UFC Vegas 71: Pavlovich vs Blaydes – Winners and Losers

A bad card with some good bits and a mercifully short main event. Why does it still feel like this UFC card was a waste?

By: Victor Rodriguez | 2 months ago
UFC Vegas 71: Pavlovich vs Blaydes – Winners and Losers
April 21, 2023, Las Vegas, NV, LAS VEGAS, NV, United States: LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 21: Sergei Pavlovich steps on the scale for the official weigh-ins at Sante Fe Station Hotel Casino for UFC Fight Night - Vegas 71 - Pavlovich vs Blaydes - Weigh-ins on April 21, 2023 in Las Vegas, NV, United States. Las Vegas, NV United States - ZUMAp175 20230421_zsa_p175_058 Copyright: xLouisxGrassex

UFC Vegas 71 is over and done with, and that was certainly an event that happened. While cards like this exist for the purposes of advancement and keeping fighters busy while milking ESPN for more money for live content, this one felt especially flat and not-good. With only the headliner being a fight between two ranked fighters—Sergei Pavlovich vs. Curtis Blaydes—and little else of note, it didn’t feel like this was a card that offered significant or valuable consequences.

By the way, hi. Yes, that’s the correct name on the byline. I’m back sitting in this week, and what an event for that to happen, huh? The struggle remains quite real, because making sense of this other than a blind paper chase with filler content is about as small as I can parse this event. It also doesn’t help that we had a Bellator Hawaiian doubleheader that ended with a sizzling and shocking finale, or that Tank/Garcia was on offer for all the boxing fans. So yeah, let’s dive in.


Sergei Pavlovich: Easily and without a doubt the biggest winner of the evening and most likely to be next in line for the heavyweight title. A win at #3 against a #4 opponent is already good, but stepping back and realizing that the champ is fighting #2 next and the #1 ranked heavyweight was just made to look like a rank amateur by the champ? Add an emphatic finish and something has to go very wrong for the Russian not to get next.

Pavlovich deftly avoided takedowns and soundly out-struck Blaydes, who came to battle with a horrendous gameplan. Smelling like roses in the UFC’s big boy division is rarefied air these days, so let’s hope he makes the most of it in campaigning for what he ought to get.

Bruno Silva: Good stuff from the Brazilian here, sussing out Brad Tavares’ reactions and putting that pressure on real heavy. It still seems premature to think that somehow he’s moved past his limitations considering that both he and Tavares were both on similar slides. Nice to see he at least gets to hang around a bit longer and put on some more fun fights.

Jeremiah Wells: Things started extra dicey for Wells, but he gutted it out and used his composure to earn a hard-fought decision win. He keeps his win streak alive and extends it to six, with four of them being in the UFC. Not sure how much further this might move him in the welterweight picture, but showing that kind of grit and determination is a net positive when a fighter gets the win. Even if it’s not as explosive as his previous victories, he showed he doesn’t wilt in the face of adversity.

Christos Giagos: Giagos doesn’t always get the finish, but when he does, he has a knack for making them impressive as hell. The way he made Rick Glenn get the slow lean was dynamite. Giagos proved he can still flip a fight on its head in an instant.

Montel Jackson: That snappy left counter to right hand was money. This could be the kind of performance against the kind of opponent that gets him some real recognition and further advancement in a division as crowded and talent-dense as bantamweight. Another win like this and Jackson could find himself in the top 15.

Brady Hiestand: Heistand looked okay in fits and starts early in this fight, but ate some big shots and had trouble really controlling Danaa Batgerel on the mat. But the Sikjitsu fighter clearly had more in the tank and rallied hard late in the last round to get that finish. That’s back to back wins after the heartbreaking loss in the TUF finale.


Curtis Blaydes: Terrible day at the office for Blaydes, whom I personally expected to perform way better. Trying to box with someone with a better jab and faster handspeed is bad enough, but telegraphed takedowns from a mile away with no punches to set it up? I’m not his coach or trainer, and he’s absolutely a high-level heavyweight for good reason. But as a fan and observer, it’s hard not to feel like this was an especially bad fight.

It’s some small comfort that he at least lost to another very good heavyweight that can give the rest of the top five a lot of headaches and could potentially win the title at some point. That doesn’t undo how poorly executed this approach was though.

Brad Tavares: Not that anyone should expect Brad to be cut after this loss, but it goes to show just how inconsistent a talent he can be. Sure, I can see the case for an early stoppage there. But it didn’t feel like the fight was about to start going a whole lot better for him. He got rocked badly and every shot that followed it up only hurt him more. He’s firmly rooted in the spot he currently occupies on the UFC roster, and will probably be in that same area until he retires.

Bobby Green: The artist soon to be formerly known as Bobby Green might not have intended to clash heads with Jared Gordon, but the manner in which he protested and reacted in the post-fight presser made him look like a massively sore loser. He can shout about his money until he’s blue in the face, but he knows that’s not gonna help his cause. Just an awful look.

Brogan Walker-Sanchez: Walker didn’t seem to have any answers and her setups looked a bit clumsy and out of place. She’s super tough and I personally expected her to outwork the younger Iasmin Lucindo. Walker-Sanchez just didn’t have it together for this one and may not be ready to fight at this level. She might get another bout in the UFC after this, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if she got released.

Ricky Glenn: Glenn had a nearly three-year hiatus and came back to MMA in 2021. That ended with a great win over Joaquim Silva, then a draw against Grant Dawson, followed by this loss. That doesn’t spell the end for him, and there’s plenty of winnable fights for him. It’s still concerning, that was a rough one. This puts him at 4-4 with 1 draw in the UFC, and it’s really tough to see what they do with him from here.

Rani Yahya: Another aging vet fed to a young lion, Yahya played his best card with a dive for a takedown. Jackson was ready for it. In fact, he was ready for pretty much all of the adjustments Yahya tried to make and the Brazilian got sparked to end the fight. Being 38-years-old in the bantamweight division is tough enough, but it also looked like Jackson absolutely had his number out there. Things could only get tougher for Yahya in the UFC going forward.

Junior Tafa: Tafa nailed a few big shots, whiffed on most of the rest, then got wrestled into a black hole and was unable to find any remedy. This fight had him staring up at the lights and heaving, with neither the solutions from bottom position nor the cardio to do much else. Not what the UFC might have expected signing a big striker like him, even if Usman had been working on the wrestling skills to take him down and keep him down. Hope things go better for him in the next one.

Danaa Batgerel: While his overall record is now 12-5 as a pro, this loss puts him at 3-4 in the UFC. Dude might maaaaaaaybe get another shot, but it sure looks like he might get his walking papers here.


Jared Gordon: Not his fault he got headbutted, and at least it was properly called as a no-contest. His record doesn’t take a hit, nor does his reputation or standing. But he also doesn’t get his win bonus, and that’s really got to sting. Maybe they run it back but they did him dirty on that front. Otherwise, his standing should remain unaffected.

Iasmin Lucindo: 21 years old and with a 14-5 record is a strange combo. She’s young and raw, but experienced enough given her record. So, what gives? She won, but she didn’t look like she had the polish of a fighter with that kind of record.

Her age should be a boon to her athletic talents. Looking at her opposition for a good chunk of that record at least partially explains it: she crushed a bunch of way lesser opposition. In this case, she got her first UFC win after stumbling in her debut against Yasmin Jauregi. That’s not a terrible thing. She’s got a lot of improvements to make in short order if she’s going to stick around and move up, however.

Matthew Semelsberger: Semelsberger falls to 5-3 in his UFC run and should still have a secure roster spot here. A very close fight against a very game Jeremiah Wells isn’t so bad, and it’s not like either fighter was ranked or on the verge of being ranked to begin with.

Norma Dumont and Karol Rosa: This fight had some sparks in a few moments, but ultimately not only did it not have much memorable action—it didn’t mean much at all. Dumont gets the win, but there’s no actual featherweight division. This performance won’t really inspire the UFC brass to bump her up to face dual champion Amanda Nunes. I mean, what would happen if they do!? She’d get mauled terribly in a PPV that’d tank under that kind of main event. Likewise, Rosa losing means she has nowhere to go. Can’t fall in the rankings when there’s literally nothing to fall in.

Francis Marshall and William Gomis: They tried their hardest, but it felt like there was way more jockeying for position for a lot of it. Two young guys went at it and there were some sub attempts and smart offense, but neither guy really gained or lost much in the UFC other than more cage time and experience. And that’s fine. It contributes to growth, after all. But it was a fight that’s just there.

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About the author
Victor Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez has been a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He started his way as a lowly commenter and moderator to become the miscreant he is now. He often does weekly bits on fringe martial arts items across the globe, oddball street combat pieces, previews, analysis, and some behind-the-scenes support. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there. Victor has also been involved with acting and audio editing projects. He lives in Pennsylvania where he plays way too many video games and is an S-rank dad.

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