PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Stephen Thompson vs Geoff Neal | ($50K bonus to Thompson)
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Marlon Moraes vs Rob Font | ($50K bonus to Font)
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Marcin Tybura vs Greg Hardy | ($50K bonus to Tybura)
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Jimmy Flick vs Cody Durden | ($50K bonus to Flick)
*No Fight of the Night was awarded at UFC Vegas 17.
The last card of the UFC’s 2020 calendar resulted in a dominant showing from the Blue Corner (also known as the A-side). The Blue Corner fighters had their hand raised in nine of the twelve total bouts. In normal circumstances this shouldn’t surprise any hardcore MMA fan; but when names such as Marlon Moraes, Khaos Williams, Geoff Neal, Marlon Vera, and Antonio Arroyo are included in those Red Corner losses, a head-turn or double-take is more than warranted.
The biggest storyline of the night was the number of high-ranked fighters who decided to take a big risk with very little reward. If this year has shown us anything, it’s that UFC President Dana White is looking for fighters who are willing to step in and fight on short-notice regardless of their current ranking or the momentum they have. In exchange, we’ve seen the Kevin Holland’s and Brandon Royval’s of the world go from unranked to top-ten fighters because they took a shot(s) and it paid off.
We can’t say that taking any opponent, anytime, regardless of their positioning works out for everybody. Often, taking a short notice fight against an opponent who is lower in the rankings (or unranked entirely) doesn’t make sense financially nor longevity wise. But when Dana White and the UFC matchmakers need a fight to happen…sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Winners: Stephen Thompson*, José Aldo, Michel Pereira, Rob Font*, Marcin Tybura*, Anthony Pettis, Pannie Kianzad, Deron Winn, Taila Santos, Tafon Nchukwi, Jimmy Flick*, Cristos Giagos
Losers: Geoff Neal, Marlon Vera, Khaos Williams, Marlon Moraes, Greg Hardy, Alex Morono, Sijara Eubanks, Antonio Arroyo, Gillian Robertson, Jamie Pickett, Cody Durden, Carlton Minus
*Performance of the Night Winner
**Note from the editor: The Stock Report is subjective and represents the stances, views, and opinions of the All Factors Considered camp solely.
As referenced in our pre-fight Stock Report, there were three ranked fighters who fell into our Nothing to Win, Everything to Lose category going into UFC Vegas 17. In 2020, the name of the game has been taking opportunities whenever they arise. Unfortunately, for former bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) and flyweight contender Gillian Robertson (9-5-0), the risk wasn’t remotely worth the reward.
However, Rob Font (18-4-0) and Pannie Kianzad (14-5-0) were two of the three Blue Corner fights to get their hand raised this weekend. Both fighters were betting underdogs, and both wins carry heavy implications to their respective divisions.
Let’s talk about it.
#5 Rob Font (18-4-0) – 5/5
For many, #5 Rob Font (18-4-0) just became a household name. And if you think that’s a little too generous for what the reality of the situation is, I don’t blame you. In all honestly, Font should have been a well-known fighter for most of the latter half of the 2010’s. He probably isn’t a household name just yet, but a lot of eyes are now on the thirty-three year old fighter representing New England Cartel.
Font closed as a +150 underdog against the former bantamweight champion, #7 Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) going into UFC Vegas 17. Understandable, as I myself changed my pick at the last hour from Font to Moraes due to this being Font’s first fight since tearing his ACL in his unanimous decision win against Ricky Simon (16-3-0) in December of 2019. The biggest question going into UFC Vegas 17 was if Font could utilize his usual game plan of walking his opponent down and using his pressure and wrestling against a power-fighter like Moraes. Font silenced all doubters (myself included) by outpacing Moraes 30-9 in significant strikes after being taken to the mat twice in the first round and earning a stoppage win in the first round via G&P.
Was this win simply a byproduct of Rob Font’s aggressiveness and tenacity? Or has Marlon Moraes suffered a mental setback after losing his title fight against Henry Cejudo? Moraes has been outstruck 30-9, 38-14, and 90-57 in his losses against Font, Sandhagen, and Cejudo respectivly (all three of these losses are in Moraes last 5). Both theories could be true, but I don’t want to take anything away from Font who is now on a three-fight winning streak.
Don’t forget that Font now has wins over Marlon Moraes (23-8-1), Ricky Simon (16-3-0), Sergio Pettis (20-5-0), Thomas Almeida (22-4-0), and Matt Schnell (14-5-0). Combined those fighters have 95 wins and 25 losses under their belt. Be on the lookout for Rob Font to have a scorching 2021 campaign.
Gillian Robertson (9-5-0) – 2/5
On paper, Gillian Robertson (9-5-0) should be the biggest loser coming out of UFC Vegas 17. But when you dive a bit deeper into the events in which took place, it’s hard to knock her for the circumstances she faced. Robertson, who was ranked #13 in the women’s flyweight division going into this weekend, was originally slated to fight #7 Andrea Lee (11-5-0) at UFC 256. That bout ended up being cancelled due to Lee suffering a broken nose during her training camp. Simultaneously, the Brazilian UFC newcomer (and now ranked #13 in the flyweight division) Taila Santos (17-1-0) lost her opponent when #15 Montana De La Rosa (11-6-0) had to withdraw due to her cornerman testing positive for COVID-19.
Fast-forward a bit and Robertson vs Santos was booked. As the saying goes, the rest was history.
Taila Santos, known for the 10 KOs on her record (out of 18 total fights!) dominated her bout against Robertson in a way that not many expected. She dominated Robertson on the ground for nearly the entirety of the fight. And when the fight did go to the feet, Santos looked sharper there as well. The context to understand here is that Robertson is known for her grappling and submission skills. Going into the fight she was tied for most victories in the in the women’s flyweight division (6), held the record for most finishes (5) and was tied for second in takedowns (14) in flyweight history.
Santos showed that when opportunity and preparation meet, great things can happen. She outpaced Robertson 27-9 in significant strikes and landed the sole takedown in the fight – the rest was simply domination in control time.
Gillian Robertson took a chance, but learned the hard way that you must always have a plan-B when you’re going into a fight. You can’t knock these fighters for taking a risk, because if she would have won then media members around the globe would be singing her high praises. Sometimes, you have to dig your feet in the ground and only take the fights that make sense. For that reason, Robertson’s stock took a smaller hit than Marlon Moraes. However, she lost the ranking besides her name and will have to prove herself to get back into the top-15.
It would not be surprising to see a highly motivated Gillian Robertson go on a tear in 2021.
#13 Pannie Kianzad (14-5-0) – 4/5
#13 Pannie Kianzad (14-5-0) was just one of the three Blue Corner fighters who had their hand raised at UFC Vegas 17. She had a tough test in front of her in the always game #14 Sijara Eubanks (6-6-0), but did just enough to earn a 29-28 unanimous decision from the judges. In our pre-fight Stock Report, I noted that this bout was essentially a boxer/wrestler (Eubanks) versus a kickboxer (Kianzad). Eubanks proved to lean more on her wrestling which worked quite well against Kiazad, but the Swedish fighter was eventually able to get the fight standing which is where she did her best work. Kianzad landed 92 significant strikes as opposed to Eubanks’ 49, but what was the most impressive was her ability to negate the wrestling of Eubanks.
For context, Kianzad started as a 145er and moved down to 135 lbs, while Eubanks started as a 125er and moved up to 135 lbs. I think that explains some of the story, but not all of it. Nonetheless, Pannie Kianzad’s stock is up after her tough win against Sijara Eubanks. The UFC brass only awarded Kianzad +1 spot in the rankings (and -1 spot for Eubanks), but I think bigger opportunities are to come for Kianzad who’s on a three-fight win streak and has won four of her last five.
Deron Winn (7-2-0) – 4/5
Deron Winn (7-2-0) just proved that size isn’t everything when it comes to the fight game. The 5’7″ Winn had a tall task on his hands (pun intended) in the 6’3″ Antonio Arroyo (9-4-0) who has a lot of promise, but remains unproven in the UFC. Not only did the size difference look preposterous in the cage, but the difference of styles was quite evident as well.
On paper, Arroyo was a shoe-in to win this 195 lbs catchweight bout. He closed as a -185 favorite and the for the first few moments of the fight, Arroyo looked like he was going to easily get Deron Winn out of there. In reality, the advantage went to Winn, who’s frame and style was suited perfectly to counteract the length and kicks of Arroyo. With that being said, Winn did what any high-level wrestler would do: secure 12 takedowns and only 20 significant strikes to earn a 29-28 unanimous victory from the judges.
While I do applaud Deron Winn’s victory and the deserved increase in stock that comes with the victory, it’s tough to see a fighter get their hand raised via wrestling alone. Winn has proven that he can turn it up in the striking category (20, 53, 29, and 169 significant strikes in each of his UFC bouts) at times, but if you’re going to play the Daniel Cormier role then legitimate ground and pound or submission attempts will be necessary to secure future wins against high level opposition. We’ll see what 2021 has in store for Winn.
Greg Hardy (7-3-0) – 2/5
Greg Hardy’s (7-3-0) stock is down after this bout, not only because he essentially lost his bout against the newly ranked #15 Marcin Tybura (21-6-0) due to cardio, but because this is where I believe Hardy’s stock should have been originally. It’s no knock to Greg Hardy, because he’s done a great job at racking up wins in his UFC tenure thus far. And in all honesty, that’s what the fight game is about right? Wins and losses. But if you assess Hardy’s UFC performances you’d find that he’s an incredibly hard-hitter who is uber-athletic and faster than everybody else in the heavyweight division (not to mention he’s one of the few heavyweights who actually has to cut down to 265 lbs). That skillset and natural talent alone has won him fights against the likes of Yorgan De Castro (6-2-0), Maurice Green (9-6-0), and Juan Adams (5-3-0). But as was seen against Tybura, if you can endure Hardy’s power in the first-round, you have a pretty good shot at taking over the fight.
Hardy joins the list of fighters who are absolute killers on their feet, but when taken to the ground their strategy falls apart. And that should be expected out of a former NFL all-star who has been in the world of MMA for less than five-years. To rack up seven wins in the UFC is a feat of its own, but expectations for Hardy should now be in a more reasonable place. He needs to shore up his cardio issues as he’s been seen gasping for air at the ends of his fights in a fashion unusual to even the biggest of heavyweights. And if he wants to survive in MMA (he’s been talking about a future switch to boxing) he’s going to need to learn what to do if he get put on his back.
Once again, Hardy’s stock has taken a hit. But really it’s closer to where it should have been all along.
After Further Consideration is the blog space for the All Factors Considered camp. The Stock Report is subjective and represents the stances, views, and opinions of the All Factors Considered camp solely.