The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 172

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2020

Jack Hermansson, left, in action against David Branch during their mixed martial arts bout at UFC Fight Night, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Philadelphia. Hermansson won via first round submission. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

It sounded a little different, but the UFC's third trip to Fight Island was just as eventful.

The world's premier mixed martial arts promotion was at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday for the third time in eight days, producing a 12-fight show that aired on ESPN/ESPN+.

Colorful Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer was absent for the first time since the company arrived, replaced instead by veteran boxing/MMA announcer Joe Martinez. And the broadcast was quarterbacked by veteran commentator, producer and live host John Gooden, who stepped in for Jon Anik.

Gooden was joined by Michael Bisping and Paul Felder, who worked Wednesday's show with Anik.

Karyn Bryant also subbed in for Megan Olivi on backstage features and interviews.

The UFC will return July 25 with a card featuring Robert Whittaker and Darren Till.

All three men continued to rave about the facilities and hospitality encountered at the new venue, where Felder took a lap on the Formula One race track that winds through the host hotel's property and Bisping was shown joining Dana White at an indoor skydiving facility.

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"We've been taken care of," Felder said. "Fight Island, just the whole setup and the way the fights have proceeded have been just great."

Bisping agreed.

"The fights have delivered every single time," he said.

Indeed, no fewer than six of Saturday's matches ended by submission or TKO within a single round, and several others went to close decisions.

Among them were the flyweight championship rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez.

But there will be no spoilers here.

Bleacher Report was back in its Fight Night stance to determine the real winners and losers of the card, which started at 5 p.m. ET and wrapped up 10:20 p.m., and we encourage you to take a look at our impressions and see how yours stacked up.


Winner: Repeat Dominance

A controversial second-round TKO loser to Figueiredo in their first bout five months ago, Benavidez headed to Fight Island with a chance to right the wrongs in the fourth championship shot of his 14-year run as a professional.

Turns out he didn't know how good he had it the first time around.

The veteran contender ran into a vicious 125-pound buzzsaw in the main event of Saturday's 12-fight show, getting dropped three times with punches and eventually choked into unconsciousness inside of a single round as the Brazilian earned the first world title of his career.

"Just an incredible display of power aggression and skill," Bisping said. "Joseph Benavidez is at the top of the food chain and Deiveson Figueiredo almost made it look easy. It was absolutely vicious. Tough to watch but incredibly nasty."

Already holder of the most wins (seven) and finishes (five) among UFC flyweights since 2017, Figueiredo dropped Benavidez with the first significant shot he threw—a looping right hand—less than a minute into the fight and attempted several times to cinch in rear-naked chokes as the two men engaged on the mat.

Benavidez was able to pull out of each of the choke tries and regained his feet but was dropped again by short right hands about three minutes, 30 seconds into the round and for a third time by another crunching right about a minute later.

This time, however, Figueiredo was able to cinch in the choke even tighter as he stretched Benavidez's body and prompted a rescue from referee Marc Goddard with 12 seconds remaining in the round.

"That right there was a dominant performance from the beginning to the end," Felder said.

It was the first time in Benavidez's career he had been submitted.

"I wanted to come here and take this belt to my people," Figueiredo said. "That's what I worked for. I've been saying all week I was going to finish this in the first round, and I wanted to put the first submission on his record. I'm the champion. I'm going to be a very hard time for anyone who comes after me."

Indeed, it was the 16th finish in Figueiredo's 19 pro wins and his 10th in the first round.

"This is my time," he said. "I'm used to growing up with all the wild animals in Brazil, and I got that from them. I'm a ferocious guy."


Loser: A Functioning Knee

The scream was chilling.

And it certainly legitimized the nickname with which Ariane Lipski arrived.

The Brazilian "Queen of Violence" added to an already impressive resume of destruction in her brief MMA career with Saturday night's second-quickest finish, an 88-second submission of Luana Carolina in their scheduled three-round flyweight bout.

The end came by kneebar submission and prompted a hair-raising scream of pain from Carolina, whose left knee was bent back to the point of viewer agony before she tapped out and was rescued by referee Dan Movahedi.

It was the second-fastest submission in women's flyweight history and the second UFC kneebar submission of the year.

"I was very confident," Lipski said. "We studied her game, so we knew we would have to pressure her. I was very confident on the ground, and I was training very hard the leg lock and the foot lock too. I feel very, very happy. I was very, very confident for the fight. I went to the Octagon and just enjoyed and did my best. I have much more to show, I just want to get back as soon as possible."

The fighters met briefly in a standup position before they went to the ground and were entangled along the fence before Lipski emerged sitting on Carolina's chest. From there, she grabbed Carolina's left leg and pulled it backward until prompting the tap out.

"That was a devastating kneebar," Bisping said. "We could hear how effective it was."

Lipski, 26, danced happily in the cage after the official announcement was made and said she's looking forward to the chance to repeat the success.

"I have to talk to my head coach and to my manager to think how is the best option and to look for the rank," she said. "I have no injuries, I'm healthy, I'm young and I'm hungry—very hungry—for more victories. The fight was amazing. I was very confident. I wanted to win this fight by KO, but I was confident that if the fight went to the ground that I would submit her in the first round."


Winner: Impressive Debuts

Not every debut is created equal.

In fact, of the four fighters making their initial Octagonal appearances Saturday night, two left the cage as winners, while two others now have "0-1" next to their names in the record book.

But no one was more sudden than Roman Dolidze.

The chatty light heavyweight ran his pro record to 7-0 and continued an equal strength of finishes when he starched Khadis Ibragimov with a single high knee.

The official end came at 4:15 of the first round.

A 32-year-old from Georgia, Dolidze leaned forward while flicking a feinting right hand, then came up with a left knee that caught Ibragimov flush in the mouth and dropped him to his knees in the center of the cage.

Dolidze swooped in for a quick barrage of hammer strikes before referee Herb Dean pulled him away.

He then turned to the fallen man and let loose with a fist-pumping primal scream before heading to the fence and chatting up the ESPN broadcast team.

Ibragimov fell to 8-3 as a pro.

"It was a great performance," Bisping said. "That's a great way to make a debut."

Also winning in his first UFC appearance was Iraqi-born bantamweight Amir Albazi by first-round triangle choke submission over fellow newcomer Malcolm Gordon. The final debut, by heavyweight Carlos Felipe, wasn't a positive one, as the Brazilian dropped a decision to Sergey Spivak.


Loser: The Long Haul

Joe Duffy and Joel Alvarez seemed evenly matched.

The lightweights opened their preliminary card bout by exchanging whip-crack leg kicks interspersed with high-level stand-up boxing skills. So it looked like a 15-minute nail-biter was evolving for viewers.

But then it wasn't.

Duffy decided to press the action by attempting a double-leg takedown along the fence, but he soon found himself on the business end of a guillotine choke and almost immediately tapped out to give Alvarez the win.

The official time was 2:25 of the first round.

It was the 15th submission in 17 pro wins for Alvarez, who held significant advantages in both height and reach thanks to a lanky 6'3" frame.

"We went into grappling, and my guillotine took him out," he said. "He surprised me with the lateral kicks at the beginning, but at the end of the day, we were able to maintain and control that aspect."

Indeed, Alvarez wrapped his left arm around the charging Duffy's neck before the two hit the floor, and the beaten man's tapout drew the intervention from referee Marc Goddard.

"Whoever the boss says is next, I'm ready for them," he said. "I'm ready to fight the best guys in the UFC. The experience on Fight Island has been great with my team. Everything has been wonderful so far, and hopefully I get to repeat the experience."

Five of the other 11 fights on the card also ended in a single round.

Jack Hermansson beat Kelvin Gastelum with a heel hook in 80 seconds, Lipski submitted Carolina by a knee bar in 88 seconds, Dolidze left Ibragimov down and dizzied with a knee in 4:15, Albazi submitted Gordon with a triangle choke in 4:42 and Figueiredo choked out Benavidez in 4:48 in the main event.


Winner: Working the (Tri)angles

There was plenty of reason for Amir Albazi to celebrate.

The bantamweight was victorious in his Saturday night debut in the UFC, a debut that came less than two weeks after he had been inserted on to the card when another fighter fell out—and after a whirlwind transition in which he was sent into quarantine just three hours after getting the call.

But all he wanted to talk about was his go-to maneuver.

Albazi earned his 13th win in 14 pro fights after working Gordon into a triangle choke and drawing the submission just four minutes, 42 seconds into the opening round.

It was the first triangle choke victory in the UFC in 2020.

"The victory felt amazing, exactly what I've been working on," said Albazi, who became the third Iraqi-born fighter to reach the UFC. "It went exactly to plan. The plan was to stand up a bit, feel him out, take him down and finally put him to sleep with a chokehold or a submission.

"I've been training jiu-jitsu since the age of 14, both back home in Sweden and in London Shoot Fighters in London, so I feel very comfortable on the ground."

Albazi out-landed Gordon by a 28-5 margin in overall strikes and had a 12-3 gap in significant strikes before the battle went to the floor. From there, Albazi rolled to his back, drew Gordon into his guard and was able to cinch in the choke when he locked his own right leg under his left while pushing Gordon's head down.

Gordon indicated the surrender by tapping his left hand, which drew the intervention of referee Herb Dean.

"To be honest, nothing really surprised me," Albazi said. "I prepare with all type of opponents, so when I'm in there, I feel at home and it's just another puzzle to solve. If Dana gives me that 50 G's, I'll stick around and do another fight next week. Celebrate, have fun, but also go back to training."


UFC Fight Night 172 Full Card Results

Main Card

Deiveson Figueiredo def. Joseph Benavidez by submission (read-naked choke), 4:48, Round 1.

Jack Hermansson def. Kelvin Gastelum by submission (heel hook), 1:18, Round 1.

Rafael Fiziev def. Marc Diakiese by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).

Ariane Lipski def. Luana Carolina by submission (knee bar), 1:28, Round 1.

Askar Askarov def. Alexandre Pantoja by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).


Preliminary Card

Roman Dolidze def. Khabis Ibragimov by TKO (knee), 4:15, Round 1.

Grant Dawson def. Nad Narimani by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27).

Joel Alvarez def. Joe Duffy by submission (guillotine choke), 2:25, Round 1. 

Brett Johns def. Montel Jackson by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Amir Albazi def. Malcolm Gordon by submission (triangle choke), 4:42, Round 1.

Arman Tsarukyan def. Davi Ramos by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).

Serghei Spivac def. Carlos Felipe majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28).


Fight of the Night

Marc Diakiese vs. Rafael Fiziev


Performances of the Night

Ariane Lipski, Deiveson Figueiredo


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