On the whole UFC Long Island was a fantastic card. Eight Performance Bonuses were handed out, indicative of how awesome the action in the Octagon was. However, it ended on a sour note due to Brian Ortega suffered a separated shoulder right as it appeared he was making his move to submit Yair Rodriguez, awarding Rodriguez an anticlimactic win. The victory could launch Rodriguez into a title fight with Alexander Volkanovski, but this outcome waters down the hype that would surround that fight if it were to be booked. However, there will be plenty of articles discussing that. I’m here to touch on the other fights and happenings on the card, dishing out my Unofficial Awards.
For a different perspective on how the event played out, click here. For an audio recap, click here.
Biggest Jump in Stock: Hands down, this spot belongs to Matt Schnell. He had boosted his stock in his loss to Brandon Royval earlier this year, pushing the action minded flyweight in a way that he hadn’t been previously. This time around, Schnell followed up a rock solid performance in the first round against Su Mudaerji by coming back from the edge of defeat to put Mudaerji to sleep in a triangle choke. Schnell has been considered to be chinny for quite a while, making his comeback all that more incredible. Mudaerji landed both some heavy elbows and punches that had Schnell doing the stanky leg. Somehow, Schnell ate several of those shots, hurting Mudaerji a couple of times on the feet before getting the fight to the mat for the finish. Possessing two of the most exciting rounds of the year in his back pocket in separate contests, Schnell has risen his status into an action fighter after many had labeled him as nothing more than a solid gatekeeper.
Biggest Fall in Stock: This is a hard spot to figure. Nobody completely fell off a cliff, but Muslim Salikhov did look far older than he had in his previous appearance. I suppose that shouldn’t be a huge surprise given Salikhov is 38 and last fought over a year ago. But what was really shocking was how Salikhov appeared to age in between rounds. He arguably won the first round, but came out in the second struggling to pull the trigger. When he did throw, Jingliang Li was able to see what was coming without issue. Fighting is a tricky enough sport that it might be a bit unfair to label him as shot after one disappointing performance, but Salikhov’s age has been something we’ve all been keeping our eye on for a while. It looks like it finally caught up to him.
Best Newcomer: There was only one newcomer on the card, but it was nonetheless and impressive performance from Emily Ducote. Even if the division is on the shallow side – despite what the announcers were saying, strawweight isn’t that deep – coming in and getting a win over a ranked opponent is always an impressive feat. Ducote displayed patience and discipline, realizing her strategy to take out the legs of Jessica Penne was working and never deviating. It’s plausible Ducote could face an opponent in the top ten next.
Start Typing a Resume: There was no denying the talent of Dalcha Lungiambula. An explosive athlete with one-punch power, he could be a real difference maker… if it wasn’t for his squat frame. Too short for both light heavyweight and middleweight, there’s no way he would have ever been able to make it to welterweight. Thus, the former multi-division champion out of South Africa faced an uphill battle from the get-go. Following this loss, he now sits at 2-4 in the UFC, including three in a row. Unless the UFC ends up putting on an event in Africa sometime soon, I think this is the end of the road.
Uncle Dana doesn’t take well to guys who appear to quit. There’s a lot to unpack with what happened to Herbert Burns, but after he burned up his gas tank, he didn’t want to be there. That isn’t to say his knee wasn’t injured. That isn’t to say he didn’t come close to winning when he had Bill Algeo trapped in the triangle choke for what seemed to be an eternity. But as soon as things started going against him, Burns quit, going through the motions so he could say the referee forced the end of the fight. I’ve said many times that being a fighter takes a special breed. Burns doesn’t appear to have the mentality it takes to reach the highest level. That’s not me saying Burns isn’t talented or that he is a bad person. That’s me saying I think he’d be happier doing something else. Given his BJJ talents, there’s no shame in him focusing strictly on BJJ or being a trainer. It gets him out of the spotlight and away from the heat that’s coming his way from the MMA Twitterverse.
At 37 with three consecutive losses – and four in his last five appearances – I’d say it’s safe to say we’ve seen the last of Dwight Grant in the UFC. He provided some nice highlights such as his brawl with Daniel Rodriguez and his KO of Carlo Pedersoli, but the rest of Grant’s stint was populated with mostly boring contests that saw him reluctant to let his hands fly. Thus, Grant’s UFC legacy will likely be that of an underachiever.
Saved Their Job(s): It was a bit of a shock to the system to see Punahele Soriano go from being one of the better prospects at middleweight to being on the verge of receiving a pink slip. Regardless, Soriano used some takedown attempts and feints to open up his striking, eventually finding a powerful left hand off a counter to floor Lungiambula. With a likeable personality and fan-friendly fighting style, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the UFC get behind him again.
There isn’t anything in particular that Dustin Stoltzfus does exceptionally well, but it would have been hard to comprehend someone with his well-roundedness and impressive fight IQ washing out of the UFC without a win after four appearances. Instead, after a close first round, Stoltzfus utilized his wrestling to ground a fading Grant and secured the win on the judges’ scorecards. Look for him to settle in as a lower level gatekeeper.
Biggest WOW Moment: There were several finishes that were certainly worthy of consideration, but all you have to do is listen to Daniel Cormier’s voice go to indecipherable as it got so high due to his excitement trying to call the comeback of Schnell. It started with Schnell simply refusing to be put away. Then it goes to him fighting back. Then Schnell started landing meaningful shots that hurt Mudaerji. Then he got the takedown and began landing brutal GnP. It felt inevitable that the referee would soon stop the fight, but Mudaerji added to the climax by reversing Schnell putting himself on the top position… leading to Schnell to sink in the triangle choke from off his back. It was a brilliant performance, one that will be remembered for a long time.
Grittiest Performance: I could very easily put Schnell here, but he’s getting other accolades in this article. There are several submissions that come to mind when I can’t help but wonder how someone escaped a submission. The most recent example was Alexander Volkanovski escaping out of Ortega’s guillotine. One old-school fans will recall is Rich Crunkilton escaping a Hermes Franca armbar by hiding his dislocated arm from the referee. What we’re looking at from UFC Long Island is Bill Algeo hanging in there with Burns’ triangle in there tight. Hell, Burns even appeared to have the armbar locked in there for a bit too. When 99.99% of the world would have tapped, Algeo hung in there and managed to escape and get the win. No one will ever question the heart or toughness of Algeo ever again after that performance.
Most Controversial Decision: Kudos to Shane Burgos for at least admitting it wasn’t his best performance as there was a wide swathe of fans who were upset when they heard the decision read in his favor over Charles Jourdain. To be fair to the judges, it was a tough fight to score. The first round could have gone in either direction. The second round clearly went in favor of Burgos, but the question is whether it was a 10-8 round given Burgos maintained control of Jourdain’s back for the entirety of the round and threatened with submissions the entire time. Some of those seemed to come close too. However, the third round was clearly in favor of Jourdain, the Canadian unloading on Burgos who didn’t have the endurance in his legs to move off the cage. Like the second, it was a question of whether Jourdain deserved a 10-8 round. Personally, I scored it a draw, giving Burgos the first two rounds 10-9 and Jourdain a 10-8 in the final round. Regardless, it was a difficult fight to score.
Most Understated Performance: There were a lot of notable performances, but two stood out to me that didn’t seem to get a lot of traction. That would be Amanda Lemos subbing Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Ricky Simon tapping Jack Shore. What separates them in my view is Lemos was supposed to win. Simon wasn’t. It looks like Simon has grown up a lot since his losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font. He knew what he wanted to do to Shore: pressure him nonstop, secure takedowns, and wear out the Welshman. He did it to perfection. Shore may have landed the better strikes in the first round, but that was when they did land. He was so concerned about fending off Simon in the second that it felt academic even before the end came. Simon even had the best callout of the night, challenging Sean O’Malley in his post-fight interview. Unless O’Malley is desperate to rebook a fight with Pedro Munhoz, I don’t see another fight that makes more sense. Stylistically, I’d favor Simon in that one.
Most Honest Fighter: There could have been a lot of controversy around Lemos victory, but she’s fortunate Waterson-Gomez is an honest person. Lemos had Waterson-Gomez in a tight guillotine. The referee was in position, but couldn’t see one of Waterson-Gomez’s arms. That was the arm that tapped. Lemos stopped the action to the confusion of the television audience – they weren’t privy to the tapping arm either – and began celebrating. The referee was confused too, asking Waterson-Gomez if she had tapped. Waterson-Gomez confirmed, snuffing a potential controversy with her honesty.
Best Bounce Back Performance: This spot is TOUGH. I picked against both Lauren Murphy and Li as I was so damned concerned about their mental state after both suffered embarrassing one-sided losses. Murphy came out and put on 15 solid minutes against an always tough Miesha Tate while Li overcame a ho-hum first round to violently finish Salikhov. Given her age and having a tougher opponent, I’ll side with Murphy, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Li. Both deserve massive kudos for having the mental fortitude to bounce back the way they did.
Weirdest Statistic: I suppose it’s less a statistic and more a fact, but on a night when the brass handed out eight bonuses – doubling their usual of four – bonus whores Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez didn’t secure any of them. Entering the event, Rodriguez had eight bonuses in eleven appearances and Ortega had seven in ten appearances. Given the unusual ending to their contest, it makes sense, but I would have felt confident putting money on at least one of them earning an extra $50K if I knew the UFC was giving out eight bonuses.
Bonus Numbers: Perhaps not really an award, but it is worth noting Dustin Jacoby picked up his first Performance bonus after nine UFC appearances. That’s a hell of a dry spell. Besides, he’d rather get that awarded to him rather than a made up award in my head that Bloody Elbow is gracious enough to post on their website. From this card, the new holder for most appearances without a Performance Bonus becomes a tie between Lungiambula and Jacoby’s opponent, Da Un Jung, with six apiece. However, the person who entered the event with the longest streak without a bonus was Murphy, who extended her run to ten appearances without a bonus. Murphy’s lone bonus in her UFC run came against Kelly Faszholz in February 2016. Now there’s a name most of you have either forgotten or never heard of in the first place….
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