UFC on ESPN 7 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — This city waited 33 years for a baseball team. But guess what: after a long stint in the expansion-team trash heap, this year the Washington Nationals became your World Series champions.
Fans of the Washington Capitals waited 44 years for a Stanley Cup, which the team, behind the great Alex Ovechkin, finally delivered in 2018.
The last time the UFC visited D.C., it was eight long years ago. Given that the UFC stages roughly seven shows a day, that time period is definitely in dog years. To give you some perspective, when that last show went down back in 2011, Demetrious Johnson was still a bantamweight and the UFC still aired on Versus.
I know, I know. I'm a shameless homer. But when the UFC returned to my adoptive home city for UFC on ESPN 7, going down here at the home of the Caps and Wizards(!) in Capital One Arena, they did so during a hot streak for D.C. sports. How did these 24 fighters reward local fight fans for the extended drought? The bar was high.
In the main event, decorated heavyweight Alistair Overeem continued his late-career quest for gold against Surinamese up-and-comer Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Rozenstruik found himself here for two reasons: first, a 9-0 pro record that includes three knockouts in exactly three UFC contests. Second and far more importantly, just a few weeks ago Overeem's original opponent, Walt Harris, backed out to help police search for his missing 19-year-old stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard. A day before Thanksgiving, police confirmed they had found Blanchard's body.
That lent an emotional note to the event, as did video tributes to late ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, which aired as part of ESPN's package of programming honoring Scott and raising needed awareness and funds for cancer research.
So, what occurred in D.C.? As always, the final stat lines do not reveal all. These are the real winners and losers from UFC on ESPN 7.
For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.
Winner: Jairzinho Rozenstruik
This is why you stay to the end.
It looked like Overeem was going to win a sleepy five-round decision. But in the literal final seconds of the final round, Rozenstruik created a new star in the heavyweight division.
"One shot, one kill," Rozenstruik told broadcaster Jon Anik in the cage after the fight. "So, yeah."
You know when one of the fighters has a really smart game plan, but the game plan is just horribly dull to watch? For what seemed like hours, this was that. Overeem, almost eerily wary of being wiped off the planet by Rozenstruik's right, was in full-on defensive mode, hands high and bogging things down in the clinch or on the ground. Output was hard to come by.
Rozenstruik attempted to land, but Overeem was always quick to defend. When he did land flush, it wasn't a big power shot, and Overeem never appeared shaken. The Dutchman cruised to narrow but apparent wins in all four rounds.
He was about to add the fifth until there were four seconds left.
With everyone packing up their laptops, Rozenstruik knocked the nerves out of Overeem's body with a right hook.
Overeem dropped hard onto his backside, his back along the fence. Rozenstruik turned and walked away in triumph. Referee Dan Miragliotta rushed in, paused as Overeem got to his feet and then rushed in to stop the contest. It was the latest knockout in UFC heavyweight history.
In real time, it seemed indecisive, but Miragliotta's actions made more sense once everyone saw what Rozenstruik's burgeoning cult hero of a right hand had done to Overeem's face.
I'm not sure how to describe it, except to simply say that the punch appeared to tear up and through Overeem's upper lip. There was definitely exposed flesh. There may have been flapping. Think Aaron Eckhart in Dark Knight. His mouth was closed, but you could see his teeth. Google at your own risk. Even if Miragliotta touched Overeem and in so doing called the fight off too early, it's hard to imagine any ref not taking some kind of action upon seeing that horror show.
In any event, Rozenstruik was known coming in for fast knockouts. He certainly evened out that reputation Saturday. The converted kickboxer is now 10-0 as a pro, including knockouts in all four of his UFC contests, and he just tore off Alistair Overeem's face. Who is this guy? I have a feeling we're about to find out.
In the meantime, how about a call out?
"I want to be back like March, April," Rozenstruik told Anik. "And I want to fight this big, scary guy named Francis Ngannou. If he hears this right now, I hope he accepts this fight. Man, let's give those people a great show."
Sign me up.
Winner: D.C. Sports
The good times kept rolling for D.C. sports fans.
Teetering as it did on the precipice of next weekend's Las Vegas blockbuster, which contains three title fights, this event was not rife with names, stakes or shake-ups. Nevertheless, UFC on ESPN 7 delivered action and some truly juicy highlights.
Of the 12 fights on the card, the event saw eight stoppages. In addition to Overeem, heavyweight Ben Rothwell, women's bantamweight Aspen Ladd, welterweight Tim Means, featherweight Billy Quarantillo, featherweight Bryce Mitchell, strawweight Virna Jandiroba and middleweight Makhmud Muradov all notched a finish. Bantamweights Rob Font and Ricky Simon went the distance but waged the Fight of the Night. (Muradov and Mitchell nabbed the performance bonuses.)
You already know about the main event. The other heavyweight bout was indelibly altered by the infamous low blow. One of the submissions even contained its own bit of history. Hmmmmm, intrigued? More detail forthcoming...
Loser: Cynthia Calvillo
Time and again, the UFC and fans give chances to Cynthia Calvillo.
On the one hand, it's understandable. She's a pedigreed grappler with three UFC wins by submission, only a loss to ex-champ Carla Esparza tarnishing her record, and an ardent lack of fear on the mic.
On the other, she can't seem to get out of her own way.
Calvillo weighed in for the contest at 120.5 pounds, or 4.5 pounds more than the strawweight non-title-fight limit of 116 pounds. That's not a particularly close try. She apologized profusely to anyone who would listen, but it's her second time missing weight in the UFC. When it happened last year at UFC Fight Night 140, she appeared ready to keel over at the scales.
She's had injuries too, as well as a nine-month suspension for marijuana metabolites. Fans can argue over whether or to what extent these things are fair or within her control, but the point is it's always something.
On Saturday, she fought to a majority draw with Marina Rodriguez, who now has an improbable 2-0-2 record in the UFC. Rodriguez pieced up Calvillo on the feet for two rounds—Calvillo's striking remains fairly experimental—before Calvillo dominated the third on the ground, with several submission attempts and a storm of ground strikes. Just enough to earn a deeply unsatisfying tie.
Another lateral move for someone people once tagged as a potential star. She'll need something big in her next fight or else risk taking a big tumble down the cards.
Loser: Ben Rothwell
If you're not into winning ugly, you're not into heavyweights. But even for the biggest big-guy apologist, this one comes with an asterisk the size of Kenosha.
Ben Rothwell and Stefan Struve are both fan favorites at heavyweight, basically just for being the classic, lovable, terrifying, lumbering heavyweights that they are. Someone was getting sparked in this one.
Ultimately, that person was Struve, but it wasn't a particularly impressive affair, even by heavyweight standards. Rothwell was to blame, landing not one but two groin kicks that visibly swayed the momentum. After both, Struve writhed in pain for extended periods, needing the full five-minute recovery period to compose himself. These were not garden-variety nut shots. The referee took a point after the second one, but at that point, Struve, who could have easily let this go to a no-contest ruling, was pretty easy pickings.
Struve isn't going to draw a lot of ire from any level-headed observer, with the insistent booing of Struve from the, let's just say, erratic fans in attendance kind of proving the point in reverse. It was a loss, but not a "bad" one.
It was a bad win for Rothwell. Even presuming both kicks were inadvertent, no one should carry the Wisconsinite around like he's William Wallace because he finished a guy whose baby-makers were lodged somewhere near his rib cage.
Winner: Thiago Alves
It only took Tim Means 158 seconds to dispatch Thiago Alves in the evening's featured prelim. It was a guillotine choke that did it.
But Alves is a winner here for reasons other than Saturday's fight. As, you know, would have to be the case.
This was the final fight on Alves' (23-15) UFC contract. He has already said he's going to test the free-agency waters, though it's safe to suspect the UFC was not exactly beating down the door of a shopworn 36-year-old who has now lost six of the eight contests he's managed to piece together since 2015.
But there's a flip side to that coin, specifically being that Alves was dominant in his prime. This guy fought Georges St-Pierre for the strap at UFC 100. In the spring of 2008, he knocked out Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan. His first UFC fight was in 2005 against Spencer Fisher at UFC Fight Night 2 (we're now up to 164). All told he racked up 13 knockouts, thanks to some of the sharpest power muay thai we've seen on the welterweight landscape and maybe beyond.
Where does Alves go now? Bellator certainly has an appetite for UFC veterans. What about PFL? Easy for me to say, but their welterweight roster isn't exactly a shark tank, and every season winner takes home $1 million. Why not?
No matter what happens from here, Alves can be proud of a long and productive career at the highest reaches of his sport.
Loser: My Composure
I tried to convince everyone it was just dust, but apparently dust is not commonly associated with sustained, high-volume sobbing.
That's what the UFC and ESPN reduced me to by teaming up for a series of wrenching in-broadcast tributes to all manner of sad things. It was a notably somber Saturday night at Capital One Arena.
As part of ESPN's suite of top-notch storytelling this week around athletes and others in sports whose lives have been affected by cancer, the broadcast highlighted various UFC fighters who had cancer themselves or had loved ones who did. Among them were Joe Lauzon, Tatiana Suarez and Daniel Cormier.
There were also the tributes to Scott, who as most sports fans know died from cancer in 2015—and was an avid MMA student in his later years. As Anik smartly observed during the broadcast, Scott would have been a tremendous addition to ESPN's MMA coverage.
It's dusty again.
And then, of course, there were tributes to the aforementioned tragedy that struck Harris and his family and pushed him off Saturday's card and what would have been his first UFC main event.
We jest, but it was great to see well-produced segments on these tragic events. Hopefully, they do whatever good they can.
Winner: Bryce Mitchell
Bryce Mitchell just landed the second twister submission in UFC history.
The Arkansas native did more or less whatever he wanted with Matt Sayles on the ground. As Sayles, working from the bottom, attempted to turn out of a bad position, Mitchell took his back. Mitchell locked Sayles' legs in place and torqued the upper body to complete the submission that's as rare as it is excruciating.
Now let's test your trivia base: Who is the other fighter to earn a twister submission? It was none other than the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, who used the hold to take out the immortal Leonard Garcia back in 2011.
Winner: Makhmud Muradov
Makhmud Muradov started 2019 with an outfit called XFN, based in the Czech Republic. Not a bad little show, but the Uzbekistani had bigger goals. By the time July rolled around, he had ripped off four straight, including three knockouts.
That's more than a full year by typical standards, but the 29-year-old wasn't done. After taking a decision in his UFC debut in September over Alessio Di Chirico, Muradov jerked the D.C. curtain wide open Saturday by planting Trevor Smith in the ground with a walk-off right hand. The looping shot, placed perfectly across the jaw, sent Smith's mouthpiece flying and propelled the newcomer onto SportsCenter highlight reels.
Muradov opened the show, he closed his fight and now he's won 13 straight. Assuming he doesn't find a way to squeeze in a fight between now and New Year's, he'll be 6-0 in 2019 alone. Muradov's set to climb the middleweight ladder in 2020.
UFC on ESPN 7 Full Card Results
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Alistair Overeem by KO, 4:56, Rd. 5
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Marina Rodriguez ruled majority draw (29-28, 28-28, 28-28)
Ben Rothwell def. Stefan Struve by TKO, 4:57, Rd. 2
Aspen Ladd def. Yana Kunitskaya by TKO, 0:33, Rd. 3
Cody Stamann vs. Song Yadong ruled majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
Rob Font def. Ricky Simon by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Tim Means def. Thiago Alves by submission (guillotine choke), 2:38, Rd. 1
Billy Quarantillo def. Jacob Kilburn by submission (triangle choke), 3:18, Rd. 2
Bryce Mitchell def. Matt Sayles by submission (twister), 4:20, Rd. 1
Joe Solecki def. Matt Wiman by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Virna Jandiroba def. Mallory Martin by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:16, Rd. 2
Makhmud Muradov def. Trevor Smith by KO, 4:09, Rd. 3
Scott Harris covers MMA for Bleacher Report.