UFC Fight Night 128 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
Two title contenders were likely created Saturday at UFC Fight Night 128.
Happening almost entirely on Fox Sports 1, the event took place from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The main event pitted Brazilian super-striker Edson Barboza against American wrestle-boxer Kevin Lee. At No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in the official UFC lightweight rankings, the winner is poised to enter the crowded title picture at 155 pounds.
The co-main event featured former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, taking on a tough opponent in Cub Swanson—whom Edgar had defeated three-and-a-half years before. If he could repeat the feat, Edgar would be right back in the title conversation at 145 pounds, despite losing by knockout to Brian Ortega just six weeks before.
There were 11 fights on the final card, and there were stories aplenty, even if the card didn't exactly crackle with star power. As usual, though, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 128.
For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.
Winner: Kevin Lee
The book on Edson Barboza is that he dislikes pressure, especially from a grappler.
Another chapter was written Saturday in this main event in Atlantic City, as Kevin Lee established himself as a true force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division.
In the first second, Lee stalked Barboza down, pushed him against the cage and hit a double-leg takedown. Mount ensued, as did some serious and sustained ground-and-pound. The fight appeared nearly over in a few instances in the first round.
Barboza, meanwhile, was unable to work any offense. He took plenty of punches, hammer fists and elbows in the first five minutes, not to mention being forced to hold Lee's weight on top of him.
And it only continued from there. Until, that is, the third round.
As Barboza wobbled around the cage, looking ripe for the plucking, he unleashed a spinning wheel kick that landed flush with Lee's temple and sent Lee wobbling back on some pantheon-level rubber legs. Somehow Lee stayed upright (though it may have been more dignified had he just fallen down), but Barboza made a mistake by rushing in for a choke attempt instead of going for the knockout. That allowed Lee to recover, even though the kick still helped to level the playing field and maybe earn Barboza a round on the judges' scorecards.
In the fourth, the pendulum swung back to Lee, with standing exchanges occurring—something Lee said later he wanted to do with the dynamic-striking Barboza. But takedowns and methodical ground-and-pound along the fence were still the primary weapon, if this time it was perhaps a bit more conservative. Barboza seemed to ply just enough jiu-jitsu defense to survive, but Lee had regained control and was content to ride it out to a victory.
The end came somewhat abruptly, when a timeout was called and a doctor subsequently called for a stop to the contest after Barboza took too much punishment.
"Mental strength was what was going to do it. I wanted to go five rounds and show my complete game." Lee told broadcaster Paul Felder in the cage after the fight. "That one kick. That man has some explosiveness on him. ... People know what time it is. It's Khabib time, baby."
That last reference was to lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. There's a waiting list there, with Dustin Poirier maybe at the top. But Lee has certainly cemented his claim to be a part of that list.
Winner: Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar's knockout loss to Brian Ortega was six weeks ago. He was only recently cleared to resume training. Fans wondered why it was necessary, whether the ex-champ was putting himself at unnecessary risk here at age 36.
If victory erases everything, Edgar did so Saturday, using his trademark fighting style to neutralize a dangerous Cub Swanson for a decision victory.
Edgar put his cardio and quick feet to work, circling and dancing in and out, staying busy with jabs and low kicks. Swanson largely stifled his takedown attempts, but Edgar still led the dance throughout, outlanding and parrying Swanson at every turn.
Swanson pressed for more offense late in the fight and landed solid shots at various points throughout, but Edgar never allowed him to string anything together. It was not a scintillating effort for those who like big strikes or big finishes, but it was a classic performance by one of the UFC's longest-tenured and most popular fighters. Fighting in front of his fellow New Jerseyans, the applause was loud when the decision was read.
"You put your mind to something, you can do it," Edgar told Felder in the cage after the fight. "I have a great team behind me. I'm not going nowhere."
When asked about the future, Edgar pointed to Ortega and featherweight champ Max Holloway, who fight in July. As you likely know, Edgar was set to fight Holloway for the belt before Holloway withdrew with an injury. Edgar accepted a bout with Ortega and the knockout ensued, thus essentially causing Ortega to leapfrog Edgar for that shot.
"I want to fight the winner of those two guys," Edgar said. "We'll see what happens."
Loser: Being 20 Pounds Smaller Than Your Opponent
When the heavyweights of UFC Fight Night 128 weighed in Friday, one weighed in at 247 pounds. The other weighed in at 265.4.
That's perfectly fine in the heavyweight division, for which the weight range is 206-265 pounds. Chase Sherman was in the upper half of that range. Justin "Big Pretty" Willis was about half a steak away from breaking through even that generous ceilling.
But it worked out for him. Willis, a defensive lineman in college, is an absolute load. So, of course, is Sherman, himself an offensive lineman in college. But it was Willis who landed more frequently and with more authority throughout the contest.
Sherman took one knockdown but survived that and plenty of other heavy Willis shots, which Willis threw with both hands.
Size was a factor, but Willis' performance was about more than size. Give him credit for dishing out so much punishment while absorbing relatively little of his own and for staying poised during stretches where Sherman did wrest away control. This moves Willis to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the UFC. Heavyweight is a thin division, and Willis could be its newest player.
Winner: Aljamain Sterling
Two of the best grapplers in the bantamweight division faced off when local favorite Aljamain Sterling took on undefeated Welshman Brett Johns.
A judo black belt, Johns is the rare grappling-forward European fighter. He's advanced from a deceptive power grinder to someone with decent striking and a more aggressive submission game—see the calf slicer he pulled off in his last fight.
But the Long Islander was the better man Saturday night. Entering the fight, Sterling was more proven at the UFC level but lost to Marlon Moraes in his last outing and was 2-3 in his last five. If he wanted to remain in the top 10, he needed the win here.
He got it. Sterling locked him up with underhooks and pinned him against the fence for much of the fight. Whenever there were striking exchanges, Sterling got the better of them. He landed kicks to set up takedown entries. He always seemed to be a beat quicker and a bit stronger than Johns.
It wasn't the most action-packed of affairs, but no one really expected it to be. What this was was a chess match between two very good fighters. Johns falls to 15-1 but will continue on as a very viable UFC fighter. Sterling takes a needed step forward.
In the post-fight interview, Sterling called out Dominick Cruz. The oft-injured former champ is still rehabbing a broken arm suffered last winter. If he's healthy, that's a tall order. If he's not, how about John Dodson?
Winner: The Underdog of Underdogs
It wasn't just that he cornered a victorious fighter in Sterling. UFC officials announced Saturday night that Matt Serra, who owns what is likely the biggest upset in UFC history, would join the company's Hall of Fame.
The fast-talking Long Islander won national acclaim—and the UFC welterweight title—at UFC 69 back in 2007, when Serra took on champion Georges St-Pierre. It was a title shot he earned by winning the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter, which was dedicated to older fighters attempting to make a comeback. According to a history from OddsShark, GSP was a massive -1300 favorite to polish off Serra.
It didn't go that way. Serra rocked GSP and knocked him out for the title. Of course, St-Pierre reclaimed it almost exactly one year later and never looked back in his own quest for greatness, but Serra had already achieved his own slice of immortality. It was easily the crown jewel of his 11-7 pro career, and it's why he'll enter the Hall of Fame.
"This is an honor to say the least," Serra said in a statement emailed to reporters. "I turned professional in 1999, during the dark ages when MMA was almost finished in the US. I didn't become a mixed martial artist because there was a ton of money and fame to be had—there was none back then. I began competing in MMA because I love the sport, and that took me all the way to the UFC championship, and, now the UFC Hall of Fame. I love the sport as much as I ever did, and I couldn't be happier or more honored right now."
Loser: My Mental Equilibrium
It's difficult to underemphasize how strange, even unsettling, the ending was between Ricky Simon and Merab Dvalishvili.
In the closing minute of the fight, things seemed to be in hand for the Georgian Dvalishvili. But then Simon countered a Dvalishvili takedown attempt with an airtight guillotine choke. They hit the ground with Simon in mount in the center of the cage, and it was clear Dvalishvili was in deep trouble. Dvalishvili, however, flailed his arms and legs in a sign he was still kicking (literally).
Meanwhile, as the seconds ticked by, Dvalishvili's eyes rolled back in his head, and his arms stopped moving. His face turned purple. And yet his legs continued to flail. The final horn sounded. It looked like Dvalishvili had gutted it out.
As Simon relinquished the hold, medical personnel immediately swooped in to tend to Dvalishvili, who lay motionless on his back. Confusion ensued.
The final result was ultimately announced as a TKO win for Simon at 5:00 of the third round. It was apparently ruled that Dvalishvili was unconscious at the end of the fight.
So wouldn't that be a technical submission? And why were his leg movements involuntary?
"I looked in his eyes, and he was gone," Simon told Felder after the fight as boos rained down.
This was just one of those crazy things. No referee mistakes that I can see. It's just...a very, very objectively confusing "only in MMA" kind of thing.
Winner: Dad Bods
Siyar Bahadurzada doesn't compete with great frequency. He struggles with chronic injuries. He doesn't have David Beckham's hairline. The welterweight doesn't exactly possess a chiseled or overly imposing physique.
He's like the dad at the county fair who wanders past the test of strength, casually hands off his popcorn and baby with a smile, gingerly raises the hammer over his head, then knocks the bell off the top of the tower.
It was just his third fight in three years, but the 34-year-old Afghan and mild underdog landed a front kick to the body of Luan Chagas that stunned and buckled the Brazilian, then, as Chagas began to sink downward, absolutely crushed him with a right hook that settled the matter for good. That's what you call a combination.
He's no physical specimen on the surface, but Bahadurzada gives hope and pride to all the guys out there without washboard abs. Apparently they can wreck shop, too.
UFC Fight Night 128 Full Card Results
Kevin Lee def. Edson Barboza by TKO (doctor stoppage), 2:18, Rd. 5
Frankie Edgar def. Cub Swanson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Justin Willis def. Chase Sherman by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
David Branch def. Thiago Santos by KO, 2:30, Rd. 1
Aljamain Sterling def. Brett Johns by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Dan Hooker def. Jim Miller by KO, 3:00, Rd. 1
Ryan LaFlare def. Alex Garcia by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ricky Simon def. Merab Dvalishvili by TKO (referee stoppage), 5:00, Rd. 3
Siyar Bahadurzada def. Luan Chagas by KO, 2:40, Rd. 2
Corey Anderson def. Patrick Cummins by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Tony Martin def. Keita Nakamura by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)