Last night (Sat., July, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 76. The event was an unusual one in that the less-than-ideal main event actually distracted some pretty good talent throughout the rest of the event! Nobody was asking for a FIFTH Sean Strickland main event, but Damir Ismagulov, Guram Kutataladze, and Ismael Bonfim? That’s some top-notch talent!
Let’s take a look at UFC Vegas 76’s standout performances and techniques:
A Mismanaged PFL Millionaire
As I watched Sean Strickland pummel Professional Fighter’s League (PFL) 2018 finalist Abus Magomedov en route to a second-round knockout, an unusual thought occurred to me.
Had Strickland taken a different path through the martial arts ranked, I could easily see Strickland racking up several million dollar checks in PFL. Reality disrupted my theory, as PFL dismissed the 185-pound tournament back in 2019. That inconvenient fact aside, Strickland has the perfect style for such a tourney. He’s difficult to hit, loves to fit endless amounts of rounds, and is always a threat to outlast his opposition.
At any rate, Strickland isn’t doing too badly in his current situation either. Strickland gets dunked on for his lack of finishing prowess, but he proved in this one that he’ll easily dispatch non-Top 10 Middleweight. Magomedov is a good fighter, but Strickland made it clear he didn’t belong in the cage with him.
Man ... That Kid Is Good!
I hate when people refer to fighters as “kids,” but Dawson requested it, and after last night’s performance, who am I to deny him?
Grant Dawson dominated Damir Ismagulov. He took him down three times and took the back three times, controlling a vast majority of the fight without any real issue. Frankly, he did it better than Arman Tsarukyan, the most hyped up Lightweight prospect in the world. Dawson is now unbeaten in nine UFC fights, having just manhandled the No. 12-ranked Lightweight. His draw against Rick Glenn seems to have taught him a lesson, as he no longer slows down over 15 minutes.
He’s more than ready for a Top 10 foe next.
Benoit Breaks Through
Benoit Saint-Denis beat the crap out of Ismael Bonfim, snapping his 13-fight win streak in hugely impressive fashion. Now, Saint-Denis suffered his own pummeling in his short-notice UFC debut up a weight class, but since dropping back down to Lightweight, he’s 3-0 with three finishes.
He never gave Bonfim a chance to show his talent. From the first bell, Saint-Denis was hammering him with brutal power kicks, fighting at a pace that no one can maintain. The reward of that anaerobic push was ton of damage landed, as well as a perfectly set up double leg. A few punches opened up the back mount, and moments later, Saint-Denis was strangling the bewildered Brazilian.
Doing that to someone on the level of Bonfim is a serious accomplishment, as well as proof that Saint-Denis is ready for a step up against more established competition.
Welterweight’s Dark Horse
Rinat Fakhretdinov is no f—king joke.
UFC really did Kevin Lee no favors in his return to the Octagon, immediately booking him against Welterweight’s best unknown fighter. Fakhretdinov entered the fight riding a massive 20-fight win streak, having mostly finished his opposition in dominant fashion. Bryan Battle has proven himself a very talented prospect, and Fakhretdinov threw him around the cage like a child in his previous fight.
Lee came out looking sharp, sticking a sharp 1-2. Then, Fakhretdinov landed a single right hand, and the fight was basically over! Lee was unconscious but woke up when he hit the canvas, so “MoTown Phenom” tried to wrestle. Immediately, Fakhretdinov locked up a guillotine choke and put his foe to sleep.
Put a ranking next to his name and get him in the cage with Top 10 competition.
UPSET OF THE YEAR!
Guram Kutateladze is widely regarded as one of the best unranked Lightweights in the world, and he has a win over Mateusz Gamrot to prove it. Opposite the relatively unheralded Elves Brener, Kutateladze jumped in on short-notice and tried to pick up a win after visa issues interfered with his planned contest last month.
The timing definitely seemed to affect “Georgian Viking,” who was breathing heavy pretty early in the fight. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take anything away from Brener, who went after his foe from the first bell. Even as Kutateladze landed brutal elbows and knees, none of his shots could discourage the Brazilian.
Brenner is a Chute Boxe trainee and Charles Oliveira training partner, and he looked the part of both! The Brazilian wasn’t just brawling, mixing in sneaky up elbows and liver kicks into his offense alongside strong clinch takedowns. He was clearly down 2-0 with five minutes remaining, but the pace had finally worn Kutateladze down. His offense really dropped off, and Brener cracked him with a left hook that crumpled him to the floor.
It’s unfortunate that the clearly talented Kutateladze suffered another setback, but Brenner just proved himself the very real deal!
- Nursulton Ruziboev defeats Brunno Ferreira via first-round knockout: Ruziboev took his time making it to the Octagon, but all that experience still counts! Ferreira is known as a dangerous puncher, but he never managed to show those talents here. Instead, a naked low kick from the Brazilian was brutally countered by a perfect right hand, and “Hulk” simply wasn’t able to recover. A new fighter to watch at 185 lbs?
- Joanderson Brito defeats Westin Wilson via first-round knockout: I read several comments that Wilson was not ready for his UFC debut, which only happened as an injury replacement. Those reports still seem accurate! Wilson didn’t do much, getting cracked on the feet, taken down, and then absolutely pummeled as he attempted a kneebar. The leg lock looked dangerous for a couple seconds, but then Wilson hung on way too long and got smashed for his efforts.
For complete UFC Vegas 76: “Strickland vs. Magomedov” results and play-by-play, click HERE!