Fans rarely shy away from showing their displeasure when the situation calls for it. Case in point: UFC Fight Night 159.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday took its plunge South of the Border and did so with a Yair Rodriguez-Jeremy Stephens main event that promised fireworks for however long it lasted. Their encounter had to be waved off just 15 seconds into the first round after Rodriguez inadvertently poked Stephens in the eye, the accidental foul resulting in a no-contest. The crowd inside the Mexico City Arena responded by booing the verdict and then hurling debris into the cage.
Rodriguez landed a blistering leg kick and followed with a sharp front kick to the face during his initial exchange with the Alliance MMA mainstay. However, he extended his arms in an attempt to create space and swiped his hands across Stephens’ eye, prompting an immediate pause. Referee Herb Dean gave “Lil’ Heathen” five minutes to recuperate before having the cageside physician examine him, but the damage was done.
Where Rodriguez and Stephens go from here depends on the severity of the latter’s injury, though the UFC would presumably move to rematch them at some point in late 2019 or early 2020. In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night 159, here are four other matches that ought to be made:
Carla Esparza vs. Marina Rodriguez: Team Oyama’s Esparza posted her second win in as many appearances, as she eked out a majority decision over Alexa Grasso in the three-round co-main event at 115 pounds. Judges Douglas Crosby and Rick Winter saw it 29-28 for Esparza, while Brian Puccillo struck a 28-28 scorecard in dissent. “Cookie Monster” leaned heavily on her go-to skills, as she struck for multiple takedowns in the first and second rounds and neutralized Grasso with positional control and ground-and-pound. Esparza was met with violent resistance in Round 3, where her Mexican counterpart had her reeling with punches and later trapped her in a torturous armbar. Despite her limb visibly hyperextending, the former strawweight champion refused to submit to Grasso and survived to see the final horn. The unbeaten Rodriguez moved to 12-0-1 at UFC Fight Night 156 on Aug. 10, as she laid claim to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 20” quarterfinalist Tecia Torres.
Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson-Lina Lansberg winner: Aldana spoiled the debut of organizational newcomer Vanessa Melo, cruising to a clear-cut unanimous decision over the Brazilian in their women’s bantamweight showcase. All three judges scored it 30-26, as the Lobo Gym rep rebounded from her narrow defeat to Raquel Pennington a little more than two months ago. Aldana outstruck Melo by significant margins in all three rounds, attacking the legs, body and head with varying amounts of success. By the time it was over, she had connected on 125 significant strikes, nearly doubling Melo’s total. Chiasson and Lansberg will square off at UFC Fight Night 160 on Sept. 28 in Denmark.
Steven Peterson vs. Kyle Bochniak-Sean Woodson winner: Peterson threw his name in the “Knockout of the Year” hat with his sensational spinning backfist finish of Martin Bravo in the second round of their featherweight feature. Bravo bit the dust 1:31 into Round 2, as he suffered his third consecutive defeat. Peterson waded through heavy fire across the first five minutes, lulled “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” Season 3 winner into a false sense of security and then unleashed. He countered a spinning backfist from Bravo with one of his own, the impact of the blow freezing “Toro” instantly before he crashed to the canvas supine and unconscious. While Peterson may never completely shed his journeyman label, he made certain that he would remain a part of UFC highlight reels well into the future. Bochniak and Woodson have been booked opposite one another at UFC on ESPN 6 in October.
Angela Hill vs. Mizuki Inoue: A 4-7 record inside the Octagon belies Hill’s considerable skill. The former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder recorded her second win in three outings, as she sliced open Ariane Carnelossi with an elbow strike that necessitated a stoppage 1:56 into the third round of their undercard scrap at 115 pounds. It was Hill’s first finish since she knocked out Stephanie Eggink inside Invicta more than three years ago and kept her position on the UFC roster secure. Inoue made her Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 157, where she took a split decision from Yanan Wu as a short-notice replacement on Aug. 31.