The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 194
UFC Fight Night 194 went down Saturday afternoon inside the UFC's Apex facility in Vegas. The event was always short on big names, and after being hammered by a handful of last-minute shakeups, it looked pretty darn rough on paper. Despite its deficit in the big-name department, the card went down as a pretty fun one.
In the main event, Brazil's Marina Rodriguez rocketed into strawweight title contention with an impressive decision defeat of submission ace Mackenzie Dern. In the co-main event, meanwhile, welterweight talent Randy Brown moved on to a two-fight win streak with a decision win over Jared Gooden. The rest of the card was highlighted by impressive victories from the likes of Matheus Nicolau, Mariya Agapova, and Alexandr Romanov.
If you watched it, you know who came out on top and who came up short. But as always, the B/R combat sports team is here to tell who really won and lost when all was said and done.
Keep reading for our take.
Winner: Not Judging a Book by Its Cover
On paper, UFC Fight Night 194 was an objectively weak card. Mackenzie Dern was easily the biggest name on the sparse nine-fight bill, and most casual fans would likely have a hard time picking her out of a lineup.
As is so often the case, however, this under-the-radar card overdelivered in terms of action. From the compelling headline clash to Randy Brown's impressive decision win over Jared Gooden in the co-main event to the many finishes and battles that composed the undercard, it was an undeniably exciting night.
It was a classic reminder of the perils of judging a book by its cover—or a fight card by its lineup.
Loser: The Jedrzejczyk-Namajunas-Andrade-Zhang Era
The strawweight division is definitely the UFC's most competitive women's division. That being said, the division has been ruled by four fighters for the vast majority of its existence: Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas, Jessica Andrade and Weili Zhang. They have been competitive against each other, passing the belt around like a hot potato, but nobody else in the weight class has been able to hang with them.
It's starting to look like those days are over.
In the UFC Fight Night 194 main event, Brazilian striker Marina Rodriguez picked up an impressive unanimous-decision win over jiu-jitsu sorceress Mackenzie Dern, flaunting her world class stand-up and some pretty commendable submission defense in the process.
While the win might not have been enough to earn Rodriguez a crack at the strawweight title, her contending for that prize is starting to feel like an inevitability. Sooner or later, she will be standing across the cage from the champion—and she might well be the first challenger without Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas, Andrade or Zhang for a surname since early 2017.
Loser: Being a 'Wild Man'
Leading into the main card flyweight fight between Matheus Nicolau and Tim Elliott, commentator Jon Anik referred to the latter as a "wild man." This is a favorite term among UFC commentators—Joe Rogan uses it frequently—and it seems to be intended as a compliment.
Elliott definitely looked like a wild man in the Octagon, fighting, as he so often does, with his hands low and his chin exposed. Nicolau looked a little bewildered by Elliott's unorthodox approach in the first frame but seemed to realize between Rounds 1 and 2 that all he needed to do to win was start punching. He did exactly that in the second, and the payoff was immediate. Before long, Elliott was shooting for takedowns. Nicolau denied the vast majority of them and continued punching his foe in the face en route to a well-deserved unanimous-decision win.
Needless to say, being a wild man didn't work out well for Elliott—and the truth is, wild men rarely get the results they want in the Octagon. In fact, at this point, we should probably start accepting the term as a euphemism for a fighter with weak striking defense.
Winner: Putting It All Together
It's not often that we see a fighter put it all together like Kazakhstan's Mariya Agapova did against Sabina Mazo at UFC Fight Night 194.
The 24-year-old, who desperately needed a win after a shocking upset loss to Shana Dobson, was the picture of patience and precision from the opening bell, lighting up her rangy rival with a steady diet of punches to the head and kicks to the body—often off the back foot. She then put a stamp on things, levelling her flustered foe with a crackling punch and pouncing on a fight-ending rear-naked choke, all in what felt like milliseconds. As if her performance weren't impressive enough, Agapova capped it all off with a sizzling callout of her estranged American Top Team stablemate, Maryna Moroz.
When all was said and done, Agapova couldn't have asked for a more perfect night. She nailed it like carpenter.
Winner: New Blood at Heavyweight
The heavyweight division is often criticized for its lack of elite talent—and historically, those criticisms have been justified. In 2021, however, the division is home to a number of rising talents with the look of future champions. Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus are two of those fighters. Moldova's Alexandr Romanov is another.
Romanov returned to action against Jared Vanderaa on the UFC Fight Night 194 undercard. The wrestling specialist could not have looked much better, cudgeling his outmatched opponent to a second-round TKO victory. With Saturday's win, Romanov is 15-0 overall. Records like that don't come easy in MMA, particularly in the heavyweight division, where even the least skilled fighters still have the power to shut the lights out.
It's hard to say what will come next for Romanov—a top-15 foe seems like a good bet—but just like Aspinall and Daukaus, he's looking increasingly like a world-class fighter. We don't see all that many of those in the heavyweight division, so they are always welcome.
Loser: The Fast Track
Argentina's Silvana Gomez Juarez originally flew to Las Vegas to fight for a UFC contract on Dana White's Contender Series.
When Sam Hughes was forced out of a UFC Fight Night 194 undercard clash with Lupita Godinez, however, Gomez Juarez was offered the opportunity to skip her Contender Series audition and battle Godinez in Hughes' place. It's easy to understand why the Argentinian took that opportunity, but unfortunately, it didn't pay off. Instead, she lost her short-notice UFC debut by first-round submission.
Sometimes, taking the fast track pays off. Other times, it doesn't. Gomez Juarez learned that the hard way in Las Vegas.