Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone and the outcome of the main event could not have been more disappointing. Not the Noche UFC main event itself; Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko provided all that could have been expected in a title fight. There were knockdowns, submission attempts, momentum swings… all that could be asked for in a close fight. What there wasn’t was a dominant round for either fighter. And yet, a 10-8 was delivered by one judge in the final round, delivering a split draw as the final decision.
There have been title fights where a draw made all the sense in the world. Edgar-Maynard II. Figueiredo-Moreno I. This was not one of those fights. Based on the way MMA scoring has been set up, one of the women should have walked out with their hand raised. A debate would be had for the rest of eternity whether it was correct or not, but there is no way a draw should have been plausible. The final result delivered a dark cloud over what was otherwise a very good night of fights.
But who were the real winners and losers from Noche UFC? Sure, 9 UFC 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!
Noche UFC Winners
It has felt like Godinez has been on a slow simmer since coming up short against Angela Hill a year ago. She’s won her fights, but the hype she created around herself over her first year in the organization was in stasis. It was in anything but stasis against Elise Reed. Godinez dominated Reed in every aspect of the fight. She threw Reed around, she battered her, she blasted her, she slammed her… all before finally submitting her at Noche UFC.
It was obvious Godinez has been working hard to improve. There were legit concerns Godinez could let the fight get away from her if she opted to strike with Reed. Instead, Godinez established her advantage on the mat early, allowing the threat of her takedowns to open up her striking. As a result, she was able to win the striking battle as well. Godinez’s size is a massive hurdle for her to overcome if she ever hopes to be champion, but there’s no doubt she’s moving in the right direction if she wants the chance to prove she can hit that level.
It’s been low key, but Kopylov has put together one of the more impressive current streaks in the UFC. Since dropping his first two UFC efforts, he has not only strung together four consecutive wins, but he’s managed to secure a finish in each of those contests. He’s been able to do so in just over a year too, making up for the lost time he suffered due to injury when he only fought twice in a span of three-plus years.
Granted, Kopylov’s quality of opposition hasn’t been the greatest, so it’s fair to reign in the horses on just how good he is. Then again, Kopylov is doing exactly what you’d hope he can do against the level of competition being place in front of him. At 32, he’s roughly in the prime years for a middleweight. It’s hard to believe he won’t get a notable step up in competition following his demolition of Josh Fremd at Noche UFC.
It was less than a month ago that Dana White deemed Knutsson wasn’t good enough to fight in the UFC. That came despite a dominant performance over Isis Verbeek, White stating Knutsson’s inability to secure a finish being the deciding factor. Knutsson received a contract about a week later when she stepped in on short notice and proceeded to demolish Marnic Mann in the process. She didn’t get the finish, but she did secure a 30-24 scorecard without controversy. We’ve seen a lot of stoppages. How many 30-24 scorecards have we seen?
If you’re still stuck on the lack of a finish, there were multiple instances where the referee could have justifiably stepped in and called the fight. Mann was badly hurt several times and there were several on social media who were stating Mann’s corner should have thrown in the towel. Perhaps everything should be taken with a grain of salt given Mann was a late notice replacement whose talent level is questionable, but Knutsson did what she was supposed to do at Noche UFC. She looks like a great prospect whom White should feel lucky didn’t get away.
Noche UFC Losers
If you’re wondering who Mike Bell is, he’s the judge who delivered a 10-8 scorecard at the Noche UFC main event. Normally, I’m all for a greater volume of 10-8’s being scored. But there was not a 10-8 round to be found anywhere in the title fight. The round in question was the fifth and final round. For a good three-and-a-half minutes, Shevchenko was in control. She wasn’t dominating, but she controlled the pace with her jab. Grasso couldn’t get into gear. Grasso managed to take her back on a failed throw from Shevchenko and stole the round. But a 10-8 when she didn’t come close to finding the finish? I don’t think so.
The only guess that I have is Bell was responding to the crowd noise, something Shevchenko alluded to in her post-fight interview. If that is his excuse, it’s a terrible one as judges should know to ignore the impact of the crowd noise. I get it can be difficult in a close round, but this wasn’t a close round. Grasso’s comeback did steal the round, but it didn’t completely override Shevchenko’s earlier success in the round. I’m not saying Bell should be removed from judging – this is the first botched score from him I can remember — but he will certainly have many critical eyes in his direction from this point after Noche UFC.
This is less because Giagos looked bad. In actuality, he looked great early, coming thisclose to putting away Daniel Zellhuber within the opening minutes. But that’s why Giagos ended up being one of the bigger losers at Noche UFC. He went from being on the verge of securing his second consecutive quick first round KO to ending up on the losing end of things. Giagos expression after the fight said it all. It was ever so close to a great night for him….
The other part of it that really hurts is Giagos is now 33. He isn’t a young 33 either. He’s been fighting for 13 years with 31 fights under his belt. Noche UFC was likely his last chance to make a run of any significance. Not that he’s stumbled too far with the loss, but momentum is required to make a run and he’s potentially gone from two consecutive wins to coming off a loss. Giagos still has something left to offer, but it would be a miracle of epic proportions for him to even break into the rankings at this point.
We’ve seen referees blow calls before. We’ve seen referees blow things even worse than Tognoni did when he called a submission stoppage between Edgar Chairez and Daniel Da Silva. But it was still bad enough to ruin the fight at Noche UFC. Chairez had Da Silva in a choke hold, but it wasn’t all that constricting. To conserve energy, Da Silva relaxed, which Tognoni interpreted as Da Silva going out. Without checking on Da Silva, Tognoni stopped the fight when Da Silva appeared to be perfectly fine.
I will offer some sort of defense for Tognoni in the sense that a referee’s first job is to ensure the safety of the fighters. He did do that when he stopped the fight when he believed Da Silva was out to prevent any further damage to Da Silva. Plus, he was also willing to have the fight declared a no contest, something that doesn’t always happen. Remember how Ben Askren was gift wrapped a win over Robbie Lawler? Despite all that, Tognoni did screw up and Dominick Cruz’s criticism at Noche UFC ensured everyone knew it to the nth degree.
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