Last night (Sat., March 13, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remained in UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 21. UFC 259 has come and gone, leaving us with more standard “Fight Night” fare. Leon Edwards finally returned to action in the main event vs. short-notice replacement Belal Muhammad, and elsewhere on the card, a handful of relevant contenders made their way to the Octagon.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Fouls, Fouls, Fouls
I feel bad for both halves of last night’s main event. Leon Edwards didn’t do anything wrong by framing while throwing a kick; that’s pretty much what you’re supposed to do, it’s just that kickboxers and Thai fighters wear gloves that keep all the fingers contained. Muhammad very obviously did not deserve to get his eyeball penetrated by an errant finger, and his agony was visible.
It’s just an unfortunate outcome.
An Odd Strategy
Misha Cirkunov is a confusing fighter.
Ahead of this bout, it was clear where his advantages lied: on the canvas. Cirkunov is a genuinely masterful submission grappler, and he was facing a man who has been wrestled to the mat by lesser foes. Conversely, Spann has proven to hit quite hard for a fighter with relatively few knockout wins, and Cirkunov is not the most durable Light Heavyweight.
So what does the Latvian-Canadian do? He charges into the fight, guns-blazing, while his foe is at his most dangerous! Cirkunov landed some good shots at first, but predictably, it did not go well. Spann found a clean counter right hand, and Cirkunov went down hard.
The fight lasted little more than one minute. Credit to “Superman” Spann for capitalizing with his counter punches, but one has to wonder why Cirkunov charged into the danger zone.
Dan Ige stopped Gavin Tucker with his first punch of the night.
Tucker danced around for a few moments then jumped into the pocket, ready to exchange. He was never given a chance, as Ige met him with a perfectly timed straight right hand. The punch crumpled Tucker, and that was all she wrote. I don’t know if this knockout completely erases the memory of Ige’s loss to Calvin Katter, but it’s an absolutely perfect way to return from a tough defeat.
Davey Grant, Knockout Artist?
For a long time, Davey Grant was that random Englishman who fought like every 18 months. He put on fun fights, but for a jiu-jitsu guy to get submitted in three of his first four UFC bout, well ... it’s not a great sign!
Apparently, Grant just had the wrong gameplan. Now that his bad string of injuries is in the rearview mirror, Grant has adopted a new strategy: winging massive hooks as hard as he can. The result? A three-fight win streak!
Last night, Grant’s aggression nearly got him knocked out in the first round. However, he maintained the pace, and in the second, a wide hook of his own slept one of the division’s better kickboxers in Jonathan Martinez. I don’t know how long this run can possibly last, but it’s wild to witness.
Grant’s boxing form is not perfect — his swings are wide, and his chin is high — but the man definitely understands how to throw with power.
Flyweight Talent On Display
Neither Manel Kape nor Matheus Nicolau entered the cage with a ranking next to their name, but they put on perhaps the most technical fight of the night, and either man could go on a run at 125 pounds.
Both athletes have full, complete mixed martial arts (MMA) games. Nicolau is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with top-notch wrestling, and those grappling skills won him the first round. His takedowns in the first round were slick. Kape battled back, however, letting his hands fly in the second round. With his timing and distance found, Kape’s speed and educated lead hand shined, as did his ability to read the takedown attempts.
It all came down to the third round, which was quite close. Nicolau did some great work with body-head combinations and generally extending exchanges, but Kape scored back with some huge jump knees and late aggression. Kape’s dominant final minute seemed to seal the decision in his favor, but ... the judges decided otherwise.
It’s an unfortunate 0-2 start to Kape’s UFC career, but the man is still really talented. Meanwhile, Nicolau reminded the world that he’s long deserved to be on the UFC roster and never should have been released.
- Charles Jourdain defeats Marcelo Rojo via third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Man, this was one hell of a kickboxing battle. Rojo showed some real skill in his debut, ripping some nasty body shots, chopping apart his foe’s lead leg, and letting some clinch knees fly. However, Jourdain answered with heavy kicks of his own, and his jab landed with real consistency. The match up was very much up in the air with five minutes remaining, but Jourdain dug deep and took charge. Surging forward, Jourdain piled on the punishment until his opponent fell, but Rojo wouldn’t go away easily. Jourdain had to keep hammering away from top position, destroying his opponent’s face in the process. The bout finally came to a close with just about 30 seconds left, as the referee showed mercy after Rojo crumbled a second time.
- Rani Yahya defeats Ray Rodriguez via second-round arm triangle choke (HIGHLIGHTS): Shoutout to Rani Yahya, that man has LONGEVITY! For close to 20 years now, the Brazilian has managed to wrangle foes to the mat and eventually wrap up the strangle, and that’s precisely what happened last night. The 36-year-old jiu-jitsu ace applied his standard game plan, walking his foe towards the fence then diving into the takedown. Once on top, Yahya continually hunted the arm triangle, and he eventually secured the tap to secure his 21st submission win and close out a dominant win.
- Matthew Semelsberger defeats Jason Witt via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Well ... that’s one way to counter a calf kick. Witt threw his outside low kick from a bit too close, which allowed Semelsberger to throw his cross direct to the jaw. There was no huge load up or tell, but the strike put Witt down for good ... and the whole bout only lasted 16 seconds!
For complete UFC Vegas 21: “Edwards vs. Muhammad” results and play-by-play, click HERE!