The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ABC 2

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ABC 2

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    Forget Fight Night.

    It was Fight Morning/Early Afternoon for the UFC in Las Vegas.

    The Octagonal conglomerate got things started not long after dawn in the Nevada desert—for the record, it was 11:30 a.m. on the East Coast—for a 13-bout card whose five-fight main event portion was broadcast on both ESPN+ and its mainstream network big brother, ABC.

    It was the second Fight Night show to appear on ABC and began with a moment of silence in honor of rapper Earl "DMX" Simmons, who died Friday at age 50.

    The basic cable/streaming undercard also made news via the 37th UFC appearance of lightweight Jim Miller, a new record for the promotion. And all fighters performed in outfits and gear produced by Venum, which agreed to a multiyear contract after the promotion's six-year deal with Reebok ended.

    A new agreement with the social media platform TikTok was also unveiled.

    The familiar team of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Dominick Cruz handled cage-side blow-by-blow and analysis duties, while Megan Olivi handled breaking news and features elsewhere in the building. The group was joined by Brendan Fitzgerald, Michael Bisping and Paul Felder in a remote studio.

    The B/R combat sports team shook off the cobwebs to join the event and assemble the authoritative collection of real winners and losers across the six-plus hours of action. Take a look at what we came up with, and drop a viewpoint of your own in the comments section.

Loser: Regaining 2020 Mojo

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    At least Kevin Holland will always have 2020.

    The Texas-based middleweight was among the UFC's breakout stars last year, winning five fights in 210 days and racking up some of the promotion's most memorable highlights and sound bites.

    But within 99 days of 2021, all the momentum has disappeared.

    Fighting for the second time in three weeks against a higher-ranked foe at 185 pounds, Holland was once again manhandled, smothered and outworked on the way to a wide decision loss in a main event.

    This time, it was No. 5-ranked Marvin Vettori doing the damage, racking up a divisional-record 11 takedowns on the way to sweeping all three scorecards by matching counts of 50-44.

    Holland, ranked 10th, was favored to beat Derek Brunson on March 20, but was listless across 25 minutes en route to a similar result. He took the match with Vettori on short notice after Darren Till pulled out with a broken collarbone and predictably entered Saturday as a significant underdog.

    He threw and landed some dangerous-looking punches and kicks—including one to Vettori's groin that stopped the bout for nearly a minute—but was taken down for the first time at 3:30 of the opening round and spent more than a minute on his back. Vettori continued to employ the takedown-hunting approach and had at least two minutes of control time in each of the last four rounds.

    "It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't always exciting, but he did what he had to do," Cormier said. "Sometimes that's all that matters, just getting the win. For my money, Marvin Vettori would be hard to deny a middleweight title shot after what he did tonight."

    Vettori, who dropped a split decision to Israel Adesanya in 2018, has long said he wants another shot at his former foe, who won the middleweight championship a year later and has defended it three times.

    He reiterated that desire after the final horn against Holland.

    "I wanted to finish [Holland], but I wasn't able to," he said. "But it was a dominant win. I keep winning, and I keep progressing. In October I want to fight [Adesanya]. I have the longest win streak. I've put on dominant winning performances, and I want this title."

Winner: Rude Middleweight Welcomes

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    If nothing else, Julian Marquez delivered on a threat.

    The outspoken middleweight suggested opponent Sam Alvey was back in the weight class only because he couldn't handle foes at 205 pounds before promising the new division wouldn't be any easier.

    It wasn't.

    Alvey landed some powerful blows across the first five minutes that his opponent wobbly, but Marquez recovered by the start of the second round and landed his own devastating shots.

    A right hand rendered Alvey stiff-legged and stumbling, and a left hook drove him to the floor. Marquez landed multiple shots as referee Mark Smith looked on. Then Marquez spun behind Alvey and slid his left arm under Alvey's throat until Smilin' Sam was purple-faced and unconscious at 2:07.

    "I squeezed for dear life as if I was trying to pop his head off," Marquez said.

    It was Marquez's ninth career win, all of which have come by stoppage—six by KO, three by submission.

    "When you finish people and you finish them in the fashion that he's doing so, you'll move up," Anik said.

    Marquez, who called for love from Miley Cyrus after winning his previous fight in February, used this post-fight opportunity to challenge Kansas City Chiefs football stars Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to badminton and/or pickleball matches.

    "He's one of a kind," Cormier said.

Loser: Underestimating Mothers

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    Go ahead and say it. Mackenzie Dern is a bad mother.

    In only the most flattering of terms, of course.

    Now 28, Dern returned after the birth of her daughter 22 months ago and has been a force at 115 pounds ever since, winning her fourth straight Saturday over fifth-ranked contender Nina Nunes.

    The end came at 4:48 of the first round, when the Brazilian broke through Nunes' locked hands, isolated her left arm and forced her to tap out from an arm bar.

    It was Dern's fourth submission win in the UFC, tying her with Gillian Robertson for the all-time lead and providing a case for her to ascend into title-shot territory.

    "A star is born tonight on ABC, if she wasn't there already," Anik said. "She's quick on the race to the top. When you finish a fighter like that so quickly and make it look so easy, you've got to give her a shot."

    It was Nunes' first fight in nearly two years, a hiatus in which she, too, became a mother. Her daughter was born in September 2020, and she was appearing for the first time since taking the last name of her spouse, two-division champ Amanda Nunes. She previously fought as Nina Ansaroff.

    Dern pressed the action from the outset with a flurry of punches, sending Nunes back to the fence. Dern got her to the floor after 90 seconds, established full mount at 3:30 and gradually worked to isolate Nunes' left arm. Once she locked in the armbar, Nunes immediately surrendered.

    "I felt like I was in a training session," Dern said. "We work on getting submissions in the last 10 seconds. I definitely didn't want to go back in standup with Nina. I'm ready for anyone. I feel like champ material right now."

Winner: Making a Memory

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    There's a good chance Mateusz Gamrot will never forget his first UFC win.

    Scott Holtzman, though, maybe not so much.

    The chatty Polish lightweight spent much of the first round of his scheduled three-rounder with Holtzman on the move, forcing him to pursue him to create exchanges.

    That approach cost the ex-hockey player early in the second, however, as Gamrot greeted a charge with a perfectly timed and placed right hand that dumped Holtzman face-first to the floor.

    Gamrot quickly pounced on his foe's back for another handful of ground shots before Jason Herzog waved it off at 1:22 of the second. The win came six months after a split-decision loss to Guram Kutateladze in his UFC debut, a result that followed a 17-0-1 career start and a championship run in the KSW promotion.

    The 30-year-old seized the microphone just a few moments later, bombarding Cormier with a callout of the entire lightweight division before an extended—and blisteringly fast—message to his Polish fans.

    "If you're looking for a lightweight, maybe a dark horse in the division, how about this guy," Anik said. "But as far as understanding him, forget it. I can sing 'Happy Birthday' in Polish, and that's about it."

Loser: Traumatic Intolerance

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    It's part of what makes MMA beautiful.

    And terrifying.

    "You see it with heavyweights," Cruz said. "If you come in recklessly, anybody can get knocked out. If they connect with your brain, it doesn't matter how big you are, the brain can only handle so much trauma and you're gonna get knocked out."

    Unfortunately for Yorgan De Castro, he was the crash-test dummy about whom Cruz was speaking.

    De Castro was pressing the attack to opponent Jarjis Danho, who had not been in a fight in better than four years, when he was clipped by the sort of shot that may have toppled a horse.

    Danho's looping right struck De Castro directly on the left temple, rendering him out as he tumbled backward to the mat and took one more hammer fist before referee Mike Beltran could intervene.

    The official time was 3:02 of the first round. The images were visceral, as De Castro laid motionless on the canvas for several moments while medical personnel and training team members came to his aid.

    "That was a beautiful shot," Cormier said. "He landed it on the perfect spot to put you out."

    It was Danho's first UFC win after a loss and a draw in two fights back in 2016. He opened his career with six victories and a no-contest with various smaller promotions.

    "It's amazing," he said. "I saw the hands went down, and after I punched him and saw he was going down, it felt good."

Winner: Impressing the Right People

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    Some folks like striking. Others prefer takedowns.

    Unbeaten Welshman Jack Shore took advantage of the presence of the latter group in his three-rounder at bantamweight with Hunter Azure.

    Shore was on the short end of a 78-57 margin in overall strikes and a 45-36 gap in significant lands, but his 6-0 edge in takedowns and minute-plus edge in ground control were enough to provide for a split decision in which two judges gave him all three rounds.

    The dissenting judge saw Azure as superior in two of three rounds.

    The majority's rule allowed the 26-year-old to boost his mark to 14-0 and his record inside the Octagon to 3-0. It was his first decision in the UFC and just his second overall alongside eight submissions and four knockouts.

    "If you were impressed by Jack Shore prior to this, it should be elevated now," Cormier said. "We saw a different level to Jack Shore's game."

    Cruz agreed.

    "A great job by Shore, making the adjustments and outwrestling the wrestler," he said.

UFC on ABC 2 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Marvin Vettori def. Kevin Holland by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-44).

    Arnold Allen def. Sodiq Yusuff by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Julian Marquez def. Sam Alvey by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:07, Round 2.

    Mackenzie Dern def. Nina Nunes by submission (arm bar), 4:48, Round 1.

    Daniel Rodriguez def. Mike Perry by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).

                  

    Preliminary Card

    Joe Solecki def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (29-28, 28-28, 30-27).

    Mateusz Gamrot def. Scott Holtzman by KO (punch), 1:22, Round 2.

    John Makdessi def. Ignacio Bahamondes by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).

    Jarjis Danho def. Yorgan De Castro by KO (punch), 3:02, Round 1.

    Jack Shore def. Hunter Azure by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27).

    Luis Saldana def. Jordan Griffin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Da-Un Jung def. William Knight by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27).

    Impa Kasanganay def. Sasha Palatnikov by submission (rear-naked choke), 0:26, Round 2.