Despite a number of fights getting cancelled, this show turned out to be one of the better UFC cards thus far in 2021. And naturally, that means there were a number of big winners on show, too, fighters who will now look to climb the ladder further in their respective UFC divisions.
On that note, here are the five biggest winners from UFC Vegas 22: Derek Brunson vs Kevin Holland.
#1 Derek Brunson - beat Kevin Holland in UFC Vegas 22’s main event
Last night’s main event saw a lot of hype around rising UFC Middleweight star Kevin Holland.
‘The Trailblazer’ was coming off five wins in 2020, including a knockout of veteran Jacare Souza. However, last night’s showdown with Derek Brunson was his biggest test to date. But once again, Brunson showed why he’s probably the toughest gatekeeper in the UFC Middleweight division.
Brunson worked out early on that he could take Holland down and control him from the top while largely beating him up. Holland did have some success, taking Brunson down at one point and landing some good punches in the second round.
However, he just didn’t seem focused enough to win, putting on an odd performance that saw him more interested in talking trash than actually hurting Brunson.
In the end, Brunson comfortably ran out the winner. While he didn’t stop Holland, he did show he’s still got a lot to offer, maybe even as an unlikely UFC title challenger in the near future.
#2 Max Griffin – defeated Song Kenan
Last night’s most brutal knockout belonged to Max Griffin, who sent Song Kenan crashing into the Octagon fence with a violent one-two in the first round of their fight.
Sure, ‘Max Pain’ didn’t need to drop a follow-up shot on the unconscious Song, but you can’t blame him for being fired up. Nevertheless, this was his second UFC win in a row by knockout, and it also showed he was willing to grasp an opportunity thrown to him.
Griffin’s fight with Song wasn’t initially supposed to be the co-main event – the cancelled Gregor Gillespie vs Brad Riddell fight was – but when it was elevated into the slot, it was important that at least one of the two men delivered.
Griffin did, and now he’ll rightfully climb the ladder a little further in the UFC Welterweight division.
#3 Tai Tuivasa – defeated Harry Hunsucker
We’ve seen on plenty of occasions – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic – that a UFC fighter can be in a no-win situation if they’re faced with a late-notice opponent.
Tai Tuivasa found himself in that situation last night. Faced with UFC debutant Harry Hunsucker after Don’Tale Mayes dropped out, the Australian essentially needed to win early and by KO to impress both the fans and the UFC’s brass.
Thankfully, ‘Bam Bam’ did just that, dealing with Hunsucker in seconds with a few violent leg kicks and a big right hand to the temple.
Is Tuivasa a contender following the win? Probably not. We still don’t know if he has closed the holes in his ground game, and he still didn’t necessarily look in the best physical shape.
However, faced with a no-win situation, ‘Bam Bam’ dealt with things perfectly – and then downed a beer from a shoe at the show’s post-fight press conference. What’s not to love?
#4 Macy Chiasson – defeated Marion Reneau
Arguably the night’s best fight overall was the final prelim bout between UFC Bantamweights Macy Chiasson and Marion Reneau.
After a strong start from Reneau, it was Chiasson who ended up edging the fight. She hurt the Belizean veteran on numerous times in the second round and then edged the third round with her more telling offence.
Chiasson – who won TUF 28 back in 2018 – is one of the more interesting prospects in the UFC’s Bantamweight division, thanks to her unique size and length. But prior to last night, she had never really lived up to the hype all that much.
Her win over Reneau, though, is her best in the UFC thus far – even if Reneau is past her prime – and could stand as a turning point in Chiasson’s career. That alone makes her one of last night’s biggest winners.
#5 Grant Dawson – defeated Leonardo Santos
Grant Dawson came into last night’s clash with Leonardo Santos as one of the night’s bigger underdogs. That was primarily because Santos – who debuted in the UFC back in 2013 – was yet to taste defeat in the Octagon.
That changed last night, though, making anyone who doubted Dawson feel a bit stupid. The fight was largely a back-and-forth one, but by the time the third round came around, it was clear that Dawson was the fresher man.
While he was unable to submit the credentialed grappler with an arm triangle choke, he eventually destroyed him with punches from the top, bouncing his head off the ground and knocking out his mouthpiece.
Dawson is now 5-0 in the UFC; while he isn’t yet in title contention, he’s clearly a man to watch out for in the Featherweight division.
Expect a major step up for Dawson in his next entry into the UFC Octagon. That's because, after this fight, he has definitely earned that. A top-15 opponent should be next for Grant Dawson, and if he can win there, the sky would be his absolute limit.