“Dare I say it: UFC 180 is the UFC’s BEST PPV so far this year!”
Even with their biggest star, Cain Velasquez sitting on the sidelines, UFC’s first event in Mexico was a smashing success! In front of 21,000 Mexican fans, each of the eleven fights delivered exciting moments. Eight of the eleven fights—including all five fights on the PPV—ended in spectacular fashion (even with one of the scariest injuries in UFC history!) and the few that didn’t were pretty competitive and fast-paced to a point. All the major Mexican fighters won their fights and Fabricio Werdum would finally find UFC gold adding more luster to his still-anticipated fight with Cain Velasquez.
The stacked event had its fair share of winners and losers. Here are the most notable ones:
Werdum would finally capture UFC gold becoming the fifth Interim Heavyweight Champion in history; the Brazilian found himself in a dangerous fight with Mark Hunt. When it looked like his kicks weren’t hurting Hunt, he lands a perfectly timed knee as Hunt ducked. The punches on the ground sealed it as Werdum now awaits his true test: Cain.
Next Opponent: Cain Velasquez: things have hardly changed but this next bout now has that sexy “Champion vs Champion” moniker to it. Werdum may well be on his way to becoming the greatest heavyweight of his time—if he gets through Cain and likewise Cain can legitimize that title for himself if he beats Werdum. Both men’s legacies are reaching “all-time” status.
Team Mexico (Team Velasquez) Clean sweep.
Team Mexico went 4-0 on the night against Latino America. Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez beat Leonardo Morales in a fight that saw him show his remarkable striking and BJJ skills. Rodriguez looked every bit like a young contender. Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez would dominate Humberto Brown before choking him unconscious with a modified two-handed guillotine choke. Henry Briones would win Fight of the Night in a rousing comeback against Guido Cannetti, a fight that saw him hurt when he caught Cannetti with an uppercut that allowed him to lock him in a choke for the tap. Marco “Psycho” Beltrán, the biggest underdog of the team, would win his bout against the highly-touted Marlon Vera. Alejandro Pérez defeated José Quinoñez as the only teammates against each other in a hell of a fight (though slightly marred by Quinoñez’s blatant head-butt).
It was an all-around fantastic evening for Team Mexico—a storybook event that couldn’t have been written better.
Like Team Mexico, Gastelum had his own fairytale type of evening. The Mexican-American ran through Jake Ellenberger, capitalizing on a takedown mistake and choking him out from the back. This win should entrench the fast-rising contender firmly in the top-10.
Next Opponent: Tyron Woodley: another contender on the cusp; the NCAA Division I wrestler is coming off a one-minute knockout of Dong-Hyun Kim and already holds a win over former contender Carlos Condit. The winner of this fight could be in the front seat for a title shot.
Ricardo Lamas “Don’t call it a comeback!” as Lamas dominated trendy favourite, Dennis Bermudez. Many questioned Lamas’s spot as a contender with his lackluster showing against Hacran Dias but Lamas looked like his old self. Lamas dropped Bermudez twice then choked him out making an emphatic statement that he’s still a top dog in the division.
Next Opponent: Jeremy Stephens-Charles Oliveira. The winner: as long as Aldo is champion, Lamas won’t get a shot any time soon. But he’s still a contender and another big win over another top-10 fighter would keep him relevant. The winner of Stephens and Oliveira could be next for him.
Not a joke: Jessica Eye literally punched Leslie Smith’s ear off. If you intend to look this up, I warn you to have a strong stomach. Eye put on a solid performance against a tough Smith and battered her strategically utilizing her faster and more technical boxing. The win should get her noticed and a high-profile fight could be next.
Next Opponent: Bethe Correia: Correia wants a shot at Rousey or Tate but likely isn’t happening due to match-up conflicts and Correia’s injury. If Correia heals and wants to stay active, Eye would prove a good match. The winner has a chance to get a shot at Rousey.
The underdog story ends, at least momentarily. Hunt came out like “vintage” Mark Hunt and gave Werdum a run for his money until he eventually succumbed to a huge knee and was saved by the ref. There’s still plenty of fight left in Hunt and he should be back in the near future.
Next Opponent: Josh Barnett: Hunt had already suggested a rematch with Josh Barnett after his fight with Roy Nelson. With his title shot lost, Hunt can settle for fun novelty fights that will still surely be relevant and a potential main event for the New Zealand or Australian events.
Team Latino America (Team Werdum):
Team Mexico’s great night came at the expense of Team Latino America. Team Werdum lost all four of its matches Saturday night. Leonardo “Chimy” Morales and Marlon “Chito” Vera were their two best prospects and both lost clear-cut decisions to Yair Rodriguez and Marco Beltran, respectively.
Humberto Brown got choked out-cold by Gabriel Benitez and Guido Cannetti would tap to Henry Briones after getting dropped by an uppercut in a fight he was winning. He would secure a consolation Fight of the Night bonus at least. Despite the losses, the team fought passionately and showed that the Latino American MMA scene has talent to offer. Vera and Morales are likely getting second fights and Brown and Cannetti could return in the future.
Ellenberger may have lost his last meaningful fight. A loser of three in a row now, the most troubling aspect is how he seems to have lost his killer instinct as Gastelum pointed out his trigger-shyness and inability to match his aggression. Ellenberger’s contender status is likely officially done and the unflattering “gatekeeper” tag may be his new title.
Next Opponent: Mike Pyle: after dropping three-in-a-row, Ellenberger may be hanging on his top-15 status; likewise, Pyle was knocked out of the top-15 by Jordan Mein. Both vets could meet to determine which fighter may still be worth keeping around the rankings.
So much for the hype train. Bermudez never got it going and got dominated by Ricardo Lamas, getting rocked several times and eventually choked out. His run to a title shot and seven-fight winning streak are both gone. Still, losing to arguably the third best featherweight shouldn’t set him back too much. “The Menace” will look to quickly get back on track.
Next Opponent: Dustin Poirier: another featherweight contender in a similar spot. Both fighters are still top ten but likely fighting to stay relevant. The winner of this fight could push himself back in the title hunt while the loser may be out of the top ten.
OUCH. Smith is the toughest nut wanting to keep fighting after her ear was all-but torn out of her head. She fought a spirited fight against Jessica Eye but was clearly losing up to the injury. It’s clear Smith isn’t quite made out for the top-ten but her warrior spirit will keep her around.
Next Opponent: Lauren Murphy: a fellow Invicta veteran and a fighter not afraid to throw down; these two vets are both reeling from hard-fought losses and could make for an exciting fight