Delve into all the happenings of UFC Mexico City, from the 5-round main event to each of the record seven first round finishes.
Why is it every time I feel a lack of excitement for a card, it turns out to be far better than it originally appeared to be on paper? It’s certainly nothing to complain about. Hell, I wish every card was like that! I’m just a bit irritated that I walked into the event not fully prepared to enjoy the event as much as I could have. Seven first round finishes is pretty awesome… and yet I didn’t walk out of the card feeling totally fulfilled. Maybe the finishes had something to do with it, as it led to more commercials and talk time in the studio. Or maybe the UFC should reconsider running six events in five weeks. Anyone else looking forward to this extended break coming up? I’m sure my enthusiasm will be renewed by next month.
Here’s my thoughts on UFC Mexico City, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.
Jordan Rinaldi defeated Alvaro Herrera via submission at 2:01 of RD1
- Expectations: Herrera was the last fighter to weigh in yesterday, creating questions as to how well his weight cut went. Not a good thing to be questioning in the high altitude of Mexico City. It was enough to make Rinaldi a heavier favorite than he already was, though conditioning didn’t turn out to be an issue. Herrera went for a guillotine choke off a Rinaldi takedown attempt and refused to let go even when it was apparent the choke wasn’t in. That miscue led to a Von Flue choke from Rinaldi, only the fourth in UFC history as Rinaldi trapped Herrera’s arm against the fence, preventing Herrera from saving himself once he realized what was going on.
- Rinaldi: While it was a good win for Rinaldi, it doesn’t answer any of the questions I had about him. Yes, a quick win does indicate good things, but one questions the quality of the win any time a fighter gives up a Von Flue choke. I still don’t know how Rinaldi’s wrestling will work against someone with adequate takedown defense, the biggest question mark as there is very little power in his fists. The win ensures Rinaldi gets another UFC appearance. Expect to learn a lot more about him in his next contest.
- Herrera: I don’t know if Herrera had such a difficult time with the weight cut because he had never done it before or if he simply shouldn’t be fighting at 155. What I do know is that he was massive at the new weight class if he can figure out a way to make the cut work. The problem is that he hasn’t progressed enough to warrant having the UFC keep him around. It isn’t that there isn’t potential to work with, but I have my doubts Herrera will get back. He did lose via Von Flue choke after all….
Joseph Morales defeated Roberto Sanchez via submission at 3:56 of RD1
- Expectations: Both Morales and Sanchez came into the contest undefeated with similar levels of opposition, so this was a pick ‘em. Sanchez jumped on Morales early with a takedown and controlled him for the first half of the round. When Morales got back to his feet, he cracked Sanchez with a right hand, sending Sanchez faceplanting. Sanchez survived a while longer, but Morales found the finish by taking Sanchez’s back and sinking in a RNC.
- Morales: Maybe we should listen when Urijah Faber begins hyping his teammates. Remember how we laughed when he said TJ Dillashaw was ready for a title shot against Renan Barao? Then he hyped current bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt to get a title shot after Faber fell short himself in his final title shot. Now Morales’ debut has me excited about the prospects of the 22-year old. His right hand may not have finished Sanchez, but it was impressive nonetheless and indicates he may be one of the few at 125 who can secure a one-punch KO. I still want to see more of his abilities before fully buying into him, but Morales is very much intriguing me.
- Sanchez: Given his age – clocking in at 31 – Sanchez needed this win more than Morales. He showed better wrestling than I expected and Morales had to unload everything he had on Sanchez before putting the Texas native away. His submission savvy, heart, and toughness will make him a tough out, but he’ll need to pick up a win in his next contest to stick around for a while.
Jose Quinones defeated Diego Rivas via unanimous decision
- Expectations: Quinones’ wrestling and high activity level made him a popular pick against the explosive Rivas. It played out exactly as expected. Well… almost. Quinones didn’t wrestle as much as expected, but he did flash improved boxing, moving in and out of the pocket to do his damage to the Chilean. Rivas did catch Quinones a couple of times as he came in, but the Mexican recovered quickly each time. Solid all-around performance from Quinones.
- Quinones: I haven’t been impressed by Quinones boxing coming into the contest, but he’s made a lot of strides based on this showing. His footwork could be smoothed out, but I’m nitpicking as that has been a big part of his progress. What made the biggest difference was his activity level. He outlanded Rivas by more than 2-to-1 in the striking department. With three straight wins, it’s about time Quinones gets a step up in competition. I don’t know if he’s ready for it, but he’s already been in the UFC for almost three years. It’s time to know if the UFC has a keeper.
- Rivas: I’m going to be a bit easier on Rivas than I was on Quinones given his career was interrupted by testicular cancer. Regardless, Rivas’ needs to put up or shut up at this point. He still doesn’t let his hands fly and it bit him in the ass as he wasn’t able to find the KO blow like he did against Noad Lahat. Waiting for a KO opportunity is generally a poor strategy to pick up the win. Outside of increasing his volume, I’d like to see Rivas add some wrestling and grappling to his arsenal.
Rani Yahya defeated Henry Briones via submission at 2:01 of RD1
- Expectations: I thought Yahya was an easy pick given his grappling prowess and Briones lack of experience against high level grapplers on his opponents list. I did understand Yahya’s tendency to gas in a hurry could become a factor, especially given this fight was in Mexico City. Didn’t matter. Yahya got Briones down in a hurry, transitioned to a kimura attempt after the anaconda choke failed and caused Briones to scream out in pain as he tapped for Yahya’s fastest finish in the UFC.
- Yahya: If Yahya had been able to pick up any of his victories over the last five years in this manner, he’d probably be fighting ranked opponents consistently. At the age of 32, he may be feeling some urgency to make a run at the title, explaining his impressive performance. Even though Yahya has won five of his last six, I don’t expect him to get a good jump in competition even if he deserves it. That’s what happens when your grappling-heavy strategy doesn’t impress the boss man.
- Briones: Hard to see Briones coming back after dropping three in a row. His performances have gotten progressively worse. He goes from taking Cody Garbrandt to a decision to being subbed in two minutes by Yahya. Regardless of whether Yahya is a world-class grappler, that’s a clear step backward. Turning 37 later this year, I struggle to see Briones being able to improve enough to pull out a UFC victory at this stage of his long career.
Dustin Ortiz defeated Hector Sandoval via KO at 0:15 of RD1
- Expectations: Ortiz was a sizeable favorite given his track record, but Sandoval had surprised quite a few with his performances in his last two appearances. Could Sandoval score another upset? He came out swinging looking to do so, but Ortiz caught Sandoval in the act and followed up with a series of accurate punches to finish the Team Alpha Male representative before even breaking a sweat.
- Ortiz: Things couldn’t have gone better for Ortiz. He needed an impressive win to help people forget he had dropped three of four heading into this contest and did just that. Given that Demetrious Johnson continues to churn through challengers – and there doesn’t seem to be any change in that pattern in sight – Ortiz could put himself into contendership in a hurry. Who thought that would be likely before this contest? Remember that Ortiz was winning before being caught by Brandon Moreno. We very easily could be talking about Ortiz riding a three-fight win streak had that single kick not landed. Very interested to see where Ortiz goes from here.
- Sandoval: It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Sandoval would be the one on the losing end of the fastest finish in UFC flyweight history. He’s aggressive as hell and tends to take damage trying to land his heavy hooks thanks to his undersized stature. The problem is that style is one of the factors that plays into his success. Live by the sword, die by the sword. I hope this loss doesn’t impact his aggression moving forward as he’s consistently been one of the more entertaining 125ers on the roster.
Jack Hermansson defeated Brad Scott via TKO at 3:50 of RD1
- Expectations: Even though both Hermansson and Scott showed significant improvements in their previous contests, Hermansson was getting the bulk of the love from prognosticators as Scott is one of the worst athletes in the division. Hermansson didn’t even give Scott a chance, taking the Brit down immediately and maintaining control for the rest of the fight. More devastating was the brutal ground-and-pound Hermansson delivered, providing zero relief to Scott before the referee was forced to step in.
- Hermansson: I was on the Hermansson train before he fell short against Cezar Ferreira. I may be officially back on the train as he has recovered from that loss with two brilliant performances. He’s done it with his wrestling too, an area that he was thought to be merely adequate at. It was his janky boxing that he was supposed to be best at. Having a second skill set where he can regularly win fights – as he can now do with his wrestling — should push him into the official UFC rankings very soon.
- Scott: Against all odds, Scott has looked better in each of his UFC contests, win or lose… until this one. He spent the entirety of the fight on the ground fighting off the assault from Hermansson. There is nothing positive to take out of this contest. Given his lack of physical skills, Scott needs to be the bully and Hermansson didn’t provide him that opportunity. I don’t see Scott advancing any higher up the ladder, but he can still be a gatekeeper.
Alejandro Perez defeated Andre Soukhamthath via split decision
- Expectations: I claimed before the contest Perez would win if the fight went to decision while Soukhamthath had a strong chance of securing a finish. I was right… in a way. Soukhamthath jumped out to an early lead on the strength of three knockdowns. However, those knockdowns came off jabs that merely put Perez on his ass as opposed to hurting the Mexico representative bad enough to make anyone think the end was nigh. Perez flipped the script midway through the second as Soukhamthath began to tire. Soukhathath had a few moments in the third, but it was Perez’s mixture of volume and takedowns that convinced the judges to award him a controversial victory.
- Perez: I’m not going to complain about this win even if I felt Soukhamthath was more deserving of the victory. Perez capitalized on a flagging Soukhamthath and outworked him over the last half of the contest… the same thing he did to secure a draw against Albert Morales. Nonetheless, I feel this contest does more damage to Perez’s reputation than it does Soukhamthath. Perez didn’t make any adjustments as Soukhamthath floored him three times… with a jab! The tide didn’t turn until Soukhamthath began to tire. It seems clear that Perez isn’t going to be any more than a gatekeeper at this point.
- Soukhamthath: Even if I believe he deserved the win, no one can disagree that overconfidence got the best of Soukhamthath here. He didn’t head out to Mexico early to prepare for the altitude change which came back to haunt him halfway through a contest he was easily winning. He looked sharp as hell before he gassed, countering Perez effectively with shot after shot with more power than you’d expect to see out of a bantamweight. With two losses in two UFC appearances, there is a good chance he won’t be brought back. My guess he will, but it will be his final chance. He better make good on that chance… if he gets it.
Sam Alvey defeated Rashad Evans via split decision
- Expectations: While no one would deny Evans is on a decline, had he declined so far to the point he’d lose to back-to-back unranked middleweights? His hands looked better against Dan Kelly and I expected Alvey’s lack of activity to bite him in the ass. Inactivity certainly played a role, but it was Evans who was reluctant to let his hands fly. Don’t get me wrong, Evans had a lot of hand motion with feints and jukes, but nothing of significance was thrown. He did keep the contest relatively close, securing a takedown in each of the first two rounds. However, it was Alvey who landed enough offense to take a judges’ decision in easily the worst contest of the night.
- Alvey: Sorry, but I can’t remember many specifics from the contest and I really don’t want to. What I do remember is that Alvey was the one pushing the action over the last two rounds which is a major change from how he prefers to fight. He may not have looked very comfortable in the role, but it was enough to pick up the win. He’ll take it. Alvey is smart enough to know this performance didn’t help him out in the eyes of fans, apologizing for the performance. However, he also knows a win is a win and called out Brazilian legend Vitor Belfort. Not a bad call as the Brazilian legend’s aggressive style would likely bring out the best of the Smilin’ one.
- Evans: I’m not a friend or even acquaintance of Evans, meaning I have no room to be telling him what to do with his career. But if anyone were to ask me what I believe the former light heavyweight champion should do, I’d say he should hang up the gloves. His trademark speed and quickness is long gone and he doesn’t know how to compensate for its loss. If the UFC wanted to match him up with middling opponents with poor takedown defense, Evans can still pick up wins. But does he really want to resort to fighting opponents whom he would have trucked over with minimal effort back in the day? Only he can make that call.
Humberto Bandenay defeated Martin Bravo via KO at 0:26 of RD1
- Expectations: Bandenay was a late replacement for Chris Gruetzmacher, putting him at an immediate disadvantage. Even worse, he hadn’t faced much in terms of quality opposition, making him very much a mystery. It isn’t like Bravo had faced much better opposition, but at least we had some promising footage on him from his time in TUF Latin America. Bravo came out aggressive, landing some early kicks. However, Bandenay responded in kind and was throwing his own powerful offense. Bravo walked into a Bandenay kick that turned into a knee, putting Bravo out cold and giving Bandenay a highlight reel victory in his UFC debut.
- Bandenay: Bandenay’s defense wasn’t very good before securing the finish, but I doubt anyone will remember that in the long run. What was awesome was his ability to work Bravo’s body before landing the kill shot. He’s still very young and raw, which has me hoping the UFC handles him with kid gloves. This victory showed the promise he possesses, but it’s going to be a long time before he begins reaching his full potential. Unfortunately, I don’t think the UFC is all that interested in developing the Latin America market since the new ownership took charge last year, meaning he may not get the time he needs.
- Bravo: Often times when a fighter experiences their first loss in such a devastating fashion, they lose the edge that made them so effective. Given his youth and aggressive style, I fear Bravo is a top candidate for that to happen. If not, he should still have just as bright as a future as Badenday. There won’t be any clue until we see him in the cage again, which may not be for a while as I’m sure he suffered a serious concussion.
Niko Price defeated Alan Jouban via TKO at 1:44 of RD1
- Expectations: Though analysts picking Price to win did exist, most felt Jouban’s experience and adaptability would make the difference. Jouban never had enough time to get unwound. A pair of right hands followed by a head kick put Jouban on the ground a bit over 90 seconds in. A few follow up punches later and the referee jumped in to award Price the biggest victory of his career.
- Price: Price has always come across as a bit of a goofball to me, leading me to sleep on the ATT product. Maybe I need to start ignoring my reactions towards his demeanor as he’s been nothing short of a killer in the cage… in a good way. When Price smells blood, he holds nothing back to obtain the finish. He knows how to use his lanky frame to his advantage too. I do fear he’s going to crash and burn at some point given his aggression, but I’ve been selling him short too often to predict when that might happen.
- Jouban: This marks two first round losses in a row for the former model. He’s fought an active schedule since coming to the UFC, indicating he may be wearing down. At 35, it’s hard to say if rest would lead to a rejuvenation as it’s conceivable that age is catching up to him. No doubt Jouban will receive another opportunity to get his career back on track as he has usually put together some fun contests, but I have a hard time believing we haven’t already seen the best we’re going to see out of Jouban.
Alexa Grasso defeated Randa Markos via split decision
- Expectations: Even though Markos was coming off a victory over former champion Carla Esparza, the odds on this contest were tight for two reasons; 1. Markos inconsistency. 2. Grasso’s youth and room for growth. Markos came out aggressive, but Grasso was able to stay vertical and counter Markos’ attacks in the opening round. Markos began to find success in the second round with her wrestling, getting Grasso down multiple times and limiting her damage. The final round was very close with both having their moments, with two of the three judges seeing things the way of Grasso.
- Grasso: I’ve largely been hearing how impressive the win was for Grasso, and I’m not disputing that. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Grasso missed weight by three pounds. I know she’s claiming it was due to a medication for a UTI and it was better she take the fight rather than pull out, but that is a significant amount of weight to miss by. Nonetheless, she did show improved takedown defense and did a solid job of keeping Markos at the end of her attack. Grasso isn’t ready for a significant step up in competition, but she is making strides. Bottom line: she’s on the right track.
- Markos: Markos has been unable to sustain any momentum she is ever able to pick up, alternating wins and loses ever since she came into the UFC. Her inconsistent ways will prevent her from ever pushing her way into the top of the division as many believed she was capable of doing following her surprising success on TUF a few years ago. She has struggled with disciplined strikers her entire career and it doesn’t look like it’s about to change. Fortunately for her, she is a lot of fun to watch, making her an action fighter the UFC has no interest in turning away any time soon. She’ll have to be content being a mid-to-lower level gatekeeper.
Sergio Pettis defeated Brandon Moreno via unanimous decision
- Expectations: This was difficult to pick as Pettis is far superior in his technique while Moreno is incredibly opportunistic. Given that Pettis has been known to let his defenses down every now and then, it was very plausible to see Moreno capitalizing on a Pettis mistake. Moreno put Pettis on his back early in the first off a caught kick and kept him grounded for the duration of the round. The problem was he burned up his gas tank searching for a finish from there, offering little to nothing over the next three rounds. Pettis picked apart the crowd favorite with his jab and the occasional head kick. Moreno found a second wind in the final round, but still spent most of the round running from Pettis’ assault.
- Pettis: Yes, the victory was impressive, but there are still some concerns to be voiced. Most disconcerting is that Pettis landed a high volume of strikes on Moreno, including some head kicks you’d think would have put away most opponents. The concern wouldn’t be there if Pettis had picked up some finishes in any of his other UFC victories. It’s true that flyweights aren’t known for finishes, but seven wins without a finish isn’t encouraging as Pettis makes his way up the ladder. Nonetheless, I like the overall direction Pettis is going. It’s also easy to forget he is still just 23-years old. Perhaps the lack of power I’m so concerned about will come with time as the younger Pettis continues to mature physically.
- Moreno: There had been a flukish feel to two of Moreno’s three UFC victories, so this loss felt more like a return to normalcy for the youngster. He struggled to maintain a consistent attack outside of the first round, consistent with his earlier UFC appearances. I don’t know if it’s in Moreno’s style to be able to fix that as he has relied on capitalizing on opponent’s either leaving an opening or not taking him serious. Much like Pettis though, he is only 23. I don’t see Moreno headlining a card any time soon, but he is certainly someone to keep an eye on as he develops.
Well, those are my thoughts. Until next time….