The Real Winners and Losers From UFC on ESPN 41
What the UFC lacked in highly-ranked quality, it made up for in quantity.
Though only five fighters on Saturday's jam-packed Fight Night card in San Diego arrived with numbers alongside their names, fans in the Pechanga Arena were kept occupied for better than six hours by the time all 13 fights had gone from glove tap to hand raise.
It was the company's first event in San Diego since a Fight Night show in 2015.
Two-time bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and current No. 5 contender Marlon Vera put their respective statuses on the line in a scheduled five-round main event. Meanwhile, 13th-ranked strawweight Angela Hill took on unranked Loopy Godinez in a catchweight bout, and No. 12 flyweight Cynthia Calvillo met No. 9 strawweight Nina Nunes at 125 pounds.
Brendan Fitzgerald, Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier steered the ESPN broadcast from the announce table while Megan Olivi worked the room for breaking news and features.
The B/R combat team was in the mix as well to compose a definitive list of the card's winners and losers. Scroll through to see what we came up with, and feel free to drop a thought or two of your own in the comments section.
Loser: Hometown Homecoming
Cruz did everything he'd come to do from his home gym, less than a mile away from the arena.
He moved well. He struck well. He controlled the pace.
Right up until he didn't—or, perhaps more accurately, was no longer able to.
The 37-year-old future Hall of Famer dipped to his right to avoid a flurry of Vera punches and strayed directly into the path of the Ecuadorian's oncoming left leg, taking the blow square in the face and thus sustaining a fourth-round KO loss in Saturday's main-event bout.
The end came at 2:17 of the fourth.
"It was hard to find the low kicks," Vera said. "Coach told me, 'Throw a bomb after your punches, and you will time him.' It worked."
It was Vera's 16th career finish and his record 10th in the UFC bantamweight division.
For Cruz, it was his third loss in 10 UFC fights and first in a non-title bout.
The ex-champ controlled space and output in the initial two rounds as he darted in and out, landing punches and kicks to keep a more powerful Vera off balance. His foe began closing the distance and scored a knockdown with a hard right hand two minutes into the third.
Another knockdown resulted from a hard Vera jab just more than a minute into the fourth, and the finish came shortly after, prompting a loud response from a significant faction of fans for Vera, who trains about 85 miles north of San Diego.
"I came to this sport to be a world champ," he said. "I have the heart. I have the warrior attitude. I now need the people who will get me there. I will keep working, I will keep kicking ass. Ecuador, I will be a world champion."
Winner: Instant Classic
As the final buzzer sounded, Fitzgerald affixed the proper label.
"The fight of the summer," he said, "if not 2022."
He was excitedly referring to a three-round featherweight scrap between Nate Landwehr and David Onama that saw both men on the verge of KO losses before they rallied to complete all 15 minutes to the full-throated delight of the southern California crowd.
Neither man was ranked among the 145-pounders, but they displayed world-class resilience, earning a standing ovation before Joe Martinez read off the scorecards that gave Landwehr a majority decision victory.
He won 29-27 verdicts on two scorecards to offset a 28-28 count on the third.
"My momma didn't raise no b--ch, baby," Landwehr said, referring to a first round in which he was dropped by Onama's punches and appeared seconds away from a TKO loss as referee Mike Beltran stood nearby. "He's a bad man, but I'm the baddest man in the division."
Onama arrived with a 10-1 pro record and a 2-1 UFC slate but was clearly gassed following the initial offensive and found himself on the wrong end of punches and submission attempts across the middle five minutes. Lead trainer James Krause repeatedly asked him if he wanted to continue into the third round, and he answered affirmatively, if not all that loudly.
The punishment continued as Landwehr continued to chase a finish, but Onama stayed conscious and began landing intermittent shots of his own down the stretch that wobbled the Tennessee native. They went to the mat several times in the final stretch, but Landwehr stood up each time and chose to complete the fight with prolonged punch exchanges.
"I'm the roughest, toughest man in the UFC," he said, "and I can fight pretty damn good, too."
Landwehr ended with a 91-71 edge in significant strikes, including a 70-25 gap in the final two rounds after he was out-landed, 46-21, in the first.
"This is one of the greatest experiences I've ever had," Cormier said. "This is like a movie. This is why this is the greatest sport on the planet."
Winner: Future Focus
We know the strawweights aren't everyone's cup of tea, and maybe less so when both combatants are making UFC debuts.
But anyone who pooh-poohed the main card showdown between evenly matched 20-somethings Yazmin Jauregui and Iasmin Lucindo couldn't have been more wrong.
"Meet the present and future of the strawweight division," Fitzgerald said.
Indeed, the 23-year-old Jauregui and 20-year-old Lucindo engaged in the most consistently interesting fight on the show, covering 15 minutes with frenetic activity before Jauregui emerged with a narrow unanimous decision.
She won 29-28 verdicts on two scorecards and 30-27 on the third, thanks to an 87-66 edge in overall strikes that included a 25-9 and 52-42 advantage in leg kicks and head strikes, respectively. Lucindo, meanwhile, outlanded her foe 15-9 to the body.
"That's nuts that they're that young, considering the skill level on display," Cormier said.
"[Jauregui has] got charisma, she's good on the microphone and she fights as good as anyone."
The winner was personally greeted by company boss Dana White as she came down the steps after the victory and later stopped for an embrace and a chat with flyweight contender and fellow Mexican export Brandon Moreno.
"I take my shots at the gym all the time," Jauregui said. "My team trains for this."
Loser: Championship Corner
Ariane Lipski certainly had a high-profile corner.
A recent transition to American Top Team's facility in south Florida meant training with dual-champ Amanda Nunes, who accompanied her teammate to the Octagon.
But their stay didn't last too long.
The 28-year-old was in tough with fellow Brazilian Priscila Cachoeira and quickly found peril, taking heavy shots from the outset on the way to a TKO loss after just 65 seconds of the first round—making it the eighth-fastest finish in women's bantamweight history.
The two had been scheduled to fight at flyweight last week in Las Vegas, but that bout was scuttled by illness. UFC officials rescheduled it and moved it up a weight class so the fighters would not have to endure consecutive weight cuts.
The fighters engaged quickly this time and exchanged blows before a left hand from Cachoeira drove Lipski back to the fence. A follow-up right hand dropped her to the mat soon after, and Cachoeira pounced with 20 straight ground shots before Herb Dean intervened at 1:05.
It was the 33-year-old's seventh pro win by KO and her fourth within a single round.
"Fighting with a crowd is always nicer. We come here and fight to put on a show for you guys," she said. "My power comes from the power of my team. Every time I get knocked down, or someone doubts me, I get back up."
It was her second fight in 2022, but first since a February defeat of Ji Yeon Kim, so Cachoeira was anxious to stay in town for another match if one was quickly available.
"Put me in a fight next week," she said. "I'm here to fight."
Winner: Following Script
With a 9-7 record in 16 UFC fights, Gerald Meerschaert fit the definition of a journeyman.
But just because the 34-year-old isn't draped in title belts or assigned a ranking doesn't mean he can't fight.
The 15-year pro added an impressive 27th submission to his lengthy cage resume, seizing Bruno Silva's neck and forcing a tapout early in Round 3 of their middleweight get-together.
"Bruno's a tough guy, and I know the first two rounds were a little slow, but I had to fight the perfect fight," he said. "And when I saw my opening, I took it."
He did so by cracking Silva with a left hook that dropped him to the mat and left him vulnerable for a quick volley of ground strikes before Meerschaert went for the finish.
It provided a fourth win in five fights, all by submission, since a high-profile 17-second KO loss to Khamzat Chimaev on a Fight Night show back in September 2020.
"He did a good job ducking shots early," Meerschaert said. "I'm a submission guy, but I can crack. He went down, but he was still there, and I didn't think I'd knock him out, so I went and got that neck."
Winner: Finishing Strong
She never reached the level of her decorated spouse, but Nina Nunes had a good run.
The 36-year-old entered the Octagon as the UFC's ninth-ranked strawweight on Saturday night and left it as a former fighter, announcing her retirement after winning a split decision over Calvillo in their three-rounder at flyweight.
She earned the verdict via scores of 30-27 and 29-28 on two cards, while a third judge had it 29-28 for Calvillo. Nunes celebrated afterward with her wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Raegan, who was born in 2020.
"I feel content," Nunes said. "I did everything I wanted to do in the sport. I just wanted to do it as a hobby, and I fought some of the best girls. I got up to No. 3, so I guess you could call that a successful career on accident."
The swan song proved successful despite the fact that Calvillo scored each of the fight's three successful takedowns. Still, Nunes landed the harder shots and finished with 39 significant strikes across 15 minutes.
She finishes with an 11-7 pro record and a 5-4 mark since reaching the UFC in 2014.
"It's a frustrating sport. It has a lot of ups and downs," Nunes said. "I feel like I've experienced a lot of them on my level."
Full Card Results
Marlon Vera def. Dominick Cruz by KO (kick), 2:17, Round 4
Nate Landwehr def. David Onama by majority decision (28-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Yazmin Jauregui def. Iasmin Lucindo by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Azamat Murzakanov def. Devin Clark by TKO (punches), 1:18, Round 3
Priscila Cachoeira def. Ariane Lipski by TKO (punches), 1:05, Round 1
Gerald Meerschaert def. Bruno Silva by submission (guillotine choke), 1:39, Round 3
Angela Hill def. Loopy Godinez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Martin Buday def. Lukasz Brzeski by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Nina Nunes def. Cynthia Calvillo by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Gabriel Benitez def. Charlie Ontiveros by TKO (strikes), 3:35, Round 1
Tyson Nam def. Ode Osbourne by KO (punch), 2:59, Round 1
Josh Quinlan def. Jason Witt by KO, 2:09 (punch), Round 1
Youssef Zalal drew with Da'Mon Blackshear by majority decision (28-29, 28-28, 28-28)