Last night (Sat., March 20, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remained in UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 22. It’s always unfortunate when an already iffy card takes a big hit at the final moment. Such was the case yesterday, when the excellent co-main event of Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell was scrapped because of COVID-19 protocols.
Fortunately, there were still some great fights and slick techniques on display. Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Well ... The Main Event Happened, I Guess
It turns out that an athlete super committed to making the fight un-fun can indeed ruin a Kevin Holland fight.
In all seriousness, Derek Brunson did what had to be done. He consistently found entry on Holland’s hips, manhandling his opponent once there. When Holland did land hard shots, Brunson found his way back to the wrestling Early on, Brunson did a good job of landing punches and elbows, though the significance of those strikes faded as his the rounds wore on.
Ugly fight aside, Brunson is now riding a four-fight win streak and deserves a Top Five challenge next. Paulo Costa sounds like a good fight to me!
Max Griffin has come a long way.
Every part of his game has improved compared to the man who made his UFC debut in August 2016. Most notably, his wrestling has grown from liability to asset, and his kickboxing — long the basis for his regional success — has only become sharper as well.
Opposite a dangerous striker in Song Kenan, Griffin started quickly. The two were soon trading shots at a relatively even rate, but it was clear that Griffin’s shots were doing damage. His right hand backed off the Chinese athlete, and a low kick saw his foe visibly wince.
Then, Griffin stepped through a low kick and knocked Kenan out.
For the first time in his UFC career, Griffin has consecutive victories! He’s a much better fighter than his Octagon record suggests, and at 35 years of age, the Welterweight only seems to be getting better.
A lot of fighters join the roster off “Contender Series,” so it can be a bit easy to get overwhelmed. Adrian Yanez, however, is not one to forget about.
The Bantamweight striker has hands. Against a very solid veteran in Gustavo Lopez, Yanez showed off remarkable composure and lightning fast hands. He landed power shots in every round, while still avoiding a majority of his opponent’s punches in the process. It was precise, sharp work.
Lopez was down two rounds heading into the third, and he wasn’t content to coast to a decision loss. He came out firing and promptly went out on his shield, courtesy of a brilliant right hand counter from the young Texan.
Grant Dawson was roughly six seconds from a possible decision loss when the fight changed.
Leonardo Santos had done his thing as the Lightweight veteran no one wants to fight, out-striking his younger foe and even scoring top position a couple times to take the first and likely the second round too. However, Dawson was always there, pitching right hands and shooting takedowns. Even while losing, he was making his foe work hard.
Santos is 41 years old, and the Brazilian was tired in round three. Dawson finally completed a takedown, and he controlled that frame. However, the second round was close, and Dawson didn’t try to bank on the judges.
When Santos entered a leg entanglement in the final 10 seconds of the fight, he did so lazily. He didn’t reap the knee heavily to off-balance his foe. He didn’t even keep his hands by his chin. Dawson took notice, and starting swinging wide with hammer fists. A couple landed clean and rocked Santos, then the next two sent his opponent’s mouthpiece flying across the ring.
That’s maximizing Octagon time!
- Tai Tuivasa defeats Harry Hunsucker via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Another short-notice replacement sacrificed. Hunsucker accepted the bout just a few days ago, and Tuivasa chopped his leg immediately. Hunsucker didn’t like those low kicks and tried to step into the pocket ... directly into heavy right hands.
- Montel Jackson defeats Jesse Strader via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): This was a short-notice match up, and it looked like one. I liked Strader’s opening salvo of low kicks, but otherwise, Jackson was simply bigger and better. He knocked Strader down early in the first with a heavy left hand off the break, but Strader was tough enough to survive. Jackson dropped him again moments later in a nearly identical sequence, and there was no recovery this time. A patient, powerful performance from Jackson!
- Bruno Silva defeats JP Buys via second-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Silva fought like his UFC career was on the line last night, and it almost certainly was. He entered this Flyweight match up with an 0-2 (1) record inside the Octagon, but Silva didn’t fight like it. He opened the bout with confidence (and some fouls, admittedly), swinging hard with calf kicks and counters. Buys is an ultra talented wrestler, but a couple slips saw him give up top position, meaning that Silva was in the driver’s seat after round one. Buys answered with aggression in the second, but he didn’t quite have the kickboxing technique necessary. As a result, he walked into a lot of right hands, and they ended up to a knockout win for the Brazilian. It really was a tremendous performance from “Bulldog!”
For complete UFC Vegas 22: “Brunson vs. Holland” results and live play-by-play, click here.