I don’t want to spend an entire article dunking on UFC Vegas 65 for being mediocre. It lost its main event just hours before the “Prelims” kicked off, and at this point, everyone knows to keep their expectations low and just hope for some fun fights. Sure, seven consecutive decisions was a minor buzz kill, but retreading those old complain-y grounds feels like beating a dead horse.
Instead, let’s talk about just how difficult it is to make meaningful change inside the cage.
Ion Cutelaba, Chase Sherman and Andre Fialho all came up short in the final three bouts of the evening. Each man found success in their fights, but historic flaws came back to bite them and ultimately cost them their chances at the second halves of their paychecks.
Starting with the main event, Cutelaba took control from the first bell. He threw just enough tight, powerful combinations to set up his wrestling game, and then he largely controlled his opponent for most of the first frame. He didn’t land anything devastating, but Cutelaba fought smart and took the round cleanly.
As Cutelaba commonly does, he fell apart in the second. Likely, he felt a bit tired, and his composure fell out the window. This is not a new trend: Cutelaba routinely falls apart in the second round or even latter half of the first round. Despite a clear effort to more carefully manage his gas tank, he’s now lost three fights in a row in such fashion.
Sherman’s fatal flaw is a more difficult one to navigate: “The Vanilla Gorilla” just isn’t that technically skilled. Fortunately, you don’t have to be very good to succeed at Heavyweight. Sadly for Sherman, you do have to make the most of whatever skill is possessed, which is why his UFC record fell to 4-10 with last night’s defeat to Waldo Cortes-Acosta.
Sherman’s path to victory was clear after the first round (WHICH HE WON!). His low kicks were working well, and Sherman clearly had the grappling advantage. Rather than pursue either of those edges, Sherman just kept boxing with the boxer, and his complete lack of head movement predictably saw him absorb massive shots and fully forget the strategy.
Finally, Fialho is a newer face, but a pattern is emerging. The knockout artist is also a strong starter, but then something mysterious happens. Fialho stops pushing the pace, starts standing in front of his opponent, and allows the fight to slip through his fingers. Is it a cardio problem? Fialho never actually looks tired, but that seems the most likely cause.
Whatever the case, standing in front of rangy kickboxers and letting them kick you in the gut is surely a bad plan, whether the rips come from Muslim Salikhov or Michel Pereira. Fialho surely knows this as well, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement when that spinning kick is flying his way.
Each of these three fighters had paths to victory, but an inability to play to their strengths and avoid historic flaws cost them. Last night’s card was a good reminder that MMA is chaos, and only top-notch talent is able to avoid falling into bad habits once fatigue sets in.
For complete UFC Vegas 65: “Cutelaba vs. Nzechukwu” results and play-by-play, click HERE.