What it lacked in star power, it recaptured in intrigue.
The UFC's second Fight Night show of September at the UFC Apex wasn't jam-packed with transcendent names but delivered more than enough action and competition to sate any ferocity-hungry fan.
A dozen fights across five-plus hours in Las Vegas included five decisions, five submissions and a pair of knockouts, not to mention some equal-opportunity Octagon history as well.
Brendan Fitzgerald and Michael Bisping were at the announce table for the ESPN+ broadcast, which featured nary a mention of allegations swirling around—and vehemently denied by—UFC superstar Conor McGregor but did have an emotional reference to Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestler executed Saturday after a murder conviction in a case dating back to 2018.
An "in memory of" graphic was put up during the show, and lightweight Bobby Green appeared near tears after his fight upon hearing the news of Afkari's death.
"Someone lost their life today," he said. "I can't even talk. I thought we were going to save him."
It was a sobering moment on an eventful night—with underdogs prevailing in nearly half of the 12 fights—and Bleacher Report carried on its role of chronicling the most prominent winners and losers.
Read on to see what we thought and to see whether your takeaways matched ours.
Winner: Making Your Own History
When history ran dry, Michelle Waterson got hot.
The eighth-ranked UFC strawweight contender was on the short end early against a frenetic Angela Hill, but the fighter known as the Karate Hottie turned the tide with a third-round takedown and rode the wave the rest of the way to a split-decision win in their five-round main event.
"That was an amazing display of martial arts," Bisping said. "Not only martial arts, but heart, will and desire. They were willing to walk through a blizzard of punches, kicks, knees and elbows to get the win."
Waterson won two official scorecards by totals of 49-46 and 48-47, while the third went to Hill by a similar 48-47 tally. Bleacher Report agreed with the majority and had Waterson a one-point winner.
"I was confident, but you never want to leave it in the hands of the judges," Waterson said. "When you hear split decision, it doesn't leave a good feeling in the pit of your stomach."
Indeed, the loss put a damper on a history-making appearance by Hill, who, in her 21st pro fight and 16th appearance in the Octagon, became the first African American woman to headline a UFC show.
She controlled the first 10 minutes with a high-energy style that saw her consistently pressing forward and initiating exchanges with her fists. Waterson, meanwhile, tried to maintain distance with front and side leg kicks mixed in with occasional takedown attempts.
Waterson was able to get a takedown and earned multiple minutes of positional control in the third round and seemed more energized across the final 10 minutes as her work rate increased and Hill's slipped off. Neither fighter was ever in serious danger, though Waterson had swelling on the left side of her forehead and above her left eye in addition to a bloody nose.
Hill, who was ranked 13th entering the fight, threw her hands up in disbelief when the decision was announced and immediately left the cage.
"I wanted to get her on the ground and submit her, but I'm happy to get the win however it comes," said Waterson, like Hill a former champion in the Invicta FC promotion. "I want to get to the belt as fast as possible."
Loser: Standing Up to a Bulldozer
It appears they call this guy The Bulldozer for a reason.
Unbeaten Moroccan lightweight Ottman Azaitar spent little more than a minute sizing up Khama Worthy before shifting into overdrive and plowing through his opponent to earn a first-round stoppage in just 93 seconds of a scheduled three-rounder in the co-main event slot.
"The game plan was to go for three rounds and to not think about the knockout," Azaitar said. "I knew he expected me to go straight away. But when I get in situation, I don't want to stop. I don't want to break.
I cannot stop myself."
Indeed, the fighters spent the initial 60 seconds at distance exchanging feints and waiting for the other to initiate an exchange. Azaitar finally took the lead and landed a two-punch combination that rattled Worthy, and he followed up with a flurry of 16 alternating rights and lefts before the taller, longer slugger slumped to his knees.
Azaitar took position alongside Worthy's right hip and continued the onslaught with seven straight right hands to the side of his foe's head before referee Herb Dean intervened at 1:33 of the round.
Worthy regained his feet and began protesting the finish but reeled unsteadily backward as he did so and appeared to acknowledge his defeat as the replay was shown on the in-house monitors.
It was Azaitar's 13th straight win as a pro and his 12th finish, including 10 in the first round.
Worthy, meanwhile, dropped to 16-7 and saw a seven-fight win streak come to an end.
"This guy does not mess around," Bisping said. "This is a bad man. He's a straight-up killer. He's smart. He's calculated. He's got a very bright future ahead of him. Just a wrecking machine, beautiful violence. Very, very impressive."
Winner: Capitalizing on an Error
Everyone, start your controversies.
The UFC record book, at least for the time being, will show that Ed Herman defeated Mike Rodriguez with a left-arm kimura lock at 4:01 of the third round of their three-rounder at light heavyweight.
But it won't be fair.
The fight could have and should have been over a round earlier, when a pair of Rodriguez knees to the body left Herman writhing on the floor and clearly ready to surrender.
But referee Chris Tognoni called the second shot a low blow, and rather than ending the fight on a TKO, he gave the stricken fighter a five-minute break for the alleged foul.
Fitzgerald and Bisping immediately went to replays and identified the call as wrong but cited a Nevada Athletic Commission rule that lets the official consult replay—but only in a fight-ending sequence, not on an infraction.
"It should be a second-round TKO," Bisping said. "The ref made an incorrect call. That was a mistake."
A month short of his 40th birthday, Herman was again on the verge of a defeat early in the third round after a barrage of elbows along the fence. But to his credit, he was able to seize control of Rodriguez's left arm when the men went to the ground and then cinched in the kimura and prompted his foe's tap out with just 59 seconds remaining.
Afterward, he did everything but concede he had won an undue victory.
"I don't know where I got hit, whether it was the groin or the body, but I went down and I was hurt," he said. "I'll have to look at the tape. Mike's a helluva tough guy. He was putting it on me. I looked like s--t. Being 39, it is getting tougher to do this."
Loser: Irritating Billy Q
Billy Quarantillo may never be a UFC champion, but he's certainly a fun fighter to watch.
The 31-year-old featherweight endured significant first-round adversity against a fast-starting Kyle Nelson, taking hard shots and finding himself in a grinding match along the fence.
He never thought of deviating from the plan, though.
"We knew he was going to come out super-aggressive," Quarantillo said. "I was trusting my cardio, my coaches. I kept hitting him, kept hitting him, and I got the win."
Indeed, persistence paid off as Quarantillo took control in the second round and pushed Nelson to the brink. He then finished him with a highlight-worthy KO just seven seconds into the final session.
Quarantillo charged from his stool to begin the third, flicked three jabs and followed the final one with a booming straight right that landed flush and sent his foe sprawling face-first to the canvas.
A quick swoop for a ground strike missed, but referee Marc Goddard had seen enough.
"Boom! That's how you do it," Bisping said. "It's a sickening thud. But it's beautiful."
Quarantillo agreed: "This guy's a big power striker. He said he was gonna take me out in the first round. I took that personally. Dana loves exciting finishes. I love exciting fights. It's a match made in heaven."
Winner: Going Off Script (Again...)
It's become a weekly certainty.
No matter what it looks like seven days or so ahead of time, the composition of the card that takes place will be a good bit different.
This time around, it was two bouts on the preliminary show that underwent change, thanks in one case to a positive COVID-19 test and in the other to a fight week injury.
Lightweight Brok Weaver was set to face Frank Camacho, but Camacho tested positive and was replaced by Jalin Turner in a bout that went off at a 165-pound catchweight. Turner, incidentally, was rescheduled from a nixed bout of his own Sept. 5. He made the most of the redo and submitted Weaver with a rear-naked choke in Round 2.
Additionally, Matt Frevola had to pull out of another match against lightweight Roosevelt Roberts and was replaced by Kevin Croom. Croom, a 33-year-old in his 33rd professional fight, was the night's biggest underdog and pull off its biggest upset with a guillotine choke win after just 31 seconds.
And lastly, Matt Schnell was supposed to meet Tyson Nam in a flyweight contest but was removed on weigh-in day after struggling to make weight.
That fight was canceled, reducing the card to 12 fights.
UFC Fight Night 177 Full Card Results
Michelle Waterson def. Angela Hill by split decision (49-46, 48-47, 47-48).
Ottman Azaitar def. Khama Worthy by TKO (punches), 1:33, Round 1.
Roxanne Modafferi def. Andrea Lee by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Ed Herman def. Mike Rodriguez by submission (kimura), 4:01, Round 3.
Bobby Green def. Alan Patrick by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Billy Quarantillo def. Kyle Nelson by KO (punch), 0:07, Round 3.
Sijara Eubanks def. Julia Avila by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).
Kevin Croom def. Roosevelt Roberts by submission (guillotine), 0:31, Round 1.
Alexander Romanov def. Roque Martinez by submission (arm triangle), 4:22, Round 2.
Jalin Turner def. Brok Weaver by submission (rear-naked choke), 4:20, Round 2.
Bryan Barberena def. Anthony Ivy by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Sabina Mazo def. Justine Kish by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:57, Round 3.
Performances of the Night
Kevin Croom, Ottman Azaitar
Fight of the Night
Waterson vs. Hill