MMA Gradebook: Rating Every Fight From UFC on ESPN 1

By Kevin Wilson Feb 18, 2019
If you’re like us and watch an absurd amount of mixed martial arts each week, you probably wished there was some sort of rating system so you’re not forced to sit through a boring fight waiting for something to happen. In order to help, we at Sherdog rate the fights on major cards for your convenience. If you happen to miss an event, check back here for ratings so you can pick and choose which bouts to watch and which to skip.

Fights are ranked on the scale shown here, based on competitiveness, the skill and technique on display, excitement, and the story and drama of the contest. However, just because a fight is one-sided doesn't mean it receives a bad rating. Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega, for example, would have scored high for Holloway’s showcase of technique and the overall drama despite it being a one-sided domination. With that out of the way, let's get into this week’s bouts.

Aleksandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire

Albu came out swinging and landed a clean lead hook, but Whitmire ducked under the next one and took her down. Albu scrambled, but Whitmire took her back and locked up a rear-naked choke for the quickest submission victory in strawweight history! Shout out to color commentator Dominick Cruz for predicting the fight perfectly. Any quick finish is worth your time, let alone a record-breaking one, so this gets an above-average rating. [2.5]

Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders

Barao looked fantastic in the first round, landing multiple clean kicks to the body in the open guard and clearly won the first round. But Sanders made an amazing adjustment coming into the second round and started to pressure Barao. Just a minute into the second round he landed a beautiful left straight that dropped Barao and finished him off with ground-and-pound. Great first round and a quick finish in the second round get this fight 2.75 stars.

Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz

Crazy back-and-forth fight that really could have been scored either way. Lentz edged out a 29-28 unanimous decision based on his grappling control against the cage but Holtzman made the fight interesting on the feet. The crowd was booing during every grappling exchange, but this was still one of the best fights of the night. [3.0]

Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Andrea Lee

Not the most exciting fight, but Andrea Lee put on one of the best striking performances of the year so far. She mixed up her attack from head to toe and landed 55 percent of her significant strikes while defending all but one of Smith’s takedowns. This was only Lee’s second fight in the UFC but after a performance like that over a tough veteran, the flyweight division has a new problem to worry about. [2.5]

Benito Lopez vs. Manny Bermudez

An amazing night of fights so far and this fight continued the trend. Bermudez scored yet another first-round submission victory bringing him to 14-0 with 11 submissions. Quick finish in a battle between two young prospects gets this a 2.75 rating.

Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling

Stagnant first round but the pace picked up in the second with “Aljo” hurting Rivera with a spinning backfist and striking with him against the cage. The third round had some good action but nothing special. Sterling ended up taking home a decision victory bringing him to 9-3 in his UFC tenure. [2.0]

Andre Fili vs. Myles Jury

Closely contested bout that saw Fili slightly out-strike Jury for the decision win. Jury dropped Fili twice and nearly finished him, but Fili recovered well and came back in the third round to win the fight. The crowd was booing throughout but this was still a slightly above-average fight for the competitiveness and the moments where it looked like Jury was going to finish him late in the second round. [2.5]

Vicente Luque vs. Bryan Barberena

Although casual fans may not know either of these men, this was one of the best fights I have ever seen. Insane pace, back-and-forth action, multiple near-finishes and the buzzer-beater knockout by Luque earned this fight the best rating of any fight so far this year. If you only have time to watch one fight from this card, do yourself a favor and make it this one. [4.5]

Kron Gracie vs. Alex Caceres

Not much to say about this one, as it went exactly how everybody expected. Gracie looked uncomfortable on the feet but landed a takedown and quickly locked up a rear-naked choke. Quick finish but nothing too exciting so this gets a 2.5.

Cortney Casey vs Cynthia Calvillo

This was the most boring fight of the night, but it still earned an average rating of 2 stars. Good back-and-forth action but Calvillo was ahead the whole fight and never really seemed to be in trouble at any point. Calvillo is now 5-1 in the UFC and is most likely one good win away from title contention.

Paul Felder vs. James Vick

Decent fight between two lightweight contenders but nothing special enough to give this a 3-star rating. Felder landed fewer strikes than Vick, but Felder’s punches were much more damaging, and he executed the perfect game plan to exploit what Vick has struggled with his entire career: fighting off his back foot and defending when under pressure. Felder proved again he is one of the smartest fighters on the roster and he is in for a big 2019. [2.75]

Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez

All I can say is, “Wow, Ngannou did it again.” Every main event this weekend from Cage Warriors to Bellator ended horribly, including this one. Just as Velasquez was looking to grapple, Ngannou caught him with a short right hand that dropped him. Velasquez’s knee gave out and Ngannou finished him with ground-and-pound. Very disappointing finish to an amazing night of fights but since this bout was only 30 seconds, it’s worth watching. [2.0]
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