Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone, this time from the hotbed of London, England. Unfortunately, the UFC hasn’t been able to replicate the success they managed to find in March of last year. In fact, on the whole, the card was on the somber side as a there was a LOT of ho-hum decisions that were difficult to get through. Fortunately, the card closed well enough – even if home country favorite Molly McCann came up short – and a legit headliner returned from a long layoff.
Tom Aspinall’s demolition of Marcin Tybura proved that his knee injury merely delayed his rise to stardom as opposed to derailing it. In fact, he looked better than ever, the time off forcing him to deal not just his knee rehab, but the rest of his body as well. Aside from that, I’ll never know how the UFC overlooked granting and extra $50K to Nathaniel Wood and Andre Fili – no disrespect to Jonny Parsons and Daniel Roberts – as those two had me on the edge of my seat more than any other contest.
But who were the real winners and losers of the event? Sure, 15 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!
UFC Fight Night Winners
There was quite a bit of drab action on the night, but not a single second of that can be attributed to Aspinall. I already mentioned how spectacular he looked – requiring a mere 73 seconds of official work – but it also sets him up to be a big part of the title picture moving forward. As much as I hate to place marketability into the equation for who has next after Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic take care of business, it’s undeniably going to be measured when the UFC attempts to determine who between Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich has next. That favors Aspinall.
Perhaps more important, the UFC has a genuine English star on their hands. Paddy Pimblett may be more recognizable overall, but he’s lost some steam following his controversial win over Jared Gordon. Plus, Pimblett’s ceiling is limited. Aspinall would be well-served to amplify his personality to help sell himself, but his body of work will help to make up for that. Plus, no disrespect to Leon Edwards, but Aspinall is already a more personable figure than Great Britain’s only current champion.
The lanky Scot proved just about everyone wrong, myself included. There’s such a long track record of fighters moving down to a new weight class late in their careers, only for them to find out it wasn’t the best idea. However, there’s also the occasional exception, typically from fighters who are considered to be some of the more thoughtful cage fighters in the business. Like Jose Aldo. While Craig has always been a kill or be killed fighter, no one has ever considered him to be anything other than thoughtful.
The opening round saw Craig looking to get a feel for things as he wasn’t very aggressive. Come the second round, Craig wasted little time taking the fight to the mat, allowing his massive size to overwhelm the respected Andre Muniz on the mat. When Craig couldn’t find the sub, he overwhelmed Muniz with his size and power to get the stoppage with his fists. I’m guessing Craig’s ceiling at middleweight is similar to what it was at light heavyweight, but that’s still more than what we were all predicting walking into the event. Craig continues to defy the odds.
I get what you’re all thinking. Vieira’s fight with Pannie Kianzad was one of the more boring contests on the card, doing nothing to pick up any new fans for Vieira. Nor does it improve her standing with the UFC brass. However, while it would have been nice to have a highlight reel finish or a contest that permanently fixed some eyeballs on her, she got what she needed out of the fight: a dominant win, which doesn’t hurt her standings in the women’s wide open bantamweight division.
The retirement of Amanda Nunes has created a mad scramble to figure out who should be fighting for the vacant gold. As of now, there’s a triangle between former champion Julianna Pena, Raquel Pennington, and Mayra Bueno Silva. That leaves someone out in the cold… and likely fighting in a title eliminator. Vieira’s win likely ensures she’s the missing fixture in that equation given Holly Holm, Irene Aldana, Kianzad, and Yana Santos are all coming off losses, the names immediately behind Vieira in the rankings. So yes, Vieira is a big winner on the night.
UFC Fight Night Losers
After back-to-back spinning back elbow KO’s last year, McCann is now staring down back-to-back first round submission losses after getting her arm mangled by Julija Stoliarenko. In other words, the bloom is completely off the rose. That isn’t to say McCann has been eclipsed as Great Britain’s favorite women’s fighter by any means, but the enthusiasm has certainly been tempered by a wide margin. The guess here is the loss also solidifies the idea in the mind of the UFC that McCann is nothing more than a fun action fighter who needs to be matched appropriately rather than a budding contender.
While McCann can obviously carve out a quality career in that role, no fighter likes to be told they’re not going to be given the opportunity to prove just how good they are. I’m sure McCann would object to such a label. However, what is more important for her at the moment is getting back on the winning track as opposed to massaging her pride. That means matching her up with an opponent willing to go toe-to-toe with her on the feet… just the type of contest the UFC should be interested in.
Let me start by stating I scored Herbert’s contest with Fares Ziam for Herbert. The judges disagreed with me, but it was a close contest. That said, while it could be argued Herbert delivered a winning performance in technical terms, it can’t be argued he did so strictly in terms of entertainment value. Herbert and Ziam’s fight was arguably the worst fight on a card full of subpar contests in terms of pure aesthetics.
With that said, Herbert’s employment status is very much in the air. He’s seven fights into his UFC career with just two victories to his name. Granted, there’s a draw in there, but Herbert is 35 and hasn’t lived up to the hype of him being an action-fighting striker. Sure, he’s had flashes – his KO of Khama Worthy was spectacular – but he’s also had fights like this one with Ziam. Herbert doesn’t appear to be long for the UFC.
There’s several reasons to put Diakiese here. First of all, his loss was anything but clean. A clash of head’s between himself and Joel Alvarez the referee missed is what ultimately disorientated him to the extent he was unable to properly defend the submission prowess of Alvarez. Up to that point, Diakiese was having a competitive contest with Alvarez. I wouldn’t have said he was winning – Alvarez took the first round and the second was still up for grabs – but a victory wasn’t out of reach for him if the scorecards were required.
Now, given the unlikelihood of his loss being overturned to a no contest – which I would believe was the appropriate call – Diakiese instead finds himself with consecutive losses and no longer being a youthful prospect. In other words, he’s not likely to get the same type of leash the UFC was willing to grant him previously. I don’t believe he’s going to be cut, but as established as Diakiese is at this point, I have a hard time believing the UFC might be willing to toss him a softball.
About the author