The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 15

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Frankie Edgar celebrates his win over Cub Swanson during the third round of their UFC mixed martial arts featherweight bout early Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/Associated Press

It was the ideal fight card for people in a hurry.

The UFC put on a nine-bout show on August's penultimate Saturday at its APEX facility in Las Vegas and many of the fighters performed as if they'd planned to be somewhere else.

Six of the nine fights ended in KO or TKO and none of them even reached the two-minute mark of the second round. In fact, of a possible 29 full rounds, the show wound up completing only 13 from end to end and parts of six others.

"I can't believe we're already here," said ESPN analyst Dominick Cruz, as the main event was about to begin shortly before 11 p.m. ET. Indeed, the show was over long before 11:30 p.m., leaving Cruz and broadcast partner Jon Anik—along with backstage reporter Heidi Androl—to otherwise occupy themselves.

Bleacher Report put together its usual list of perceived winners and losers from the show and we encourage you to scroll through and see what we came with. 

Loser: Winning Clearly Against a Big-Name Foe

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It’s not very often a fighter drops a weight class.

It’s ever rarer when the drop nears 20 pounds.

Yet that’s exactly what former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar did in Saturday’s main event, debuting all the way down at bantamweight—135 pounds—and escaping with a split decision over No. 5 contender Pedro Munhoz.

Less than two months from his 39th birthday, Edgar won with scores of 48-47 on two judge’s scorecards.

The third judge had it 49-46 for Munhoz, as did Bleacher Report.

“I still got some fight in this tank. This might put me right in the top five,” Edgar said. “I showed I could compete with the best at 38 years old.  I don’t want to hear nothing from nobody.”

Edgar was effective in spots thanks to fluid foot movement and combination punching early on, but Munhoz, beaten in his last fight, scored well late after effectively cutting off the cage and subsequently landing heavy blows. Edgar scored a takedown at three minutes of the second and landed a kick at the end of the sequence that rattled Munhoz, leaving what appeared to be a tied fight up for grabs.

Munhoz was the more aggressive and busier fighter across the final 15 minutes and began to impact Edgar’s movements with kicks to the lead leg. He shook off another takedown sequence in the fourth and seemed more effective across the fight’s second half.

But two of the cards saw Edgar a winner in three of five rounds, while Munhoz captured the other by a four-rounds-to-one margin.

“What a job for Frankie Edgar,” Cruz said. “What won Frankie that fight was his movement, the takedowns mixed in, and the non-stop accumulation of punches. 

The win was the 18th in the UFC for Edgar, who’s the busiest fighter in the promotion’s history in terms of minutes spent inside the Octagon. He arrived at the company in 2007 and has been involved in nine title fights, winning three.

 “I just got my feet wet. Pedro’s a top dog and that makes me a top dog,” Edgar said. “The future may be in the Hall of Fame, but the present is pretty relevant, too.”

Winner: Mixing Up The Attack

His nickname is "Slo." But his output was not.

Veteran Mike Rodriguez got to business as if he had a post-fight plane to catch, immediately put his corner's suggestions to work, and walked away with a vicious KO of Marcin Prochnia in their scheduled three-rounder at light heavyweight.

The fight was elevated to co-main event status after Ovince Saint Preux fell out of the position with a positive COVID-19 test, and Rodriguez performed as if it'd been his own spot to begin with. 

The 31-year-old worked effectively in clinches with his foe, keeping Prochnia off balance with alternate strikes via elbows and knees. He dropped the rugged Pole with the third in a flurry of left-side elbows, then blasted him with two left-hand strikes on the ground to get a stop from Jason Herzog.

The finish was Rodriguez's ninth in 12 career wins.

"He fought exactly how he told us he wanted to do," Cruz said. "He’s in the right mindset and he made it happen."

It was Rodriguez's first win since December 2018 and just his second since August 2017.

"It feels good to be back in the winning column. It’s where I belong," he said. "I had to utilize my utility to put him away. Knee, elbow, knee, elbow. I tried to switch up the rhythm a little bit. And when I landed the third elbow he felt limp in my hands and I just poured it on."

Loser: Adrenaline Dumps

Shana Dobson talked the talk and walked the walk.

So much so, in fact, that her second-round erasure of Kazakhstan-based prospect Mariya Agapova was precisely what everyone had expected—and not, as Anik labeled it, “one of the biggest singular upsets in UFC history.”

Indeed, Dobson was the biggest underdog on the card after entering with a plus-800 line, but the lanky flyweight was able to gamely fight off a whirling dervish attack that left her opponent’s gas tank dry before she capitalized and forced an intervention from referee Mark Smith at 1:38 of Round 2.

“This is awesome, and I used that as ammunition,” Dobson said. “I’m an underdog, but I said I’d bring the dog out of the cage tonight. We’re excited but we’re not surprised.”

Agapova had arrived 9-1 and looked primed for a quick stoppage after landing a series of strikes in the first two minutes and working her way into a possible submission position on the ground later in the round. But the barrage left her weakened to begin the second, and Dobson quickly reversed another takedown before prompting the end with a barrage of unanswered ground shots.

Agapova left the cage area on a stretcher.

"The dogs are barking tonight," Anik said. "This is a win careers are made of."

Winner: Single Violent Rounds

It was less than half a round, but with three fights' worth of action.

Welterweight Daniel Grant sprang from his corner and soon found himself on the verge of a victory as he rained powerful strikes down on a nearly prone Daniel Rodriguez.

But just as it appeared Rodriguez's eight-fight win streak was over, it wasn't.

The 33-year-old managed to get to his feet and soon turned the tide with a few powerful punches of his own, ultimately pinning his man against the fence and leaving him limp with a fusillade of right hands before referee Chris Tognoni pulled the trigger at 2:24 of the first.

Rodriguez improved to 13-1 and scored his 11th career finish in a bout put together Friday after both men had their initially scheduled opponents removed from the card.

He also became the third fighter to win three UFC fights in 2020.

"That was intense. We were slinging them," Rodriguez said. "That's how I do. I recovered quick and I was able to land a short hook and I capitalized. I'm 33 years old. I'm in my prime. I'm in my best shape ever. Let's keep it rolling."

Loser: Blocking Knees With Your Face 

Imagine catching an inadvertent knee in the face.

Then imagine catching a series of them, only with the full intent of the deliverer.

That's the position Ike Villanueva found himself in against short-notice replacement foe Jordan Wright, who used the punishing blows to score a surprise victory just 91 seconds into their scheduled three-rounder at light heavyweight.

Wright dumped Villavueva with a spinning head kick early in the round, then fought through his foe's attempts at a clinch with the first of the aforementioned knees that opened a bloody cut over his right eye.

A 36-year-old from Houston, Villanueva tried to rally his way back into the fray but Herzog called for the doctor, who called a halt to the fray at 1:31.  

"To be able to come in a weight class above, weighing underweight and putting on a performance like that, it feels pretty awesome," Wright said. "I knew the finish would be inevitable. I’m a finisher. All my wins were by finish and I just know how to put people out."

  

Winner: Mistake-Erasing Power

Power is the best deodorant.

Though Trevin Jones had been on the short end of a full round and a bit more against rugged veteran Timur Valiev, his secret weapon was never far from putting a positive smell on things.

The 30-year-old from Guam caught Valiev with a sweeping right hand that immediately changed the Russian's prospects, dropping him straight to his back where Jones followed up with a series of ground strikes and prompted an intervention from Tognoni.

"One of the upsets of the year right there," Anik said. "'Five-Star Jones, welcome to the big show."

The end came at 1:59 of the second round and made Jones' UFC debut a memorable one, even after a tumultuous run-up that included a failed weigh-in attempt before he hit the 140-pound target.  

"He hit the ground flat and I came down with the hard right hand, ground-and-pound, smashing, smashing and smashing," Jones said. "And I was looking to put him away right there. He got me with that good push kick in the first round and I wanted to make him pay for that."

UFC on ESPN 15 Full Card Results

Main Card

Frankie Edgar def. Pedro Munhoz by split decision (48-47, 46-49, 48-47)

Mike Rodriguez def. Marcin Prachnio by KO (punches), 2:17, Round 1

Joe Solecki def. Austin Hubbard by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:51, Round 1

Shana Dobson def. Mariya Agapova by TKO (punches), 1:38, Round 2

Daniel Rodriguez def. Dwight Grant by TKO (punches), 2:24, Round 1 

Preliminary Card

Amanda Lemos def. Mizuki Inoue by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) 

Jordan Wright def. Ike Villanueva by TKO (doctor stoppage), 1:31, Round 1

Matthew Semelsberger def. Carlton Minus by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26)

Trevin Jones def. Timur Valiev by TKO (punches), 1:59, Round 2

Performances of the Night: Shana Dobson, Trevin Jones

Fight of the Night: Edgar-Munhoz