The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 167
Suddenly, Jon Jones has another credible challenger.
The light heavyweight champ is barely removed from a controversial decision in a 205-pound title defense but was conveniently positioned at cageside for UFC Fight Night 167 on Saturday night when Corey Anderson and Jan Blachowicz made their cases to rise from their respective No. 5 and No. 6 positions in the rankings.
One of them did in sudden fashion, but there will be no spoilers here.
Elsewhere, we learned that the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, is some 5,282 feet above sea level—two feet higher than Denver—a factor that worked to the advantage of some local fighters on the card.
And that's all in addition to some full-on rule-bending that resulted in a pair of unconventional finishes.
To sum it up, 13 fights yield a lot of winners and losers of all shapes and sizes. Read through to see what happened or to simply to decide whether your list jibes with ours.
Anderson beat Blachowicz in just his seventh pro fight. So it's no surprise the now-fifth-ranked light heavyweight was sure he would do it again five years later.
But the man who lost the first time around was having none of it.
A single looping right hand was all that was needed from the powerful Pole in the rematch, landing squarely on Anderson's jaw and rendering him helpless after just three minutes, eight seconds of the first round in their main event bout.
"I showed the whole world," Blachowicz said, pointing directly at Jones in the front row. "I proved I'm the next contender for a title shot."
Jones, just a week removed from a reed-thin win against Dominick Reyes, seemed ready to accept.
"I thought he looked great," he said. "He looked tremendous. Jan has great knockout power, very technical. His fundamentals are very sharp. He's gonna be a great opponent. I could totally see the UFC matching us up. I've got a feeling the UFC is going to be given me a call real soon."
Blachowicz entered the fight ranked sixth and had competed evenly with Anderson through the first three minutes before his foe came forward and dropped his left hand while beginning a right leg kick. Blachowicz's right hand landed first and dropped Anderson flat on his back to draw an instant wave-off from referee Herb Dean.
Jones, incidentally, has already beaten the contenders ranked No. 1 through No. 4.
"When [Blachowicz] lands, he can shut your lights out," ESPN+ commentator Daniel Cormier said. "He lands, and they go to sleep. No follow-up punches are necessary. He needed to make a statement. When you do this against one of the best light heavyweights in the world, you're looking real."
Loser: The Rulebook
As winners go, Brok Weaver and Diego Sanchez were surely dizzier than most.
Weaver, a streaking lightweight, won his eighth consecutive fight and got his hand raised in his UFC debut—but only after suffering a brutal KO via an illegal knee against opponent Kazula Vargas.
Veteran welterweight Sanchez, meanwhile, was likely on the verge of a wide decision loss when a similarly delivered knee from Michel Pereira resulted in the bizarre night's second disqualification.
Vargas had landed 15 significant strikes to Weaver's five through the initial three-plus minutes and had his man on the mat along the fence but dubiously decided to rear back with a left knee shot that laid out Weaver and prompted an immediate fight-ending intervention from referee Robert Romero.
Vargas was officially DQ'd at 4:02 of the first for landing an illegal knee on a grounded opponent.
Cormier implied that Vargas might have thought Weaver was up on his own knee when he took the shot, which would have made it legal, but gave the penalized fighter no allowance for the mistake.
"[Weaver was] flat on his butt," he said. "He's not even up on a knee where you could be confused. That's as illegal a knee as I've seen in a long time. I don't understand what Vargas was thinking."
For his sake, Sanchez had been out-punched and out-kicked through two-plus rounds before he was nailed with a right knee from Pereira that landed on his forehead above his left eye.
He was noticeably rattled and suffered a cut from the blow and was initially given several minutes to gather his senses by referee Jason Herzog. Sanchez was then asked by Herzog whether he could continue and seemed to recognize he would be given a win by DQ if he chose to stop competing. He made the choice and was given the official victory at 3:09 of the third.
Another fight—Ray Borg's decision over Roger Bontorin at flyweight—prompted yet another rules-related rant from Cormier.
The former two-division UFC champion, who had previously been a highly decorated amateur wrestler, insisted that many of Borg's 10 official "takedowns" were better termed "mat returns."
A mat return occurs in collegiate wrestling when a taken-down competitor stands up and is returned to the mat without the controlling wrestler ever losing control.
In the UFC, though, each is officially labeled a takedown.
"It's kind of ridiculous," Cormier said. "You have fights like this and fights like when Khabib [Nurmagomedov] got 21 takedowns, when it was really three takedowns and 18 mat returns."
Winner: Hometown Familiarity
When it comes to Borg's performance, there were precious few quibbles available.
The New Mexico native—whose Tazmexican Devil nickname was easily the night's best—nearly ground No. 7 flyweight Bontorin to a pulp en route to a wide decision in the main card's second bout.
Borg took a financial ding by missing the bout's contracted weight, instead coming in at 128 pounds. But he made no mistakes inside the cage, as he scored the aforementioned 10 takedowns in winning by tallies of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25 on the three official scorecards.
The performance was particularly impressive to Cormier, who said Borg's familiarity with Rio Rancho was a huge benefit.
"The altitude might be getting [Bontorin]," Cormier said. "It's like carrying a 130-pound backpack for 15 minutes."
Borg, who lost a flyweight title shot in 2017, said taking the match to the ground was part of the plan.
"We knew coming up to this elevation that it was going to be a pain for everybody," he said. "So we really wanted to push the pace."
Meanwhile, being familiar with the local conditions helped elsewhere too.
Albuquerquean bantamweight John Dodson bloodied English opponent Nathaniel Wood in the second round of their prelim card bout before landing a left hand that led to a stoppage 16 seconds into the third.
Then, in the opener of the main card, fellow Albuquerque resident Lando Vannata earned a unanimous three-round decision over Hawaiian import Yancy Medeiros at lightweight.
"It's been a long time coming," Vannata said. "I believe I've got world-class talent and world-class skill. I'm still growing. I feel I have as high a ceiling as anyone in this sport."
It wasn't perfect for the hometown heroes, though, with welterweight Tim Means coming up on the short end of a standing guillotine submission in the second round against UFC newcomer Daniel Rodriguez.
The show's final Albuquerque product, Sanchez, was knocked silly by a knee but ended up with the DQ win over Pereira.
Sometimes, records aren't what matters.
Such was the case for New Jersey-based veteran Jim Miller on Saturday night.
The grizzled lightweight met Scott Holtzman in a prelim three-rounder that elevated him into a tie with recent pay-per-view headliner Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone for the most bouts in UFC history at 33.
Miller made his debut with the promotion in 2008 and has shared in Fight of the Night bonuses seven times alongside three Submission of the Night efforts and a Performance of the Night as well.
He met Cerrone himself in a UFC Fight Night main event in 2014 and has shared top billing with the likes of Nate Diaz as well.
None of that helped in Rio Rancho, however, where Holtzman landed 30 more significant strikes (88-58), scored the match's lone takedown and walked away with a unanimous decision via one score of 30-27 and two more of 29-28.
Miller fell to 31-14 as a pro and lost for the 13th time in the UFC.
Winner: Combative Spouses
It's not your typical Valentine's Day celebration.
While many spouses greeted the post-holiday weekend with romantic dinners, movie dates or other intimate activities, the De La Rosa family chose an unconventionally combative approach.
Spouses Mark and Montana De La Rosa became the first married couple to fight on the same UFC show, with the former appearing in the initial bout of the prelim card and the latter in the fourth of six on the main.
The results were mixed, to say the least.
Mark was dropped and stopped by Brazilian contender Raulian Paiva in two rounds at flyweight, while Montana evened the score with a clear-cut unanimous decision over Mara Romero Borella at flyweight.
The win was also a belated birthday present for her after she turned 25 on Friday.
"It feels great," she said of her husband's support after he returned to the cage to share coaching duties for his wife's fight. "[Mark] helps me with every aspect of my game. I couldn't imagine life without him."
UFC Fight Night 167 Full Card Results
Jan Blachowicz def. Corey Anderson by KO, 3:08, Rd. 1.
Diego Sanchez def. Michel Pereira by disqualification (illegal knee), 3:09, Rd. 3.
Montana De La Rosa def. Mara Romero Borella by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Brok Weaver def. Kazula Vargas by disqualification (illegal knee), 4:02, Rd. 1.
Ray Borg def. Rogerio Bontorin by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-25).
Lando Vannata def. Yancy Medeiros by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Daniel Rodriguez def. Tim Means by submission (standing guillotine), 3:37, Rd. 2.
John Dodson def. Nathaniel Wood by TKO, :16, Rd. 3.
Scott Holtzman def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Devin Clark def. Dequan Townsend by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26).
Merab Dvalishvili def. Casey Kenney by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 29-28).
Macy Chiasson def. Shanna Young by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26).
Raulian Paiva def. Mark De La Rosa by TKO, 4:42, Rd. 2.