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As far as modern UFC Fight Nights go, UFC Vegas 73 was about as good as fans could ask. Mackenzie Dern announced herself as a top strawweight contender with a five round thrashing of Angela Hill, Anthony Hernandez made it clear that he’s a middleweight on his way to the top with a dominating third round TKO of Edmen Shahbazyan, and Joaquin Buckley looked every bit the highlight machine he’s been at 185 down at 170 lbs.
So, is Dern ready to test herself against another true top-dog at 115 lbs? Is there any reason Hernandez shouldn’t get a ranked opponent next time he steps into the cage? And did Carlos Diego Ferreira just hook himself a KO of the year contender?
To answer those questions—and a couple other things—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
All things considered, this was a pretty masterful performance from Mackenzie Dern. Sure she still strikes like the wacky inflatable tube man outside a car dealership, but she put real proof to the idea that if opponents are going to sit down in front of her and try to trade punches, they’re going to find her power a massive problem.
Dern blitzed Angela Hill time and time again, and every time she landed clean it looked like Hill had been run over by a truck. Add a still nasty, dynamic, and controlling ground game to the mix—and a new, shocking five rounds worth of cardio—and Dern is a problem for anyone who can’t stay away from her or put her on her heels.
My biggest regret coming away from this fight, from a matchmaking perspective is that the UFC didn’t wait a few days to announce Tatiana Suarez’s next booking. Suarez vs. Dern seems like the next-level thrilling version of the likely very grinding fight that Suarez vs. Jandiroba will be. It’s one of the most interesting wrestler-grappler battles the UFC could book across any division. It’s the fight we should be getting.
Fortunately there are any of a few good consolation prizes out there. Mackenzie Dern vs. Jessica Andrade, or possibly Carla Esparza. Or, even an idea that Dern herself proposed—a fight with Rose Namajunas. ‘Thug Rose’ would be a huge problem for Dern standing with her quality retreating footwork, and long, rangy striking.
Dern doesn’t have any of the power takedowns that marked Namajunas’ trouble with someone like Andrade either. But, if she could find a way to get to the mat, that’d make for one hell of a grappling battle between them. Realistically, I’d say Dern vs. Andrade was the more interesting fight to me right now—since I think Andrade would slug it out—but if Namajunas is willing, then Dern vs. Namajunas is a very sell-able fight and the UFC would be foolish to pass on it.
For a moment, it almost looked like Angela Hill might steal away the momentum of this fight. Sure she lost the first round bad, but she made it through. Then she slowed Dern down in the second, kept the fight on the feet, and may have even won the frame.
Dern’s been known to gas hard, Hill’s been known to push a pace and be tough to finish. Maybe the tide was turning? Instead, what commenced was a thoroughly one-sided thrashing for three more rounds from the Brazilian. A likely end to any dreams Hill had of turning her reputation for being an action-first fighter into a run at being a title contender.
Unfortunately for Hill, having seemingly already fought just about every single person in her division already, it’s tough to say just what makes the most sense as a next bout. She hasn’t faced Marina Rodriguez, but getting an even higher ranked fighter off a loss doesn’t seem like a probable move. More likely, a big step back is going to be in order.
Someone like Cheyanne Vlismas or Piera Rodriguez seems more the right speed. Rodriguez got thoroughly out-classed by Gillian Robertson’s grappling last time around. A more striking-friendly fight is likely just what she needs. Hill vs. Rodriguez is a great way to put Hill back in her role as an action-gatekeeper to the elite.
The dynamics of this fight were so set in stone, they could have been scripted. Edmen Shahbazyan was going to come out hard early, put serious hands on Hernandez, and if he couldn’t get the finish in that moment, he was going to get swallowed up in a constant maelstrom of grappling scrambles. He didn’t get the KO, and by the start of round 3 he was basically dead on his feet. One more takedown and an endless onslaught of ground-and-pound later and the referee had to step in and call it off. Even if Shahbazyan wasn’t about to get knocked out, he was done.
It’s another dominant win for Hernandez, who should be looking at a number next to his name in the not-too-distant future. Unfortunately for him, the bottom end of the top 15 is pretty booked up. I would love to see Hernandez face someone like the winner of Imavov/Craig, or Allen/Silva. A fight with Caio Borralho is right there though, and that seems like a real fun booking. Borralho vs. Hernandez would be a grappling thriller.
Especially considering this was a short notice fight for Loopy Godinez, this was a pretty excellent performance from her here. That’s two bouts in a row now, where she’s been largely stuck in a boxing-only fight and has managed her output and her gas tank excellently. For Emily Ducote, unfortunately, it also marks the second time where an opponent has given her exactly the kind of fight she wants and where she couldn’t meet the necessary pace to win it. Ducote did manage to match tempo in round 2 and won that round from two judges, but then round 3 came around and she was well behind once again.
That should have Godinez into a top 15 bout once again. Luana Pinheiro needs a fight, it’d be a great chance for Godinez to prove that her game is ready for the elite. If that can’t happen, then there’s always bouts with Karolina Kowalkiewicz, or Cory McKenna, or Sam Hughes. Pinheiro vs. Godinez is the kind of tough test Godinez deserves.
Whether it’s at middleweight or welterweight, Joaquin Buckley is a thrill to watch. ‘New Mansa’ has cemented his reputation for being an absolutely crushing finisher with big power and a willingness to throw with creativity at any moment. For a moment it looked like Andre Fialho had started to figure out Buckley’s timing and was landing a few of his own big shots. But the persistence (and maybe a bit of help from a foul that Fialho waved off) kept ‘New Mansa’ dangerous and set up the huge head kick that knocked the Portuguese fighter cold.
After the bout, Buckley called out Logan Paul for not getting him a Prime sponsorship. In terms of Octagon talent, however, he needs to get in there with another power striker stat. Alex Morono, Trevin Giles, Khaos Williams, and Jeremiah Wells would all work. It’s really hard not to gravitate instantly to Khaos Williams vs. Joaquin Buckley. So yeah, let’s go with that. All violence all the time.
CARLOS DIEGO FERREIRA
For the bulk of this bout, it felt like a fight Diego Ferreira shouldn’t be having. He tried a few takedowns here and there, but they were easily defended. For the most part the Brazilian was stuck having a range kickboxing contest against Michael Johnson, where he was the slower, less polished striker. Sometimes that just doesn’t matter, however. And after 6+ minutes of getting chewed up by body shots and counter hooks, Ferreira launched an overhand right that put Johnson 100% out cold.
A brutal highlight KO for the Fortis MMA product. Will it get him back in the conversation with the top 15 at lightweight? Most likely it’ll get him in against another experienced veteran stuck treading water just like he’s been. Names like Drakkar Klose, Matt Frevola,
Fighting in the UFC hasn’t been easy or kind for Viacheslav Borshchev. The man best known as ‘Slava Clause’ has been a ton of fun to watch inside the Octagon, but more well-rounded fighters have been able to take him out of his element repeatedly and slow him down. That wasn’t the case against Hayisaer Maheshate, however, and it made for an absolutely brutal thriller and a seriously powerful KO.
After the bout Borshchev revealed that he had actually completed his current contract with the UFC, I’d expect a new deal will be forthcoming quickly however, so I don’t see any reason not to put together a next fight at lightweight for him. Fights against Uros Medic, Ignacio Bahamondes, Rafa Garcia, or Nazim Sadykhov would all be fun. If those are the options, though, the choice seems pretty obvious. Ignacio Bahmondes vs. Viacheslav Borshchev would be an absolute banger.
An absolutely vintage performance from Karolina Kowalkiewicz. For years now, she’s seemed like she had a wicked case of the yips. For a fighter whose game was always based on walking through fire to create continuous striking and clinch exchanges, when her confidence to take shots went away, her game stopped working the way it needed to. Against Vanessa Demopoulos, however, she looked determined and focused, staying in the face of her opponent for three continuous rounds of hard paced striking.
The result is a rock solid decision win that should give her another crack at the edges of the top 15. That could mean a rematch against Michelle Waterson or a bout against rising contender Luana Pinheiro. Bouts with Loma Lookboonmee and Cory McKenna would also be solid. I think the Lookboonmee bout seems like an especially fun idea. The ground game may be a huge advantage for Kowalkiewicz, but if she’s going to have the kind of striking battle that she had here again, then Lookboonmee should make for a good challenge. Loma Lookboonmee vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz would be a scrap.
As expected, this was an absolute walkover fight for Natalia Silva. She started out going punch for punch with Victoria Leonardo, but the speed and power on her strikes quickly made that a more costly proposition for her opponent than for the Brazilian top prospect. After dropping Leonardo on a 3-punch combo, the end was only a matter of time. A couple heavy hooks and kicks later, and the ref mercifully intervened.
That sets Silva up for something more meaningful, hopefully nearer to the top-15 of the division. That could mean fights with Maryna Moroz, Tracy Cortez, Andrea Lee, Casey O’Neill or Antonina Shevchenko. I know she’s coming off a loss, but I like the kind of challenge that Moroz’s boxing and wrestling games can offer a fighter on the rise. Seems like the kind of double threat that Silva needs to prove herself against. Silva vs. Moroz is a great last stop for Silva before making a run at the top 15.
UFC VEGAS 73 OTHER BOUTS
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk, Emily Ducote vs. Ariane Carnelossi, Andre Fialho vs. Song Kenan, Michael Johnson vs. Ricky Glenn, Hayisaer Maheshate vs. Trey Ogden, Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Jaqueline Amorim, Orion Cosce vs. Yusaku Kinoshita, Gilbert Urbina vs. Trey Waters, Ilir Latifi vs. Blagoy Ivanov 2, Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Martin Buday, Chase Hooper vs. Claudio Puelles, Nick Fiore vs. Genaro Valdez, Victoria Leonardo vs. Hannah Goldy, Themba Gorimbo vs. Preston Parsons, Takashi Sato vs. Yohan Lainesse
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