Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone and for the second consecutive week, a grizzled veteran taught the favored youngster a valuable lesson in the main event. Make no mistake, last week’s loss for Grant Dawson hurt. But this week, Sodiq Yusuff had Edson Barboza right where he wanted him. He HAD him! Instead of sealing the deal, Yusuff allowed Barboza to hang around after a severe first round beating. In the process, Barboza secured the comeback of the year.
Yusuff had Barboza thisclose to being disconnected from consciousness within the first minute of the fight. Somehow, Barboza managed to hang on despite multiple punches that would have separated any normal man from the waking world. Yusuff took a clear 10-8 first round, but never won a round after that. Barboza came close to finishing the UFC fight himself in the third, but Yusuff managed to hang on, in part because Barboza made the mistake of playing BJJ. Regardless, the 37-year-old managed to pull it out on the judges’ scorecards, securing a surprising W.
But who were the real winners and losers of the event? Sure, 11 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!
UFC Fight Night Winners
I guess there is still something in the tank. Earlier this year, Araujo looked flat against Amanda Ribas. A late-comer to the fight game, the assumption was that Father Time was catching up to the 36-year-old Araujo. That wasn’t the same version of Araujo that we saw this weekend against Jennifer Maia. While it wasn’t a dominant performance, Araujo was energetic and proved to be the superior grappler to Maia. It was ultimately enough for her to edge out Maia and keep her title aspirations alive.
While Araujo’s title aspirations are thin, we’ve learned several times over never to completely discount UFC fighters of a certain talent level. Provided she hasn’t slipped – and this performance indicates her loss to Ribas was merely an off-night – Araujo is of that talent level. It would likely take a title change and a lot of luck, but this is the same sport where Michael Bisping became champion. Never say never. Besides, the alternative would have been three consecutive losses. Remembering that, it’s easy to see how Araujo ended up a big winner on the evening.
There’s been a large swathe of the MMA fanbase that believed Pereira would be better off moving up to middleweight ever since he touched down in the UFC. That was over four years ago. There’s a feeling of justification after Pereira managed to dispatch of Andre Petroski in just over a minute. Given it was the first finish for Pereira in three years, there’s even more justification for believing Pereira’s move up was overdue.
There’s never been any question about Pereira’s talents. His ability to fight intelligently was the major question mark, something he’s been able to address since he dropped consecutive UFC fights early in his career. It became his ability to fight effectively deep into UFC fights, the weight cut clearly sapping him of energy. We still haven’t seen how well he can do going deep, but there was no indication he felt the need to conserve energy. If that’s the case, we may finally get to see the best version of Pereira fully unleashed.
Given the explosive nature of his victories, McKinney is never going to be in the dredges for very long… provided he can at least alternate wins and losses. He’s now got consecutive wins after running through Brendon Marotte in just 20 seconds. In the process, he joined a small club of fighters with multiple victories in under 20 seconds within the UFC. Throw in the three more he picked up on the regional scene and it’s easy to see McKinney is one of the most dangerous UFC fighters in the division. He has some rough losses too, but it’s easier to overlook that when McKinney’s most recent contests feature him blasting through his opponents.
I’ll admit we’ve all jumped on the McKinney bandwagon before and may want to pump the brakes on the hype. But McKinney continues to make active attempts to fulfill his potential. He has changed camps and I have to give him props for attempting to find the right formula that will allow him to emerge as the contender his talents signify he should be. So long as he doesn’t appear to be happy with the status quo, it’s foolish to proclaim McKinney is nothing more than a middling UFC fighter in the roster.
UFC Fight Night Losers
Yusuff was thisclose to having his breakout moment. Barboza was on chicken legs for over a minute, barely managing to hang on. Yusuff never managed to hurt Barboza over the course of the final four rounds. In fact, it was hard to miss the confidence in Yusuff drain round by round, minute by minute after he couldn’t get the finish. His corner even attempted to boost him up, reminding him he’s “Super Sodiq” in between rounds. It didn’t work, at least not the level needed to win rounds.
Losses like this can also wreck a fighter mentally. More than anyone, Yusuff knows he had this UFC fight in the bag. Will he dwell on that for the rest of his career? Given his limited experience with losing, we don’t have a good feel for how Yusuff will respond to a loss of this catastrophic nature. I haven’t even mentioned the setback this loss is to his climb up the featherweight division either. Had he finished Barboza when he had him on the ropes, it’s plausible he was one win away from a title shot. It’s doubtful three consecutive wins will be enough now.
So… is there any hype left? It was less than a year ago Yanez was being pushed as a major part of the future of the bantamweight division. Following back-to-back losses where he was the favorite entering the contest, it seems more like he’s destined to be a gatekeeper to the official rankings. That isn’t a terrible fate, but it is short of the hopes the UFC and many others had for the talented boxer. Perhaps if he managed to give Jonathan Martinez a competitive back-and-forth, it wouldn’t sting so much. Unfortunately, it was uncompetitive after the first few kicks to the legs of Yanez. It was all survival from there.
Part of the issue appears to be the level of competition the UFC was giving Yanez prior to pitting him against opponents with a number next to their name. Aside from Davey Grant, none of Yanez’s UFC opposition remains on the roster, nor did they win a UFC fight after Yanez beat them. As respectable as Grant is, the likes of Rob Font and Martinez is a big step up from Grant. Perhaps Yanez can still prove worthy of the hype, but current indications are that he’s not who we thought he was.
This should have been a breakout moment for Rodriguez. He looked like a million bucks against a hyped prospect in Cameron Saaiman, looking like he was a step ahead of the youngster the entire time. It helped that he looked like the bigger man in the cage too, but that’s because he was. Rodriguez didn’t just miss weight; he missed weight by a LOT, coming in at 140, four pounds over the bantamweight limit. Given it’s his second time missing weight for a UFC fight – third time if you count his appearance on DWCS – Rodriguez probably will be forced up to featherweight.
We’ve seen Rodriguez at 145 and there’s a reason he’s been trying to make things work at 135. Granted, Rodriguez was facing a massive Johnathan Pierce on short notice, but his lack of size was readily apparent. Perhaps he grows more into his frame – or maybe he already has – but he’s not going to have the same size advantage he enjoyed at bantamweight. Rodriguez is still young at 25, so it’s not fair to say his career is derailed. But has he lost a lot of momentum? You better believe it.
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