Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone, the results proving to be a mixed bag. The evening started out very slow, the first five fights on the evening going to the judges. When we did get our first finish, it was a freak injury that brought an end to the action. Fortunately, the main card largely delivered. The co-main event delivered far more drama than anyone anticipated while the main event announced a new contender in the wide open women’s bantamweight division.
Mayra Bueno Silva’s win over Holly Holm probably wasn’t as unexpected as it might have been to the casual fans, but most would consider it to be a positive development. Not because Holm is an unlikeable person, but the division has been bereft of new blood at the top for so long, it had begun to stagnate. Bueno Silva’s emergence breaks the stagnation, creating the first stirring interest in the division since Julianna Pena upset Amanda Nunes. Time will tell if that maintains.
But who were the real winners and losers of the event? Sure, 12 fighters officially had their hand raised in victory, but that doesn’t always mean they are the true winners of the night. Same with those who didn’t get their hand raised. Just like not all wins are created equal, not all losses are either. I’ll give you the lowdown on who the biggest winners and losers of the event were. I’ll limit it to three in each category, doing my best to avoid having the same combatants of a contest in both categories. Let’s dig in!
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UFC Fight Night Winners
Mayra Bueno Silva
I won’t go so far as to proclaim the women’s bantamweight division as the hottest division in the organization, but there’s finally a positive buzz around it. It isn’t just that Bueno Silva’s ascent adds new blood; it’s that she has managed to climb the ranks on the back of three consecutive submission finishes. Part of the stagnation of the bantamweight division has been due to a lack of dynamism within the division. For instance, Raquel Pennington, considered to be a likely combatant for the vacant title, only has three finishes in her twelve UFC wins. Bueno Silva only has one decision in her six UFC wins.
There’s no guarantee Bueno Silva’s next contest will be for the title, but she has a four-fight winning streak to back her up. That’s only exceeded by Pennington’s five, one of which came in a featherweight contest. Julianna Pena, the other major option for a title shot, has been rubbing a wide swath of fans the wrong way with her outlandish proclamations. If Dana White is listening to the fanbase – sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t — Bueno Silva will slide past Pena into an opportunity to be the division’s new queen.
No, Hafez didn’t get his hand raised in the end. Despite that, he want from being an unknown on the outside of the UFC to giving Jack Della Maddalena the toughest test of his UFC career in just a single week. Not only did he give JDM the toughest test, he came thisclose to pulling off the upset, convincing one of the judges that he was the superior fighter. Given JDM has a number next to his name – and has been called by many one of the best prospects in the sport – that’s a hell of an accomplishment.
I would caution pundits about putting too much emphasis on this performance. Not that I don’t think Hafez doesn’t belong in the UFC; that’s established. I would foreworn against boosting expectations too much. Y’all remember how much hype Lando Vannata produced in his UFC debut against Tony Ferguson? He did follow that up with a spectacular KO of John Makdessi, but he’s never come close to matching the hype from his debut. Hafez could, but I can’t help but recommend approaching with caution.
When Elder was signed to the UFC, he didn’t have a reputation as an exciting fighter. He was considered to be a decent striker, but it was expected his ground game would be his primary route to success. It took three fights into his UFC career before he finally secured his first win over Genaro Valdez, but he has also successfully flipped his reputation into that of a solid action fighter. Given it was an evening in which there were a lot of ho-hum fights, that’s about the best development that could be hoped for.
While Elder has been able to flip his reputation in terms of the entertainment value he brings, I haven’t seen enough in his skill set to say he’ll be able to crack the official UFC rankings. Part of that is his own limited athleticism, part of it is the overall depth of lightweight. Regardless, even if he doesn’t become a contender, the best way to ensure a long UFC tenure outside of being one of the best, it’s to be a consistent action fighter. I’d say Elder is on his way to doing that.
UFC Fight Night Losers
I really hope Chandler has a good sense of humor. She’d better because she’s going to be an MMA meme for the rest of her life. Early in her contest with Norma Dumont, Chandler ate a hard combination from the Brazilian. In an effort to give herself some breathing room, Chandler turned her back on Dumont and ran directly in the opposite direction, not stopping until she ran into the fence. While it was successful in providing her a brief respite, Dumont wasn’t far behind. Regardless, Chandler had successfully cemented her spot in MMA social media by then.
Given the circumstances, Chandler’s overall performance wasn’t too bad. Not only had she fought just over half as many times as Dumont, she also hadn’t fought the level of competition Dumont has. Thus, even though her loss was fairly one-sided, she wouldn’t have ended up on this list if it was solely based on the entirety of her performance. But becoming a meme? Yeah, that’s something you’d better have thick skin for. Only time will tell if Chandler does.
It’s official: the buzz around McKinney is dead. The athletic freak burst on the UFC scene by securing a KO victory in just seven seconds in his UFC debut. After one more quick win, he came thisclose to upending the double tough Drew Dober before fading and getting finished before the end of the opening round. The bloom wasn’t off the rose quite yet given the reputation of Dober, but it did indicate a hard ceiling if McKinney didn’t learn to extend himself beyond three minutes of a fight. For the second consecutive fight, McKinney couldn’t survive beyond the first round.
I suppose we might be able to extend McKinney’s window to four minutes given he controlled Nazim Sadykhov that long, but it’s still the same story. It didn’t appear to be a deplete gas tank this time around, but McKinney appeared to be out of answers when his takedowns weren’t working. Given McKinney’s incredible physique, it appears his issues are more mental than anything. If he can find a way to get his head in the right place, he’s a contender. Otherwise, while I believe McKinney will hang around for a while, he’ll be nothing more than an action fighter. Not a bad fate, but he’s capable of more.
Prior to this event, the last time Evans-Smith fought was in the fall of 2020. Her last win came in the spring of 2018. There was every indication that the fight game had passed her by, especially given those losses since that last victory weren’t exactly competitive. Those thoughts were confirmed with authority as Evans-Smith lost one of the most one-sided decisions in recent memory against an opponent who was smothered by Stephanie Egger in Ailin Perez’s only UFC contest. That’s a terrible look.
I won’t ever doubt the toughness of Evans-Smith as she refused to succumb to the constant volume of Perez, but it’s clear her heart isn’t in fighting anymore. In a sport like basketball or tennis, you can get away with not having your heart in it. You can’t do that in the fighting game and not seriously risk major long-term repercussions. I anticipate the UFC will release her, but that doesn’t mean Evans-Smith will be retiring. I hope she does. I have no desire to see her fight again, not after the drubbing she suffered against Perez.
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