Fight fans in Austin were treated to an absolute show on Saturday night. The 12-match fight card delivered eight knockouts and connected six other events for the most KOs during a single event in modern times. Rising stars like Joaquin Buckley, Gregory Rodrigues and Adrian Yanez made statements with finishes and caught the attention of their divisions.
But for the main event and co-main event, knockouts weren’t the main attraction. Kevin Holland looked impressive in his win over Tim Means in the co-main event while Josh Emmett and Calvin Kattar put on an epic five-round performance in the main event. Emmett emerged victorious, but where are the two fighters in a loaded featherweight division?
Brett Okamoto and Carlos Contreras Legaspi share their recap of UFC Fight Night.
Emmett deserves a title fight after Saturday, but looking ahead I don’t think that will be his next fight. He’s not wrong when he calls for “youngsters” at the head of the division. It would be funny to see Emmett – a 37-year-old who has never fought for a belt – on that occasion.
But on July 16th, Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez have a big fight that will affect Emmett’s future. Arnold Allen is still hovering around the top 5 and needs a big fight. And as great as Saturday’s fight was, it wasn’t the kind of result this puts Emmett in a very tight division. I think he will have to fight again, whether it’s Allen or Chan Sung Jung, who won’t retire after his last loss to Alexander Volkanovski.
Kattar finds it difficult to swallow. These split choices can go both ways, and being on the losing side can make a world of difference, especially to your own Fight Night career and paycheck. The two scorecards that went against Kattar on Saturday will have a lasting effect.
Obviously he’s still correct when it comes to big fights in the division. Movsar Evloev doesn’t have a big name, but he’s a rising contender and that would be a great fight for the UFC. The same goes for Sodiq Yusuff. That’s a step backwards for Kattar, but that’s sometimes the case when you’ve lost twice in three fights and have already fought many of the other contenders in the top 10. He could try to face a promoted player. – Brett Okamoto
Kevin Holland could become a title challenger
By various standards, Holland’s career up to this point has been a significant success. He’s a fan favorite. He is very active. He’s won some big fights. He earned his main event performances. It was all good, wasn’t it?
But until now he has never really looked capable of contending for a title. He was more of a “fun addition to a map” than a serious title challenger, as he tended to make too many mistakes. He probably fought in the wrong weight class when he was 185 pounds and his takedown defense was poor. Guys like that don’t win titles.
However, this Holland we saw on Saturday was different. This Holland looks like it’s coming into its own and the improvements it’s made are obvious. He no longer has the glaring hole he used to have in his takedown defense – and he genuinely believes he does. Why? Because after his win on Saturday, he challenged Sean Brady, one of the most physical wrestlers in the division. I have to say 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 emotion’ as he makes his mark at middleweight
“Robocop” wants his name to be shown some respect, and it’s hard to deny after treating 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 from a split decision against Armen Petrosyan last February. The former Legacy Fighting Alliance Middleweight Champion went from being a submission threat early in his career to a fighter with real knockout power, as he’s proven by crushing his opponents to six straight wins in his last nine. Fueled by a sold-out Austin crowd, which he witnessed for the first time in his UFC career, Rodrigues was brutal with his punches from the start of the fight.
Ahead of his fight on Saturday, he was asked about his thoughts ahead of the fight against Marquez, who had earned performance bonuses in three of his last four fights.
“I’m programmed to go in there on Saturday, no emotions,” Rodriguez said on media day. “I’m not thinking about anyone, I’m just thinking about winning and doing my job.”
Rodrigues has done his job in his freshman year with the UFC, and if he can continue to fight with power and a fun style, he’ll likely 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 to an audience of Texas fans. Yanez is one of the best bantamweight boxers and showed his punching power with his first round knockout of Tony Kelley.
Yanez has a 6-0 record in the UFC when he picked up his first fight in Dana White’s Contender Series, where he got his contract. Five of the six fights included in the promotion ended in KO’s as his ability to work remotely and from the inside devastated his opponents.
Kelley was an interesting challenge for him, with a reach advantage and a southpaw stance that forced Yanez to go the distance. Also, Kelley came into the fight after missing the weight by 1.5 pounds, leading some to wonder if the extra weight would be beneficial. That wasn’t the case as Kelley was able to get some early hits but was eventually overwhelmed by Yanez’s pressure and shot precision.
After the loss of his trainer Saul Soliz, Yanez has adjusted to a new camp and is most recently training with Aljamain Sterling, to which the current champion has praised highly. This performance should catch the attention of the top 15 in the division. – Legaspi