Thursday, December 8, 2022

6 Positives & 2 Negatives From UFC Vegas 64

On Saturday night, the MMA leader returned to our screens for its latest Fight Night event, UFC Vegas 64.

On the second of two stops at the Apex facility between the promotion’s pay-per-view trips to Abu Dhabi late last month and New York next weekend, strawweight contenders featured in the main event spotlight.

With four consecutive victories, including over Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan, #3-ranked Marina Rodriguez felt as though she’d done enough to challenge for divisional gold. While she couldn’t usurp Zhang Weili‘s claim to the opportunity, the Brazilian wasn’t willing to sit around. With that, she fought four places down the rankings against compatriot Amanda Lemos.

Elsewhere, welterweight veteran Neil Magny was looking to surpass one of Georges St-Pierre‘s UFC records against Daniel Rodriguez, while the likes of Tagir Ulanbekov, Mark O. Madsen, and Miranda Maverick were hoping to make statements further down the card.

So, with some possible title implications, record-breaking stakes, and a number of prospects targeting standout victories, were fans treated to an entertaining event to lead into this month’s PPV fight week? Let’s find out with the positives and negatives of UFC Vegas 64.

Negative – 4fer!

This might be a niche reference, but the 2022 T20 World Cup is ongoing, and it’s time to bring the world’s second-best sport (behind MMA, of course) across to the US — cricket!

Yes, I hear those American groans, but to that, I say bite me, respectfully.

In cricket, the term “fer” refers to the number of wickets a bowler takes in one inning, with a 4fer meaning a four-wicket haul.

That’s a good thing if it needed saying.

In honor of the ongoing tournament in Australia, some of the UFC Vegas 64 fighters clearly decided to get together and commemorate the occasion with a 4fer of their own — but instead of wickets, weight misses.

That’s not a good thing, if it needed saying.

The culprits on the scale for Saturday’s event were Grant Dawson, Benito Lopez, Carlos Candelario, and Ramona Pascual. Of course, no fighter ever intends to fall short at the weigh-ins, but nonetheless, every fighter has the same responsibility to hit their respective divisional limits. 20 managed to do so, while four did not.

With so many misses, it was hard to choose which to use as an image. So, I spun a wheel.

Sorry, Grant.

Grant Dawson
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Positive – A Unique Start

Not only were proceedings at UFC Vegas 64 opened with a first-round finish, but with a super-rare and brutal one.

Tamires Vidal decided to take in each and every moment of a walkout that might’ve cemented itself as the longest in Apex history. But perhaps she knew to savor the experience because she didn’t anticipate long inside the Octagon.

In the end, the Brazilian newcomer was in and out in minutes courtesy of a flying knee that landed to the liver of Pascual, sending her immediately crumpling to the ground. With that, “Tratora” secured a debut triumph in just three minutes and six seconds.

While a vicious stoppage to start the night was a positive, the unique nature of it was equally so.

Positive – Hadley Arrives

While Muhammad Mokaev may be the Brit whom most are talking about at flyweight — and rightly so — Jake Hadley reminded the weight class of his presence at UFC Vegas 64.

Although his debut result against Allan Nascimento earlier this year wasn’t exactly the kind of arrival he’d have envisioned following his contract-winning performance on Dana White‘s Contender Series, Hadley was able to show his talents in multiple realms in his sophomore outing.

Against Carlos Candelario, the Englishman played his part in fighting at a frenetic pace through round one. It was almost as if Hadley was looking to make up for the strikes he wasn’t able to land last time out. After a strong first round for “White Kong,” his Brazilian counterpart emerged for the second with a new plan of attack.

Unfortunately, the pursuit of a ground battle led to Candelario’s demise.

Almost instantly, he was locked in a triangle off his takedown. From there, he was cut open by an onslaught of elbows. Caught between looking for an escape and defending the razor-sharp blows, Candelario eventually succumbed to a deeper position, forcing the tap.

Hadley arrived with plenty of hype behind him, and while having his professional record blemished in May wasn’t the ideal start, he more than made up for it on Saturday night.

Positive – Viana Goes Ham

It feels like every single Polyana Viana fight nowadays is preceded with, “In 2019, she beat up a robber in Brazil.” After her win at UFC Vegas 64, that may well change to, “In 2022, she sent Jinh Yu Frey to the shadow realm.”

Heading into the fight, ‘Viana via first-round KO’ didn’t seem to be a leading possibility. But after a counter left stunned Frey, the Brazilian swarmed with an onslaught of punches. While the first few left the former Invicta FC champion dazed but on her feet, the final strikes saw her go in and out of consciousness.

As referee Herb Dean stepped in, Frey ate some hammerfists for good measure before quickly returning to her feet — although judging by the empty look on her face after Viana gave her a kiss, she certainly hadn’t come back to.

The KO was truly brutal and came from out of nowhere, marking another example of why the prelims can never be slept on.

Positive – Mark O. (No More) Madsen

I hope I crack the first 1,000 people to have made that joke…

At UFC Vegas 64, Mark O. Madsen had his professional MMA record blemished for the very first time. Perhaps shockingly, the Dane’s defeat came in the realm in which he made his name.

The 2016 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist had grappled his way to a 4-0 promotional record, but on Saturday night, he was utterly dominated on the ground. In round one, he spent about four minutes with Grant Dawson on his back.

In the second frame, Dawson turned things up a notch and appeared to drain all hope out of his Danish counterpart. The third followed a similar pattern en route to a rear-naked choke submission victory that added the cherry on top of a mightily impressive performance from the still-undefeated “KGD.”

Should Dawson fix his weight-management issues, which he promised to do in a sincere post-fight interview, then he could soon become a real player toward the top of the lightweight ladder.

Negative – Suspicious Series Of Events

On the face of it, Darrick Minner’s defeat to Shayilan Nuerdanbieke would be a negative owing to yet another freak injury causing a premature end to a fight. But given the events leading up to the fight, it seems that something deeper went on…

During the UFC Vegas 64 preliminary card, there was a notably big line movement, with the Chinese featherweight rapidly moving from -237 to -362. In a similar vein, Minner was a +190 underdog at the start of the card before dramatically dropping to +330.

You don’t have to be a detective to conclude that something’s not right there.

While the events would be enough to raise eyebrows on their own, the fact that James Krause occupied Minner’s corner only drew more attention on social media. Krause was, of course, recently involved in some gambling controversy after he began offering paid access to betting tips.

With the UFC stepping up the pursuit of further integrity by prohibiting fighters from betting on bouts last month, it’s hard to see this incident going ignored. While I won’t speculate myself, some didn’t refrain from doing so on social media, with points surrounding a perceived lack of defense from Minner on the ground attracting suspicion.

Whatever happened, though, one thing appears clear — certain bettors were aware of the injury.

On a separate note, has anyone ever blown their knee out with a kick, stepped back, and thrown it again? As if to make sure it was done for…

Positive – Magny Makes History

At UFC Vegas 64, welterweight veteran Neil Magny etched his name in the history books — and in some style.

With many branding him the division’s gatekeeper, “The Haitian Sensation” faced a challenge from below in the form of the streaking Daniel Rodriguez. Together, the pair put on a great pace and a highly entertaining co-main event.

Through two rounds, it appeared all to play for heading into a crucial final frame. And there, Magny’s experience paid off as he strategically dragged Rodriguez where he wanted him before locking in a tight D’Arce choke for the win. With that, he became the first man to finish “D-Rod” in MMA.

As a result, Magny has surpassed the legendary Georges St-Pierre to sit alone at the top of the mountain for the most welterweight wins in UFC history. That’s some achievement, and by the sounds of it, the 35-year-old is looking to give himself a sizable lead in the coming years.

Positive – Flinging The Division Open

Speaking of history, Amanda Lemos made some of her own in the night’s headliner, tying the UFC strawweight records for finishes and knockouts.

The Brazilian did so by pulling off an upset over Marina Rodriguez, whose decision to risk her spot and possible place at the top of the queue to face next weekend’s championship victor didn’t pay off.

After a slow start, Lemos took over in the second round, coming close to a rear-naked choke and controlling much of the frame. In the third, her growing confidence manifested itself on the feet, where she rocked Rodriguez with a hard right hand before forcing a standing TKO stoppage.

And with that, the strawweight decision has been flung wide open. Interestingly, aside from Lemos’ rise up the ladder, the main beneficiary could well have been Jéssica Andrade, who submitted the UFC Vegas 64 main event victor earlier this year. However, the former champion is set to fight at flyweight next time out, leaving her position in line for a shot at 115 pounds somewhat uncertain.

Having now won two bouts since her loss to Andrade, Lemos will no doubt be staking her claim for a shot at either Carla Esparza or Zhang Weili next year.

What were your positives and negatives from UFC Vegas 64?