The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 35

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IIMay 1, 2022

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 35

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    UFC on ESPN 35 went down on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and it was more or less par for the course in terms of the promotion's Fight Night cards—it featured only a handful of ranked fighters but produced some memorable action nonetheless.

    In the main event, No. 8-ranked bantamweight contender Marlon "Chito" Vera bounced back from a frustrating first round with an impressive decision win over No. 5 contender Rob Font. It was the Ecuadorian fan favorite's first time fighting in a UFC main event, and the performance he put forth might be enough to earn him a spot in the bantamweight division's Top 5.

    Co-headlining honors went to unranked heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Jake Collier. Both big men had some big moments over the course of the three-round fight, but Arlovski, the division's former champion, ultimately won a debatable split decision.

    Elsewhere on the card, we saw impressive victories from several veterans and rising stars, including featherweight grinder Darren Elkins and the younger brother of flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, Francisco Figueiredo.

    Keep scrolling to see the real winners and losers from the 11-fight event inside the UFC's Apex facility in "Sin City."

Loser: Celebrating in Style

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    UFC on ESPN 35 marked the promotion's 100th Fight Night on the network. Outside of a few clips from past events throughout the broadcast, you really wouldn't have known it was a special occasion.=

    There were only a few ranked fighters on the bill and no fights of any real consequence outside of the main event. We're not saying the UFC needed to stack this event like a pay-per-view, but they could have made a little more effort to commemorate the occasion.

    After all, what better way to thank fans for their loyalty than by giving them a special night of fights? Why not sweeten the event with a couple of top contender fights — maybe even a title fight in one of the promotion's less popular divisions? These things used to happen all the time, but 100 events into the UFC on ESPN era, and the days of stacked Fight Night cards seem to be over.

Winner: "One of the Best Divisions in the World"

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    Midway through Marlon Vera and Rob Font's wild bantamweight brawl in the UFC on ESPN 35 main event, commentator Dominick Cruz referred to their weight class as "one of the best divisions in the world."

    As one of the most decorated bantamweights in MMA history, Cruz may be a little biased, but it's hard to argue with him on this one. 

    The division is crammed with world-class fighters—Aljamain Sterling, Petr Yan, Jose Aldo, TJ Dillashaw, Cory Sandhagen, Vera and Font to name a small few — and it seems almost incapable of producing bad fights.

    Vera and Font's fight, which the former won with a bloody unanimous decision after five rounds contested almost entirely on the feet, was a reminder of just how good this division really is.

    We'll never reach a consensus on the best division in the sport, but Cruz hit the nail on the head: Men's bantamweight has to be near the top of the list.

Winner: Knowing Your Worth

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    Featherweight veteran Darren Elkins picked up his 17th UFC victory on the UFC on ESPN 35 main card, defeating Canada's Tristan Connelly by decision.

    It was one of the best fights of the night, packed with wild action on the feet and the mat. It might have even been the best fight of the night.

    "It's always been something deep inside of me like I have something to prove," Elkins said after his gutsy decision win. "I know I'm not the best athlete, but I can dig deeper. ... I know I'm the only one who can do this."

    It was really nothing new for "The Damage," who has turned into something of a cult hero after a long list of wild brawls and epic comebacks—watch his fight with Mirsad Bektic if you haven't seen it. 

    Elkins is now gambling on his popularity with fans. The win over Connelly marked the last obligation on his current UFC contract. That means he will soon attempt to negotiate a more lucrative deal with the promotion or take his services elsewhere if a better opportunity comes along. 

    Clearly, he is a fighter who knows his worth.

Loser: Every UFC Heavyweight

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    At this point, most UFC heavyweights are sweating the arrival of British finisher Tom Aspinall (12-2), who has surged into title contention with stoppage wins in his first five UFC fights—including a first-round submission defeat of Alexander Volkov in London last month.

    Yet Aspinall is not the only new face shaking up the heavyweight status quo.

    On the UFC on ESPN 35 undercard, Moldova's Alexandr Romanov (16-0) cemented himself as a future title challenger, dominating the veteran Chase Sherman to a first-round submission win and cashing as the biggest betting favourite in UFC history in the process. 

    Like Aspinall, Romanov now 5-0 in the UFC, with stoppages in each one of those victories. His stoppage streak predates his arrival to the Octagon, as he has finished all but one of his 16 victories. He is arguably the best grappler at heavyweight—a claim the UFC commentary team made during Saturday's broadcast. One way or the other, he's bad news for every single fighter in the division.

    "Now I need to make some fights and become a contender," he said after the fight.

Winner: The Figueiredo Family

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    We already know how good Deiveson Figueiredo is. The 34-year-old is the UFC flyweight champion, and he holds impressive victories over many of his division's top fighters.

    It's becoming increasingly clear that MMA excellence runs in his family.

    On the UFC on ESPN 35 undercard, the flyweight champion's younger brother Francisco (13-4-1) picked up a first-round submission over his fellow Brazilian Daniel da Silva. And not just any submission. He got the job done with one of the rarest submissions in the sport: a kneebar.

    "When the animal is hungry, he fights with more determination," he said after the win. "I was hungry today."

    The win pushed the younger Figueiredo brother to 2-1 in the UFC, separating him from a decision loss to Malcolm Gordon in his last appearance. More importantly, it affirmed that he has all of the killer instinct and finishing ability of his older brother—a worrying thought for the fighters that share their division.

Winner: Gabe Green's Heart

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    Gabe Green's heart was on full display on the UFC undercard.

    The 28-year-old welterweight (11-3) was back in action against Canada's Yohan Lainesse, who was making his UFC debut with a ton of hype after a knockout win on Dana White's Contender Series.

    For most of the first round and a significant portion of the second, it looked like Green was in over his head. The Californian was taken down and controlled in Round 1 and dropped by a big punch in Round 2.

    Despite the mounting adversity, Green was able to hang in there and ultimately turn the tables with a fight-ending volley late in the second round. It was an incredible display of heart. 

    "I saw that he wanted a way out, and I thought, 'Well, that's the door, buddy,' and I walked him out," he said after his come-from-behind win. 

    But here's the real reason Gabe Green's heart was one of the biggest winners of the night: He was returning from a layoff of more than a year. He was supposed to fight Dwight Grant in October of last year but was forced out of the fight with an injury. The injury? A bruised heart after absorbing a vicious blow to the chest in training.

    You can't make this stuff up.

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