Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone and there was a high level of disappointment with the final result of the card. The main event was lacking in quality action as Jailton Almeida spent the majority of the UFC fight holding down Derrick Lewis. Lewis managed to survive all five rounds, but that’s largely due to Almeida settling for position over submission. Not that it’s a bad strategy for a win, but it won’t do him any favors with the UFC brass.
The rest of the card did have some bright moments – there were a couple of one-punch KO’s — but there was also a fair amount of blah contests. For example, the fans were waving their phones throughout the arena during the Rodrigo Nascimento-Don’Tale Mayes fight. Plus, there were three fights cancelled from the time of weigh-ins up until the event ended. It didn’t help the biggest upset of the evening saw one of the crowd favorites get upended in Gabriel Bonfim. The crowd seemed to lose energy towards the end of the night.
But who were the real winners and losers of the event? 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!
UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis – Winners
Dalby isn’t going to end up fighting for the title, but he has quietly become one of the better stories since making his return to the UFC. Officially, he’s gone 6-1 since returning, having been the underdog more often than not in those contests. In this UFC fight against Gabriel Bonfim, Dalby was roughly a 5-to-1 underdog, managing to pull out the W. Sure, he weathered a hell of a storm early on – Bonfim had him in all sorts of trouble through the first round-a-half – but who had their hand raised in the end?
After his win over Muslim Salikhov, Dalby asked for a ranked opponent. He did so again after the win over Bonfim. I get why the promotion isn’t too excited to give him a push – he turns 39 later this month – but Dalby continues to look better with every UFC fight. At some point, a UFC fighter should be rewarded when they continue to overcome the obstacles put in front of them. Besides, everyone loves an underdog. Why not amplify Dalby’s exploits and put the spotlight on him on a European card rather than utilize him as the gatekeeper? It’s hard find someone more deserving on the roster that hasn’t been given any sort of push.
There’s not a lot of difference in the manner in which Petrino KO’d Modestas Bukauskas and Elves Brenner blasted Kanyan Kruschewsky. Both Petrino and Brenner scored first round KO’s in which their opponents dropped with a single punch. However, the circumstances around them are different. Petrino is in a division starved for young talent and Bukauskas has at least proven he belongs on the roster. Brenner is in a crowded division that tends to require a long road to the top. Plus, Kruschewsky was making a short notice UFC debut.
Thus, while it’s hard to say who had the more impressive KO, there’s no doubt Petrino benefits more from his victory than Brenner did. There’s a very good chance Petrino will end up fighting a ranked opponent next as a result. I would think one more UFC fight before giving him someone with a number next to their name would be wise, but I can’t deny that Petrino has the talent to climb the light heavyweight ladder.
Hill endured a brutal, one-sided beatdown at the hands of Mackenzie Dern earlier this year. It was hard to say whether it was strictly Dern being that damn good or if Father Time was beginning to knock on her door. We got our answer in Hill’s exciting contest with Denise Gomes: Dern was just that damn good. Hill had some problems with Gomes early when the hard hitter was still fresh. The deeper the UFC fight went, the more Hill began to drown her with pressure and volume, showing Hill is still the UFC fighter we’ve known her to be for the better part of the last decade.
That Hill endured some hardship in the contest is a good thing from an analyst’s perspective. Hill’s durability is intact as Gomes landed some big shots early. Her stamina isn’t an issue either as she was fresh down the stretch despite her insane pace. Age will set in for her at some point, but it’s safe to say we can hold off on those talks for another year or so as Hill looked as youthful as ever. She’ll probably never be champion, but she’s still a valuable action-fighting gatekeeper for the UFC brass.
UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis – Losers
I’m not saying Almeida wasn’t impressive. He dominated Derrick Lewis over the course of five rounds, something no one else has done. However, that’s only because those who have been able to defeat Lewis were able to finish the heavy hitter. Almeida made an earnest effort to finish Lewis in the first round, but concentrated more on holding him down beyond that. I get that was the safest way for Almeida to guarantee victory – Lewis is the all-time UFC KO leader for a reason – but it also looks like the surest way for the UFC to cool on a hype train.
I’m still high on Almeida. After all, I don’t think anyone will deny that Lewis’ grappling defense has never looked better. But the promotion has proven time and again they will reward UFC fighters for putting it all on the line as opposed to playing it safe for the win. Almeida played it safe. I’m not saying he needed to get into a firefight with Lewis, but pursuing the finish beyond the first round might have been enough for him to stay on the UFC’s good side. Given the commentary team said something about Almeida not being aggressive enough going for the finish, that’s a good sign the UFC isn’t happy with him.
Credit to the Russian for surviving until the end as it looked like he was going to be finished by Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. He saved himself from a loss in the process, but it wasn’t enough to preserve what looked like a win prior to that. Fighting to a draw isn’t the worst outcome in the world; like I said, he avoided the loss. But when you’re roughly a 4-to-1 favorite, even a razor-thin victory would be considered to be a disappointing result. A draw for someone like Fakhretdinov might be enough to kill his hype train.
To be fair, this appears to roughly be the area where many had Fakhretdinov’s ceiling being when he was originally signed a couple of years ago. However, he manhandled the promising Bryan Battle with ease, not to mention completely running through Kevin Lee, raising expectations beyond where they had been. Perhaps Fakhretdinov is who we thought he was originally, perhaps he is who we thought he was as of late. However, the more exposed a UFC fighter is, the more opponents will know how to beat them. Unless Fakhretdinov can make some adjustments, dos Santos exposed him.
Bonfim couldn’t have asked for a better way to right his hype train. Coming off a loss to Benoit Saint-Denis, Bonfim was going to be fighting in front of his countrymen against an opponent north of the age of 40 in Vinc Pichel. Respectable as Pichel is, he was never a great athlete in addition to being on the wrong side of Father Time, ripe for a youthful dynamo like Bonfim to put away. Instead, Bonfim didn’t just miss weight, he wasn’t even close to coming in at the 156 lb. lightweight limit. Thus, Pichel gave him the proverbial middle finger and refused to accept the UFC fight.
Given how one-sided the contest between Eduarda Moura and Montserrat Ruiz was – Moura missed weight by a similar amount — it isn’t hard to see where Pichel was coming from. It’s hard to believe the UFC is going to be interested in cutting Bonfim any slack either following the weight miss, so he’s probably not going to get anything near as favorable as the circumstances would have been against Pichel. Bonfim is young and talented enough that he can still fulfill his vast potential, but no one should be looking to make the road more difficult than it already is. He’s just done that.
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