The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 12

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2020

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 12

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    The UFC rolled out the lights and cameras for a fifth straight Saturday at its Apex facility in Las Vegas.

    As for the action, don't worry—the fighters proved more than capable of delivering.

    The ESPN/ESPN+ tandem handled the broadcast yet again, setting up the announcing trio of Jon Anik, Michael Bisping and Dominick Cruz for its second straight week. And for the second straight week, the card included a Fight of the Year candidate in a spotlight position.

    The previous week, it was Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos in the co-main event at featherweight.

    This time around, it was Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker in a lightweight headliner across five grueling rounds.

    No spoilers here, though. You will have to read on to see which way it went.

    Suffice to say, though, it was amazing. Just ask Bisping.

    "In recent memory, it's the best fight I've ever seen in my life," he said.

    Bleacher Report took in all 10 fights of a prelim/main card combination that began Saturday evening and didn't end until Poirier and Hooker finished their post-fight interviews just past 11:30 p.m.

    But aside from simply regurgitating results, we also put together a list of winners and losers from the full card. Take a look and drop a comment to let us know how close we came to matching yours.

Winner: Delivering the Goods

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    OK, we'll concede. It may not have been the greatest fight in combat sports history.

    But if you're looking for any more allowances after the main event between Poirier and Hooker, you will have to get them someplace else. Because it was amazing.

    Amazingly competitive between the third- and fifth-ranked UFC fighters at 155 pounds.

    Amazing violent in that it left both men swollen, bloodied and limping as they exited the cage.

    And amazingly compelling because it went nearly the full 25 minutes before a relatively confident assertion could be made that one guy—in this case, Poirier—deserved the decision victory.

    The former interim champ got it, with two counts of 48-47 and a third of 48-46 on the scorecards.

    Bleacher Report agreed with the winner, albeit with a slightly wider score of 49-46.

    Regardless, it delivered everything a main event is supposed to, particularly in a fifth round that turned out to be the decider.

    "When you're in that fifth round after a back-and-forth battle like that, it's who wants it more," Cruz said. "Now that you're both bloody messes, do you still want it?"

    For Poirier in particular, the answer was a resounding yes.

    The 31-year-old landed 61 strikes to Hooker's 20 across the final five minutes, and was able to defend his foe's desperate attempts at takedowns with a combination of elusiveness and attempted submissions.

    Hooker, with an edge in height and reach, was able to land well from the outside early in the fight, and Poirier said he was specifically hurt by a high knee along the fence near the end of the first round. Hooker punctuated the second round with a 10-punch flurry just before the final horn, but Poirier, a pro since 2009, was busier and sharper with his shots as the fight reached midway and beyond.

    He had a 41-33 edge in the third round and a 46-30 margin in the fourth, rattling Hooker several times while landing 76 percent of his shots and frequently forcing his opponent to fend off guillotine chokes and armbars when the action went to the floor.

    "Both guys need to get in an ice bath right now," Bisping said. "That was a helluva fight. Everything you can think of in a mixed martial arts match, this fight delivered."

    Indeed, Poirier limped slowly to an adjacent room for a post-fight interview with Anik and the struggle of the competition motivated him as it went on.

    "A fight isn't a fight until there's something to overcome," he said. "It was a tough one. Dan Hooker came to fight. He's a tough guy, and he's on the rise. I trusted in my team, my skill and my work ethic.

    "I could hear you guys when I landed, so I knew it was causing some trauma."

Loser: Traditional Corner Teams

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    Mike Perry is hardly a by-the-book mixed martial artist.

    Perry is often combative at weigh-ins and other public events and isn't shy about brazenly celebrating in the Octagon after taking care of an opponent—as he had done in six of 12 UFC fights and 13 of 19 overall before Saturday's co-main event appearance.

    But if his latest contrarian behavior becomes a trend, it will really shake things up.

    Perry eschewed the traditional cadre of corner team members for his match with Mickey Gall, opting instead to be accompanied to the cage by his girlfriend of the past few months, Latory Gonzalez.

    "That's it," UFC featherweight Jeremy Stephens said on Twitter. "I'm not paying coaches, corners or nada. I'm a just have my wife coach me."

    Perry suggested during fight week that the switch was made in search of "peace and quiet" in the corner.

    "A lot of people said a lot of things about his choice of corner people and criticized him, but make no mistake, he looked good and he dominated Mickey Gall," Bisping said.

    Though Gall held his own in the first round, Perry was more effective with strikes and took down Gall for some additional punishment across the final two rounds and won a 29-28 margin on all three official scorecards.

    That total matched the numbers on Bleacher Report's card as well.

    Gonzalez wasn't exactly a strategic voice in the corner between rounds, only offering phrases like "you look great" after the first round and asking Perry where he would like the ice bag positioned on him between the second and third. Perry's former wife, Danielle Nickerson, had also served as a corner team member in the past.

    "It's all up to me every time we get in there," Perry said. "It's all up to me. I'm gonna go find a training camp. I'm gonna go find some teammates. I prefer a friendship basis over someone who thinks they can tell me how to win who ain't ever won in there themselves.

    "There's a lot of changes going on in my life."

Winner: Emotional Moments

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    It was an unconventional finish but a genuine show of emotion.

    Veteran heavyweight Maurice Greene broke down and cried while speaking with Anik just moments after scoring an out-of-nowhere submission win, by arm triangle, over Gian Villante.

    The end officially came at 3:44 of Round 3.

    Greene had success across two rounds against Villante but was hardly dominant and had taken heavy damage to his left leg thanks to his opponent's powerful kicks. Villante then dropped him to the floor with a punch about midway through the third and followed up with the requisite ground-and-pound.

    Just as quickly, however, a prone Greene was able to wrap his arms around the back of Villante's neck, smothering his face into his body while trapping his left arm and one of his legs.

    Villante made one attempt at a right-hand strike to Greene's body and then tapped seconds later.

    The result was announced as an arm triangle, but Anik and his cohorts suggested it was as much to do with Villante's fatigue as anything else and perhaps some panic when he was winded and started to have his air cut off.

    Greene had lost two straight fights coming in and felt that his UFC job security was in peril, so he drove with his family 24 hours from Minneapolis to Albuquerque, New Mexico, three weeks ago to get late-stage training at the Jackson Wink MMA Academy and plans to relocate to Albuquerque permanently.

    He choked up several times before collecting himself to speak with Anik.

    "I've got a new lease on my career," he said. "It feels so good. My job was kinda on the line tonight. I want to move my family, and I needed to win to move my family. It's good to be back in the win column. It's like a weight is lifted off my shoulders. Being the breadwinner in the family, it feels so good."

Loser: Clean Canvases

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    If bloody cuts and swollen skin aren't your thing, don't seek this one out on YouTube.

    But if you're a fan of high-level grappling that leaves both fighters not only exhausted but also worse for wear physically, go ahead and run Brendan Allen and Kyle Daukaus back a few times.

    Allen stayed unbeaten in the UFC with a third straight win and handed Daukaus his first loss as a pro in his Octagon debut, but the main takeaway from the fight will no doubt be the sheer brutality that both men endured across 15 minutes of highly competitive and technical mat work.

    Daukaus was gushing blood from a wicked cut on the right eyebrow that came from an Allen elbow in the first round and never stopped leaking. Meanwhile, Allen did his post-fight interview with a left eye that was cut and almost shut thanks to a Daukaus elbow in the third.

    The mat remained dotted with their blood for the remainder of the show.

    For the record, Allen swept the scorecards with tallies of 29-28, 29-27 and 30-27.

    The first score concurred with Bleacher Report's tally, scoring the first two rounds for Allen and the third for Daukaus, all by 10-9 margins. The third card, though, drew the ire of Bisping because it awarded all three rounds to Allen, even though Daukaus had a 33-24 edge in strikes and a large edge in body control time.

    "I don't know what the judge was smoking," Bisping said. "30-27—that's absolute nonsense. Even a layman can see that when Kyle Daukaus had the back, had the body triangle, he controlled the round."

    Anik, though, praised both men's resolve: "What a fight. These guys let it all hang out until they had nothing left. This was nonstop action. Elbows, ground-and-pound, submission attempts, defense. An incredible display of grappling and toughness."

Winner: From Softball to Strawweight

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    Strawweight phenom Kay Hansen made the transition to the Octagon in winning style on the prelim card, taking over in the final round to submit fellow debutante Jinh Yu Frey.

    Hansen, who will turn 21 in August and is the youngest woman on the UFC roster, fought evenly through the first 10 minutes in a bout wherein each fighter aimed to do different things. Frey, a former 105-pound champ in the Invicta FC promotion, succeeded in the opening round when the battle was mainly on the feet, while Hansen thrived in the second after getting an early takedown and keeping Frey on the mat for most of the round.

    The youngster got it to the ground again in the final round and eventually got Frey into an armbar that led to a tap out at 2:26.

    Hansen had planned on attending college and playing softball but made the switch to mixed martial arts—turning pro at age 18 in the Invicta FC promotion—after seeing Ronda Rousey compete at UFC 190 in 2015.

    Her quick rise has impressed the likes of John Kavanagh, who took to Twitter to declare Hansen a future star.

    "If Hansen can avoid knee surgery and keep her cervical/lumbar healthy, she'll most likely be a champion within five years," he said. "Mature, fast twitch and calm."

Loser: Long Training Camps

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    Some combatants prefer six-week training camps.

    But for Julian Erosa, five days will do just fine, thanks.

    The 30-year-old veteran got a call late Tuesday to head to Las Vegas to take on the unbeaten Sean Woodson and proceeded to take everything the streaking lightweight had to offer for 10 minutes before scoring a takedown and locking in a D'Arce choke to get a submission at 2:44 of Round 3.

    And earning huge kudos from a UFC hall of famer.

    "Erosa would not be denied," Bisping said. "He was looking for the takedown throughout the fight. He got the takedown and made the most of it. From Wednesday, not being in the UFC, to signing the contract, taking the fight, making the weight and then getting in the Octagon and getting a finish.

    "Come on. It's incredible."

    Woodson, incidentally, was the biggest betting favorite on the card, coming in at 1-5 compared to Erosa's 4-1, according to the UFC. In fact, Woodson and Daukaus were the only two unbeaten fighters on the card, and both lost.

    Woodson and Erosa met at a 150-pound catchweight. The fight was violently eventful through the first two rounds, with the fighters combining for more than 350 attempted strikes. Woodson scored a knockdown with a punch early in the third, but Erosa quickly rose, continued to press the action and began to lock in the D'Arce choke while the fighters were standing.

    He dropped to the mat once the choke was cinched in, turned his body to one side and locked up Woodson's right leg, prompting a tap soon afterward at 2:44.

    "Once I got it on the ground, my D'Arce choke is pretty unbeatable," Erosa said. "It's kind of a flaw, but it's something I enjoy doing. I like to fight. I could feel him getting a little frustrated because I was taking his power. I wasn't really worried about the power."

    Erosa debuted in the CageSport promotion in 2010 and had been in and out of the UFC—in 2015-16 and again in 2018-19—but hadn't been active since a KO loss to Julio Arce in May 2019.

    "It's been a long road for me," he said. "I've been in and out of the UFC a number of times. I never thought I was going to be here again, but with the coronavirus, I guess I got a silver lining."

Winner: Woah, Canada!

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    Whaddya know—multiple months in quarantine don't necessarily mean multiple gained pounds.

    In fact, Canadian export Tanner Boser's weight was down double digits from his previous appearance in the Octagon six months ago, and he appeared better off for the reduced girth, blitzing heavyweight Philipe Lins in the first round of a scheduled three-rounder on the prelim show.

    Boser dropped a decision to Ciryl Gane in South Korea in late December and weighed 246 pounds while doing so, but he was a noticeably trimmer 235 against Lins and had the hand speed to prove it.

    The fight's final sequence came in the middle minute of the opening round and included a quick six-punch volley of lefts and rights that dumped Lins to his back, where another pair of hammer fists prompted a referee intervention at 2:41.

    The win bumped Boser to 2-1 in the UFC and 18-6-1 overall and left him anxious for a July match with Greene.

    "I'm not hurt at all," he told Anik. "Throw me on Fight Island. [Greene] turned me down in August. Instead, he wanted a top-15 guy, and instead he got smoked by Sergei Pavlovich. He wants to fight me on Fight Island. He told me at the pool a few days ago, a couple beers deep that he would be ready again to fight on Fight Island. So, you wanna fight on Fight Island, you can't duck me now. I'm calling you out."

UFC on ESPN 12 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Dustin Poirier def. Dan Hooker by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-46).

    Mike Perry def. Mickey Gall by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Maurice Greene def. Gian Villante by submission (arm triangle), Round 3, 3:44.

    Brendan Allen def. Kyle Daukaus by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-27).

    Takashi Sato def. Jason Witt by TKO, Round 1, 0:48.

    Julian Erosa def. Sean Woodson by submission (D'Arce choke), Round 3, 2:44.


    Preliminary Card

    Khama Worthy def. Luis Pena by submission (guillotine choke), Round 3, 2:53.

    Tanner Boser def. Philipe Lins by TKO, Round 1, 2:15.

    Kay Hansen def. Jinh Yu Frey by submission (armbar), Round 3, 2:26.

    Youssef Zalal def. Jordan Griffin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).