On Saturday, the UFC was in Kansas City for the UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Allen card. The event started with shaky judging, but things settled as the night wore on. By the time Max Holloway had his hand raised following his five-round main event decision win over Arnold Allen, the debacle that opened the card seemed like a distant bad memory.
In the evening’s co-main event, Edson Barboza reminded everyone of what once made him one of the most feared fighters in the lightweight division when he knocked out the rising Billy Quarantillo with a well-timed and perfectly placed knee.
Before the main card took place, Brandon Royval wanted to make a knocked out Matheus Nicolau in a matchup between two fighters who entered the UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen card ranked inside the top five of the UFC’s flyweight division.
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen took place at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, MO. ESPN carried the main card following prelims on ESPN+. Read on for the winners and losers from the event.
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Allen – Winners
Max Holloway: Max Holloway dialed back his output a bit in his main event fight against Arnold Allen, and that approach paid dividends for him. Perhaps the thinking was that if he didn’t lead the dance so much, he wouldn’t let his opponent land a powerful counter and put him in danger. Or maybe, after attempting so many strikes in his previous bouts, Holloway, at 31, is becoming a more mature, well-rounded, and thoughtful fighter, someone who doesn’t always feel the need to force the action, but can fight in the moment, flowing with whatever is in front of him.
Whatever the reason for the change, Holloway looked excellent fighting in the style he used in during Saturday’s Fight Night event, and it will only make him a more complex problem to solve for his future opponents.
It’s unlikely that Holloway will get another featherweight title shot any time soon unless Yair Rodriguez defeats Alexander Volkanovski in their title unification bout, which is likey for UFC 290. Still, any fighter who hopes to sniff a title shot needs to test their mettle against Holloway.
Arnold Allen: Saturday night marked the first time in his career that Arnold Allen went five rounds. That he did so against one of the best UFC fighters ever to do it at 145 pounds will only help him going forward.
The experience and knowledge Allen and his team will gain from Saturday will prove invaluable for him in the future. Yes, he lost, but losing to someone like Max Holloway is nothing to be ashamed of.
If there is an immediate takeaway for this fight from Allen is that he needs to mix up his striking a bit and increase his output. Allen tends to rely on his power, and he primarily targets the head, and while that has worked for him as he climbed the 145-pound rankings, it is not likely to work against the division’s elite.
At 29, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Arnold Allen yet. He deserves the ranking he walked into the octagon with in Kansas City, No. 4 in the official UFC 145-pound rankings, and his next fight should once again be a main event contest.
Edson Barboza: Edson Barboza ended his two-fight losing skid with a vicious knockout win over the favored Billy Quarantillo. At 37, the man who has scored highlight reel stoppages of Terry Etim, Beneil Dariush, and Dan Hooker, among others, added another clip to his greatest hits when he planted a knee on the chin of the level-changing Quarantillo. Barboza might not be the fighter he once was, but he remains a dangerous man who can take advantage of a single mistake.
Azamat Murzakanov: Azamat Murzakanov moved to 3-0 in the UFC’s light heavyweight division with a unanimous decision win over Dustin Jacoby. Murzakanov might not have the size of most UFC light heavyweights, but he hits hard and he’s a tough competitor.
Ion Cutelaba: Ion Cutelaba ended a three-fight losing skid and likely saved his job with the UFC in the process, knocking out Tanner Boser at the 2:05 mark of the first round.
Cutelaba’s three losses ahead of Saturday night’s card all came via stoppage.
Pedro Munhoz: Pedro Munhoz might have entered Saturday’s fight card with a 1-4-0-1 record since 2019, but he showed he is not a competitor to overlook. The 36-year-old used pressure to keep the younger Chris Gutierrez on his back foot for the majority of their bantamweight contest. That approach gave Munhoz his first win since he topped Jimmie Rivera in 2021.
Rafa Garcia: Rafa Garcia picked up a win on Saturday in defeating Clay Guida in a one-sided contest. Garcia used Guida’s movement and offense against him, staying focused and unloading straight punches whenever Guida left himself open to be tagged.
Garcia was dialed in for the full 15 minutes of this lightweight scrap. He outlanded Guida 141 significant strikes to 63 while attempting just 35 more significant strikes than Guida.
Bill Algeo vs. T.J. Brown: Bill Algeo and T.J. Brown finished the preliminary card with a spirited featherweight contest that didn’t include a lot of striking defense. When the bout reached the second round, Algeo was leaking from his nose, but he was undaunted, and when he found the opening for an elbow, he connected, putting Brown to the mat. Once the bout hit the ground, Algeo’s strikes forced Brown to give up his back, where Algeo secured the fight finishing rear-naked choke.
With his win in Kansas City, Algeo moved to 3-1 in his past four outings.
Brandon Royval: Brandon Royval wanted to make a statement on Saturday, and he did that, knocking out Matheus Nicolau with a perfectly timed knee to the chin of Matheus Nicolau that he followed with a right and ground strikes.
Royval entered this contest as the No. 4 fighter in the official UFC flyweight rankings, one spot above his opponent. With his first-round knockout win on Saturday, Royval is on a three-fight winning streak with two first-round finishes in his past two outings.
Zak Cummings: Zak Cummings fought for the first time in nearly three years on Saturday night and delivered a memorable performance against fellow veteran competitor Ed Herman. Fighting in front of a hometown crowd in Kansas City, the 38-year-old Cummings dominated Herman. His striking was faster and more powerful on the way to his first knockout win since 2015.
Cummings, who has been a member of the UFC since 2013, announced his retirement after his win.
Ed Herman: Ed Herman, who joined the UFC after a run on season three of The Ultimate Fighter in 2006(!), ended his long UFC career following a knockout loss to Zak Cummings in what was his 26th fight with the promotion. Herman’s longevity in the UFC deserves a tap of the cap.
Gillian Robertson: Gillian Robertson made her UFC strawweight debut on Saturday, and she did Gillian Robertson things, out-grappling Piera Rodriguez and getting her second straight submission win.
A member of the UFC roster since 2017, Robertson asked for a ranked strawweight opponent in her next outing, and she might get it following this win.
Daniel Zellhuber: Ahead of his UFC debut in September, Daniel Zellhuber lamented his lack of top-level training partners. At times during that first fight, which he lost to Trey Ogden, Zellhuber showed his lack of experience. That’s not to say he looked bad, just raw. However, with more time spent with Xtreme Couture, Zellhuber showed some growth between that loss and the UFC Kansas City card, where he faced Lando Vannata.
Saturday’s decision win over a veteran foe like Vannata should help Zellhuber grow and progress in his UFC journey. It’s hard to tell the upside of the 23-year-old, but if he continues to develop, he could be a fighter to keep an eye on heading into 2024.
Denise Gomes: Denise Gomes was less technically sound in her striking than Bruna Brasil, but she was a more powerful striker. That power and an ability to land strikes over the low guard of her opponent, who also kept her chin high, earned her a second-round knockout win following a unanimous decision loss to Loma Lookboonmee in her UFC debut in September.
Gaston Bolanos: Gaston Bolanos picked up a win in his UFC debut on Saturday, beating Aaron Phillips by unanimous decision. Bolanos showed some room for improvement, but he was aggressive and heavy-handed in his striking, and that was enough to get him the bantamweight win.
Lucie Pudilova: Once Lucie Pudilova discovered Joselyne Edwards had suspect takedown defense and that she was content to stay on her back once the fight hit the mat, Pudilova dominated her catchweight contest against Edwards. She went two for seven on takedowns and racked up 7:29 of control time during the three-round scrap.
Pudilova deserved to win this fight, but two of the three judges somehow saw the bout in favor of Edwards.
Joselyne Edwards: Joselyne Edwards was a winner on Saturday night thanks to two of the judges handing her a decision she did not deserve.
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Allen – Losers
Dustin Jacoby: Dustin Jacoby was on a 6-0-1 run in his most recent UFC run before he lost a decision to Khalil Rountree Jr. in October. On Saturday, Jacoby lost his second straight fight, dropping a decision to Azamat Murzakanov. With Saturday’s setback, Jacoby will likely fall out of the UFC’s official light heavyweight rankings. He entered the Kansas City card as the No. 13 ranked fighter.
Tanner Boser: The drop from heavyweight to light heavyweight did not pay dividends for Tanner Boser, as he lost his first fight via knockout since the late Tim Hague knocked him out in 2015.
Chris Gutierrez: Chris Gutierrez’s unbeaten streak ended on Saturday night when he dropped a unanimous decision to Pedro Munhoz. Gutierrez was 7-0-1 entering Saturday night and coming off a November knockout win over Frankie Edgar.
Gutierrez was the more active striker, but he struggled with the forward pressure of Munhoz throughout the bantamweight matchup.
Clay Guida: With his loss to Rafa Garcia on Saturday, Clay Guida’s record over the past five years fell to 4-6. He has not won two fights in a row since he defeated Erik Koch and Joe Lauzon in 2017.
UFC matchmakers: There’s no feasible explanation as to why the flyweight bout between two top-five fighters, Brandon Royval and Matheus Nicolau was on the prelims. UFC president Dana White tried to blame “moving parts,” but the reality is the matchmakers screwed up by not having that fight on the main card.
Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping: I understand that Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping were likely joking when they agreed to a $5 bet on if the referee would take a point from Ed Herman after he landed two illegal upkicks to the face of Zak Cummings, but it was not a good look while the UFC is still involved in a betting scandal. What made the faux pas more glaring is that it happened in Kansas City, which is not far from the gym that the man who is under investigation, James Krause, called home.
Lando Vannata: Lando Vannata showed his veteran poise in surviving a rough first round against the young and rising Daniel Zellhuber. That coolness allowed Vannata to collect himself after a very rough first five minutes and come out in the second stanza and mix up his angles and approach in the hopes of frustrating his foe. That change of course allowed Vannata to survive the fight, but it was not enough to get him the nod from the judges.
With his decision loss to Zellhuber, Vannata is now on the first two-fight losing skid of his UFC career.
Bruna Brasil: Bruna Brasil fought in a karate-style stance, and she appeared to have some technical offensive striking skills, but her lack of defense hurt her against Denise Gomes. Brasil’s insistence on keeping her hands low led to her downfall against Gomes, who ended the contest via a second-round KO.
Aaron Phillips: Aaron Phillips’ first run with the UFC ended with an 0-2 record. His second run with the promotion will likely end with the same record after he dropped a decision to Gaston Bolanos in Kansas City.
Phillips’ lack of aggression, a below-average fight IQ and a suspect gas tank all worked against him in this bantamweight scrap.
Judges: The scores for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event’s first fight were questionable, as Joselyne Edwards got the split decision nod over Lucie Pudilova in a row that should have gone to Pudilova.
After voicing his displeasure on the ESPN+ broadcast, UFC commentator Daniel Cormier doubled down on social media.
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