The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 252

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2020

Stipe Miocic receives his belt after a win over Francis Ngannou during a heavyweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 220, early Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

The UFC was back in the pay-per-view business on Saturday night.

So it's no surprise that the mixed martial arts giant trotted out its A-team to call the shots.

Blow-by-blow man Jon Anik ran point on a three-man crew for the ESPN+ broadcast that included stalwart Joe Rogan and former champion Dominick Cruz, and Rogan was clearly intrigued by the idea of working such a big show in the crowd-free atmosphere at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

"I've been telling people that this is like an acoustic concert rather than seeing a big rock band in a big arena," he said. "It's an amazing experience, and we're fortunate to be here."

It's a good bet viewers will be saying the same thing in the aftermath.

The 11-bout show featured a compelling end to a heavyweight title trilogy, an appearance by the fighter being touted as the promotion's latest superstar and a record 36th appearance by a respected veteran.

The Bleacher Report combat sports team was in its usual Saturday night position to document all the goings-on, and we've produced another comprehensive list of winners and losers from the show.

Take a look at our thoughts and see how they line up with your own takeaways.


Loser: Fairytale Endings

UFC @ufc

The 🐐 at heavyweight. #UFC252 https://t.co/ALwJIJMzQg

As heavyweights go, it's the UFC's version of Ali-Frazier.

And just as happened in the boxing ring, the man that won the first match never won again.

Former champ-champ Daniel Cormier hoped to ride into the retirement sunset with another Octagon coronation ceremony, but instead he was on the undesirable losing end of a unanimous nod to incumbent Stipe Miocic in the third and presumably final match of their head-to-head series.

"It sucks. Being on the losing end of two big fights in a trilogy, it's a very sad position to be in," Cormier said. "But I will deal with it as I have in the past."

Cormier won the first fight by opening-round KO in 2018 before dropping the rematch by fourth-round TKO one year ago. It was the 14th trilogy fight in UFC history, with only one-third of the finales being won by the same fighter who won the first one.

And it's presumed to be Cormier's final fight, as he suggested afterward.

"I'm not interested in anything but titles," he said, "but I don't imagine there'll be those opportunities."

As for Miocic, it was his sixth title-fight win at heavyweight, equaling Randy Couture's record.

Miocic was battered late in the first round by Cormier, who landed a powerful overhand right with 15 seconds remaining in the session. Miocic rallied with strikes and extended advantages in clinch time along the fence in the second and third rounds, and he badly hurt Cormier with a flurry late in the second. Cormier was also damaged by a poke to his left eye in the third and was clearly compromised the rest of the way, saying afterward that he couldn't see anything from the eye.

Still, the ex-champ rallied in the fourth and held a slim edge in significant strikes, and the fight appeared to tighten as it entered the final round. Cormier did land intermittently in those five minutes, but Miocic again controlled matters when they were in close and never allowed an extended rally.

He won 49-46—or four rounds to one—on two scorecards and 48-47 (3-2 in rounds) on the third.

Bleacher Report also had it 48-47 for the winner.

"[Cormier is] a hell of a fighter. I wish him nothing but the best," Miocic said. "He's an amazing champion and a tough dude. But he got that first takedown and I got right back up, and I think he knew he'd be in trouble if he got me in that position again." 


Winner: The Chito Show

UFC @ufc

DOUBT HIM NOW 🤫 *NSFW* #UFC252 https://t.co/7ZP259vBfb

Marlon Vera was savoring the post-fight moment.

He wrapped himself in the Ecuadorian flag. He pointed at a cynical broadcast team. He shouted at any microphone he could find. And given what he'd just accomplished, no one could blame him.

The prohibitive underdog brought the UFC's latest hype train to a screeching halt, driving a seemingly injured Sean O'Malley to the mat and landing a series of strikes that prompted a TKO stoppage from referee Herb Dean at 4:40 of the first round.

"Doubt me now. Say something now," Vera said. "Everybody has an opinion. But that doesn't matter. I'm a tough guy. The dog I have in me is bigger than all these guys."

O'Malley landed several low kicks and had Vera reacting to feints in the early going, but he noticeably reacted after stepping forward awkwardly and appearing to roll over his right foot.

The sequence impacted his movement, and he immediately went to his back after a subsequent exchange of right hands. Vera immediately pounced, landing a powerful left hand and a follow-up left elbow with O'Malley on the ground, then flurrying with three more shots before Dean intervened.

O'Malley stayed on his back for several moments, was standing on one foot when the official result was read and then left the cage area on a stretcher.

O'Malley had entered as the No. 14 bantamweight contender and was a minus-300 favorite. It was his first loss after 12 professional wins and three in the UFC.

"Vera is a dedicated professional mixed martial artist. He's focused and very skillful, and he survived some very difficult moments in that first round," Rogan said. "Marlon 'Chito' Vera is a bona fide bantamweight contender."

Vera landed 18 strikes to O'Malley's 10 before the finishing sequence.

"I'm a motivated man," Vera said. "I wake up every morning with a mission."


Loser: Honoring the Mustache

UFC @ufc

BIGI BOY IS BACK! 😳 #UFC252 https://t.co/h8SlayhrGF

Junior Dos Santos is a former UFC heavyweight champion and a veteran of five title fights, and he had spoken recently about making another run toward the top of the division at age 36.

And when he arrived to the cage with a newly grown mustache, he did look ready to roll back the years.

But Jairzinho Rozenstruik wasn't having it.

Coming off an inglorious 20-second loss to Francis Ngannou, the burly Suriname native sturdily held his ground through a competitive first round against Dos Santos, then landed a looping right that triggered the final sequence of a TKO win at 3:47 of the second round.  

"All it takes is one shot in the heavyweight division," Cruz said.

The big men were matching hand strikes and kicks for the first three minutes of the decisive round before they traded left hands along the fence. Rozenstruik followed his initial shot with a right, however, dropping Dos Santos to his knees. Rozenstruik pounced with another series of lefts and rights, and, as Dos Santos started to get back to his feet, landed another left that prompted the arrival of referee Dan Miragliotta.

In the aftermath, the winner credited a dedication to conditioning.

"I wanted to fight as soon as possible as soon as I lost," Rozenstruik said. "We just got back at it. This was the result I was looking for. I needed to set it straight. From now on, I'm back in the gym. You can find me there whenever you want. The mission is to grab the title."


Winner: Keeping the Faith

UFC @ufc

Six years out. @DanielPitPineda, welcome back home. #UFC252 https://t.co/E0BvKRnDzY

Daniel Pineda's left eye was hideously swollen, and blood trickled from a cut as he spoke.

But the damage didn't diminish his electric smile.

The 35-year-old from Texas returned to the Octagon for the first time in more than six years and made the return a memorable one with a destructive second-round TKO of heavy favorite Herbert Burns in their scheduled three-rounder at bantamweight.

Just 3-4 in a seven-fight run in the UFC from 2012 to 2014, Pineda had toiled in the shadows across multiple promotions before getting the call for a short-notice return just two weeks ago.

He said he cut more than 20 pounds in that stretch, and he appeared to be in better shape as he controlled the opening round with striking. He was cut by a knee from Burns in that round but continued to land powerful blows on his feet before concentrating on mat work in the second.

He reversed a Burns takedown three minutes in, gained a half-mount and locked his foe into a crucifix position and battered him with elbows and fists from the right side. Burns was unable to escape, and his inability to return fire prompted a rescue from referee Mark Smith at 4:37.

"Coming in here an underdog like this, getting the opportunity after six years out. Wow," Rogan said. "It's a big, big night for him, and he did a great job closing it out."

Pineda landed 173 overall strikes to 35, including a 57-10 edge in significant strikes.

"Y'all keep counting me out and betting against me," he said. "Man, it feels good. I'm getting older, but I'm getting better.'


Loser: Eclipsing the Cowboy

UFC @ufc

These veterans put in work! 💪 🔥 @FromHellPichel takes the UD to close the #UFC252 prelims. https://t.co/ILgiDXaZtD

Jim Miller was a deserved topic of conversation.

After all, the 36-year-old New Jersey native made his 36th walk to the Octagon, breaking a tie with Donald Cerrone for the most appearances in UFC history.

But as impressed as Vinc Pichel might have been with his lightweight rival, he was in no mood to prolong the celebration past the official introductions. So the 37-year-old went about matching his veteran opponent in his comfort zone on the mat, grinding and grappling his way to a unanimous-decision victory over three competitive rounds.

"It feels amazing. I'm super stoked. I worked super hard for this," Pichel said. "Jim Miller's a tough, tough dude. But a lot of people slept on me. I'm no slouch on the ground. I can grapple with anybody."

Indeed, though Miller was aggressive and dominant on the ground in the opening round, Pichel rallied for more than three minutes of control time in the second frame and again won that statistic—2:10 to 1:07—to clinch the verdict across the final five minutes.

Pichel also landed 26 strikes to Miller's seven in the third round, improving to 13-2 overall and 6-2 in the UFC. Miller is 32-15 overall and 21-14 with one no-contest in the UFC.

"That is a huge win for Vinc Pichel. The highest-profile win of his career," Cruz said. "He looked great. He looked like he did on the Ultimate Fighter but a lot more seasoned."


Winner: Delayed Gratification

UFC @ufc

THE WARRIOR! 🇨🇴 The judges score it 29-28 for Danny Chavez! #UFC252 https://t.co/TPT50RzG02

It took Colombian Warrior Danny Chavez 14 years to reach the UFC, and if the post-fight smile plastered across the 33-year-old's face was indicative, it was worth the wait.

A winner in a Global Legion FC title fight just four weeks ago, Chavez happily turned his surprise octagonal chance into cause for celebration, too, defeating TJ Brown in a scintillating three-rounder at featherweight.

"It took a decade-and-a-half for Danny Chavez to get here," Anik said, "but he looked like he belonged tonight."

Indeed, Chavez earned the unanimous decision from the judges thanks to quickness and precision with his fists and a devastating array of leg kicks that left Brown's left leg bruised and swollen and forced the 30-year-old into a southpaw stance to protect the injured limb.

Chavez controlled the first round and dropped Brown with a straight right in the second, providing enough of a cushion to withstand a Brown rally in the final five minutes.

"He looked like a veteran who finally got the opportunity," Rogan said. "You just saw an excellent skill set. I was very impressed."

Chavez landed 45 percent of his significant-strike attempts and scored all four of the fight's takedowns.

"I've been doing this for 14 years, and I've been waiting for the moment I'd get here," he said. "I felt good and I felt in great shape."


Loser: The Strawweight Division

UFC @ufc

SPECTACULAR! 🌟 🔒 @VirnaJandiroba locks up the RD 1 armbar. The #UFC252 prelims continue on @ESPN. https://t.co/mk8dQvE6dz

This just in: Virna Jandiroba is a genuine badass.

The 32-year-old Brazilian was a short-notice loser in her UFC debut against ex-champ Carla Esparza 16 months ago and then bounced back with a second-round win in her follow-up effort last December.

But that was kid's stuff compared to Saturday night's third appearance, which the jiu-jitsu ace completed in less than two minutes against 15th-ranked strawweight contender Felice Herrig.

And in doing so, she put the rest of the 115-pounders on notice.

"I never hid from anyone the fact that I want to be a UFC champion," Jandiroba said, moments after the submission finish at 1:44 of Round 1. "I see myself ranked. If the UFC wants to put me in, I'll be ready."

She totally looked the part from the start against the outgunned Herrig, getting her to the ground after faking a right hand and diving in for a double-leg takedown.

From there, she gained a full mount and began punishing Herrig with elbows, and then locked her up in an armbar that led to a tapout and an intervention from referee Marc Goddard.

It was the fourth-fastest submission in the division's history.

"That's some amazing technique from a very, very dangerous 115-pound woman," Cruz said.


Winner: Staying on the Road

UFC @ufc

HAND SPEED FOR DAYS! 😳 @ChrisDaukausMMA - welcome to the UFC! 📺 Action continues on @ESPN https://t.co/Rl3dLrbx6c

Chris Daukaus is certainly familiar with the UFC. After all, his brother Kyle is an alumnus of Dana White's Contender Series and made his own octagonal debut in June.

Nevertheless, when the 30-year-old Chris got the call that he'd be included on Saturday's show, he didn't exactly greet the news with grizzled steadiness.

In fact, the Philadelphia police officer was returning from a work shift after midnight when his phone rang, and he said his reaction nearly ended the dream before it began.

"It was crazy. I was driving home," Daukaus said. "I damn near crashed my car on I-95."

The veteran of 11 pro fights steeled himself in time for action against fellow UFC newbie Parker Porter, erasing the mammoth heavyweight with a three-punch combination followed by a devastating right knee with 32 seconds remaining in the first round of a scheduled three.

Outweighed by more than 20 pounds (264.5 to 241), Daukaus shook off several early Porter strikes before taking control with faster hands and more precise counters—an approach perfected in the gym.

"He showed his killer instinct," Anik said. "Now he's in the big show and has a certainly promising future."

Daukaus dropped Porter with a right hand from in close at 3:30 of the round, and then landed another right to begin the final sequence and left Porter senseless with the knee shot that prompted an intervention from referee Herb Dean.

"You come to Philly with the best boxers in the world and everything is super clean, super tight and super technical," Daukaus said. "I can stay tight and return with crisp, clean punches. 

"You obviously game-plan for every opponent, so we seen that he was going to throw a little bit wild punches, big overhand followed by a big left, so we stayed tight, everything down the middle."


UFC 252 Full Card Results

UFC @ufc

THE MACHINE! 🤖 @MerabDvalishvil continues to dominate w/ a 30-27 scorecard! #UFC252 https://t.co/5EZcxnEEQO

Main Card

Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)

Marlon Vera def. Sean O'Malley by TKO, 4:40, Round 1

Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Junior Dos Santos by TKO, 3:47, Round 2

Daniel Pineda def. Herbert Burns by TKO, 4:37, Round 2

Merab Dvalishvili def. John Dodson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)


Preliminary Card

Vinc Pichel def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) 

Virna Jandiroba def. Felice Herrig by submission (armbar), 1:44, Round 1

Danny Chavez def. TJ Brown by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Livinha Souza def. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Chris Daukaus def. Parker Porter by TKO, 4:28, Round 1

Kai Kamaka def. Tony Kelley by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)


Fight of the Night

Kai Kamaka vs. Tony Kelley

Performances of the Night

Daniel Pineda, Virna Jandiroba