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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday turned over a new leaf with UFC on ESPN 9 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where former welterweight titleholder Tyron Woodley confronted the surging Gilbert Burns in the five-round main event. Some stocks rose, and others plummeted.
Gilbert Burns: “Durinho” overwhelmed Woodley across five lopsided rounds and announced his arrival as a top contender in the 170-pound weight class. Burns’ combination of world-class grappling skills, stellar cardio and devastating punching power has created the conditions necessary for a quick rise through the division; and although Hard Knocks 365 teammate Kamaru Usman currently holds the welterweight crown, Burns has announced his willingness to put loyalties aside to challenge “The Nigerian Nightmare” for the championship. With a fair amount of uncertainty regarding No. 1 contender Jorge Masvidal, Burns could find himself in a title fight in the second half of 2020. In his five welterweight appearances, the multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion has filled out his frame, sharpened his already well-rounded skills and started to fulfill the expectations that greeted his UFC arrival in 2014.
Billy Quarantillo: The Dana White’s Contender Series alum withstood Spike Carlyle’s initial rush and took a unanimous decision after three hard-fought rounds at a 150-pound catchweight. Quarantillo’s blend of grappling prowess, fight IQ and unshakable resilience gives him a strong base with which to work in either the featherweight or lightweight divisions. A seven-fight winning streak that includes a 2-0 mark in the UFC puts the Floridian on the radar as a person of interest moving forward. In his next assignment, Quarantillo should be paired with an established veteran and given the opportunity to prove he has staying power.
Roosevelt Roberts: In separating himself further from his only professional defeat—a unanimous decision to Vinc Pichel at UFC on ESPN 3—Roberts ran circles around fellow DWCS graduate Brok Weaver in their lightweight showcase. He was quicker to the punch, flexed his superiority in the standup exchanges and snapped back Weaver’s head repeatedly. Roberts answered Weaver’s bid to grapple in the second round, where he advanced to a dominant position, cut loose with punches and cinched a rear-naked choke to force the tapout. Afterward, “The Predator” set his sights on Matt Frevola, a once-beaten Serra-Longo Fight Team prospect who will face Frank Camacho at UFC Fight Night 173 on June 20.
Tyron Woodley: In his first appearance since surrendering the welterweight title to the aforementioned Usman more than a year ago, Woodley put forth an underwhelming effort and lost a one-sided decision to the ascendant Burns in the headliner. As was the case against Usman, “The Chosen One” seemed gun-shy in the standup exchanges, continued to back himself into the cage and allowed his opponent to lead the dance. Woodley quickly fell behind on the scorecards and did little to improve his situation throughout the fight. Now 38 and on a two-fight losing streak for the first time in his career, the Din Thomas and Duke Roufus protégé finds himself in a state of limbo as a former champion who has likely drifted into the twilight of his career.
Brok Weaver: The charismatic but physically limited Weaver has not yet experienced the kind of success for which he had hoped when he joined the UFC roster following his 2019 appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. His Octagon debut resulted in a disqualification victory over Rodrigo Vargas, and in his follow-up outing against Roberts, he was outclassed from start to finish. Worse yet, he missed weight by more than a pound. Weaver needs to establish a foothold in the promotion whenever he returns. While he remains a fun personality outside of the cage and a decent boxer with above-average cardio inside the cage, results matter—a fact that could soon leave him without a place in the UFC. Weaver’s best bet? Drag opponents into deep water and hope his cardio can tip the scales in his favor.
Antonina Shevchenko: The older and lesser-known Shevchenko sister offered little resistance in a unanimous decision loss to former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Katlyn Chookagian on the undercard. She has alternated wins and losses in each of her first four UFC appearances, failing to establish any sort of profile within the organization. Shevchenko’s standup remains a strength, but she looked lost in the grappling exchanges with Chookagian and fell behind quickly against an experienced opponent. Still just 10 fights into her professional MMA career, “Pantera” would be wise to hang around the lower reaches of the women’s flyweight division in order to give herself a chance to grow into her skills.
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