For the first time in what feels like forever, an Ultimate Fighting Championship event made it through fight week with its entire six-fight main card intact. UFC Fight Night 178, also known as UFC Vegas 11, delivered the long-delayed grudge match between Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley. While the welterweight headliner looked very much as expected, as Covington thoroughly dominated Woodley on the way to a fifth-round stoppage, the other 13 bouts on the card offered plenty of examples of fighters raising or lowering their stock.
Khamzat Chimaev: When a fighter enters the Octagon as a 5-to-1 favorite, as Chimaev did against Gerald Meerschaert on Saturday night, it takes more than simply winning to make this list. “Borz” delivered, lancing Meerschaert with a blistering right hand—his first serious strike of the fight—for a sensational knockout in just 17 seconds. With the finish, his third in less than two months since making his UFC debut, the 26-year-old Russian-born Swede accomplished two important things. First, he demonstrated that his speed and power are capable of carrying over to the middleweight division, as Meerschaert was a decently sized 185-pounder and, bluntly, the first Chimaev opponent who was indisputably UFC level. Second, the quick victory kept Chimaev’s slated matchup with former two-division title challenger Demian Maia in Abu Dhabi next month intact. While Chimaev is garnering nearly unprecedented amounts of hype for such a relatively unproven fighter, thus far he has passed every test with ease and style.
Jessica-Rose Clark: Clark headed into her match with Dana White's Contender Series graduate Sarah Alpar a comfortable favorite, but there were certainly question marks hovering over the heavily inked Aussie. It was Clark’s first fight in the UFC at 135 pounds after her flyweight run ended in back-to-back losses, and the question of whether “Jessy Jess” would be underpowered at bantamweight seemed valid to ask, especially as she faced a burly wrestler in Alpar. Clark responded by putting on her best performance in years, rebuffing Alpar’s takedown attempts and punishing her with strikes from every position. By the middle of the third round, Alpar was busted up and bleeding profusely from a smashed nose. Despite the confusing and controversial stoppage-not-stoppage, Clark ended up with the TKO finish and a new lease on life in her new weight class.
Randy Costa: Despite being a slight underdog, Costa sparked Journey Newson with a head kick in just 41 seconds, picking up a tidy $50,000 bonus for his work. After the stellar knockout—his sixth first-round KO in six career wins—the 26-year-old Joe Lauzon disciple turned on the charm in his post-fight interview, showing the kind of easy, affable charisma that gets a bantamweight off of the prelims and onto main cards. The very definition of a stock-raising performance.
Donald Cerrone: The two fighters’ reactions said it all: Cerrone looked frustrated and dejected as the majority draw was announced while his opponent, Niko Price, was jubilant. Price, one of the most reliably exciting men in the welterweight division, is nonetheless the kind of recklessly aggressive and defensively porous fighter that the Cerrone of even just two or three years ago would have put through the wood chipper. Instead, “Cowboy” had to settle for a draw that might well have been a loss—his fifth straight—if not for the point deducted after Price’s second eye poke in Round 1. While the 50-fight veteran and owner of half of the UFC record book claimed to have no thoughts of retirement after Saturday’s fight, he is arriving at a place where it will be difficult for the UFC to match him up appropriately.
Randa Markos: There’s no shame in getting tapped out by Mackenzie Dern, an ADCC and Mundials champ who has repeatedly shown herself to be levels above even competent MMA grapplers. However, Markos’ decision to dive into Dern’s guard after a slip less than a minute into their fight, thus putting herself in the danger zone against a fresh, bone-dry and non-rocked world-class grappler, stands out as a titanic tactical error. As a result, Markos, who had been notable for her endless run of alternating wins and losses punctuated by a single draw, finds herself on the first losing streak of her career. Equally unfortunate, she missed out on the chance to put Dern’s still-raw standup skills to the test, and perhaps teach us something about both women.
Mirsad Bektic: Still just 29, Bektic is far from a lost cause, but the shine is officially gone. Bektic, who entered the UFC as a 7-0 prospect and then won his first four fights in row, looked for all the world like a future champ four years ago. After his third-round submission loss to Damon Jackson on Saturday, he now finds himself mired in a three-fight skid, and while Josh Emmett and Dan Ige are both rising contenders, Jackson was a former UFC washout stepping up on three days’ notice. Even more disturbing than the loss is the way in which it happened, as Bektic allowed “The Leech” to do exactly what he does: lose rounds while attempting submissions until one finally works. In each of the three rounds, even the lopsided first frame that was arguably a 10-8 round, Bektic found himself in serious trouble on the ground at least once. In the second round as well as the third, Bektic got himself into trouble shooting for takedowns and being snared in Jackson’s front headlock, and the final time it cost him the “W” in a fight he was otherwise dominating.
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