vanderaa taking plenty of unnecessary damage at the hands of Sergey Spivak was definitively a worse call.
Biggest Asterisk: As impressive as Jared Gordon looked in his win over Danny Chavez, he also missed weight by a significant amount. The only reason his four pound miss wasn’t discussed more is Raphael Alves missed by 11.5 pounds. Gordon is a likeable guy, but has missed weight by at least three pounds in two of his three UFC performances at featherweight. I have a hard time seeing him receiving another shot at 145.
Theme of the Night: It’s already been touched on, but with three fighters having missed weight by a significant margin, it’s hard not to notice it. Alves’ miss was so egregious that his contest was cancelled. Gordon’s miss was big enough that’s it’s hard to believe it didn’t carry some weight in his win. The third was Vieira, who looked sluggish compared to her past performances. Regardless, that’s a lot of fighters missing weight.
Theme of the Night #2: Perhaps this was a bit more obvious than the first theme, but all three contests where there was a severe generational gap between the competitors saw the younger fighter put an early end to the night of the more established figures. Wineland, Oleinik, and Andrei Arlovski have all had storied careers, but don’t look anything like the figures they were at their best. Thus, the theme appears to be a changing of the guard. To be fair, there is always a constant change, but rarely is it as blatant as it appeared to be on this card.
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