UFC Kansas City has come and gone without the earth-shattering shake up Arnold Allen was hoping to produce. Max Holloway proved to be a bit too much for the surging Brit. Rather than playing the pressuring, volume-heavy boxer we’ve all known, Max Holloway played more of a hit and run role, at least when he wasn’t countering. Arnold Allen landed the heavier punches, forcing Max Holloway to feel his power early and change up his approach. In the end, Max Holloway’s volume was too much for Allen to overcome.
Clearly, the headlining fight featured the most impactful narrative from the event, but it was far from the only notable happening out of UFC Kansas City. In a card with 14 fights, there’s plenty of note. I intend to touch on all the lesser happenings with the event, highlight the best and worst of everything with my Unofficial Awards. Let’s dig in….
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Biggest jump in stock
This spot was hard to figure at UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen. Ion Cutelaba had a great win, but that was in a fight he was favored to win. Azamat Murzakanov secured the biggest win of his career, but there were enough question marks in the finality of the performance to say his stock only went up a bit. On the other hand, Gillian Robertson looked like a completely different fighter at her new strawweight home.
I had questioned Robertson’s ability to make the weight, but she looked like a million bucks. Not only did she look healthy, she was the bullying presence she struggled with fighting at 125. With the added size advantage, she methodically worked her way into armbar finish. She didn’t catch Piera Rodriguez in a mistake; she led Rodriguez into the mistake. We knew what Robertson’s ceiling was at flyweight. No one has a firm grasp of what it is at strawweight. I’ll venture to guess she could break the top ten, which is certainly higher than before.
Biggest fall in stock
It isn’t necessarily that Chris Gutierrez had his eight-fight undefeated streak snapped at UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen. It’s the manner in which it was snapped. He entered the contest as a sizeable favorite over the more established Pedro Munhoz. By the end of the fight, it felt like he’d be lucky to win one fight if they fought ten times. Gutierrez became reluctant to engage with Munhoz after a first-round knockdown, spending the rest of the contest trying to stay on the outside and score points with the hard-hitting Brazilian. Munhoz’s pressure ensured that would be a losing proposition. He’ll need a solid rebound contest before he gets a chance to fight up again.
There were two newcomers at UFC Kansas City, so it wasn’t a wide stable to pick from. Regardless, it was made simple when Gaston Bolanos won and Bruna Brasil didn’t. Bolanos is far from a finished product. His struggles with Aaron Phillips when the fight hit the mat illustrated that. It was easily the most success Phillips has had in his UFC career. If Bolanos can fill some of those holes, he demonstrated he has the striking to be a problem in a deep division. From my perspective, I wouldn’t count on it. Those are some BIG holes. If nothing else, Bolanos should be fun in the right matchups, which in itself can be valuable.
Saved their job(s)
Some were surprised to see Cutelaba stay on the roster after he dropped his third consecutive fight, but it’s not like the UFC was dealing him softballs. Plus, his fights never lack for action. Much of that is due to his generally low fight IQ, but Cutelaba managed to put on an intelligent showing against Tanner Boser. He was patient in looking for an opening against the Canadian, delivering when he found one, and maintaining the attack once he had Boser on the ropes. I’m not saying we’re seeing a new day in Cutelaba’s career, but UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen could be a turning point for the Moldovan.
It’s not that Daniel Zellhuber doesn’t have clear talent and potential. The problem is that he crapped the bed so badly in his UFC debut that no one would have been surprised if he’d ended up getting cut, had he came up short against Lando Vannata. This time around, Zellhuber let his fists fly and came thisclose to being the first to finish Vannata with strikes. He had to settle for a clear-cut decision, putting himself back on track. Perhaps all the youthful Mexican needed was to get past the debut jitters.
Start typing a resume
I wasn’t crazy about Boser moving down to 205. I get that he’s smaller than most other heavyweights, but his game was never about matching physicality with the behemoths that populate that division. It was about being the quicker, more active fighter. He loses that edge against most light heavyweights, as Cutelaba demonstrated. In the process, Boser has now lost four of his last five. If it was up to me, I’d bring back around for one more chance after UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen, but that’s not up to me.
Vannata’s reputation has been built on his impressive debut performance against Tony Ferguson all the way back in 2016. Following that up with a highlight reel spinning wheel kick KO only added to his mystique, but it looks like the well has run dry. Vannata’s two consecutive losses isn’t too bad, but he’s lost three of his last four and has an overall UFC record of 4-7-2. At 31, Vannata seems unlikely to create a dramatic third act in his career. I’d keep Boser around, but I’d be cutting Vannata loose given all the favorable matchups he has received.
It was a surprise when the UFC signed Aaron Phillips back to the organization a couple of years ago given the lack of success in his first run. Those who disagreed with the signing appear to have been in the right. Phillips received his most favorable matchup against Gaston Bolanos, but was still unable to secure a UFC win. Granted, Phillips came the closest he ever had to picking up that win when he controlled Bolanos for long stretches, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
Biggest WOW moment
If Edson Barboza is on a card, there’s always a good chance he’s going to be the one dropping the most jaws—including that of his opponent. Billy Quarantillo was doing everything in his power to keep the fight in close quarters after eating some hard low kicks. Barboza was prepared for that, landing a brutal step-in knee to the jaw of Quarantillo as he looked to shoot for a takedown. Quarantillo dropped like a sack of potatoes, out cold, adding another impressive highlight to Barboza already extensive reel. To be fair, I could have just as easily picked Brandon Royval for this spot, but Matheus Nicolau didn’t go out cold. In a game of inches….
There were two men who announced their retirements at UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen. To no one’s surprise, it was Ed Herman and Zak Cummings, who just happened to be fighting one another.
Herman was the owner of the longest continuous stint on the roster, having debuted all the way back in 2006 in the TUF 3 Finale. He spent most of his UFC career at middleweight before successfully navigating to light heavyweight in his waning years. Herman was never a contender, but he managed to hang around based on his grit and old-school approach. I know fighters don’t like being labeled gatekeepers, but there’s something to be said for hanging around for 17 years. Besides, Herman probably overachieved for his career given his physical talents. Here’s wishing him nothing but the best.
The same could be said about Cummings. He may not have had the longevity of Herman, but he was a similar type of gatekeeper. And it’s not like he was only around for a short time. His 10-year anniversary would have been this August. How Cummings ever made 170 is beyond me, but he found success with his intelligent, technical approach. Given he was probably the slowest member of the welterweight division when he was there, he’d have to get by on intelligence and technique. With the win over Herman, Cummings ended his UFC career with victories in three divisions, something few can claim. Much like Herman, here’s wishing Cummings nothing but the best.
I understand where everyone is freaking out about the scorecards for Joselyn Edwards and Lucie Pudilova. I believe the wrong person got their hand raised as well. However, I can see where someone would have scored the fight for Edwards as she did more damage in the first round and clearly won the third round. Thus, even though I disagree with the final decision—and all the other media members who scored the fight disagree as well—I fear robbery may be too strong of a word. I’ll admit I don’t like throwing that word around as judging MMA fights is subjective, but that’s my take.
Best rebound effort
Both Zellhuber and Denise Gomes came up short in their UFC debuts, but Gomes was at least competitive in her contest. The same can’t be said about Zellhuber. The young Mexican absolutely crapped the bed in his debut against Trey Ogden. As I already said, he came very close to putting Vannata away, providing what most believe was a more accurate representation of his talents. While Vannata could end up being released, he has at least proven he is capable of being competitive against legit UFC talent. The same can’t be said about Gomes’ opponent, Brasil. Regardless, impressive sophomore efforts from both combatants that are indicative of bright futures.
UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen Bonus Numbers
Bill Algeo and TJ Brown were both deserving of the extra $50K they picked up for FOTN for UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen. That’s Algeo’s third career Performance Bonus and the second for Brown. Entirely unsurprising was Barboza earning a bonus as well for his KO of Quarantillo, the eleventh bonus of Barboza’s long career. Royval’s similar KO of Nicolau also picked him up some extra cash, his fourth bonus in just seven UFC fights. What was a surprise was the UFC doling out a fifth bonus. Not that Robertson didn’t deserve it—her first in fourteen fights—but the UFC rarely deviates from its customary four on a Fight Night.
Robertson finally picking one up snapped the longest drought of anyone on the card who had never secured the extra cash, dating back to December 2017. Well, unless you count Phillips’ official debut back in May 2014, but he also has just four fights under his belt in the UFC due to a lengthy absence from the organization. Worth noting, Cummings snatched bonus in his UFC debut and never picked up another. That’s a total of 13 fights, dating back to August 2013. Now, the fighter from the event with the most fights without a bonus is Rafa Garcia, but his seven appearances are a far cry from Robertson’s previous number.
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