The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 5

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2019

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 5

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    UFC on ESPN 5 hit the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday for a little afternoon fisticuffs.

    Colby Covington shut down Robbie Lawler in the evening's main event. Covington came out and pressured Lawler, and he kept that pressure up through all five rounds. He stifled all the offensive attempts from Lawler and avoided trading in the pocket with the former champion.

    Covington won in his first fight in over a year and may have secured a title shot.

    Jim Miller made quick work of Clay Guida with a 58-second submission win by guillotine choke. The veteran is attempting another run up the lightweight ranks. How far can he go this late into his career?

    Those were just two of the bouts Saturday, and who really came out of New Jersey with a win? Well, there is no better time to answer that question than the present. These are your real winners and losers after UFC on ESPN 5.

Winner: Colby Covington

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    Hate him or not, Colby Covington shut down Robbie Lawler in the main event to secure a victory and possible title shot against Kamaru Usman.

    Covington put forward a fantastic effort through a high pace and constant output. He threw over 500 strikes and had more than 15 takedown attempts. A lot of strikes missed or were blocked, and a lot of takedowns failed. That was not the point. It was to stay in the face of Lawler and make him work.

    The former interim champion executed a fantastic game plan.

    Unsurprisingly, Covington immediately called out Usman in his post-fight interview in the cage. It is a fight that could very well be next. Jorge Masvidal is the other title challenger waiting in the wings, but Covington's heat with Usman could be the difference.

    Covington stays true to his strengths, minimizes his weaknesses and puts together a game plan for his opposition. He is an elite fighter. Period.

Winner: Jim Miller

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    Make that win No. 20 for Jim Miller's UFC career.

    After getting clipped by a right hand from Clay Guida, Miller recovered and locked up a guillotine choke. Before Guida ever had a chance to tap out, he went to sleep.

    After getting diagnosed with Lyme disease, Miller has gotten healthy and started to regain momentum in the lightweight division. He has won three of his last four fights and now has back-to-back victories under his belt for the first time since 2016.

    Can Miller make another run toward a title bid?

    It is a tall order, but this was a big step back in that direction. His name and history in the UFC carry a lot of weight, and a sub-minute choke will put him back in position for another big lightweight bout. Maybe don't count him out just yet.

Winner: Gary Copeland

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    Almost exclusively, when a referee appears in a list like this, it is because they messed up. We should also applaud them when they perform admirably.

    Such was the case with Gary Copeland in the Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Darko Stosic bout.

    Stosic landed a kick below the belt. Copeland correctly noted that it was during a transition and accidental, but warned Stosic if it happened again, he would take a point. It happened again. Copeland took a point. Too many times in MMA we see referees warn fighters ad nauseam without penalty.

    Then it happened a third time. Copeland conferred with the commission, brought in a doctor to make sure everything was fine with Nzechukwu and took a second point from Stosic.

    It was a display of what refereeing should be in the sport. He was very clear with each fighter, concerned with the well being of the combatant who was fouled and dealt out appropriate penalties for repeated fouls. It makes the sport safer to have referees like Copeland helming the action.

Winner: Antonina Shevchenko

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    UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko was in the corner for her big sister's second UFC victory.

    Lucie Pudilova was out of her depth on the mat against Antonina Shevchenko, and that is where the fight ended up. Shevchenko was able to fight her style both standing and on the mat, and she took her time in finding the openings.

    She sunk in the rear-naked choke early in the second round. Pudilova's positioning made it a little difficult for the referee to check on her status, and during that time she went out cold. Shevchenko strangled Pudilova unconscious.

    Shevchenko is not a serious title contender yet, and it would be extremely unlikely she would ever fight her sister even if she became the top contender. Still, she is putting in her work and showcasing strong skills as the No. 15-ranked contender in the division.

    She'll continue her upward trek and potentially play the role of her little sister's gatekeeper. Isn't that what older siblings are supposed to do?

Winner: Matt Schnell

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    Don't look now, but flyweight may have a new contender.

    No. 14-ranked Matt Schnell has quietly pieced together a four-fight win streak after netting another submission at UFC on ESPN 5.

    Schnell upset Louis Smolka in March with a triangle, and in Newark, he used the same exact transition and submission to upset No. 9-ranked Jordan Espinosa. The four-fight streak, after a rough 0-2 start to his UFC career, will surely vault him into the top 10 when the new rankings are released.

    The UFC has decided to keep flyweight going, and they are in desperate need of quality fighters. Schnell's improvement and finishes will make him a fighter of note as the division fills back out with talent.

    The 83-second submission was also the second-fastest submission in UFC flyweight history, per ESPN MMA). Look for Schnell to be a factor in the title picture in 2020.

Winner: Lauren Murphy

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    Let's not sell you a bill of goods—this was a lackluster fight for 10-plus minutes. But what you will remember is the finish.

    Lauren Murphy rocked Mara Romero Borella with a well-placed uppercut. Murphy then followed up with Borella trying to survive. Borello shot in, Murphy defended and as soon as Borello lifted her hand off the mat, she was met with a knee to the chin. Borello hit the canvas in a daze, and Murphy landed clean, hard elbows until the referee stepped in to stop the fight.

    It was a beautiful, well-placed knee, but the entire finishing sequence showcased Murphy's skills. The uppercut and ground-and-pound should not be forgotten for just the knee. After dropping a fight to Sijara Eubanks, No. 9-ranked Murphy put out a massive performance to garner more attention.

    The flyweight division is in flux, and any big showing will warrant a stark move up the ranks. Murphy did just that. Suddenly, she's right back in the thick of things at 125.

Loser: Nobody

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    That's right, a rare event where not a single soul is a true loser.

    Sometimes a fighter like Jordan Espinosa may be a real loser. He entered the evening as the No. 9-ranked flyweight and lost. So why isn't he? Because he didn't lose much ground. The flyweight division is very shallow, and he just got caught by a good submission. He can return, pick up one good win and be back in the hunt.

    The same can be said for No. 10-ranked flyweight Mara Romero Borella, who lost to Lauren Murphy. The women's flyweight division may be even more shallow. It is a setback, but not a large one. One win, and she's right back in the mix.

    It was a solid night of action with quality performances. No one put themselves in a hole, and nobody acted out warranting an admonishment.

    These are the fight nights we like to see.

UFC on ESPN 5 Full Card Results

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    UFC on ESPN 5 Main Card

    • Colby Covington def. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-45)
    • Jim Miller def. Clay Guida via technical submission (guillotine choke) at 0:58 of the first round
    • Nasrat Haqparast def. Joaquim Silva by TKO at 0:36 of the second round
    • Gerald Meerschaert def. Trevin Giles via technical submission (guillotine choke) at 1:49 of the third round
    • Scott Holtzman def. Dong Hyun Ma by TKO (doctor stoppage) at the end of the second round
    • Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Darko Stosic by unanimous decision (29-26, 28-27, 28-27)


    UFC on ESPN 5 Preliminary Card

    • Mickey Gall def. Salim Touahri by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Antonina Shevchenko def. Lucie Pudilova via technical submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:20 of the second round
    • Matt Schnell def. Jordan Espinosa via submission (triangle choke) at 1:23 of the first round
    • Lauren Murphy def. Mara Romero Borella by TKO at 1:46 of the third round
    • Claudio Silva def. Cole Williams via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:35 of the first round
    • Miranda Granger def. Hannah Goldy by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)