UFC Fight Night 116 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Pittsburgh
On Saturday night, Luke Rockhold carried the UFC into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Maybe you respect the accomplishments of his opponent, former two-division World Series of Fighting champion David Branch.
Maybe you enjoy the theatrics of Mike Perry, the outspoken slugger showcased in the co-main event.
Maybe you appreciated the opportunities the event afforded to several bright prospects, like Kamaru Usman or Gregor Gillespie (with a moment of silence for young bantamweight beast Luke Sanders, who fell off the card when his opponent took ill two days before the event).
Or hey, maybe you just watched the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin fight instead.
Regardless, the clear top draw of UFC Fight Night 116 was the former middleweight champion. The popular and telegenic Rockhold hasn't competed since losing his title in a major upset to Michael Bisping. That was well over a year ago, and in the intervening time he's stayed indisposed with contract negotiations and professional modeling and Demi Lovato. So Rockhold's return is something of a black box.
He's pledged to pick up where he left off and then some. Branch, in his second UFC fight since returning from WSOF, is unmoved. Perry is, well, talking a lot.
It's not the densest card, but it'll get your motor running. Whether you watched or not, let us enlighten you with the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 116. For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.
Winner: Luke Rockhold
Well, it wasn't perfect, but Luke Rockhold got the job done in his return fight.
Rockhold fired off his trademark kicks in the opening moment, but Branch bulled his way forward, landing a heavy left hook (the same shot that felled him against Bisping, by the way) and a strong right hand that dropped Rockhold. It was lazy defense from Rockhold, and his chin didn't exactly bail him out.
That sequence led Branch to a fairly clear victory in the first round, and Branch seemed to have the edge in the second as well, as Rockhold appeared slow and perhaps a bit dazed.
But then the tide turned.
Rockhold got a body lock along the fence and turned it into a takedown. From there, the elite grappler moved seamlessly into full mount and then took Branch's back. He flattened out Branch and rained strikes on his head until Branch eventually decided he had had enough and tapped out.
Afterward, Rockhold had his turn on the mic. And as with his fight performance, his mic work showed a bit of rust, maybe a little inconsistency.
"I'm coming for that belt," Rockhold told broadcaster Jon Anik in the cage after the fight. Good start, right? But then it went off the rails a bit, with him calling out Georges St-Pierre—who faces Bisping in November but doesn't actually, you know, have a belt right now.
"GSP, I don't know what I need to do," Rockhold continued. "Do I need to beat some sense into you? You don't belong here...this is my fight."
It went on like that. It was hard to follow the logic, as he essentially called for St-Pierre, who built his legend one weight class down at welterweight, to pull out of his title fight with Bisping and let Rockhold face the champ instead. Why not just call out the winner of the fight? Why not call out Robert Whittaker, the rising star Australian with the interim strap around his waist?
The whole evening wasn't exceptionally, shall we say, well-thought-out. But in the end, Rockhold made his point.
Loser: David Branch
Yes, Branch did tap to strikes. But I'm not here to bury him for that. Sadly, not all referees can be trusted to protect a fighter's safety. You look out for yourself in there. Branch felt his safety was compromised and that he didn't have a path to victory any longer, so he tapped.
It's respectable and intelligent that someone would face the inevitable public scorn that accompanies such a move, rather than go out on one's shield and live along with the consequences later, when the crowd is no longer cheering you on.
That said, Branch did not look like a top-10 fighter at the top UFC level. He had a great first round but was taken down and outgrappled with too much ease in the second frame. His game plan—put on the pressure, take away Rockhold's kicks, get inside, punch him in the mouth, clinch up along the fence—fell apart, and quickly after, so did Branch.
He's still very good. And he will have other wins in the UFC. But he may not be ready for the contender echelon just yet.
Winner: Mike Perry
He's got a mixed reputation, but in the cage Mike Perry undeniably gets results.
The gold star is a little dull Saturday, as he faced unknown Alex Reyes, who stepped in on just a few days' notice after original opponent Thiago Alves pulled out.
Still, Ws all count the same, and Perry picked his up in style, storming after Reyes, landing a big knee, chasing him around, then felling him with a barrage of punches. The whole thing took 79 seconds.
It was the third win in four UFC tries for Platinum Mike, and he made the most of his camera time.
"I know you guys want to see me beat up Robbie Lawler," he told Anik in the cage after the fight.
That's the former division champ and one of the most feared knockout artists on the planet. A matchup between the two might be out of Perry's grasp, at least for now, but it certainly would be full of action.
Winner: Jason Gonzalez
I must admit to a little misdirection. Gregor Gillespie won this fight with a beautiful arm-triangle choke in the second round. The former college wrestler and blue-chip prospect continued his march up the lightweight ranks, just as he was expected to do.
But man, did Jason Gonzalez make him work for it.
As if knowing their fight perfectly coincided with the slightly more widely hyped boxing match between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, both men came out with all guns blazing. Gonzalez did so in particular, firing off a punch-head kick combination to open the offense.
Yes, Gonzalez was completely and totally unable to stop Gillespie's takedowns, employed each time the kitchen got a little too hot. But Gonzalez did work hard in ground scrambles, and did I mention those phone-booth exchanges? It was rock 'em, sock 'em all the way through, until Gillespie hit a takedown.
The better man won, but Gonzalez made this the Fight of the Night.
Loser: Sergio Moraes' Dignity
Kamaru Usman wanted to make a statement Saturday night. He was able to do that, with a bunch of exclamation points and terrifying, hellish emojis at the end.
Facing jiu-jitsu ace Sergio Moraes, Usman stalked directly toward Moraes with as little respect as possible. He hit Moraes upside the head with clubbing hooks, sending Moraes to the mat but refusing (despite high-level wrestling) to follow the grappler to the ground.
Instead, he forced Moraes to stand and trade. Moraes landed a few awkward shots, but less than three minutes into the opening stanza, Usman landed the final sequence, a short left hook followed by a thunderous right cross. It landed so hard it literally knocked Moraes head over heels. Ball game. A violent, violent ball game.
"I'm a problem," Usman told Anik in the cage after the fight. "I'm a problem in this welterweight division. Does anybody want this fight? Anybody?"
Well, the UFC is going to have to give him somebody. Now 11-1 as a pro and 6-0 in the UFC, the 29-year-old Nigerian-American is not a prospect anymore. He is a top-10 welterweight, and he has just served notice.
Usman also called out Rafael dos Anjos after the fight. That could be a main event. Even if the UFC matchmaking braintrust determine he's not ready for that, he is certainly ready for a very big step up. You've been warned, welterweights.
Winner: Uriah Hall
It's hard to name the "best" knockout from the evening's undercard. Each one had different factors recommending it. Gilbert Burns' one-shot KO on Jason Saggo to open the night was probably the most spectacular. Daniel Spitz's finish of Anthony Hamilton was the fastest at just 24 seconds and, as the biggest underdog of the bunch at +250 (per OddsShark), the most unexpected.
But in this space, the honor goes to Uriah Hall.
Himself a +175 underdog, Hall spent much of the first round getting bludgeoned with uppercuts. He hit the canvas at one point, but opponent Krzysztof Jotko couldn't quite close the deal, then made the mistake of opting for a grappling exchange, which ultimately allowed Hall to recover.
Jotko tried to finish with a joke but again couldn't get it done, and Hall survived. Although likely stunned and hurt, Hall was now facing a winded opponent in Jotko.
Hall took advantage in the second round, sending a right hand over Jotko's lackadaisical defenses for the knockout shot.
It was a needed win for Hall, who had lost his last three—all against top opponents but three losses nonetheless. No, it didn't involve spinning stuff (Hall's primary calling card), but it was spectacular enough to get him the win and stand out in an exciting undercard pack.
UFC Fight Night 116 Full Card Results
Luke Rockhold def. David Branch by submission (strikes), 4:05, Rd. 2
Mike Perry def. Alex Reyes by KO, 1:19, Rd. 1
Anthony Smith def. Hector Lombard by TKO, 2:33, Rd. 3
Gregor Gillespie def. Jason Gonzalez by submission (arm-triangle choke), 2:11, Rd. 2
Kamaru Usman def. Sergio Moraes by KO, 2:48, Rd. 1
Justin Ledet def. Azunna Anyanwu by split decision
Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Tony Martin by split decision
Daniel Spitz def. Anthony Hamilton by TKO, 0:24, Rd. 1
Uriah Hall def. Krzysztof Jotko by KO, 2:25, Rd. 2
Gilbert Burns def. Jason Saggo by KO, 4:55, Rd. 2