Discover more from Keyboard Kimura
Noche UFC: About Saturday's Action...
Interpreting the results from Saturday's event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and the impact those outcomes will have going forward
Not How Any Wanted Things to End
Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko spend 25 minutes battling back-and-forth with the flyweight title hanging in the balance, but when the scores were read, a split draw verdict killed all the energy that built up over the course of the night.
This was a compelling, tense fight between a pair of fighters that have now deliver a pair of outstanding bouts together. Grasso dropped Shevchenko in the second, only for the former champion to rally and threaten with a mounted guillotine in the third. The fourth was ultra-close and in the fifth, Shevchenko appeared to be ahead before a miscalculation allowed Grasso to take her back and spend the final 90 seconds on her back, looking for ways to finish.
There is going to be a great deal of discussion about judge Mike Bell awarding Grasso a 10-8 in the final frame and rightfully so. It wasn’t a 10-8 round and that changed the outcome of the fight; there is no way to argue otherwise. If that’s a 10-8 round, the third should have been for Shevchenko, it’s as simple as that.
Saturday’s verdict creates a great deal of uncertainty and confusion at the top of the division, as you almost have to run this one back given the way it played out, even though Shevchenko is officially winless in the series. There are a couple of deserving contenders at the ready as well, which means Erin Blanchfield and Manon Fiorot are going to have to wait and see how the UFC choses to address things, just like the rest of us.
It sucks when outstanding fights are sullied by perplexing scorecards, but here we are once again.
Six Up, Six Down
Jack Della Maddalena continued his unbeaten march through the UFC welterweight division, collecting a split decision win over Kevin Holland in the Noche UFC co-main event.
Contested exclusively on the feet, “Three Name Jack” was the more efficient and effective striker of the two throughout, connecting with more combinations, more clean blows. While Holland had positive moments, his success largely came in single shots that he was never really able to build on or that shifted the tenor of the contest; he connected, and then got back to allowing Della to come forward and connect with more telling shots.
This was a competitive bout, but it felt very much like the right man won, in my opinion. Now 6-0 in the UFC and having won 16 straight overall, Della Maddalena moves a couple steps closer to cracking the Top 10 and should be in line for a marquee name next time out. He’s perpetually unbothered in the Octagon and never shies away from a scrap, which makes him an interesting opponent for anyone stationed ahead of him, and there are some very exciting possible matchups out there if you look at who is ahead of him in the rankings.
Right Approach, But Nothing Learned
Raul Rosas Jr. ran through Terrence Mitchell as expected, earning a first-round finish in just 54 seconds.
The two came out swinging wildly, each man landing before Rosas Jr. stiffened Mitchell with a left hand, sending him fallen to the canvas with a thud. From there, the 18-year-old pounced and pounded out the finish, getting himself back into the win column after suffering his first loss earlier this year.
Listen: it was a quick finish and had the T-Mobile Arena on their feet, but honestly… meh. I’m not trying to be a hater or rain on the kid’s parade, but what did people expect? Mitchell is a 33-year-old regional talent with a padded record that got worked last time out by Cameron Saaiman. He was in there to get trucked by Rosas Jr. and that's what happened.
While I 100 percent agree with the approach, this win tells us nothing about Rosas Jr. and his development. He ate a couple shots in those early exchanges, and Mitchell was throwing wildly. There is no reason to rush him at this point, but it’s also important that the youngster show improvements and that he’s getting better, rather than running roughshod over over-matched opposition without addressing the areas in his game that need work.
Quality Developmental Victory for Zellhuber
There is something to be said about getting stuck in there with tough opposition and learning by facing challenges, and Daniel Zellhuber showed that on Saturday.
The 24-year-old “Golden Boy” ate a couple good shots from Christos Giagos in the opening stanza, including a left hand behind the ear that shook his equilibrium and forced him to retreat to safety. Once he got his wits back, Zellhuber started to have success, chipping away at the veteran and forcing him to look at takedowns. In the second, the Mexican prospect pressed forward and hurt Giagos with a right hand, prompting a panic takedown attempt that opened the door for Zellhuber to lock up the fight-ending anaconda choke.
Zellhuber has elements he needs to keep working on, like moving his head off the center line, but it’s easy to see why folks on high on his upside. He has great size for the division, crisp boxing, and showed keen finishing abilities against Giagos. He’s working with a great crew at Xtreme Couture and should continue to make strides as he keeps working his way through challenging matchups like this in the talent-rich lightweight division.
Nelson Continues Winning
Kyle Nelson collected a second straight victory with a unanimous decision win over Fernando Padilla in the main card opener at T-Mobile Arena.
After entering the year on a two-fight skid and sporting a 1-4 record inside the Octagon, “The Monster” has now gone unbeaten in his last three, having battled Dooho Choi to a draw in February and beaten Blake Bilder at UFC 289 before out-hustling Padilla on Saturday. He did well to land big shots in fits and starts throughout the contest, shelling up well with his defence whenever the younger featherweight looked to land, and finding good shots in return.
Nelson is one of those guys that I talk about all the time: someone that isn’t going to make a title run, and may not even find his way into the Top 15, but he’s a steady hand with good skills, solid experience, and a lot to offer in the middle of the 145-pound weight class. He’s a perfect dance partner for emerging, but untested fighters like Padilla here, and a good test for fellow vets like Cub Swanson, who he requested to face in January, when the UFC is expected to return to Toronto.
Preliminary Card Thoughts
Strawweights take notice: Loopy Godinez is coming.
The 30-year-old Mexican-Canadian absolutely trucked Elise Reed in the final preliminary card contest, battering her and nearly getting a submission in the first before sealing the deal in the second with a rear-naked choke. It was one-way traffic from the outset and only kept getting worse for Reed, who was completely overmatched.
Godinez is a perfect example of a fighter that reached the UFC with a limited skill set and only a handful of fights, but she has improved at an incredible rate since then, developing her hands and learning how to make them work in concert with her tremendous wrestling. She's incredibly strong for the division, has shifted her training to Guadalajara alongside Alexa Grasso and company at the Lobo Gym, and looks poised to be a potential contender in the 115-pound weight class if she keeps making these kinds of gains between fights.
What a performance!
Roman Kopylov is a fucking problem.
The Russian collected his fourth straight stoppage victory with an absolute drubbing of Josh Fremd, busting him up at the end of the first and continuing to put it on him in the second, finishing things with a straight left hand to the body. Everything Kopylov threw seemed to land with force, whether it was kicks to the head or body or clean punches to all levels, and Fremd had zero answers.
After starting his UFC run with consecutive defeats, Kopylov has picked up four wins in 13 months, all by way of stoppage. Whatever he’s done to turn this corner, folks in the middleweight division need to be paying close attention because the 32-year-old is on an absolute tear and looks like an emerging threat. A major step up in competition is in order after a fourth consecutive punishing performance.
The fight between Edgar Chairez and Daniel Lacerda was halted prematurely, with referee Chris Tognoni stopping the fight believing Lacerda was out, when he clearly was not. But ultimately, the issue was handled as effectively as it could have been, with the stoppage getting reviewed, the bout being declared a no contest, and Tognoni apologizing to Lacerda in the cage.
As much as referees making mistakes sucks — and it sucks — I had more issue with Dominick Cruz absolutely burying Tognoni, and to an extent, all referees and officials, on the broadcast.
First and foremost, it just sounds amateurish and bitter, like Cruz clearly still hasn't gotten over his bout with Henry Cejudo being stopped earlier than he would have liked. That was three years ago and he still has an axe to grind, and he never passes up an opportunity to do so. Secondly, don’t make it about you; if you want to complain, focus it on the athletes in the cage that were impacted, not yourself. Lastly, it was handled correctly in the end, so at least acknowledge that, rather than continuing to speak like you have all the answers and are infallible.
Cruz was great when he started on comms, but he’s regressed tremendously and now is just the angry, bitter fighter that believes he knows more than everyone else.
Helluva scrap between Tracy Cortez and Jasmine Jasudavicius, which ended with the former earning a unanimous decision victory.
Returning for the first time since May 2022, Cortez flashed improved striking, using her speed and power edge to pop Jasudavicius in space. But the Canadian was indefatigable and started to make the fight dirty, bringing the fight to Cortez, mixing in her wrestling, and generally mucking things up over the last two rounds. Cortez did well to keep landing clean shots with force, though Jasudavicius had many quality moments of her own.
Regardless of the result, this was one of those fights where both Cortez and Jasudavicius should see their stock climb. With five straight UFC victories and a strong fan base, Cortez is sure to get a push in the coming year, while Jasudavicius’ unrelenting approach has made her a miserable opponent for anyone that shares the cage with her and should garner her additional opportunities going forward as well.
I watched Charlie Campbell hurt Chris Duncan and then rush in and get finished on Dana White’s Contender Series a couple seasons back. Saturday night, “The Cannibal” showed how much he’d grown since that loss, as he hurt Alex Reyes early, but stayed patient to find the walk-off finish in the first round.
This is why I love watching all these fights — you get the chance to see the improvements (or lack thereof) from these athletes that keep popping up on your screen.
As soon as Campbell got Reyes hurt — which happened early — I thought back to that fight with Duncan and watched to see how he responded. To his credit, he laid back and picked his shots while still never letting the returning Reyes off the hook. Each time he touched him a clean right hand, it hurt him, and he kept calm and effective until landing the right hand that ended the fight.
Just a terrific example of growth and development from Campbell.
Most people that watched Josefine Knutsson earn a victory on Dana White’s Contender Series earlier this season knew the Swedish strawweight was talented enough to compete inside the Octagon. After getting the short-notice call to compete on Saturday, “Thunder” proved it by battering fellow newcomer Marnic Mann.
Knutsson dominated in every phase and throughout the contest, hurting Mann in each round and spending large amounts of time in dominant positions. The AllStars Training Center representative made it clear that she’s a skilled, technical striker with good power and plenty of upside in the 115-pound weight class, winning the contest with scores of 30-24, 30-25, and 30-27.
There were a lot of comments about Knutsson not getting the finish, which also felt like the thing that held her back on DWCS this year, and I reality is that finishing fights isn’t easy and she absolutely trounced Mann, which has to be enough. I get that people like finishes, want to see finishes, but we can’t stop appreciating impressive, one-sided efforts like this just because we want to see highlights.
Keyboard Kimura is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.