A magical night in Houston capped off with Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) notching another title defense and winning the rematch against Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker (23-6 MMA, 14-4 UFC) by unanimous decision (48-47 x2, 49-46). Improving his claim as the best middleweight of all time over Anderson Silva after his 4th official title defense and undefeated at middleweight with 11 wins and his only loss against Jan Blachowicz for an attempt an double champ status. The co-main saw Aussie brawler Tai "Bam Bam" Tuivasa (15-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) pull off the upset against hometown favorite against Derrick "The Black Beast" Lewis (26-9 MMA, 17-7 UFC). The first round was a majority a feeling out process until the NCCA All American wrestler Lewis took down Tuivasa and landed heavy ground and pound until he got back to his feet. The clinch striking of Tuivasa was effective with the accumulation of knees to the thigh and leg kicks took their toll and lead to the brawl everyone expected. However, Tuivasa came out on top with an elbow that sent the all time leader in knockouts face first to the canvas early in the 2nd round. With a performance of the night bonus and a top 5 ranking in the future for Tai, the other performance of the night bonus went to the victor of the potential middleweight title eliminator. Jared "The Killa Gorilla" Cannonier (15-5 MMA, 8-5 UFC) elbowed Derek Brunson (23-8 MMA, 14-6 UFC) to the shadow realm late in the second round after a tough first round where Brunson dropped him late in the first and held 2 minutes of control time. Sadly the mystic aura of Blonde Brunson is now gone, Cannonier is most likely next in line to challenge the king in the throne of 185 pounds in Israel Adesanya.
Maxim Grishin VS. Da Un Jung
The first fight of the night saw Maxim "Maximus" Grishin (32-9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) control William "Knightmare" Knight (11-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) over 3 rounds to a clear cut unanimous decision (30-27 x3) in a heavyweight bout due to Knight weighing in 12 pounds over the 205 light heavyweight limit. A veteran of over 40 pro fighters in promotions such as M-1 and the PFL, he is very well rounded and does not make many mistakes. With solid wrestling and clean striking to keep his opponents at bay, he could realistically crack the top 15 with another solid win. Da Un "Sseda" Jung (15-2-1 MMA, 4-0-1 UFC) is streaking with 3 out of his 4 UFC wins by KO/TKO and his last win a 1st round TKO over 2 time DWCS alum Kennedy Nzechukwu. With his only blemish a split draw to Sam Alvey, Grishin would be a great test to see if Jung can make the leap into the deep end of the UFC's light heavyweight division.
Jeremiah Wells VS. Jake Matthews
An embarrassing start to his bout against City Kickboxing product Blood Diamond where he tripped circling the cage but capped it off with a 1st round rear naked choke, Jeremiah Wells is now 2-0 in the UFC with two stoppage victories. The Philadelphia native came into the UFC at 34 years of age and is making a splash at 170 pounds. A rebook from a fight back in December that did not go through due to a positive Covid-19 test in Well's corner would be the best case scenario for both fighters. Jake "The Celtic Kid" Matthews (17-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) debuted in the UFC at just 22 years old and had to learn on the job throughout his MMA career. Currently the winner of 5 out of his last 7, Matthews has a strong grappling base and his striking is vastly improving with each UFC outing. Looking to get back in the win column after a 3rd round submission loss to current #9 ranked welterweight Sean Brady, it is a good clash of styles of two wrestlers with heavy hands.
Douglas Silva De Andrade VS. Raphael Assuncao
After a fight of the night performance against former M-1 bantamweight champion Sergey Morozov where he came back from being dropped and cut open with an elbow in the 1st round to knocking him down 3 times in the 2nd and earning only his 2nd submission win in his entire career with a rear naked choke finish. Andrade was once ranked as high as #14 in the world as bantamweight until he ran into a wall known as the current UFC interim bantamweight champion Petr Yan back in 2018. Coming into the UFC undefeated at 22-0, he has gone 6-4 since with wins over Marlon Vera, Renan Barao and Cody Gibson. Andrade has found his stride with 2 stoppage wins with 2 post fight bonuses and is aiming to crack back into the rankings against #15 ranked bantamweight Raphael Assuncao (27-9 MMA, 11-6). Currently on a career worse 4 fight losing streak, Assuncao is in the twilight of his career and is looking to turn back the clock and turn back Andrade on route to a late career push.
Jacob Malkoun VS. Roman Dolidze
Jacob "Mamba" Malkoun (6-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) pulled out a veteran performance in only his 7th MMA fight where he used the weight of his wrestling to control and dominate UFC newcomer AJ Dobson. With a wrestling base and having multiple pro boxing fights on his record, Malkoun found his groove after his debut went sour with a 18 second KO loss to Phil Hawes. Being the main wrestling partner for former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and only 26 years old, he has a nice future with the UFC. Roman Dolidze (9-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has been on the shelf for almost a year since his unanimous decision victory over Laureno Staropoli, but Roman is big for 185 and is a very strong wrestler and power in his hands and legs seen in his head kick KO over Khadis Ibragimov in hos debut. Both men are looking to continue climbing the ranks and a good feather in either men's cap would be a victory over one another.
Ronnie Lawrence VS. Davey Grant
Ronnie "The Heat" Lawrence (8-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) put a beatdown on hometown favorite Mana "Manaboi" Martinez (9-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) over 3 rounds using his superior wrestling and shockingly out struck the striker, earning 3 knockdowns on route to a unanimous decision (29-27 x2, 29-28) win. Lawrence is now 2-0 in the UFC and looks primed to have a strong push to a ranking but he has yet to face the task of a hearty veteran in "Dangerous" Davey Grant. Now they don't call him dangerous for no reason, with fights against such names as Adrian Yanez and Marlon Vera twice, Grant has been uber durable and always is down for a good brawl. Coming off the 18th season of TUF, the brit has an unorthodox stand up game with punches from weird angles and a plethora of kicks with an underrated ground game and submission offense. Lawrence has the test in front of him to solidify his place as a bantamweight to watch down the line and a win over Grant would show that he could do it all.
Carlos Ulberg VS. Marcin Prachnio
Fellow City Kickboxing product Carlos "Black Jag" Ulberg (4-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) earned his first UFC win against Fabio Cherant in what many called a "boring" fight. Ulberg controlled the range with his kicks and out grappled Cherant when the exchanges occurred. Still very young in his MMA career, the former kickboxer would shine in tailored made matchups against fellow strikers to see his prowess shine especially against Marcin Prachnio (15-5 MMA, 2-3 UFC). Prachnio made his claim in ONE Championship, going 4-0 with 3 KO/TKO's on route to a UFC debut where he lost his first 3 fights all by KO/TKO. He has turned it around with 2 straight wins and his first UFC finish with a liver kick KO over Ike Villanueva. Perhaps a weak chin, but has a strong body kick and solid hands to match seen in his past fights. The chance to build up Ulberg as a real threat and the chance for Prachnio to even out his UFC record and earn a huge upset victory.
Kyler Phillips VS. Ricky Simon
Phillips put on a 3 round beating on Combate Global veteran and TUF Latin America 3 alum Marcelo Rojo and ended the fight with a triangle armbar 1:48 into the 3rd. The Kyler that UFC fans have seen was showcased with flashy kicks and strikes paired with excellent grappling. The only glaring issue with his cardio seemed to be a non factor against Rojo. Another shot at the rankings is the only step up and the most game opponent would be wrestling standout and the #13 bantamweight in the world Ricky Simon (19-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC). Simon punched his way into the top 15 with a 2nd round TKO over Raphael Assuncao and is aiming for a chance at UFC gold with a good few wins in the near future. With his wrestling getting him into the UFC, he has excellent top control and the striking is improving with more time in the UFC octagon. A classic striker versus grappler matchup at its core, both Kyler and Ricky will need to rely on what got them to the big show to pull out a win and to rise up the 135 pound division.
Casey O'Neill VS. Loser of Lauren Murphy/Meisha Tate
"King" Casey O'Neill (9-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) had a performance worthy of a crowning with a split (should have been unanimous) decision (29-28 x2, 28-29) over the retiring Roxanne Modafferi. Now with 4 straight wins in the UFC and already has the #12 next to her name in the rankings, O'Neill is closer to a title than anyone expected. With her top control on the ground and her relentless ground and pound as well with the help of her Brazilian Jiu jistu brown belt as earned her 4 wins and tons of hype behind her. A fight against former title challenger Lauren Murphy and former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate would be the name value that Casey needs to enter the upper echelon of the woman's flyweight division. Murphy excels on the ground and Tate has the championship experience and is one of the pioneers of woman's MMA as a whole. A win over either would bolster her star even more and the winner of Murphy and Tate would love the opportunity to turn back a rising star.
Andrei Arlovski VS. Jake Collier
A pro since 1999 and the UFC heavyweight champion from all the way back in 2006, "The Pitbull" Andrei Arlovski (33-20 MMA, 22-14 UFC) has found recent success winning 5 out of his last 6 and at age 43, retirement may seem like a good option but Arlovski has different plans. The new and improved Arlovski strikes in a tactical way with the basics of defensive striking put to good use. Collier made a big statement in the biggest fight of his career in a co-main event slot against former BKFC fighter Chase Sherman. Making quick work with him for a 1st round submission and a performance of the night bonus. Starting his UFC career at middleweight, Collier has found the most success at heavyweight and is quite athletic for the size he is and has solid stand up. If this happens to be Andrei's last fight, why not send off the legend in a fight that fans will remember and send him off with a win and some extra cash for fight of the night? But a win for Collier would be huge for his future with a win over Arlovski still a big deal.
Bobby Green VS. Brad Riddell
It is about time that Bobby "King" Green (29-12-1 MMA, 10-7-1 UFC) gets his credit especially after his last two performances over Al Iaquinta and his record breaking fight against Nasrat Haqparast. He set the all time UFC lightweight record for most strikes landed with1,620 and total significant strikes landed with 1,404 throughout his 18 fight UFC career. Riding his new found wave of momentum, Green should get another chance at the rankings but his own words he wants to earn "a whole lotta cash" for the rest of his career. Riddell is coming off his first UFC loss at the hands (and feet) of Rafael Fiziev via a spinning wheel kick in the 3rd round. Currently ranked #14 in the world and has incredible fights with Jamie Mullarkey and Drew Dober, a fight night main event between the two would be a whole lot of cash earned and fight fans drooling from the mouth. Riddell has a heavy Muay Thai style with heavy kicks and a high guard while Green focuses mostly on his boxing with his unique shoulder roll defense. And at only 35, Green can make one last push for gold.
Renato Moicano VS. Damir Ismagulov
After Alexander Hernandez made a fuss about his card placement, Renato Moicano (16-4-1 MMA, 8-4 UFC) made the most out of the new platform and subbed Hernandez in the 2nd round. Moicano has fought a killer's row of featherweights and now lightweights with mixed results but now has found his stride at age 32. Looking to creep back into the rankings where he was once, Damir Ismagulov (23-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) is looking to earn his rightful place in them as being one of the most highly touted prospects in recent memory. Undefeated since 2015, Ismagulov has looked near perfect in his octagon appearances against current ranked contenders like Joel Alvarez and Thiago Moises. With such a well rounded game with creative striking and a whole variety of trips and takedowns. Moicano possibly has the grappling advantage but a stylistic matchup between Ismagulov and Moicano would be one worth playing out and one with ranking implications involved.
Jared Cannonier VS. Israel Adesanya
After the supposed title eliminator victory against Derek Brunson, Cannonier has staked his rightful claim to be the next challenger for the king of the middleweights Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC). From starting his MMA and UFC career all the way up at 265 pounds at heavyweight, over the years has re-invented his body to move down all the way 185 pounds at middleweight and has found the most success in his entire career. Adesanya has been vocal about fighting "new blood" in the middleweight division after beating the majority of the top 10, but the matchup of Cannonier and Adesanya has yet to happen. Cannonier has strong leg kicks and a solid all around game and might need to bank on his grappling and wrestler against the uber talented striker Adesanya. Seen against Brunson, Cannonier has the ability to fight back from adversity and has the finishing ability with 4 out of his 5 wins at middleweight coming by KO/TKO. A matchup that does not seem close on paper but it needs to play out and who knows what happens.
Tai Tuivasa VS. Winner of Chris Daukaus/Curtis Blaydes
"Bam Bam" Tai Tuivasa (15-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) had the biggest and loudest finish on the card with a show stopping 2nd round elbow KO over hometown favorite and the all time leader in KO's in UFC history Derrick "The Black Beast" Lewis. With the popularity of him and his famous "shoey" celebration has made him into a star. From once the loser of 3 straight and the possibly of being cut to winning 5 straight KO/TKO wins and now ranked #3 in the world at heavyweight. With a new star at heavyweight blooming, Tuivasa now is in line for a potential title shot within 1-2 fights. A victory over Philadelphia's own Chris Daukaus (12-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) or Curtis "Razor" Blaydes (15-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) after their main event in March would help push Tuivasa's star to a whole new level and a potential chance at gold along with it. With Jon Jones on the sideline waiting for the perfect matchup and with Stipe Miocic and Ciryl Gane as well on the shelf, Tai is ready to bring his shoey celebration with a chance at UFC gold.