It was a UFC Fight Night with a little something for everyone.
There were quick submissions, wide decisions, impressive newcomers and compelling veterans.
And by the time it was over, one man had moved a few notches closer to possible glory at 205 pounds.
No. 5 contender and former title challenger Anthony Smith met sixth-ranked Aleksandar Rakic in the main event in a weight class that's suddenly opened up at the top since champion Jon Jones vacated his title in anticipation of an expected move to heavyweight.
That fight was preceded by a return to the Octagon by former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, who faced veteran Neil Magny after a year on the shelf and in the midst of a streak that's seen him lose four of five fights since his final successful title defense in 2016.
No spoilers here, you'll have to read on to see how things went.
If you're looking for hints, though, it was a good night for favorites, with eight of the 10 fighters with minuses next to their names winding up as winners. Bets across the board on the favorites would have netted a profit of $550 while going all-in on the underdogs yielded a loss of $590.
ESPN+ had the broadcast call with Brendan Fitzgerald and Paul Felder on the mics and Laura Sanko handling between-fights and backstage feature duties.
Bleacher Report was on hand for all five-plus hours and compiled a full-card list of winners and losers. Take a look at our takeaways and see how much we have in common with yours.
Winner: Angling for a Title Shot
For Smith, the end of 2020 can’t come soon enough.
The former light heavyweight title challenger was on the short end of another one-sided loss to a fellow top-10 contender, dropping a unanimous decision to Rakic in the three-round main event of Saturday’s card at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
It was a meeting of the No. 5 (Smith) and No. 6 (Rakic) contenders at 205 pounds, and it put the winner into an enviable position now that the title has been vacated.
Smith was brutally stopped by Glover Teixeira in May and has now lost three of four since the start of 2019.
Dominick Reyes and Jan Błachowicz will fight for the belt at UFC 253 next month, and Rakic made no secret of his plans going forward.
“These guys need to take me seriously now because I am going to be in the top five,” he said. “You know what’s next. The belt is next.”
Rakic dominated with his punches and his leg kicks throughout 15 minutes, in addition to complete control when the fight went to the ground. He had a 136-20 edge in overall strikes, a 40-7 advantage in significant strikes, scored the only knockdown with a leg kick and had 12 minutes and 16 seconds of control time compared to a mere five seconds for Smith.
“It was just a dominant well-rounded performance,” Felder said.
“It feels amazing. My first main event in the fight capital,” he said. “I felt a lot of pressure with a lot of people watching me back home. Everybody underestimated my wrestling and my grappling. The focus was a lot of pressure. Doing a lot of damage on the ground.”
Loser: Returning Welterweight Champions
Lawler may or may not fight again.
But if he chooses to return yet again, he’d be best served by avoiding Magny.
The veteran welterweight had his strategic way with the former 170-pound champion throughout their three-round co-main event, controlling distance on his feet and dominating on the mat while scoring a shutout on all three scorecards.
“This is one of the best performances we’ve seen out of Neil Magny,” Felder said. “He was a true mixed martial artist. He was not afraid to stand and exchange when he needed to and just never let (Lawler) find his rhythm. He used his length and used his overall skill set.”
Indeed, the 33-year-old from Brooklyn gave a sign of things to come in the first two minutes of the first round, when he stuffed a Lawler takedown and spent the remainder of the session mixing ground strikes with mat control.
More of the same followed in the final two rounds, as Lawler was consistently unable to land the big sweeping punches he was seeking. Magny was able to stay at an effective distance while landing punches and kicks and took the fight to the ground whenever Lawler applied too much heat.
Overall, he landed 121 strikes to Lawler’s 17.
“It’s definitely a feather in the cap, beating a legend like Robbie Lawler,” Magny said. “It feels good to execute a game plan and beat a fighter of his caliber.”
It solidified his name in history as well, moving him past Matt Hughes and into undisputed possession of second place with 17 career wins at welterweight—trailing only George St. Pierre’s 19.
It also put Magny on a short list of fighters who’ve won three UFC bouts in 2020.
He’s now beaten two former champions (Lawler, Johny Hendricks) and a former interim champion (Carlos Condit) in the division. Lawler, meanwhile, has lost five of six fights since mid-2016.
“I’m right there at the top 10,” Magny said. “Let’s get me another fight this year and make a run at a title.”
Winner: Lasting Impressions
If it's the last time Ricardo Lamas appears in the Octagon, he'll remember it awhile.
The 38-year-old said he'll think about it awhile before deciding whether to continue what's already been a 12-plus-year career, but he left a positive taste in the mouths of fans and broadcasters with a ferocious decision over Bill Algeo in a three-rounder at featherweight.
"I've been kind of wrestling with the idea of hanging the gloves up. That's something I want to talk to my family about first before I make a decision," he said. "To all my followers out there, if this is the last time you see me in the cage, thank you so much."
Lamas was sharper and busier than his longer, lankier foe in the first round, but was wobbled by a flurry late in the round and wound up on the short end throughout the second session, including a wicked knee that caught him flush in the face and spun his around as he tumbled backward.
Algeo easily won the round with a wide margin in strikes, but Lamas rallied in the third by working Algeo along the fence and getting him to the ground for a series of ground-and-pound barrages and successive attempts at submissions. Lamas landed 34 significant strikes to Algeo's 14 in the third, won it by a 10-8 margin on all three scorecards and earned the win with three overall scores of 29-27.
"If it was your last one, I respect your decision," Felder said, "but I know I'm not alone in saying I hope we see you again."
He's now 11-6 in the UFC since 2011.
"My corner told me to go out there and bring it home for my son," an emotional Lamas said, voice cracking. "That got me going."
Winner: Making Good on an Opportunity
It’s been quite an August for Impa Kasanganay.
A Florida native with familial heritage stretching back to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the 26-year-old began the month as a hopeful on Dana White’s Contender Series and will end it as an unbeaten commodity with a UFC victory under his belt.
The muscular middleweight had just seven pro fights in his rear-view mirror when he debuted against octagonal veteran Maki Pitolo on Saturday night, but looked every bit the seasoned veteran while consistently outworking the Hawaiian on the way to a unanimous three-round decision.
“It’s hard to believe he’s at this stage of his career,” Felder said. “To look at the way he is in there, so relaxed and so composed, you’d think he’d been a pro for more than one year and seven fights.”
Kasanganay defeated Anthony Adams by unanimous decision to earn his contract just 18 days ago, and his match with Pitolo marked the quickest turnaround from DWCS to UFC debut in the promotion’s history.
Pitolo landed the sharper, harder shots in the first round and controlled the session until a flurry in the final few seconds that left Pitolo cut alongside the left eye. Kasanganay was in control from that point forward and was both the busier and sharper fighter across the final 10 minutes.
Pitolo landed 31 significant strikes to Kasanganay's 28 in the first round, while the latter man won that category by 30-19 and 27-21 margins in the final two rounds.
He won by a 30-27 tally on all three scorecards, though Bleacher Report saw it a closer 29-28.
Winner: Broadcast Scouting Reports
Felder knew what he was watching.
The veteran lightweight was at the mic when longtime training teammate Sean Brady was in the cage against welterweight foe Christian Aguilera, which provided fans a unique insight into the undefeated Philadelphia fighter’s intentions.
So when Brady scored a takedown early in the second round and began prospecting for a guillotine choke finish, the broadcaster knew the plus-340 underdog was in big trouble.
“That kid’s got a squeeze like I’ve never felt,” Felder said, as Brady locked in a choke and then lost it as Aguilera squirmed free. “It doesn’t matter if you fight off the first, he will find a way to get into you again. I’ve been in this position with this kid hundreds and hundreds of times, and I can tell you it’s absolutely miserable.”
A moment later, Felder was proven prophetic.
Brady immediately cinched in the guillotine for a second time and tightened the hold as Aguilera’s resistance faded, ultimately choking him into unconsciousness and prompting Herb Dean to wave it off at 1:47 of the second.
It was Brady’s 13th straight win as a pro and his first submission in three UFC appearances.
“It feels like a dream. It feels amazing,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my whole life to martial arts. I want a big name, a bigger name that’s gonna put me higher. Let’s keep it rolling.”
Loser: Becoming a Barometer
When you think about it, Alex Caceres makes perfect sense as a measuring stick.
He's a skillful 32-year-old veteran who's made a career out of toiling in the shadows, which has prompted the UFC to begin putting him in with up-and-comers to see where the kids stand.
It's becoming clear, though, that he's not quite ready for gatekeeper status.
Fresh off a three-round whitewash of unbeaten Chase Hooper in June, the man known as "Bruce LeeRoy" returned for a date with octagonal newcomer Austin Springer and made it a quick one—turning his foe's shoddy takedown attempt into a rear-naked choke that ended matters after just 3:38.
"I’m feeling great. I felt like this was one of the ways I was going to get in there and do it," he said. "I knew the guy was going to try to take me down. I think my ground game is very underrated."
It was Caceres' 17th win in 30 pro fights and third in a row since February 2019. He was initially set to face Giga Chikadze, but wound up with Springer after both Chikadze and initial replacement Kevin Croom were pulled from the card.
Springer, incidentally, had won three in a row, including a submission of Chikadze in 2018.
"I'm definitely ready to go again before the year ends," Caceres said. "I didn’t get touched. I’m ready to do it again."
Winner: Primal Screams
Mallory Martin was flat on her back and screaming like she'd seen something ghastly.
But before you think the 26-year-old was in some sort of distress, think again.
The resilient Martin was reveling in one of the most compelling octagonal comebacks in recent weeks, climbing back from the verge of a first-round TKO loss to submit strawweight opponent Hannah Cifers a round later in the night's first bout.
Cifers began landing a series of heavy strikes about three minutes into the opening session and had Martin in such trouble that referee Chris Tognoni was standing nearby imploring her to show something to prevent the fight from being stopped.
She was able to move and defend well enough to make it to the between-rounds intermission, then took her corner's counsel to get the fight to the ground and chase a submission.
The minus-300 favorite was able to do that right away to begin the second, initially landing heavy strikes of her own and then working behind Cifers and getting her left arm around the neck to cinch in a rear-naked choke. Cifers tapped right away, ending the fight at 1:33 of the second.
Tognoni himself gave her full props, whispering "beautiful job, great perseverance" just before he raised her arm during Bruce Buffer's official announcement.
"I can understand all that emotion coming out of her," Felder said. "She was out on her feet. She knew that Hannah Cifers was gonna be a little bit compromised from that first round and she took full advantage to it."
The win was the seventh in her career and the second by submission.
"I was still conscious. She landed a good shot. I was still fully in the fight," Martin said. "I have adversity in my life all the time and I come back to it."
Loser: Getting a Rematch
At some point, these guys will get back together.
Light heavyweights Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba met in one of the year's most controversial bouts on Feb. 29 in Norfolk, Va., where Ankalaev burst forward at the start, landed a few jarring shots and was awarded a quick TKO by referee Kevin MacDonald after just 38 seconds.
Cutelaba, who was still standing at the finish, immediately protested and insisted he'd been feigning distress to prompt his foe into further committing before replying with counter shots.
A mid-August rematch booked for UFC 252 in Las Vegas was scrapped when Cutelaba tested positive for COVID-19, which set up another re-booking for Saturday night's main show that was again scrapped when the 26-year-old Moldovan again tested positive, according to Fitzgerald.
Cutelaba had tested negative twice before again testing positive.
UFC Fight Night 175 Full Card Results
Aleksandar Rakic def. Anthony Smith by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Neil Magny def. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alexa Grasso def. Ji Yeon Kim by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ricardo Lamas def. Bill Algeo by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
Impa Kasanganay def. Maki Pitolo by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Zak Cummings def. Alessio Di Chirico by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Alex Caceres def. Austin Springer by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:38, Round 1
Sean Brady def. Christian Aguilera by submission (guillotine choke), 1:47, Round 2
Polyana Viana def. Emily Whitmire by submission (armbar), 1:53, Round 1
Mallory Martin def. Hannah Cifers by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:33, Round 2
Performances of the Night: Mallory Martin, Sean Brady
Fight of the Night: Ricardo Lamas vs. Bill Algeo