What mattered most at Noche UFC at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
Roman Kopylov is on the rise at 185
In the crop of up-and-coming middleweights in the UFC, Roman Kopylov is beginning to gain some steam as one of the most dangerous strikers.
After beginning his octagon tenure with back-to-back losses, Kopylov (12-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) has now reeled off four consecutive wins – all by knockout – with the latest being a nasty body-shot finish on Josh Fremd.
The only person with more consecutive UFC knockouts at this moment is Sergei Pavlovich, who is obviously a heavyweight and carries much more nature power. Kopylov credits a change in team and coaching staff for his shift in success, and it’s going to be interesting to see what more the 32-year-old is capable of, because this is likely what would have to be considered his prime years.
Chris Tognoni's botched stoppage
Referee Chris Tognoni once again came away with a controversy around one of his fights when he prematurely declared a submission finish in the flyweight fight between Edgar Chairez and Daniel Lacerda.
The MMA community – and Dominick Cruz in the commentary booth – were quick to trash Tognoni, pick apart his history of questionable moments and cast doubt on his knowledge of the grappling element of MMA.
I will say, in Tognoni’s defense, that the angle of the Chairez’s (10-5 MMA, 0-1 uFC) submission against the fence was a tad awkward. Lacerda’s (11-5 MMA, 0-4 UFC) hand also did drop in a moment that could’ve potentially signified unconsciousness, but he failed to check it before stepping in. What made it worse, however, was Cruz’s read this moment was coming – and it’s because Tognoni has a track record.
The upside here is that the Nevada Athletic Commission has replay review, so the correct result came in the form of a no contest. But neither man got a win bonus, which is unfortunate for names at this level of the game. The downside is, nothing more is likely to come of it. Tognoni was back in there three fights later for Kyle Nelson’s win over Fernando Padilla, so he wasn’t even put in time out for his grave error.
Raul Rosas Jr.'s big rebound from first loss
18-year-old prospect Raul Rosas Jr. got a lot of heat from his detractors after suffering his first MMA loss in April. He brought some of it on himself, in fairness, with bold claims that he was going to run through the competition en route to being a three-division UFC champion.
He didn’t let all the negativity rattle his confidence, though, and Rosas (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) was able to pass a big test in rebounding from the defeat with a 54-second TKO of Terrence Mitchell. His critics might say it was a mismatch, but that’s a ridiculous statement when we’re talking about a fighter who is literally a teenager.
If the UFC wants to maximize his the potential of the Mexican – and there is legitimate talent there – it needs to give him several more of these type of fights. They’re no such as too light of matchmaking at his age, and even if he loses again in the next handful of bouts, that doesn’t mean it was the wrong approach.
We’ll see in the years to come what Rosas ultimately turns into in a stacked bantamweight division. This was an important moment for him to thrive in, though, and he more than met the challenge.
Who won Jack Della Maddalena vs. Kevin Holland?
The welterweight co-headliner between Jack Della Maddalena and Kevin Holland may not have met the perhaps lofty expectations place upon it pre-fight, but it did prove to be a tactical and methodical affair that came down to the wire.
Della Maddalena (17-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) and Holland (25-10 MMA, 12-7 UFC) stood in front of each other for 15 minutes and traded shots, each landing some clean blows but showing little difficulty absorbing anything that connected. There wasn’t much in the way of visible damage, either, which makes a fight like this tough to score.
I saw people give scorecards that ranged from 30-27 for Holland all the way through 30-27 for Della Maddalena. So it made it no surprise when the judges turned in a split decision in Della Maddalena’s favor, extending his overall MMA winning streak to 15 fights.
It’s hard to throw much shade on the judges for handing in differing scorecards on this one because it was so close. Both men arguably deserved it, and neither man should be complaining about the loss because it felt like they could’ve done more.
Mike Bell's result-changing scorecard for Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2
We could sit here and debate the merits of scoring each round in the Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko rematch until we’re blue in the face, but the reality is, it was a very close fight. Giving either fighter three rounds is perfectly acceptable and defensible, what but isn’t defensible was the 10-8 scorecard judge Mike Bell turned in for Grasso in Round 5.
It was the scorecard that swayed what would’ve been a split decision victory for Shevchenko (23-4-1 MMA, 12-3-1 UFC) to regain the women’s flyweight title into just the sixth championship-fight draw in modern UFC history. Grasso (16-3-1 MMA, 8-3-1 UFC) kept the belt as the result of their being no winner, and when it became known that Bell’s inexplicable 10-8 for Grasso in the final frame was the deciding factor, the outrage began.
Usually I try to be as understanding to the judges’ perspective in this situation as possible. I’ve gone into detail countless times in this column that not all debatable decisions are robberies, but this one is hard to wrap the mind around. Yes, Grasso did win Round 5, in my opinion. She had a big moment when she threatened with a submission and abused Shevchenko with some ground-and-pound, but Shevchenko was never in real danger of being stopped and produced some effective offense of her own throughout the five-minute frame.
Even in a world where judges are encouraged to score 10-8 rounds more liberally, this felt way off. And for it to happen in a spot when the stakes are as high as they can be in the sport, with a UFC championship on the line, it’s hard to stomach. Shevchenko would’ve left with the title around her waist had Bell done his job properly, and that’s the most gut-wrenching part of the whole thing if you’re on Team Shevchenko.
With Shevchenko having suffered a hand injury in the fight, she might not return to the octagon before her 36th birthday in March. The UFC might opt to move on with the division in the meantime, and who knows where everything will stand when she’s ready to come back. For all we know, this was her last title bout inside the octagon.
All that is to show an example of how radically these judges can alter the career of these athletes. Shevchenko is the one who has to deal with all the fallout, too, whereas, similar to the situation discussed above with Tognoni’s blunder, Bell is going to go home, not answer publicly for his scorecard, then be right back in that chair next weekend or shortly beyond turning in more scorecards with zero accountability on the back end.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Noche UFC.