The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 211
Bantamweight is one of the UFC's most active divisions.
So the main event of Saturday's 13-bout Fight Night show from the Apex facility in Las Vegas fit neatly into the tumult with a match between its fourth- and 10th-ranked contenders.
Ex-title challenger Cory Sandhagen and surging Chinese export Song Yadong squared off in a scheduled five-rounder just a week after the company had staged its monthly pay-per-view show about six miles across town at T-Mobile Arena.
Incidentally, that venue was booked up this week by the traveling Canelo Alvarez circus.
No other ranked fighters appeared across the UFC show's remaining dozen bouts, but that doesn't mean there weren't some noteworthy storylines. The B/R combat team was in position to assemble them for the night's definitive list of winners and losers.
Scroll through to see what we came up with, and drop some thoughts of your own in the comments section.
Winner: Staying the Course
Yadong's body language told the story.
Bleeding profusely from a gash through his left eyelid and beaten on the floor for the final 60 seconds of the fourth round, the young Chinese slugger heard the horn ending the session, laid flat on his back and breathed his way through the suffering before rising.
As it turned out, though, the gesture was his last of the night.
Referee Herb Dean conferenced with a cage-side physician for the third straight between-rounds session and finally pulled the plug on the fight because of the increasing severity of the cut, ending it with a doctor-prompted stoppage before the start of Round 5.
The win ended a two-fight skid for Sandhagen, who'd dropped split and unanimous decisions to ex-champions TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan, respectively, and had taken 11 months off to rededicate himself to the craft and resume his title quest.
"Song's good. I knew he was going to be good. And I think he deserved to come out there for the fifth round," he said. "But all I care about is winning. I robbed the guy of his power, and I went for takedowns. I made him play my game in there."
Indeed, Sandhagen was on the receiving end of powerful strikes through the first two rounds but landed the most telling one with a right elbow from in close early in the second.
The blood began flowing instantly and prompted discussions between Dean and the doctor while gradually forcing Yadong into a shell as he contended with rapidly decreasing vision.
Sandhagen became more aggressive and active in the third and fourth, landing elbows and knees from close quarters along the fence and finally converting his only takedown attempt in 14 tries with a minute to go in the fourth. Blood pooled into Yadong's eye as he remained prone to close out the round, and he issued little protest when the decision was made.
Each man landed 130 strikes overall, but Sandhagen had a 94-54 edge in significant lands.
"Gimme one of those guys who's fighting in October," Sandhagen told analyst Daniel Cormier when asked about his wishes for a next opponent. "I want to fight someone at the top."
Bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling is fighting Dillashaw next month at UFC 280, while ex-champ Yan faces No. 13 contender Sean O'Malley.
"Gimme someone for Christmas," Sandhagen said.
Winner: No Time to Bleed
Gregory Rodrigues goes by the nickname RoboCop.
And based on his Saturday night performance against co-main opponent Chidi Njokuani, there may not be a more appropriate label in all of combat sports.
Moments after sustaining a ghastly cut from a knee to the bridge of his nose, the burly Brazilian middleweight went full-on cyborg, methodically beating the will out of his Texas-born opponent on the way to a TKO finish at 1:27 of the second round.
Rodrigues took the knee flush to the face and was already leaking blood by the time he'd reeled back to the fence and began defending against an onslaught from his surging opponent. He managed to weather the storm and land some return shots of his own, though, then survived a between-rounds visit from a cage-side physician that nearly ended his night.
Referee Mark Smith was instructed to keep a close eye on the wound as the round began, but Rodrigues quickly made it academic by spinning Njokuani to the mat, getting to a side position and letting loose with a flurry of shots that prompted Smith's intervention as the shell-shocked and stricken recipient made no attempt to reply.
How did it happen? Sheer will, Rodrigues said.
"I know one thing. I'm born from this," he told Cormier. "I felt the blood coming out, but you need to kill me. This is my house, and I come to stay."
The loss was Njokuani's first after two wins in the UFC and another on Dana White's Contender Series, while Rodrigues improved to 13-4 overall and 4-1 in the company.
"I'm grateful to fight against the greatest guys in this cage," he said, "I wanna go against the best. I'm here. Let's go."
Winner: Being Joe Pyfer
If you're going to be a UFC newcomer, here's some advice:
Be Joe Pyfer.
The Philadelphia-based middleweight was awarded an octagonal contract after a Dana White's Contender Series win in July and parlayed it into first-timer success on Saturday's main card with a one-punch erasure of Alen Amedovski at 3:55 of Round 1.
It was the newest chapter of a storybook tale for the newly-minted 26-year-old (his birthday was Saturday, too), who was homeless as a youth and sustained an arm injury in his first appearance on the DWCS show in 2020 before grinding his way back to the spotlight.
He made the most of the journey against Amedovski—who'd been beaten by decision and finished twice in three previous UFC fights—working aggressively off the front foot until he flicked a left uppercut followed by an overhand right that sent the Macedonian to the floor.
"It wasn't something we really looked for," he said, "but we knew he drops his hands when he throws."
Pyfer leaped in for one ground shot before referee Chris Tognoni stepped in between them.
"It's hard to imagine a bigger feel-good story in MMA this year than Joe Pyfer," analyst Brendan Fitzgerald said on the ESPN broadcast.
Pyfer was near tears in a chat with Cormier and immediately thanked White for the opportunity to come back.
"I'm so fortunate to be here," he said. "From sleeping on a park bench and running away from home and abuse to here, this is amazing.
"I want that 50K bonus because I'm the birthday boy."
Loser: Tanner Boser's Momentum
Not so long ago, Tanner Boser was a familiar face.
The Bulldozer got primetime exposure twice within 29 days during the pandemic-addled summer of 2020, stopping Philipe Lins in a single round in Las Vegas before heading to Fight Island for a second-round defeat of Raphael Pessoa.
His momentum was snuffed by a scorecard loss to ex-champ Andrei Arlovski that November, and he'd split just two fights in the 22 months since. The charismatic Canadian rejoined the fray Saturday night against a similarly foundering commodity in Brazilian submission ace Rodrigo Nascimento.
Nascimento racked up two TKOs and six submissions in his first eight pro fights but is 0-1 with a no contest since, losing in 45 seconds to Chris Daukaus and having a subsequent win over Alan Baudot scrubbed by a failed post-fight drug test in his last outing 14 months ago.
In the end, Nascimento's mojo scored better with the judges.
Armed with a 30-plus-pound weight advantage, the Brazilian took the smaller Boser down in the opening minute of the first round and kept him there. Nascimento shook off a hard left hand to survive the second round and kept his opponent on the mat for the majority of the third to earn a narrow split decision with scores of 30-27 and 29-28 in his favor.
A third scorecard had Boser as a winner by a 29-28 margin, which matched B/R's card.
"He's a tough guy, and he's very, very fast," Nascimento said. "But I knew I'd get to him."
Winner: Honoring Thy Brother
It's a well-worn phrase but an apt one in certain situations.
And it's hard to imagine a more apt time to suggest a fighter, in this case, 34-year-old veteran Damon Jackson, was "fighting for something bigger" than simply a prelim show victory.
Five fights into his second stint with the promotion, Jackson was already in deep for No. 6 against streaking featherweight foe Pat Sabatini before things got much deeper last Sunday with the sudden death of his 37-year-old brother, Bradley, in Oklahoma.
Jackson said he never considered pulling out of the fight and instead chose to use the tragedy as fuel, which was evident from the start all the way through a punishing TKO finish that handed Sabatini his first octagonal loss after just 69 seconds of Round 1.
The decisive sequence began when Jackson landed a kick that sent Sabatini to the floor near the fence. Jackson quickly took his foe's back after the shot, and Sabatini subsequently shelled up and flattened out, prompting Jackson to let go with a barrage of 13 unanswered shots before referee Keith Peterson waved things off.
The clearly emotional winner appeared near tears as he pointed up to family members in the crowd, and the victory improved him to 5-2-1 with one no contest in the UFC and provided a brief celebratory respite just two days before a funeral.
"Action Jackson with the ultimate tribute," Fitzgerald said.
Loser: Aspen Ladd's Reputation
When it comes to weigh-ins, Aspen Ladd has a dubious history.
The 27-year-old arrived to the UFC five years ago and has four wins inside the Octagon, but it's no stretch to suggest she's known as much for scale issues as fighting acumen.
In fact, a chance at win No. 5 was foiled on Friday when the seventh-ranked bantamweight tipped in at 138 pounds—two pounds above the division's non-title limit—and saw a bout with eighth-ranked Sara McMann scrubbed from Saturday night's show.
The latest issue comes four years after Ladd initially missed weight for a bout with Leslie Smith and had that fight canceled when Smith refused to fight an over-the-limit foe.
Another meeting with Macy Chiasson was nixed when Ladd missed the number for that one last October. Ladd was visibly trembling while making weight for a 2019 bout with Germaine de Randamie and subsequently suffered her first career loss by first-round finish.
She'd gone 1-2 since the de Randamie loss, including a defeat of No. 6 Yana Kunitskaya and a loss to No. 5 Raquel Pennington, but she's made no friends within the company with the latest misstep, least of all the 41-year-old McMann.
"I'm really disappointed that things went the way they did," McMann wrote on Instagram.
"I've never once missed weight in my career in wrestling or fighting. Missing weight is the equivalent of cheating. You gain such an advantage for every pound that you don't have to cut. I wish that the promotions and commissions would change the policies so this isn't even an option at this professional level."
Full Card Results
Cory Sandhagen def. Song Yadong by TKO (doctor's stoppage), 5:00, Round 4
Gregory Rodrigues def. Chidi Njokuani by TKO (punches), 1:27, Round 2
Andre Fili def. Bill Algeo by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Joe Pyfer def. Alen Amedovski by TKO (punch), 3:55, Round 1
Rodrigo Nascimento def. Tanner Boser by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Anthony Hernandez def. Marc-Andre Barriault by technical submission (head/arm choke), 1:53, Round 3
Damon Jackson def. Pat Sabatini by TKO (punches), 1:09, Round 1
Trevin Giles def. Louis Cosce by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Loma Lookboonmee def. Denise Gomes by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Trey Ogden def. Daniel Zellhuber by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Gillian Robertson def. Mariya Agapova by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:19, Round 2
Javid Basharat def. Tony Gravely by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Nikolas Motta def. Cameron VanCamp by KO (punch), 3:49, Round 1