Fight fans in Austin were treated to an absolute show on Saturday night. The 12-match fight card delivered eight knockouts, tying six other events for the most KO’s during a single event in the modern era. Rising stars like Joaquin Buckley, Gregory Rodrigues and Adrian Yanez made statements with finishes and put their divisions on notice.
But for the main event and co-main event, knockouts were not the main attraction. Kevin Holland looked impressive in his win over Tim Means in the co-main, while Josh Emmett and Calvin Kattar gave an epic five-round performance in the main event. Emmett emerged victorious, but where does that leave both fighters in a loaded featherweight division?
Brett Okamoto and Carlos Contreras Legaspi share their breakdown of UFC Fight Night.
Emmett is deserving of a title shot after Saturday, but if I’m looking ahead, I don’t think that will be his next fight. He’s not wrong about calling for ‘new blood’ at the top of the division. It would be fun to see Emmett — a 37-year-old who has never fought for a belt — in that opportunity.
But there is a big fight between Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez on July 16, which will impact Emmett’s future. Arnold Allen is still floating around the Top 5 and needs a big fight. And as great of a fight as Saturday was, it wasn’t the kind of result that puts Emmett over in a very tight division. I think he will have to fight one more time, whether it’s Allen or Chan Sung Jung, who it appears will not retire after his latest loss to Alexander Volkanovski.
For Kattar, this is a tough one to swallow. Those split decisions can go either way and if you’re on the losing end, it can mean a world of difference, especially for one’s career trajectory and your paycheck on fight night. Those two scorecards that went against Kattar on Saturday will have a lasting effect.
Obviously, he is still right there regarding big fights in the division. Movsar Evloev doesn’t have a big name, but he’s a surging contender and that would be a great fight for the UFC to put together. Same for Sodiq Yusuff. Those are steps down for Kattar, but that’s sometimes the case when you take two losses in three fights and have already fought many of the other contenders in the Top 10. He might be looking at facing an up-and-comer. — Brett Okamoto
Kevin Holland might be graduating into a title challenger
By several different standards, Holland’s career has been a significant success to this point. He’s a fan favorite. He’s highly active. He’s won some big fights. He’s earned his main event appearances. It’s all been good, right?
But until now, he’s never truly looked capable of possibly vying for a title. He was more of a “fun addition to a card” guy than a serious title challenger, as he was prone to making too many mistakes. He was probably fighting in the wrong weight class when he was 185 pounds and his takedown defense has been poor. Guys like that don’t go on to win titles.
This Holland we saw on Saturday though, was different. This Holland looks like he’s coming into his own and the improvements he’s made are apparent. He doesn’t have the glaring hole he used to in his takedown defense — and he truly believes that to be the case. Why? Because after his win Saturday, he called out Sean Brady, one of the most physical wrestlers in the division. I’ve got to say, the old Holland was fun, but this version is more exciting. And the ceiling on this guy suddenly looks a lot higher. — Okamoto
Gregory Rodrigues shows ‘no emotions’ while making his name at middleweight
‘Robocop’ wants some respect put on his name, and it’s hard to deny it after he handled Julian Marquez for the first finish of his UFC career.
The 30-year-old Brazilian now has a 3-1 UFC record, with his only loss coming via a split decision to Armen Petrosyan last February. The former Legacy Fighting Alliance middleweight champion has evolved from a submission threat early in his career into a fighter with real knockout power, as he’s demonstrated by finishing his opponents in six in his last nine victories. Rodrigues was fueled by a sold out crowd in Austin, something he experienced for the first time in his UFC career, and was brutal with his striking from the beginning of the fight.
Ahead of his fight on Saturday, he was asked about his thoughts ahead of fighting Marquez, who had earned performance bonuses in three of his last four fights.
“I’m programmed to go in there on Saturday, no emotions,” said Rodriguez during media day. “I’m not thinking about anybody, just thinking about the win and doing my job.”
Rodrigues has done his job in his first year in the UFC, and if he can continue to fight with power and an entertaining style, he’ll be likely to get a marquee fight in the near future. — Legaspi
Adrian Yanez is due for a ranked opponent
Adrian Yanez, a 28-year-old from Houston, put on a show in front of an audience full of fans from Texas. Yanez is one of the best boxers in the bantamweight division and flashed his striking power with his first-round knockout over Tony Kelley.
Yanez has a 6-0 record in the UFC when including his first fight in Dana White’s Contender Series where he earned his contract. Five of the six fights under the promotion have ended in knockouts, as his ability to work from a distance and from the inside has devastated his opponents.
Kelley was an interesting challenge for him, with a reach advantage and a southpaw stance that forced Yanez to close distance. Plus, Kelley came into the fight having missed weight by 1.5 pounds, leading some to wonder whether the extra weight would be advantageous. That was not the case, as Kelley was able to find some success early but was eventually overwhelmed by Yanez’s pressure and punching precision.
After losing his coach Saul Soliz, Yanez has adapted to a new camp and has been training with Aljamain Sterling most recently, garnering high praises from the current champion. This performance should put the Top 15 in the division on notice. — Legaspi