UFC Fight Night 129 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
Kamaru Usman: ready for his close-up?
The Nigerian-American dynamo has bullied the UFC welterweight division since joining it in 2015. The power wrestler has a high fight IQ and the strength of a juggernaut. Six UFC wins in six tries doesn't even include his flawless run through Season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter.
UFC Fight Night 129 on Saturday was a moment of truth for Usman. His opponent, Demian Maia, is one of the best jiu-jitsu players of all time. He is also 40 years old and on a two-fight losing streak. Both of those losses, by the way, came to power wrestlers like Usman.
If Usman could take care of business in his first main event—something the bookmakers expected him to do, according to OddsShark—he would announce himself as a top-five talent and a bona fide force in the shark-infested welterweight division.
However, Maia was fighting in front of a friendly crowd. UFC Fight Night 129 went down from Santiago, Chile, and that wasn't such a terrible road trip for Maia's Brazilian compatriots. Not to mention he can still submit anyone if he can get them to the mat.
That was the main event of a 13-fight marathon card. And as always, the main event only revealed so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 129.
For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.
Winner: Kamaru Usman
This was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Usman did get a win in Saturday's main event. On the other hand, it came by decision after a fight with long stretches of inactivity. However, that inactivity was attributable more to Maia than Usman, and the latter can still claim victory over the biggest name he's faced.
The fight followed a familiar formula for Maia. If you have strong takedown defense, Maia has no offense. It was true against Tyron Woodley, it was true against Colby Covington and it was true against Usman. Yes, his striking is better than it was, but he wasn't going to knock Usman out with it.
So you get what is essentially an extended stalemate. Maia kept trying. Usman kept stuffing. They circled each other, with Usman himself a little tight either because of the moment, because he feared a Maia takedown or both. He wasn't going to attempt a takedown himself because that would mean a risky ground exchange with a jiu-jitsu world champion. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Usman had moments. His striking was better than Maia's, and he bloodied his opponent over the course of the fight. In the fourth round, a heavy straight right from Usman put Maia on his backside and may have provided the single biggest piece of offense of the entire fight.
After the fight, Usman revealed some potential injures that may also have affected the contest.
"It was an honor to come in here and compete with him," Usman told broadcaster Jimmy Smith in the cage. "No excuses, but I think I broke my right hand in the second. I wasn't letting it go as much. Then I think I broke the left one in the third. ... Everyone was talking about how I hadn't fought a top-10 guy. ... But I just dominated him from start to finish."
True enough. If the hands are broken, hopefully he can get healed up sooner rather than later. As for the bout, Usman's dominance still showed through despite a style matchup as dull as it was favorable. The good outnumbered the bad. And if you are feeling disappointed by the lack of stoppage, check out the highlight reel.
Winner: Tatiana Suarez
Tatiana Suarez is building momentum.
It all looked pretty good after she won—with authority—the strawweight side of The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 (watch her score a quick submission in one of the season's earlier rounds). Then, an injury and extended shelf time caused her to slide out of the MMA hive mind.
When she returned, though, she regained everyone's attention with a convincing decision over Viviane Pereira down in Virginia at UFC Fight Night 120. Even farther down, in Chile on Saturday, she sunk in a first-round rear-naked choke to finish off Alexa Grasso—a fighter several spots above her on the official UFC rankings.
After the fight, Suarez called for another top-10 opponent. Makes sense. She might as well keep it rolling.
Winner: The Devastator
The Devastator has been out here burying dudes for years. If you were sleeping on The Devastator this entire time, that's on you.
If you were watching UFC Fight Night 129, you don't have these problems any more. Jared Cannonier had only been knocked out once in 13 bouts. Dominick "The Devastator" Reyes made it two with a first-round savaging that should carry Reyes several notches up the light heavyweight ladder.
There was plenty of action from the start, with Reyes and the heavy-hitting Cannonier trading fire the way only the big boys can. It got serious when Reyes landed a picture-perfect counter uppercut and then proceeded to show why his nickname is appropriate.
He gave Cannonier no quarter, marching right toward him and landing pinpoint bombs—much scarier than sprinting at the other person and swinging like a banshee. Another uppercut left no doubt, and the referee stopped the contest.
In the cage after the fight, Reyes called out another fairly unheralded but streaking light heavyweight: Jordan Johnson. Apparently, the two have had words.
In the meantime, all the new Devastator fans should check out the above gem from last year, wherein he shows the world just what he thinks about trash talkers.
Loser: Andrea Lee
Andrea Lee knows how to put on a show.
In the cage, the flyweight finished six of her first eight pro wins. She's a well-rounded fighter with aggression in each phase.
Outside the cage, Lee is the kind of blonde female fighter the UFC likes to feature on its posters and in other publicity-related content items. Without knowing Lee's exact stance on such things, it is nevertheless accurate to point out she has participated in such efforts, which if you care to investigate are readily available on this World Wide Web that we all use.
Put another way, Lee appears to understand she possesses a certain blend of characteristics that history shows can unlock the door to UFC celebrity. She certainly had a head of promotional steam behind her as she set her sights on the Octagon.
So it's no surprise that, for her UFC debut in Chile, Lee was set on making a splash. A previous snafu related to drug testing (not her fault) scuttled her originally scheduled bout and created a bit of a false start.
Time for a statement win.
"I'm not the type of fighter who will just go through the process and try to get a victory," Lee recently told Tim Bissell of Bloody Elbow. "I want to get in there and impress and put on a good show. ... I want to be smart, but I want to get in there and put on a good performance. I'm going in for the [performance] bonus, so I want to put on a good show.”
Lee defeated Veronica Macedo with a convincing unanimous decision. Based on her own expectations, she still fell short.
KGB employed head-and-arm throws that Macedo couldn't defend. She landed some heavy punches and warded off Macedo's hardest shots and submission attempts. But when it was time to press the gas pedal, it just wouldn't go. Macedo's striking is admittedly nettlesome, but Lee seemed uncharacteristically concerned about extended exchanges and went for clinches and takedowns at any hint of a fist fight.
A key source of consternation for the crowd was Lee's habit (she did it four times) of standing up while Macedo was still on her back and then refusing to allow Macedo to stand up. She kicked at Macedo's legs as she lay helpless on her back like an overturned beetle. It's a legal strategy that surely earned Lee points, but it will never be confused for a good show. Sustained jeers from the Santiago crowd proved it.
Lee will have other opportunities. The first one is sometimes the hardest, and she must be happy and relieved to get the win under her belt. But if the goal is making a big impression on the UFC faithful, she will have to wait until next time.
Winner: Poliana Botelho
Don't look now, but there's a new danger lurking in the depths of the strawweight division.
Poliana Botelho moved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the UFC when she destroyed the previously undefeated Syuri Kondo with a ferocious liver kick. Kondo froze up in pain, and the Brazilian swarmed with punches to make sure Kondo found the mat. The ref soon waved it off.
In her debut, she was equally aggressive and impressive in decisioning Pearl Gonzalez.
Botelho is huge for the division at 5'8" (for comparison, champ Rose Namajunas is 5'5"). As a converted flyweight, she could jump up a weight class and be an excellent addition to the UFC's fledgling women's 125-pound bracket.
In either class, the Nova Uniao trainee is a problem, with sharp striking, high output, good cardio and a legitimate mean streak. She is fun to watch and she is freaking good.
Afterward, Botelho told Smith she wanted a ranked opponent. No one should object. The official rankings are not exactly ironclad, but someone like Joanne Calderwood or Angela Hill (not ranked but should be) would make sense as a potential stepping stone into that top 15.
Loser: Proper Armbar Defense
In his UFC debut, the 23-year-old Humberto Bandenay scored a knockout victory in just 26 seconds.
The fight lasted only 13 seconds longer before the knockout arrived in his second bout Saturday. Only Bandenay wasn't the winner this time.
It wasn't for lack of trying. Bandenay had his opponent, Gabriel Benitez, in what appeared to be a tight armbar. The usual ways of extricating oneself from an armbar are familiar to fans, visually if not technically. You stack the other fighter, you block the hips, you roll out and around or various other things. I don't know, I'm not your jiu-jitsu teacher.
But it doesn't take a jiu-jitsu master to know Benitez's escape method was not the one they teach in the gym. Benitez simply hoisted Bandenay into the air and slammed him to the mat in a powerbomb motion. A few punches sealed the deal, but it was ruled a slam knockout.
It must be nice to have that kind of strength. Benitez is now 5-2 in the UFC and seems to be a fairly likable dude. He's nowhere near the top 15 of the featherweight rankings, but he's taken another step forward. If nothing else Saturday, he would have got a chuckle out of his jiu-jitsu coach.
UFC Fight Night 129 Full Card Results
Kamaru Usman def. Demian Maia by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
Tatiana Suarez def. Alexa Grasso by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:44, Rd. 1
Dominick Reyes def. Jared Cannonier by TKO, 2:55, Rd. 1
Guido Cannetti def. Diego Rivas by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Andrea Lee def. Veronica Macedo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Vicente Luque def. Chad Laprise by KO, 4:16, Rd. 1
Michel Prazeres def. Zak Cummings by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Alexandre Pantoja def. Brandon Moreno by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Poliana Botelho def. Syuri Kondo by TKO (liver kick), 0:33, Rd. 1
Gabriel Benitez def. Humberto Bandenay by KO (slam), 0:39, Rd. 1
Enrique Barzola def. Brandon Davis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Frankie Saenz def. Henry Briones by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Claudio Puelles def. Felipe Silva by submission (kneebar), 2:23, Rd. 3