The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 183

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2020

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 183

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    A forgettable year ended in memorable fashion Saturday.

    The UFC rounded out its 2020 schedule of events with a star-studded, fan-free Fight Night card from its Apex facility in Las Vegas, where no fewer than nine top-10 contendersincluding two former champions, Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis—were on the bout sheet.

    The show was so stacked, in fact, that ex-lightweight king Pettis was relegated to the prelim portion for a match against Octagon veteran Alex Morono, who made his 12th UFC appearance.

    Meanwhile, Aldo, who held the featherweight title twice before losing to Conor McGregor and Max Holloway and dropping to 135 pounds, stood across from No. 15 bantamweight Marlon Vera in the final support bout for the main event—which featured welterweights Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal.

    Holloway, incidentally, will headline the first Fight Night show of 2021 on Jan. 16, a week before McGregor headlines UFC 257 on Jan. 23.

    The ESPN+ broadcast table also included a couple ex-champs in Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping, who teamed up with blow-by-blow man Brendan Fitzgerald for the live calls while Laura Sanko worked the room with backstage features and interviews.

    The Thompson-Neal fight was the 456th at a UFC event in 2020.

    "For the UFC, it has been a really good year," Cormier said. "In terms of fighting, in terms of in this sport and the bubble that's been created, it could not have been better. We're lucky to work for a company that's willing to lay it all out on the line."

    The MMA side of B/R's combat sports team assumed its requisite fight night position to put together its list of the real winners and losers across 2020's final competitive go-round while the boxing side had eyes on a San Antonio ring for the bout between Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith.

    Take a look at our collection, and drop a significant takeaway strike of your own in the comments section.

Winner: Wonderboy Mettle

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    His post-fight photo shoot won't be quite as glamorous.

    But that doesn't mean two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson won't enjoy it.

    The youthful-looking Wonderboy suffered a jagged, bloody cut that stretched across his right eyebrow and alongside his nose but never lost a competitive step while working his way to a unanimous-decision over streaking welterweight Geoff Neal in their five-round main event.

    All three judges scored it 50-45 for Thompson, who entered as the UFC's fifth-ranked welterweight despite not fighting since he defeated Vicente Luque at UFC 244 in November 2019.

    B/R agreed, also calling it a 50-45 margin for Thompson.

    Luque arrived that night in November 2019 with a seven-fight win streak, which was the same victory stretch Neal had established prior to his first career UFC main event. He had also not fought in 2020, remaining inactive since a first-round stoppage of Mike Perry in December 2019.

    "I won't be anyone's steppingstone," said Thompson, referring to Neal's win streak and pre-fight No. 11 ranking at 170 pounds. "Wonderboy is still here, baby. That title in 2021 is gonna be mine."

    Just two months from his 38th birthday, Thompson controlled matters for the majority of each of the five rounds, exhibiting fluid movement alongside quick combinations and smart countering.

    Neal desperately tried to make it a roughhousing fight and occasionally got it to clinches along the fence but was never able to sustain the pressure or get Thompson into significant danger.

    Thompson established a 140-108 edge in significant strikes, eclipsing his career high in the category.

    "I guarantee a lot of fighters in the UFC will try to replicate that footwork," Cormier said. "That was a showcase, and it was something special. For the most part, he would hit, hit, hit and move off to the angle. As the fight progressed, he got even busier with the combinations."

    Thompson concluded his interview with a callout of Jorge Masvidal, whom he beat by decision in 2017.

    "I'm just glad to be back," he said. "I wanna see the NMF against the BMF: Thompson against Masvidal 2."

Winner: Keeping Hope Alive

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    Maybe it's not over after all.

    Though he's a two-time champion and a surefire UFC Hall of Famer when the time comes, Jose Aldo had fallen on hard times since his heyday. The once-omnipotent King of Rio had gone just 3-6 in nine fights since the start of 2015, including two straight losses since dropping from featherweight to bantamweight a year ago.

    So when he walked in against surging No. 15 contender Marlon Vera, it seemed a stretch.

    Until it wasn't.

    Masterfully implementing what Bisping labeled "a tedious game plan," Aldo worked when he had to and evaded danger when needed on the way to a narrow decision in a three-round co-main event slot.

    "If you're Jose Aldo, you wanted to get a win under any circumstances," Bisping said. "And as frustrating as that was for Vera, it was the correct thing to do. It was a hard-fought win."

    Though outnumbered when it came to total and significant strikes, Aldo landed the shots that mattered through the first two rounds, including several hellacious left hands to the body.

    He then took the fight to Vera's grappling wheelhouse in the final five minutes, establishing control early in the round and never letting up even though he never had Vera in significant peril of a submission or other finish.

    "In a very close fight, he did enough to get the job done," Cormier said. "He went and got a takedown, like his coaches asked, and got a win. That wasn't just a win. It was a win over Marlon Vera, a potential champ in the making. The striking looked as good as ever."

    All three judges scored it 29-28 for Aldo. B/R gave him all three rounds and a 30-27 nod.

    "It's important to get back in the win column," said Aldo, who challenged T.J. Dillashaw in his post-fight interview. "I trained really hard for this, but it's been a tough year."

Loser: Making a Mean Face

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    Khaos Williams certainly won the staring contest.

    The Michigan-based welterweight glared with simmering intensity throughout Brazilian opponent Michel Pereira's prolonged salsa dance to the cage and continued to scowl in his flamboyant foe's direction throughout Joe Martinez's official fighter introductions.

    Once the combat began, though, the mean faces weren't enough to get it done.

    Williams was unable to inflict the sort of quick-strike damage he had laid on his past UFC foes and instead found himself out-skilled and outworked in crucial spots while dropping a close unanimous decision.

    Pereira won by 29-28 counts on all three scorecards, matching B/R's tally.

    A showman both in the Octagon and out, Pereira was controlled and composed in his approach in this fight, matching Williams with flashy hand strikes and quality leg kicks across an opening 10 minutes that looked to be knotted up heading to the final round.

    It was then that Pereira distanced himself, scoring a pair of takedowns and following the second of them with a series of noticeable ground shots. He ended the fight in top control, which locked up his win in the decisive round and provided his third win in five UFC bouts and 25th in 38 career outings.

    "He needs to stay within himself in order to go up the rankings," Cormier said. "He showed a very smart mindset going to those takedowns at the end of the third round. That was an important moment."

    Williams fell to 11-2 as a pro, 2-1 in the UFC and saw an eight-fight win streak end.

    He waved his hands in disgust as Martinez read the result but did hug Pereira in the aftermath.

    "I've said this a lot: I'm an athlete that dances to any song," said Pereira, who called out Anthony Pettis for a bout in the next two or three weeks. "If I need to stay up, I can do that or I can go on the ground. I came to put on a show, and I did that."

Winner: The New England Cartel

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    Rob Font didn't need to explain his misty eyes.

    The 33-year-old fell short in previous opportunities to change his career arc, but when another chance presented itself in the form of former bantamweight title challenger Marlon Moraes, he didn't miss.

    A Massachusetts native with Puerto Rican heritage, Font worked his way out of early on-floor difficulty against Moraes and then took full advantage of his striking on the way to a sudden TKO at 3:47 of Round 1.

    "It's been a long time, man," he told Cormier. "It's been a whole year. I'm very emotional right now."

    Moments earlier, he had scored the biggest win of his nine-year run as a professional, staggering Moraes with a jab, flooring him with an uppercut and pounding him with vicious ground strikes until referee Marc Goddard was forced to jump in.

    Font celebrated in the cage with his team, labeled the New England Cartel, and drew rave reviews from the broadcast team for his ability to change his fortunes against the division's third-ranked fighter.

    "Marlon came out with a very, very smart game plan," Bisping said. "But [Font] waited for the perfect opportunity, got to his feet and, man, did he do some great work. When he connected with those shots, it was over."

Loser: Gaudy First Impressions

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    Just as the world was ready to acknowledge Greg Hardy's ascension, it stalled.

    The ex-NFLer was smoother, sharper and cleaner with strikes through the first round of his 11th pro bout against skilled Polish big man Marcin Tybura, but the praise stopped in the second round and never restarted as a gassed-out Hardy was TKO'd at 4:31 of the session.

    "I needed to make him tired and then take him down," Tybura said. "The plan worked completely."

    Indeed, though he was competitively pummeled across nearly all of the initial five minutes, Tybura remained determined as the middle round began, and his consistent pressure made a noticeable impact on Hardy, who was constantly forced to defend takedowns and watch for incoming strikes.

    Tybura forced a clinch and locked his hands behind Hardy's torso along the fence just beyond the round's halfway point and then lifted and tossed him to the mat. He gradually positioned his body to flatten out Hardy and let loose with a persistent barrage of shots to his head.

    Referee Dan Miragliotta leaned in and warned Hardy that he needed to work to change position, but Hardy was unable to escape the onslaught, and Miragliotta intervened with 29 seconds left.

    It was Tybura's fourth win of 2020, equaling the longest active streak among heavyweights.

    "[Hardy's] striking was better," Cormier said. "Where he's weak is still in his wrestling. It showed itself tonight, and he got finished. He had no answer when it got to the floor."

Loser: Prelim Adversity

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    Champions, or in this case ex-champions, handle adversity.

    And because former lightweight king Anthony Pettis did just that after a difficult first round, he was able to get back to business in time to defeat rugged opponent Alex Morono by a narrow but inarguable unanimous decision in Saturday's featured prelim bout at welterweight.

    "He caught me with a hook right to the face," Pettis said. "He took my back. I got it back to the present. I calmed it down and got back to my game plan."

    Pettis was speaking of a sequence early in the opening round in which he tried a spinning kick, missed, slipped and instantly found himself on the floor with Morono on his back. Bleeding from the nose and a cut alongside his mouth, Pettis spun out of the compromising position and got the fight back to the feet, where it remained in the second round while Pettis established control.

    He took advantage of superior footwork and hand speed into the third and then reversed a Morono takedown attempt to keep his man on the floor for much of the round.

    A successfully executed spinning kick clipped Morono on the forehead and wobbled him badly just before the final bell, cementing the session in Pettis' favor and leading to 29-28 verdicts across all three scorecards.

    B/R's card matched the official tallies, with Pettis winning the final two rounds.

    Still, though he was successful for the second time since a January loss to Diego Ferreira, Pettis said his plan going forward was to return to his old weight-class stomping grounds.

    "I'm going back to 155," he said. "Before it's all said and done, I'm gonna go back and get that belt."

Winner: Stealing the Early Show

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    Only the hardest of the hardcore may have seen it this time around.

    But Jimmy Flick is quickly becoming a can't-miss commodity.

    The Oklahoman made his official UFC debut in the second fight on the prelim show and continued a remarkable string of submissions with a highlight-worthy flying triangle erasure of Cody Durden.

    A decade-long veteran of multiple smaller promotions, Flick reached the Octagon's fringes with a winning appearance on Dana White's Contender Series in September and arrived Saturday with 12 consecutive wins by submission dating back to his fourth career fight in 2012.

    He made it a baker's dozen when, after Flick landed his left knee alongside Durden's head on a high-kick attempt, his opponent caught the leg. But Flick instantly took to the air with the right leg to bring down Durden, wrapped his left leg behind the neck and locked the maneuver in, prompting a tap at 3:18.

    Now 16-5 overall with 14 submissions, Flick called for a bout with a top-15 contender next time out.

    "I'm a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt for a reason," he said. "I love Brazilian jiu-jitsu. [The finish] just came. I threw the head kick, and he grabbed it and I threw the flying triangle. It just came to me natural. Now I've got 14 submissions out of 16 wins, and we're going to keep this ball rolling."

UFC Fight Night 183 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Stephen Thompson def. Geoff Neal by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45).

    Jose Aldo def. Marlon Vera by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Michel Pereira def. Khaos Williams by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Rob Font def. Marlon Moraes by TKO (punches), 3:47, Rd. 1,

    Marcin Tybura def. Greg Hardy by TKO (punches), 4:31, Rd. 2.


    Preliminary Card

    Anthony Pettis def. Alex Morono by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Pannie Kianzad def. Sijara Eubanks by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Deron Winn def. Antonio Arroyo by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Taila Santos def. Gillian Robertson by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28).

    Tafon Nchukwi def. Jamie Pickett by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25).

    Jimmy Flick def. Cody Durden by submission (triangle choke).

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


    Performances of the Night

    Stephen Thompson, Rob Font, Marcin Tybura, Jimmy Flick