UFC Fight Night 133: The Real Winners and Losers
On Saturday the UFC made its Idaho debut, and evidently the company was looking to make a splash.
The UFC's cable TV cards tend to run together these days, but UFC Fight Night 133 was uncharacteristically meaty. That took a literal turn in the main event when beefy heavyweights Junior dos Santos and Blagoy Ivanov did battle. Dos Santos, the former heavyweight champ, fought for the first time in more than a year thanks to a USADA run-in. Ivanov has some championship pedigree himself, having held gold under the World Series of Fighting banner.
Several other name fighters appeared on the card. Everyone's favorite living Ken Doll, Sage Northcutt, faced Zak Ottow in the co-main event. Women's bantamweight contender Cat Zingano, Team Alpha Male standout Chad Mendes and several up-and-coming talents also dotted the card. And did someone say Darren Elkins? Oh, yes.
As always, the final stat lines do not reveal all. These are the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 133.
For the literal-minded among us, official results appear at the bottom.
Winner: Junior Dos Santos
It wasn't always riveting television, but it was enough to get Junior dos Santos back in the win column.
Behind that familiar jab, Dos Santos outstruck Blagoy Ivanov over five rounds to take an uninspiring unanimous decision.
Both men appeared a little slow of foot, and the output frequently lagged. Last week's flatline between Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou was the latest reminder that heavyweight bouts are not all knockouts. This wasn't that bad, but it didn't wash that spectacle out of memory, either.
Ivanov is a bit of a plodding fighter in any case, a Sambo master who prefers to wait on the counter instead of lead the dance. He didn't land nearly as many shots as Dos Santos, who himself seemed sluggish following his extended time off. Cigano did land some decent combinations, but the sharp, higher-volume boxing that helped him make his name no longer seems to live here.
Ultimately, Dos Santos used his jab to control distance and further deter Ivanov's takedown attempts, which were unlikely anyway given Ivanov's size disadvantage and Dos Santos' great takedown defense.
There were times when Ivanov didn't seem to want to be in there anymore, but Dos Santos was unable to oblige him. No need to dress this one up as anything other than what it was: a plodding contest that played out and ended in predictable fashion. They can't all be amazing.
Ivanov deserved to be there and he deserves to be here again. His UFC debut didn't go the way he might have wanted, but anyone who comes back from being stabbed in the heart is super tough in my book. Here's hoping the Bulgarian gets another shot.
Meanwhile, after the fight, the supremely likeable Dos Santos told broadcaster Jimmy Smith that "a rematch with [Stipe] Miocic would be very welcome." Miocic just lost the title last week to Daniel Cormier and will soon be in need of a dance partner. Dos Santos would be the underdog in that contest but on Saturday the former champ earned the chance to give it a go.
Winner: Super Sage
How can you not like this guy?
Yeah, Sage Northcutt drinks a regular ration of haterade for getting what is perceived as special treatment from the UFC for his good looks, shredded abs and California Blonde persona (he's actually from Texas, but you know what I mean).
The thing people overlook is that he's in on the joke. He knows he's corny and he can laugh at himself (we could probably all learn something from that). His relentless bubbliness also raises eyebrows, but that seems pretty genuine, too.
Still, Northcutt has to ultimately gain respect inside the cage, and that's just what he did when he knocked out Zak Ottow in the second round.
Ottow rocked Northcutt early in the first round, sending Super Sage to the mat and his eyes rolling back in his skull. It looked like it might be the beginning of the end of a short night. But Northcutt somehow avoided a stoppage and gradually recovered, even if he lost the round.
In the second, a simple jab changed everything. Northcutt has legitimate punching power, and it knocked Ottow on his butt. Ottow grabbed for a single-leg takedown, but Northcutt rained punches and hammer fists, and that was all she wrote.
Speaking of writing, Ottow didn't mask his low regard for Northcutt's fighting skills during the pre-fight news cycles. After the fight, possibly in response, Northcutt noted that "words are powerful," then went on to explain what he meant in a statement emailed to reporters:
One, I feel like there is too much negativity in the world and I think a great thing that martial arts teaches you is to be respectful. We should be more thoughtful with what we say to each other. Two, I feel the power in words that you can turn into reality. Just like Conor McGregor says he will knock his opponent out and does, I did tonight. Know your words are powerful and use them wisely.
Northcutt is more than flashy athleticism. The guy has heart, and seems to be figuring out the fight game. His boyishness sometimes causes you to forget that he's a man. He reminded everyone Saturday.
Winner: Chad Mendes
A theme emerged at UFC Fight Night 133.
Several big-name fighters were seeking wins after long draughts of futility, inactivity or both. Dos Santos was certainly one of those. Chad Mendes was another.
Thanks to a two-year USADA suspension—dang, that's a pretty long suspension—this was his first fight since a 2015 loss to Frankie Edgar. For even more perspective, Mendes' penultimate fight was his loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 189, which feels like it happened several lifetimes ago.
Mendes showed no ring rust at all, crushing a more-than-worthy adversary in Myles Jury. After a few minutes of feeling-out, the most significant offense was a head kick from the much longer Jury. Mendes changed that soon after, though, when he feinted to the body and then crushed Jury with a sweeping left hook. Jury hit the floor, and after a barrage of ground shots the ref waved it off.
"I'm back!" Mendes told Smith in the cage after the fight. Indeed.
Loser: Doing It by the Book
Niko Price's knockout of Randy Brown was as unconventional as it was impressive.
Put another way, that might have been the weirdest freaking knockout I've ever seen in the UFC, and it took a lot of power and creativity to pull it out.
About halfway through the fight, there had been some good exchanges but nothing memorable. During a ground scramble, Price, working from the bottom, went for the leg lock. As Brown attempted to maneuver out of harm's way, his head came into range of Price's fists. But given that Price was tied up and had his back on the ground, this didn't exactly pose a clear and present danger.
But dangerous it was.
Price saw the opportunity and began landing hammer fists. These aren't just any hammer fists, though. Coming into the bout, seven of Price's 11 wins came by knockout. Make it eight of 12.
Not only did Price show his knockout power using short-range hammer fists from his back, he also had the presence of mind to prop up Brown's head with his foot, like a golfer teeing up a drive. Five hammer fists were all it took for Price to separate Brown from consciousness.
It wasn't normal, it wasn't technically marvelous, but it was a sure entry on the 2018 highlight reel.
Winner: Cat Zingano
One of the UFC's most charismatic fighters is finally back on the right side of the ledger.
Cat Zingano dominated a tough customer in Marion Reneau, landing what felt like dozens of big takedowns and pouring on ground and pound en route to a unanimous decision victory.
OK, so it was actually six takedowns—still enough to tie Ronda Rousey's record for takedowns in a single fight in the UFC women's bantamweight braket, according to FightMetric stat keeper Michael Carroll.
It's been a difficult few years for Zingano. Her three-fight losing streak dated back to 2015 and was wrapped around long periods of inactivity. But she washed it all away Saturday.
And you know what? That one win might have put her squarely in the title picture. There isn't a whole lot going on in the division right now. Guess who Zingano beat in her most recent win before Saturday. If you guessed current UFC women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, you are correct.
Most fans are probably still hoping for a superfight between Nunes and featherweight champ Cris Cyborg, but Zingano has definitely put herself right back in the mix.
Loser: Darren Elkins' Brain
He lost his scrap with Alexander Volkanovski, but Darren Elkins continues to be one of the toughest, grittiest competitors in a business that trades in toughness and grit. Every time he gets in there, though, you kind of wince for all the damage he takes.
Volkanovski is an exciting featherweight, a real head-hunter who is now 18-1 overall and 5-0 in the UFC. Two of those five UFC victories came by knockout, and he would have notched a third Saturday if not for Elkins' refusal to fold.
Volkanovski had the right hand dialed in from the jump, and it had Elkins on the canvas in the first. It was the same throughout the contest, with big combinations bloodying Elkins and keeping him that way. More than once, Elkins staggered and stumbled his way around the cage.
Elkins always got up, though, and he always fired back. Volkanovski did more damage and kept the pressure on throughout, and he's very much worth watching in the featherweight division.
But Elkins added another line item to his own resume. He became must-see TV the hard way, but he made it nonetheless.
UFC Fight Night 133 Full Card Results
Junior dos Santos def. Blagoy Ivanov unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
Sage Northcutt def. Zak Ottow by KO, 3:14, Rd. 2
Rick Glenn def. Dennis Bermudez by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Niko Price def. Randy Brown by KO, 1:09, Rd. 2
Chad Mendes def. Myles Jury by TKO, 2:52, Rd. 1
Cat Zingano def. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Alejandro Perez def. Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Alexander Volkanovski def. Darren Elkins by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Said Nurmagomedov def. Justin Scoggins by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Raoni Barcelos def. Kurt Holobaugh by KO, 1:29, Rd. 3
Liz Carmouche def. Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Mark de la Rosa def. Elias Garcia by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:00, Rd. 2
Jessica Aguilar def. Jodie Esquibel by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)