Sunday, September 25, 2022

7 Positives & 2 Negatives From UFC Vegas 60

On Saturday night, the MMA leader returned to our screens for its latest Fight Night event, UFC Vegas 60.

After three consecutive arena events that all delivered in some way or another, the sport’s premier promotion headed back to its home base to begin a run of cards at the Apex facility, starting with one that boasted all the hallmarks of an underrated banger.

From the headliner — a clash of exciting and hard-hitting bantamweight contenders in Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong — and the appearances of Chidi Njokuani, Joe Pyfer, and Andre Fili to the inclusion of a whole host of promising prospects, Saturday’s card looked incredibly intriguing on paper.

So, were we gifted a night of entertaining scraps to close out the summer? Let’s find out with the positives and negatives from UFC Vegas 60.

Positive – Notta A Problem For Motta

We love a fast start to proceedings. At UFC Vegas 60, Nikolas Motta gave us violence from the get-go.

Motta’s first success inside the Octagon has been a long time coming. After earning a contract with a victory on Dana White‘s Contender Series in 2020, “Iron” had three matchups fall through prior to his eventual debut opposite Jim Miller, who defeated the Brazilian via TKO this past February.

After an entire calendar year on the sidelines and failed arrival against veteran Miller, Saturday’s outing was a crucial one for Motta.

Fairly soon into the UFC Vegas 60 card-opener, it seemed pretty clear what was going to happen. Cameron VanCamp’s chin had a bullseye on it, and one that had a flashing light attached and aircraft marshalers guiding Motta’s hooks.

After a few narrow misses, which seemingly didn’t ring any alarm bells for VanCamp, Motta connected, sending “Jumpman” down and finishing him with strikes on the ground. While the finish itself was a solid way to start the card, seeing Motta have his hand raised was also a positive, especially given the struggles he revealed in his post-fight interview.

Negative – Scary Stuff

I enjoy a brutal knockout or well-executed submission as much as the next guy, but the fight-ending sequence in the flyweight contest between Gillian Robertson and Mariya Agapova was hard to watch…

In the first round, the Kazakh met Robertson’s level changes with sharp elbows and relentless hammer fists. While the damage was enough to see the doctor check “The Savage” over, the late arm-triangle choke attempt in the opening frame would no doubt have given Robertson hope of finding a submission in the second.

And after landing the takedown, that’s exactly how things played out, with Agapova leaving her neck exposed as she sought to get back to her feet. From there, things quickly entered grimace-worthy territory.

After a frantic pursuit of air left Agapova without a mouthpiece whilst enduring a tight rear-naked choke, “Demonslayer” was biting down on her tongue and seemingly committed to going out. It appeared that the Kazakh flyweight was far from consciousness in the final few seconds, and the visual of her practically foaming at the mouth and seizing up following Mark Smith’s intervention confirmed as much.

Finishes are the name of the game, and for that, Gillian Robertson deserves credit. But the way in which Agapova went out was truly nasty, and an aesthetic I’d certainly have rather not seen.

In conclusion, please tap!

Positive – Lookboonmee Evolves

During the UFC Vegas 60 prelims, former elite Muay Thai practitioner Loma Lookboonmee returned to the Octagon for the first time in 10 months. And having had a two-fight win streak snapped by Loopy Godinez last November, what better way to rebound than delivering her most well-rounded display to date?

The worry when any fighter crosses over to MMA from a long career in a striking-only sport is whether they can adapt to the extra elements they’re faced with — wrestling, jiu-jitsu, etc.

Against Denise Gomes, Thailand’s Lookboonmee showed how well she’s evolved her game to cover all realms of MMA. From defending submission attempts to controlling proceedings on the ground, which came along with some brutal elbows, the 26-year-old brought a whole host of improvement and fine-tuned skills with her to the cage.

Seeing a young prospect continuing their evolution in a sport that they’re still relatively new to is without a doubt a positive.

Negative – A One Worth Forgetting…

Nothing can shave hours off a European viewer’s ability to stay up for a UFC card quite like the kind of fight that played out between Louis Cosce and Trevin Giles.

Given how the Cosce vs. Sasha Palatnikov and Giles vs. Dricus Du Plessis bouts went, a contender for least eventful scrap of the year certainly didn’t appear to be on the menu heading into Saturday’s card.

The first round barely saw a strike thrown, yet alone landed. The tally for Cosce amounted to just one shot hitting the target. If essentially giving up one round wasn’t questionable enough, there didn’t appear to be any more urgency in the second, and that was the case for both men.

After an uneventful five minutes, like most, I was thinking we’d gotten through the worst of it. Perhaps we had, but things certainly didn’t pick up as everyone would’ve hoped. When the 15 minutes concluded, even the old-age “that fight happened” line was a bit of a stretch.

Whilst Giles left the cage with a win added to his record, his performance was certainly not any more notable than Cosce’s. It stands to reason that both men’s stock dropped somewhat at UFC Vegas 60.

Positive – Action Jackson

There’s nothing better than seeing a fighter push through an emotional time to have his hand raised on fight night. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s nothing worse than seeing it end in defeat — as we saw with Mike Grundy’s setback at UFC London in March.

At UFC Vegas 60, Damon Jackson entered the Octagon fighting for something bigger than an addition to his win column. The 34-year-old Oklahoma native was doing so in memory of his late brother, who tragically passed away a week before Saturday’s card.

With his family watching on, Jackson emerged victorious from what was a tough stylistic matchup on paper, forcing Pat Sabatini to verbally submit following a clean front kick and onslaught of punches on the ground.

While Jackson’s performance was worthy of a positive on its own, the fact it came in the aftermath of such an immense loss made it that much more impressive and heartwarming.

Positive – Fluffy’s Back In Business

At UFC Vegas 60, Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez opened the main card with a mighty display of dominance.

From his relentless level changes and ground-and-pound to his vicious elbows and body attacks in close range, the 28-year-old had Marc-André Barriault’s number from the very first second. Aside from one clean right hand towards the end of the second frame, it’s hard to find any other instance of success for the Canadian.

To culminate a phenomenal performance, “Fluffy” secured the finish in the final round, locking up an arm-triangle choke for the win.

Hernandez gained immense momentum last February when he submitted multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Rodolfo Vieira, but injuries kept him on the sidelines for over a year. Whilst he returned with a victory over Josh Fremd at UFC 273, the Californian’s near-perfect display on Saturday night felt like his true re-arrival.

Positive – Be Joe Pyfer.

In terms of debut performances, it doesn’t get much better than Joe Pyfer’s Octagon arrival at UFC Vegas 60.

Pyfer had the benefit of recording a highlight-reel knockout on a DWCS card that otherwise comprised of slow-paced and disappointing bouts. That led to significant acclaim, not least from UFC President Dana White, who advised other UFC hopefuls to “be Joe Pyfer.”

Well, that term is now appropriate for UFC debutants.

Earlier in the night, another DWCS alum, Daniel Zellhuber, fell to defeat in his first UFC outing. Despite entering his clash with Trey Ogden as a sizable favorite, the previously unbeaten Mexican prospect looked off in the cage, not delivering his usual output and offense.

That certainly wasn’t an issue for Pyfer, who looked sharp from the word go. With just less than a minute of the first round remaining, “Bodybagz” followed a left uppercut with a right hand that landed flush, sending Alen Amedovski to the canvas. The fight was done there and then, with the Macedonian-born middleweight left staring at Pyfer without any form of defense to the oncoming ground strike.

At just 26 years old and with a debut result like that, Pyfer is certainly one to watch and an exciting addition to the 185-pound roster.

Positive – Robocop Does It Again

If there’s one man with a penchant for comeback victories in Fight of the Nights, it’s Gregory Rodrigues.

At UFC Vegas 41, the Brazilian recovered from multiple shaky moments to finish Junyong Park in the second round. In a case of career déjà vu, “Robocop” reported the feat on Saturday night, this time against a man who’d opened his UFC account with two brutal KOs.

In the first round, Chidi Njokuani not only rocked Rodrigues with a knee, but he also opened up a second mouth on the forehead of the Brazilian. The true horror of that cut became evident when a close-up image emerged from backstage, which appeared to show an exposed artery.

Given the seriousness of the cut, it’s even more impressive that “Robocop” was able to fight through and force a TKO stoppage in the second round. Given how he put his body on the line inside the Apex, a FOTN bonus is the least of what Rodrigues deserved for his efforts.

Positive – Song’s Breakout, Sandman’s Statement

Usually, a fight being called due to a cut, especially a main event, would result in a negative. And whilst it was certainly a disappointing conclusion (but an appropriate one given the nature and placement of the gash), both headliners had put on important displays.

While they certainly shouldn’t have, Cory Sandhagen’s back-to-back losses against TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan appeared to have some in the community questioning his place among the elite — ridiculous, I know.

At UFC Vegas 60, he returned to the win column by cementing his place in the division and halting the charge of an up-and-comer. He did so whilst putting his trademark speed and footwork to good use, and busting Song open with a close-range elbow.

For the Chinese contender, he may have missed his chance to rise up the ladder, but against a top-five bantamweight, he looked to be inside the Octagon with appropriate company. Up until the cut, Song was perhaps getting the better of exchanges, and right up until the the bout was waved off prior to the final round, the 24-year-old was still giving it his all.

In defeat, Song proved he has a bright future in the Octagon and will no doubt be competing at the top moving forward.

What were your positives and negatives from UFC Vegas 60?

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