UFC on Fox 26 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Lawler vs Dos Anjos Card
The main event of UFC on Fox 26 featured two former champions. And these weren't one-off title holders, either.
Robbie Lawler is one of the fiercest and most fearsome competitors in the history of the welterweight division. The knockout artist pounded his way to the belt in 2014 and held it for 19 months before losing it last year.
Rafael dos Anjos is a relentless pressure righter with a well-rounded skill set. He made his bones at lightweight, where he won and defended the title in 2015. In June, he debuted at 170 pounds and has looked dominant on two occasions since.
Both of these veterans are talented, aggressive, gritty and accomplished. The winner has a nickel-plated case to be the next title contender.
The rest of the card was not quite as glitzy as its main event, but there are fireworks and intrigue in every event. As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from frosty Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Winner: Rafael dos Anjos
We have a new contender in the welterweight division. After his magnificent unanimous decision win over the brilliant—if increasingly shopworn—Lawler, Dos Anjos could be poised to fight for a second UFC title.
Despite Dos Anjos' reputation as the supreme pressure fighter, it was Lawler who first seized the center of the Octagon. I guess that shouldn't have surprised anyone—it was almost if Lawler took offense to the notion that someone on Planet Earth could be considered more aggressive than he is. Action was relatively tentative from there, although what offense did land was full of malice. Subtler attacks like leg kicks and clinch control from Dos Anjos were factors right alongside Lawler's typically furious punch flurries.
In the second, both men opened up, with lots of punches landed for both sides. The capstone was what broadcaster Jon Anik stated on the air was a 23-second series of punches by Dos Anjos against Lawler along the fence. Dos Anjos mercilessly pummeled both the head and midsection of Lawler, who was rolling admirably with the shots but still absorbed quite a large amount of damage.
What did Lawler do after that seemingly endless beating finally subsided? He smiled.
Both men were tired in the third, with grueling clinch work and digs to the body speeding up the process. With about a minute left, a short elbow-hook combination from Dos Anjos sent Lawler reeling, with Dos Anjos pushing him to the mat and jumping on top for the rest of the round.
As sad as his fans may find it, over the past two rounds Lawler showed his age. Fatigued and carrying obvious knee damage, 35-year-old Lawler was forced into docility, accepting certain positions and flagging in his aggression as Dos Anjos poured on the punishment. Dos Anjos' leg kicks were out in full force. Lawler sought the counter, but it just wasn't there. That signature, terrifying power kept Dos Anjos honest, though. That will likely be the case for as long as Lawler wishes to compete.
In the end, though, the judges all rightly saw it 50-45 for Dos Anjos, who is ranked fourth in the official UFC rankings. With No. 1 contender Stephen Thompson having lost one bout and drawn another one in two uninspiring dates with champ Tyron Woodley, could Dos Anjos be one win away from becoming a two-division champ?
"I was confident of my conditioning. I feel like he have a pretty tough head," the Brazilian told broadcaster Jon Anik in the cage after the fight, before later saying "in my opinion, I just beat the toughest guy in the division. I think I deserve [the next title shot] because of my history."
With the current UFC title picture—welterweight and otherwise—being dictated by a cluster bomb of interim belts and money fights and boxing rumors, you never know what could happen next. Plus, Woodley has signed up for shoulder surgery that will keep him out for several months.
But if you do something crazy and go by pure logic and merit, Woodley's next opponent is Rafael dos Anjos.
Loser: Ricardo Lamas
According to OddsShark, featherweight Ricardo Lamas was the second-biggest favorite on the card behind Julian Marquez. After all, in his last eight fights, Lamas' only three losses came to Max Holloway, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. That's not too bad.
Lamas is a hard hitter, a terrific ground fighter and a supremely tough customer. So it wasn't a huge surprise when most analysts followed the oddsmakers when it came to calling the outcome.
Welcome once again to MMA.
Before Winnipeg, Josh Emmett's biggest win was Felipe Arantes. Fans liked his boxing but were suspect of his wrestling and submissions at this level. Emmett rendered the suspicions irrelevant, at least for the time being, when an absolute cinderblock of a left hook rendered Lamas unconcsious before he even hit the ground. The action never saw the second round.
"I've always said that if I land one clean shot that I would end the fight," Emmett told Anik in the cage after the fight. "Everyone was counting me out. My goal was to come out here and shock the world. I think I might've."
Indeed. He'll still need more than that win to contend, especially since he missed weight for the fight. But it's still certainly the biggest victory of his fighting career, and he's entitled to savor it.
In the other corner, Lamas was the No. 3 featherweight in the UFC before this fight, according to the company's official rankings. A win gave him a case for a rematch with champ Holloway. That case was gone before he could hit the ground in Winnipeg.
Welcome once again to MMA. It's a pretty cruel place sometimes.
Winners: Mike Perry and Santiago Ponzinibbio
Outside the main event, Mike Perry versus Santiago Ponzinibbio was the night's most anticipated contest.
The outspoken Floridian headhuter and the Argentinean kickboxer—25 professional knockouts between them—were evenly matched for three outstanding rounds. Similarly strong, similarly tough, similarly skilled albeit in different ways. Heck, they even looked the same.
Despite the similarities, there was no stalemate here, even if the back-and-forth, 15-minute brawl left the fans as the only clear winners.
The first round saw Perry charging forward and landing heavily on a tentative Ponzinibbio. In the second, Ponzinibbio gained his sea legs, and extensive pocket exchanges ensued, with Ponz's powerful left hand leading the way. A big left hook with about 90 seconds left touched off a serious flurry, but Perry's rock-hard chin kept him in the action.
Perry finally hit the deck in the third round when Ponzinibbio's spinning backfist finally found the mark. Again, Perry regrouped and fired back, giving as good as he got.
Ultimately, all three judges gave the fight to Ponzinibbio by a 29-28 margin. Perry is loved by some and disliked by others for his red-state brodog persona, but he earned every inch of respect in this matchup. It was a razor-close fight, with Perry's power and toughness coming up just short against a slightly more well-rounded opponent. Hats off to both competitors.
Winner: The Great White North
In keeping with their usual protocol, UFC matchmakers stacked the Winnipeg deck with plenty of hometown favorites. Canadians love their MMA, so it's always a big deal when they can watch their countrymen compete on native soil.
Nearly all the Canucks of UFC on Fox 26 held up their end of the deal Saturday, going 4-1 on the evening.
Jordan Mein, John Makdessi, Nordine Taleb and Chad Laprise came out with victories. All the wins were pretty dominant, too, in particular Taleb and Laprise, who each scored first-round knockouts.
Unfortunately, the Canadians' lone loss came in their highest-profile bout of the evening, when Misha Cirkunov lost by first-round TKO to Glover Teixeira in the main card opener.
Still, though, not a bad outing for the Great White North.
Loser: Jared Cannonier
Depending on where you look, Jared Cannonier was the third- or fourth-biggest favorite on the night.
His performance didn't act accordingly.
The light heavyweight won three of four coming into his bout with Poland's Jan Blachowicz, and the only loss was a spirited affair with Glover Teixeira. So there was a bit of hype here. His sluggish effort didn't meet it.
According to early statistics from Fight Metric, Cannonier landed 26 of 87 significant strikes, for an accuracy of 29 percent. Blachowicz, by comparison, landed 50 of 127 for a 39 percent clip. Blachowicz also connected on four of five takedown attempts.
Cannonier is known for compelling power strikes, with elbows and other goodies to complement the more straightforward stuff. It wasn't in evidence here, particularly as he gassed down the stretch.
Someone's momentum chilled Saturday in the Winnipeg December. Hopefully Cannonier's next bout brings more boom.
Winner: Julian Marquez
Fox Sports 1 threw plenty of weight behind the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Julian Marquez isn't the most technically skilled fighter on the UFC roster, but after a striking knockout win on the online show "Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series," he turned the right heads and got his shot in the UFC proper.
That was Saturday against England's Darren Stewart, and Marquez took full advantage, engaging in an action-packed slugfest before winning with a second-round guillotine choke.
It didn't establish Marquez as a contender or anything like that, but he is unequivocally fun to watch. Credit UFC talent-seekers for finding and polishing what looks to be a proper gem in Marquez. You kind of wish they could find more occasions to do this outside the president's pet TV project, but you take the wins where you can get them.
Winner: Jerin Varel
MMA referees certainly get plenty of grief after a mistake. It's only fair they get some credit when some of that is due.
Welterweight Nordine Taleb first went low with a leg kick. His opponent, hard-hitting Englishman Danny Roberts, understandably expected something similar for a follow-up. Instead, the French-Canadian went high with a right head kick that sent Roberts reeling back against the fence. Roberts, hurt but still alert, grabbed the chain link for support.
Not a terrible idea, until one realizes Roberts might have needed his arms for other things, like defending the second half of Taleb's combination. Taleb's crushing right hook sent Roberts collapsing to the mat.
Ref Jerin Varel jumped in and stopped the action just 59 seconds into the first round. A distraught Roberts vigorously protested the ending, claiming he was OK to continue. It feels wrong to fault a pro fighter for refusing to surrender. That instinct is hard-wired. It might be why some referees watch a fighter melt to the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West before deciding maybe he or she has taken enough punishment to be considered a valiant loser.
But Varel didn't give in to that instinct. He judged, rightly, that Taleb had done enough to finish Roberts. That's the ref's job, after all. The fighter's job is something different.
Taleb's power is undeniable, and as a winner in three of his last four, he is going places in the welterweight division. In this fight, a second tip of the cap goes to the ref who knew when to say when.
UFC on Fox 26 Full Card Results
Rafael dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision
Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas by KO, 4:33, Rd. 1
Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry by unanimous decision
Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov by TKO, 2:45, Rd. 1
Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision
Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart by submission (guillotine choke), 2:42, Rd. 2
Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando by TKO, 4:10, Rd. 1
Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts by KO, 0:59, Rd. 1
John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo by unanimous decision
Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose by KO, 2:14, Rd. 2
Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva by unanimous decision