The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 187

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 187

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    Hangovers schmangovers.

    The UFC was back Saturday for a less heralded Fight Night show just a week after a star-studded pay-per-view card at the Apex facility in Las Vegas, but that doesn't at all mean it was an uneventful night at the office.

    In fact, the show included a welterweight stoppage within 20 seconds, a strawweight contender in a victorious rematch and a veteran bantamweight scoring the 21st submission of his 19-year career.

    And that was just the preliminary card.

    Still, the night was tinged with sadness as news spread shortly before 8 p.m. that Hall of Fame middleweight boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler had died, aged 66.

    The ESPN announce team started the main card broadcast with a tribute.

    "Marvin Hagler was a part of my childhood," Daniel Cormier said. "It's a very sad day for the boxing community, for the world and for sports fans around the world."

    Cormier's commentary partner, Michael Bisping, agreed: "This man had a tremendous career. The term 'legend' gets used a lot. But Marvin Hagler was truly a legend in the world of boxing."

    Brendan Fitzgerald and Heidi Androl rounded out the on-site team for ESPN, and the B/R combat sports team was in prime position as well to put together a conclusive list of the show's real winners and losers.

    Take a look at our impressions, and let us know what you think with a comment or two.

Loser: The Return of Rocky

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    Leon Edwards had a lot on his plate.

    The British welterweight had been off since the summer of 2019 thanks to myriad injuries, illnesses and postponements and was eyeing a return that would vault him toward his first title shot.

    Instead, after barely more than five minutes of combat, it's back to the drawing board for the No. 3 contender.

    Edwards' fight with 13th-ranked Belal Muhammad ended after just 18 seconds of the second round, when an accidental eye poke left the Chicago native unable to continue and rendered the fight a no-contest.

    "That's a worst-case scenario for a guy who's in that spot and has been looking for it for so many years," Cormier said. "It's one of the worst cases I've ever seen, and it's not what we all wanted. To say that's a shame doesn't do it justice. Purely unintentional and unfortunately that's just the way it happens sometimes."

    A clear winner of a first round in which he had been warned about eye pokes by referee Herb Dean, Edwards was coming forward early in the second when he threw a left-leg kick to Muhammad's body and simultaneously flicked his left hand forward to mask the strike.

    However, a finger on that hand went directly into Muhammad's right eye, which immediately began swelling and was visibly reddening as the sobbing fighter was being examined by a cageside doctor.

    Despite the earlier warning, Dean said the blow was unintentional and declared a no-contest rather than disqualifying Edwards, who had won eight straight and was 9-2 in 11 UFC outings.

    Muhammad, who won a fight at UFC 258 in February, arrived with four straight wins and a 9-3 UFC mark.

    "I didn't mean to do it," Edwards told Cormier. "I'd rather a loss than that. I'm heartbroken. I don't know what to say. I went in there focused on the next chapter toward becoming a world champion. To come back to that is hard. It's been a long year and a half. I wanted to show more. I've learned so much in the last year and a half, and I wanted to show it."

Loser: Pre-Baby Jitters

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    Dan Ige is about to become a father.

    In fact, his wife, Savannah, is 36 weeks pregnant and spent Saturday night at their home in Las Vegas preparing for the arrival of their baby boy.

    But if you thought that would mean the expectant dad would be distracted at work, think again.

    The Hawaii-born featherweight stopped Gavin Tucker with the first punch he threw in their scheduled three-round fight, landing a straight right hand precisely on his Canadian foe's chin to score a scintillating stoppage after just 22 seconds of the first round.

    "Gavin Tucker paid him no respect for his punching power," Bisping said. "He went straight forward. He didn't set anything up. There was no head movement. And Dan Ige said, 'OK! Boom.'"

    Tucker tumbled to the floor on his right side and was defenseless, prompting a stoppage from Mike Beltran before any follow-up strikes.

    It was the sixth-fastest stoppage in UFC featherweight history.

    Ige was pulled aside for a chat with president Dana White on the way back to the interview room.

    "Boom goes the dynamite. Fifty K," Ige said as he watched a replay. "I really wanted to come out and show all the skills I worked on, but a first-round KO is nice."

    The win was his seventh in nine UFC fights and came eight months after a five-round decision loss to Calvin Kattar in a main event slot on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

    "I'm looking forward to meeting the baby. I hope my wife didn't give birth while I was fighting," he said, before calling out Chan Sung Jung.

    "I would love to face the Zombie. Please, man, gimme the Zombie."

Winner: Beating Back Adversity

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    It's on Page 1 of the sports motivation songbook.

    It's not whether you get knocked down. It's whether you get up.

    Bantamweight Davey Grant was dumped in the final seconds of the first round against betting favorite Jonathan Martinez, but it wasn't anything the British veteran hadn't seen before.

    His corner team reminded him of that fact upon his return to the stool, and their charge responded in kind, taking the fight to the younger man before landing a highlight-worthy combination that yielded an exhilarating KO victory at 3:03 of Round 2.

    "I'm absolutely over the moon," Grant said. "I think my foot's definitely broke, but it's so worth it."

    The 35-year-old controlled the action for much of the second round and began the decisive sequence with a right hook that landed on Martinez's rib cage. No sooner had the first shot arrived than the second was on its way, landing squarely on the right side of Martinez's jaw.

    The 26-year-old southpaw fell to his back and Grant quickly pounced, landing two more punishing shots before referee Chris Tognoni pushed him away.

    "It's one of the shots I've been working on," Grant said. "I'm so pleased it worked. I was anxious to get on the main cards. Now we're going to work our way to the main event."

    The loss was Martinez's third in seven UFC appearances and ended a two-fight win streak.

    "Both of these guys put on a helluva show," Cormier said. "Davey comes out there, throws caution to the wind and throws with everything he has."

Loser: Conclusive Finishes

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    If you enjoy compelling fights ending inconclusively, this was your jam.

    But for the rest of us, it was a drag. And a familiar one.

    Darren Stewart and Eryk Anders promised violence and were delivering when their middleweight bout ended after Anders connected with a knee to Stewart's head when the Englishman was grounded.

    The official time was 4:37 of Round 1.

    The illegal fight-ending blow came exactly a week after Aljamain Sterling won the bantamweight title by disqualification at UFC 259 when he was kneed in the fourth round by then-champion Petr Yan.

    It was the first DQ title change in UFC history.

    Stewart, who had been dropped by Anders and battered along the fence, rose from the knee shot after a few moments and claimed he still wanted to fight.

    Referee Dean consulted with a cageside physician and initially looked as if he would let things continue, but a prolonged conversation as Stewart swayed unsteadily led to the decision to wave things off.

    The result was announced as a no-contest rather than a disqualification, a difference UFC executive Marc Ratner said was because the fight had not gone two rounds and the foul was deemed unintentional.

    "I never could have imagined two weeks in a row we'd see this," Cormier said. "And one week it would be a DQ, and the next it would be a no-contest."

    Anders outlanded Stewart 58-21 and scored three takedowns in addition to the knockdown.

    "It just sucks," Bisping said. "Both these guys put on training camps. They wanted to put on a show."

Winner: Making It Look Difficult

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    There ought to be a mandatory intro course.

    Anyone who's driven by an MMA gym and thought, "Yeah, I can do that" should be forced to sit and watch replays of the prelim scraps won by Nasrat Haqparast and Charles Jourdain.

    Haqparast, a lightweight, spent a full 15 minutes beating a reddened tapestry on to opponent Rafa Garcia's face, effectively setting the violence bar for the rest of the evening prior to 7 p.m. ET. He was declared the winner via unanimous decision thanks to scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28, not to mention the torrent of blood he drew from his opponent's nose and mouth.

    The two combined for 151 significant strikes across three rounds, including 55 in a final five minutes during which both were still frenetically active and effective.

    Now a winner in 13 of 16 pro outings, Haqparast was on the delivering end of 99 of those overall strikes—including 60 to Garcia's head—and iced the result with 42 strikes in the last round.

    Two fights later, featherweight Jourdain did a similarly ghastly number on the visage of Marcelo Rojo, leaving him swollen, bloody and flat on his back on the way to a finish with 29 seconds to go in Round 3.

    The Canadian landed 106 significant strikes in a bout that was competitive through two rounds before Jourdain scored a knockdown in the fourth and landed a series of vicious follow-up ground strikes.

    Things returned to the feet soon after, but the one-sided onslaught continued until the reeling Rojo collapsed to the floor after a combination. Referee Mark Smith waved it off at 4:31.

    Fifty-six of Jourdain's strikes came in the final round, compared to 13 for Rojo.

    "I'm used to, when it comes to stand-up battles, always getting the better of my opponent," Jourdain said. "But when he hit me, I was like, 'OK, this guy is legit.' I knew it was a dangerous fight."

Loser: Proclaiming Pre-Fight Ignorance

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    Before the fight, Jason Witt claimed he didn't know who his foe was.

    And after the fight, there's a good chance he won't remember him.

    The welterweight veteran wobbled woozily back to his stool following a brief encounter with comparative UFC newbie Matt "Semi the Jedi" Semelsberger and was officially announced soon after as the loser via a startlingly abrupt 16-second TKO.

    "He is a basic striker, ex-football player," Witt said before the fight. "He doesn't throw a lot of combinations and is kind of a one-trick pony. He doesn't blend mixed martial arts together."

    He didn't need to.

    Semelsberger countered a hard Witt leg kick with a basic straight right to the chin, dropping his foe flat on his back and prompting an immediate intervention from referee Tognoni before further damage was done.

    A second win in two UFC starts for the former Marist University safety, who quit football for MMA in 2015.

    "You will see me go for the kill," Semelsberger said. "You will see me going to entertain people. Whether it's me lying unconscious or the other person lying unconscious, I'm going to throw everything that I got at them. That's probably why I'd say people enjoy watching me because I'm not afraid to risk it all."

UFC Fight Night 187 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad declared a no-contest (eye poke), 0:18, Round 2.

    Ryan Spann def. Misha Cirkunov by TKO, 1:11, Round 1.

    Dan Ige def. Gavin Tucker by KO, 0:22, Round 1.

    Davey Grant def. Jonathan Martinez by KO, 3:03, Round 2.

    Matheus Nicolau def. Manel Kape by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).

    Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart declared a no-contest (illegal knee), 4:37, Round 1.


    Preliminary Card

    Angela Hill def. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

    Charles Jourdain def. Marcelo Rojo by TKO, 4:31, Round 3.

    Rani Yahya def. Ray Rodriguez by submission (arm triangle), 3:09, Round 2.

    Nasrat Haqparast def. Rafa Garcia by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).

    JJ Aldrich def. Cortney Casey by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).

    Jinh Yu Frey def. Gloria de Paula by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Matthew Semelsberger def. Jason Witt by TKO, 0:16, Round 1.