The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 196
It was a good day for a matinee.
Given that the Saturday night sports slate included two of college football's heavy hitters in separate contests alongside a game that could finalize baseball's World Series matchup, it made perfect sense for the UFC to move its act a few hours early to create a combative afternoon at the Apex facility.
No fewer than 14 bouts crammed the card from the company's home base a few miles off the strip, including recent middleweight title challengers Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori in the main event.
Costa suffered his lone career loss when he was stopped in two rounds by 185-pound king Israel Adesanya last September at UFC 253, and he made his return to action in a scheduled five-rounder against Vettori, whom Adesanya beat in a dreary affair that went to the scorecards after 25 minutes atop UFC 263 in June.
The Saturday duel was shifted from 185 to 195 to 205 pounds during a chaotic fight week, before Costa weighed-in Friday at 204.5 pounds and Vettori arrived at 204.
ESPN+ broadcast the action with the three-mic'd announce team of Brendan Fitzgerald, Michael Bisping and Paul Felder, while Megan Olivi worked the rest of the room for features and breaking news.
The B/R combat sports team was ready for action, too, and assembled its weekly list of winners and losers from a show that began at 1 p.m. and stretched all the way until shortly after 7.
Click through to see what we came up with and feel free to try a strike or two of your own in the comments.
Winner: Gratuitous Violence
If you liked big guys battering each other, this was your jam.
Vettori and Costa channeled their recent enmity for one another into an instant classic, landing volleys of powerful strikes during each of five rounds in a 25-minute light heavyweight slugfest.
Both men were wobbled and seemed within moments of serious difficulty before returning to generate offense of their own even as fatigue and punishment took their tolls.
In the end, Vettori was the winner by unanimous decision, taking matching 48-46 margins—three rounds to two, with a one-point penalty for an eye poke—on all three scorecards.
“It was another improving experience for me,” Vettori said. “I know I have the biggest heart, the biggest will. And when it goes to the fourth and fifth rounds, nobody wants it more than me.”
Costa, who’d not fought in 13 months, rolled his eyes when the verdict was announced but did not follow with a significant protest and tapped fists with Vettori before exiting the cage.
“What a display of toughness,” Bisping said. “This was five rounds of nonstop violence.”
The fist-tap was a surprising sign of respect after a contentious week in which the fighters jawed at each other during Friday’s weigh-in and had to be separated upon entering the cage on Saturday.
There was no fist-tap after pre-fight instructions and they frequently gestured to one another during the fight, either after landing or taking a heavy blow. Matters never got too far out of hand, though, and Vettori conceded grudging respect for Costa’s vaunted power in the aftermath.
Vettori landed 190 significant strikes to Costa’s 163, all but 36 to the head.
Costa, meanwhile, had 82 strikes to the head, 67 to the body and 14 to the legs.
Each man scored a single takedown.
“He’s a powerful guy. And I think the kicks were the most impressive thing,” Vettori said. “I believe (changing weights) was a trick. I think he just didn’t want to cut weight.
“But that’s OK. I’m proud I got another win and I get to buy another watch with his money.”
Winner: Making a Statement
Alex Caceres has long been labeled a UFC measuring stick.
The charismatic Florida-based featherweight has been in the promotion since 2011 and was 9-10 with a no-contest in his first 20 appearances through early 2019.
But since then, he's changed his Octagonal persona.
Now 33, the fighter nicknamed "Bruce Leeroy" is a full-on winner.
He pushed his latest victory streak to five in a row on Saturday, rallying from a difficult first round to register a second-round submission over rugged Korean foe Seungwoo Choi.
"That was a brilliant display of mixed martial arts," Bisping said of the win, which officially arrived at 3:31 of the middle round. "Five wins in a row means he's ready for something more."
Indeed, Caceres was dropped in the first by a hard counter right hand and seemed in some trouble when Choi landed an illegal right knee to the face while Caceres was still grounded. The bout was halted briefly while Caceres regained his composure and chatted with a cage-side doctor, and he was able to survive the remainder of the session after Choi was penalized a point for the foul.
"I didn't know what happened. He hit me really hard," Caceres said. "I was like 'Oh crap, this might be it.' I thought I was going out, but the fight in me is a little stronger than that."
Choi continued to press forward in the second, but was caught after Caceres ducked under a right-hand strike and quickly spun behind him and pounced on his back. Choi's neck immediately became a target and Caceres started the final sequence when he was able to lock his left arm under Choi's chin.
He cinched in the hold with his right arm as Choi crumbled to his knees and the surrender arrived a moment later as referee Jason Herzog waved it off.
"It was definitely an option," Caceres said of the choke. "If he missed on one of those hooks or crosses we knew it'd be easy to get an entry and maybe choke him out real quick."
Loser: Playing the Victim
Fighting 15 minutes is hard enough.
But fighting the final five minutes after sustaining a couple of high-impact fouls is far harder.
Veteran welterweight Dwight Grant had split a couple grueling rounds with Brazilian foe Francisco Trinaldo when he was kicked hard in the groin within the first few seconds of the final round.
He took about 45 seconds to regain his composure from the shot, then reengaged and was immediately on the painful end of an eye poke that saw an outstretched finger on Trinaldo's right hand make direct contact with his left eye.
The delay stretched past a minute for the second infraction and included a visit from a cage-side physician before Grant was given a thumbs-up from referee Chris Tognoni and Trinaldo had a point deducted.
The subtraction didn't matter, though, as the 43-year-old still got a split decision, winning 29-27—or two rounds to none, with one even—on two cards, while Grant was a 29-27 winner on the third.
Grant, whose eye was by then swollen, gestured in surprise when the verdict was announced.
"I knew we deserved it," Trinaldo said. "We did enough to win."
Loser: Answering the Call
You have to admire their willingness, if not their results.
Lightweight David Onama and bantamweight Zviad Lazishvili weren't on the original bill to make their UFC debuts on Saturday afternoon, but it turned out to be an Octagonal coming-out party for both when the original opponents for Mason Jones and Jonathan Martinez were unable to go.
Onama replaced Alan Patrick for a three-rounder at 155 pounds with Jones, a Welshman who'd lost and had a no-contest in his initial two appearances earlier this year. Onama, meanwhile, had been 8-0 since 2019 in the Kansas City Fighting Alliance and Fighting Alliance Championship promotions.
But the unbeaten mark went away after 15 minutes with Jones, who was given 29-28 on all three cards.
It was a similar tale for Lazishvili, who'd won 13 straight fights in multiple international organizations and was brought in to face Jonathan Martinez, who'd gone 4-3 in seven UFC bouts since arriving in 2018.
Lazishvili also saw his pristine slate spoiled while losing 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 verdicts.
Winner: (Mostly) Playing Favorites
A casual stroll to the pay window ended abruptly in the co-main event.
Relentless featherweight Grant Dawson scored three takedowns and had better than seven minutes of control time across the first two rounds of his three-rounder with veteran Ricky Glenn.
But just when it looked like the 27-year-old was about to pay off on his standing as the main card's biggest favorite at -490 (bet $490 to win $100) his steadfast opponent proved a wily underdog.
Exhorted for a finish between rounds by his corner team, Glenn stuffed another takedown attempt at the start of Round 3 and landed 66 strikes to an exhausted Dawson's two across the final five minutes.
In fact, he went for a finish with an arm-in guillotine choke in the final 15 seconds and had Dawson on the verge of unconsciousness as the horn sounded to end the fight.
That was when the intrigue started.
Referee Mike Beltran separated the fighters and Glenn stepped away, but Dawson looked sluggish as he sat up before sagging to his back with his eyes shut. Glenn immediately gestured to the referee and suggested that Dawson had to regain his feet, which he was able to do while wobbling back to the fence.
Glenn gestured to the judges as he went back to his corner and it appeared to have an impact, as two of three judges gave him a 10-8 margin in the final round to create a majority decision draw result.
No payoff for Dawson as a -490 favorite. No +370 reward for Glenn as the underdog.
"That little bit of controversy at the end of the round sent a message to the judges that he was almost finished," Bisping said. "I'm a fan of Grant Dawson but the body language was terrible."
The favorites did prove their worth elsewhere on the six-bout main show.
Nicolae Negumereanu (-260) and Francisco Trinaldo (-130) won by TKO and decision in their bouts against Ike Villanueva and Dwight Grant, respectively, while Jessica-Rose Clark paid off at -165 with a clear scorecard win over Joselyne Edwards. Caceres, meanwhile, was a prudent underdog pick in his bout with Choi and paid off with a submission win at +230.
Vettori's -200 defeat of Costa in the main event gave those betting exclusively on main-card favorites a $475 profit for the afternoon, while underdog supporters were down $170 overall.
UFC Fight Night Full Card Results
Marvin Vettori def. Paulo Costa by unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46)
Grant Dawson drew with Ricky Glenn by majority decision (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
Jessica-Rose Clark def. Joselyne Edwards by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Alex Caceres def. Seungwoo Choi by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:31, Round 3
Francisco Trinaldo def. Dwight Grant by split decision (29-27, 29-27, 27-29)
Nicolae Negumereanu def. Ike Villanueva by TKO (punches), 1:18, Round 1
Gregory Rodrigues def. Junyong Park by KO (punches), 3:13, Round 2
Mason Jones def. David Onama by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Tabatha Ricci def. Maria Oliveira by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jamie Pickett def. Laureano Staropoli by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Jai Herbert def. Khama Worthy by TKO (punches), 2:47, Round 1
Jeff Molina def. Daniel Da Silva by TKO (punches), 0:46, Round 2
Randa Markos def. Livinha Souza by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Jonathan Martinez def. Zviad Lazishvili by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)